Resolutions

Resolutions:

 ~ to do more Yoga

 ~ to read more poetry

 ~ to run

 ~ and to not believe anything that I’ll later regret.

Harold Camping, End Times, and the Dishonor Role

Obit Harold CampingHarold Camping, the famed – and failed – predictor of Jesus’ return, has died.

It has been 2,000 years since the promised generation of Jesus’ return ebbed away. The textual rehabilitations to “interpret” what such statements meant began back then. They continue to the present. They can be seen when gents like Harold Camping amend their predictions and retool their prognostications. And interestingly enough, even when concessions of error do occur, like Camping’s eventually did, they never quite drive deeply enough. He miscalculated the date of Jesus’ return (2011), to be sure. But I propose he also miscalculated the very fact of it. And this has been going on for a very, very long time. [Read more…]

When I read the Book of Mormon, I feel closer to Jesus Christ.

Mormon Ad

This ad appeared on the CNN home page today and if clicked will take you here.

In a single sentence, this ad illustrates the problems outlined on one of my prior pages, Faith Card. Our existential sense of spiritual truth simply does not work. It is not a barometer of fact or fiction. It is not a compass that leads to anywhere. Our intuition does not work where spiritual matters are concerned. Well meaning, “faithful” people are all radically divergent in the direction their respective compasses point.

Pleasant Mormons like this young woman, far from being in the service of the devil, are doing the best they can. But they have been hampered by an unfortunate paradigm, which claims that the really important things in life must be known by faith. This general belief, that faith is the mechanism by which we know spiritual truth, is shared by the broad range of religions. And it is a demonstrably ineffective and wayward mechanism.

Faith constitutes a proposal regarding process… “This is how you find ultimate truth.” Your internal sense of relationship or spiritual presence should be your guide. That burning of the bosom should be your guide. Truth feels a certain way when you have it. You know, because it sounds right. You know because you know. You know because of your sacred texts. But at bottom, this type of knowing is followed by everyone in religions that oppose yours.

The cleverest part of faith, however, may be found in a self-validating defensive mechanism. Faith concurrently makes objective knowledge claims while maligning the validity of the one process which can call it’s bluff: critical thinking. Answers to the most pressing questions, we are told, can only be known by faith. Study, analysis, science, and the like are all said to lose their potency where ultimate questions are concerned. “You cannot answer these questions through such means,” comes the admonition from those who have never actually tried.

Belief in belief: the tragedy that all religions share.

I encourage my Christian readers to visit the Mormon website linked above. I would further encourage reading of Buddhists and other faiths. You will see a repetition of themes in how religious viewpoints are defended, advanced, and arrived at. The means of thinking are entirely analogous, but the specific claims are contradictory. And that should raise the question: what if faith is a flawed mechanism?

From the Inbox: Dinosaur Blood and Creationist Contentions

Oh, the Drama

Tyrannosaurus rex, Palais de la Découverte, Paris

Tyrannosaurus rex, Palais de la Découverte, Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post has turned out to be somewhat meaty, and it is permeated with a fascination real-life stage drama – dinosaurs, Jurassic Park, a good YouTube video, all intertwined with religious controversy and persecution, and wrapped up at the end with some lessons-learned and a challenge to My Fellow Christians. I hope the reader will enjoy the story as much as I have.

For my Christian readers, please do not miss the “My Fellow Christians” section at the end…

A New Type of Post

How it began… On a semi-frequent basis I now receive a range of emails from well-meaning friends on a range of subjects. I’m often sent links to science related articles. Sometimes I am sent queries about various biblical topics. I generally appreciate any information-oriented feedback. I try to take each point raised quite seriously.

After doing this several times, I’ve decided such content would make for good blog posts. I’ll post such information from time to time, always omitting the sender’s name, any personal comments, and in a generally sanitized form. I can see no reason that such information and time investment be limited in distribution to the original sender. The more information to the more people, the better. That said, here we go.

Dino Blood

A friend recently sent an email with a comment regarding dinosaur fossil finds that intrigued me. It essentially said the following: [Read more…]

Infographic: The Breaking of Christian Apologetics

Collapse of ApologeticsIn thinking back over the course of my own investigations, I have noted that several criteria have proven useful again and again. As a person investigates issues of faith and compares different explanations, these principles of vetting can help clear away the clutter that is so happily foisted by various authors. I have dubbed the following five criteria:

  1. The Goose and the Gander
  2. The Burden of Proof
  3. Scaled Support
  4. The Weakest Link
  5. Alternate Cases

In my own investigations, I have found that the most robust cases raised by the mightiest Christian apologists cannot survive the winnowing.

The Goose and the Gander

Principle:

If a rationale can be used to support more than one religion, that line of argument cannot be considered definitive. What is good for goose and the gander cannot adjudicate between them.

Example:

Eyewitness testimony from believers living at the time of Jesus does count as type of evidence. However, it is not unique or definitive evidence. Other religions make similar claims on similar grounds by people who similarly believed. [Read more…]

Christian Agnosticism & Touching Earth

English: Arabic Question mark 한국어: 아랍어에서 사용하는 물음표

I have recognized a repeating pattern from my past conversations, both in person and online, which I believe lies at the very bedrock of believer’s objections to investigative discussions regarding belief, Christianity, and the Bible. Once evidential discussions have run their course, and once a retreat is beaten from that battlefield, believers will very often default to the inner keep of last resorts:

You cannot evaluate the truth of Christianity with analysis or reason or rational argument: you must either believe it on faith or not at all. It is about belief. It requires faith.

I have come to call this a “retreat to grey”, the falling back to a proposition that faith knowledge is different by category from other knowledge – as different as living organisms and dead stones. Things of the spirit cannot be interrogated by the same means as other truth claims. At bottom is an agnostic claim: we simply cannot “know” things in this realm, nor prove them, and certainly not disprove them, by any path of critical thinking or evidence.

But why do we think this? [Read more…]

Reading the Wrong People

Table of Major Written WorksSome friends have considered that my departure from Christianity must be due to a misplaced emphasis of the sources that I have consulted. That is, perhaps I spent too much time reading “the wrong people”, and so came to bamboozlement. This is a legitimate concern, and I suspect that it may be more broadly held than I would hope. It struck me as incorrect on first blush, but I did go back and actually catalogue my sources by worldview.

Taking only the major written works that I read (a few dozen), the statistics sum as shown in the first chart. As can be seen, theist sources dominate the atheist/agnostic sources by 3 to 1. Neutral sources included generic information without direct bias or commentary on Christianity one way or another, while the mixed category denotes resources like “multi-view” type books.

Table of All SourcesIf the net is cast more broadly and extended to include all resource types – including shorter articles, book reviews, Wikipedia entries, and the many debates and lectures that I have watched – the percentages shift as shown in the second pie chart (130+ total).

For myself, I can find no intrinsic indictment in these statistics, nor a visible dereliction of duty, nor an inundation of dreaded atheistic slant. Rather, the collection represents a range of viewpoints, and it favors Christian-biased sources more heavily than any other segment.

Yes, I must maintain, it is possible to become convinced that Judaism and Christianity face intractable problems as a result of a well-rounded, detailed, and broad-based research effort. My conclusions have not been for lack of consulting Christian scholarship. After all, that was my fortress of first retreat. But the vanguard within those walls sadly could not answer…

See the Review of Sources and the Bibliography for detailed lists.

The Curious Case of Alireza M… Thoughts on Resurrection and Being “Mostly Dead”

nooseAn 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…]

Rapid Resources Added for the Inquirer

I have added a new sidebar with rapidly-accessible resources for the inquirer (to the left). This sidebar itemizes some quick summary references – YouTube videos and articles – that do not require book-length time investment for those interested.

As I have said elsewhere, I am not a subject matter expert in archaeology or biblical studies, but those scholars are incredibly accessible for the layman.

And realizing that the bibliography page of my blog is (though useful) perhaps not the most accessible map for some of my inquiring friends, this sidebar should help provide an initial starting point.

Updated Quotes from Collins, Epilogue

Some final modifications to the Epilogue were completed yesterday, and the post on Quotes from Francis Collins have now been expanded and completed with a  brief review paragraph at the end.

New Section Published: [13] “Epilogue”

The final page of the Journey has now been finished. This page was certainly one of the more difficult to write, which is the primary reason for the delay in publishing since the prior page.

Updated Section 5, “Reparations”, and Quotes from Collins

Francis Collins provided an excellent summary of the status of Genesis, now added to both Reparations and Collins’ quotes.

Boomeranged

Agree or disagree? Consider the following quote:

Sometimes in order to find the truth, we must be willing to accept that other possibilities outside our current belief system could be true. We often get in our own way. Make a decision to fight against your biases and follow the evidence—wherever it may lead.

I for one agree. But from whence the quotation?

I happened to find it on a Christian blog, Explore God, where it stood somewhat glaringly out of place as a challenge for skeptics to reconsider their position. The blog on the whole seems to contain rather a great deal of amorphous and subjective muddle-mouthing about anything other than honest and objective inquiry.

On my own experience of late, the advice in the quotation seems more typically to be staunchly resisted by the faithful rather than embraced. And yet they/we proffer. And they/we posture. In my own case, I have followed the precept as well as possible. And I can’t help but muse just how badly a dedication to honest inquiry can backfire on the a priori conclusions which the faithful consider acceptable. It certainly backfired on me. At least, that is, on one view. Objectively, it worked precisely the way it should. It demonstrated that my own muddle-mouthing on the subject of faith was without factual basis. In the myth speak of us moderns, the above principle constitutes “the red pill”. And I cannot say that I would trade back for the chance at the blue.

And how many believers can claim to have walked this path? What would be required to support such a claim? One would have to arrive at an adverse conclusion (undesired), contra one’s bias, and on the grounds of objective (not subjective or existential) evidences. No friend or scholar has yet measured up to such criteria. Yet the skeptics do – and they are the ironic and ill-fitted target of this quotation in the first place. We have here a boomerang: an elegantly arcing trajectory that soars outward, finds no target, and returns promptly to the head of its hurler.

Explore God: 40-Day Challenge

Bad Endings

As time passes, I find that my sense of discomfort concerning claims of divine authority from our lecterns and pulpits declines, where it would seem that we affirm as the words of God the mere texts of men. Coming to such a realization at first throbbed a deep dissonance, and to some extent an abhorrence, at the idea that in good faith we were affirming words written contra. The emotion of this sense has ebbed a great deal. As I hear these echoing assertions in the pews with my family, it all seems relatively lighter. The stabs of fear and anger regarding our uttered blasphemies subside; for if our texts were not authored by God, we blaspheme in so saying. But blasphemy is, I suppose, a somewhat imaginary crime. Where it comes to no harm, I suppose our unfounded wish-thinking is harmless.

[Read more…]

Section 12, “Moral Pivot”, Published

Section 12, “Moral Pivot,” tackles the question of blasphemy in light of the altered understanding of what the ancient texts of Israel actually represent.

Map of Jericho

Jericho Brisance has four major sections.

(1) Journey began primarily an extended letter for my friends and family, who will no doubt struggle to understand exactly why I have come to reverse my position on issues of faith.

(2) The active Blog follows below on this page.

(3) A menu section has been added for the long Paisley Series.

(4) Finally, the Bibliography provides resources for those who want information straight from the scholars.

Feel free to follow through WordPress or Facebook, and see the Jericho Pinterest and YouTube pages for collected multimedia.

Israel Finkelstein website

Finkelstein WebsiteFinkelstein seems ever to be a lightning-rod figure wherever traditional biblical views collide with current Syro-Palestinian archaeology. For convenience of referece, Israel Finkelstein’s website.

Inquiry and Ammo Hunts

It is perhaps by conditioning, perhaps by virtue of my profession and the long time that I have spent in subjugation to the inflexibilities of the physical world. Perhaps not; perhaps it is my religious background or my disposition from birth.

It becomes apparent to me how different in spirit my past year’s readings have been compared to the approach of others, who seem energetic in pursuing ‘research’ not for serious inquiry, but as an ammo hunt. There is a very significant difference between Investigation for honest inquiry, where the answer is not predetermined, an ‘investigation‘ for apologetics, in which the conclusion is known from the beginning and the only objective is to construct a rationale of support. I have no time for the latter – all energies have poured into the former, which remains the more difficult to summon.

Long Reads and Wikipedia

After a year of reading and looking, I arrived at the place of conceding that scholarly consensus about the authorship of the Bible gives a pretty low score to the traditional ascriptions. The best information today indicates that many books were not written by who we thought or when.

Wikipedia - BibleThe ironic and painful part of this is realizing that the answer could have been found very quickly and easily – by simply reading the Wikipedia entry on authorship of the Bible. Heavily annotated, the basic viewpoint there comports with the net information that I’ve seen. That’s sort of sad. If I wanted to know the skinny on the Book of Mormon or the Koran, the first place I would go would be Wikipedia. It was one of the last places I went on Biblical texts. We are very accustomed to learning about our religion from inside our religion.

Authorship: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorship_of_the_Bible

The Exodus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_exodus

The Flood: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flood_geology

Bibliography Update

The bibliography has been updated to include multimedia and selected website references.

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