Friday, April 17, 2015

Reverend Billy Graham, Darkness and Light


The pastor whose preaching led Graham to Christ was an extreme bigot.

Decades later, Graham was caught on the “Nixon tapes” complaining to the president about “the Jews” and their “stranglehold” on the media, and blaming them for “all the pornography.” Even after the president replied that he agreed but “you can’t say that” in public, Graham pressed the point: Yes, right, but if you get elected to a second term, then we could do something about the problem. Graham added that while many Jews were friendly to him, “they don’t know how I really feel about what they are doing to this country.” [After the Nixon tapes came to light Graham said he had no memory of ever having said such a thing, but none the less he apologized profusely multiple times after hearing them for himself.] [SOURCE: David Vest, The Rebel Angel, ‘They Don’t Know How I Really Feel’ Billy Graham, Tangled Up in Tape, March 5, 2002, Counterpunch]

Graham was also caught on the Nixon tapes giving a wholehearted thumbs up to the controversial plan by some of president Nixon’s military advisers to “bomb the damns” in North Vietnam which would have drowned many and starved a million or more North Vietnamese by draining the water used for their rice paddies. (The plan was never carried out.) [SOURCE: Alexander Cockburn, The Lord’s Avenger: When Billy Graham Wanted to Kill One Million People, March 12, 2002, Counterpunch]

In 1965, Billy Graham dismissed demonstrations for peace in Vietnam, saying, “It seems the only way to gain attention today is to organize a march and protest something.” [SOURCE: Jon Meacham, Pilgrim’s Progress: In the Twilight, Billy Graham Shares What He’s Learned in Reflecting on Politics and Scripture, Old Age and Death, Mysteries and Moderation, Newsweek]

When Senator Hatfield called the Viet Nam war a "sin" at his National Prayer Breakfast speech Billy Graham wrote the Senator a letter of criticism. [SOURCE: Mark Hatfield, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Texas: Word Books, 1976)]

Graham has long considered homosexual behavior to be a "sinister form of perversion," a lifestyle choice that will lead gays to personal ruin. When a young woman wrote him about her sexual love for another woman in 1974, the evangelist replied with a threat: homosexual perverts will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. "Your affection for another of your own sex is misdirected and will be judged by God's holy standards," he answered. For Graham, "any willing person can be liberated from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ."

Graham's evangelistic rallies in the South were only integrated after his fellow evangelist, Charles Templeton, led the way, refusing to preach to a segregated audience.

Graham did not put himself on an annual salary until after his friend Charles Templeton did so. (Those were the days when Evangelists would walk away with ALL the money donated on the final night of their evangelistic rally, which consisted of a huge bag of money.There's a photo I have seen of Graham with a big bag of money slung over his shoulder.)

Charles Templeton was the only evangelist ever chosen to represent the U.S. Council of Churches. He also ran the largest Youth for Christ rallies in North America. Later, he left the fold. But he remained Graham's lifelong friend, and they would meet to debate their differing views as Charles' questions concerning evolution and biblical inspiration continued to pile up. During some of the Graham-Templeton private debate sessions the question of evolution came up, and Graham at that time was apparently a young-earth creationist. But later on his life Graham appears to have accepted that a Christian can be a theistic evolutionist: "“I don’t think that there’s any conflict at all between science today and the Scriptures. I think we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we’ve tried to make the Scriptures say things that they weren’t meant to say, and I think we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course, I accept the Creation story. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man… whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God.” [SOURCE: Billy Graham, interview with David Frost, “Doubts and Certainties," 1964]


Graham: "I don't think that we're going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. What God is doing today is calling people out of the world for His name. Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they've been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they don't have and they turn to the only light they have and I think they're saved and they're going to be with us in heaven." [So Graham has apparently adopted the "anonymous Christian" view defended by liberal Catholic theologians like Hans Kung. I also suspect that Graham's view may have been influenced by seeing good friends die without becoming born again Evangelical Christians, including lifelong friend and fellow-evangelist-turned-agnostic, Charles Templeton, succumb to Alzheimer's.-EB]

Schuller: "What I hear you saying is that it's possible for Jesus Christ to come into a human heart and soul and life even if they've been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you're saying?"

Graham: "Yes it is because I believe that. I've met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations that they have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, have never heard of Jesus but they've believed in their hearts that there is a God and they tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived."

Schuller: "This is fantastic. I'm so thrilled to hear you say that. There's a wideness in God's mercy.

Graham: There is. There definitely is."
[SOURCE: The Hour of Power television program #1426, "Say 'Yes' To Possibility Thinking," aired May 32, 1997]

"When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people... Graham says:

'Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won't... I don't want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.'"
[SOURCE: Jon Meacham, Pilgrim’s Progress: In the Twilight, Billy Graham Shares What He’s Learned in Reflecting on Politics and Scripture, Old Age and Death, Mysteries and Moderation, Newsweek, Oct. 15, 2007]

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Christian Apologist, Alister McGaff, I mean McGrath, on Atheism's "twilight" and Aldous Huxley's "lie" about Calvinists in Geneva beheading a child

I always wanted to ask Christian apologist, Alister McGrath, if he felt the least bit chagrined after writing his book, The Twilight of Atheism, only to discover within a few years not just one but several books advocating atheism climbing to the top of the bestseller lists for the first time in human history? (Personally, I am not an atheist, though I do doubt the validity and authority of "revealed religions" and "holy writings" in general.)


After reading McGrath's biography of Calvin I could not help but notice how he opened one chapter by denouncing Aldous Huxley's claim that a child was executed by Calvinist Genevans for not honoring their parents. But after researching the topic beyond the mere Huxley quotation I discovered several notable Protestant historians who agreed with Huxley rather than with McGrath's anti-Huxley rant. I wonder if McGrath would you be willing to acknowledge that Huxley was merely repeating what was already acknowledged, even by Protestant historians?

But first a little background: In 1563, Calvin’s Commentary on the Five Books of Moses was published in Geneva and it reiterated what he had previously taught in his sermons in 1555 concerning the necessity of following God’s rules of discipline and the necessity of magistrates to obey and enforce Biblical laws, including the physical discipline and/or execution of rebellious children. The passages from the Bible concerning such matters are these:
"He that strikes his father or his mother shall die the death." Exodus 21:15

"He that curses his father or his mother shall die the death." Exodus 21:17

"If any man has a son that is stubborn and disobedient, which will not hearken unto the voice of his father, nor the voice of his mother, and they have chastened him [The Hebrew word for 'chasten' means literally 'chasten with blows.'], and he would not obey them, Then shall his father and his mother take him, and bring him out unto the Elders of his city, and unto the gate of the place where he dwells, And shall say unto the Elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and disobedient, and he will not obey our admonition; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. Then all the men of the city shall stone him with stones unto death: so thou shalt take away evil from among you, that all Israel may hear and fear." Deuteronomy 21:18-21
Below are admissions made by Protestant biographers of Calvin:
"In the year 1563, a young girl who had insulted her mother was kept confined, fed on bread and water, and obliged to express her repentance publicly in the church. A peasant boy who had called his mother a devil, and flung a stone at her, was publicly whipped, and suspended by his arms to a gallows as a sign that he deserved death, and was only spared on account of his youth. Another child in 1568, for having struck his parents was beheaded. A lad of sixteen, for having only threatened to strike his mother, was condemned to death; on account of his youth the sentence was softened, and he was only banished, after being publicly whipped, with a halter about his neck."

SOURCE: Paul Henry, D.D. [Protestant minister and seminary-inspector of Berlin], The Life and Times of John Calvin, The Great Reformer, Vol. I (Translated by Henry Stebbing, D.D., F.R.S., author of “The Church and Reformation” in Lardner’s Cyclopaedia; History of the Church of Christ From the Diet of Augusburg; Lives of the Italian Poets, etc.) (London: Whittaker and Co., 1849), p. 361 [The “Translator’s Preface” in Vol. I states: “The present work affords ample details on the main points connected with Calvin’s history, and with that of his age. They have been derived from sources now, in great part, for the first time made public… Dr. Henry’s admiration of Calvin is almost unbounded. But devoted as is his veneration for the great reformer, he has been too candid to conceal either his faults or his errors."
Johannes Calvin, Leben und ausgewahlte Schrijten, by Ernst Stahelin, a pastor in Basel, published at Elberfeld in two volumes, in 1863, is considered among the best of the older biographies of Calvin. It (along with Paul Henry's biography) is cited as a source for the beheading incident in Henry Clay Sheldon's History of the Christian Church, Volume 3. In that volume Sheldon states:
"A peasant boy, for reviling his mother and casting a stone at her, was publicly whipped, and suspended by the arms from the gallows as a token that he deserved death. Another child was beheaded for striking his parents. Another, for simply attempting to strike his parents, was condemned to death, but the capital sentence was afterwards exchanged for whipping and banishment." http://books.google.com/books?id=wmZIAQAAIAAJ&lpg=PA141&ots=t-0rmfoZ8J&dq=Stahelin%2C%20Johanu%20Calvin&pg=PA156#v=onepage&q&f=false

Meanwhile Picot says:

"In 1563, a girl named Genon Bougy, who had insulted her mother by calling her 'japa,' was condemned to three days in prison on bread and water, and she had to make a public apology after worship services. In 1566, Damian Mesnier, a child from the village of Genthod, for insulting his mother by calling her 'diablesse, hérège, larronne' and by throwing stones at her, was whipped in public and then hanged from the gallows with the rope passed under his arms, as a sign of the death he had deserved, but which was spared him because of his youth. Philippe Deville was beheaded in1568 for having beaten his father and step-mother. Four years later, a 16-year-old child tried to strike his mother, and was also condemned to death; but the sentence was reduced in light of his young age, and he was only banished, after being whipped in public with a rope around his neck.

SOURCE: Jean Picot [Professeur d'histoire dans la faculte des lettres de l'Academie de cette ville] Histoire de Geneve, Tome Second (Published in Geneva, i.e., A Geneve, Chez Manget et Cherbuliez, Impreimeurs-Libr. 1811) p. 264

And Schaff says:

"A child was whipped for calling his mother a thief and a she-devil (diabless). A girl was beheaded for striking her parents, to vindicate the dignity of the fifth commandment."

SOURCE: Philip Schaff [Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Seminary, New York] Modern Christianity: The Swiss Reformation = Vol. VIII of History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmanns, third edition revised, 1910) This particular citation is even available online at http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/history/8_ch13.htm
ADDED REFLECTIONS: Schaff does not footnote the “beheading” incident, though he does provide on that page and the next a few footnotes regarding other incidents of prohibitions and their penalties in Geneva. He also lists the sources he consulted when writing his book (sources are listed at the beginning of each section). Judging by nearby footnotes and by his source list for that particular section, he might have obtained his information about the beheading from either the Registers of the Council of Geneva, or, “Amedee Roget: L’eglise et l’etat a Geneve du vivant de Calvin. Etude d’histoire politico-ecclesiastique, published in Geneve, 1867 (pp. 92). Compare also his Histoire du people de Geneve depuis la reforme jusqu’a l’escalade (1536-1602), 1870-1883, 7 vols.” Or perhaps Schaff obtained his information from Schaff probably derived his information from the Calvin biographies by Paul Henry and Ernst Stahelin already mentioned.

Picot and Schaff do not agree on the gender of the beheaded child, and Paul Henry, only mentions that it was a “child,” not specifying its gender. Picot’s History of Geneva provides the most complete information concerning the incident, including the child’s name and the date of the beheading. The archives of Geneva are vast and include not only the Registers of the Council and the Registers of the Consistory, but many other records as well (that the Calvin scholar, Robert Kingdon, lists by category in Vol. 1 of his English translation of the Registers of the Consistory). Though massive, the Genevan archives could probably be searched by focusing on the year of the beheading and the child’s name that Picot has given, and they could probably supply more information, such as the child’s age when s/he was beheaded.


In January of 1998 the Rev. William Einwechter, apparently a great friend of Calvinism, composed an article titled, “Stoning Disobedient Children,” that was published in Chalcedon Report. The Reverend’s article raised some eyebrows in the world of “church and state news” since it advocated the execution of rebellious children who were “in their middle teens [15-17?] or older.” The Reverend responded to his critics in a second article. Both of his articles can be googled easily since they are posted at various websites. I emailed the Reverend, asking him why he chose the “mid-teens” as a cut off point for execution when Exodus mentions executing children twice, once for “cursing” their parents, and once for “striking” their parents, but in neither case does it specify the “age” of “executable” children. In fact in some places the Bible says God himself killed, or commanded his people to execute, infants and pregnant women. Therefore, the “age” of a child does not appear to have played a very large factor when it came to the necessity of removing “evil” from the sight of God:
Their fruit shalt Thou destroy from the earth, and their seed from among the children of men.
- Psalm 21:10

The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born... let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun.
- Psalm 58:3,8

As for Israel, their glory shall fly away like a bird, and from the womb, and from the conception... Give them, O Lord: what will Thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts... they shall bear no fruit...
- Hosea 9:11-16

Every living thing on the earth was drowned [which no doubt included pregnant women and babies]... Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.
- Genesis 7:23

Thus saith the LORD... Slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.
- 1 Samuel 15:3

Joshua destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD commanded.
- Joshua 10:40

The LORD delivered them before us; and we destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones.
- Deuteronomy 2:33-34

Kill every male among the little ones.
- Numbers 31:17

The wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and... Samaria shall become desolate... they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
- Hosea 13:15-16

With thee will I [the LORD] break in pieces the young man and the maid.
- Jeremiah 51:22

Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
- Psalm 137:9
I added in my email to Rev. Einwechter that Calvinist Christians whose “fear of God” ran deep could cite scriptures like those above and argue for executing rebellious children of a far younger age than he suggested in his article. Apparently the Reverend did not wish to argue the question of “age” any further with me, since he never replied to the second email I sent him.

This subject also brings to mind the related question of the Bible’s rules for the disciplining of children:
Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
- Proverbs 19:18 (The Hebrew word for “chasten” means literally “chasten with blows.”)

The blueness of a wound cleanses away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.
- Proverbs 20:30 (The Hebrew word translated “stripes” means “beating.”)

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beats him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from Sheol.
- Proverbs 23:13-14

As a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee (with blows).
- Deuteronomy 8:5

For whom the Lord loves he chasteneth, and scourges every son whom he receives.
- Hebrews 12:6 (The Greek word translated “chasteneth,” also means “beating.”)

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Cultural Divide Between the Ancient Near East and the Wealth of Modern Knowledge/Information -- Where Do We Get Our Answers From Today? What Expands Our Minds the Most Today?

Ancient Israelites used to rely heavily on biblical writings for information about the world, such writings constituted a Holy Answer Book to questions both large and small:

How did heaven and earth and the things in them come to be? See the Creation story.

Why do the sexes love each other so much? Why do women experience great pain during childbirth? Why does it take so much effort to grow crops to feed ourselves instead of us being able to live in a luxurious garden with fruit and green plants we can pluck and eat at will? Why do snakes go on their bellies? Why do humans hate them so much? Where did death come from? Why do humans have the god-like attribute of great knowledge but return to the dust like animals instead of enjoying the other god-like attribute, immortality? Why do humans wear clothes? See the Garden of Eden story.

Where do rainbows come from? See the Flood story.

Will there ever be another Flood like the one in Noah’s day? –a question of grave concern to people who believed that creation arose in the midst of primeval waters and continued to be surrounded on all sides by water that was held back by divine power, and should that divine power release its grip then creation would be reduced again to its original watery “empty and void” state. See the Creation and Flood stories.

Why are there so many different languages and tribes spread out upon the earth? See the Tower of Babel story.

How did Israel come to have this glorious land of Canaan? See the Exodus story.

Non-Israelite nations invented their own legendary answers as to why the world was the way it was. Where do rainbows come from? A Babylonian legend in The Epic of Gilgamesh says rainbows are the lapis lazuli necklace of Ishtar that she placed in the sky to remind her never to flood the world again. Why do spiders spin webs? Because a seamstress named Arachne challenged the Greek goddess Athena to a spinning contest which the mortal won, but was a little too sassy about it, so the goddess changed her into the very first spider, and said, “O.K., now you can spin all you want.”

Additional answers provided by Israelite legends include the following:

Why are their two great lights (literal Heb. “great lamps”) in the sky that appear and disappear at regular intervals? God provided them so we can measure the time between religious festivals (the Hebrew word for “seasons” in Genesis 1 is used in the Pentateuch to denote religious festivals). The Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish, explains the lights in the sky the same way, as timekeepers put there by their high god, Marduk, so that humans can tell when the next religious festival in his honor was due to be celebrated.

Why is every seventh day a sacred day of rest? Because God rested on the seventh day of creation.

Biblical writings also provided answers to questions like, Why are we at odds with a particular nation? Because it’s in their blood, their eponymous ancestors behaved badly toward us so it’s little wonder that their descendants still do. Why did we kill and enslave people living in the land of Canaan? Because the alleged son of a son of Noah, named “Canaan” was allegedly cursed along with all of his descendants, the Canaanites, to be the slaves to Noah’s other sons.

Hermann Gunkel (1862–1932), a German Old Testament scholar, wrote The Legends of Genesis, the first part of his massive commentary on Genesis, in which he points out many cases of OT authors attempting to produce answers to questions of both a global and tribal nature http://sacred-texts.com/bib/log/log03.htm :
“The answers to such questions constitute the real content of the respective legends…

“Why has Japhet such an extended territory? Why do the children of Lot dwell in the inhospitable East? How does it come that Reuben has lost his birthright? Why is Gilead the border between Israel and the Aramæans? Why does Beersheba belong to us and not to the people of Gerar? Why is Shechem in possession of Joseph? Why have we a right to the holy places at Shechem and Machpelah? Why has Ishmael become a Bedouin people with just this territory and this God? How does it come that the Egyptian peasants have to bear the heavy tax of the fifth, while the fields of the priests are exempt? The usual nature of the answer given to these questions by our legends is that the present relations are due to some transaction of the patriarchs: the tribal ancestor bought the holy place, and accordingly it belongs to us, his heirs; the ancestors of Israel and Aram established Gilead as their mutual boundary, and so on. A favorite way is to find the explanation in a miraculous utterance of God or some of the patriarchs, and the legend has to tell how this miraculous utterance came to be made in olden times. And this sort of explanation was regarded as completely satisfactory, so that there came to be later a distinct literary variety of ‘charm’ or ‘blessing.’”

“Along with the above we find etymological legends or features of legends, as it were, beginnings of the science of language… Ancient Israel spent much thought upon the origin and the real meaning of the names of races, mountains, wells, sanctuaries, and cities. To them names were not so unimportant as to us, for they were convinced that names were somehow closely related to the things. It was quite impossible in many cases for the ancient people to give the correct explanation, for names were, with Israel as with other nations, among the most ancient possessions of the people, coming down from extinct races or from far away stages of the national language… Early Israel as a matter of course explains such names without any scientific spirit and wholly on the basis of the language as it stood. It identifies the old name with a modern one which sounds more or less like it, and proceeds to tell a little story explaining why this particular word was uttered under these circumstances and was adopted as the name. We too have our popular etymologies. How many there are who believe that the noble river which runs down between New Hampshire and Vermont and across Massachusetts and Connecticut is so named because it ‘connects’ the first two and ‘cuts’ the latter two states! Manhattan Island, it is said, was named from the exclamation of a savage who was struck by the size of a Dutch hat worn by an early burgher, ‘Man hat on!’… Similar legends are numerous in Genesis and in later works. The city of Babel is named from the fact that God there confused human tongues (balal, Gen 11: 9); Jacob is interpreted as ‘heelholder’ because at birth he held his brother, whom he robbed of the birthright, by the heel (Gen 25:26); Zoar means ‘trifle,’ because Lot said appealingly, ‘It is only a trifle’ (Gen 19:20,22); Beersheba is ‘the well of seven,’ because Abraham there gave Abimelech seven lambs (21:28 ff.); Isaac (Jishak) is said to have his name from the fact that his mother laughed (sahak) when his birth was foretold to her (18:12), and so forth.

“In order to realize the utter naïveté of most of these interpretations, consider that the Hebrew legend calmly explains the Babylonian name Babel from the Hebrew vocabulary, and that the writers are often satisfied with merely approximate similarities of sounds: for instance, “Cain” (Kajin) sounds like the Hebrew for “gotten” (kaniti, ‘I have acquired/gotten,’ hence the legend arose that when Cain was born to Eve she said, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord” (Gen 4:1); Reuben from rah beonji, ‘he hath regarded my misery’ (Gen 29:32), etc. Every student of Hebrew knows that these are not satisfactory etymologies…

“More important than these etymological legends are those whose purpose is to explain the regulations of religious ceremonials… [For instance, circumcision was common in the ancient world but we Israelites] perform the rite of circumcision in memory of an alleged covenant between our God and our eponymous ancestor Abraham, and also in memory of a story involving Moses, whose firstborn was circumcised as a redemption for Moses whose blood God demanded (Ex 4:24 ff.)… The stone at Bethel was first anointed by Jacob because it was his pillow in the night when God appeared to him (Gen 28.11 ff.), therefore we continue to anoint it today. At Jeruel—the name of the scene of the near-sacrifice of Isaac, Gen 22:1-19—God at first demanded of Abraham his child, but afterward accepted a ram, so we likewise sacrifice animals to redeem our first born. And so on...

“Why is this particular place and this sacred memorial so especially sacred? The regular answer to this question was, Because in this place the divinity appeared to our ancestor. In commemoration of this theophany we worship God in this place. Now in the history of religion it is of great significance that the ceremonial legend comes from a time when religious feeling no longer perceived as self-evident the divinity of the locality and the natural monument and had forgotten the significance of the sacred ceremony. Accordingly the legend has to supply an explanation of how it came about that the God and the tribal ancestor met in this particular place. Abraham happened to be sitting under the tree in the noonday heat just as the men appeared to him, and for this reason the tree is sacred (Gen 19:1 ff.). The well in the desert, Lacha-roi, became the sanctuary of Ishmael because his mother in her flight into the desert met at this well the God who comforted her (Gen 16:7 ff.). Jacob happened to be passing the night in a certain place and resting his head upon a stone when he saw the heavenly ladder; therefore this stone is our sanctuary (Gen 28:10 ff). Moses chanced to come with his flocks to the holy mountain and the thorn bush (Ex 3:1 ff.). Probably every one of the greater sanctuaries of Israel had some similar legend of its origin.

“Other sorts of legends… undertake to explain the origin of a locality. Whence comes the Dead Sea with its dreadful desert? The region was cursed by God on account of the terrible sin of its inhabitants. Whence comes the pillar of salt yonder with its resemblance to a woman? That is a woman, Lot's wife, turned into a pillar of salt in punishment for attempting to spy out the mystery of God (Gen 19:26). But whence does it come that the bit of territory about Zoar is an exception to the general desolation? Because God spared it as a refuge for Lot (19:17-22).”
“Answers” like those above are no longer assumed to be true.

We moderns have learned the benefits of investigating questions using all possible comparative historical, linguistic, and scientific means, even leaving questions open if those means fail us.

Instead of relying primarily on biblical writings to supply answers, moderns rely on electronic devices that connect us with countless scholarly resources, a worldwide library of ancient and modern writings and images at our fingertips, including sights from space and deep inside matter. Such devices show us the outermost regions of the cosmos as well as what’s inside our bodies, illustrating how it works, and even tell us the weather a week in advance. Such devices teach as well as entertain (functions more often served in the past by biblical stories). They also keep us in touch with one another. They have become humanity’s new place to turn to, like Bibles used to be. There’s much more to read about today and learn than what the Bible says.

Ever since investigations of nature via observation and experimentation, and later, since the invention of telescopes and microscopes, we have turned more toward the cosmos as something that can continually expand our minds and lead to never ending exploration. Studying the book of nature has proven to be a far more fascinating and mind-expanding experience for far more educated people today, than, say, studying the books of the Bible.

We continue to discover new Lego-like ways to stick atoms together and produced new chemicals, new organisms, as well as new machines, new computing devices and robots.

We continue to discover new ways to smash together sub-atomic particles and explore the results.

We continue to discover new ways to gaze upon and measure the effects of stellar explosions, the effects of galaxies colliding with one another, even the effects of entire clusters of galaxies colliding with one another, to discover new energies and forces at work and how they interact.

We continue to discover new ways to study the past, as well as new ways to think about the cosmos and its possible futures.

We also continue to discover new Lego-like ways to stick together stories and characters from the world’s writings both past and present to forge fascinating new ones.

Those are what expand the minds of educated moderns today.

Or, as Robert G. Ingersoll, America’s “Great Agnostic” put it to conservative Christians in his day, “"We have heard talk enough. We have listened to all the drowsy, idealess, vapid sermons that we wish to hear. We have read your Bible and the works of your best minds. We have heard your prayers, your solemn groans and your reverential amens. All these amount to less than nothing. We want one fact. We beg at the doors of your churches for just one little fact. We pass our hats along your pews and under your pulpits and implore you for just one fact. We know all about your moldy wonders and your stale miracles. We want a this year's fact. We ask only one. Give us one fact for charity. Your miracles are too ancient. The witnesses have been dead for nearly two thousand years." ("The Gods," 1872)

Terry Pratchett's Guide to God, Genesis, Sacred Scriptures, Ethics, Fate, Science, Nature, Philosophy, Funny Lines, History, Politics, and Education

Terry's last moments and final words

Death and What Comes Next: A Discworld short story by Terry Pratchett



Belief was never mentioned at home, but right actions were taught by daily example. Possibly because of this, I have never disliked religion. I think it has some purpose in our evolution... I number believers of all sorts among my friends. Some of them are praying for me. I'm happy they wish to do this, I really am, but I think science may be a better bet.

So what shall I make of the voice that spoke to me recently as I was scuttling around getting ready for yet another spell on a chat-show sofa? More accurately, it was a memory of a voice in my head, and it told me that everything was OK and things were happening as they should. For a moment, the world had felt at peace. Where did it come from? Me, actually — the part of all of us that, in my case, caused me to stand in awe the first time I heard Thomas Tallis's Spem in alium, and the elation I felt on a walk one day last February, when the light of the setting sun turned a plowed field into shocking pink; I believe it's what Abraham felt on the mountain and Einstein did when it turned out that E=mc2. It's that moment, that brief epiphany when the universe opens up and shows us something, and in that instant we get just a sense of an order greater than Heaven and, as yet at least, beyond the grasp of Stephen Hawking. It doesn't require worship, but, I think, rewards intelligence, observation and inquiring minds.

There is a rumor going around that I have found God. I think this is unlikely because I have enough difficulty finding my keys, and there is empirical evidence that they exist.



God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

When someone is saved from certain death by a strange concatenation of circumstances, they say that's a miracle. But of course if someone is killed by a freak chain of events - the oil spilled just there, the safety fence broken just there -- that must also be a miracle.

“G-d does not play games with His loyal servants,” said the Metatron, but in a worried tone of voice.
“Whooo-eee,” said Crowley. “Where have you been?”

After four years of theological college he wasn’t at all certain of what he believed, and this was partly because the Church had schismed so often that occasionally the entire curriculum would alter in the space of one afternoon. But also—They had been warned about it. Don’t expect it, they’d said. It doesn’t happen to anyone except the prophets. [But the Great God,] Om doesn’t work like that. Om works from inside — but he’d hoped that, just once, that Om would make himself known in some obvious and unequivocal way that couldn’t be mistaken for wind or a guilty conscience. Just once, he’d like the clouds to part for the space of ten seconds and a voice to cry out, “YES, MIGHTILY-PRAISEWORTHY-ARE-YE-WHO-EXALTETH-OM! IT’S ALL COMPLETELY TRUE! INCIDENTALLY, THAT WAS A VERY THOUGHTFUL PAPER YOU WROTE ON THE CRISIS OF RELIGION IN A PLURALISTIC SOCIETY!”

And it came to pass that in time the Great God Om spake unto Brutha, the Chosen One: "Psst!"

There are a hundred pathways to Om. Unfortunately, I sometimes think someone left a rake lying across a lot of them.

Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn’t believing. It’s where belief stops, because it isn’t needed anymore.

[Pascal's Wager] is very similar to the suggestion put forward by the Quirmian philosopher Ventre, who said, “Possibly the gods exist, and possibly they do not. So why not believe in them in any case? If it’s all true you’ll go to a lovely place when you die, and if it isn’t then you’ve lost nothing, right?” When he died he woke up in a circle of gods holding nasty-looking sticks and one of them said, “We’re going to show you what we think of Mr. Clever Dick in these parts...”

It's a god-eat-god world.

When you can flatten entire cities at a whim, a tendency towards quiet reflection and seeing-things-from-the-other-fellow's-point- of-view is seldom necessary.

The trouble with being a god is that you've got no one to pray to.

It was easy to respect an invisible god. It was the ones that turned up everywhere, often drunk, that put people off.

Gods don't like people not doing much work. People who aren't busy all the time might start to think.

Gods prefer simple, vicious games, where you Do Not Achieve Transcendence but Go Straight To Oblivion; a key to the understanding of all religion is that a god's idea of amusement is Snakes and Ladders with greased rungs.

The gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if that's where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won't do if they don't know about it. This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight.

There’s a tendency [in religion] to declare that there is more backsliding around than the national toboggan championships, that heresy must be torn out root and branch, and even arm and leg and eye and tongue, that it’s time to wipe the slate clean. Blood is generally considered very efficient for this purpose.

Oh, come on. Revelation was a mushroom dream that belonged in the Apocrypha. The New Testament is basically about what happened when God got religion.

"Blessings be upon this house," said Granny, but in a voice that suggested that if blessings needed to be taken away, she could do that, too.

I commend my soul to any God that can find it.

Newton Pulsifer had never had a cause in his life. Nor had he, as far as he knew, ever believed in anything. It had been embarrassing, because he quite wanted to believe in something, since he recognized that belief was the lifebelt that got most people through the choppy waters of Life. He'd have liked to believe in a supreme God, although he'd have preferred a half-hour's chat with Him before committing himself, to clear up one or two points. He'd sat in all sorts of churches, waiting for that single flash of blue light, and it hadn't come. And then he'd tried to become an official Atheist and hadn't got the rock-hard, self-satisfied strength of belief even for that. And every single political party had seemed to him equally dishonest. And he'd given up on ecology when the ecology magazine he'd been subscribing to had shown its readers a plan of a self-sufficient garden, and had drawn the ecological goat tethered within three feet of the ecological beehive. Newt had spent a lot of time at his grandmother's house in the country and thought he knew something about the habits of both goats and bees, and concluded therefore that the magazine was run by a bunch of bib-overalled maniacs. Besides, it used the word 'community' too often; Newton had always suspected that people who regularly used the word 'community' were using it in a very specific sense that excluded him and everyone he knew.

A man could be dogmatic, and that was all right, or he could be stupid, and no harm done, but stupid and dogmatic at the same time was too much.

God also helped those who helped themselves, and presumably expected the chosen to bring warm clothing, water purification tablets, basic medication, a weapon such as the bronze knives that were selling these days, possibly a tent - in short, to bring some common sense to the party.

Offer people a new creed with a costume and their hearts and minds will follow.

I can tell you what I feel. That God is not out there somewhere. God is in us, in our everyday lives. In the act of understanding. God is the sacredness of comprehension – no, of the act of comprehension.

Do you know what it feels like to be aware of every star, every blade of grass?... We [gods] have done it for eternity. No sleep, no rest, just endless... endless experience, endless awareness. Of everything. All the time. How we envy you, envy you! Lucky humans, who can close your minds to the endless deeps of space! You have this thing you call... boredom? That is the rarest talent in the universe! We heard a song — it went 'Twinkle twinkle little star....' What power! What wondrous power! You can take a billion trillion tons of flaming matter, a furnace of unimaginable strength, and turn it into a little song for children! You build little worlds, little stories, little shells around your minds, and that keeps infinity at bay and allows you to wake up in the morning without screaming!



Anyone who could build a universe in six days isn’t going to let a little thing like that happen. Unless they want it to, of course... Like: why make people inquisitive, and then put some forbidden fruit where they can see it with a big neon finger flashing on and off saying ‘THIS IS IT!’?

“I don’t see what’s so terrific about creating people as people and then gettin’ upset ’cos they act like people,” said Adam severely. “Anyway, if you stopped tellin’ people it’s all sorted out after they’re dead, they might try sorting it all out while they’re alive.”



There are no inconsistencies in the Discworld books; occasionally, however, there are alternate pasts.
[Hmmm, I wonder if defenders of the notions of the Bible's "inerrancy" have used THAT excuse yet?]

The stories never said why she was wicked. It was enough to be an old woman, enough to be all alone, enough to look strange because you have no teeth. It was enough to be called a witch. If it came to that, the book never gave you the evidence of anything. It talked about "a handsome prince"... was he really, or was it just because he was a prince that people called handsome? As for "a girl who was as beautiful as the day was long"... well, which day? In midwinter it hardly ever got light! The stories don't want you to think, they just wanted you to believe what you were told.

Legislation was passed to put some honesty into reporting. Thus, if a legend said of a notable that “all men spoke of his prowess” any bard who valued his life would add hastily “except for a couple of people in his home village who thought he was a liar, and quite a lot of other people who had never really heard of him.”

And naturally, when you have one rumor, it buds little extra rumors. Just for the fun of it.

The truth isn't easily pinned to a page. In the bathtub of history the truth is harder to hold than the soap and much more difficult to find.

"I'm just saying man is naturally a mythopoeic creature."
"What's that mean?" said the Senior Wrangler.
"Means we make things up as we go along," said the Dean, not looking up.

The trouble with gods is that after enough people start believing in them, they begin to exist. And what begins to exist isn't what was originally intended.

We spray our fantasies on the landscape like a dog sprays urine. It turns it into ours. Once we’ve invented our gods and demons, we can propitiate or exorcise them. Once we’ve put fairies in the sinister solitary thorn tree, we can decide where we stand in relation to it; we can hang ribbons on it, see visions under it—or bulldoze it up and call ourselves free of superstition.

People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around. Stories exist independently of their players. If you know that, the knowledge is power. Stories, great flapping ribbons of shaped space-time, have been blowing and uncoiling around the universe since the beginning of time. And they have evolved. The weakest have died and the strongest have survived and they have grown fat on the retelling... stories, twisting and blowing through the darkness. And their very existence overlays a faint but insistent pattern on the chaos that is history. Stories etch grooves deep enough for people to follow in the same way that water follows certain paths down a mountainside. And every time fresh actors tread the path of the story, the groove runs deeper. This is called the theory of narrative causality and it means that a story, once started, takes a shape. It picks up all the vibrations of all the other workings of that story that have ever been. This is why history keeps on repeating all the time.



Goodness is about what you do. Not who you pray to.

The gods were there to do the duties of a megaphone, because who else would people listen to? [On the other hand] some of the most terrible things in the world are done by people who think, genuinely think, that they're doing it for the best, especially if there is some god involved.

Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.

I’d rather be a rising ape than a falling angel.

"And what would humans be without love?"
RARE, said Death.

Human beings mostly aren't particularly evil. They just get carried away by new ideas, like dressing up in jackboots and shooting people, or dressing up in white sheets and lynching people, or dressing up in tie-dye jeans and playing guitars at people. Offer people a new creed with a costume and their hearts and minds will follow. Anyway, being brought up as a Satanist tended to take the edge off it. It was something you did on Saturday nights. And the rest of the time you simply got on with life as best you could, just like everyone else.



You know what the greatest tragedy is in the whole world?... It's all the people who never find out what it is they really want to do or what it is they're really good at. It's all the sons who become blacksmiths because their fathers were blacksmiths. It's all the people who could be really fantastic flute players who grow old and die without ever seeing a musical instrument, so they become bad plowmen instead. It's all the people with talents who never even find out. Maybe they are never even born in a time when it's even possible to find out. It's all the people who never get to know what it is that they can really be. It's all the wasted chances.



Humans! They lived in a world where the grass continued to be green and the sun rose every day and flowers regularly turned into fruit, and what impressed them? Weeping statues. And wine made out of water! A mere quantum-mechanistic tunnel effect, that'd happen anyway if you were prepared to wait zillions of years. As if the turning of sunlight into wine, by means of vines and grapes and time and enzymes, wasn't a thousand times more impressive and happened all the time.

Science: A way of finding things out and then making them work. Science explains what is happening around us the whole time. So does religion, but science is better because it comes up with more understandable excuses when it is wrong.

The Universe contains everything and nothing.
There is very little everything.
And more nothing than you can possibly imagine.

Once we were blobs in the sea, and then fishes, and then lizards and rats and then monkeys, and hundreds of things in between. This hand was once a fin, this hand once had claws! In my human mouth I have the pointy teeth of a wolf and the chisel teeth of a rabbit and the grinding teeth of a cow! Our blood is as salty as the sea we used to live in! When we're frightened, the hair on our skin stands up, just like it did when we had fur. We are history! Everything we've ever been on the way to becoming us, we still are... I'm made up of the memories of my parents and my grandparents, all my ancestors. They're in the way I look, in the color of my hair. And I'm made up of everyone I've ever met who's changed the way I think.

Animal minds are simple, and therefore sharp. Animals never spend time dividing experience into little bits and speculating about all the bits they've missed. The whole panoply of the universe has been neatly expressed to them as things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks. This frees the mind from unnecessary thoughts and gives it a cutting edge where it matters. Your normal animal, in fact, never tries to walk and chew gum at the same time. The average human, on the other hand, thinks about all sorts of things around the clock, on all sorts of levels, with interruptions from dozens of biological calendars and timepieces. There's thoughts about to be said, and private thoughts, and real thoughts, and thoughts about thoughts, and a whole gamut of subconscious thoughts. To a telepath the human head is a din. It is a railway terminus with all the Tannoys talking at once. It is a complete FM waveband- and some of those stations aren't reputable, they're outlawed pirates on forbidden seas who play late-night records with limbic lyrics.

Human beings, little bags of thinking water held up briefly by fragile accumulations of calcium.

Everything starts somewhere, though many physicists disagree. But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with the start of things. They wonder how the snowplow driver gets to work, or how the makers of dictionaries look up the spelling of words.

There are very few starts. Oh, some things seem to be beginnings. The curtain goes up, the first pawn moves, the first shot is fired - but that's not the start. The play, the game, the war is just a little window on a ribbon of events that may extend back thousands of years. The point is, there's always something before. It's always a case of Now Read On.

Light thinks it travels faster than anything, but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

One day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I'm sure you'll agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged onto a half submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters, who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature's wonders, gentlemen. Mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that is when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.

All creatures on Earth have been hammered on the anvil of its gravity, for example, which influences size and morphology. So I am skeptical about finding armored reptiles who can fly and spout flames.



The truth shall make thee fret.

The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.

"What's a philosopher?" said Brutha. Someone who's bright enough to find a job with no heavy lifting, said a voice in his head.

Take it from me, whenever you see a bunch of buggers puttering around talking about Truth and Beauty and the best way of attacking Ethics, you can bet your sandals it’s all because dozens of other poor buggers are doing all the real work around the place.

"That's right," he said. "We're philosophers. We think, therefore we am."

It is said that someone at a party once asked the famous philosopher Ly Tin Weedle “Why are you here?” and the reply took three years.

When they look into The Life of Wen the Eternally Surprised [philosopher], the first question they ask is: 'Why was he eternally surprised?' And they are told: 'Wen considered the nature of time and understood that the universe is, instant by instant, recreated anew. Therefore, he understood, there is in truth no past, only a memory of the past. Blink your eyes, and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them. Therefore, he said, the only appropriate state of the mind is surprise. The only appropriate state of the heart is joy. The sky you see now, you have never seen before. The perfect moment is now. Be glad of it.'

The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head.

Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.

That statement is either so deep it would take a lifetime to fully comprehend every particle of its meaning, or it is a load of absolute tosh. Which is it, I wonder?

His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools - the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans - and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, "You can't trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there's nothing you can do about it, so let's have a drink."

Albert: "Oh, yes, sir. But alcohol sort of compensates for not getting them.”

People who say things like ‘may all your dreams come true’ should try living in one for five minutes.

Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.

The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.

If you trust in yourself and believe in your dreams and follow your star, you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.

The harder I work, the luckier I get.

There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.

If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.

What have I always believed? That on the whole, and by and large, if a man lived properly, not according to what any priests said, but according to what seemed decent and honest inside, then it would, at the end, more or less, turn out all right.

Every intelligent being, whether it breathes or not, coughs nervously at some time in its life.

Even our fears make us feel important, because we fear we might not be.

"It's not that I don't want... I mean, I've always... it's just that life is a habit that's hard to break...”


Susan: “You’re saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable.”


Susan: “Tooth fairies? Hogfathers?”


Susan: “So we can believe the big ones?”


Susan: “They’re not the same at all!”


Susan: “Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”




Mind you, the Elizabethans had so many words for the female genitals that it is quite hard to speak a sentence of modern English without inadvertently mentioning at least three of them.

The question seldom addressed is *where* Medusa had snakes. Underarm hair is an even more embarrassing problem when it keeps biting the top of the deodorant bottle.

She'd become a governess. It was one of the few jobs a known lady could do. And she'd taken to it well. She'd sworn that if she did indeed ever find herself dancing on rooftops with chimney sweeps she'd beat herself to death with her own umbrella.

"The female mind is certainly a devious one, my lord."
Vetinari looked at his secretary in surprise. "Well, of course it is. It has to deal with the male one."

He'd noticed that sex bore some resemblance to cookery: it fascinated people, they sometimes bought books full of complicated recipes and interesting pictures, and sometimes when they were really hungry they created vast banquets in their imagination - but at the end of the day they'd settle quite happily for egg and chips. If it was well done and maybe had a slice of tomato.

Nanny Ogg looked under her bed in case there was a man there. Well, you never knew your luck.

No-one with their sleeves rolled up who walks purposefully with a piece of paper held conspicuously in their hand is ever challenged.

Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.

"There's a door."
"Where does it go?"
"It stays where it is, I think.”

They didn't know why these things were funny. Sometimes you laugh because you've got no more room for crying. Sometimes you laugh because table manners on a beach are funny. And sometimes you laugh because you're alive, when you really shouldn't be.



It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of Us. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We're always one of Us. It's Them that do the bad things.

Lots of people in history have only done their jobs and look at the trouble they caused.

There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.


The world is full of little people with big dreams! They want dancing girls! They want thrills! They want elephants! They want people falling off roofs! They want dreams!

'The Pyramids of Tsort by moonlight!' breathed Ysabell, 'How romantic!' [Did you know they were] MORTARED WITH THE BLOOD OF THOUSANDS OF SLAVES?

It was nice to think that mankind made a distinction between blowing their planet to bits by accident and doing it by design.

Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH,’ the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.



You can't make people happy by law. If you said to a bunch of average people two hundred years ago "Would you be happy in a world where medical care is widely available, houses are clean, the world's music and sights and foods can be brought into your home at small cost, travelling even 100 miles is easy, childbirth is generally not fatal to mother or child, you don't have to die of dental abcesses and you don't have to do what the squire tells you" they'd think you were talking about the New Jerusalem and say "yes."

"He's muffed it," said Simony. "he could have done anything with them. And he just told them the facts. You can't inspire people with facts. They need a cause. They need a symbol.

“Don't you want to die nobly for a just cause?"
"I'd much rather live quietly for one.”

The poor devils. They thought a king would make them free.

Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That's why they’re called revolutions.

Fear generates big profits.’ ‘You’re very cynical.’ ‘Joshua, cynicism is the only reasonable response to the antics of humanity.’

We're really good at it, Teppic thought. Mere animals couldn't possibly manage to act like this. You need to be a human being to be really stupid.

The people who really run organizations are usually found several levels down, where it is still possible to get things done.

It was sad, like those businessmen who came to work in serious clothes but wore colorful ties in a mad, desperate attempt to show there was a free spirit in there somewhere.



Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on.

His progress through life was hampered by his tremendous sense of his own ignorance, a disability which affects all too few.

Cutangle: While I'm still confused and uncertain, it's on a much higher plane, d'you see, and at least I know I'm bewildered about the really fundamental and important facts of the universe.
Treatle: I hadn't looked at it like that, but you're absolutely right. He's really pushed back the boundaries of ignorance.
They both savoured the strange warm glow of being much more ignorant than ordinary people, who were only ignorant of ordinary things.

"We all think we understand each other," Kin heard Silver say. "We eat together, we trade, many of us pride ourselves on having alien friends - but all this is only possible, only possible, Kin, because we do not fully comprehend the other. You've studied Earth history. Do you think you could understand the workings of of the mind of a Japanese warrior a thousand years ago? But he is as a twin to you compared with Marco, or with myself. When we use the word 'cosmopolitan' we use it too lightly - it's flippant, it means we're galactic tourists who communicate in superficialities. We don't comprehend. Different worlds, Kin. Different anvils of gravity and radiation and evolution."


Thursday, March 12, 2015

On Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, Schizophrenia, and... Addiction to Religious Certainties

Famed Christian faith healer, Rev. A. A. Allen, died an alcoholic when his liver and/or heart finally gave out. Rev. Allen was also a yearly Bible Conference speaker at Bob Jones University and president of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship. Allen was addicted equally to spirits from the bottle and to his fundamentalist beliefs and died an alcoholic in his hotel room hours after bragging on radio that people were lying about his addictions and that he would be appearing at an Evangelistic conference that night. In other news, Dr. Rod Bell, the outgoing president of the FBFI (Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International), also is suffering from addiction to alcohol according to Dr. John Vaughn, the new president of the FBFI.

One can only be grateful to some Christians for helping some people get hooked on Christianity rather than alcohol or drugs. In a similar fashion one can only be grateful to some Scientologists for helping some people get hooked on Scientology rather than alcohol or drugs. But even converts to Christianity and/or Scientology have gone back to their addictions. Of course neither Christianity nor Scientology publicize such failures.

And sometimes former addicts to alcohol or drugs go further still, and after adopting religious certainties in place of alcohol or drugs, learn to question even those new found certainties (without feeling the need to revert back to alcohol, drugs, or religious certainties).

Casper Rigsby from, "Diary of a Christian Schizophrenic":
I have mild schizophrenia. It's easily treatable, and with medication I'm an average person. I'm not ashamed in the least to tell you this. It isn't something to be ashamed of because it isn't my fault. It wasn't caused by something I did or some supernatural force. But for a long time I was ashamed of it and I did think that it was my fault somehow... When the visual hallucinations began and I started catching shapes out of the corners of my eyes, I became afraid. I wasn't afraid that someone was messing with me, rather I was convinced that Satan had besieged me and had infected me with demons. This may seem an absolutely foolish notion to those of you not raised in an evangelical Christian home, but for those who were, you likely understand my fear all too well... When I was 16 it had gotten so bad that I'd began drug and alcohol abuse. I would use methamphetamine daily to get my mind going a mile a minute and this would overwhelm the voices and visions to some degree. It wouldn't get rid of them altogether, but it clouded things well enough for me to "function"... [Casper was arrested for possession of some meth and marijuanna and spent three years in prison, but the prison included] a good staff of general health personnel, and a mental health staff. After being isolated and given a mental health evaluation where for the first time I actually told someone what was going on, I was started on medication and counselling. For the first time since it had begun the voices and visions went away. I was able to sleep and rest. My paranoia and anxiety diminished. I didn't feel like I needed to escape some demon that was chasing me... Understanding is something my former religion robbed me of as a youth. It gave me an unrealistic perception of reality and caused me to blame myself for something that wasn't my fault. It made me feel scared and alone because I was confused and even more scared to seek out an answer. When people get upset about atheists such as myself stating without hesitation that religion causes harm, I think of the harm it caused me. I think of the fear that I felt. I think of how I considered suicide at just 14 because I just didn't know what to do or where to turn. Most of all I think of how I wasn't alone in feeling that way then and that there are many who feel that way now. If you are suffering from mental problems, be it depression, anxiety, or something worse, do not resort to prayer or religion in hopes to fix something that they quite honestly are not mentally equipped to deal with. Seek professional help. Talk to someone and please remember that you aren't alone and this isn't your fault.

David J. from, "Tell me about that hell part again":
When I believed the Bible was infallible, it felt hopeless, and I drank to drown that out. Now that I see it has mistakes and has been severely altered by men, the constant fear and depression is gone. It is ironic to think back a few years to me quoting scripture to try and stay sober. Now that my beliefs have changed, I have absolutely no desire to drink. I still believe in God and don’t know what to believe about Christianity. I will continue to read about both as I did about the Bible and see where the evidence takes me.

from "Scratching Walls":
I went from one of the top students at my high school to a needle junkie to a real holy roller within the space of about a year... I think it's clear that a drug addict, and most especially a very young one, is not exactly what I would call a “clear-thinking individual”. When we consider the sorts of decisions this person has been making up to the present time-stealing, lying, cheating, slowly killing their bodies…it seems obvious that they are not in a correct frame of mind to make thoughtful decisions... So now this line of thought becomes personal: I was a drug addict, I needed to change my lifestyle, worldview, etc., but I needed help doing it. For me, help came in the form of a sort of religious quasi-boot camp. The name of this loveshack is Appalachian Teen Challenge (ATC). My brief testimony on their webpage (written a while back) was posted by the director, Jim Nickels. At the time I last emailed him (according to my records, summer of 04, since the testimony has this timeframe), I was already at a stage of escape from this darkness that Jim would consider heresy-to him, I was “backslidden”. However, I felt a deep discord at the idea of revealing the depth of my progress to him, (as I see it) and opted instead for a generic report about how god was really helping me and mostly focused on my goals and plans and marriage, see the letter I recently wrote him for more... One of the most interesting things about the Christian culture is their tendency to bury the wounded. What they see as “lost souls” are ripe for evangelism and discipleship, but those who “fall away”, especially those like myself, who spent quite a few years teaching/preaching the faith, are often, as the Bible instructs (Heb. 6:4-6, 1 Jn 2:19), abandoned. Besides giving up hope for a backslider’s salvation, there are also a number of scriptural precedents for booting people who lose faith from the fold (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Thes. 3:6; 2 Cor. 6:14-15; Job 24:13). So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the response I receive(d) from Christian friends and family... I will write more about my deconversion, and edit this accordingly, but suffice it to say that although I am open to new evidence and arguments in favor of god’s existence and in the religion of Christianity, I think I’ve already heard the “best” there is to offer, and I find it, on the whole, unconvincing.

from "Fear leads to the dark side":
I became a Christian as a result of a burnout on drugs (hash,opium) that I had at the ripe old age of 16 while living in Europe. After experiencing a great deal of paranoia and instability, I encountered a pastor of a newly developing church called International Christian Fellowship. Basically this was a spin-off of the Assemblies of God, made for the European market. Being so young and impressionable I believed all this, burned my albums (ouch!) cut my hair (Oh no Delilah!) and basically became a completely brainwashed Evangelical. We would preach to people of all nations, creeds and backgrounds through our church and I became what others considered to be the best at Christian Apologetics. It seemed as if I had an answer for every argument against Christianity at the time. When the church began to indoctrinate us further and require classes for all assistant pastors I complied and became fully immersed in it. I stopped sleeping with my girlfriend who also became a Christian (what was I thinking?), I stopped smoking (not bad I admit), and became the perfect "soldier for Christ" The church used "before and after" photos of me to show the transforming power of Jesus. Heavy rocker to Christian. Whoopee! But all was not well in paradise. As I became more and more involved in learning about the religion and being a defender of it I became aware of... [read the rest online]

Daniel M, from "Returning to Sanity" :
At 16, I had already developed pretty deep doubts about god's existence and attributes. When my father got cancer (a devout Xian) I lost all faith in the idea of a personal god. Unfortunately, I was also quite immature and emotionally unstable, and I started using pretty hard drugs during this time of intense confusion and pain. To get "clean", a court and my parents decided a Xian rehab named "Teen Challenge" was the best answer for me. After 14 months there, this young, confused, hurting person came out a devout Xian again. I had stability in what I believed, and the evidence for god's existence was the "change" that god wrought in me. After all, I was drug free!! Nevermind that I was seriously programmed, and that during that 14 months there was absolutely no way I could've gotten drugs had I wanted to. Nevermind that my problem was a mental and philosophical crisis rooted in confusion and disillusionment, and not the drugs themselves. Nevermind that deep down, I never bought into the creationism because I already knew enough about science and reason to reject a literal reading of Genesis. I was 19, and fresh out of Christian boot-camp/rehab. After slowly regressing over the period of years to a moderate Xian, I found I finally had the courage to acquire books... [read the rest online]

x-ray man from "I Tried, I Really Tried...":
Many of my best friends also fell into serious alcohol addiction. Gary one of my oldest and dearest friends from childhood finally stopped drinking and found God. Almost over night he became a preachy born again Christian. I really wasn't too fond of his ways, yet he did succeed in putting the cork in the jug. I continued to drink heavily. He always said that Jesus was the way to overcome my addiction. At age 27 I was married with a small child when I finally hit a complete rock bottom. My drinking took me as low as a man could go. On a March night in 1991, I was alone in my house shaking uncontrollably in a pool of cold sweat, with the DT's. I had been drunk with a friend for a week straight. When the money ran out and the booze ran dry, I had the worst withdrawals any human ever had. My mind and body were in peril. I decided it was time for me to surrender to Jesus. It was my only hope. This was your typical addict finding God story in the making, and I was the main character. I called the 700 club prayer line, and got on the phone with a prayer counselor and asked Jesus to come into my life. I got down on my knees and prayed with all my heart. I wanted to be saved from the misery so bad. Well, as I was praying and pleading with God, I felt... nothing. Absolutely nothing. No spirit, no uplifting experience. No sense that everything would be OK. Not even a little twinge of evidence that God was with me. I even remember the prayer counselor getting a little short with me, like as in "Hey buddy I've got other calls." Well for the next few days I continued going through the serious withdrawals. I didn't sleep for two nights. It was the worst experience my body had ever endured. The religious experience I had hoped for didn't come close to happening. I have never drank again since that experience, but it wasn't because I was saved by God, it was because I never wanted to feel that way again. Many will say that it was God, but I know better. It was me finally wanting to turn my miserable life around. Years later I tried to find God again. My wife and I decided to join a local church and get the kids baptized... [read the rest online]

The life of the late evangelist A.A. Allen is proof that one can preach Christ and drink himself to death at the same time. His last months were living in a drunken state in a run down hotel room making audio evangelistic tapes for his radio broadcasts while in a drunken state:
On June 14, 1970, listeners in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Philippines were hearing a recorded message from A. A. Allen on his radio program saying: "This is Brother Allen in person. Numbers of friends of mine have been inquiring about reports they have heard concerning me that are not true. People as well as some preachers from pulpits are announcing that I am dead. Do I sound like a dead man? My friends, I am not even sick! Only a moment ago I made a reservation to fly into our current campaign. I'll see you there and make the devil a liar." At that moment, at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco, police were removing A. A. Allen's body from a room strewn with pills and empty liquor bottles. The man who had once said that "the beer bottle and gin bucket" should have been on his family coat of arms was dead at 59 from what was said to be a heart attack but was in reality liver failure brought about by acute alcoholism. (p.88)

SOURCE: The Faith Healers by James Randi, section on Asa Alonzo Allen (1911-1970). Prominent, flamboyant and controversial Pentecostal "healing evangelist" of the 1940s-1960s. Allen made many outrageous, unsubstantiated claims of miracles.

Harry McCall, ex-fundamentalist seminarian, and son of an alcoholic parent, adds this
If a person can get to a place where alcohol hurts more than it helps, they can quit. Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and any other non-"Jesus" religions can and do put depressed people on a spiritual journey and often apart from any god in the sky.

The fact is, when one is burned out by a section of their life of drugs and alcohol and their body is shutting down, what else can one do but to either change or die.

Call it "god" of self determination...both seem to work and boil down to that if help has a social support context, it's religion; if not, it's self determination.

SEE ALSO The Uniqueness of the Christian Experience (which questions such uniqueness)

Thursday, March 05, 2015

The nihilist's nihilist, E. M. Cioran, on suicide, death, meaninglessness, paradise, freedom, polytheism vs. monotheism, and humanity whose growth is out of control in a cancerous fashion

When people come to me saying they want to kill themselves, I tell them, "What's your rush? You can kill yourself any time you like. So calm down. Suicide is a positive act." And they do calm down.

We dread the future only when we are not sure we can kill ourselves when we want to.

Why don't I kill myself? If I knew exactly what keeps me from doing so, I should have no more questions to ask myself since I should have answered them all.

Only optimists commit suicide, optimists who no longer succeed at being optimists. The others, having no reason to live, why would they have any to die?

It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.

The obsession with suicide is characteristic of the man who can neither live nor die, and whose attention never swerves from this double impossibility.

If death is as horrible as is claimed, how is it that after the passage of a certain period of time we consider happy any being, friend or enemy, who has ceased to live?

In a world without melancholy, nightingales would start burping.

What would be left of our tragedies if an insect were to present us theirs?

Life inspires more dread than death--it is life which is the great unknown.
Compare Bertrand Russell on why most people would sooner die than think: "We all have a tendency to think that the world must conform to our prejudices. The opposite view involves some effort of thought, and most people would die sooner than think-- in fact they do so."
Paradise was unendurable, otherwise the first man would have adapted to it, this world is no less so, since here we regret paradise or anticipate another one.

"For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened." No sooner are they open than the drama begins. To look without understanding--that is paradise. Hell, then, would be the place where we understand, where we understand too much.

The fact that life has no meaning is a reason to live-moreover, the only one.

Universal meaninglessness gives way to ecstatic inebriation, an orgy of irrationality. Since the world has no meaning, let us live! Without definite aims or accessible ideals, let us throw ourselves into the roaring whirlwind of infinity, follow its tortuous path in space, burn in its flames, love its cosmic madness and total anarchy!

Each of us believes, quite unconsciously of course, that he alone pursues the truth, which the rest are incapable of seeking out and unworthy of attaining. This madness is so deep-rooted and so useful that it is impossible to realize what would become of each of us if it were someday to disappear.

Ideas should be neutral. But man animates them with his passions and folly. Impure and turned into BELIEFS, they take on the appearance of reality. The passage from logic is consummated. Thus are born ideologies, doctrines, and bloody farce.

Sadness is when you are feeling sad. Depression is when you are feeling nothing.

I like thought which preserves a whiff of flesh and blood, and I prefer a thousand times an idea rising from sexual tension or nervous depression to empty abstraction.

Freedom is the right to difference; being plurality, it postulates the dispersion of the absolute, its resolution into a dust of truths, equally justified and provisional. There is an underlying polytheism in liberal democracy (call it an unconscious polytheism); conversely, every authoritarian regime partakes of a disguised monotheism.

Trees are massacred, houses go up--faces, faces everywhere. Man is spreading. Man is the cancer of the earth.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Human Giants over ten feet tall? No solid evidence. Kent Hovind and other creationists aren't even curious enough to research the tall tales they help spread.


A "Human Giant" Unearthed in Early Nineteenth Century Sicily?
Creationists, Carl Baugh and Kent Hovind never expressed any curiosity as to where Burdick's "photo" of a "human skeleton over ten feet tall" originated, neither could they tell me when I [Ed Babinski] asked them. I kept asking around the internet until someone who knew Burdick before he had died sent me information concerning the photo's origin. The photo was taken with improper focus, and it is not a photo from the 1800s but a blurry photo of a hand-engraved illustration that was specially created to appear in a book from the 1800s, a book of unsubstantiated tales.

Giant Animals in the Past and Giant Human Being over Ten Feet Tall
(I cite cases of very large and very small animals co-existing in past ages, even today, and I cite an article on the topic of both the "Nephilim" and "Goliath" from a conservative Southern Baptist publication)

Biblical Giants and Dinosaur Bones

by Michael S. Heiser, Evangelical Christian and Scholar-in-Residence for Logos Bible Software. (Logos is the leading creator of software for research in the original languages of the Bible and digital library collections for biblical studies. Heiser is responsible for reviewing academic content and creating digital tools for classroom use or independent learners. Heister is also Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies, Liberty University Distance Learning Program; Lynchburg, VA), and he is the author of “Giants—Greco-Roman Antiquity,” in the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, vol. 10 (Berlin: Verlag Walter de Gruyter, 2015), and, "When Giants Walked the Earth,” Bible Study Magazine 1:4 (May-June, 2009).

According to Heiser: "Nephilim are clearly cast as giants in the Old Testament, though I do not believe any such people were taller than unusually tall people of today (see http://michaelsheiser.com/PaleoBabble/2008/07/biblical-giants-and-dinosaur-bones/ and http://drmsh.com/2008/07/09/biblical-giants-and-dinosaur-bones/ ). Skeletal remains of alleged giants are unpersuasive, since they are typically fakes (see http://michaelsheiser.com/PaleoBabble/2010/02/giant-paleobabble/ ), and, more importantly, have never undergone scientific analysis.

Additional pieces by Heiser on "human giants" are on this page: http://drmsh.com/category/giants-2/ See also his blog entry, "Dinosaur Petroglyphs and a Lesson in Intellectual Dishonesty" http://drmsh.com/2011/03/09/dinosaur-petroglyphs-and-a-lesson-in-intellectual-dishonesty/

In two books to be published 2015 Heiser tackles the question "Who were the Nephilim?' and many more questions: http://theunseenrealm.com/books/

Nephilim - Giants in Old Testament Genesis

Men Over Ten Feel Tall? (my earliest piece on the topic) Edward Babinski

Men Over Ten Feet Tall? The Rest of the Story...
"Photo" of "10 1/2 foot tall human skeleton" turns out not to be a photo of the skeleton, but a blurry photo of a creative engraving someone made to illustrate an unsubstantiated story about such a skeleton, and hence not even photographic evidence. Also, The "discovery" of the "petrified Cardiff Giant" in the 1860s directly preceded the "discoveries" of both the "petrified Irish Giant" and even a "petrified Revolutionary War soldier" in the 1890s.

"Human Giant Tracks" On Limestone Slabs from Paluxy? Cross-Sectioning At Loma Linda University, A Young-Earth Creationist College, Reveals They are Carvings:

Carson City, Nevada "Giant Human Tracks?"

Russian "Giant Human Tracks?"

When Giants Roamed the Earth (bk rev. Archaeology Magazine)

On the Bed of King Og the Giant

Who Were the Nephilim?

Tall Tales About Human Giants ranging from antiquity until 1893

This also came in, the "Lovelock skulls" are of normal size, not the skulls of giants. Scroll down this piece to read the "latest news." http://www.sydhav.no/giants/lovelock.htm


Why Dinosaurs are NOT in the Bible: Leviathan and Behemoth (by a Southern Baptist BIOLA-certified apologist)

Critique of Creationist Museum Exhibits (by a Southern Baptist BIOLA-certified apologist)

Are Dinosaurs Mentioned in the Bible? (Bible and Science site run by an Evangelical Christian)

Three-Toed (Tridactyl) Pattern Seen on Taylor's Trail Tracks (Not Human)

On the Heels of Dinosaurs: An Informal History of the Texas "Man Track" Controversy


Dinosaurs and Humans Co-Existed? (Bible and Science site run by an Evangelical Christian)

A Tall Tale Still Repeated by Everyone from Creationists (like Kent Hovind) to Velikovsky-ists

A tall tale I ran across over the years concerns the alleged discovery of a NINETY-foot tall plum tree found frozen in place above the Arctic Circle with green leaves and plums still on the branches, that everyone from creationists lto Velikovsky-ists claim was discovered by Baron von Toll, and which proves every hypothesis from The Genesis Flood story, to catastrophic tilts of the earth's axis that caused "instantaneous freezing" in parts of the world. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/ce/3/part3.html

Today I discovered that someone built on my investigation, taking it to new depths! http://johnmckay.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-ninety-foot-plum-tree-filling-some.html

He ended his article with...

"Even though Babinski wrote his debunking almost twenty years ago, the myth of the ninety-foot fruit tree is still alive and well. As a plum tree, Toll's tree continues to appear in creationist literature usually as evidence of the Noachian Deluge. Among secular catastrophists, the tree usually appears among supporters of Hapgood's crustal displacement, such as Graham Hancock and Rand Flem-Ath (yes, that's his real name). Babinski's debunking gets linked to and copy/pasted into online fora again and again to no avail. Cut the tree down in one place and it pops up in another. Recycling is an essential part of fringe writing. The writers comb through each other's works for anecdotes to use as evidence for their pet theories. Many writers never leave the echo chamber nor look for any new information that might challenge their anecdotes or even add a couple of interesting new details. Leaving the echo chamber would expose them to actual authorities and those are to be avoided at all costs; they're out to suppress the truth. For fringe writers, other fringe writers, even those with competing theories are better sources than actual experts. For that reason, we can expect to see Baron von Toll's giant fruit tree again and again into the future."

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Eight Questions for Intelligent Design advocates

If the cosmos was "meticulously" designed (rather than cobbled or tinkered together) to produce living things...

1) Why are so many planets and moons devoid of life?

2) Why do living things die? In other words, life appears to be merely in equilibrium with death.

3) Why do only a minimum of fertilized eggs of all species survive to sexual maturity? And only a minimum of the survivors successfully mate?

4) Why did life evolve in the direction of life feeding on life? (Though humans are no longer hunted by large carnivorous animals, they remain the main foodstuff of many species of bacteria, viruses, single-and-multi-cellular parasites--especially human children, which remain prone to many childhood diseases, and the same is true of the young of all species, not just humans.)

5) Why are evolutionary arms races so common? Species compete to eat other species and/or avoid being eaten. Or they hide inside other species, finding relative safety there. In fact parasites remain the most common species of all, since there are many species of parasite for each non-parasitical species, including parasites that live on other parasites, even viruses that invade other viruses.

6) Why do the majority of species that split off from the rest simply become extinct? Why do the numbers of dead-end species far outnumber the ones that survive?

7) Why does nature occasionally hit the reset button and enormous numbers of species become extinct at the same time?

8) If every species has well designed mechanisms for adaptation, why does only one mosquito out of zillions survive DDT? Why does only one malarial parasite out of zillions survive anti-malarial drugs? Why does only one E. Coli out of zillions, when kept in containers with high citrate concentrations, evolve the ability to semi-digest citrate?

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS: http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2014/09/nature-contains-limited-number-of-odd.html