Jesus and the Adulteress

May 29, 2008

Remember the Woman at the Well story in John 8? The Pharisees bring a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. They tell Jesus that the Law says that she should be stoned to death, and they ask how he would handle it. Jesus says “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Then one by one, the Pharisees leave and Jesus says to the adulteress: “Then neither do I condemn you,…Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The adulteress was guilty; she was caught in the act and no one denies that she is guilty. When Jesus tells her not to do it any more, he implies that he knows she’s guilty. According to the Law, she should be stoned to death.

Note that Jesus never says that she should not be stoned because he forgave her of her sin. In fact he never said that she shouldn’t be stoned. Quite the opposite: he tacitly agrees that she should indeed be stone, but he stipulates that the first stone should be thrown by one without sin. The original Law never stipulates that the adulterer should be stoned only by those without sin – that is Jesus’ modification to the Law (or perhaps it is his supreme understanding of the law). But let’s accept that Jesus, being the Son of God and all, has the right to modify the Law (or is better qualified to interpret it than anyone else). Then according to the law as Jesus redefined it or reinterprets it, the adulteress should be stoned, but one without sin could cast the first stone.

Wasn’t Jesus without sin? Then by Jesus’ own words, he should have thrown the first stone. In fact, didn’t Jesus have an obligation to throw the first stone so that his Law would be upheld? By failing to throw the stone, Jesus violates a Law that he agrees should be upheld – which is a sin.

Here is the full dialog (NIV version):

Joh 8:3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group
Joh 8:4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.
Joh 8:5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
Joh 8:6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.
Joh 8:7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Joh 8:8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
Joh 8:9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
Joh 8:10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Joh 8:11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”


Atheism by Faith?

May 27, 2008

Part 1: Spot the Equivocation

Fundamentalist Christians often charge that atheists can’t know that God does not exist (after all, we can’t prove the negative) so atheists have to take it on faith that there is no God, just as fundamentalists take it on faith that God exists. To an extent, fundamentalists use logic and evidence to support their religious claims, but if you look beneath the surface, if you ask “how do you know” often enough (but how do you know that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God?), you finally arrive at the answer: “you just have to have faith,” or other creative variants like “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” The idea is to put atheism on equal footing with Christian fundamentalism; to show that atheism is no more evidence based than Christianity.

Have you spotted the fatal flaw yet? The flaw is that the fundamentalists equivocate the meaning of the word, “faith.” When applied to religion, fundamentalists mean blind faith – the willingness to accept and believe without evidence (and even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary). On the other hand, when they apply the word, “faith,” to conclusions based on evidence, they mean that if we don’t know for sure (i.e., if we don’t have proof), then we have to believe that our conclusions are true. However, considering the available evidence, and then accepting the most reasonable conclusion based on the evidence is far from blind faith – it is “reasoned belief.” When referring to the “blind faith” of Christianity, and the “reasoned belief” of skepticism, fundamentalists use the same term, “faith,” for both, even though the meaning of each is quite different. Once you make the distinction, the charge that atheism is no more evidence-based than Christianity, crumbles.

Part 2: The “Faith Game”

Just for fun, consider an aspect of faith from the fundamentalist Christian viewpoint. The author of Hebrews (let’s just call him “Paul” for now) says in Heb 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

According to Paul, faith is the evidence. Fundamentalists who accept Intelligent Design claim that we have to take evolution on faith since we have never seen animals evolve (never mind that we actually have seen animals and plants speciate, and we have ample evidence to consider evolution a fact). Therefore, they claim that evolution is “not seen” but that proponents of evolution (biologists) simply take it on faith. Then according to Paul (and fundamentalists by definition, take Paul’s words as absolutely true), the “faith” of the biologists is itself the evidence of evolution; the biologists’ faith is “the evidence of things not seen”. By their own reasoning, fundamentalists must admit that there is evidence for evolution.


Atheists With Doubts

May 25, 2008

New thread courtesy of Doug – he writes:

Atheists With Doubts.
All of us have doubts.
All of us have questions.
Christians have doubts about Gods existence, Christians wonder why ‘good things happen to bad people’.
Just as Christians have doubts and questions about the fact that, ‘YES GOD IS’.
No doubt atheists sometimes have doubts that God does not exist.
This thread is specifically for you. This being an atheist web site I do not expect many if any hits, for who would want their name broadcast that perhaps, just maybe they have doubts that God does not exist. 99.9% of aethiests would refuse to express their doubts.

Belief in God is not a playground it is a battleground!

Best wishes & God bless you,
Doug


A Rough History of Disbelief

May 18, 2008

New thread courtesy of The Reverend – he writes:

On May 25th Wisconsin Public Television will be broadcasting Jonathan Miller’s ‘A Rough History of Disbelief.’

From Wikipedia: “…a 2005 documentary series conducted by Jonathan Miller for the BBC tracing the history of atheism. It was first shown on BBC Four and was repeated on BBC Two.

The series includes extracts from interviews with various academic luminaries including Arthur Miller, Richard Dawkins, Steve Weinberg, Colin McGinn, Denys Turner, Pascal Boyer and Daniel Dennett. The series also includes many quotations from the works of atheists, agnostics and deists, all read by Bernard Hill.”

The schedule for airing has changed a couple of times, so you may want to monitor their calendar: http://wpt.org/schedule/index.cfm

The series is also available for viewing at: http://www.veoh.com/channels/briefhistoryofdisbelief&;

Enjoy!

The Reverend


Fulfilled Prophecy – Proof of Bible’s Divine Inspiration?

May 16, 2008

New thread courtesy of J.D. – he writes:

Christians claim that the Bible has hundreds of fulfilled prophecies, and is proof of its divine inspiration. In actuality, these so called fulfilled prophecies failed, were false or weren’t prophecies at all. Many of these prophecies are so vague, they can be attributed to different events. It’s also a fact that the Bible was written 100’s, even 1000’s of years after these presumed prophecies and their “fulfillment” took place. It’s also fair to mention that nowhere in the Bible will you find countries such as the United States, Russia, China, Korea, Great Britain prophesied. Oh Christians will tell you that they are, if you know how to interpret the Bible.

Genesis 26:4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.

Here God tells Isaac that his descendents (Hebrews) will be as numerous as the stars. Considering the number of stars there are in the universe, that would have to be on the order of 10 to the power of 20 Jewish people.
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Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Christians say that this verse is a prophecy of Jesus’ birth to a virgin. There are a couple problems with this prophecy…First, virgin in this verse is a mistranslation of the Hebrew word “almah”, which actually means “young woman”. A young woman is not necessarily a virgin. “Bethulah” would have been the correct word to use if the author meant virgin. Second, nowhere in the New Testament is Jesus referred to as Immanuel.
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Isaiah 17:1 The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.

Damascus is still inhabited today with over a million people, and hardly a ruinous heap.
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Isaiah 19:4-5 And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts. And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up.

The river mentioned here is the Nile. The Nile is still one of Egypt’s greatest natural resource.
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Isaiah 19:18 In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction.

The Canaanite language has never been spoken in Egypt, and is now an extinct.
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Isaiah 52:1 Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.

There are uncircumcised people living in Jerusalem even today.
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Ezekiel 29:10-11 Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia. No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years.

Never in its long history has Egypt ever been uninhabited for forty years.
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Amos 9:15 And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.

Many times, Jews have been pulled up out of their land. The ownership of their land is still being fought for.
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Jonah 3:4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

Nineveh was never overthrown. Why? Because God changed his mind in verse 3:10, despite what Malachi 3:6, Numbers 23:19 and Ezekiel 24:14 says about God never changing his mind.

Jonah 3:10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

(another note on this one:so god did evil huh? sinned? not so perfect?)
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Zechariah 11:12 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.

Christians say that this prophecy is was fulfilled when Judas received 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus. Matthew 27:9 recites this verse, but incorrectly credits Jeremiah with the prophecy.
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Matthew 1:22-23 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Again, Jesus is never referred to as Emmanuel (Immanuel).
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Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

Nowhere in the Old Testament is such a prophecy found, so how could such a one be fulfilled?
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Matthew 12:5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?

There is no passage in the Old Testament that can be attributed to what Jesus is saying here.
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Matthew 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Jesus states that all the signs marking the end of the world in Matthew 24 would be fulfilled before his generation ended. That generation ended 2000 years ago, and the world has not come to an end, neither has all those signs been fulfilled.
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Matthew 27:9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value.

This prophecy was never spoken by Jeremiah.
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Matthew 26:64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Jesus tells the high priest that he would see his second coming. The high priest is long dead, and Jesus hasn’t returned yet.
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Throughout the New Testament, the end of the world is prophesied as being very near, at hand, to be witnessed by those living at the time. Paul often told the people he preached to that they would be witnesses to Jesus’ second coming. They are all long gone.


Ethics and Atheism

May 8, 2008

Some of the earlier posts on this blog dealt with morality, where some theists challenged the possibility of atheist morals, and others questioned the reason atheists should be moral at all. Having discussed those questions theoretically, it might be interesting to revisit them in light of an example. Let’s consider the ethics of blogging and use this blog as the example.

An interesting aspect of blogging is the opportunity to interact with a wide array of people that we might not otherwise ever come across. Some people who post here on this blog are believers, others are skeptics. Some are thoughtful, others are flippant. Some are respectful, others are contemptuous. As one who posts on this blog, what should guide my behavior, regardless of how others behave? Here are a few thoughts:

1) I should treat others as I would have them treat me. However this presumes that others wish to be treated the same way I wish to be treated, but it’s not a bad place to start. In that case, I’ll post thoughtful, respectful comments.

2) I should follow rule one even when others don’t. In face-to-face discussions, this may not be good advice – no one is obligated to endure abuse. But in a blog setting, it’s unlikely that someone’s abusive post, whether intensionally abusive or accidentally abusive, will harm you in any real sense. Other readers will think more poorly of the abuser, and even the group or community that he represents, than of the “abusee.” Which leads me to the next rule:

3) Don’t respond to abuse in kind. There can be many reasons for abusive posts. Some people simply have poor communication skills, or they could even have personality disorders. Others have been abused themselves (maybe they merited the abuse, and maybe not) so they are just taking it out on the next guy. Still others are simply trying to incite their target to be abusive in order to use the target’s abusive reactions to discredit him (see the last part of #2). In the first 2 cases, the kind thing would be to respond with respect. In the 3rd case, the smart thing would be to respond with respect.

What would you add to these?

What if anything does the fact that I, an atheist who has a sense of morality and follows a set of ethics, say about arguments from morality for the existence of God? What if anything does the fact, that my ethics differ from the ethics of other commenters on this blog, say about an “absolute morality” versus a natural sense of morality innate to humans – and therefore what if anything does it say about arguments from morality for the existence of God?


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