Est. May 2008

28 September, 2014

Talents

This is interesting:
The parable in question is the one concerning the rich man who gives talents to three of his servants and then sets out on a journey. Upon his return, he assesses the situation and discovers that the servant to whom he had given five talents had invested them fruitfully and that the servant to whom he had given three talents had done the same. But he finds, to his chagrin, that the slave to whom he had entrusted one talent had simply buried the wealth and had garnered neither gain nor interest. Angered, he orders that the one talent be taken from the timid servant and given to the servant who had invested most boldly.

And then comes the devastating moral lesson: "For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

The standard reading of this story -- on display in thousands of sermons and fervorinos -- is that the talents symbolize gifts and abilities that God has given to us and that he expects us to "spend" generously or "invest" wisely. This interpretation is supported by the fairly accidental relationship that obtains between "talent" in the ancient Biblical sense of the term and "talent" in ordinary English today.
However…

Yeah, yeah, I know.

I’m not going to give it away; you’ll have to go over and read the rest.

26 September, 2014

Haven’t Got A Prayer

North Alabama Freethought Association board member Kelly McCauley will open the Huntsville City Council meeting Thursday in a non-religious invocation after a secularist group threatened to sue the council over its tradition of Christian Prayer.

McCauley, who according to his Meetup page was confirmed in the Lutheran Church and "dropped out" at age 23, told AL.com, "My goal is to offer a non-sectarian invocation that, I hope, will lend gravity to the meeting and point to our civic values."

– snip –

McCauley was invited by Huntsville leaders to give the body's first atheist "prayer" after secularist group Freedom From Religion Foundation complained about its Christian opening prayers. (all emphases mine)
The question is, can atheists truly pray?

I’ll go out on a limb and say ‘yes’.  Look at the definition of prayer:
A reverent petition made to God, a god, or another object of worship.
What makes this definition work for atheists is ‘another object of worship’.

So what do atheists worship?  There are lots of folks out there who’ve said (and still say) that atheists worship the self, or reason, or knowledge, or rationality, or science, or a host of other non-metaphysical objects.  So as long as their ‘prayers’ (or ‘invocations’) are directed at one of those, the terms used for them are being used correctly.

However (you knew this was coming) … you cannot put the terms ‘prayer’ or ‘invocation’ together with ‘non-religious’ or –non-sectarian’ – that doesn’t’ fly.  Prayers and invocations are by definition religious and sectarian, because they are directed at an ‘object of worship’, whether that object is physical or metaphysical.  You cannot pry religion and sectarianism off prayers and invocation no matter how hard you try.

So my suggestions is, quit trying.  Admit that your atheism is as valid a religious belief as Christianity or Judaism or Islam or Baha’i or any of the other religions on this planet.

19 September, 2014

Bro, Do You Even Scripture?*


Guess who Tweeted this bit of dreck out:
God said in Numbers 11:23, ‘Moses, is there any limit to My power?’ He was saying, ‘Moses, you saw Me part the Red Sea, stop the sun for Joshua, keep three Hebrew teenagers safe in a fiery furnace, don’t you realize that I can bring water without rain?’ There’s no limit to God’s power.”
Well, before I give it away, let’s look to see why I called it ‘dreck’.

It’s dreck because Moses was dead when God stopped the sun at Gibeon for Joshua, and he was really dead at the time of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel and the Babylonian captivity.  Obviously, if the Tweeter had actually, you know, been familiar with the Bible, this error likely wouldn't have occurred.

So, who is this Bible scholar? 

None other than (drumroll, please) …

16 September, 2014

More On Noah’s Ark


In a previous post I wrote about the alleged small-scale reproduction of Noah’s Ark, built in India and supervised by Dr. Irving Finkel, who based his blueprints on a 4000-year-old cuneiform inscription on an clay cylinder.  A quick refresher: Dr. Finkel’s‘ark’ is round, has two floors, and is made of bitumen-coated reeds, much different than the vessel described in Genesis.

There’s another problem, though; let’s call it a discrepancy, shall we?

The cylinder with the inscription has been dated to roughly four thousand years ago, which means it would have been inscribed around 2000 BC.  Dr. Finkel maintains this story is ‘the first record of the famous Babylonian flood story, which was later recorded in the book of Genesis’ (emphasis mine). 

Later:
Dr Finkel said that the story of Noah’s Ark was an oral narrative for a long time, based on a destructive flood in around 1750BC (emphasis mine again).
So, which is it?  Is the Genesis story based on the Babylonian flood story of around 2000 BC, or is it based on a flood that occurred 250 years later in 1750 BC?  Picking one would probably be the best scientific way to go.

Whether or not the author of Genesis used the 2000 BC story or the 1750 BC story – or even a combination of both – doesn’t answer the most fundamental question regarding the ark.

Why would Genesis’ author, familiar with the Babylonian story and the 1750 BC story, and familiar with the ubiquitous coracle, and trying to write a plausible story, choose to so radically change the design of the vessel as to open himself up to questions and/or ridicule from his peers?

I’ll look into that in a later post.

15 September, 2014

Soft Love Or Hard Love


That’s the question preoccupying my mind when I read of Pastor Tom Mannin’s blog response to the news that the Oklahoma City Council approved the use of one of the rooms in its Civic Center – where his church, the Oklahoma City Community Church, holds Sunday services – to the New York City satanist group Dakhma of Angra Mainyu for them to hold a ‘black mass’ on Sunday, 21 September.

A couple qualifications before I go on.  One, I fully understand that the Civic Center is a public building and as such the city council can rent to whomever they wish.  I also understand that had they refused the satanists, they would have been hard-pressed to explain why it was okay for one religious group to use it and not another.  I also understand that, from what I read, the satanists and the church will not be using the same room within the facility.

Having said that, however (you knew this was coming) …