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The Rowdy Neighbors

If she said it once, she must have said it a hundred times. They weren't boy scouts back then, Mr. Sheepandgoats! Those Old Testament scriptures were written by primitive nomadic tribes -  nasty, barbaric, uncouth, bloodthirsty, drooling - and yet  your people, Tom, your Jehovah's Witnesses, insist on portraying them as if in a Hollywood blockbuster.
 
Well...I may concede a little on that latter point. I mean, surely those Old Testament characters were more complex than just modern-day Jehovah's Witnesses inserted into an ancient setting, with concerns intact about family study, dress and grooming, and so forth. We don't exactly sink to the level of a Hollywood blockbuster, of course - Charlton Heston towering over lesser mortals, the good guy always getting the girl. But we do probably sanitize things a bit. Let's face it; a guy that lays naked in front of a brick all day to make a point, and does so for days on end, is not your typical family guy. There were some strange goings-on back then, and there's no point pretending otherwise. But that's minor quibbling.

There certainly were primitive nomads back then; the Bible doesn't disagree. They surrounded the Israelites and lived in their midst. Often the Israelites strayed from worship of Jehovah to party with the neighbors, drawn to their looser standards, just like we're drawn to smut and violent TV. Whenever that happened, the Israelites became as degraded as their pals - sometimes worse.  More than once verses like the following appear in the record:
 
But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites.  2 Chron 33:9  NIV
 
As everybody knows, the Israelites (descendents of Abraham via Jacob) emerged from Egyptian bondage to settle in "the promised land," which already had peoples living there. Some of these they drove off and some they mixed in with. As they neared that land, God gave a long list of degraded practices to avoid, and concluded with:
 
Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.  Lev 18:24-25
 
You will be hard pressed to find a more recurring theme anywhere in the Bible than that of Israel forsaking its own law to carry on with the rowdy neighbors, much to God's disgust. You can't read the Old Testament and not be struck by it. If the king happened to be rotten, as many of them were, that example was quickly reflected in the conduct of the subjects. For example, at 2 Kings 17:7-17,  the freewheeling yet undeniably colorful Message translation states:
 
The children of Israel sinned against God, their God, who had delivered them from Egypt and the brutal oppression of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They took up with other gods, fell in with the ways of life of the pagan nations God had chased off, and went along with whatever their kings did. They did all kinds of things on the sly, things offensive to their God, then openly and shamelessly built local sex-and-religion shrines at every available site. They set up their sex-and-religion symbols at practically every crossroads. Everywhere you looked there was smoke from their pagan offerings to the deities—the identical offerings that had gotten the pagan nations off into exile. They had accumulated a long list of evil actions and God was fed up, fed up with their persistent worship of gods carved out of deadwood or shaped out of clay, even though God had plainly said, "Don't do this—ever!"

God had taken a stand against Israel and Judah, speaking clearly through countless holy prophets and seers time and time again, "Turn away from your evil way of life. Do what I tell you and have been telling you in The Revelation I gave your ancestors and of which I've kept reminding you ever since through my servants the prophets." But they wouldn't listen. If anything, they were even more bullheaded than their stubborn ancestors, if that's possible. They were contemptuous of his instructions, the solemn and holy covenant he had made with their ancestors, and of his repeated reminders and warnings. They lived a "nothing" life and became "nothings"—just like the pagan peoples all around them. They were well-warned: God said, "Don't!" but they did it anyway. They threw out everything God, their God, had told them, and replaced him with two statue-gods shaped like bull-calves and then a phallic pole for the whore goddess Asherah. They worshiped cosmic forces—sky gods and goddesses—and frequented the sex-and-religion shrines of Baal. They even sank so low as to offer their own sons and daughters as sacrificial burnt offerings! They indulged in all the black arts of magic and sorcery. In short, they prostituted themselves to every kind of evil available to them. And God had had enough.
 
Thus if some critic tells you of debauchery back then....so? Who ever said there wasn't? I don't know what can be proven about that ancient time and place. The archeologists, higher critics, and assorted luminaries are going to point to unsavory goings-on back then, and we're going to say 'wasn't anybody I know. Must have been those rowdies living next door.' Israel's superior law from Jehovah set them apart, but only so long as they followed that law. They frequently didn't.

But to the extent that they did, that nation stood head and shoulders above surrounding peoples. Morally, socially, scientifically even, this nation stood out. What about those rigid standards of hygiene and cleanliness, escalating to quarantine when necessary, so that outbreaks of illness (plague) were nipped in the bud? Such simple matters as burying feces was ensconced in their law. Contrast that with European cities 3000 years later, where they were flinging human waste out the window onto public streets and walkways, completely oblivious to the health hazard. Or with medical experts of Ignatz Semmelweis' day who laughed their sides off at the notion that simple handwashing might reduce the sky-high mortality rates of existing hospitals, and who didn't change their opinion even after Semmelweis enforced hand writing at his own hospital, and the mortality rate did plummet. That colossal ignorance of science's best and brightest was only 150 years ago.
 
What about gleaning, the statute by which farmers were required to leave the edges of their fields untouched so that the down-on-their-luck could harvest and care for themselves? Or the jubilee arrangement, where every fifty years all land reverted to its original ownership, so that there would never be a permanent underclass (or privileged overclass)? Not only were such progressive measures unheard of then; they are unheard of now. Don't go telling me about barbaric nomads. In many ways, those ancients put us to shame.
 
Jehovah reminded those Israelites: See, I have taught you regulations and judicial decisions, just as Jehovah my God has commanded me, for you to do that way in the midst of the land to which you are going to take possession of it. And you must keep and do them, because this is wisdom on your part and understanding on your part before the eyes of the peoples who will hear of all these regulations, and they will certainly say, ‘This great nation is undoubtedly a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has gods near to it the way Jehovah our God is in all our calling upon him? And what great nation is there that has righteous regulations and judicial decisions like all this law that I am putting before you today.  Deut 4:5-8
 
Some wise-guy cynical brother who I won't name....oh, alright, it was Tom Pearlsandswine....once stated that "the truth is such a beautiful thing. It's a shame that Jehovah had to waste it on people!" I promptly rebuked him, of course, but there's no denying the long history, both then and now, of humans straying far from God's good ways.

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More here on Old Testament savagery

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Smart Ancient Syndrome (SAS) and the Evolutionist Parade

Archeologists dug up something from Canaanite days and the story we heard is the story we always hear: this was an advanced civilization. Surprisingly advanced. We have no idea how they did what they did without power tools.

I should have a dollar for every report like this one:
 

An archaeological dig in Jerusalem has turned up a 3,700-year-old wall that is the largest and oldest of its kind found in the region, experts say.
 
Standing 8 meters (26 feet) high, the wall of huge cut stones is a marvel to archaeologists. "To build straight walls up 8 meters ... I don't know how to do it today without mechanical equipment," said the excavation's director, Ronny Reich. "I don't think that any engineer today without electrical power [could] do it."
 
"You see all the big boulders -- all the boulders are 4 to 5 tons," adds archaeologist Eli Shukron. Canaanites built it.
 
 
 
Just once I'd like to hear archeologists say "My god! these people were stupid! It's a wonder they figured out how to procreate!" But no! It's always about how smart they were!

This is not what you expect from the evolution model. It's as if the Evolutionists' Parade - that troupe of creatures emerging from the slime, each more upright then the one before - reverses itself and marches back into the "primordial soup" from which it came. Folks are supposed to be dumber back then, not smarter. They're supposed to be like that 2001 Space Odyssey ape straining his feeble brainpower to capacity, suddenly realizing he can use dry bones as clubs, and consequently, clubbing everything in sight - all to the ecstasy of Survival of the Fittest evolutionists! Instead, we find case after case in which those ancients without fuss (or power tools) did things that we still don't know how to do.
 
A Canaanite wall is small potatoes. Likely, the Egyptian pyramids offer most striking example of Smart Ancients Syndrome (SAS). To this day we don't know how they built them. How did they get multi-ton cut blocks over 400 feet up? A gently-sloped inclined plane would be a mile long; "packing it down" enough to support the weight tough to imagine. There's no trace of any ramp today. Surface stones of the pyramids are cut within 0.01 inch of perfectly straight. the gap between them is 0.02 inch - modern technology cannot do better - and filled with a cement stronger than the blocks they join. Height to base is a multiple of pi. Height of a side to its hypotenuse is a Fibonacci multiple. Interior shafts point precisely to various stars at certain times of the year.
 
One can get lost in pyramid claims. Alas, I haven't the time nor incentive to check them out. Is the Great Pyramid really at the exact center of earth's land mass - that is, does a north-south meridian and an east-west latitude passing through the structure really encounter more land than one drawn anywhere else? It's no wonder that some have thought space aliens built these things, and others have thought they hold some prophetic significance.

But if evolutionists are taken aback by such engineering marvels, they fit well with how the Bible presents matters. According to the Bible, we are not ascending from cavemen. We are descending from Adam. That's why the early Bible record has humans living to 900. Centuries later it is 500. Later still it is 200. Didn't it get down to around 30 in the Dark Ages before applications of hygiene (not discoveries, since the Hebrews knew it 2000 years before) and later scientific advances brought it back up to the present 80, like a correction in a bear market? Those ancients were not inferior to us; they were superior. They were not dumber than us; they were smarter.
 
Well.... if they were really smarter than us, why didn't have cars? Why didn't they go to the moon? Why didn't they read the genome?  I can hear the objections now. The answer is that knowledge accumulates. The invention of the printing press speeded it up, as did the invention of the computer. So, just as you can accumulate wealth in a declining stock market, collective human accomplishment forges ahead even as our individual capacities deteriorate.
 
One is reminded of God's words from Genesis 11:6:
 
Look! They are one people and there is one language for them all, and this is what they start to do. Why, now there is nothing that they may have in mind to do that will be unattainable for them.
 
They're supposed to be dumber than us. Even Geico knows that. "So easy that a caveman can do it," goes the slogan. It's from the evolutionist model. But against all evolutionist expectations, those "cavemen" weren't all that dumb. We could learn some things from them.
 
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EDIT:  Hmmmm. Not saying it dovetails in all respects, but here is supplemental material from a geologist and carbonate sedimentologist, under the title Ancient People Were Smarter Than Us.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me          No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Atheist Buses and Hellfire Buses

 

It was clumsy from people who aren't known for clumsiness. It didn't ring true to form, yet I couldn't put my finger on it. Early this year, the atheists slapped this inspirational message on British buses and sent them all over England:

"There probably is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Richard Dawkins, the grand old man of atheism, appeared himself on launch day. Did he bless the buses as they left the terminal?
 
Now be honest. Is not your first reaction that those atheists should 'man up?' What is this milquetoast 'probably?' Either there is or there isn't. If it's just academic musing - well, then I guess 'probably' is acceptable - but no! we're authorized to take drastic action based on this 'probably.' We're to 'stop worrying' and 'enjoy life,' something none of us would dare do if there's the mere possibility of God lurking about somewhere! And what about this statement from Dawkins himself: "...if we say 'there's definitely no God' - you can't say that...." You can't? He does exactly that in his bestselling book The God Delusion. Why this pussyfooting around?
 
These folks are not milquetoast and they're not equivocal. Some of them you'll think are pit bulls should you run across them on the internet. It doesn't faze them at all to declare God a centuries-old, world-wide fraud- unfit for modern consumption. So why, all of a sudden, do they go weak in the knees? 'Probably?' And why does Dawkins put a positive spin on a mealy-mouthed message he can't stand?
 
Awake! magazine (Nov 2009) solved the puzzle. Citing The Guardian newspaper, it states "the word 'probably' is used in order to meet the rules of Britain's Advertising Standards Authority, since it is impossible to prove that God does not exist."

Ah....now it makes sense. That 'probably' is legalese! It's a disclaimer! It's like those interminable American pharmaceutical ads in which happy, vibrant, fulfilled people frolic on screen....so positively ALIVE now that they don't have to pee as much thanks to consuming this or that drug, and all the while the background announcer drones on and on with his long disclaimer of truly horrible side effects users may encounter, so that we begin to say "who in their right mind would take this stuff for ailments of mere inconvenience?" Ha, but those atheists want their message out so badly that they put up with a word that scuttles all it's impact. And we won't (for now) go into the 'impossibility of proving God's non-existence,' nor the ridiculous assertion that shedding faith is the pathway to worry-free happy life.
 
And yet listen to the words of Ariane Sherine, who dreamed up the project, and you can begin to empathize with her, and even with the grand old man Richard Dawkins:
 
"This campaign started as a counter response to advertising running on London buses in June 2008 which had Bible quotes on them, for instance Jesus died for our sins, and then an URL to a website and when you visited the website it said, among other things, that all non-Christians would burn in hell for all eternity in a lake of fire, and I thought that that was really quite strong...."
 
Yes....it really is....I see her point. Is it even more offensive than 'there (probably) is no God?' You can certainly argue the point. One side says God doesn't exist, and the other says - yes, he does, and he loves nothing more than to see those 'not with the program.' tortured forever. I like the way Isaac Asimov put it: hell is "the drooling dream of a sadist" crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, he wondered, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term. [Wikipedia entry on Isaac Asimov] Or, take this quote attributed to Sidney Hatch (the athlete?): “A civilized society looks with horror upon the abuse and torture of children or adults. Even where capital punishment is practiced, the aim is to implement it as mercifully as possible. Are we to believe then that a holy God—our heavenly Father—is less just than the courts of men? Of course not.”
 


 What is truly exasperating is that the Bible emerges as the source of the hellfire teaching. Those fire and wrath people have long hijacked the book and present it as their own, so that the casual observer assumes it really does teach hell. It doesn't.
 
With a single exception, all instances of “hell” stem from only one of three original language words. Find the meaning of those words, and you’ve found the meaning of hell. Two of those words are Hebrew-Greek equivalents: sheol and hades. They refer to "the place of the dead." Bad people are said to go there, but so are good people. When the patriarch Jacob was told his son Joseph had died, for example, he "kept refusing to take comfort and [was] saying: “For I shall go down mourning to my son into Sheol!” Did he really expect to burn in hell someday, or did he figure on dying and going to the grave? (Gen 37:35) Or Job, who, amidst great suffering, prayed  "O that in Sheol you would conceal me, that you would keep me secret until your anger turns back" (Job 14:13) A sensible request if sheol is the grave. Not so bright, though, if it is a burning place of torture.

How I miss the good ol Catholic Douay Bible, which consistently translated 'sheol' as 'hell!' But most translations, like the King James, only sometimes translate it as 'hell' and other times, when 'hell' is clearly ridiculous, translate it 'grave.' Why not translate it 'grave' each time, if that's what it means?
 
Or what about this verse speaking "of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses." (Acts 2:31 KJV) Now, if there is one person whom you would not expect to have gone to hell, wouldn't it be Jesus? But he was in the grave [hades] for three days.
 
The third and last word translated 'hell' is gehenna. Every instance of hellfire is 'gehenna.' The term refers to the valley of Hinnom outside the walls of Jerusalem. It served as the municipal garbage dump and fires were kept burning continually to consume the refuse. Carcasses of criminals and those not thought worthy of decent burial might be tossed over the wall into gehenna below. It even became symbolic. Giving one a proper burial presupposed they were worthy of future resurrection. Heaving someone into gehenna presupposed their death would be permanent. Thus, when Jesus denounced religious hypocrites: "Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?" he was suggesting they merited no future resurrection, not that they deserved everlasting torture.
 
The New World Translation declines to translate the three words into English. Instead, it transliterates sheol, hades, and gehenna directly from the original language into the English. This is an invaluable aid for students in uncovering what these words actually mean. One suspects other Bibles don't do it precisely to keep hidden how shaky is their derivation of 'hell.'
 
The phrase 'lake of fire' occurs only once in the Bible, at Revelation chapter 20:
 
"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Rev 20:10 KJV) One would think it painfully obvious that we're into heavy symbolism here. Literally speaking, the devil ought have a summer cottage on the lake of fire; it ought not bother him a bit! Later (vs 14) death and hades are tossed into the lake. Are they also entities that you can torture forever and ever? Or is the lake merely symbolic for permanent destruction, the "second death?"
 
It's a little like when you accompany someone (alas, we still have a few like this) to the door, and that one is so persistent and so argumentative that the householder finally slams the door shut, and you say "I don't blame him...what else could he have done?" So it is with these born-again hellfire buses running all over the place. You can only push atheists so far. Sooner or later they'll send out buses of their own. Listen, regarding Sherine and Dawkins, I'm not their friend, nor do I understand their evangelistic zeal for spreading atheism. The same fervor Ponce de Leon used to put into finding the fountain of life, these guys put into finding the fountain of death. No, I don't like the atheist bus campaign. But as a response to religionists threatening everyone with hellfire....well, suddenly I can empathize with them a little.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)