There are few tv shows I love as much as “Agents of SHIELD”. Last night was wonderful as always. If you like the Marvel superhero movies, why the hell aren’t you watching this show? Yep, it’s a “spy” show but the same spirit is still there.
After re-reading the story in exodus, I think I would be overjoyed to find out that there is no evidence for this nonsense if I were a believer. The characters are not the sharpest knives in the block.
A quick overview of what has gone before. We have a reluctant leader and a god that mind controls people so he can punish them for what he makes them do. The great “let my people go” meme is only for a three day vacation, though towards the end of chapter 6 we do see that this god might get around to freeing the Israelites. Or maybe not…
Chapter 7 opens with the famous ten plagues. Yahweh (aka Y, aka God aka Allah) tells Moses again that it is mind controlling the pharaoh so that, no matter what miracles are performed, the pharaoh will not listen to Moses and Aaron telling him to let the people go. But they are supposed to tell him anyway. At this point, we are to believe that we have two octogenarians standing before the pharaoh.
So, Moses and Aaron go before pharaoh, and do the first miracle, the staff becoming a snake. And strangely enough, the Egyptian magicians can do the exact same magic as this god can. Aaron’s snake does eat the other ones. We get confirmation that yep, Y is controlling the pharaoh.
The first plague is conjured. This is the one where all of the water in Egypt turns to blood, no matter if it’s in the Nile or in your glass of water on your bedside table. Y says “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go.” Not exactly, this god is making the pharaoh’s heart unyielding. It seems that Y is a bit in denial of what it’s doing. Supposedly by this miracle, everyone is supposed to know that Y did it. Problem with this is that the Egyptian magicians do the exact same trick which is indeed a neat trick since supposedly all of the water in Egypt was already turned to blood. Coherent sequences of events aren’t very common during these plagues. So, was some water not changed? Seems so. And of course, there was plenty of clean water, as long as you dug a well. Again, we get another confirmation that Y is controlling the pharaoh, just like it said.
A week passes and the second plague is up: frogs. Now, I never quite could figure out why a lot of frogs were a problem. Yep, they’d likely get squished often and pile up but I could imagine worse things to have around. They do seem to get everywhere per the story. Again, the Egyptian magicians do the same trick, so either there are replacement frogs or someone had to have sent them back and called them again. There is at this point no way to tell if this god has any powers more impressive than court magicians or not.
The pharaoh evidently doesn’t like frogs because he offers to allow the three day weekend to commence if Moses gets rid of the frogs. Moses says he’ll get rid of them from the Egyptian’s houses . Y doesn’t quite do as his mouthpiece says, and the frogs “leave” by dying where they sit and stinking up the place. More mind controlling? Why, yes.
So Y gets to send more plagues, because he makes the pharaoh harden his heart just like Y claimed he would back in the beginning of Chapter 7. Here Y has Moses threaten a plague of gnats and then brings them. Finally, we see that Y finally has better magic than the magicians because they can’t replicate this or the next set of curses. Still more heart hardening by Y. Then a plague of flies (some versions say wild animals) is sent and here we see that the prior plagues were visited on the Israelites too. Only now, does this god get around to treating his people better than the Egyptians.
The pharaoh then offers to allow the Israelites to have their festival in Egypt but Moses insists that it has to be somewhere else (perhaps Horeb? We’re never told exactly). Moses gives a strange excuse, that they can’t do that in Egypt because the Egyptians would stone them. These Egyptians that his god has mind controlled to give the Israelites anything they want? Evidently so. Pharaoh agrees, and now Moses can do the three day thing as he wants. And Y hardens the pharaoh’s heart again, so we have to go through this nonsense 6 more times.
Chapter 9 opens with the plague upon the livestock, where animals are slaughtered just for this god to show off. Now, remember this for a bit to watch what happens. Pharaoh’s is still hard thanks to Y. We next get the plague of boils, which is supposed to afflict all of the people and animals in the land. Well, I guess wildlife is now suffering for collateral damage since there is no livestock? “But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.”
Y gets Moses up early again and sends him off to threaten the pharaoh, again, despite saying that it’s pointless since he’s hardened the pharaoh’s heart *again*. We get to see Y say that it’s doing this just to show off with the words repeated in that lovely bit in Romans 9 that shows that there is no free will at all in the bible. The current plague is hail (some versions add fire) and Y says that all of the livestock should be brought in so they aren’t killed. Ummm, they are already dead. All of them. Seems that this god isn’t exactly omniscient or can remember events from ostensibly a few days ago. Y proceeds to kill the newly resurrected livestock (well, where else did they come from?) and slaves that aren’t Israelites. Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – “Abracapocus!” plus lots of collateral damage – the peculiar story of the “exodus”, part 2”
The newest Bible as Conan movie candidate is “Exodus: Gods and Kings”. It’s a Cecil B. De Mille-ian event with a cast of at least digital thousands. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I have watched the Discovery Channel show that is trying to ride its coattails. I’ll review that after I’ve reviewed the book of exodus.
My friend John has a couple excellent posts on just how the exodus story has lost any credibility (here, here, and probably more that he’ll remind me of). I’m going to amuse myself with the bible story and what it really says, as opposed to how it is whitewashed to make everyone feel good.
Let’s look at the story of Exodus (you can find it here in just about any version you’d like). It’s not that long, at least the story itself. A lot of the book is taken up by those “commandments”. Like many events in the bible, there is no way to know when this supposedly happened. There are guesses, but again like many bible events, they never quite match up with reality. This part will cover chapters 1 through 6.
After a bit of exposition, where the baseless story of enslaved Israelites gets its start (sans pyramids), we start with the pharaoh telling the Israelite midwives, a whole *two* of them to service supposedly thousands, to kill the boy babies. They don’t and lie to the classically gullible bad guy. For some reason, Pharaoh doesn’t just have the kids killed right then.
Pharaoh tries again. He tells everyone to drown the boy babies which also doesn’t seem to work. Then we get to the story of Moses, with basket, the princess and the conveniently nearby mom, which again, no one suspects. The princess does know that it’s an Israelite baby, I’d guess by the circumcision. Teen Moses must have been the object of comment by at least his fellows.
Fast forward some indeterminate time (this happens a lot with bible characters) and Moses is now killing someone beating a Hebrew and hiding the body. An excuse given for this is that it is pre-commandments so it’s okay. He then is found out and Pharaoh tries to kill him. Moses leaves and ends up in Midian (yes, those people who this god commands to be annihilated except the young virgins whom are taken as slaves and temple profit). Moses marries a Midianite woman (peachy keen here, very very bad in books to come) the daughter of the priest of Midian and has sons.
Meanwhile, this god finally remembers the Israelites and its covenant with them after they make enough noise about how much they don’t like being slaves. Yep, this god has to be prompted.
Moses finally gets to Horeb, the mountain of this god (not to be confused with Sinai, the other mountain of this god) and we get the scene with the burning bush. An angel and Yahweh are in the bush and Y talks to Moses. Y has him take off his shoes, and says now that he’s realized that the Israelites are complaining, Moses will lead them out of Egypt. And return to this mountain to worship this god. Y says that the elders will listen to Moses and that they will all go to the pharaoh and ask that they can take three days off and do some sacrifices. Y says that he knows that Pharaoh won’t let them so this god will perform wonders so that the pharaoh will let them go. Which at this point makes it sound like the only “letting go” Pharaoh will be doing is allowing a short vacation for sacrificing, not “let my people go” Charlton Heston style. There’s no concern for slavery at all. Y also says he’ll mind control the Egyptians so they will give the Israelites anything they ask for. “And thus you will plunder the Egyptians.”
In Chapter 4, Moses isn’t really buying it. This god does have some problems in getting good help, after the mess with Noah and all. Y does some magic tricks to get him to believe. Moses still isn’t really keen on the idea, and Y finally gives up and suggests Moses’ brother Aaron, whom Moses evidently has never met. Rather than just have Aaron do things, Y comes up with this plan that he’ll tell Moses and then Moses will tell Aaron what Y has said. Oh and Moses has to take the same stick along to do the magic tricks with.
Moses asks his father in law the priest if he can return to Egypt to see if any of his people live. Evidently any except Aaron who is just wandering around and whom this god said was coming. Now we get to some of the meat of the story. Here is where Y says that he intentionally will mind control the pharaoh (“harden his heart”) so he won’t let the Israelites go no matter how many miracles Moses does. Then Moses is to threaten him with the death of his first born son because this god won’t allow him to believe the wonders and let the Israelites go. Makes just bunches of sense doesn’t it?
What makes even less sense is that Y gets murderously angry with Moses for no reason and his wife has to circumcise Moses’ son with a flint knife(?) and touch M’s feet with the blood so Y won’t kill him. Unsurprisingly, the NIV gives up trying to explain that one.
Moses and Aaron finally meet, do their miracles for the elders, who had no problem in wandering around despite supposedly being horribly overworked slaves. Everyone is happy and believes.
Chapter 5 has a confirmation that it was really only for a vacation to do some sacrifices that was the “letting go”. There is nothing at all about freeing the Israelites. Moses and Aaron threaten the pharaoh, but don’t do any magic tricks like Y said to do. The pharaoh gets annoyed and tells the slave masters to not give the Israelites any straw to make bricks from but to make them get it themselves. This would make the process harder. So, supposedly the Israelites wander all over Egypt getting straw.
Moses gets fed up and asks his god why he stands by while the pharaoh makes the Israelites work harder. Y promises again that everything will work out and this is where we first hear that this god means to have pharaoh drive the Israelites from his country, not just having a festival for a few days as it said earlier. Moses goes back and no one believes him. Now, one would think that this god would have seen this coming. Y says again to tell Pharaoh that he has to let the Israelites go. Which makes no sense to Moses since that didn’t work before. It also bears mentioning that Y knows that it makes no sense since it has claimed that Pharaoh won’t listen because Y doesn’t allow him to. We get a small commercial break for a bit of “begats”. And one more instance of Y trying to get Moses to do something.
Next, the plagues begin. And things get stranger from here.
The title’s a bit of a hyperbole but I just couldn’t resist using it. It’s been an interesting, if typical, week discussing gods with believers. I have been told that I would get Real Soon Now™ the “right” answer to Romans 9; that claiming that I believed something I do not is just incorrect not a lie, even after I corrected them about their misapprehensions; that God is non-empirical so how dare I expect empirical evidence (like what’s presented is in the bible as evidence for this god, you know). That last one was from one of those Christians, “soul device”, who is sure that those Christians who believe the bible, and what they were taught in Sunday School are just sadly ignorant and that only they, the Roman Catholic Sophisticated Theologian™, knows what his god truly is and truly wants but of course only up to the point of it causing problems and then this god becomes “unknowable”. It was entertaining to watch the progression from personal god that loves, wants certain things, hates certain things, does miracles, and supposedly has gobs of historical evidence, become non-empirical in the space of about two paragraphs.
In the vein of misapprehensions, in my Sunday paper, there is a new God Squad article (can you have a squad with just one person?). Herein, Rabbi Gellman addresses two querents’ questions about atheism and why this god seems rather inept. As always, my posts aren’t short at all. Read at your own risk. (NOTE: this post does rehash many arguments made before on this blog. I do wish theists would come up with new things more often. The “non-empirical” claim was pretty original but awfully easy to show how it failed. Oh well, it keeps my typing skills healthy.)
The first question is an agnostic, a questionable claim as one can see, declaring that atheism is a religion and looking for the rabbi to agree. This agnostic claimed that his religious belief system is that the divine can’t be known by evidence provided by the scientific method, and that it requires faith, belief in the unprovable. Which is the religious claim of quite a few theists, see above. The problem here is that there is claim after claim of evidence for these various gods, which if true, could be put to the test using the scientific method (hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, repetition). So we have plenty of people saying that they indeed “can know” using evidence they claim exists.
The agnostic then claims that atheism is a religion because “it takes a leap of faith to assert the truth that no gods exist”. Lovely strawman, because no, it doesn’t take a leap of faith. It takes evidence that things happened other than the claims of the bible or of believers. If the claim of a god are precluded by evidence that does exist, then poof, there goes the god. Could there be a magical being that cares for humans, and will do magic for them, and created the earth, but this god doesn’t bother now? Yep, and there is a similar chance that there is a many armed deity that is the personification of destruction and that there is a jolly old elf that comes down chimneys on the 24th of December and can be tracked by NORAD. That chance? Essentially none and evidently this is plenty of reason why Christians don’t believe in Kali or adults believe in Santa Claus. Those aren’t religions too are they?
Rabbi Gellman says that atheists make a “fundamental mistake” in believing that the absence of proof for his god is the proof of his god’s absence. However, that is the same evidence that the rabbi uses for his disbelief in other gods. The rabbi does make the point that some theists claim that the only evidence for his god is rational “evidence”, the claim of logical arguments prove his god exists. This would be the cosmological argument, the ontological argument, etc, which bizarrely can and does include the argument from aesthetic experience e.g. if you think Bach sounds pretty, then a god exists. These all can be used for just about any god you might name, not just the Jewish or Christian god. Believers always seem to forget to mention this and consistently present these “logical arguments” as only applying to their god and no other. Oh and for those who would say that “no True Christian would use such silly arguments like the argument from the aesthetic experience” just feast your eyes on silliness from a person who is supposedly a great apologist.
The rabbi goes onto claim that these arguments “do not claim that any other qualities of God can be definitively proved. Beyond the fact of God’s existence, every other quality of God must remain a mystery to us.” Which is utter nonsense since the bible, both OT and NT, claims to give out the truth about this god and its attributes. These claims are not presented as just “beliefs” but as facts. The rabbi tries to claim otherwise, falsely. It’s always rather amazing to me to watch people who will claim the bible as the truth in one case, will quickly retract that when it proves to be a problem. I’m more than happy to agree that the bible is fully of nonsense and does not describe any divine being at all, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a Jew or a Christian who agrees with that. They will bring out the magic decoder ring to pick and choose the parts that they want to be true.
“Atheists reach too far when they claim to know that these beliefs are false.” No, we are not reaching too far when we have evidence that the bible makes claims that are false, that other events happened in place of the supposed events of the bible and we can show that there is no evidence that the stories in the bible “give hope, moral purpose and compassion to believers and they sustain lives of virtue.” Again, the rabbi unfortunately relies on the nonsense that no one but believers can be decent, empathic, kind, humane people without his stories.
The rabbi does say that “Theists reach too far when they claim that just because these beliefs are recorded in religious texts and affirmed by religious leaders that they are provably true.” However, that’s exactly what the rabbi does. He tries to claim that he may have his own truths and that is a rather ridiculous concept, especially when religious truths are based on claims that anyone who doesn’t agree should be punished severely. When one claims that one has a truth that one doesn’t need evidence for and “that is all I need to know” then you have declared that you have no concern for the supportable truth. You have closed your mind to anything that dares to say you are wrong. “When I look into the night sky and see a bright star, it doesn’t matter if that star burned out long ago and all I’m seeing is the residue of its light. The twinkle in the darkness is enough for me to stand in awe.” I stand in awe too, but I don’t try to pretend that some magical being made it just for me and that other ridiculous stories are true too. Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner conversation – you’d think it was a scarecrow convention, with all of the straw men”
Hello new and old followers,
Just wanted to say hi and welcome you to the Club. This is where I natter about things that I like or find interesting. It can range from home brewing to art to politics to religion and everywhere else. If you want to avoid the sturm und drang posts about politics and religion, don’t read any titled “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation”.
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