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Archive for September, 2014

Intro

This is an entry I’ve needed to write, so I’m doing it now to get it done and out of the way. I’ve already been criticised by both sides, some of the comments I’ve been given are completely misguided and well, ignorant.

Let me begin by saying that I’m a person that keeps an open mind. I’m willing to consider new evidence and to change my position on the basis of such. Some people have impossible conditions and are unwilling to change their views to reflect the evidence they’re shown, and this is a well-known psychological phenomena called “confirmation bias”. In short, we make decisions quickly and then look for affirming evidence, and ignore evidence that contradicts our decision or belief. Our belief system goes all the way back to when we are about 4 to 5 years old and is very difficult to change.

So when I say I keep an open mind, what I’m saying is that I’m willing to consider all the evidence and re-evaluate my beliefs – many people are not willing to do this and are not even aware of it. But Christianity like other religions is a faith, and as such it is not based on evidence, but on faith. I have spent the past few months looking intently at the credibility of the Old Testament, and I’ve decided that it isn’t credible. Consequently this means the same for the NT. This doesn’t mean that I’m saying that everything in the Bible is made up, it means I’m saying I do not find it to be inspired by a loving creator who wants to have a person relationship with you and I.

And as you will see, I make my arguments directly from the Bible. I’m not making anything up, and I’m not using other people’s arguments. I’ve constructed my own arguments from carefully reading the Bible. I do not appreciate people telling me that I have read the Bible wrong, that I haven’t read the Bible or that I don’t understand the Bible. For this reason I will be quoting and referencing the Bible frequently in this post.

Old Testament

So I will look at a few of the major issues with the Old Testament, as it is where most of the problems for Christians truly lie. Most Christians do not want to think about, talk about or defend the Old Testament. They are only interested in talking about the NT. When quizzed on the OT they often claim “you have to listen to what theologians interpret”.

New Testament

Due to the fact that this post is about 5,000 words long I do not have time to talk about the New Testament in length at this time. So the only thing I will say about the NT is that Jesus only gives one genuine prophecy – the destruction of the city by siege – it is genuine (in my opinion), Jesus did give it but it is a very poor quality prophecy since Jerusalem was taken by siege several times before and many times after the life of Jesus. The siege in 70 AD was in fact the third siege against the city, not the first, following the death of Jesus. The first temple was destroyed in a siege just like the second one was, so all Jesus had to do to make this prophecy was to remember the past and say that it would happen again. While the prophecy was “fulfilled” in 70 AD, it could just have easily been fulfilled in the 4th century which was the next time the city was completely destroyed by siege.

Noah

So here are some of the problems I have with the Old Testament, moving chronologically. Firstly, Noah’s flood. Let’s say that we agree that there wasn’t a global flood, but that it happened in the way the Bible describes. That God told Noah to build an Ark (which supposedly took him 100 years to build!), collect animals for that Ark, then spent 40 days flooding “the earth”, then let Noah float on his Ark with all the animals of the world (of Turkey) aboard for a full year. Here’s the problem: 1. Why does God tell Noah to put all the animals on board when he knows that the flood is NOT going to cause mass extinction and is thus unnecessary, 2. Why does God tell Noah to build an ark in the first place when he could have sent him to Egypt or even India or China or just about anywhere else in the Middle East or in Africa to avoid the flood and it would only have taken Noah a few months, possibly a year at the most to travel as opposed to all the work involved in building an ark for 100 years?

Abraham

In Genesis 22, God tells Abraham he has to sacrifice Isaac his “only son”. Although God clearly calls Isaac Abraham’s only son, Ishmael is actually Abraham’s first son, which God views as an illegitimate child and unworthy of Abraham’s inheritance! This clear socially divisive and discriminatory nature of God runs all through the Old Testament and into the New. God had not even given the law yet, this is before there were any rules or rituals – God was already discriminating because that is his nature! Anyway, God intercedes at the last minute to save Isaac.

A few months ago a lady named Kymberley Dawn Lucas in Florida USA attended a Church sermon on Genesis 22, felt moved by it, wrote out a suicide note addressed to her ex-partner on a computer and preceded to poison her ex’s 10-year old, to drown her 2-year old, and then attempted suicide. The note read in part “Lea’s [the pastor] sermon really, really touched me yesterday but God never told me to stop.” The 10-year old woke up, found his sister dead, Ms Lucas unconscious, and called the police.

I’ve told this story to some of my Christian friends and their response was that she was mentally ill. That’s true, but that’s a standard that Abraham is not being held to. There’s no way to know if Abraham was mentally unstable or not because they didn’t know about mental illness in those times. Statistically speaking, 1 in 4 people suffers from a mental illness at some time in their life, so statistically it is quite likely that a person who hears voices in his head telling him to sacrifice his child to his deity is suffering from a mental illness.

The story clearly demonstrates that the Judeo-Christian God (who from this point on we’ll just call by his name, Jehovah) demands that you are willing to sacrifice your children to him if he asks, and that if Abraham was alive today we would reject his testimony outright. We would call him a barbaric monster not worthy to be listened to or followed, no one in their right mind would choose to follow a man who said that his deity wanted him to sacrifice his child. So why is okay to accuse Ms Lucas of being mentally unstable but not Abraham?

Moses and the Exodus

We then come to the Exodus. This is one of the most pivotal problems for me. And you can check what I’ve said in the past on it, but I’ve always maintained that there was no way that 600,000 men could have left Egypt all at once, with their families – about 2-3 million people in total! The 600,000 number doesn’t include women or children and this is made explicit in Ex 12:37. I used to put that number down to error in transmission. Recently it was pointed out to me that it’s only number the Bible provides, and because it’s given repeatedly it can’t be a mistake. And this is indeed the case, the individual numbers of the twelve tribes are given in Numbers 1 and add up to 600,000 (46,500 + 59,300 + 45,650 + 74,600 + 54,400 + 57,400 + 40,500 + 32,200 + 35,400 + 62,700 + 41,500 + 53,400 = 603,550).

A quick note on Jehovah’s character – it’s not enough that he brings his people out of Egypt, he also tells them to plunder the Egyptians: Exodus 11:2: “Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbour and every woman of her neighbour, for silver and gold jewellery”!

Christians often claim they have archaeological evidence for events in the Bible. This is somewhat true for some things, however Mount Sinai is a real location that Moses and his 600,000 men never visited. For this reasons scholars call the place that Moses wrote down the Ten Commandments “Biblical Mount Sinai”, and of course it has never been located even though we’ve been looking for 2,000 years now! Numbers 14:15 reads “I, Jehovah, have spoken. Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.” So over a 40-year period all 2-3 million Israelites perished and all 2-3 million were buried there in the wilderness at Mt Sinai. Where are the graves, where is the archaeological evidence such as something or anything in the area with a Hebrew character on it??

To be fair, the Sinai Peninsula is a huge area. However, there is absolutely no evidence outside of the Bible that the Jews were ever enslaved in Egypt. Furthermore, Ancient Egypt did not practise the kind of slavery described in the Bible. Egyptian slaves could buy, sell and work their way to freedom. They had a lot more liberty, rights and freedoms than the Jews gave to their slaves. They were not anywhere near as oppressed as the Bible would have you believe. Furthermore, Jehovah’s people – the ancient Hebrews/Israelites/Jews – had social inequalities decreed by their deity! He specified different rights for men and women, for slaves, for legitimate children and non-legitimate children, for son and daughter inheritances!

Women’s Rights?

Egyptians had pretty much equal rights between men and women. Egyptian women could buy and sell property, they could inherit, and they could get divorced from their husbands. Hebrew women couldn’t buy and sell property, couldn’t inherit, and couldn’t get divorced from their husbands – only husbands could divorce their wives (Deut 24:1)!! Jesus gives a sermon on divorce, and he is quizzed about it a number of times. He does not in any way, ever, suggest that it is (or that it should be) lawful for women to get divorced from their husbands. Also, no other New Testament writing says that it is legal for women to divorce their husbands. Furthermore, divorced women had an even lower status than that of other women! So if Christians really believe what the Bible says about marriage they would not allow women to get divorces! If the Bible is the holy inspired word of the god Jehovah, then that is what he wants for society. Egyptian women could sit on juries and participate in giving testimony in court equally with men – Jewish women could not.

Too often I’ve heard the lie perpetuated that the ancient Hebrews had “greater equality” between men and women compared to other cultures – what other cultures? They had terrible inequality when compared directly to Egypt – the place that Jehovah hated so much.

Joshua, Stealing the “Promised Land”, and Supernatural Myths

It’s important that I remind my readers, especially those of you who are not as familiar with the Christian beliefs as I am, that Jews and Christians strongly believe in the historicity of the Exodus and delivery into the promised land. I’m going to spend quite some time on this issue because much of it is certainty historically valid, and it’s important to realise how the Israeli conquests of the “promised land” are recorded in the Bible. The Pentateuch is the five books of Moses (originally on one single scroll), the most important to the Jewish belief, and the first books of the OT; and the first book of the OT immediately following the Pentateuch is the book of Joshua.

Interestingly enough most Christians would agree that most of Genesis is not strictly literal. They don’t believe in a literal Garden of Eden, a literal antediluvian period or a literal flood. But they do believe that the Exodus is literal, and that the supernatural events of the Exodus are also literal (for instance Moses turning his staff into a snake and turning water into blood and the other ten plagues, and parting the red sea). As I will demonstrate, Joshua is very literal because it follows on from the Exodus – it is in fact more literal than the exodus as it contains far less supernatural activity, but it does contain one very important one that we will get to in a moment that most Christians who I ask simply say off the bat that it’s not literal – without even thinking about how the book of Joshua fits in with the Biblical narrative.

After the Israelites leave Egypt, Jehovah then tells them none of them are going to live to see the promised land, and waits 40 years so he can instead send the next generation. So this generation, who’s now really pissed off from having to grow up in the wilderness to appease their deity, is primed for violent conquest! Jehovah tells them to go and enter the promised land and to slaughter all its inhabitants and take it for themselves. He tells them kill all the civilians, kill the women, kill the children, let none escape, take no prisoners, have no pity and show no mercy! And they obey! Read for yourselves…

Deuteronomy

  • 2:34: “And we captured all his cities at that time and devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors.”
  • 3:6: “And we devoted them to destruction, as we did to Sihon the king of Heshbon, devoting to destruction every city, men, women, and children.”
  • 7:2: “and when Jehovah your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.”
  • 7:16: “And you shall consume all the peoples that Jehovah your God will give over to you. Your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.”
  • 13:15: “you shall surely put the inhabitants of that city to the sword, devoting it to destruction, all who are in it and its cattle, with the edge of the sword.”
  • 20:16-17: “But in the cities of these peoples that Jehovah your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded,”

Joshua

  • 6:21: “Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.”
  • 10:40: “So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as Jehovah God of Israel commanded.”

1 Samuel

  • 15:2-3: “Thus says Jehovah of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

Yep, they could have said to themselves “hey you know what, our god is an asshole and we don’t want to kill innocent women and children”, but did they? They did not. But you know what, Jehovah doesn’t always make his chosen people kill children, sometimes he does it himself as in 2 Kings 2:23-24: “[Elijah] went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, ‘Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!’ And he turned round, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of Jehovah. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.”

So I guess you’re wondering how literal is Joshua – I mean we sceptics certainly don’t believe in a literal Exodus, so why should we believe that any of Joshua is literal? That’s a fair enough question and one that needs to be asked, because after all if it is purely mythical then it would mean perhaps the ancient Jews never really slaughtered all those innocent men women and children that were foreigners who their deity arbitrarily despised.

Well, in Joshua 8, Joshua builds an alter and renews the covenant with Jehovah at Mount Ebal, the covenant that had been made with Moses at Mount Sinai – sorry, I mean “Biblical Mt. Sinai”. An interesting fact is that Joshua also writes the Ten Commandments onto stones of the alter. Just like Mt. Sinai, Mt. Ebal is a real physical location. And the alter was in fact discovered and partially excavated by Dr Adam Zertal in the 1980’s. Dr Zertal is a sceptical (non-religious) well-respected archaeologist who originally believed all the events in the OT were myths. He did not locate any stones with Hebrew lettering, however what he did find was the remains of the alter itself consistent with its description in the Talmud, animal bones consistent with the animal sacrifices made there, and pottery with Hebrew lettering. So it is indeed a real location, and a real alter.

Now that we’ve established that Joshua is at least in part historically accurate, we’ll go through Israel’s conquests/slaughters chronologically.

  1. Jericho. “Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. … But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to Jehovah; they shall go into the treasury of Jehovah.’ … Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.” (6:16-17, 19, 21).
  2. Ai. “Jehovah said to Joshua, ‘… you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its livestock you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Lay an ambush against the city, behind it.’ … And the men in the ambush rose quickly out of their place, and as soon as he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it. And they hurried to set the city on fire. … And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had captured the city, … then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. And the others came out from the city against them, so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side. And Israel struck them down, until there was left none that survived or escaped. … And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai.” (8:1-2, 19, 21-22, 25). This is the same chapter in which Joshua’s alter is built. A literal event that we have real archaeological evidence for.
  3. The sun and moon stand still at the request of Joshua… “Joshua spoke to Jehovah …, and he said in the sight of Israel,
                “‘Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
                    and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.’
                “And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
                    until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
    “Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel.” (10:12-14).
  4. Amorite Kings and Makkedah. “Then Joshua said, ‘Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me from the cave.’ And they did so, and brought those five kings out to him from the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. … Joshua struck them and put them to death, and he hanged them on five trees. And they hung on the trees until evening. But at the time of the going down of the sun, Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and they set large stones against the mouth of the cave, which remain to this very day.
    “As for Makkedah, Joshua captured it on that day and struck it, and its king, with the edge of the sword. He devoted to destruction every person in it; he left none remaining. And he did to the king of Makkedah just as he had done to the king of Jericho.” (10:22-23, 26-28). Note that Joshua 6 does not specifically state what Joshua does to the king of Jericho, so there must be a missing piece of scripture that has been lost.
  5. Southern Canaan. “Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Makkedah to Libnah and fought against Libnah. And the Lord gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel. And he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.
    “Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Libnah to Lachish and laid siege to it and fought against it. And the Lord gave Lachish into the hand of Israel, and he captured it on the second day and struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it, as he had done to Libnah.
    “Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish. And Joshua struck him and his people, until he left none remaining.
    “Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Lachish to Eglon. And they laid siege to it and fought against it. And they captured it on that day, and struck it with the edge of the sword. And he devoted every person in it to destruction that day, as he had done to Lachish.
    “Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron. And they fought against it and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword, and its king and its towns, and every person in it. He left none remaining, as he had done to Eglon, and devoted it to destruction and every person in it.
    “Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned back to Debir and fought against it and he captured it with its king and all its towns. And they struck them with the edge of the sword and devoted to destruction every person in it; he left none remaining. Just as he had done to Hebron and to Libnah and its king, so he did to Debir and to its king.
    “So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as Jehovah the God of Israel commanded.” (10:29-40).
  6. Northern Canaan. “When Jabin, king of Hazor, heard of this, he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the Arabah south of Chinneroth, and in the lowland, and in Naphoth-dor on the west, to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites in the hill country, and the Hivites under Hermon in the land of Mizpah. And they came out with all their troops, a great horde, in number like the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. .. So Joshua and all his warriors came suddenly against them by the waters of Merom and fell upon them. And Jehovah gave them into the hand of Israel, who struck them and chased them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, and eastwards as far as the Valley of Mizpeh. And they struck them until he left none remaining. …
    “And Joshua turned back at that time and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword, for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. And they struck with the sword all who were in it, devoting them to destruction; there was none left that breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire. And all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua captured, and struck them with the edge of the sword, devoting them to destruction, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. …
    “For it was the Jehovah’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Jehovah commanded Moses.
    “And Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua devoted them to destruction with their cities. There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel. Only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod did some remain. So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.” (11:1-4, 7-8, 10-12, 20-23).

Now I want to talk briefly about the day that Joshua made the sun and moon stand still so he could finish slaughtering the Amorite women and children. There are no shortages of excuses that apologetics can think of, but the one thing that they agree upon is that it is a literal event. Traditionally it was believed that that God literally made the sun and moon freeze in the sky. Flavius Josephus (first century Jewish historian) attests to this understanding saying that “it happened that the day was lengthened that the night not come on too soon, and be an obstruction to the zeal of the Hebrews in pursuing their enemies” (Ant., 5.61). Then we learned that actually the Earth rotates the sun, so a new theory was that God caused the Earth to stop spinning on its axis and the moon to stop rotating the earth! Some of the more outlandish theories are that God simply caused the day to remain “overcast” – how does that keep the “sun at Gibeon” and the moon in “the Valley of Aijalon”? It doesn’t. Another theory is there was an eclipse – but, it is made clear that the sun and moon are in different locations. Furthermore the author of Joshua makes reference to the “Book of Jashar” an external reference to the event, and specifically states that there has been “no day like it before or since”.

Any apologist explanation which denies a literal reading of those verses needs to contend with the fact the rest of Joshua is clearly a literal narrative. The text doesn’t say that the day seemed longer, it says that Joshua caused the sun and moon to stand still for the duration of a full extra day. Not a few “extra hours”, but double the full duration of the daylight hours!

Since the Earth in fact rotates the sun and not the other way around it would mean for the event to have occurred as described in the Bible the Earth would have to have stopped rotating on its axis! If this had actually happened then it would have led to devastating global disasters – tsunamis, floods, storms, etc. The entire ecosystem of the planet would have been upset. The rotation speed of the earth is 1670 kmph; so people, animals and loose objects would have been thrown from the Earth’s surface if it had really stopped!

Conclusions

Jehovah is a very brutal god – what makes him any better than the other deities? Well often Christians believe that their God promotes social equality, but it’s a complete lie. Consider this passage from 1 Cor 11:7-8: “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.” Ask a Christian to give you an example of God’s idea of social justice, but only from the Old Testament. They will want to give you an example from the NT, tell them you only want examples from the OT. Can they do it?

Abraham, the man who wanted to sacrifice his “only” son to his deity is not worth following. Neither is Joshua, the one who blindly obeys his deity into not taking any civilian prisoners and killing all women and children at war. The Geneva Conventions be damned!

The OT promotes both inequality and discrimination, and much worse than that passage from 1 Corinthians. In Genesis 19 Lot offers his two virgin daughters, who are of lower value, to be gang raped instead of his male visitors. The Israelite men are allowed to have both wives and concubines, concubines are women that belong to them but have much lower status and rights than their wives. Exodus 23 says that the feasts of unleavened bread are only for the men. Deuteronomy 24 explains that men can divorce their wives, but wives can’t divorce their husbands. According to God, only sons are to get an inheritance and the first born gets a double-share and Numbers 27:8 makes it explicit that daughters only get an inheritance when there are no sons: “If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter”. Yet, contrary to this, the Ancient Egyptians who the Israelites despised so much had almost complete equality for both men and women, and their slaves had more dignity and rights too!

I’ve heard a number of outright lies over the years told by Christian priests that the ancient Jews had a comparatively just and equal society. What utter rubbish. They had inequality, divinely inspired discrimination, brutal punishments, and practised some of the very worst, and most savage, and primitive forms of war. So much for being guided by an omniscient, loving deity. The ancient Israelites stole the land, killed all the civilians including the children and infants because that’s what their god told them to do, and they set the example to be followed for generations since and through to today. Even the violence of I.S. does not compare to the violence depicted in the OT with the ancient Israeli conquest of the Promised Land. If you’re a Christian reading this my suggestion to you is to read Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua. Because they detail Jehovah’s “grand perfect plan” for his people. Then learn about the ancient Egyptian civilisation and make up your own mind as to whether they or the ancient Jews are the primitive misguided barbarians.