Monthly Archives: March 2014

How can you not believe in something that has been around for generations?

An American family Bible dating to 1859.
American family Bible dating to 1859.

“I do believe in the bible and I do believe in god.  . . . How can you not believe in something that has been around for generations before you were even here. Our country and our ancestors followed the bible the believed in god but all of the sudden we just forget that and make up new ideas of creation and say the bible was all just fiction that some random people wrote. That is what makes no sense.”

. . . found on the Internet. (Grammatical errors are his; not mine.)

This guy tells it as he sees it, I guess. He believes the Bible just because it “. . . has been around for generations . . .” And because “Our country and our ancestors followed the bible the believed in god . . .”

To most Americans, that seems to be enough reason. But it isn’t. Muslims have felt the same way about Allah and the Quran for centuries. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed similar things about their gods for many generations.

Does anybody seriously claim only their beliefs are right and all the others are wrong? Well, yes. They do.  Many millions of Americans (and fewer in other parts of the world) believe in God and that the Bible is His word for no better reason than that their parents believed that and taught them to believe it, too. Even for intelligent adults, it’s extremely difficult to understand that something your parents taught you from infancy is wrong.

If you believe in God and the Bible as His word (as I did for more than 40 years), you need a better reason than that. In fact, the Bible truly is “all just fiction that some random people wrote.” About 40 of them over a period of 1,500 years or so. Check it out.

Believing it is a message from God, or even that there is a god, “. . . is what makes no sense.”

And no, unbelief is definitely not “. . . all of the sudden. . .”. There have been doubters, agnostics, and atheists for thousands of years, but they often got beheaded or burned alive if they expressed their opinions. In large parts of the world even now, they are likely to die of stoning. No wonder people are loath to express their doubts publicly.

Death Sentence

Scientific American LogoI have a Big Stack of Old Magazines (BSOM) that I’m going through, glancing at every page to see if I want to read that particular article, before I dispose of the magazine. Some are as old as 24 years. Maybe older. Occasionally an old article provides info for a good post. One magazine from my BSOM happened to be a Scientific American from February, 2001. Scientific American is my favorite magazine, so there’ll probably be more posts here based on a its articles (either old or current).

This edition has a short item titled Death Defying that I found interesting. And educational. (Educational is always interesting if its done right.)

For prisoners on Death Row in the United States, the average time between sentencing and execution was 10.6 years. During that time, upon appeal, 68 percent were found to have serious errors in their trials, and five percent were actually determined to be innocent and to have been convicted and sentenced to death in error.

That’s terrible! And I’d be willing to bet half my old magazines that it still isn’t any better.

Both kidnapping and treason carry death penalties under federal law, but the federal government almost never actually executes anybody. It’s almost always the states. SOME states, I should say.

At least 23 innocent people have been executed since 1900. (Probably all men. Nearly all death row prisoners are men. But it doesn’t say here). Too late it was found out they were innocent.

Surveys show 67 percent of all law enforcement officers do NOT believe the death penalty reduces the homicide rate. Apparently, they’re right. The homicide rate per 100,000 people in death penalty states averages 9.3. In non-death penalty states, it is actually slightly better: 9.

Many excuses for the death penalty have been promoted, but most don’t stand up to scrutiny. For instance, it’s often claimed it saves a lot of money to execute a prisoner rather than to keep him locked up for life. In Los Angeles County (the only place for which I have the info, the average cost of a murder trial is $625,000. Death penalty cases average $1,900,000. That $1,275,000 difference should support a man in prison for quite a while. As if that were a civilized proposition to begin with.

The Bible promotes death for a plethora of crimes. Thankfully, we are ruled by the Constitution of the United States. Not by the Bible.

Actually, in principle, I’m in favor of the death penalty for some crimes. It’s those 23 innocent men (and probably more) that bother me. Also, the almost unbelievable number of men waiting for the needle who have been proved not guilty by DNA evidence, which was not available when they were convicted. It came in time for a few of them. (Yes, I am aware that I called it an “almost unbelievable number” and then concluded it was only “a few.” The different contexts make this appropriate.) How many more will be found not guilty whenever we get some other new technology that we don’t have now?

Regretfully, my own State of Texas has long been the front-runner in death penalty cases and executions. Part of this, of course, is because we have a lot of people, and therefore we have a lot of crime. But that’s not all of it. Too many of us (including our current and last governors, Perry and Bush respectively) just seem to think some people need to die. Too many people.

Almost certainly, Texas has executed several innocent men (though I don’t have the figures). Our state Court of Criminal Appeals has a well deserved reputation for negligence in this area, and that’s a crime.

So what’s the solution? I can’t say that I know the ultimate solution. As I mentioned before, in principle I am in favor of the death penalty. But until we get better — A LOT BETTER — at determining who is actually guilty and who is not guilty, we need to declare a moratorium on executions nation-wide. (A few states have already done this. Or abolished the death penalty altogether.) If we ever get really good at determining who is guilty, we can reconsider the alternatives then.

Besides all this, we should release most prisoners in this country immediately. There are plenty of alternatives for non-violent crimes. But we’ll save that topic for another day.

Resources: Scientific American, February 2001, Death Defying, p. 28

 

 

Marijuana: a powerful medicine

This is just one of the reasons we need to change our draconian marijuana laws, both at the state and national levels. I personally have never once used the drug in any form, but I’ve often wished I could try it legally to see if it would help the chronic pain I’ve suffered for the past 60 years. Our laws in Texas and most other states won’t even let scientists and doctors experiment with it to see if it could be useful. See what we’re missing out on as a result?

What? Slavery, too?

[youtube_video TzV1r5SCc8U]

No, I’m NOT gay. Neither, as you may have guessed, am I a Christian. But you have to give credit where it’s due, and this politician has earned it.

My barber for 15 years or so in San Antonio was a gay man — an intelligent, well informed gay man — and we discussed a variety of subjects while he cut my hair. On one of the very rare occasions when our discussion turned to the topic of sexuality, he told me he had never in his life been sexually attracted to any woman. I believe him.

I have never been sexually attracted to any man. I think it would be absolutely impossible for me to be attracted to any man in the same way that I find myself attracted to many women. Therefore, I have to assume the same thing is true in reverse for him, as well as for many homosexuals and lesbians.

I see no reason why the government should recognize marriage between a man and a woman but refuse to recognize in the same way a similar relationship between two men or two women.

Big John’s Saloon sues local church

Big John began construction on an expansion of his saloon to accommodate his ever-growing business. In response, the local Baptist Church started a campaign to block him from expanding -- with morning, afternoon, and evening prayer sessions at the church.
Work on the saloon progressed right up until the week before the grand reopening, when lightning struck the building and burned it to the ground!
After the saloon was destroyed by the lightning strike, the church folks were rather smug in their outlook, bragging about "the power of prayer."
But late last week Big John sued the church, the preacher, and the entire congregation on the grounds that the church "was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building and his business -- either through direct or indirect divine actions or means."
In its reply to the court, the church vehemently and voraciously denied any and all responsibility or any connection to the building's demise.
The crusty old judge read through the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's reply, and at the opening hearing he commented, "It appears from the paperwork submitted to me that we have a saloon owner who staunchly believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that thinks it's all a bunch of baloney.

Found floating on the Internet

The Truth About the Bible

[youtube_video 21NoQuKTB8Q]

The following email has been circulating on the Internet recently. I have no idea where it came from or who  wrote it. If the first paragraph is true, it was somebody speaking at an anonymous university.

The Truth About the Bible

During a question and answer session at a recent speaking engagement, a university student asked me, “Why do you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God?”

Now this is a very interesting question, and probably one of the most important questions any Christian could ask themselves. What is so special, so unique about the Bible that Christians believe it is literally the inspired word of God? In answering this student’s question, I encouraged him to consider the following facts about the Bible. First, the Bible is not just one single book. This is a more common misconception than many people realize, especially with people who do not come from a Judeo-Christian background. Rather than being a single book, the Bible is actually a collection of 66 books, which is called the canon of scriptures. These 66 books contain a variety of genres: history, poetry, prophecy, wisdom literature, letters, and apocalyptic, just to name a few.

Second, these 66 books were written by 40 different authors. These authors came from a variety of backgrounds: shepherds, fishermen, doctors, kings, prophets, and others. And most of these authors never knew one another personally.

Third, these 66 books were written over a period of 1,500 years. Yet again, this is another reminder that many of these authors never knew or collaborated with one another in writing these books.

Fourth, the 66 books of the Bible were written in 3 different languages. In the Bible we have books that were written in the ancient languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic; a reflection of the historical and cultural circumstances in which each of these books were written.

And finally, these 66 books were written on 3 different continents: Africa , Asia , and Europe . Once again, this is a testament to the varied historical and cultural circumstances of God’s people.

Think about the above realities: 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1,500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents. What’s more, this collection of books shares a common storyline – the creation, fall, and redemption of God’s people; a common theme – God’s universal love for all of humanity; and a common message – salvation is available to all who repent of their sins and commit to following God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.

In addition to sharing these commonalities, these 66 books contain no historical errors or contradictions. God’s word truly is an amazing collection of writings!

After I had shared the above facts with this student, I offered him the following challenge. “If you do not believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, if you do not believe that the Bible is of a supernatural origin, then I challenge you to a test, I challenge you to go to any library in the world, you can choose any library you like, and find 66 books which match the characteristics of the 66 books in the Bible. You must choose 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1,500 years, in 3 different languages, written on 3 different continents. However, they must share a common storyline, a common theme, and a common message, with no historical errors or contradictions.” I went on to say, “If you can produce such a collection of books, I will admit that the Bible is not the inspired word of God.”

The student’s reply was almost instantaneous, he emphatically stated, “But that’s impossible!”

It truly is impossible, for any collection of human writings. However, the Bible passes this test. The Bible contains 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1,500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents, with no historical errors or contradictions. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, bears the mark of Divine inspiration.

The next time you encounter someone who asks you why you believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, try sharing this challenge with them. Better yet, don’t wait until you’re asked, just go ahead and share this challenge with a friend today. You don’t even have to mention the Bible up front, just ask them if they think it would be realistic to assemble such a collection of books. After they say, “But that’s impossible!” you’ve got a ready-made opportunity for sharing the truth of God’s word with somebody!

= = = = = = = = = = =

It’s easy to make all the claims a person wants to, but it takes more time and effort to refute them. Thankfully, Dawkins and Huddlestun do part of it for me. But here are a few of my own thoughts.

>First, the Bible is not just one single book.  . . .   the Bible is actually a collection of 66 books, which is called the canon of scriptures.

Not true. The Bible is a collection of 66 documents. Not books. Somebody just chose to call them books. About half the New Testament is composed of personal letters, mostly written by or for a guy named Paul, who called himself an Apostle of Jesus. He wrote some of these letters to his friends and some to various churches that looked to him for leadership. Some were as short as a single page. Some books!

>These 66 books contain a variety of genres: history, poetry, prophecy, wisdom literature, letters, and apocalyptic, just to name a few.

So what? They were selected from the writings of at least 40 authors over a period of 1,500 years, after all. Wouldn’t you expect them to be diverse?

>Second, these 66 books were written by 40 different authors. These authors came from a variety of backgrounds: shepherds, fishermen, doctors, kings, prophets, and others.

Again, so what?

>And most of these authors never knew one another personally.

Since the writings span a period of 1,500 years, it would be somewhat unusual if all the authors knew each other.

>Third, these 66 books were written over a period of 1,500 years.

Again, so what?

>However, they must share a common storyline, a common theme, and a common message, with no historical errors or contradictions.

Give me a break! We’ve already agreed it took 1,500 years to collect these documents. With that much time, it should be easy to collect 66 documents with “a common storyline, a common theme, and a common message.” It’s that last part that’s a problem.

>The Bible contains . . . no historical errors or contradictions.

This is simply not true. Watch the video. Most of the history of Genesis and Exodus appears to be pure fiction. And that’s just for starts. There is no evidence the Israelites were ever slaves of the Egyptians, much less that they were led to freedom by a hero named Moses, who parted the Red Sea for them. No evidence that Abraham, Moses, and many other Bible characters ever even lived.

There was a man named Jesus who was crucified by the Romans about the right time. The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, writing around 60 years after his death, mentions several men named Jesus, one of whom was said to be “a wise teacher who was crucified by Pilate.” One of them, possibly the same one, is said to have had a brother named James. He also mentions John the Baptist. But we know almost nothing else about Jesus apart from the New Testament itself.

One would think writers all over the Roman Empire would have written about this man who is said to have healed the sick, the blind, and the deaf, who raised the dead, and who himself was also raised from the dead. Who, in fact, according to the Apostle Paul, was seen by more than 500 witnesses at one time after his resurrection. One would expect excited stories about this man all over the place, but there are none from his own time and almost none for several centuries afterward. In all of history, there is almost zero confirmation of anything about the story of Jesus.

And we haven’t even gotten to contradictions yet. There are way too many to go into here. We’ll talk about them another day soon.

The evidence is overwhelming

The evidence is overwhelming: levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising. Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying.

The above quote is from What We Know, a new paper (and more) from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). It claims that 97% of all climate scientists worldwide are convinced that climate change is real, it is man made, and there are things we can and should do about it.

Read it here.