Mark Twain on Slavery and the Church Taking Credit for Society’s Corrections After the Fact

Posted in an excellent article by Ryan Bell today, a quote worth sharing all by itself:

The methods of the priest and the parson have been very curious, their history is very entertaining. In all the ages the Roman Church has owned slaves, bought and sold slaves, authorized and encouraged her children to trade in them. Long after some Christian peoples had freed their slaves the Church still held on to hers. If any could know, to absolute certainty, that all this was right, and according to God’s will and desire, surely it was she, since she was God’s specially appointed representative in the earth and sole authorized and infallible expounder of his Bible. There were the texts; there was no mistaking their meaning; she was right, she was doing in this thing what the Bible had mapped out for her to do. So unassailable was her position that in all the centuries she had no word to say against human slavery.

Yet now at last, in our immediate day, we hear a Pope saying slave trading is wrong, and we see him sending an expedition to Africa to stop it. The texts remain: it is the practice that has changed. Why? Because the world has corrected the Bible.

The Church never corrects it; and also never fails to drop in at the tail of the procession – and take the credit of the correction. As she will presently do in this instance.

— Mark Twain


– See more at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yearwithoutgod/2015/04/07/different-era-same-injustice/#sthash.zLR8RsL1.dpuf

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…]

Quote – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Every great scientific truth goes through three phases: first, people deny it. Second, they say it conflicts with the Bible. Third, they say they’ve known it all along.

~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

Quote – Richard Carrier, “Why I Am Not a Christian”

I’m cognitively defective. Or that’s what Christians tell me. It’s not true, of course. But the curious thing is how desperately they need to believe there is something wrong with me. For otherwise, they cannot explain how someone so well informed about their religion could reject their faith—indeed, someone who doesn’t just give it a pass, but rejects it as firmly as any other bizarre cult or superstition. Which is what it is. This book is about why.

Carrier, Richard (2011-02-28). Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith (Kindle Locations 35-38). Philosophy Press. Kindle Edition.

~~~

Well, on the background of some responses that I’ve received during my exodus from the faith, I certainly resonate with the felt diagnosis from others. And the more people I converse with, the more I realize how common this viewpoint is… and how guilty I myself have been of the same.

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…]

Pew Research and Thoughts on End Times Expectations

To reprise of my prior observations about Harold Camping’s decease and legacy, Pew Research conducted a poll earlier this year that proves relevant. This was originally brought to my attention by John Zande; thanks John.

PF_13_03_22_JesusReturn-02Today a staggering 41% of US citizens (130,000,000 adults) believe that their Middle Eastern god will commence its mass extinction of all creatures in their lifetime. It’s a ghastly figure but it is a number reflected in the multi-billion dollar Christian apocalypse industry that has in just the last twenty years produced 29 End Times films (with such grand titles as “Tribulation” and “Judgement”), 60 documentaries (like “Racing to the End Times”), and some 1,120+ grotesquely warped End Times books, of which the Left Behind series has alone sold over 40 million copies.

~ JZ

For my own commentary, I will simply observe that I have been in two kinds of Christian groups… [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?

Quote: Richard Carrier on Christianity

I’m sorry to say that, after 35 years as a Christian, yes, this is what we believe.

Definition of Christianity #1: Fundamentalist Version:

The belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

~ Richard Carrier, Lecture “Are Christians Delusional?”, Skepticon 3

Definition of Christianity #2: Liberal Version:

All that Eve stuff is baloney. But I still have an imaginary friend who manipulates the world for me, and he also magically impregnated a woman two thousand years ago, and she bore him a son who underwent an ancient ritual of blood sacrifice in order to dispel a curse laid upon me, thus ensuring that I will be immortal (although I’ve never seen this work for anyone else before).

~ Richard Carrier, Lecture “Are Christians Delusional?”, Skepticon 3

Jesus’ Atonement:

God needs blood to fix the universe, but only his own blood has enough magical power to do it, so he gave himself a body and killed it.

~ Richard Carrier, Lecture “Are Christians Delusional?”, Skepticon 3

Quote: Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell

Daniel Dennett, at the Second World Conference...

Daniel Dennett, at the Second World Conference on the Future of Science, in Venice, 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is an asymmetry: atheists in general welcome the most intensive and objective examination of their views, practices, and reasons. (In fact, their incessant demand for self-examination can become quite tedious.) The religious, in contrast, often bristle at the impertinence, the lack of respect, the sacrilege, implied by anybody who wants to investigate their views.

~ Dennett, Daniel C. (2006-02-02). Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (pp. 16-17)

In my own limited personal experience, I can attest that this quote resonates with reality. Not everyone bristles, of course, though some do. I think maybe the bristling is saved for outsiders, and I was an insider.

Some of my friends have simply acted uncomfortable. A number have flatly not wanted to hear or know anything about my investigation. Yet several have actually thought even my very attempt at examination was foolhardy… I wish I could count the number of times I’ve been told that the project of investigating the claims of Christianity simply cannot be transacted, that is flatly impossible, and that it lies beyond critical inquiry. There is a pretending that our faith is made of “faith stuff” that never touches earth, a pretending that Christianity does not make claims about history that can be checked.

We Christians claim a trove of knowledge. Human knowledge can be checked, can be examined, and can be disconfirmed. There are no grand exemptions. Just as Christians would say that Islam is objectively wrong, and could provide reasons why this is so, likewise our own views can be examined under the same cold light of inquiry. We have enjoyed our own proclaimed asymmetry far too long. And we are increasingly being called on it.

Dennett argues that we should conduct such inquiry for religion in general, and with vigor. I agree.

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…]

Quotation: Voltaire on Miracles

Marble. In the collection of the National Gall...The daughters of the high priest Anius changed whatever they chose into wheat, wine or oil.

Athalida, daughter of Mercury, was resuscitated several times.

Aesculapius resuscitated Hippolytus.

Hercules dragged Alcestis back from death.

Heres returned to the world after passing a fortnight in hell.

The parents of Romulus and Remus were a god and a vestal virgin.

The Palladium fell from heaven in the city of Troy.

The hair of Berenice became a constellation.. . .

Give me the name of one people among whom incredible prodigies were not performed, especially when few knew how to read and write.

~ Voltaire, Miracles and Idolatry, cited from Hitchens (2007)

 

Dangled Over a Flame: Jews and Jesus Among Pagan Gods

Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Justin Martyr provides an interesting look at apologetics in the century following Jesus’ life. His First Apology was dated to between 147 and 161 AD. Greek and Roman god worship was alive and well, and Christianity was trying to grow from the same cultural earth as these various competing religions.

To make his case, Martyr compares Christian claims about Jesus to the existent mythology of the culture. It must be noted that the pagan themes and beliefs pre-existed Christianity. They were antecedent, and Christian doctrine blossomed against this backdrop.

Martyr makes it clear that the pagans already had themes that appear in Christianity, for he makes the argument in several ways that “we propound nothing different from what you believe”, and he addresses several key areas:

  1. The Word
  2. Sonship
  3. Divine Conception
  4. Suffering and Death
  5. Resurrection and Ascension

Martyr’s leading argument (all emphasis following mine):

And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth  of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.

[Read more…]

Quotation: Michio Kaku on Galileo & Bruno

English: The trial of Giordano Bruno by the Ro...

In my conversations, some have doubted that what a person specifically believes about Genesis matters. Many believers take a casual approach to the text today and cannot imagine that martyrdom has ever been joined to Genesis. Jesus perhaps, but not Genesis. To the contrary: it has carried sufficient gravity to not only execute dissenters, but to do so with leading figures, as an example. There can be little doubt what fate would have befallen Galileo had he not recanted.

From “Parallel Worlds”:

The mixture of science, religion, and philosophy is indeed a potent brew, so volatile that the great philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600 in the streets of Rome for refusing to repudiate his belief that there were an infinite number of planets in the heavens, harboring an infinite number of living beings.

Galileo’s and Bruno’s sin was not that they dared to divine the laws of the heavens; their true sin was that they dethroned humanity from its exalted place at the center of the universe.

It would take over 350 years, until 1992, for the Vatican to issue a belated apology to Galileo. No apology was ever issued to Bruno.

Quotes from Rabbis & Scholars on the Exodus, Abraham

(updated 9/12/2013) The quotes below serve as auxiliary material to that already cited on my Israel’s Origins page, and I recently found them collected in a new-to-me blog. The original author cites these quotations with additional discussion, and I suggest checking it out (Thanks John Zande). The original post can be found here: Well, this is a little embarrassing, isn’t it? Meanwhile, the meaty collection of quotations:

“Defending a rabbi in the 21st century for saying the Exodus story isn’t factual is like defending him for saying the Earth isn’t flat. It’s neither new nor shocking to most of us that the Earth is round or that the Torah isn’t a history book dictated to Moses by God on Mount Sinai.”

~ Rabbi Steven Leder of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

“The rejection of the Bible as literally true is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis.”

~ Rabbi David Wolpe of the Conservative Sinai Temple

[Read more…]

Quotes from Francis Collins

I selected a few salient quotes from Francis Collins‘ book on evolutionary development and faith, The Language of God, which I would recommend reading alongside the resources already suggested by Ayala, Venema, and Falk (though Falk is better). Collins is a Christian and was the leader of the legendary Human Genome Project. His book is an apologetic for both evolutionary development and the Christian faith.

On supposed micro/macro evolutionary distinctions:Language_of_god_francis_collins

The distinction between macroevolution and microevolution is therefore seen to be rather arbitrary; larger changes that result in new species are a result of a succession of smaller incremental steps.

On the connection between evolutionary theory and medicine:

Truly it can be said that not only biology but medicine would be impossible to understand without the theory of evolution.

[Read more…]

Quote from a Former Hero: Augustine

“There is another form of temptation even more fraught with danger… This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us on to try to discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing, and which men should not wish to learn.”

~ St. Augustine. Quoted by McGowan, Dale (2011-02-15).

Parenting Beyond Belief (pp. 201-202). Amacom

I cannot but reflect that such repressive attitudes would have kept us in darkness without daybreak. The medicine which saved my daughter would not have been developed without the sustained drive of many minds who divorced themselves from such shackled “thinking”.

Quotes from a Former Hero: Luther

Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom … Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.

~ Martin Luther, Erlangen Edition v. 16, pp. 142-148

There is on earth among all dangers no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason… Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed.

~ Martin Luther, quoted by Walter Kaufmann,

The Faith of a Heretic, (Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1963), p. 75

People gave ear to an upstart astrologer [Copernicus] who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.

~ Martin Luther, “Works,” Volume 22, c. 1543

We know, on the authority of Moses, that longer than six thousand years the world did not exist.

~ Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis”

These and further citations here.

Quote: Michael Shermer on Belief & Reversals

The Believing BrainOnce beliefs are formed, the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which adds an emotional boost of further confidence in the beliefs and thereby accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop of belief confirmation.

As well, occasionally people form beliefs from a single revelatory experience largely unencumbered by their personal background or the culture at large.

Rarer still, there are those who, upon carefully weighing the evidence for and against a position they already hold, or one they have yet to form a belief about, compute the odds and make a steely-eyed emotionless decision and never look back… It happens, but it is as rare as a black swan.

~ Michael Shermer, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths

Quote: Kitchen on Jericho

There has always been too much imagination about Jericho by moderns (never mind previous generations), and the basic factors have ironically been largely neglected. The town was always small, an appendage to its spring and oasis…

~ K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament

Quote: Kitchen Summarizing The Exodus

Cover of "On the Reliability of the Old T...

Cover of On the Reliability of the Old Testament

The Exodus and Sinai events are not hereby proven to have happened, or the tabernacle and covenant, etc., to have been made then. But their correspondence not just with attested realities but with known usage of the late second millennium B.C. and earlier does favor acceptance of their having had a definite historical basis.

~ K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament

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

Richard Carrier Blogs

Announcing appearances, publications, and occasional thoughts on natural philosophy and ancient history by philosopher, historian, and author Richard Carrier.

kind-ism

adventures in losing Faith & Leaving Christian Science