On Joseph Smith


“No, it’s a matter of logic! If you’re going to say things that have been proven wrong, like that the first man and woman lived in Missouri, and that Native Americans came from Jerusalem, then you’d better have something to back it up. All you’ve got are a bunch of stories about some asswipe who read plates nobody ever saw out of a hat, and then couldn’t do it again when the translations were hidden!”

– Stan Marsh

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Conversations: Prophecies


Zoe
There are people who think that their sacred texts predict the future by means of prophecies. Is this so unreasonable?

Sappho
It is. Consider the Bible, Christians regularly assert that the Bible predicts future historical events. For instance, Deuteronomy 28:64 says, “And the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other.”

Helena
Furthermore, Jesus says, in Luke 19:43-44, “For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Now, we are meant to believe that these utterances predict the subsequent history of the Jews with such uncanny specificity so as to admit of only a supernatural explanation.

Sappho
But just imagine how breathtakingly specific a work of prophecy would be, if it were actually the product of omniscience. Continue reading

Conversations: Moderates and Morality


Helena
Even if a belief in God had a reliable, positive effect upon human behaviour, this would not offer a reason to believe in God. One can believe in God only if one thinks that God actually exists.

Sappho
Good point. Even if atheism led straight to moral chaos, this would not suggest that the doctrine of Christianity is true. Islam might be true, in that case. Or all religions might function like placebos. As descriptions of the universe, they could be utterly false but, nevertheless, useful. The evidence suggests, however, that they are not only false but dangerous.

Zoe
Slow down! Most Christians, Jews, Muslims, et cetera, cannot be categorized as fundamentalists. In fact, when talking about the good consequences that religious beliefs have on human morality, most people of faith follow the example of religious liberals and religious moderates. Consider Christians the world over, rather than say that they believe in God because certain biblical prophecies have come true, or because the miracles recounted in the Gospels are convincing, liberals and moderates tend to talk in terms of the good consequences of believing as they do. Such believers often say that they believe in God because this “gives their lives meaning.” Continue reading

Mark 11:12-14


12 And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:

13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.

14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.

See other: Often Ignored Bible Verses

Faith and Porcophobia


‘There must therefore be another answer to the conundrum. I claim my own solution as original, though without the help of Sir James Frazer and the great Ibn Warraq I might not have hit upon it. According to many ancient authorities, the attitude of early Semites to swine was one of reverence as much as disgust. The eating of pig flesh was considered as something special, even privileged and ritualistic. (This mad confusion between the sacred and the profane is found in all faiths at all times.) The simultaneous attraction and repulsion derived from an anthropomorphic root: the look of the pig, and the taste of the pig, and the dying yells of the pig, and the evident intelligence of the pig, were too uncomfortably reminiscent of the human.

Porcophobia—and porcophilia—thus probably originate in a night-time of human sacrifice and even cannibalism at which the “holy” texts often do more than hint. Nothing optional—from homosexuality to adultery—is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting (and exact the fierce punishments) have a repressed desire to participate. As Shakespeare put it in King Lear, the policeman who lashes the whore has a hot need to use her for the very offense for which he plies the lash.

Porcophilia can also be used for oppressive and repressive purposes. In medieval Spain, where Jews and Muslims were compelled on pain of death and torture to convert to Christianity, the religious authorities quite rightly suspected that many of the conversions were not sincere. Indeed, the Inquisition arose partly from the holy dread that secret infidels were attending Mass—where of course, and even more disgustingly, they were pretending to eat human flesh and drink human blood, in the person of Christ himself. Among the customs that arose in consequence was the offering, at most events formal and informal, of a plate of charcuterie. Those who have been fortunate enough to visit Spain, or any good Spanish restaurant, will be familiar with the gesture of hospitality: literally dozens of pieces of differently cured, differently sliced pig. But the grim origin of this lies in a constant effort to sniff out heresy, and to be unsmilingly watchful for giveaway expressions of distaste. In the hands of eager Christian fanatics, even the toothsome jamón Ibérico could be pressed into service as a form of torture.’

Hitchens. C. 2007. God Is Not Great London, Great Britain: Atlantic Books (2008) p. 40-41

Conversations: Faith


Helena
There are people who believe certain propositions about the world we live in, not because those propositions make them feel good, but because they think they are true.

Lysandra
I see that it is obvious that those propositions can either be true or untrue. And if one proposition is right, the contradictory proposition must be wrong. For instance, the Bible is either the word of God, or it is not.

Helena
Exactly. Consider your example, if the basic doctrine of Christianity is correct, we have misused our lives in the worst conceivable way.

Lysandra
Well, if the basic tenets of Christianity are true, then there are some very grim surprises in store for people like ourselves.

Helena
Indeed, but let us return to your example so I can expand on it a little: either the Bible is just an ordinary book, written by mortals, or it is not. Either Christ was divine, or he was not. If the Bible is an ordinary book, and Christ an ordinary man, the basic doctrine of Christianity is false. Now, you would think there are quite convincing reasons for believing that if you drink the blood of a fictional carpenter’s son you can live forever, but there do not seem to be any.

Lysandra
That is an interesting point. And you would think the fact that our continuous and public rejection of a collective delusion such as Christianity does not worry us in the least should suggest to Christians just how inadequate we think their reasons for being Christian are.

(Based on: Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 4)

See other: Philosophical Conversations

The Samaritans and Jesus’ Racism


Jesus: And he walked by on the other side leaving the man helpless, but then who should wander by, but a Samaritan, of all people, and he actually helped the man.

Disciple: Hang on, master.

Jesus: – No, he did, he went over and actually…

Disciple: – No, sorry…

Jesus: – No, no. I mean, this is what I’m saying. That a Samaritan, all right – so, have a good think about your attitudes – went and helped…

Disciple: – Yeah, no, I see.

Jesus: – No, no, stick with it. Because what I’m saying is that he was a “Good” Samaritan. That’s “Good Samaritan”, if you could imagine such a thing.

Disciple: Yes, yes, I can. I think we all can. I know there’s a lot of prejudice against Samaritans, which is terrible, but I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that there are loads of really nice Samaritans!

Member of the public #1: Yeah, some of my best friends are Samaritans.

Member of the public #2: Me and the wife went on holiday to Samaria last year, and they were lovely people.

Member of the public #3: – Couldn’t do enough for you.

Disciple: – Yes, so. What I’m finding offensive – and I’m sure I’m not the only one – is your unreflecting acceptance of this cliché that all Samaritans are wankers.

Jesus: No, I’m saying he was good!

Disciple: But you’re implying that “the fact that he was good” is worth a story in itself. It’s some kind of weird curiosity, like an albino Nubian.

Jesus: No, I’m saying that goodness comes in unexpected places.

Disciple: And I’m saying that the fact that you wouldn’t expect goodness from a Samaritan betrays your inherent racism!

Jesus: OK, OK. Alright, that’s a big word. Let’s just take a deep breath here. I didn’t mean to offend. That’s the last thing I intended. I didn’t realise there were any Samaritans in the room.

Disciple: – That’s not the point!

Jesus: Or Samaritan sympathisers. You know, Sammy lovers.

Disciple: – I can’t believe I’m hearing this.

Jesus: No, no, no, no. I didn’t realise it was such a PC environment here and I suppose I thought that having what was only intended as a fond pop at our Samaritan neighbours, friends even, if you like, would not be inappropriate in the context of a story which is after all about goodness, and at the end of the day, it is only a parable.

Disciple: – What? It didn’t really happen?

Jesus: – Of course not. A Samaritan tosser wouldn’t do that for his own grandmother!

That Mitchell and Webb Look (2006) Season 1, Episode 4. [No. 4]

Church Marquees


Listed below is a collection of church marquees that provide us with an interesting insight into the minds of various Christian movements all over the North-American continent. Church marquees are also telling of the messages these various movements like to communicate to society. Their diversity is enormous, being either oblivious to the most obvious innuendos, too clever by half, or hopelessly bigoted:[1]

  • A 4 inch tongue can bring a 6 foot man to his knees. (Word of Life – Church of Christ)
  • All churches & members that support homos cursed be thou with cancer syphilis HIV stroke madness itch then hell. (Atlah World Missionary Church)
  • Cars aren’t the only thing recalled by their maker. (Pea Ridge Free Will Baptist)
  • Christmas: easier to spell than Hanukkah.[2] (Cross of Christ Deliverance Temple)
  • Does life stink? We have a pew for you. (Calvary Baptist Church)
  • Do not criticise your wife’s judgement – see whom she married. (First Presbyterian Church)
  • Don’t be so open-minded; your brains fall out. (Glad Tidings Assembly)
  • Don’t make me come down there. – God (Cornerstone Christian Church)
  • Easter comes once a year. How often do you? (Kingsley Lake Baptist Church)
  • Face powder may get a man, it takes baking powder to keep him. (North Buncombe First Church of God)
  • Get off of Facebook and into my book – God (Fall Creek Baptist Church)
  • God didn’t create anything without a purpose. But mosquitoes come close. (Bethany Lutheran Church)
  • God does not believe in atheists, therefore atheists do not exist. (Palm Heights Baptist Church)
  • God, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am! (Northgate Baptist Church)
  • Have trouble sleeping? We have sermons, come hear one. (Benton Heights Presbyterian Church)
  • Honk if you love Jesus. Text while driving if you want to meet him. (Stonebridge Church of God)
  • I hate this church – Satan (Faith Baptist Church)
  • I kissed a girl and I liked it. Then I went to hell. (Havens Corners Church)
  • I wish Noah had swatted those two mosquitoes.[3] (Unknown)
  • If evolution is true, why help the poor? (Christian Fellowship Church)
  • If man evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys? (New Deliverance Evangelistic Church)
  • If ur’ faith is big enough, facts dnt count. (Victoria Tabernacle Holiness Church)
  • If you don’t love God, go to hell. (Unity Christian Church)
  • Jesus had two dads and he turned out just fine! (St. John’s Anglican Church)
  • Jews killed the Lord Jesus. (Lovingway United Pentecostal Church)
  • Keep using my name in vain, I’ll make rush hour longer – God (First Reformed Church of Bethlehem)
  • Now is a good time to visit, our pastor is on vacation. (Cape Coral Community Church)
  • Obama Osama (Jonesville Chuch of God)
  • Open your mouth and I will fill it. (Grace United Church of Christ)
  • Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has. (Beryl Baptist Church)
  • Santa Claus never died for anyone. (Apostolic faith Church)
  • Staying in bed screaming ‘oh God’ does not constitute going to church. (Church of Redeemer Lutheran)
  • Suffering is the soil in which faith grows. (Greensboro Grove Church)
  • Surfers, Skateboarders, Musicians, Artists, Vegetarians, Dawkins, Activists, Addicts and Fornicators all go to hell! Repent Now! (Orange Church of God)
  • The best gift a mother ever gave was time spent on her knees. (Moler Avenue Church of the Brethren)
  • The best way to the top is on your knees. (Hickory Flat Fellowship Church of God)
  • Unless you are White, Anglo, and Republican. Stay away! (Scofield Baptist Church)
  • Vote for the Mormon, not the Muslim; the Capitalist, not the Communist! (Church in the Valley)
  • Wal-Mart isn’t the only saving place. (Faubion United Methodist Church)
  • What happens in Vegas is forgiven here.[4] (Unknown)
  • Whoever is praying for rain can stop. (Lake George Bible Church)
  • Whoever’s praying 4 snow, pleez stop! (McDonaldsville St. Paul)

[1] In some cases, punctuation has been added to make the message more understandable.

[2] The Jewish feast of Hanukkah is misspelled here as “Hannukah”, we have corrected this error.

[3], [4] Even though the location of this marquee is unknown, the authors felt this message could not be left out of the final list.