Sunday, February 28, 2010

Relgion's Confusion of Fantasy and Reality

When I introduce students to lyrical poetry, I urge them to "open" themselves to the works. I want them to allow themselves the intellectual and emotional freedom to set aside their own personalities temporarily and don the emotional guise of the poetic speaker. In other words, I ask them to be actors, to think about the character whose part they play, and to inhabit as best they can the point of view represented by the character.

Indeed, what I request of my students very much resembles what many religions ask of individual congregation members. In regular worship and study, the believer or practitioner must imagine a scenario where God exists to receive human praise and petitions. The worshiper participates in a communally-charged dramatization of the world as it could be, the world governed by their god and punctuated by his interventions into history. The scene of religion is a literary scene.

However, we can easily point out the differences between the approaches of religion and literature. I do not, for instance, tell my students that the literary scenes they create in reading our selected poems are the true state of affairs in the historical/physical universe. Yet, religion asserts that its literary scene is real. The religious story is that "this is what actually happened."

The problem with religion is that "this is not what actually happened." God did not speak to the nation of the Hebrew slaves from atop Mt. Sinai. Jesus did not die a physical death and then return to physical life. Mohammed did not fly on a literal winged-horse of fire. And so on....

The problem goes even further. In my classes, I do not tell my students they must accept my version of the literary scene for the poems we read. Neither do I tell them that they will suffer consequences for non-acceptance. Religion, however, demands individual adherence to an orthodox version of its literary scene. Religion articulates consequences, such as social rejection and eternal damnation, and supports implementing them in the real world. The odious Pat Robertson's comments on Haiti are an example of this practice.

I do not tell my students that their experience in literature can guide them to be better human beings or help them decide how to vote on important issues in an election. Religion, however, advertises itself as an authoritative arbiter of morality. Religion often pre-packages political and social opinions for people.

There is no contradiction between an appreciation of religion as literary phenomenon or set of literary phenomena and a criticism of religion as a force in real social, political, cultural, an intellectual life. As literature, all religions open up whole worlds of knowledge and experience. As literature, all religions deserve to be acknowledged. That is, we should recognize that religions are an important part of human history. They tell us about humanity and about the human experience. This is a good thing.

However, as an authority in matters of public policy and everyday life, religion today assumes a position that is both counter-productive and dangerous. I say counter-productive because religious ideologies obstruct substantial dialogue and progress in the U.S. in such important issues as health care, climate change, abortion, stem cell research, and so on. I say dangerous because this obstructionism affects people's lives and liberties.

Religions today--and especially fighting between religions--increasingly put the entire planet in jeopardy. Perhaps somewhere ages and ages hence, people will marvel at how the literatures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam underwrote the main conflicts of our present time.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Holy Crap, The Beatles SUCK!

I still love and admire the music of the Beatles, as I have noted. However, I don't listen to them very much anymore.

I used to wonder why, but now I think I know the answer: They were good. They were very good, even. But they weren't THAT good. That is, when I wanted music that challenged me and that reflected a certain social or political posture, the Beatles ceased to be serviceable.

Piero Scaruffi gives a terrific review of the history of the Beatles. He talks about the Beatles/Beatlemania phenomenon while also discussing the other artists and cultural forces around them. His account is scathing at times, and he goes off the deep end on a few occasions, but for the most part he's dead-on -- and it's a freakin' revelation.
The Beatles sold a lot of records not because they were the greatest musicians but simply because their music was easy to sell to the masses: it had no difficult content, it had no technical innovations, it had no creative depth. They wrote a bunch of catchy 3-minute ditties and they were photogenic. If somebody had not invented "beatlemania" in 1963, you would not have wasted five minutes of your time to read a page about such a trivial band.
I think "no creative depth" goes too far, but on the other hand we don't need to buy into the corporate myth of their infinite creative depth.

The Beatles were not gritty enough for Scaruffi. They were not adventurous enough in their compositions or in their musicianship. Yet the Beatles produced a great number of songs of very high quality, and they certainly did cover a range of attitudes and subjects, even if they weren't first. The Beatles clearly enjoyed developing new sounds, new styles, and new subjects. Each record sounded and felt different from its predecessor. To me, that's pretty cool.

Jefferson Airplane had a few great songs but then self-destructed. Hendrix was done after Electric Ladyland. The Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Grateful Dead, the Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa, and so on -- their gimmicks all wore off, sometimes very quickly.

The Beatles were more malleable, more adaptable than most acts. And they always had melody. Scaruffi, however, is unimpressed.
Every one of their songs and every one of their albums followed much more striking songs and albums by others, but instead of simply imitating those songs, the Beatles adapted them to a bourgeois, conformist and orthodox dimension. The same process was applied to the philosophy of the time, from the protest on college campuses to Dylan's pacifism, from drugs to the Orient. Their vehicle was melody, a universal code of sorts, that declared their music innocuous. Naturally others performed the same operation, and many (from the Kinks to the Hollies, from the Beach Boys to the Mamas and Papas) produced melodies even more memorable, yet the Beatles arrived at the right moment and theirs would remain the trademark of the melodic song of the second half of the twentieth century.
To me, what stands out about the Beatles next to these other artists -- the Kinks, the Beach Boys, the Mamas and Papas -- is the fact that the Beatles were consistently able to put together whole albums of good and polished songs. Earlier, I implied that Beatles songs ceased to be particularly challenging at a certain point. But the polish of the songs included both nuance and layering. Beatles songs tended to throw in plenty of rewarding nuggets: an intersting bass line, a sound effect, a harmonization. I don't think any artist was as aware of details as the Beatles.

And the Beatles had four different lead singers. A Beatles song could draw from any one of the four members. With a group like the Kinks, it was Ray Davies we ALWAYS got. With the Beach Boys, it was ALWAYS Brian Wilson. Not so with the Beatles. We got enough difference in the individual personalities of the songwriters to have our interest maintained on an album.

It also bears mentioning that John and Paul not only had terrific voices, but they had better voices than most every other act and so-called "innovator" out there. I always thought Lennon had the more emotive voice while Paul's was more pleasant. Nevertheless, both men had strong and flexible voices - they could get a range of sound out. In terms of pure vocal ability, I think only folks such as Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, and maybe a few others of that time period can be considered on par.

Another characteristic that made the Beatles distinct was their intelligence. As a musical act, they evolved and even disbanded when they felt the act was finished. Many artists don't change as much as the Beatles did, and many don't quit at the right time. The Beatles were very smart musically and commercially. They depended on melody as their music changed, and they depended on their enormous popularity as their look and image evolved.

So, great to read. Shocking to consider.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

God's Love Versus Yours

Today is St. Valentine's Day, blah-blah-blah. Yes, I made my wife a card and gave it to her. She made me one, too. It was all very sweet. We have a good love.

I'm reminded, however, of this time when I attended one of the family night gatherings held by my wife's church. Before I stopped going to these--which is when they became less about family and more about jebus--the groups would tackle a family issue, like how to handle it when your child is fresh.

On this particular night, a woman who was a leader of the group said with a straight face that God loved our children more than we did. Indeed, if I remember the moment correctly, this tidbit was something of an afterthought to a different point she was making.

I was completely knocked over by this. This woman was actually asserting that God loved my babies more than I did. More astounding: I don't think anyone in the room except me thought that she had said something profoundly distasteful and repulsive.

To this day, I am utterly amazed that I did not stand and blurt out to her "Like fuck he does!" Yeah, he loves them so much, except when bad things happen to them, which is sad but actually part of a greater plan, except the fucking plan not only makes no sense but rather has the distinct appearance of being totally fucking random. And of course, if you don't love him back in the proper way, you'll fucking burn in hell for all eternity.

This was one of those watershed moments for me. I realized once again that religion and reality were at odds, and it dawned on me quite clearly that some differences might be irreconcilable. In the years to come, I would learn that MY religion too contradicted the messy facts of daily living.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Inconsistencies in the New Testament

No one believes that the New Testament was written by God (unlike the Torah, which is indeed said to be so written). However, Christians actually do believe that the New Testament books - at least the ones on the "approved" list - were "divinely inspired."

Unfortunately, such inspiration appears to have been rather inconsistent, which is not what anyone should expect from the eternal and unchanging alpha and omega of the universe.

On it's own, the fact that a super-powerful, super-intelligent being cannot make sure his message gets transmitted clearly and consistently is devastating.The contradictions and inconsistencies suggest the more plausible scenario: different writers and copyists recording what they know and feel. No divinity involved, just impassioned and fallible people.

Apologists, however, insist that the New Testament is perfectly (perfectly in a literal sense) harmonious and inerrant. Here's an example of their rebuttal to the question of contradictions and inconsistencies:
In dealing with so-called “contradictions” in the Bible, let these principles carefully be remembered.

No contradiction exists between verses that refer to different persons or things.

No contradiction exists between passages that involve different time elements.

No contradiction exists between verses that employ phraseology in different senses.

Supplementation is not the same as contradiction.

One need show only the possibility of harmonization between two passage (sic) that appear to conflict in order to negate the force of an alleged discrepancy.

Finally, this point needs to be made: the differences in various Bible accounts of the same events actually demonstrate the independence of the divine writers and prove that they were not in collusion!

God, although using human writers in the composition of the Bible, is nevertheless its ultimate Author. And since the perfect God cannot be the source of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) or contradiction (Hebrews 6:18), it must be acknowledged that the Bible is perfectly harmonious. This does not mean that men will not struggle with difficult passages. If seeming discrepancies are discovered, let us apply ourselves to a diligent study in an effort to resolve them; but let us never foolishly charge God with allowing His sacred writers to contradict one another.
The first three assertions are just beside the point.

More troubling is the idea that one need "show only the possibility of harmonization" between two contradictory passages. This is the problem of interpretation that I have mentioned again and again. The apologist starts with the axiom that God is the ultimate author of the bible, and that God cannot be the source of confusion or contradiction.

However, the apologist does not ask whether people, not God, are the authors of the bible. The answer to "why does there seem to be a contradiction here?" is NEVER "because there is a contradiction there." The apologist rejects the idea of contradictions altogether. This is not just bad reasoning: it's anti-reasoning.

Finally, that strange point about the differences in bible accounts of the same events actually demonstrating "the independence of the divine writers" is simply bizarre. First they say there are no contradictions, but then they admit there are differences, and the discrepancies are a good thing because they "prove" there was no collusion.

While I tend to think of modern Christianity a form of scam, I hardly believe that early Christianity began as a prank. If the New Testament is inconsistent, contradictory, and flat-out wrong, this does not also mean that it was deliberately begun by people who knew then that it was all these things. The early believers very likely thought they were preaching true belief, if not 100% true stories.

No, for me the inconsistencies and contradictions don't indicate collusion. Rather, they indicate the humanity of the texts, the beliefs, and the believers.

And so.... Here are 194 inconsistencies and contradictions of the New Testament.

Jesus' lineage was traced through David's son Solomon. Mt.1:6.
Jesus' lineage was traced through David's son Nathan. Lk.3:31.

The announcement of the special birth came before conception. Lk.1:26-31.
The announcement of the special birth came after conception. Mt.1:18-21.

Jesus' parents were told of their son's future greatness. Mt.1:18-21; Lk.1:28-35.
Jesus' parents knew nothing of their son's potential. Lk.2:48-50.

The angel told Joseph. Mt.1:20.
The angel told Mary. Lk.1:28.

There were 28 generations from David to Jesus. Mt.1:17.
There were 43 generations from David to Jesus. Lk.3:23-31.

Jacob was Joseph's father. Mt.1:16.
Heli was Joseph's father. Lk.3:23.

He was to be called Emmanuel. Mt.1:23.
He was called Jesus. Mt.1:25.

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt while Herod slaughters all males under 2 years old. Mt.2:13-16. (Note: Jesus' cousin, John, was also under 2 and survived without having to flee.)
Joseph, Mary, and Jesus did not flee to Egypt, but remained for temple rituals. No slaughter of infants is mentioned! Lk.2:21-39.

Jesus was tempted during the 40 days in the wilderness. Mk.1:13.
Jesus was tempted after the 40 days in the wilderness. Mt.4:2,3.

The devil first took Jesus to the pinnacle, then to the mountain top. Mt.4:5-8.
The devil first took Jesus to the mountain top, then to the pinnacle. Lk.4:5-9.

Satan tempted Jesus. Mt.4:1-10; Mk.1:13; Lk.4:1,2.
Satan had no interest in Jesus. Jn.14:30.

The baptism of Jesus was with the "Holy Ghost". Mk.1:8; Jn.1:33.
Fire was also added to the baptism. Mt.3:11; Lu.3:16.

John knew of Jesus before he baptized him. Mt.3:11-13; Jn.1:28,29.
John knew nothing of Jesus at all. Mt.11:1-3.

Jesus begins his ministry after John's arrest. Mk.1:13,14.
Jesus begins his ministry before John's arrest. Jn.3:22-24.

It is recorded that Jesus saw the spirit descending. Mt.3:16; Mk.1:10.
It is recorded that John saw the spirit descending. Jn.1:32.

The heavenly voice addressed the gathering. Mt.3:17.
The heavenly voice addressed Jesus. Mk.1:11; Lk.3:22.

Immediately after the baptism, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. Mt.4:1,2; Mk.1:12,13.
Three days after the baptism, Jesus was at the wedding in Cana. Jn.2:1.

Jesus went to Bethphage and the Mt. of Olives, then left for Bethany. Mt.21:1,17.
Jesus went to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mt. of Olives. Mk.11:1; Lk.19:29.
Jesus went to Bethany and then Jerusalem. Jn.12:1,12.

Jesus and his disciples taught in Capernaum. Mk.1:20,21.
Only Jesus taught in Capernaum. Lk.4:30,31.

Peter was chosen, with Andrew, by the Sea of Galilee. Mt.4:18-20; Mk.1:16-18.
Peter was chosen, with James and John, by the lake of Gennesaret. Lk.5:2-11.
Andrew chose Jesus and then got Peter to join. Jn.1:35-42.

Peter was to preach to the Jews. Mt.10:2,5,6; Gal.2:7.
Peter was to preach to the Gentiles. Acts 15:7.

Jesus cured Simon Peter's mother-in-law after he cleansed the leper. Mt.8:1-15.
Jesus cured Simon Peter's mother-in-law before he cleansed the leper. Mk.1:30-42; Lk.4:38 to 5:13.

Peter's mother-in-law was healed before Peter was called to be a disciple. Lu.4:38,39; 5:10.
Peter's mother-in-law was healed after Peter was called to be a disciple. Mt.4:18,19; 8:14,15; Mk.1:16,17,30,31.

James and John were with Jesus when he healed Simon Peter's mother-in-law. Mk.1:29-31.
James and John were not with Jesus when he healed Simon Peter's mother-in-law. Lu.4:38,39; 5:10,11.

Lebbaeus (Thaddaeus) was the name of an apostle - but no Judas, brother of James. Mt. 10:3.
Judas, the brother of James, was an apostle, but no Thaddaeus. Lk.6:16; Acts 1:13.

The centurion's servant was healed in between the cleansing of the leper and the healing of Peter's mother-in-law. Mt.8:2-15.
The centurion's servant was healed after the cleansing of the leper and the healing of Peter's mother-in-law. Lu.4:38,39; 5:12,13; 7:1-10.

The people were not impressed with the feeding of the multitude. Mk.6:52.
The people were very impressed with the feeding of the multitude. Jn.6:14.

After the feeding of the multitude, Jesus went to Gennesaret. Mk.6:53.
After the feeding of the multitude, Jesus went to Capernaum. Jn.6:14-17.

A demon cries out that Jesus is the Holy One of God. Mk.1:23,24.
Everyone who confesses that Jesus came in the flesh is of God. 1 Jn.4:2.

Jesus cursed the fig tree so that it would not bear fruit. Mt.21:19; Mk.11:14.
It wasn't time for the fig tree to bear fruit. Mk.11:13.

The fig tree withers immediately, and the disciples are amazed. Mt.21:19,20.
The disciples first notice the withered tree the next day. Mk.11:20,21.

Jesus is the mediator of the "Father". 1 Tim.2:5; 1 Jn.2:1.
Jesus sits on "his" right hand. Mk. 16:19.
Jesus and the "Father" are one in the same. Jn.10:30.

There is one "God". 1 Tim.2:5; Jms.2:19.
There are three. 1 Jn.5:7.

Jesus said to honor your father and mother. Mt.15:4; Mt.19:19; Mk.7:10; Mk.10:19; Lk.18:20.
Jesus said that he came to set people against their parents. Mt.10:35-37; Lk.12:51-53; Lk.14:26.
Jesus said to call no man father. Mt.23:9.

Jesus/God said, "You fool…". Lk.12:20; Mt.23:17.
Paul calls people fools. 1 Cor.15:36.
Call someone a fool and you go to hell. Mt.5:22.

Anger by itself is a sin. Mt.5:22.
But not necessarily. Eph.4:26.

Ask and it shall be given. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you. Mt.7:7,8; Lk.11:9,10.
Ask and you shall be refused. Seek and you won't find. Knock and you will be refused entrance. Lk.13:24-27.

Do not judge. Mt.7:1,2.
Unless it is necessary, of course. 1 Jn.4:1-3.

Jesus is thankful that some things are hidden. Mt.11:25; Mk.4:11,12.
Jesus said that all things should be made known. Mk.4:22.

Jesus said that no sign would be given. Mk.8:12.
Jesus said that no sign would be given except for that of Jonas. Mt.12:39; Lk.11:29.
Jesus showed many signs. Jn.20:30; Acts 2:22.

Jesus stated that the law was until heaven and earth ended. Mt. 5:17-19.
Jesus stated that the law was only until the time of John. Lk.16:16.

The "Sermon on the Mount" took place on the mountain. Mt.5:1.
The "Sermon on the Mount" took place on a plain. Lu.6:17.

The "Lord's Prayer" was taught to many during the "Sermon on the Mount". Mt.6:9.
The "Lord's Prayer" was taught only to the disciples at another time. Lu.11:1.

Jesus had his own house. Mk.2:15.
Jesus did not have his own house. Lu.9:58.

Good works should be seen. Mt.5:16.
Good works should not be seen. Mt.6:1-4.

Jesus said that Salvation was only for the Jews. Mt.15:24; Mt.10:5,6; Jn.4:22; Rom.11:26,27.
Paul said that salvation was also for the Gentiles. Acts 13:47,48.

Repentance is necessary. Acts 3:19; Lu.3:3.
Repentance is not necessary. Rom.11:29.

Non-believers obtain mercy. Rom.11:32.
Only believers obtain mercy. Jn.3:36; Rom.14:23.
Only baptized believers obtain mercy. Mk.16:16.
Mercy cannot be predetermined. Rom.9:18.

All who call on the "Lord" will be saved. Rom.10:13; Acts 2:21.
Only those predestined will be saved. Acts 13:48; Eph.1:4,5; 2 Thes.2:13; Acts 2:47.

Jesus said he would not cast aside any that come to him. Jn.6:37.
Jesus said that many that come to him will be cast aside. Mt.7:21-23.

Salvation comes by faith and not works. Eph.2:8,9; Rom.11:6; Gal.2:16; Rom.3:28.
Salvation comes by faith and works. Jms.2:14,17,20.

The righteous have eternal life. Mt.25:46.
The righteous are barely saved. 1 Pet.4:18.
There are no righteous. Rom.3:10.

Believe and be baptized to be saved. Mk.16:16.
Be baptized by water and the spirit to be saved. Jn.3:5.
Endure to the end to be saved. Mt.24:13.
Call on the name of the "Lord" to be saved. Acts 2:21; Rom.10:13.
Believe in Jesus to be saved. Acts 16:31.
Believe, then all your household will be saved. Acts 16:31.
Hope and you will be saved. Rom.8:24.
Believe in the resurrection to be saved. Rom.10:9.
By grace you are saved. Eph.2:5
By grace and faith you are saved. Eph.2:8.
Have the love of truth to be saved. 2 Thes.2:10.
Mercy saves. Titus 3:5.

Backsliders are condemned. 2 Pet.2:20.
Backsliders are saved regardless. Jn.10:27-29.

Forgive seventy times seven. Mt.18:22.
Forgiveness is not possible for renewed sin. Heb.6:4-6.

Divorce, except for unfaithfulness, is wrong. Mt.5:32.
Divorce for any reason is wrong. Mk.10:11,12.

Jesus approved of destroying enemies. Lk.19:27.
Jesus said to love your enemies. Mt.5:44.

God resides in heaven. Mt.5:45; Mt.6:9; Mt.7:21.
Angels reside in heaven. Mk.13:32.
Jesus is with God in heaven. Acts 7:55,56
Believers go to heaven. 1 Pet.1:3,4.
Heaven will pass away. Mt.24:35; Mk.13:31; Lk.21:33.

Pray that you don't enter temptation. Mt.26:41.
Temptation is a joy. Jms.1:2.

God leads you into temptation. Mt.6:13.
God tempts no one. Jms.1:13.

Take no thought for tomorrow. God will take care of you. Mt.6:25-34; Lk.12:22-31.
A man who does not provide for his family is worse than an infidel. 1 Tim.5:8.

Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Acts 2:21; Rom.10:13.
Not everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Mt.7:21.
Only those whom the Lord chooses will be saved. Acts 2:39.

We are justified by works and not by faith. Mt.7:21; Rom.2:6,13; Jms.2:24.
We are justified by faith and not by works. Jn.3:16; Rom.3:27; Eph.2:8,9.; Gal.2:16.

Do not take sandals (shoes) or staves. Mt.10:10.
Take only sandals (shoes) and staves. Mk.6:8,9.

Jesus said that in him there was peace. Jn.16:33.
Jesus said that he did not come to bring peace. Mt.10:34; Lk.12:51.

Jesus said that John the Baptist was a prophet and Elijah. Mt.11:9; Mt.17:12,13.
John said that he was not a prophet nor was he Elijah. Jn.1:21.

Jesus said that he was meek and lowly. Mt.11:29.
Jesus makes whips and drives the moneychangers out from the temple. Mt. 21:12; Mk.11:15,16; Jn.2:15.

Jesus said, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees". Lk.12:1.
Jesus said, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees". Mt.16:6,11.
Jesus said, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod". Mk.8:15.

Jesus founds his church on Peter. Mt.16:18.
Jesus calls Peter "Satan" and a hindrance. Mt.16:23.

The mother of James and John asks Jesus to favor her sons. Mt.20:20,21.
They ask for themselves. Mk.10:35-37.

Jesus responds that this favor is not his to give. Mt.20:23; Mk.10:40.
Jesus said that all authority is given to him. Mt.28:18; Jn.3:35.

Jesus heals two unnamed blind men. Mt.20:29,30.
Jesus heals one named blind man. Mk.10:46-52.

Jesus healed all that were sick. Mt.8:16; Lk.4:40.
Jesus healed many that were sick - but not all. Mk.1:34.

The council asks Jesus if he is the Son of God. Lk.22:70. The high priest asks Jesus if he is the Christ, the Son of God. Mt.26:63.
The high priest asks Jesus if he is the Christ the Son of the Blessed. Mk.14:61.
The high priest asks Jesus about his disciples and his doctrine. Jn.18:19.

Jesus answers to the effect of “You said it, not me”. Mt.26:64; Lk.22:70.
Jesus answers definitely, “I am”. Mk.14:62.

At the Mount of Olives, Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times. Mt.26:30-34.
At the Passover meal, Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times. Lu.22:13,14,34.

Peter was to deny Jesus before the cock crowed. Mt.26:34; Lk.22:34; Jn.13:38.
Peter was to deny Jesus before the cock crowed twice. Mk.14:30.

The cock crowed once. Mt.26:74.
The cock crowed twice. Mk.14:72.

Peter makes his first denial to a maid and some others. Mt.26:69,70.
It was only to the maid. Mk.14:66-68; Lk.22:56,57; Jn.18:17.

Peter’s second denial was to another maid. Mt.26:71,72.
It was to the same maid. Mk.14:69,70.
It was to a man and not a maid. Lk.22:58.
It was to more than one person. Jn.18:25.

Peter’s third denial was to several bystanders. Mt.26:73,74; Mk.14:69,70.
It was to one person. Lk.22:59,60.
It was to a servant. Jn.18:26,27.

The chief priests bought the field. Mt.27:6,7.
Judas bought the field. Acts 1:16-19.

Judas threw down the money and left. Mt.27:5.
Judas used the coins to buy the field. Acts 1:18.

Judas hanged himself. Mt.27:5.
Judas fell headlong and burst his head open. Acts 1:18.

Jesus did not answer any of the charges. Mt.27:12-14; Lk.23:9.
Jesus answered some of the charges. Mk.14:61,62.
Jesus answered all of the charges. Jn.18:33-37.

Jesus said that eternal life would be given to all that were given to him. Jn.11:27-29; Jn.17:12.
Jesus released Judas in order to keep this promise. Jn.18:5-9.

The chief priests and elders persuade the people. Mt.27:20.
Only the chief priests persuade the people. Mk.15:11.
The chief priests and the people persuade themselves. Lk.23:13-23.

Jesus is given a scarlet robe. Mt.27:28.
Jesus is given a purple robe. Mk.15:17; Jn.19:2.
Jesus is given a gorgeous robe. Lk.23:11.

The sign says, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”. Mt.27:37.
The sign says, “The King of the Jews”. Mk.15:26.
In three languages, the sign says, “This is the King of the Jews”. Lk.23:38.
In the same three languages, the sign says, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. Jn.19:19,20.

Jesus asks God, The Father, why he has forsaken him. Mt.27:46.
Jesus said that he and The Father were one in the same. Jn.10:30; Jn.17:11,21,22.

The centurion says, “Truly this was the son of God”. Mt.27:54.
The centurion says, “Truly this man was the son of God”. Mk.15:39.
The centurion says, “Certainly, this was a righteous man”. Lk.23:47.
There was no centurion. Jn.19:31-37.

Jesus was crucified at the third hour. Mk.15:25.
Jesus was still before Pilate at the sixth hour. Jn.19:13,14.

The women looked on from “afar”. Mt.27:55; Mk.15:40; Lk.23:49.
The women were very close. Jn.19:25.

The last recorded words of Jesus were:
Version 1: “Eli, Eli …My God, My God why have you forsaken me” Mt.27:46.
Version 2: “Eloi, Eloi…My God, My God why have you forsaken me” Mk.15:34.
Version 3: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”. Lk.23:46.
Version 4: “It is finished”. Jn.19:30.

A guard was placed at the tomb the day after the burial. Mt.27:65,66.
No guard is mentioned. Mk.15:44-47; Lk.23:52-56; Jn.19:38-42.

Only those keeping the words of Jesus will never see death. Jn.8:51.
Jesus’ disciples will be killed. Mt.24:3-9.
All men die once. Heb.9:27.

Upon their arrival, the stone was still in place. Mt.28:1 2.
Upon their arrival, the stone had been removed. Mk.16:4; Lk.24:2; Jn.20:1.

There was an earthquake. Mt.28:2.
There was no earthquake. Mk.16:5; Lk.24:2-4; Jn.20:12.

The visitors ran to tell the disciples. Mt.28:8.
The visitors told the eleven and all the rest. Lk.24:9.
The visitors said nothing to anyone. Mk.16:8.

Jesus first resurrection appearance was right at the tomb. Jn.20:12-14.
Jesus first resurrection appearance was fairly near the tomb. Mt.28:8,9.
Jesus first resurrection appearance was on the road to Emmaus. Lk.24:13-16.

One doubted. Jn.20:24.
Some doubted. Mt.28:17.
All doubted. Mk.16:11; Lk.24:11,14.

Jesus said that his blood was shed for many. Mk.14:24.
Jesus said his blood was shed for his disciples. Lu.22:20.

Simon of Cyrene was forced to bear the cross of Jesus. Mt.27:32; Mk.15:21; Lu.23:26.
Jesus bore his own cross. Jn.19:16,17.

Jesus was offered vinegar and gall to drink. Mt.27:34.
Jesus was offered vinegar to drink. Jn.19:29,30.
Jesus was offered wine and myrrh to drink. Mk.15:23.

Jesus refused the drink offered him. Mk.15:23.
Jesus tasted the drink offered and then refused. Mt.27:34.
Jesus accepted the drink offered him. Jn.19:30.

Both “thieves” mocked Jesus on the cross. Mt. 27:44; Mk.15:32.
One “thief” sided with Jesus on the cross. Lu.23:39-41.

Joseph of Arimathaea boldly asked for the body of Jesus. Mk.15:43.
Joseph of Arimathaea secretly asked for the body of Jesus. Jn.19:38.

Jesus was laid in a nearby tomb. Mk.15:46; Lu.23:53; Jn.19:41.
Jesus was laid in Joseph’s new tomb. Mt.27:59,60.

A great stone was rolled in front of the tomb. Mt.27:60; Mk.15:46.
There was nothing in front of the tomb. Lu.23:55; Jn.19:41.

Nicodemus prepared the body with spices. Jn.19:39,40.
Failing to notice this, the women bought spices to prepare the body later. Mk. 16:1; Lu.23:55,56.

The body was anointed. Jn.19:39,40.
The body was not anointed. Mk.15:46 to 16:1; Lk.23:55 to 24:1.

The women bought materials before the sabbath. Lu.23:56.
The women bought materials after the sabbath. Mk.16:1.

Jesus was first seen by Cephas, then the twelve. 1 Cor.15:5.
Jesus was first seen by the two Marys. Mt.28:1,8,9.
Jesus was first seen by Mary Magdalene. Mk.16:9; Jn.20:1,14,15.
Jesus was first seen by Cleopas and others. Lu.24:17,18.
Jesus was first seen by the disciples. Acts 10:40,41.

The two Marys went to the tomb. Mt.28:1.
The two Marys and Salome went to the tomb. Mk.16:1.
Several women went to the tomb. Lu.24:10.
Only Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. Jn.20:1.

It was dawn when Mary went to the tomb. Mt.28:1; Mk.16:2.
It was dark when Mary went to the tomb. Jn.20:1.

An angel sat on the stone at the door of the tomb. Mt.28:2.
A man was sitting inside the tomb. Mk.16:5.

Two men were standing inside the tomb. Lk.24:3,4.
Two angels were sitting inside the tomb. Jn.20:12.

Peter did not go into the tomb but stooped and looked inside. Lk.24:12.
Peter did go into the tomb, and another disciple stooped and looked inside. Jn.20:3-6.

After the resurrection, the disciples held Jesus by the feet. Mt.28:9.
After the resurrection, Jesus told Thomas to touch his side. John 20:27.
After the resurrection, Jesus said that he was not to be touched. Jn.20:17.

Mary first saw Jesus at the tomb. Jn.20:11-15.
Mary first saw Jesus on her way home. Mt.28:8-10.

The women entered the tomb. Mk.16:5; Lk.24:3.
The women stayed outside the tomb. Jn.20:11.

The disciples were frightened when they saw Jesus. Lk.24:36,37.
The disciples were glad when they first saw Jesus. Jn.20:20.

Twelve disciples saw Jesus. 1 Cor.15:5.
Eleven disciples saw Jesus. Thomas was not there. Mt.28:16,17; Jn.20:19-25.

The disciples doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead. Mt.28:17.
The Pharisees and chief priests believed it possible. Mt.27:62-66.

Jesus ascended on the third day after the resurrection. Lk.24:21,50,51.
Jesus ascended the same day as the crucifixion. Lk.23:42 43.
Jesus ascended forty days after the resurrection. Acts 1:3,9.

At the time of the ascension, there were about 120 brethren. Acts 1:15.
At the time of the ascension, there were about 500 brethren. 1 Cor.15:6.

The moneychangers incident occurred at the end of Jesus’ career. Mt.21:11,12.
The moneychangers incident occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ career. Jn.2:11-15.

Zacharias was the son of Jehoida, the priest. 2 Chr.24:20.
Jesus said that Zacharias was the son of Barachias. Mt.23:35. (Note: The name Barachias or Barachiah does not appear in the OT.)

The coming of the kingdom will be accompanied by signs and miracles. Mt.24:29-33; Mk.13:24-29.
It will not be accompanied by signs and miracles since it occurs from within. Lk.17:20,21.

The kingdom was prepared from the beginning. Mt.25:34.
Jesus said that he was going to go and prepare the kingdom. Jn.14:2,3.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is an unforgivable sin. Mk.3:29.
All sins are forgivable. Acts 13:39; Col.2:13; 1 Jn.1:9.

The ascension took place while the disciples were seated together at a table. Mk.16:14-19.
The ascension took place outdoors at Bethany. Lk.24:50,51.
The ascension took place outdoors at Mt. Olivet. Acts 1:9-12.

The holy spirit was with John from before he was born. Lk.1:15,41.
The holy spirit was with Elizabeth before John’s birth. Lk.1:41.
The holy spirit was with Zechariah. Lk.1:67.
The holy spirit was with Simeon. Lk.2:25.
The holy spirit is obtained by asking. Lk.11:13.
The holy spirit did not come into the world until after Jesus had departed. Jn.7:39; Jn.16:7; Acts 1:3-8.

Sometimes God is responsible for unbelief. 2 Thes.2:11,12.
Sometimes Jesus is responsible for unbelief. Mk.4:11,12.
The devil causes unbelief. Lk.8:12.

Whoever hates his brother is a murderer. 1 Jn.3:15.
If anyone claims to love God but hates his brother, he is a liar. 1 Jn.4:20.
No one can be a disciple of Jesus unless he hates his brother. Lk.14:26.

Believers do not come into judgment. Jn.5:24.
All people come into judgment. Mt.12:36; 2 Cor.5:10; Heb.9:27; 1 Pet.1:17; Jude 14,15; Rev.20:12,13.

Jesus says that, if he bears witness to himself, his testimony is true. Jn.8:14.
Jesus says that, if he bears witness to himself, his testimony is not true. Jn.5:31.

Men can choose whether or not to believe. Jn.5:38-47.
Only God chooses who will believe. Jn.6:44.

None of Jesus’ followers would be lost. Jn.10:27-29.
Some of Jesus’ followers would be lost. 1 Tim.4:1.

Jesus is the ruling prince of this world. Rev.1:5.
The prince of this world will be cast out. Jn.12:31.

Jesus says all men will be saved. Jn.3:17.
Only 144,000 virgin men will be saved. Rev. 14:1-4.

God wants all men to be saved. 1 Tim.2:3,4; 2 Pet.3:9.
God does not want all men to be saved. Jn.12:40.

Peter asks Jesus where he is going. Jn.13:36.
Thomas asks Jesus where he is going. Jn.14:5.
Jesus said that no one asked where he was going. Jn.16:5.

Jesus lost only one disciple. Jn.17:12.
Jesus lost no disciples. Jn.18:9.

Jesus came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Jn.18:37.
The truth has always been evident. Rom.1:18-20.

During his first resurrection appearance, Jesus gave his disciples the holy spirit. Jn.20:22.
The holy spirit was given to the disciples after his ascension. Acts 1:3-8.

The world could not contain all that could be written of Jesus. Jn.21:25.
All was written. Acts.1:1.

Obey the laws of men for it is the will of God. 1 Pet.2:13-15.
The disciples disobey the council. Acts 5:40-42.

Obey God, not men. Acts 5:29.
Obey men. It is God’s will. Rom.13:1-4; 1 Pet.2:13-15.

God hated Esau and loved Jacob even before they were born. Rom.9:10-13.
God shows no partiality and treats all alike. Acts 10:34; Rom.2:11.

151. All who have sinned without the law will perish without the law. Rom.2:12.
Where there is no law there is no sin or transgression. Rom.4:15.

Doers of the law will be justified. Rom.2:13.
Doers of the law will not be justified. Rom.3:20; Gal.3:11.

The law has dominion. Rom.7:1.
The law does not have dominion. Rom.6:14.

The law was the result of sin. Gal.3:19.
Sin is the result of breaking the law. 1 Jn.3:4.

Those of “God” cannot sin. 1 Jn.3:9.
Those of “God” can sin. 1 Jn.1:7 8.

The anointing of Jesus teaches right from wrong. 1 Jn.2:27.
The law written on the heart and conscience teaches right from wrong. Rom.2:15.

Abraham was justified by faith. Heb.11:8.
Abraham was justified by works. Jms.2:21.
Abraham was not justified by works. Rom.4:2.

It is not good to eat or drink anything that might cause your brother to stumble or be offended. Rom.14:21.
Let no one pass judgment on you in matters of food or drink. Col.2:16.

It is better that widows should not remarry. 1 Cor.7:8.
It is better that young widows should remarry. 1 Tim.5:11-14.

The god of this world blinds people to the gospel. 2 Cor.4:4.
There is only one god. 1 Cor.8:4.

The powers of this world are wicked, so fight against them. Eph.6:11-13.
All powers are ordained of God and, if you resist, you are damned. Rom.13:1,2.

Bear one another’s burdens. Gal.6:2.
Bear your own burdens. Gal.6:5.

Anyone who even greets a non-believer shares his wicked work. 2 Jn.10,11.
Always be ready to answer any man concerning your faith. 1 Pet.3:15.

All of the grass on the earth is burned up. Rev.8:7.
The army of locusts are instructed not to harm the grass. Rev.9:4.
Only “The Father” knows. Mk.13:32.
“Jesus” and “The Father” are one. Jn.10:30; 17:11,21,22.

Jesus said that he would judge. Jn.5:22,27-30; Jn.9:39.
Jesus said that he would not judge. Jn.8:15; Jn.12:47.
Jesus said that The Father judges. Jn.12:48,49.
Jesus said that The Father does not judge. Jn.5:22.
Jesus said that his disciples would judge. Lk.22:30.

He that does not believe is damned. Mk.16:16.
Thomas did not believe and was not damned. Jn.20:27-29.

“When his branch is yet tender”. Mt.24:32.
“When her branch is yet tender”. Mk.13:28.

Jesus is God. Jn.10:30.
Jesus is the “image” of God. 2 Cor.4:4.
Jesus was a man approved by God. Acts 2:22.

Jesus and God are one in the same. Jn.1:1.
Jesus is beside himself. Mk.16:19; Acts 2:32,33; 7:55; Rom.8:34; etc.

Jesus is the Son of God. Jn.6:69; Jn.20:31.
Jesus is the Son of Man. Mt.18:11; Lk.21:27.

Paul states that he does not lie. Rom.9:1; 2 Cor.11:31; Gal.1:20; 1 Tim.2:7.
Paul states that he does lie. Rom.3:7.

Paul said that he does not use trickery. 1 Thes.2:3.
Paul admits to using trickery. 2 Cor.12:16.

Paul says that circumcision is nothing. 1 Cor.7:19.
Paul says that circumcision is profitable. Rom.2:25; Rom.3:1,2.

Do not covet. Rom.7:7; Rom.13:9.
Paul says covet. 1 Cor.12:31; 1 Cor.14:39.

Paul teaches not to steal. Eph.4:28.
Paul admits to stealing. 2 Cor.11:8.

Paul was assured that he would not be hurt. Acts 18:9,10.
Paul was often physically abused. 2 Cor.11:23-27.

Paul states that the law is necessary. Rom.3:31.
Paul states that the law is not necessary. Rom.6:14.

Jesus said to go and baptize. Mt.28:19.
Paul said he was not sent to baptize. 1 Cor.1:17.

Paul said he was not sent to baptize but to preach. 1 Cor.1:17.
Paul baptized. 1 Cor.1:16.

Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the law. Mt.5:17-19.
Paul said otherwise. Eph.2:15.

Jesus said that God did not condemn the world. Jn. 3:17.
Paul said that God did condemn the world. Rom.5:18.

Those present at Paul’s conversion stood. Acts 9:7.
They fell to the ground. Acts 26:14.

Those present at Paul’s conversion heard a voice but saw nothing. Acts 9:7.
Those present at Paul’s conversion saw a light but heard nothing. Acts 22:9.

Shortly after his conversion, Paul went to Damascus where he spent some time with the apostles. Acts 9:19.
Paul went to Damascus three years later and saw only Peter and James. Gal.1:18,19.

Shortly after his conversion, Paul went to Damascus and then to Jerusalem. Acts 9:18-26.
Shortly after his conversion, Paul went to Arabia, then to Damascus, and then, 3 years later, to Jerusalem. Gal.1:17,18.

In Damascus, the governor attempts to seize Paul. 2 Cor.11:32.
In Damascus, the Jews attempt to seize Paul. Acts 9:22,23.

The holy spirit forbids preaching in Asia. Acts 16:6.
Paul preaches in Asia anyway. Acts 19:8-10.

Paul said he would not be a servant of Christ if he tried to please men. Gal.1:10.
Paul said that he tried to please men. 1 Cor.10:33.

Paul says that he was the chief of all sinners. 1 Tim.1:15.
He who commits sin is of the devil. Children of God cannot sin. 1 Jn.3:8-10.

Paul said that Jesus is the judge. 2 Tim.4:1.
Paul said that God is the judge. Heb.12:23.
Paul said that the saints would judge. 1 Cor.6:2.

Paul said that Jesus was the Son of God. Rom.1:3,4.
Paul said that Jesus was just a man. Heb.7:24.

Do not boast. Lk.18:14.
Do not be proud. Rom.11:20; 1 Pet. 5:5.
Paul proudly boasts. 2 Cor.11:16-18; Gal.2:9-11.

Jesus commends the church at Ephesus for discerning the lying apostles. Rev. 2:1,2.
Paul was the apostle to Ephesus. Eph.1:1.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Pat the Dick

Richard Dawkins has weighed in on the silly and malicious comments that American evangelist Pat Robertson made about the recent earthquake that has devastated Haiti. As ridiculous as Robertson's views are - that long-standing Haitian misery and poverty originate with a supposed "pact with the devil" made by Haitian revolutionaries - Dawkins's comments have attracted a fair amount of attention themselves.

I'd like to highlight a few passages from Dawkins's article in the UK.
Loathsome as Robertson’s views undoubtedly are, he is the Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition. The agonised theodiceans who see suffering as an intractable “mystery”, or who see God in the help, money and goodwill that is now flooding into Haiti, or (most nauseating of all) who claim to see God “suffering on the cross” in the ruins of Port-au-Prince, those faux-anguished hypocrites are denying the centrepiece of their own theology. It is the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here.
Here, the important point is that Robertson articulates the unadulterated Christian message quite well. Sin and suffering, despite the murkiness of their definitions, centrally ground Christian belief and teaching. Bad things happen because someone sinned. And the suffering of Jesus is the main spectacle that Christians witness every Sunday. His getting the shit kicked out of him and his agony are the point, regardless of whether this aspect of the faith gets admitted in mixed company.

Dawkins continues:
Your entire religion is founded on an obsession with “sin”, with punishment and with atonement. Where do you find the effrontery to condemn Pat Robertson, you who have signed up to the odious doctrine that the central purpose of Jesus’s incarnation was to have himself tortured as a scapegoat for the “sins” of all mankind, past, present and future, beginning with the “sin” of Adam, who (as any modern theologian well knows) never even existed?

Yes, I know you hate the word “scapegoat” (with good reason, because it is a barbaric idea) but what other word would you use? The only respect in which “scapegoat” falls short as a perfect epitome of Christian theology is that the Christian atonement is even more unpleasant. The goat of Jewish tradition was merely driven into the wilderness with its cargo of symbolic sin. Jesus was supposedly tortured and executed to atone for sins that, any rational person might protest, he had it in his power simply to forgive, without the agony. Among all the ideas ever to occur to a nasty human mind (Paul’s of course), the Christian “atonement” would win a prize for pointless futility as well as moral depravity.
I completely agree with Dawkins here. Nothing about the alleged "passion" of Jesus is beautiful or noble outside of a literary-mythical context. A person who knowingly allows himself to be scourged and tortured unnecessarily is hardly worthy of worship.

Dawkins sums up his article with a direct admonishment of the aloof believer who sleeps safe and warm in suburban comfort:
Educated apologist, how dare you weep Christian tears, when your entire theology is one long celebration of suffering: suffering as payback for “sin” — or suffering as “atonement” for it? You may weep for Haiti where Pat Robertson does not, but at least, in his hick, sub-Palinesque ignorance, he holds up an honest mirror to the ugliness of Christian theology. You are nothing but a whited sepulchre.
Christianity is the prolonged celebration at a distance of the suffering of others. Supposedly, a Jewish preacher was tortured and killed by Roman authorities over 2,000 years ago. But that was way back when and "we" of course are saved.

Certainly, Haiti was laid waste by natural forces of the Earth. But that was way over there and "we" of course are insulated.

It's a miracle, hallelujah.