Category Archives: Belief

Valerie Tarico: Ancient Sumerian Origins of the Easter Story

Let’s start with the first part of the myth. Inanna and Jesus both travel to a big city, where they are arrested by soldiers, put on trial, convicted, sentenced to death, stripped of their clothes, tortured, hung up on a stake, and die. And then, after 3 days, they are resurrected from the dead. Now there are, to be sure, a number of significant differences between the stories. For one thing, one story is about a goddess and the other is about a divine man. But this is a specific pattern, a mythic template. When you are dealing with the question of whether these things actually happened, you have to deal with the fact that there is a mythic template here. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t a real person, Jesus, who was crucified, but rather that, if there was, the story about it is structured and embellished in accordance with a pattern that was very ancient and widespread.

Valerie Tarico: Ancient Sumerian Origins of the Easter Story

what is truth?

what is truth?

is truth knowable?

at what point is one satisfied that they have arrived at it?

do we start with falsehood and whittle away until only truth is left?

do we start with truth and add our own beliefs to it, diluting it?

do we do both?

are we capable of holding conflicting beliefs?

do we ever act NOT according to our actual beliefs?

it seems to me that that which is true would be true no matter what i think about it — or even if i think about it at all.

if my beliefs line up with what actually is, then so much the better for me.

i also think, somewhat, that people’s actual beliefs can be inferred from their behavior, though i think socialization comes to play, and limits/enhances somethings, so that we are coerced into doing that which we would not otherwise do — allowing belief that the consequences of not doing x would be worse than following what we really believe about y.

iow: a behavior do show our true beliefs, but one’s true beliefs and behaviors are to complex to for another to really infer much out of it.

Skepchick: Critical Thinking at its Finest

don't believe in god?

A lot of Christians who have seen the billboards have found them offensive enough that they felt a need to complain. Some have even accused the billboards of being hate speech and denigrating Christians. One Christian driver who saw the billboard went so far as to say “It is a despicable act to allow that sign…” I, for one, can’t see how that is possible since the billboards are not speaking to or about Christians or people of faith, they are merely offering support to those unbelievers who may be living in the area.

Skepchick: Critical Thinking at its Finest

obama and hell and christianity today

as i’ve spoken of before, the “hell” topic was one of the main bones of contention i ended up having with what most evangelical christians consider “orthodox”.

i did a big study on it in 2004, and abandoned the idea of hell once i actually got my mind around what the bible actually does and does not say about it.

as i recall from my studies, hell as a concept is virtually absent from the old testament, and there are three greek words used in the new testament that were translated as “hell” in the NIV (the evangelical’s translation of choice).

together these three words are used a grand total of fourteen (14) times in the new testament.

all but two of these uses are by jesus himself.

paul never mentions it.

“hell” as christians today think of it didn’t really come to be a common christian teaching until nearly 200 AD — no one in jesus audience would have ever thought that you went there forever simply for having the misfortune of being born.

“gehenna” is the most commonly used word for “hell” in the NT, and while it is never “defined” explicitly, what jesus probably meant when he used it what was everyone else at that time meant by it: a place, under the ground, where there was lots of fire, and where the sun got its heat and light from as it traveled under the ground on its trip back to the east, after it had set in the west.

if jesus believed (perhaps because he had some special knowledge from the Father) that hell was not an actual, physical, place which was literally under the ground, he didn’t seem to clue his listeners in, and they certainly would have thought this was what he meant when he used the word.

at the time, it was generally believed (jewish or not) that when a person died they went into the afterlife, or hades (hebrew: sheol), where they might face some sort of judgment.

jesus’ particularly jewish audience at the time were likely to believe that the pious would get to exchange their ticket to hell for a ticket to paradise, which meant they now had TWO tickets to paradise (every one was born with one of each) and could go there, immediately.

people who had committed adultry or had led their neighbors into wrongdoing had their one paradise ticket taken away and got another ticket to sheol handed to them: no escape.

a common phrase in jewish teaching was that it would have been better to not have been born than to be one of these people.

(christians familiar with their bibles will recognize that phrasing: jesus borrowed it.)

people who had themselves sinned, but had not lead other people to sin had to spend about only about one (1) year in gehenna, and then got to go up to paradise.

note: this is not a biblical teaching, as the bible doesn’t actually ever say anything on the subject. i’m just relaying what most people who happened to grow up the descendants of nomadic desert tribes in mesopotamia happen to believe on the subject.

so, that was the belief of MOST of the people who heard jesus say:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

this was RADICAL teaching on this subject.

but did he mean it, literally?

to the people who believed that gehenna was under their ground, and supplied the sun with fire, jesus said that if they are angry with their brother, they are going to go there.

surely he didn’t actually mean it, literally, right?

what about when he said: “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”

did he mean this literally?

so, then, in which of the three times where we have jesus quoted as talking about gehenna is he speaking literally?

if it isn’t those two, it must be this one:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. … You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

other times the NIV says “hell” are:

2 Peter 2:4 — “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;”

here, the word peter uses is “tartarus” — and is generally thought to be a big, dark, essentially bottomless hole.

James 3:6 — “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”

the word used here is “gehenna”

Matthew 16:18 — “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

here, the word jesus uses is “hades”, rather than “gehenna”.

hades was believed in jesus’ time to be “the afterlife” — and did not necessarily imply someplace horrible, though it was believed to be rather gloomy, unless you happened to get to some sort of paradise.

so, there you have it: the entire new testament’s teaching on “hell” all summed up, with some history on what jesus’ contemporaries believed on the subject.

not one time does jesus ever mention being a christian.

not once does jesus lay out specific things one must believe in order to NOT go to hell.

not once does any other new testament writer.

the bible is more or less quiet on the entire matter of hell and who goes there or does not.

of course, this is NOT a view that is embraced 21st century evangelical christian culture, with its particular version of orthodoxy, where the text must be accepted as a whole: either all true or all a lie, right?

so, then, what about anyone who doesn’t poke out their own eyeball for enjoying checking out a hot chick?

anyway, when obama says:

“I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell…I find it hard that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell…I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity…That’s just not part of my religious make-up.”

…i think you’ll find its actually a very biblical view.

its almost certainly the one jesus himself held, if we are to go by what we know of history combined with his teachings on the subject.

note: i cross-posted this as a comment on john crane’s blog here.

is this true: “all these things will be given to you”

recently i had reason to go back and examine the teachings of jesus in the book of matthew, chapter six:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

many christians accept this without much thought, and yet also basically ignore it, except as a mild emotional uplift when hard times come.

the basics are: “i am worried. i feel like i should not worry, because god is in control, therefore, i shall now feel better.”

but is the above quoted passage actually true?

is there evidence that god actually provides clothing food and water to those who seek his kingdom?

is it safe to assume that those who do not have such things are, then, not seeking god’s kingdom?

Butterflies

Then my mom called. You might imagine I don’t get along all that well with my mother, and you’d be right. We’re cordial enough, but we don’t really talk about anything meaningful. It was time for that to change. I told her about my work, and about my next project, a game that would literally change the course of history.
 
Then we talked about Obama. I told her that I felt Americans were living in the Matrix, working long hours, eating pablum, and dying useless for having fed the parasitic machine draining the lifeblood of a withering planet.
 
I told her that Obama was the first president in my lifetime I could look to for inspiration. I told her about seeing people like myself get involved in the politcal process for the first time. I told her about getting to know the truth about money, the economy, and consumption.
 
I told her I saw a light at the end of the tunnel, where the boom-bust cycles of exploitative capitalism gave way the steady, sustainable happiness of altruistic capitalism.
 
Then she got biblical, which was her undoing. No one can quote scripture like an atheist. Without getting into the full multi-hour explanation, I showed her that McCain fits the description of the antichrist much better than Obama.
 
Finally it came down to abortion and gay marriage. I explained that first, understand that Roe v. Wade is not a case about abortion, but about the federal government’s ability to enforce the Constitution at the state level. Most laws are like this — their issues are far more complicated than will fit on a sign.
 
Still, it brings up a greater issue. It is not your job to govern other people’s morality. The Bible is explicitly clear on this subject. Not only does it repeatedly warn against judging others, it also makes clear that vengeance is the exclusive prerogative of God.
 
You are being controlled, I told her, by people telling you how to think, how to feel, and how to act. Use your God-given mind to make your own decisions.

Butterflies

Obama: Bad News For the New Atheists and Other Fundamentalists

The Obama presidency is great news for almost everyone. It’s bad news for some odd ideological bedfellows: the Religious Right and the so-called New Atheists.

Into the all or nothing culture wars, and the all or nothing wars between the so-called New Atheists and religion the election of President elect Obama reintroduces nuance. President elect Obama’s ability to believe in Jesus, yet question, is going to rescue American religion in general and Christianity in particular, from the extremes.

There is no way to understand President elect Obama’s victory as anything less than the start of not just a monumental political change but a spiritual revolution as well.

Frank Schaeffer: President Obama: Bad News For the New Atheists and Other Fundamentalists

Creationists fail again: taken for granite

But I’m thinking that no matter what, we’re talking ages significantly longer than say, 6000 years. In fact, unless Antarctica was moving at a pace faster than you can jog, we’re talking millions if not hundreds of millions of years here.

Of course, creationists have an answer for this, including “catastrophic plate tectonics”, which apparently can have all the continents scurrying across the face of the Earth like cockroaches avoiding light. Go ahead and read that link; it’s pretty entertaining. According to them, the continents all got pushed around by Noah’s flood, then suddenly stopped, except not really stopped; now they move slowly, and at just the right speed to be in concordance with the hundreds of other pieces of evidence that show that the Earth is billions of years old.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Creationists fail again: taken for granite

Being a Theistic Evolutionist without contradiction

First of all this suggests that Humans were the expected outcome of God’s creation and while it is easy to understand this flawed logic, after all, we are the outcome of God’s creation, this should not be confused with a forward looking goal. In fact, it is easy to argue that God’s Creation was set in motion to eventually result in a form of life which could gain spirituality and a soul and thus become aware of His existence. Furthermore, even if God had set in motion a Darwinian process, He could still have intervened, as I have explained above, without violating natural law. In other words, the process would still appear purely Darwinian and at the same time would be guided.

So contrary to the fallacious claims that ‘true Darwinists’ cannot be ‘true Christians’, it is self evident that such a position is not logically tenable.

What I find puzzling is why people are intent on rejecting the good science of Darwinism and evolutionary theory as somehow being incompatible with their faith. That shows both a disregard for science, which is a typical ID Creationist affliction, as well as a significant lack in faith.

Being a Theistic Evolutionist without contradiction

you know what else is cool?

so, once, when he lived in arizona — a place so hot that they think 90 degrees f is “kinda nice out” — he was leaving his apartment with xbox under his arm, on his way to a LAN party.

(yes, he now works in IT)

anyway, outside his apartment, in the hallway, was an evangelist, a young one.

Kid in White TShirt: Is that an XBOX?
Jason: Yes.
Kid: Cool.
Jason: Thanks.
Kid: You know what else is cool?
Jason: *blink*
Kid: The Book of Mormon

Evolution: what’s the real controversy?

Here, it was clear that there simply is no controversy. In contrast to the arguments over bacterial trees and the origin of eukaryotes, none of the researchers felt compelled to explain or justify their focus on the role of mutation and selective pressure. Concerns, when they arose, were simply focused on identifying the consequences of selection. As such, Discovery’s focus on presenting a controversy here seems hallucinatory.

Evolution: what’s the real controversy?:

lovely article on “magical thinking”

No, at some level they believed that their insurance helped keep the plane aloft, according to psychologists with new experimental evidence of just how weirdly superstitious people can be.

We buy insurance not just for peace of mind or to protect ourselves financially, but because we share the ancient Greeks’ instinct for appeasing the gods.

We may not slaughter animals anymore to ward off a plague, but we think buying health insurance will keep us from getting sick. Our brains may understand meteorology, but in our guts we still think that not carrying an umbrella will make it rain, a belief that was demonstrated in experiments by Jane Risen of the University of Chicago and Thomas Gilovich of Cornell.

Travel Insurance – Magical Thinking – Appeasing the Gods, With Insurance – John Tierney – New York Times: