Jericho Brisance Re-Opened

Greetings to those who may still be subscribed to Jericho.

After three years of dormancy, I’ve decided to reopen and re-brand a bit. In the past, Jericho was largely focused on religion: Christianity, deconversion, atheism, and historical studies related thereto. Moving forward, Jericho will serve as a broader platform, featuring content divided into a few departments:

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Beyond the Final Fear

I found myself arrested this evening to learn of the passing of a distant but steady friend, Archaeopteryx. He proved himself a reliable companion and support to many of us fledgling deconverts, hobbling as we must from our personal wreckage toward the daylight. Not a god, but in many of our lives, he could almost seem omnipresent, ever ready to comment on anything you posted.  I feel that I owe him a debt, and in partings without goodbyes, the ledgers go unreconciled.

I cannot help but think of Hitchens, who said that he didn’t fear death, because there was nothing to fear in it. Rather, he feared the waste and sordid decline of dying. Honest, as ever, regarding the truth of that final fear.

I’ll miss Arch. I’ll miss his reliable wit, there every time I post something. I also think, when one day I finish writing my bloody book, I’ll miss him reading it. I think maybe the best I can manage is a Hitch farewell, spelled in Johnny Walker Black. My eyes may not be dry, but there will be no blubbering fictions about a better place. Instead, I can say that I do find consolation that Arch has passed now, beyond the spectre and the reach of that final fear.

American Values & Greatness

America may need to rethink the notion that our country’s values are what made us great (or make us great). I say ‘rethink’ because it is so routinely stated as some sort of axiomatic truth.

Values do not create growth and expansion out of thin air. To think in this way is to embrace a sort of magical sense of conjuring. [Read more…]

Good Friday Off!

Sometimes my kids get the day off school in observance of a national leader’s birth. But today they get the day off because long long ago, in a third world country far far away, somebody was tortured to death in front of his friends and family. Austin ISD, among others, nods to the cultural inertia and takes the day off. And all the children of Texas, irrespective of their beliefs, are led to associate this observance with the adjective “good.”

It would probably be a sick thing to observe MLK’s assassination every year and refer to it as good. [Read more…]

Thanks on this Darwin Day

Darwin Day 2016

Happy Darwin Day! A chance for all to remember intellectual courage and scientific brilliance. For me, a chance to remember how evolutionary biology was used to treat Paisley and retrieve her from oblivion, 5 years ago this week. Paisley is perfect today.  Thanks to all the docs, thanks to all the nurses, and thanks to Charles.

062314_1716_DissonanceD1.jpg

[Read more on Paisley’s remarkable story]

 

Hug the Shrug

Whatever

Last week my oldest son, Jack, had a high school project that involved making text/graphic description of himself and his life. Among the many points of identity and culture in the project, there was a section in which he was supposed to talk about his religion. My wife told me that Jack had simply put himself down as an atheist. That’s not surprising, as he has been pretty open about being non-religious among his friends. In this case, however, he included two graphical illustrations to go along. One was an internet meme about believing in “one god fewer,” and the other was my infamous Easter Infographic. Jack didn’t mention it to me, of course, because Jack strides a mellow sort of cadence through life that doesn’t usually dip a toe in dramatic waters.

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Thanks to Mr. Hanks. Admiration for Mr. Olivetti.

IMG_1192I realized that Microsoft Word might amount to a liability. Editing as you go can stall forward momentum. More troubling still, the late great Gore Vidal said he could always tell whether a book had been written on a word processor. He didn’t mean it as a compliment. But what to do? [Read more…]

A Recent Resurrection to Consider this Easter: Reblog of “The Curious Case of Alireza M.”

noose

This Easter, advocates of the traditional Jesus tale might consider a more recent example of “resurrection” that foiled a professional execution in the most startling way. The following was a blog post I originally wrote 18 months ago, though the ending has been appended. We now know how the story really ends.

October 18, 2013

An astonishing news story was posted by CNN this morning, with the following highlights:

Convicted by an Iranian court of possessing a kilogram of crystal meth, the 37-year-old man was sentenced to death by hanging at Bojnurd Prison in northeastern Iran, according to Jam-E-Jam, an official newspaper that offered this wince-inducing account:

On the morning of October 9, Alireza M. was taken from his cell to the gallows, where the judge who had issued the order read his sentence aloud and official papers were signed.

Then, a rope was placed around his neck and he was hanged for 12 minutes, after which his body was lowered and a doctor declared he was dead. The doctor, the judge and the prison head then signed the death certificate, and the body of Alireza M. was taken to a morgue for delivery the following day to his relatives.

But the next day, a worker at the morgue noticed that plastic encasing one of the bodies had steam in front of the mouth.

Consider the tally:

  • Executed by suffocation…
  • By professionals that carry out such executions for a living…
  • Death witnessed by multiple people…
  • Dead body lowered and inspected…
  • Carried away, wrapped, and laid on a flat surface

I can think of one notable case where this sort of thing happened before. [Read more…]

2014 in Review & Future Plans

Thanks to all who made 2014 a great blogging year at Jericho. The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog, which I’ve auto-posted here.

Followers may have noticed that my attention to blogging has faded during the second half of the year, following the completion of the Paisley series. Over the past couple of months, I have been mulling and planning a more ambitious novel writing project, which I believe I will undertake in 2015. Current plans center around a work of historical fiction with thematic loci of faith, the marrow hope of immortality, and the costs of cult. I believe this task is beyond me, but then, perhaps that is the point. My efforts in this area will largely keep me diverted from blogging, and it may take a year or two for completion, provided I can maintain stamina.

Cheers to all, and may your New Year bring you welcome mountains, an upward press, and the hope of panoramas beyond the grey.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 47,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 17 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

32-F

Raising the plastic shade on my porthole disclosed little but a grey-white blur. Shaking off my dozing grogginess, I stopped the audiobook drone that had napped me away. The low jostle of turbulence needed some libation and a reminisce through familiar old tunes. After the cobwebs began to fully clear, I seconded my check of the world outside, just as those slow jogging chords began to lilt from the lower middle keys. I found myself transfixed by a vision. [Read more…]

Jericho now on Facebook

Jericho now on Facebook

Jericho is now also on FB, where I am making daily posts of interesting stuff from a range of news feeds, including articles, YouTube’s, memes and infographics. The Jericho blog will remain the location where I post original articles and contemplations, while the FB page will serve as a real-time venue. Follow by going to this link and “liking” the page. Cheers… 

Jericho Anniversary

Year OneApril showers have begun in Austin, and the drizzle has forced a retreat from our yard duties, thereby allowing me the chance to observe the first anniversary of Jericho Brisance. Initially begun as an extended open letter to friends (now the Journey pages), the site has since grown into a full-fledged blog. In all, Jericho has had over 16,000 views from 82 different countries. Modest by the measure of many blogs, yet astonishing to me nevertheless.

As an open letter, Jericho was perhaps a successful failure. On one hand, it provided a means for friends who wanted to understand the deeper reasons behind my deconversion to read the details, but privately and on their own terms. A number of friends did just that, with some reading the rather long Journey in a single sitting. Yet others have refused to look at Jericho, either out of disinterest or (more often) out of protest. I would like to say that it led to serious consideration among my friends, but that would be going much too far. I suspect that it may have planted critical questions, but in honesty, any serious doubts have remained quietly held.

Nevertheless, I’ve been very blessed to hear from a number of others that found my Journey helpful. Some felt a resonance with the story, while others said it filled in missing puzzle pieces. It has raised the spectre of the Old Testament for a number of readers whose personal inquiries had been previously confined to the New. This constitutes progress of a serious sort. Blog posts that I wrote in the year following the initial Journey pages have ranged widely. It is hard to call out a favorite, though I would have to include the posts on dinosaur blood, the New Testament timeline, Justin Martyr, and Pontius Pilate as strong candidates.

But all of this aside, I am compelled to say that the most positive result of the Jericho blog experience has been meeting such interesting people, developing new relationships of many levels and types, and enjoying tremendously stimulating conversation and exchanges of ideas. I just can’t thank you guys enough. Its been a blessing unlooked for, particularly given the reasons why Jericho first began. Gratitude and peace. Cheers, Matt

God Doesn’t Watch Rape

Woman Attacked

An excerpt from Francis Collins’ book, The Language of God, spurred a particular realization for me some months ago, when I first read it:

I know a young college student who was living alone during summer vacation while she carried out medical research in preparation for a career as a physician. Awakening in the dark of night, she found a strange man had broken into her apartment. [Read more…]

Conversation Transplant… Minimal Facts Discussion

Well, it seems I’ve been ousted from a blog for the first time, ostensibly because I didn’t talk enough about facts. Though for the life of me, I would say it was more because I challenged a few sacred cows than anything else.

In any case, I have found a few belated comments in response to my remarks on the same thread. They were thoughtful and cogent, so I think they deserve a response. No need for good discussion to die.

Sadly, I don’t really have a great deal of my own initial comments. But – *trumpeting heralds* – one of my interlocutors was good enough to copy/paste most of what I said. Those comments will be below, and then I’ll respond in additional comment bubbles following.

Cheers,

Matt

The Day the Earth Stood Still: Geocentrism Resurrection

There are days when I think about shuttering Jericho and giving up the blogosphere. I ask myself, Matt, why do this any longer? The purpose of this blog was originally to provide friends and family with an explanation for my own change in perspective on faith matters, and it was also meant to provide resources for other inquirers. Jericho has probably done as much as it will do for the former, and may or may not be of use for the latter. So, I think that perhaps I could – or should – walk on.

And then it happens again. PURPOSE crosses my threshold, in the form of awe-striking nonsense that deserves debunking. And in the process of debunking this bit of nonsense, we will find a useful object lesson regarding Creationism too, followed by some proposed guidelines for better navigation of the science battlefield.

But I get ahead of myself… Watch in wonder, for the answers are coming in Spring 2014…

~

That’s right: Geocentrism, with a capital “G”, is back. Yes, that’s correct, we’re talking about the proposition [Read more…]

Reblog: “My Journey to Atheism” ~ Nathan Pratt

Reblog:

Nathan Pratt pens an impactful autobiography in this post, which provided me with a number of strong resonance points as I read it. His path away from Christianity came from a different angle, but the struggle to understand and the responses from others in his life are eerily familiar. A recommended read. I wept.

unpacked thoughts

Something I’d like to get out of the way immediately is that this post is going to be very honest. It’s a brief history of my religious upbringing, my crisis of faith and the final pushes to search for truth. Nothing I’ll say in this post is said out of anger or malice. It’s an honest portrayal of the extreme difficulty of leaving something you’d held to be truth for almost 30 years. I imagine that some of the topics and points will offend, but please read to the end.

One of the more frustrating things to come out of leaving religion is that so many theists think I haven’t thought this out. That I’m just going through a phase. I’d be willing to wager that I’ve gone much farther in my pursuit of truth than about any believer out there. I’ve put a staggering amount of time into this journey…

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Quote – Sam Harris – Tell a devout Christian…

Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it.

Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.

~ Sam Harris (link)

These sort of statements are the kind with which we Christians flatly disagree. We find them [Read more…]

iGod, Part 1 – Divine Uplink

The Holy Spirit is that little piece of me that I like to call God.

Red Telephone

Red TelephoneNot long ago, a friend sent an email announcement to me and some others, outlining a plan to go into the missionary field. The email cited God’s leading and their prayerful consideration. It also stated that this consideration had begun when he heard God speak to him, audibly. I’ve heard claims to hear the audible Voice of the Lord before, but I will admit that it has been some time. And as with everyone I’ve known who claimed to have received the Big Call on the red telephone, the experience left my friend brimming with a sense of calling and purpose. The conversation that followed between us was both respectful and quite long. The story sounded so very familiar. It sounded like a story that I myself would once have told.

To Walk by the Spirit

In my younger days, I walked in the Spirit quite fervently, or so I thought. [Read more…]

My Life is Brilliant

I cannot but lean on this British bit of phrase as I reflect upon the infant year, my family, and my life. Not even a lesser patch rests unconsumed by hope and happiness for life, and for my children’s futures. They are beautiful, and happy, and far more resilient than we. Our sober and determined oldest. Our cheery, clever dancer. Our crimsoned & laughing redhead. And our Little Bits, the perfect one that we nearly lost. I wonder so very much what they will all be, and await the reveal with anticipation.

family

Now it is true that most friends of yesteryear are gone, but I think it is a winter that will not outlast the coming equinox. And I realize that no pleading is likely to convince my friends that the ebb of faith does not mean the end of happiness, but we have been told many myths. Uncluttered and unfettered, as a season of social quietus, it is the most unburdened that I can recall.

I reflect that the curious domino topple from Jericho has been an odd epiphany: what I began for my friends, many friends would not read. But others have in their stead, and they have leant a support as friends ought to. Cheers and a hearty thanks to you good folk. I’m dreadfully sorry for what I find to be my three and a half decades of down-looking. You’re the sort I should have been, had I been better.

Peace and Best Wishes, J.B.

As a Matter of Fact

The entire discussion of Christian apologetics would be greatly served if there was a clearer appreciation of a critical distinction: that of (1) facts and (2) contentions.

  1. Fact: A fact is something that has really occurred or is actually the case. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability, that is whether it can be proven to correspond to experience. (ref)
  2. Contention: a point contended for or affirmed in controversy. (ref)

The subtle trick of apologetics is get that rubber stamp out: labelling contentions as facts is job one. We do not like doubt. When in doubt, stamp it!

A Recent Comment

One of my commenters recently posted the following:

The foundation of the Christian religion is not in fuzzy emotions or the logical coherence of its theology, but in a historical event: the resurrection; that it occurred, that there were many eyewitnesses to it, and that many of those eyewitnesses died attesting to it.

I formerly believe and said exactly the same thing. But is the resurrection a fact, or a contention? [Read more…]

The Curious Atheist

Freely Seeking Truth After Religion

Class Warfare Blog

I don’t want to start a class war; it started a long time ago and, unfortunately, we are losing.

Secular Wings

My freedom from spiritual abuse happened when I walked away from the abusers. My healing and recovery from the complex trauma of spiritual abusers, spiritually abusive faith and toxic religion happened while I was still a Christian and continues to this day. My deconversion came later after many many years of studying the Bible, Christian apologetics, cults and spiritual abuse. When I realized that the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, the only honest thing I could do was to stop calling myself a Christian. ~ Zoe

Variant Readings

Thoughts on History, Religion, Archaeology, Papyrology, etc. by Brent Nongbri

Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

A Measure of Faith

Investigating the collision of faith, science and reason

aspiretofindtruth

Seeking answers for some of the big questions of life.

Random thoughts

Random musings about everything.

Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray