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A Non-Trivial Problem

June 12, 2013 1 comment

by Noah Lugeons

I’ve been trapped in an endless and ultimately pointless debate on this blog for over a week now.  It all began when a pseudo-theistic pseudo-apologist commented on one of my “Live Blogging the Bible” posts with something that amounted to

“Tee-hee, yeah, this is a pretty silly part of the bible.  I agree.  But still, man is that book incredible and divine.”

Of course, I haven’t read the whole book and have barely crested the “preface” stage, but I still have to take issue with this assertion.  The book cannot be more than the sum of its parts.  If there are any genuinely meritorious parts of the book, one would still have to weigh them against the unscrupulous horrors in other parts of the book.  And honestly, the rest of the book would have to pretty damn good to make up for the misguided anti-morality of the first three books.

The crux of the apologists argument was that my cursory reading of the bible was worthless as I wasn’t taking the time to understand it in context.  I was also focused only on the bible and not the rich theology that has evolved through the ages.  Christianity, he argued, is not the bible.  The bible is just a starting point and the theology of the faith had advanced so much since the days of Moses’ foreskin aided wrestling match.

I pointed out that it’s not really possible to say that theology “advanced”, as one can no more say that theology of today is in accordance with the divine than the theology of yesteryear.  It’s like talking about a breakthrough in homeopathy or phrenology.  If the endeavor has no measurable value, it can’t be said to advance.  Advance suggests a destination.

Instead of answering that charge, my esteemed opponent instead accused me of “religious intolerance” as though I did not boast of it.  He suggested that I’d simply divided the world into the good people who are against religion and the bad people who are in favor of it.  It was a thinly veiled charge of anti-theistic bigotry that rested on my continued insistence that without a goal one can draw no nearer to the goal.  How dare I be so intolerant of people making bold and demonstrably false truth claims while insisting that they’re point of view should be respected and accepted without the burden of evidence?

This is a common tack from the “liberal” theist (and by liberal I refer here to their theology, not their politics).  Atheists are bullies that are every bit as dogmatic as the believers.  We’re intolerant of religious people (which is true) which means we’re just like the Muslims who are intolerant of the Jews (which is bullshit).  They, on the other hand, are agnostics with a property-less god and the only honest position: self-imposed ignorance.  We should just live and let live and who cares if fundamentalists stand in the way of science or oppress gays or mistreat women?  That’s not religion’s fault.

It is an intellectually dishonest position and what’s more, anyone smart enough to take this position is also smart enough to see why it’s bullshit.  Religious extremism is (as the name would suggest) simply a point on the spectrum of religiosity.  Some people have benign tumors but that doesn’t mean tumors aren’t a problem.  Fundamentalism is a problem that (a) all religions share and (b) cannot be found outside of a religious context.  This would suggest that fundamentalism is a necessary byproduct of religion.  And it really doesn’t matter what a bunch of Muslim scholars say about peace and love if the true believers are hacking people to death in the streets.

This is not a “live and let live” situation.  This is a situation that demands intolerance.  Religion is a non-trivial problem.

No rational person would wish for the destruction of the world.  Such a proposition is as irrational as any you might propose.  What’s more, no person irrational enough to wish for the destruction of the world could possibly acquire the means and assistance he or she  would need to make it happen.  While technology does give us the means to global catastrophe, it is hard to imagine that anyone with the stated goal of world destruction could find anyone willing to lend a hand.  Sure, a clever statesmen could use nationalism and deceit to trick enough people into helping him, but the very nature of logic forbids any large scale attempt to bring about the end of one’s own species.

But, of course, if logic can be removed, there is no such safeguard.  If one can be convinced without evidence that a whole different universe exists after you die that is way better and way more important than this petty world, you could overcome your natural survival instinct and happily march the planet toward the apocalypse that your god has promised you.

No doubt the liberal defender of theism would roll their eyes at this nightmare scenario.  They would pretend it is ridiculous.  They would pretend that there aren’t large, organized, multi-national groups with exactly this goal.  They would pretend that somehow reason can prevail amid a group that has outlawed reason.

And of course they would.  They have to.  They can’t accept that the same thing that gives them their own personal love-Jesus might also have a dark side.  And they certainly can’t accept that the dark side eclipses the bright side.

Religious extremism is just religion without constraint.  No religion has ever voluntarily tempered itself.  No religion has ever neutered its own power.  It is the job of the secularist, the job of the scientist and the job of the atheist to castrate religion every time it thrusts its scrotum into the rest of the world.  As fond as religion is of mutilating it’s own genitals, they still leave that job to us.

Episode 16 – Partial Transcript

by Noah Lugeons, Heath Enwright and Lucinda Lugeons

(Note: Transcript may contain material edited from the final episode for time purposes)

Sponsor:

Today’s episode of the Scathing Atheist is brought to you by the new brand of perforated Catholic Condoms, Kingdom Cum.  These confusingly labeled condoms are no more contraceptive than cheesecloth, but we’re willing to wager we’ll catch a few drunken fornicators with this ruse.

What, you think that’s immoral?  You should see what Catholics do when they take over a hospital.

And now, the Scathing Atheist:

Intro:

It’s Thursday, it’s June 6th and I know Jake Farr-Wharton has already opened up the show once, but the dude sent the quote to me in six different voices and I’m not letting good shit go to waste.

I’m your host Noah Lugeons and from abbreviated NY, NY, this is the Scathing Atheist.

On this week’s show,

  • We’ll add contractual obligation to the list of reasons not to get addicted to meth,

  • I’ll try desperately to come up with another nickname for Pope Francis,

  • And Heath and Lucinda will join me in discovering that Leviticus is every bit as fucked up as you think it is.

But first, the Diatribe.

Diatribe:

I’m sick and goddamned tired of hearing about where people fall on the “Dawkins Scale”.

Before I go any further, I should note that I’m a big fan of Dawkins and I admire his non-sexist parts…  he’s like the Benny Hill of atheism in that way.  And what’s more, I completely understand the rhetorical utility of his sliding scale of theistic probability.  In the hands of a skilled debater like Dawkins, it’s a valuable asset.  But in the hands of a lay-atheist, it’s often a hell of a lot less than that.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, the “Dawkins Scale” refers to a seven point scale Dawkins proposed in The God Delusion.  A one on this scale represents absolute certainty that god exists, a seven is absolute certainty that god doesn’t exist.  The point he’s making is that atheists generally fall on the “6”, not the “7”.  It’s a useful explanation of the fact that atheism is the product of doubt, not certainty.

But certainty appeals to a lot of people, so when Dawkins talks about this publicly there’s often a backlash.  People in the media stammer about how Dawkins is uncertain and concedes that there might be a god afterall.  They don’t seem to understand that he’s not actually conceding that in any way.  They just see two guys in a debate where one is saying he’s absolutely sure and the other’s saying he holds a tentative position that’s in accordance with the observable evidence.  Somehow they don’t see this as an idiot vs. a responsible thinker, but rather they see it as confident guy vs. indecisive guy.

In the context of the book and in the context of some debates, employing this scale makes perfect sense.  But before we lean too heavily on it, we should probably point out that this scale can also be applied to any other belief.  Does gravity exist?  Well, I’m pretty damn sure it does, but as a responsible thinker, I’ve got to go with a 6 on the scale, because if convincing evidence arose to the contrary, I would change my mind.  I am not an immutable “7”.  We could be part of a computer simulation titled “what if there was gravity?”, so as a proper logician I have to carve out a little, tiny, itsy-bitsy “margin of error” on the gravity thing.

Same thing for evolution, right?  I mean, just because all the available data suggests and confirms it, that doesn’t mean that I’m absolutely certain beyond the shadow of a doubt, irrespective of future data.  I’d have to hold the responsible position of “6” on the scale.  But why hamstring oneself in debate by pointing this out only with respect to the thing you’re arguing about?

I feel the same way every time I hear Dillahunty, or anyone else for that matter, talk about Agnostic Atheism vs. Gnostic Atheism.  Before we start making this distinction, somebody show me one of these gnostic atheists.  Show me somebody who says that no matter what level of convincing evidence could be offered to the contrary, they would never believe in god.  Show me somebody who says he would still be an atheist if god appeared in the sky before the whole world at once and said, “I am god, sorry about all the mysteriousness and shit and to prove my godness you’ll note that all the people who had cancer are now cured.”  Show me that guy and then let’s start carving atheism up into gnostic and agnostic.

This isn’t just a semantic thing.  And it’s not just a “trip-you-up-in-an-argument” thing either.  The use of these devices is actually fucking this movement up internally.  I can’t tell you often I see atheists offering up false-equivalency compromises with this nonsense.  Search “Dawkins Scale” on Twitter and it won’t take long to find an atheist saying something like, “I’ll admit that being a 7 on the Dawkins scale is as ridiculous as being a 1”

What?  No the  fuck it isn’t!  That’s a complete misreading of the point of the rhetorical device.  Keep in mind that on this scale, 7 actually represents the thing that is right.  1 represents the thing that is wrong.  The point of the Dawkins Scale is to point out the flaw in “Absolute Certainty”.  But if you’re going to be absolutely certain of something, it’s still way better to be certain about the thing that conforms to all the known evidence.

Substitute anything else for the god assumption and it becomes painfully obvious.  Somebody who is absolutely certain that the earth is round should, for the proper employment of scientific thinking, concede that overwhelming evidence could sway him… from a pedantic, vulcan, it’s-an-oblate-spheroid-bitch point of view.  But that doesn’t mean that he’s exactly as wrong as somebody who is absolutely convinced that the earth is flat.

There’s a cat on my lap right now.  If I was pressed, I’d admit that it could be a hallucination, it could be a robot, it could be a phantasm from another dimension taking the form of my cat.  But if I say, “No, damn it, this is definitely my cat”, it may be technically wrong, but it’s certainly not as wrong as “No, damn it, this is definitely a phantasm from another dimension.”

The problem is with 7 point scales and binary choices like gnostic and agnostic is that there’s no way to truly express the 6.999999-ness of one’s atheism.  If god appeared before me right now and we had a twenty minute conversation, I’d assume I’d lost my fucking mind before I’d assume that it actually happened.  It would take a hell of alot more than than personal experience to overturn my conviction.  I’d need tangible evidence that could be verified by multiple sources and, in addition, I’d need volumes of refutations for the hundreds of logical contradictions his existence entails.  I’d need a world-overturning amount of evidence.  I’d need an amount of evidence that one can reasonably assume will never exist.

So as to where I fall on the Dawkins Scale, it ultimately comes down to the question of how many 9s you can put after the decimal place before you run out of 9s.

Headlines:

Joining me for headlines tonight is my fellow skeptic, Heath Enwright.  Heath, are you ready to sharpen Occam’s Razor?

Is another old book club making outrageous claims?

I’m starting to think god is worse than Oprah.

In our lead story tonight, Oxford University researcher and author Kathleen Taylor made waves this week when she suggested that religious fundamentalism may one day be a curable mental illness.  Now, when you and I hear this statement, the only new information is the word “Curable”, but when the religious folks hear it they’re once again forced to confront the fact that believing in magic people in the clouds is, technically, fucking nuts.

I hope the cure for religion comes out in some sort of weaponized form.  I’m picturing a reality dart, and you can heal the radically ignorant right in the side of the neck with a blowgun.

This is only the latest in a long line of academics accidentally forgetting that we’re supposed to publicly ignore the fact that extreme religiosity and mental illness spend a lot of venn diagrams spooning.

Definitely got a shared region in the extra-wide vagina shape.  That’s more like scissoring than spooning, I guess.

The media reports it like it’s a scandal and then they dig up a bunch of peacemaker psychologists who dutifully point out that technically it’s not a mental illness until it interferes with your day to day life and at the same time they’ll dutifully not point out that by the same argument believing that you’re Napoleon and your left testicle reminds you to water the house-plants is also not de-facto crazy.

And the Napoleon left testicle belief system is VASTLY more likely to be true than those of any major religion.

Worst thing that happens if insane people become radically orthodox about science is they make an atheist podcast.  Nobody’s ever protested a theist funeral, or bombed a fetus rescue clinic, in the name of Darwin or Dawkins.

But don’t worry, it’s not like we’re going to now have a rational conversation about this topic, as the major media outlets have reported that, in fact, the pachyderm droppings on the loveseat were likely man-made and placed there intentionally.

Pay no attention to the Republican mascot behind the curtain, taking a shit on society’s couch.

Could religious fundamentalism be treated as a mental illness? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/kathleen-taylor-religious-fundamentalism-mental-illness_n_3365896.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

And speaking of fundamentalism and mental illness, our next story brings us to Kentucky and Ken Ham’s ailing “Ark Park” where Ham is inadvertently demonstrating the absurdity of the Noah story by showing how hard it is to get an ark of that size built when you’ve got modern shipping channels and $25 million dollars at your disposal.

Well Noah had the old-man strength going.  You know how the best softball players are 45-year-olds?  Noah did all the ark stuff between the ages of 480 and 600, so unfair advantage.

Plus, Ken Ham probably has far fewer Jewish slaves at his disposal for the project.

In addition to not having enough money to build the ark that will fail to serve as the centerpiece for this not-likely-to-exist theme park, Ham’s team is also not building other Old Testament attractions, including not breaking ground on a Tower of Babel observations deck and not moving ahead on a planned “Ten Plagues” themed ride.

I think they need to reread Genesis 11.  They’re constructing a replica of the tower whose construction got god to smite everyone.  That’s like re-airing the seizure-inducing anime clip.  

Many atheists will remember hearing a lot about this park a couple of years ago when the state of Kentucky agreed to award it huge tax incentives to build it’s testament to credulous stupidity.  It would seem now that the “Ark Encounter” has found a clever way to circumvent that controversy by failing to raise the requisite funds for construction until the proposed tax incentives expire in May of next year.

So Kentucky said, “Yeah, you guys can have these huge tax breaks, as long as you can build an impossible boat and an entire infinite tower to heaven before next May.”

Ark Park having trouble: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/noahs-ark-theme-park_n_3367579.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

And in “Are-They-Still-On-About-That-Shit?” News, a number of prominent Baptist leaders have called for a mass withdrawal of support for the Boy Scouts of America after they slight  and decades overdue backpedaling of institutionalized of bigotry.  Arguing that we can’t allow gay people to learn how to tie such good knots, homophobic pastors across the nation are urging their flocks to cut their ties with the Boy Scouts.

“I know this seems like it’s about the gay thing, in the standard cause and effect sense.  But we’re just uncomfortable – in general – of a dozen 10-year-old boys and a weird adult in a tent, wearing matching short shorts and ascots.  Whether or not there are any actual homosexuals present, it’s just too faggoty.”

Pastor Tim Reed of Arkansas forestalled that argument when he told a CNN reporter that (quote) “It’s not a hate thing here”, adding a bunch of other thinly veiled lies and bullshit that he has to tell himself to continue to believe that he’s not a bigoted anal-wart that cherry picked through one of the most egregiously horrific parts of the entire bible, bypassed laws against tattoos, fabric mixing and crustacean eating and selectively chose to enforce the one line he found that reinforced his hateful bigotry.

“It’s not that they’re gay, it’s that they’re evil BECAUSE they’re gay.  It’s all in the book, you can check.  Our hands are tied.”

“We’d also be this pissed if they endorsed uncovering your wife’s daughter’s nakedness!”

Sorry Pastor, but it’s still racist when you say hockey players are better than basketball players at water polo.

Baptists plan exodus from Boy Scouts: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/31/southern-baptists-to-urge-churches-and-members-to-cut-boy-scout-ties/

And in quasi-constitutional legislative acrobatics this week, we’ve got the state of Ohio hoping to pass a bill that would award high school credits to kids for going to church and learning about how evil gay people are and stuff.

I’d be willing to give PE credit to altar boys, especially if, you know . . . they swallowed.

Proponents of the bill argue that (quote) “It’s an attempt to reinstall some of the same things that made this country great”, which, in the mind of Democratic representative Bill Patmon, include religious indoctrination and rewarding people for knowing things that are wrong.  Patmon went on to complain that we’ve taken prayer out of the schools, we’ve separated religious demonstration from learning areas, we’ve taken religious displays out of schools, I mean, it’s getting to where there’s hardly any way at all to exploit the public schools to evangelize.

“Some of these kids are going 7 . . . 8 hours in a row at school, in the middle of December, without seeing a single piece of visual Jesus propaganda.  Do the math.  You just can’t brain rape kids under these conditions.  I thought this was America.”

Opponents of the law point out that giving educational credit for things that aren’t actually “education” kind of defeats the purpose and then they just kind of stare at the proponents and wonder why this isn’t enough to persuade them.

I got my health credits in high school by interning with a psychic chiropractor who cured headaches with leeches.  And now look at me.  I run a lucrative wishing well business.

Shifty payouts for religion by state of Ohio: http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20130601/NEWS/306010059/Ohio-may-OK-public-school-religion-credits?gcheck=1

And from the “Who-Will-They-Molest-Now?” file, Las Vegas’ oldest Catholic School will be shutting its doors permanently at the end of the academic year.  The St. Joseph Catholic School has been instrumental in Vegas’ international reputation as a paragon of chastity and virtue since 1948, but a steep drop off in people gullible enough to entrust their children to Catholics has led to the school’s inevitable demise.

I think it’s telling, that the oldest Catholic school in Las Vegas, is named after Jesus’ stepdad, the patron saint of some other dude fucking your wife…the patron saint of “cuckolded by god’s dick”

Over the past decade about a quarter of all Catholic schools have been shuttered nationwide leading many to believe that god has abandoned us and no longer cares about the travails of mankind, instead focusing his divine attention on beating Contra without using the cheat code.

It’s all about the spreader gun.  Maybe the laser near the end.  The flamethrower didn’t get the good blast radius effect until Contra 2.    

Beating Contra without the cheat code is like god… I’ll believe it when I see it.

Oldest Vegas Catholic school to close permanently: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/may/30/citys-oldest-catholic-school-falls-victim-low-enro/#axzz2UqCW1wru

And in this week’s forecast on international demon activity we find that despite papal intervention, the guy who thought that he was filled with devil spawn is still fucking crazy.  Despite the Pope Frankenberry’s exorcism that wasn’t, a wheelchair bound man identified in the press as Angel V. insists that he is still possessed by demons.

Looks like he has a malpractice case, at the very least.  They seem to have botched a fairly routine procedure.  But I’ve seen a lot of spinals, dude, and it sounds like this Angel guy is a fake.      

The fucking goldbricker claims to have undergone more than 30 exorcisms and somehow no matter how much holy water they throw at him while intoning latin platitudes, his clearly malfunctioning brain refuses to be miraculously cured.

What’s the problem, he’s hearing demonic voices, telling him to kill babies and eat them?  Everyone get those sometimes, right?  We don’t all have to act on them every time.

Instead of responsibly suggesting he seek psychiatric help, prominent Catholics affirm his harmful delusions by saying things like (quote) “the demons that live in him do not want to leave,” and (quote) “God exists”.

Man exorcised by Pope still possessed by demons: http://www.newsmax.com/edwardpentin/pope-excorcism-possessed-angel/2013/05/29/id/506975

And finally tonight, a story that comes to us from Friendly Atheist, prolific author and inaugural Farnsworth quoter Hemant Mehta and his Friendly Atheist blog.  It would seem that a couple of parents in Utah have finally found the secret to instilling the importance of good moral judgement on their children: Cold hard cash.

Mother Katie Hughes had her daughters sign a contract that promises a reward of $1000 at the age of 20 if the now pre-pubescent girls can refrain from the use of drugs, alcohol and premarital sex between now and then.

“We’re willing to pay as much as 34 cents a day for you to have a shitty, sheltered childhood.”

Seems like a non-binding legal contract might not be the best way to tackle the subject.  Are kids gonna need to start bringing legal counsel to have “the talk” ?

So yeah, setting aside the obvious fact that in another eight years these girls could earn that much in a night by breaking the pledge, one also has to doubt that the paltry sum of a thousand 2026 dollars will remain a sufficient carrot to forestall teen angst.

So, nine days of future minimum wage later . . . or drunken orgasms and cocaine now…

Mother offers daughter $1000 to stay a virgin: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/06/05/christian-mother-to-daughter-if-you-remain-abstinent-until-youre-20-ill-give-you-1000/

And since there’s nothing better to close on than drunken orgasms and cocaine, that’ll do it for headlines tonight, Heath, thanks as always for joining me.

And when we come back, Lucinda will join us to bust open our bibles and dig into the dirty parts.

Song:

After writing poems for Genesis and Exodus, I felt obligated to the Herculean task of capturing the mind-raping insanity of Leviticus in two rhyming minutes.  To complicate matters, I used a weird rhyme scheme and upon recitation it had this really awful “middle aged white guy rapping” feel to it.

In an effort to counterbalance that I put a little music behind it, but I want to apologize to any musicians who might be listening.  I was really under the gun on this thing so it’s basically A minor and E the whole way.

So without further ado, I present the book of Leviticus in rhyme:

Leviticus in Rhyme:

Let me tell you how to sacrifice a goat, bitch; First you cut it’s throat which,

seems a little mean and maybe more than a little gross, it’s

Nothing when compared to; What the Levites bear through,

Details of the entrails should be plenty enough to scare you.

The fat goes on a pyre; Set that shit on fire,

The smell’s a rancid hell but it’s the odor god desires.

How to kill a bird now; Case you hadn’t heard how,

Twist it’s little heard until it’s dead and when it’s burned, bow.

This is for atonement; Offer no postponement,

Couple jugs of blood is a critical component.

Now a proclamation; Regarding ordination,

light the candles right or you might risk assassination …From the Lord.

 

Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not lie,

Thou shalt not do it guy on guy,

Thus unto Moses spoke the Lord.

 

Let me tell you what to eat bitch; Tell you who to sleep with

Tell you how to burn the heretics about that bewitch.

Tell you ‘bout your penis; And all it’s uncleanness,

For someone all-knowing I’m not much of a hygienist.

Oh, and if it pleases; Quickly on diseases,

Sacrifice a turtle dove if anybody sneezes.

Menstrual blood and semen; Need a lot of cleanin’

Best I never catch you whorin’ with all those goat demons,

Tell you ‘how to shave, man; Who you can enslave, man,

Tell you how to stone the motherfucks who misbhave and,

If you disobey me; I will not just slay thee,

Many generations I’ll be all up in your game, see …I’m the Lord.

 

Thou shalt be pure, thou shalt be true,

Thou shalt not get a damned tattoo,

Thus unto Moses spoke the Lord.

 

Thou shalt speak up, Thou shalt not cheat,

Thou shalt not dine on rancid meat

Or stick your dick in things that bleat.

Thou shalt not mix thy rye and wheat.

Thou shalt be just, thou shalt be kind,

Thou shalt not trick the deaf and blind,

Or touch cadavers left behind.

Or let two fabrics be combined.

Thou shalt fear god, thou shalt be straight,

Thou shalt not look to kin with hate,

Thou shalt not ever masturbate,

Thou shant put weasel on your plate.

Thou shalt not rob, thou shalt be bold

Thou shalt rise up before the old,

Don’t get your daughter’s pussy sold,

Thou shalt give all my priests your gold,

…Thou shalt be easily controlled.

Thus spoke the Lord.

Outro:

That brings us to a quick recognition of this week’s most astonishing vertebrates, Steven, Lindsay, Ward and other Lindsay.  These four vampire hunting, ninja decimating, time bomb deactivating, bus jumping heroes have distinguished themselves above all other carbon based lifeforms this week by giving us money.  Drawing on stupendous reserves of tenacity, intelligence and spare cash lying around, these four fine folks have provided an example that all tenacious, intelligent people with spare cash lying around should aspire to.

If you’d like to join these noble few in the pantheon of Scatheist glory, you’ll find the donate button on the right side of our homepage at Scathing Atheist (dot) com.  Oh, and Lindsay, if you’re listening, I was talking about the other Lindsay when I said, “other Lindsay”, not you.

That does it for tonight’s show, but we’ll be back in 168 hours with some hastily put together shit that’ll keep me up until 2 in the morning at least twice this week.  But if you can’t wait that long without risking a stress induced seizure, be sure to check out our erratically published blog and our erratically Tweeted Twitter feed.

Oh, and please help us spread the word about the show.  If you know any atheists that have auditory canals, please give us a plug when you can.  I put every diatribe up on YouTube and I’ll be putting the Leviticus song up this week as well, so if you wouldn’t be risking will-altering alienation from your family, I’d humbly ask that you give one of our videos a share on Facebook or whatever.

A quick thanks to Heath and Lucinda for joining me tonight and to a bunch of dead Israelites for making the jokes so easy on the Holy Babble segment.  And a quick thanks to you, dear listener, for giving us half an hour of your life.  We’ll be working really hard to earn another thirty minutes next week.

If you have questions, comments or death threats you’ll find all the contact info on the Contact page at Scathing Atheist (dot) com.  All the music used in this episode was written and performed by yours truly and yes, I did have my permission.

Live Blogging the Bible: Leviticus Preface

by Noah Lugeons

On the suggestion of a professor that Carl interviewed on the Post Rapture Looting Atheist Podcast, when I set out to read the bible, I purchased the 4th Edition New Oxford Annotated Bible.  It was a bit more of an investment than many of my other bible options, but the annotations, reading guides, maps, apocrypha and summaries made it well worth the investment.

Each book in the New Oxford is preceded by a series of short essays that deal with authorship, interpretation, structure, history and a short “reading guide” aimed to help the student appreciate exactly what they’ll be reading.  Thus far these essays have been rather useful in structuring the discussions we have on the books as well as giving me a bit of a life raft while I’m drowning in the prehistoric insanity of this tome.

The reading guide for Leviticus contained a rather interesting suggestion that basically said the best way to read Leviticus is to not read it.  After a brief and desperate attempt to downplay the raving lunacy of this section of the bible, the scholars offered the following advice:

Because the focus of Leviticus’s narrative is the law and in its divine speeches, the book is most profitably read first according to legal topic rather than from beginning to end.

In keeping with the theme of our “Holy Babble” segment, of course, I ignored this advice and dove right in.  And it didn’t take long to figure out why they discourage such activity.  I would submit that it’s all but impossible to maintain the internal fiction of divine authorship after reading even the first several verses in Leviticus.

It’s also no wonder to me that while most of us our familiar with many of the stories in Genesis and Exodus, we don’t know a damned thing about Leviticus.  It certainly wouldn’t do well for the “divinely inspired” camp to try to rationalize the crazy shit in this book.  Let’s just say it’ll be a long damn time before some creationist group opted for the moniker “Answers in Leviticus”.

I’m sure it’s not the most fucked up book in the bible (I hear tell that Deuteronomy trumps it early and often), but it is certainly the most fucked up thing I’ve ever read.  There can be little doubt that this is a simple amalgamation of horribly misguided, pre-scientific tribal customs codified in a time before we understood medicine, meteorology, biology or succinctness.

Live Blogging the Bible, Exodus 4:24-26

by Noah Lugeons

Even after only a book and 3 chapters, the title of “weirdest part of the bible” is a tough one to earn.  I’m only 100 pages in or so and already I’ve had to stop, scratch my head, re-read, re-scratch my head and sigh in frustrated confusion approximately one time for every 3 chapters.

If pressed, up until this morning I’d have listed the curse Noah lays on his grandson when his grandson’s dad sees his pecker as the weirdest part of the bible, though I’d have hemmed and hawed a bit between that and the part where Jacob wrestles god on the river.

But now there is a brand new contender and I actually think it might remain the bible’s weirdest passage no matter how much of this crap I read.  For those familiar with the bible, this is the part where Moses’ wife gives him magical foreskin powers so he can kick god’s ass.  And for those of you unfamiliar with the bible, that part actually exists and if you don’t believe me, check out Exodus 4:24-26 and tell me what the fuck is going on there then:

On the way, at a place where they spent the night, the Lord met him [Moses] and tried to kill him.  But Zipporah [Moses’ wife] took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched it to his feet and said, “Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!”  So he let him alone.  It was then she said, “A bridegroom of blood by circumcision.”

For a little context (and I’m afraid a little is all you’re gonna get), this is shortly after God charges Moses to go to Egypt and free the Israelites in bondage.  God appears in burning bush form, tells Moses to go to the pharaoh, loads him up with a few magic tricks and tells him to meet Aaron along the way.  And then, for no reason the bible bothers to explain, god appears and tries to kill Moses.  But not very hard.  Because of Zipporah’s clever foreskin maneuver.

There are so many fucking questions here, I don’t know where to start.  Why would god try to kill Moses?  How omnipotent is this guy if he can’t handle a Jew and his foreskin wielding wife?  If god can appear in a form that can ineffectually assassinate Moses, why the burning bush crap a few passages earlier?  And, most importantly, what the fuck?

This is some seriously crazy shit and the bible carries on like none of it happened a few verses later.  God just got thwarted by a piece of baby-dick and we’re just supposed to move on like this was no big deal?  And just how many of the early Jewish fathers have defeated god in a wrestling match?

I hoped that the annotations would help, but they just made it worse.  They refer to this whole thing as an “Enigmatic Episode” and point out that when it says that Zipporah touched the foreskin to Moses’ feet, that may have been a euphemism for his nuts.  Seriously.

So as I’m reading it, the scene from Zipporah’s perspective has to go something like this:

  • Awakened in the middle of the night by sounds of a struggle.
  • Wipe the sleep out of her eyes and glances through the moonlight to see her husband getting his ass kicked by God, Almighty.
  • Says to herself, “If only I had something to mutilate my son’s cock with!”  Finds flint.
  • Hastily circumcises her infant with a random, unsanitized stone in the dark.
  • Disrobes Moses’ while he’s fighting god.
  • Touches his cock with bleeding ring of baby genital.
  • God says… “Gross!  I don’t even want to wrestle any more!”
  • Says, “Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!”

I’m no closer to understanding this book, but at least now if I’m ever tasked with making an Exodus video game, I know what the power-ups will be.

 

Public Bible Study

April 27, 2013 5 comments

by Noah Lugeons

I spent the day yesterday doing my civic duty.  I did jury duty once before in a small town down south and I was in and out in two hours, but in NYC it’s a bit different.  Here you go into a large room and sit there for eight hours while they play bad movies so loud it’s hard to read.  They call names and you leave and go do something, but I’m not entirely sure what it is, as my name was never called.  So I basically sat in a large, uncomfortable room where I wasn’t allowed to use my phone for eight hours.

Luckily, I had some reading I needed to catch up on.  We won’t be covering Exodus on the show until episode 13, but that’s no excuse to slack off.  So I brought my Oxford 4th Edition Annotated NSRV Bible and I brought a notepad in case jokes or segment possibilities occurred to me while I was reading and I brought a highlighter, as I’ve taken to highlighting every passage in the bible where god does something horrible.  And for some reason, it never occurred to me what kind of reaction this was going to draw.

So there I am, whittling away very long hours at a table with a bible that I’m clearly studying intently.  I shouldn’t have been at all surprised when a very friendly Christian woman (or, as I would discover, a Christian woman with a very friendly facade) walked up to me, pulled up a seat and said, “I don’t want to interrupt your bible study, but if you don’t mind, are you in seminary?”

For the record, I could not possibly look less like I was in seminary without the addition of facial tattoos.

Now, three answers occurred to me, but none of them seemed socially acceptable:

  1. “Atheist. Just reading it to make fun of it later,”
  2. “Oh please,have a seat.  Anything to interrupt me from this horrible fucking book” and
  3. “I’m boning up for an interview for the new anti-Christ position.”

And honestly, there are a lot of situations where I would have run with any of those, but in this instance it wouldn’t have been appropriate.  After all, I was inviting the conversation by publicly reading a bible to the point of highlighting and taking notes.  It was a fair question and she was probably a really nice person and I was going to be stuck in a room with her for most of the rest of the day, so I scratched all of those answers.

Then my mind started automatically looking for excuses.  I was clearly reading and writing in English so I couldn’t go with the old, “¿Que?” and it would be hard to pretend that I actually had porn hidden inside it unless I could actually make with some porn (and remember, I wasn’t allowed to bring in my phone).

Ultimately I opted for the truth and that pissed her off so much I wish ended up wishing I’d just been a dick.

“Actually I’m an atheist and I’m studying it for debate purposes,” I said in as friendly a way as possible.

“So you don’t believe a word of it?” she asked incredulously.

“Well, I mean… I believe some of the geography and stuff.”

She made several false starts at speech at this point.  She clearly wanted to say several things that Jesus wouldn’t let her say.  Finally she settled on something like, “Well I hope you find some answers in there because I don’t envy your soul.”

“Okay, well… you know… have a nice day or whatever,” I offer back and she welcomes the opportunity to end the conversation.  She takes a seat well across the room and kind of half-ass glares at me a bit.

At this point I realize that unless I want to do this a few more times, I should put the bible away and read something else.  I suppose she took it as a personal insult that the other distraction I brought was “The God Virus”.

Live Blogging the Bible, Genesis 47

April 23, 2013 1 comment

by Noah Lugeons

Genesis starts slow and it’s a pretty brutal read, but as it turns out, the third act is pretty good.  It settles down into a cohesive narrative, things that are introduced to the story have relevance later, characters have depth and story arc and for a while there God bows out of things and stops being a dick.  In fact, as I was polishing off the end of Genesis, I actually found myself quite drawn to Joseph.  I thought I’d finally found a moral character in the Bible that I could get behind.  And then I reached chapter 47.

For those who don’t know the story (it’s the Technocolor Dreamcoat one), Joseph is one of Jacob’s (Israel’s) sons and he’s daddy’s favorite.  So his other 11 brothers (dad was a hound) did what any group of sociopathic jealous siblings would do.  They took him to the middle of nowhere, stuck him in a pit and waied for some Egyptians to come by so they could sell him into slavery.  They tell dad he was eaten by wolves or bears or something and they carry on with their lives.

Joseph makes the most of slavery but refuses to bone his master’s wife, which lands him in jail for a few years where his powers of dream-interpretation eventually catch the attention of Pharaoh, whose been having some pretty wacky sleepy-time romps of late.  So he brings Joseph out of prison and tells him about his dream, which Joey interprets as God warning him about a coming famine.

Pharaoh is so impressed that he basically makes Joseph king of everybody but him.  Joseph sets out to store a shitload of grain for the coming famine and sure enough, a few years later the famine settles in and thanks to Joey’s powers of precognition, Egypt is the only kingdom with any food.

Along the way he forgives his brothers, sends for his dad and hooks them up with the best grazing land in Egypt.  Seems like a pretty upstanding dude up to this point.  But then in chapter 47 he convinces all the Egyptians to sell themselves as slaves because otherwise they’ll starve.

It’s this surprisingly morbid aside in an otherwise uplifting story, but as the years of famine pile up, the peasants run out of money and can’t afford to buy food from Joseph anymore.  So he convinces them to give him all their livestock and gives them enough grain to survive the year.  Then they come back the next year with no money, no more food and no livestock, so he convinces them to give them all their land for another year’s worth of food.  Then, of course, they come back the next year with no money, no food, no livestock and nowhere to freaking live, so he convinces them to sell themselves into slavery in exchange for another year’s worth of food.

Ultimately it’s clearly a story meant to justify an excessive tax laid upon the people of Egypt, but it really takes you out of this otherwise heart-warming tale of forgiveness and foresight.  So far I’d say Joseph is the most moral central character in the bible, but if I can say that about somebody who locks up all the food and then demands you sell him your freewill if  you want some, this book is clearly unfit as a moral guide.

Live Blogging the Bible, Genesis 34

April 21, 2013 1 comment

by Noah Lugeons

Alright, so I have a new favorite chapter in the Bible and I also have renewed hopes that the mammoth task of breaking this whole stupid book won’t all suck.  I’m actually shocked that this isn’t one of the stories that Christians trot out more often because it’s fucking awesome.

The story starts out with Dinah, daughter of the notorious pussy-magnet Jacob, catching the eye of Shechem, a Hivite prince.  And you know how those Hivites can’t keep their dicks to themselves, so Shechem rapes her.  But according to Genesis 34:3, after he raped her he was really sweet to her:

And his soul was drawn to Dinah, daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her.

And so post-rape, he decides he want to marry Dinah but Jacob and his sons are still understandably pissed about the whole raping their daughter/sister bit so at first they’re reluctant.  Shechem is persistent a la Pepe Le Pew so eventually Jacob makes a deal.  He tells the prince that if he and all the Hivites will join their tribe, he can marry Dinah.  Now that doesn’t sound to bad, but we learned back in Chapter 17 that part of joining their tribe is lopping off a significant portion of your cock.

But Shechem is smitten so he’s all “Lop off my foreskin and force all the men in my tribe to do the same?  No problem.”  And he agrees to it.

So in what must have been the single most baffling day in Hivite history, all the men cut their foreskins off.  Understandably, there’s not a lot getting done in downtown Hivite-ville that day because all the guys are laying in beds moaning “I hate monarchy!”  And while they’re in that prone, post-circumcision state, Jacob and his boys roll into town and kill all of them.

Yes, that’s right, they kill all the Hivites after tricking them into chopping at their genitals.  I’m guessing the resistance was a bit subdued here.  Hell, a lot of them were probably going, “Yeah, slit my throat, sure.  Whatever takes my mind off the pain in my dick.”