Unicorns in Your Shoes

I got a chuckle when this particular meme hit my Twitter feed this week. Just so the web-crawlers get the full text:

You’re allowed to believe in a god.

You’re allowed to believe unicorns live in your shoes, for all I care. But the day you start telling me how to wear my shoes so I don’t upset the unicorns, I have a problem with you. The day you start involving the unicorns in making decisions for this country, I have a big problem with you.

Matthew Shultz

This meme employs a literary device that I have always liked, but for which I do not have a proper term to describe. I think of it as the noun-swap: exchanging ‘god’ for ‘unicorns’. People have poor logic circuits, and they are often overwhelmed by associations. They cannot follow lines of reasoning if the subject is embedded with sacred dimensionality. But if you swap the nouns to something else, you dislocate the argument from the exception clauses many people might otherwise grant. It can help jail-break the logic from someone’s sacred fog.

My favorite line in this meme was:

…the day you start telling me how to wear my shoes so I don’t upset the unicorns, I have a problem with you.

Taking Easter Seriously, an Infographic

It is that time of year again, and so I am reposting the popular “Taking Easter Seriously” infographic.

Many Christians read the Easter stories year upon year, as I did for several decades, yet we never compare them in detail. As a consequence, we often do not realize that they are not telling the same story. There are indeed contradictions in the texts, but it is very important to move beyond “mere contradiction” — the issues with the gospels are far more extensive than that. Comparison against the historical record and assessing the gospels for trends of legend development are probably far more crucial. As with many non-believers, I left Christianity specifically because of the Bible, and because I considered and examined its content very seriously indeed.

Perhaps it is time for more Christians to take the Bible and our Easter stories seriously.

[Click Image for Full Size Version (PNG), Use Ctrl+ and Ctrl- to adjust zoom.] or [PDF Version ]  or [Greek Version]

I am indebted to scholars like Bart Ehrman, Marcus Borg, Richard Carrier, and many others, without whom I would no doubt continue in my own past failures to take Easter seriously. And as always, I look to improve the accuracy of my work wherever possible. Please reply with any factual errors found, and I will correct appropriately. Thanks.

Also See: Infographic for New Testament Timeline

(C) Copyright 2015, JerichoBrisance.com

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

[In other words, feel free to pass along, distribute, etc., just don’t repackage it and sell it. Thanks!]

 

~

References: [Read more…]

Is Science Hard on God?

I had an long interchange with a recent visitor about climate change, and I have excerpted one part of that dialogue here (edited, enhanced, and slightly expanded for clarity). Science and math nerds: I’m taking liberties with the use of the word “proof” for accessibility reasons.

The Objection

The following basic objection was raised:

Science has spent years trying to prove the nonexistence of god. If god doesn’t exist, there is no need to try to prove he doesn’t…

My Response

There really isn’t a science journal out there dedicated to the field of disproving god. Nor does science in principle disprove the existence of anything. Science has the opposite bias. The positive claimant bears the burden of proof. If you claim the existence of a deity, the proof must come from you. Just to make sure this isn’t missed, and to underscore how baked in the burdens of proof are, consider this scenario…

You have lost your car keys. You think about where they could be. You conjure several possible explanations.

  1. They fell into the couch cushions.
  2. They are in your jacket pocket, hanging in the closet.
  3. They fell out in the parking lot and are on the ground by your car.
  4. Your neighbor took them from your counter top when he visited last.
  5. Aliens stole them.
[Read more…]

When Team Loyalty Skews Moral Logic

Two ships in a harbor, one in the distance. On board, men stripped to the waist and wearing feathers in their hair throw crates of tea overboard. A large crowd, mostly men, stands on the dock, waving hats and cheering. A few people wave their hats from windows in a nearby building.

It is interesting to ask Americans whether they think the Boston Tea Party was a morally acceptable act. This was a polarizing question for the contemporaries of the time — Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin had starkly opposing views. For those who may not recall the details, the Wikipedia entry makes good reading. It was an act of high-dollar, coordinated, mob-driven vandalism, conducted by citizens dressed up like minorities/indigenous peoples. But because they were Americans (i.e., the home team), and because of their politics, many of my countrymen give this bit of anarchy a pass, and indeed hail the Tea Partiers as heroes to be emulated.

[Read more…]

Jesus & Insurrection, and Why Some Christians Struggle with Right & Wrong

Martyr, or Insurrectionist?

I know Christian conservatives right now who cannot, at least for the moment, seem to find the right side of the Capitol riot that occurred on January 6th. One relative has posted a video lionizing the woman who was shot and killed, painting her as a martyr — an unarmed protestor, slain without cause. It is not hard to find information about the victim, or to discover what she did or why she was doing it. Her Twitter feed made her motives clear:

Less than a day before she joined the Trump loyalist protest, Babbitt, an avowed and public Trump supporter as well as a subscriber to a number of alt-right conspiracy theories, had vowed the insurrectionist movement could never be halted. “Nothing will stop us … they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours … dark to light!” she wrote on Twitter.

~ The Guardian

The circumstances of her death have also been reported upon (same article):

Babbitt, 35, was reportedly shot as she and other rioters tried to break through a barricaded door in the building where Capitol police officers were armed on the other side.

A video of the incident is here.

No doubt we will find more details emerging over time, but at present, this woman does not appear to be a good candidate for sainthood. She was killed while taking part in a violent insurrection, which is the most serious of criminal acts.

[Read more…]

Working Definition of Faith-Based Claims, for Religion, Politics, and Life

Working Definition

Faith-based claims are more frequent and pervasive than most people think. Most people probably connect this phrase with religion, but I believe this is too limiting. Faith-based thinking is a method of thought, an algorithm for truth claims, and humans apply this algorithm well beyond the fence-line of religion. As a prelude to subsequent posts on a few topics, I’m going to propose a working definition for faith-based claims. Working definitions should be simple, and I propose the following two characteristics:

  1. Faith-based claims are grounded in belief without proof and/or sufficient evidence.
  2. Faith-based claims are not open to revision based on contrary evidence.

To qualify, a truth claim or assertion must contain both aspects. Hypotheses in science satisfy Condition 1, because they are guesses ahead of conclusive evidence; but they are tentative and discarded if they fail to survive experimental testing; thus they do not satisfy Condition 2. Much of of our working knowledge in life functions in a similar way. We may or may not know much about the evidence behind a lot of what we are taught or learn. There is nothing wrong with that. But if those views are held dogmatically for any reason, and we are closed to revision, they function as faith-based claims about the world. [Read more…]

Hitch-ing the Supreme Court

The situation with the Supreme Court in the United States has caused no end of commentary, hand wringing, and gloating along different points of the political spectrum. It all reminded me of a Hitchens quote that boiled things down to the ugly little stone sitting at the bottom of the pot. But first, a bit of context.

[Read more…]

Shahadah, Revised & Updated for Accuracy

There is no god but Physics,

and Mathematics is her messenger.

Plot Twist on Ehrman vs Wallace Debate

This article in the Atlantic tells a fascinating story of antiquities theft, cover-up, and fraud. The basic topic was attention grabbing. But I was positively arrested by the opening scene, because I remember watching it quite distinctly:

[Read more…]

Guidance for the Perplexed Regarding the Exodus

helpFor those who may feel lost about the Exodus question, I’ve briefly collected a few helpful links and references here. I’ll start with a bottom-line summary, then provide articles, YouTube lectures, and books below.

Bottom-Line Summary

Those who simply want an evangelical crutch to give assurance of Biblical accuracy will find the gate wide and road broad. I leave such readers to brace their insecurities as they wish. But for those who want to understand the state of knowledge and agreement within the overall community of evidence-based research, I offer the concise summary of the moderate scholar William Dever, given in a 2013 lecture:

To make a long story short, today not a single mainstream biblical scholar or archaeologist any longer upholds Biblical Archaeology’s “Conquest Model.” Not one. Various theories of indigenous origins [for the people of Israel] prevail, in which case there is neither room nor need for a Biblical Exodus — at least of that [Biblical] proportion.

~ William Dever, UC San Diego Exodus Conference, June 1, 2013 (YouTube)

[Read more…]

Yale Lecture Series on Hebrew Bible

My friend Archaeopteryx was good enough to share the YouTube lecture series by Yale Professor Christine Hayes, “Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)”.  After watching the first video in the series, I believe this will make a good resource for serious seekers who want to understand the historical events, cultural forces and literary composition of the Old Testament. I read many volumes written by various historians during my own investigations, and I suspect this video series would shorten the learning arc for others.

I’m linking the first video here, which I have cued to mid-lecture as Prof. Hayes discusses 5 common myths about the Hebrew Bible that most Americans do not understand. If you have another 15 minutes, feel free to back it up for full context. I’ll also be adding a link in the sidebar under Rapid Resources, though these lectures are admittedly a bit long to be considered truly rapid. Cheers!

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…]

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.

[Read more…]

Infographic – Family Tree of Christianity (Reblog)

Evan T. at On the Way to Ithaca has gone to an incredible amount of work to develop an infographic showing the family tree of Christianity. Click the image below to get web and print versions of the graphic at his site. The comprehensive scope of this graphic has made some points of info verification challenging for Evan, to say the least, and he hopes that the community can potentially provide feedback, error-finds, or corrections that will lead to even better accuracy in the details. Kudos for the excellent work.

online-en-small

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…]

Easter Infographic Now in PDF Format

Per visitor request, I have created a PDF version of the infographic. It is available as a link above picture on the infographic page.

Pontius, Our Pilot – Part 1

Resurrecting the Pontius Pilate series for Easter.

Jericho Brisance

What-is-truth02To those who have, of late, recited to me our old evangelical adage – that the scriptures of the Bible are, despite their manifold authors, truthful and without contradiction – I have countered with my standing response: where would you like to begin?

Today we shall turn to one of our preeminent but unacknowledged allies, one who stands as exemplar of the sorrowing fact that the biblical writers were rather making it up as they went along – our old dear villain, Pontius Pilate. Just like Lazarus and Paul, Pontius can help us to pilot up-current, back through the Channel of No Return, to break the siren spell of rose-tinted apologetics.

View original post 2,000 more words

Taking Easter Seriously – Revised & Enhanced

It is that time of year again, and so I am reposting the popular “Taking Easter Seriously” infographic. This 2015 version includes slight enhancements and corrections to the prior version.

Many Christians read the Easter stories year upon year, as I did for several decades, yet we never compare them in detail. As a consequence, we often do not realize that they are not telling the same story. There are indeed contradictions in the texts, but it is very important to move beyond “mere contradiction” — the issues with our gospels are far more extensive than that. Comparison against the historical record and assessing the gospels for trends of legend development are probably far more crucial. As with many non-believers, I left Christianity specifically because of the Bible, and because I considered and examined its content very seriously indeed.

Perhaps it is time for more Christians to take the Bible and our Easter stories seriously.

[Click Image for Full Size Version (PNG), Use Ctrl+ and Ctrl- to adjust zoom.] or [PDF Version ]  or [Greek Version]

I am indebted to scholars like Bart Ehrman, Marcus Borg, & Richard Carrier, without whom I would no doubt continue in my own past failures to take Easter seriously. And as always, I look to improve the accuracy of my work wherever possible. Please reply with any factual errors found, and I will correct appropriately. Thanks.

Also See: Infographic for New Testament Timeline

(C) Copyright 2015, JerichoBrisance.com

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

[In other words, feel free to pass along, distribute, etc., just don’t repackage it and sell it. Thanks!]

 

~

References: [Read more…]

Reblog: From Fundamentalism to Freedom

Feeling strong kinship with the author, and also being impressed by the balanced, compact, and expressive prose, I found this article worth reblogging.

http://new.exchristian.net/2014/05/from-fundamentalism-to-freedom.html

Heaven is for Real: Odometer of Credulity

It is not snobbish to notice the way in which people show their gullibility and their herd instinct, and their wish, or perhaps their need, to be credulous and to be fooled. This is an ancient problem. Credulity may be a form of innocence, and even innocuous in itself, but it provides a standing invitation for the wicked and the clever to exploit their brothers and sisters, and is thus one of humanity’s great vulnerabilities. No honest account of the growth and persistence of religion, or the reception of miracles and revelations, is possible without reference to this stubborn fact.

~ Christopher Hitchens. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Heaven is for Real. Sigh. Over the weekend my older two kids and I went to a Barnes and Noble to chat over coffee while looking at books and magazines. While there, I thumbed through and read several sections of this abysmal little pamphlet, for calling it a book would grant it far too much dignity. Not since the Prayer of Jabez have I seen piffle more perfectly suited as a litmus test of human credulity.

Basic Criticisms

Criticisms for the book are easy to discern from directly reading it or perusing critiques on the internet. [Read more…]

SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ

Where The Eagles Fly . . . . Art Science Poetry Music & Ideas

Michael Seidel, writer

Science fiction, fantasy, mystery and what-not

cas d'intérêt

Reflections of a Francophile

Two Wheels Across Texas

My Quest to ride through all 254 Texas Counties

She Seeks Nonfiction

A Skeptic's Quest for Science, Wonder, & Books

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. What I write here, may be very different from what I’ve written in the past. It might also be repeats of the past themes. ~ Zoe