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Just a little tidbit I found on YouTube. If it weren’t so sad it might actually be funny. As the anti-evolutionists seek to introduce biblical mythology, call it what you will–creation science, intelligent design–into the classroom, they seem willing to turn back the clock to a time more reminiscent of the dark ages and the Inquisition than bring it to the light of the 21st century. Just because the human mind cannot conceive of the possibility of evolution does not mean that evolution is not true. It is all about evidence. The scientific FACTS based on evolutionary theory point to the validity of the theory. Other than a few scribbles in some sacred texts written 3000 years ago, and other than personal revelation (which is not rigorous evidence) there simply is no evidence to support what Richard Dawkins calls the God delusion. I think I’ll put my faith and trust in FACTS and not in the mythology of creation. If I wanted to put my faith in the mythology I would then be forced to choose from among thousands of FACTUALLY unsupported creation myths–what if I pick the wrong one? What then…

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I am posting a short video I made that addresses Pascal’s Wager that simply states that even if the odds for the existence of God or gods is overwhelming, there is the slight chance that one is wrong. If it turns out that God(s) exist then the non-believer risks eternal damnation while the believer is eternally rewarded. If it turns out that there really is no God or God(s) then it makes no difference to the believer or non-believer–nothing is lost in the bargain. So Pascal concludes that on the off chance that there might, in fact, be a God(s) it makes sense to believe.As this video points out, there are substantial flaws in Pascal’s reasoning. Which God(s) does one choose to believe in? Wouldn’t picking the wrong one be tantamount to not picking at all? Isn’t Pascal’s belief merely a belief of convenience and not of conviction; wouldn’t an omnipotent, omniscient God(s) see right through the rouse and leave the pretender in the same position as if he didn’t choose at all?

I think I’ll remain a Bright. There simply isn’t enough evidence to convince me beyond a reasonable doubt that God(s) exist. I’ll not fall into the destructive trap of Pascal’s Wager.

clipped from youtube.com

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I believe because I want to believe! To hell with the evidence to the contrary, the bible says it is true.

It is absolutely amazing to me how otherwise intelligent people can be so duped by belief that they cannot or will not examine the rigorous body of scientific evidence that exists regarding the geological and biological history of the earth we live on and, in its place, accept the particular mythology, the creation mythology, of a band of desert Hebrews written down some 3000 years ago. Why accept that particular myth and not others. What about the myths of creation that emanate from China, India, or from Native American cultures? Are their gods any less than the god of the Hebrews? Do their gods have answers that are any less appealing (however false) than those of the god of the Hebrews? And what about all of the contradictions in the creation myths of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2? The order of creation is different in each chapter, for example. And then, gosh, if Adam and Eve were the very first human beings and they had only 2 sons, Cain and Able and Cain slew Able and what thereupon banished to the land of Nod where there he knew his wife, WHERE THE HECK DID SHE COME FROM?

And dinosaurs lived on the earth along side man,,,Oh please. If your sources are no better than the bible then all you have is a belief that cannot be supported by the facts. That is known as an egocentric belief, a belief that cannot stand the pressure of reason. Oh, I forget, you don’t really care about reason because your mind is already made up regardless of what facts might be presented.

clipped from www.atheists.org
AMERICAN ATHEISTS today announced its full support for the “Rally for
Reason” protest slated for Monday, May 28, 2007 (Memorial Day) at the
grand opening of a creationist “museum” operated by an evangelical
religious group in Boone County, KY.
The $27 million facility is a project of the Answers in Genesis group
which promotes a literal, biblical view of how life and universe
ostensibly began, and challenges mainstream scientific findings about
evolution. The museum will reportedly include exhibits reflecting the
inaccurate claim that dinosaurs and human beings co-existed in a “Garden
of Eden” style Earth, and that our planet was fashioned by the
Judeo-Christian deity approximately 6,000 years ago.
The “Rally for Reason” is calling on all groups – including Atheists,
Freethinkers, Humanists and other non-believers – as well as religious,
civic and educational organizations that support good science to join in
the peaceful protest outside the gates of the “Answers in Genesis.”

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I find it disgraceful that 3 of 10 Republican presidential hopefuls quickly raise their hands to proclaim their disbelief in evolution. I am equally amazed at how long it took John McCain to respond to this question. I can only hope the American people are not so stupid as to accept this form of blatant anti-intellectualism as qualifying for the leadership of the free world. I don’t have high hopes as I remember that this same American electorate split down the middle on the qualifications of George W, Bush and look where that got us.

Here is another YouTube clip that speaks to the dangers of this orchestrated anti-intellectualism.

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Another example of misusing data to fit a theist view of the world. By rejecting scientific evidence and more, Michael Behe is able to convince only the uninitiated, the believer. He is not able to make inroads on well trained biologists or other scientists. The lesson is, it seems to me, is that before one accepts anything at face value one has the obligation to address the appropriate available evidence and then asks the skeptical questions that make that evidence stand up to those questions. It is not good enough to believe in something because you believe in something. That tautology will only run you around in circles causing only severe dizziness.

clipped from www.youtube.com

Michael Behe is one of the most well known ID proponents. However, his arguments must be seen in light of his character and his agenda. This video deals with several problems with Behe’s position:
1. Behe ignores and rejects empirical evidence
2. No major scientific organization, including Behe’s own colleagues, endorse ID
3. In 20 years (some would say a couple of hundred years), ID has failed to make its case to the scientific community
4. Behe rejects the scientific method, and wants to replace it with his own5. Behe’s version of “peer review” is simply dishonest and misleading

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Who would have thought that a cup of coffee could be so offensive. When the following appeared on a Starbucks’ cup I laughed a bit and moved on with my life:

You are not an accident. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He wanted you alive and created you for a purpose. Focusing on yourself will never reveal your purpose. You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense. Only in God do we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny. — Dr. Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose-Driven Life.”

I don’t believe in a creator god, a sky fairy, the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny. I find people that do to be mostly uninformed, not because they are stupid but because they simply haven’t examined the evidence. But I am not offended by those who do unless they use that belief to justify blowing themselves up or telling me what to believe,

Because Ken Peck is offended by what he considers to be an anti-Christian blurb on the back of a coffee cup, I have to think that Mr. Peck is so unsure of his belief system that he must find some way to censor the remarks. In the Middle Ages monks burned books they considered heretical. Would Mr. Peck suggest that we return to those days. Sounds like it. Does Mr. Peck consider that Starbucks includes blatantly religious blurbs on the back of their cups as well? Does Mr. Peck even consider that balance is the most effective cure for hate?

clipped from wnd.com
Coffeehouse giant Starbucks is standing by its campaign to put thought-provoking messages on its coffee cups despite a national uproar and threat of boycott over a message some felt was “anti-God.”
Controversy erupted this week after a customer became steamed reading a quote that stated:
“Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure.”
The quote was written by Bill Schell, a Starbucks customer from London, Ontario, Canada, and was included as part of Starbucks’ “The Way I See It” campaign to collect different viewpoints and spur discussion.
One reader, Ken Peck of Lakeland, Fla., has since purchased a coffee with another message he felt was a slam against his Christian faith, and snapped a photograph of it.

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The two clips from YouTube reflect on the truthfulness of James Dobson, the head of Focus on the Family, as he behaves as the simulacrum of a scholar by citing research, but in truth he is cherry-picking statements and ideas out of context and distorting the research for his own purposes. In order to get away with such a practice he relies on the fact that his audience is not critical enough to catch him in his immoral practice. Isn’t it ironic that this fine Christian who wages a battle against immoral behavior will drop his own moral compass in order to make his point. Dobson is identified as one of the American Taliban.

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After nearly 6-1/2 years of the Bush Theocracy, an absolutism born of the desire to control the private thoughts of citizens of the United States, to insure that the absurdest, religious based notion of intelligent design be taught in public schools, wars waged on abortion, homosexuality, and other moral campaigns, the stacking of the Supreme Court of the United States with right wing zealots, battles waged in support of the Ten Commandments –oh how the list goes on and on–the nation is indeed at risk of falling into the same sewer as the Taliban dominated Afghanistan. I fear for the deist wisdom of the Founding Fathers of this nation, a nation born of religious intolerance, as we fall into the devil’s own trap of becoming intolerant ourselves. How ironic! How the pendulum swings!

American Taliban

Updated January 25, 2007 and April 19, 2005 (originally published November 24, 2004)

The “War on Terror” has provided Americans with a helpful

introduction to theocracy. The fight against Al Qaeda, the war on

the Taliban, and the growing tensions with the regime in Iran has

offered a quick primer on the hallmarks of the religious state.

First is the rule of religious authorities, whether it be Bin

Laden’s new Caliphate, Mullah Omar’s Taliban regime, or the mullahs

in Tehran. Second is the imposition of the faith’s sacred texts as

law, in these cases, some variant of sharia law of the Koran. And

last is the direct involvement of the state in the most minute and

deeply personal aspects of individual lives, enforced by religious

police, informed by spies, and punished severely (and often

publicly).

Now thanks to the Bush administration, a Republican Congress and

the conservative ascendancy, Americans need not travel to Kandahar

to learn about the perils of theocratic rule. Right here in the

United States, a network of politicians, religious leaders,

“faith-based” organizations and (literally) their amen corner are

working overtime to make a particularly onerous concept of

Christianity the de facto law of the land. Armed with the Bible in

one hand and the Patriot Act in the other, George W. Bush and his

GOP jihadists threaten to fundamentally change the role of

government in monitoring Americans’ lives, liberties and

even bodies.

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It is ironic that the root of extremist Islam took shape in Saudi Arabia under the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Hahhab (1703-1792) whose goal it was to bring the Arabian peninsula back to the strict teachings of the Prophet. It is just this form of Wahhabism that is taught in the madrases of Pakistan also reported to be funded by the Saudis. Wahhabism is the root of Islamic extremism in the world today.

Do the Saudis themselves feel threatened by the very form of Islam that was developed and is practiced on their soil? What is going on here?

Memri reported the following:

Dr. Abd Al-Rahman Al-Hadlaq, supervisor of the counseling committee, told Al-Watan that the amount of aid given to the families depended on their financial situation, and added that this support also “had a positive effect on the prisoners themselves, and on their attitude towards the ideological therapy [provided by] the counseling program.” He said that the financial incentives were meant to “demonstrate the humanitarian side of the security forces, [and to show] the prisoners’ families that the state empathizes [with their problems], cares about their needs, and truly wishes to rehabilitate their sons, who have fallen prey to a misguided group that [merely] wishes to exploit the [difficult] conditions in which they and their families live in order to recruit further members from their families.”

Ali Sa’d Al-Mussa, a lecturer at King Khaled University in Abha, criticized the financial support granted to extremists and their families. He wrote in Al-Watan: “The honorable Sheikh Muhammad Al-Najimi, member of the ideological counseling committee, said that the state has so far spent over 100 million riyals on presents, weddings, cars and monthly salaries for prisoners who had espoused a distorted ideology, and for their families. It was also stated that this [financial aid] was one of the factors that convinced some of [these prisoners] to renounce their previous views…

“I am afraid that, [in this way], holding [extremist] views leads to earning a prize, or worse – a steady income. What extraordinary thing have these [extremists] done that we give them a free car only for renouncing their [extremist] views, while thousands of honest young people can only dream of [owning] a car? What extraordinary thing have these [prisoners] done that we [finance] their weddings, when thousands of honest young people can only dream – not of the scent of a woman but even of a bottle of perfume? What extraordinary thing have they done that we grant them and their families a monthly salary, while thousands of honest men cannot even dream of a job as security guards? People should be rewarded for their actions, but it seems that we have turned this concept upon its head…

clipped from www.memri.org
As part of its fight against terrorism, the Saudi Interior Ministry has been operating an ideological counseling program for security prisoners in the Saudi jails aimed at encouraging them to renounce their extremist beliefs. The program, which has been running for several years, is implemented by a counseling committee composed of ulema, psychiatrists and psychologists who hold counseling sessions with the prisoners and gives them lessons in Islam. When the counselors become convinced that a prisoner is reformed, they recommend his release from jail. [1]
It has recently been reported that, in addition to counseling, prisoners receive financial incentives to renounce their extremist views.

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This is an annotation of Where Is Atheism When Bad Things Happen? – News Bloggers

Dinesh D’Souza exposes his bigotry and, frankly, his stupidity as he slams atheists in this posting. In part he states: “Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning….”

read the annotated post here | digg story

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Yesterday the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the national ban on a midterm method of ending pregnancies sometimes referred to as partial birth abortion. The decision clears the way for states to pass new laws designed to discourage women from having abortions.

Of course President Bush could not keep silent on this one. In a statement issued by the White House, Bush welcomed the decision. “The Supreme Court’s decision is an affirmation of the progress we have made over the past six years in protecting human dignity and upholding the sanctity of life,” he said. “Today’s decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people’s representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America.”

Somehow, Bush relates the notion of life to the sacred. But has Bush analyzed with any precision what sacred really means? We can look to the work of Giorgio Agamben (1998) as he writes about Homo Sacer (Sacred Life) in the following terms. The sacred is found in a double state of exception between the unpunishability of killing and the exclusion from sacrifice. Agamben’s analysis rests on a snippet from Pompeius Festus from the treatise On the Significance of Words in which Festus writes: The sacred man is the one whom the people have judged on account of a crime (this man has been excluded from the community). It is not permitted to sacrifice this man (to offer him up to the gods), yet he who kills him will not be condemned for homicide (he may be executed by the state without subjecting the executioner to the crime of murder). Agamben understands the sacred (sacer) then to take the form of this double exception both from the human and the divine sphere of influence, from the profane and the ‘religious’ spheres. The fact that sacrifice is taboo for homo sacer is another way of saying that what already belongs to the gods cannot be offered up to those very same gods and so is excluded from sacrificial consideration. At the same time, the homo sacer is included within the community as he/she takes the form of being able to be officially killed. “Life that cannot be sacrificed and yet may be killed is sacred life (Agamben. 1998, p. 82). Sovereignty lies at the crossroads of this double exception.

The sovereign sphere is the sphere in which it is permitted to kill without committing homicide and without celebrating a sacrifice, and sacred life–that is, life that may be killed but not sacrificed–is the life that has been captured in this sphere (Agamben, 1998, p. 83).

Bush trivializes the sacred when he speaks about upholding human dignity and the sanctity of life. What is really happening here is that the sovereign makes the choice to create an exception for women, to exclude women that opt for termination of pregnancy, to cause those women to become homo sacer. In the case of abortion, this amounts to a minority of religious zealots dictating policy while the rest of us stand by watching. What is being sacrificed here is precisely the sacred, that very quality Bush is so ready to protect. The Bush/Roberts court, by creating the exception that creates homo sacer effectively perpetrates a violence at the crossroads of the profane and the divine that is subtractive of both the profane and the divine.

Justice Ginsburg called the decision alarming. She argued as follows:

It “cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away
at a right declared again and again by this court,” she said.

She said this dispute was about how, not whether, abortions would be
performed during the second trimester. Despite Kennedy’s talk of
“promoting fetal life,” the ban on the procedure “targets only a method
of abortion,” she said. “The woman may abort the fetus, so long as her
doctor uses another method, one her doctor judges less safe for her.”

She also called the decision demeaning to women. It “pretends” to protect
them “by denying them any choice in the matter,” she said.

Justice Ginsburg, in referencing the court’s desire to “chip away” at Roe v. Wade scolds the majority for ignoring precedent of over 40 years. If we are a nation of laws, then precedent must rule. I seem to recall that the conservatives yell most loudly about activist courts that simply rewrite the law to suit their needs. It seems that the Bush/Roberts court is turning down the road of activism…but, of course, it is activism that the radical right agrees with so no hue and cry from them now.

Justice Ginsburg’s remarks could also be considered in the light of Agamben’s view of homo sacer. By denying women choice the court excludes women from the process, creating an exception that stands at the crossroads and, therefore, falls within the power of the sovereign to dictate. This is a disturbing development in the democratic experiment called the United States.

References

Agamben, G. (1998). Homo Sacer: Sovereign power and bare life (D. Heller-Roazen, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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Reporting for Reuters, Andrea Hopkins writes:

By all accounts, the prayers started even before the gunshots stopped at Virginia Tech university, and the pleas to God from grief-stricken survivors of the massacre have continued ever since.

“God cares about Virginia Tech,” said Megan Martin, 24, joining about a dozen fellow students in a traveling prayer vigil that rambled across the sprawling campus a day after the worst U.S. shooting spree in modern history.

Carrying placards reading: “Jesus loves you,” “God knows and He cares,” and “Can we pray with you?” the small knot of students worked their way through the university grounds in Blacksburg, a Bible Belt town in the mountains of southwest Virginia.

I suppose turning to God(s) cannot do any serious harm to the individual that does the turning. The evidence, however, does not justify such a move. “God cares about Virginia Tech,” said Megan Martin, is quoted in the article. Is this God so cruel that he (she, it) only cares after the fact? Is this God(s) so indifferent that he (she, it) only takes an interest after the dastardly deed has been accomplished? God knows and He cares, is another after the fact fantasy that may serve to salve heightened emotions but does not address the fundamental issue–was this God who cares so much simply on vacation when Cho Seung-Hui decided to engage on a shooting rampage on the VT campus? Does the evidence point to a God(s) who cares, who knows? I think not. What the evidence points to is a random series of events that occur every so often because Americans are willing to sacrifice security for the right to bear arms for any purpose whatsoever. The evidence does not point to a loving God(s) but, rather, to a heightened probability that because guns are so readily available in the United States tragic events such as the VT shootings are more likely than not to occur.

While turning to God(s) is a defensive move in cases of unthinkable tragedy for many people, it seems to me that it is simply a misplaced use of human energy. Telling one’s self that God(s) really care, while that might have a temporary calming effect, does nothing to solve the problem that lies at the root of the VT shootings. Far more productive an approach is to focus the anger and frustration one feels in moments of unspeakable tragedy into efforts to place meaningful regulation on the ownership of weapons that have no other use than to cause permanent harm to those to whom the guns are directed. Gun nuts that demand no regulation of weapons spouting rights granted under the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,) must ask: to what militia did Cho Seung-Hui belong when he began his rampage? Why was Cho Seung-Hui permitted to purchase and own guns? Why do we put up with this cowboy mentality? Is life really imitating the wild west shootout of the movies?

Rather than turning to God(s) how about turning to Congress and demanding that your lawmakers do something to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again. If you don’t then, it seems to me, that events like the VT shootings will surely occur over and over, again and again. One Italian journalist wrote that the VT shootings are as American as apple pie. It this the image America and Americans portray to the world? Is this the image we want to portray? It is time to stop the madness.

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Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff write in Haaretz:

If someone were to offer Ehud Olmert the possibility of drawing a thick, black line through all of the events of the past year, presumably the prime minister would gladly accept it. It isn’t just the war in Lebanon. It is also the affair of the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit two and a half weeks earlier, and the failed “Summer Rain” military operation in the Gaza Strip in the wake of the kidnapping, which did not bring Shalit back and did not yield any other significant accomplishments.

Here are two of the outstanding statements from that period that Olmert would no doubt prefer to forget: On June 26, one day after Shalit was abducted: “The question of the release of [Palestinian] prisoners [in return for Shalit] is not at all on the agenda of the government of Israel.” On July 1, a statement from the Foreign Ministry on Olmert’s behalf: “There will not be any deal. The soldier Shalit will be released, or else we will be compelled to act to release him.” Behind the scenes Olmert’s people were constantly briefing and reminding journalists: The aim is to break the old rules of the game. Israel will act so that the terror organizations, first in the territories and afterward in Lebanon, will lose the desire to abduct more people.

Since then more than eight months have elapsed. The appetite of the would-be abductors has perhaps been tempered – in light of the many losses among the Palestinians and the Lebanese – but the incentive is still there. Israel is now negotiating the release of thousands of prisoners in return for Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, in two separate channels.

The numbers reported here seem to be a bit excessive. 1400::1 is a very high price to pay for a prisoner exchange with no assurances that this behavior will cease, that rockets will no longer be targeted from Gaza into Israel, with no declaration of both the de jure and de facto existence of Israel (what other state requires this of their neighbors?) As regular readers of this blog know, I am not opposed to the notion of negotiation with one’s political enemies. It must be clear, however, that any negotiations that occur do not amount to a list of demands by one side as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. 1400::1 or even 1400::3 borders on a take-it-or-leave-it demand.

It is clear that negotiations require two sides that are willing to engage each other in meaningful talks. No reasonable person can enter talks that place demands so far out of reach that they don’t pass the giggle test. All one can do is giggle at a demand that 1400 prisoners, each with, to use the Israeli phrase, blood on his hands, in exchange for from 1 to 3 kidnapped soldiers. The demand is simply ridiculous.

If Hamas truly intends to negotiate with Israel as its leadership has indicated in recent days then it is up to that leadership to drop their ridiculous take-it-or-leave-it demands and sit down as honest negotiators. Both sides should negotiate hard, but reasonably. Most importantly, both sides must be willing to make concessions to the other, small ones that can be monitored and deemed successful at first, and then larger ones. In the end, neither side can resort to violence the second one does not get its own way. It is time for a new way of thinking, for the playground bullies to stand aside and let the people negotiate an end to nearly a century of violence.

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I just finished reading Harold Bloom’s Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine. I had a hard time putting this extraordinary work of non-fiction down. Bloom’s scholarship is as solid as his writing style. For anyone wanting to think seriously about the origins of religious belief, about the monotheisms that pervade western thought, for those, like Zizek, who speculate that origins are less important in the development of cultural adhesions than are the actions taken by those who later revise broad social projects into working organizational entities (Marx was not a Marxist until Lenin came along to pragmatically implement his version of Marx’ ideas) simply must read this book.

Below I post several reviews of Bloom’s book:

From Amazon.com

Bloom’s occasional forays into religious criticism are particularly interesting, given his lifelong passion for poetry and his contributions to the study of literature. And while discussions of religion itself are in play here, it is the characters of Jesus and Yahweh that inhabit the pages, and Bloom’s literary critic more than his moonlighting theologian examining them. And what of that analysis? Bloom has an obvious affinity for Yahweh over Jesus (even though Jesus gets first billing in the book’s title.) But to ascribe that preference to his Jewish roots is perhaps too easy. A close reading reveals more. Bloom finds that Yahweh, with his covenants, tempers, resolutions, and even occasional forays into the physical where he fights, eats and walks in the cool of the Garden presents a more interesting character than the rather enigmatic Jesus who only comes truly alive for him in Mark’s gospel, and even more so beyond the canonical scriptures in the Gospel of Thomas. And though in sensibility and identification Bloom hews closer to Yahweh, he acknowledges the place Jesus and his followers have made in the world, through an application of his own theory of the anxiety of influence, noting that “The New Testament frequently is a strong misreading of the Hebrew Bible, and certainly it has persuaded multitudes.” Provocative statements like these abound, but Bloom is no provocateur. Whether one agrees or disagrees with his meditations on the names divine, it is hard not to respect his vigorous intellect and bracing candor as he explores their power.–Ed Dobeas

From Booklist

The most prolific American literary critic maintains a lesser career as a critic of the religious imagination. His most famous product in that capacity, The Book of J (1990), argued that a woman wrote the Torah. The American Religion (1992) descried a specifically American kind of religious creativity, of which the greatest expressions are American Baptism and Mormonism. This book is more personal than argumentative and more literary than religious criticism, unless Bloom’s frequent exasperated disparagements of Christian theology are considered a form of the latter. It is an examination of Yahweh (whom Bloom discriminates from God the Father in the Christian Trinity) in the Hebrew Bible and of Yeshua or Jesus of Nazareth (whom Bloom discriminates from Jesus Christ) in Mark, the one Gospel Bloom finds compelling. Yahweh is an all-too-human deity, says Bloom, and Yeshua is entirely human. Moreover, the two are akin in irascibility, unpredictability, and a penchant for irony. While Yeshua could be Yahweh’s son (but isn’t), Jesus Christ, a creation of Paul, the Gospel of John, and the rest of the New Testament, except the epistles of James, bears no family resemblance Bloom can see. The interest of Bloom’s analysis is undermined, especially for readers knowledgeable about Christian orthodoxy, by his anti-Trinitarian carping and his confused statements about the Incarnation and Atonement, which some may see as symptoms of willful ignorance or even anti-Christian prejudice. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved From Publishers Weekly


Prolific literary critic, Yale professor and professional provocateur Bloom (The Book of J) here tackles the characters of the Jewish and Christian gods: what god do we meet in Hebrew Scripture? Who is the Jesus of the New Testament, and does he bear any relation to the Jesus most Americans worship? Does, for that matter, the Hebrew Yahweh resemble the first person of contemporary Christians’ Trinity? Bloom, as usual, skewers quite a few sacred cows-for example, he dismisses the quest for the historical Jesus as a waste of time, and says that Jewish-Christian dialogue is a “farce.” But in fact Bloom’s major points are somewhat commonplace, including his assertion that the Christian reading of Hebrew Scripture laid the groundwork for Christian anti-Semitism. A fair enough charge, but hardly a new one; theologians have observed, and debated, this point for centuries. Bloom’s real brilliance lies in his smaller, subtler claims, such as his nuanced discussion of the different ways Matthew, Mark and Luke present Jesus, his assertion that Bible translator William Tyndale anticipated Shakespeare, and his observation that, contra Marx, religion is not the opiate of the people but their “poetry, both bad and good.” The book is learned, even erudite, and sure to be controversial. (Oct. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

My point–Read This Book.

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Reported by STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer on Yahoo.com

The powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his militiamen on Sunday to redouble their battle to oust American forces and argued that Iraq’s army and police should join him in defeating “your archenemy.” The U.S. nilitary annoucned the weekend deaths of 10 American soldiers, including six killed on Sunday.

Security remained so tenuous in the capital on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the U.S. capture of Baghdad that Iraq’s military declared a 24-hour ban on all vehicles in the capital from 5 a.m. Monday.


There you have it, the surge must be working. The article goes on to report that at least 47 people were found dead on Sunday, 17 of whom were executed and dumped in Baghdad. What a strategy for winning George II seems to have.

While I don’t really want to go out on a limb, I think I will. I am sort of thinking out loud here. These ideas are in the process of forming in my own thinking but I thought it was time to share. It seems to me that the Iraq war is q 21st Century version of the 11th Century Crusades. Christians and the Christian God fighting Muslims and Allah for control over lands that both consider sacred but for very different reasons. In the 21st Century, the sacredness of the land from the Western point-of-view is the oil riches that lie beneath the ground. Nevertheless, the battle is one with deep religious undertones. Islam and the complete submission to Allah and the Western submission to greed and acquisition of great wealth as an outgrowth of Christian theology. Why does Muqtada al-Sadr refer to the United States as the archenemy? Why else, unless this was, at the core, a war for religion and religious supremacy–the control of the Middle East by the West–domination of Islam by Christians? To ignore this possibility is to ignore the historical record. To ignore this possibility is to live in denial.

Think about the fact that it took a fundamentalist Christian president of the United States, backed by NeoCons and evangelical church leaders to engage the United States in the renewal of this ancient battle. Even George I, (remember him–Saddam tried to kill my daddy), had the sense to accomplish military objectives but leave the dictator in power so as not to destabilize the region. Not George II. His goal, to insert a Western democracy in Iraq, code for lets Christianize the Middle East, demanded the destabilization of the country in order to accomplish his goals. What remains is the simple fact that to date over 3,000 American men and women have lost their lives, over 25,000 more are wounded in battle, scarred for life. This does not count the few British soldiers and even fewer coalition force troops that have been killed or seriously injured in this war effort.

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Seed Newsvine

Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas such as “intelligent design” to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. As this article goes to press, the Ohio Board of Education is debating whether to mandate such a change. Some antievolutionists, such as Philip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial, admit that they intend for intelligent-design theory to serve as a “wedge” for reopening science classrooms to discussions of God.

Read the whole story at Scientific American. Maybe, just maybe, the science will outweigh the mythology.

What is important to remember in this entire non-debate is that scientific investigation is something quite different that belief or faith. In fact, in St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God, Aquinas sets forth the a priori that in order to be persuaded by his arguments one must first be a believer, have faith that the word of the Bible is true. If all one intends is to persuade the already persuaded then it seems to me that the argument of intelligent design fails. It persuades only those who believe the literal truth of the Christian bible. For this group of fundamentalists perhaps there is a debate, one that, if evolution is correct, undermines their very belief structure. But for the rest of us, intelligent design is so badly flawed that it is hardly worth the time. Nowhere else but in the United States is there a debate. Nowhere else do people believe that watching The Flintstones is like watching a documentary film. So read on, look at the science; you should find that there is no debate between Darwinian evolutionary science and intelligent design–except among those already persuaded that evolution is the work of Satan himself.

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I am bothered by the construction Judeo-Christian tradition (ethic, ethic principles, morals, values) that seems to have cropped up in American English usage in the past 35 to 40 years. It seems to me that two factors are in play here. The first is associated with guilt and the second is associated with the US long-term commitment to Israel and the sustenance of democracy in the Middle East. Neither factor is particularly consequential nor accurate. The assumption of the first is that Christianity developed from and is the inheritor of (the fulfillment of, the extension of) Judaism; that the two are one in the same. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Judaism and Christianity are not born of the same tradition. In fact, the closest religion or religious tradition to Judaism is Islam in the sense that neither Judaism nor Islam compromise in the slightest regarding a strict interpretation of monotheism. Christianity, on the other hand, goes to great length to understand God as multiple entities somehow encapsulated in one; a singular trinity. While Christians draw from Jewish sacred writings, they choose to alter the order of those writings to suit an historical purpose. If Christianity did, in fact, arise from a sect of Judaism then there would be no need to recalibrate scripture. Islam’s sacred texts do not base their authenticity on the writings of another, rather, by paying attention to precursors, the Qur’an lays down its own monotheistic and ethical path that takes great pain to show appropriate respect to the “people of the book.”

As is currently the trend among both liberal and conservative Christian denominations, praising connections to their Jewish past has become something of an obsession. Jews are quite often suspicious of such “friendship.” History of relations with Christians, beginning with the words of Christian Canonical scriptural texts, are at best difficult. Christian triumphalism and reliance on the anti-Jewish rhetoric of the Christian Bible has often led to mass slaughter of Jews, wholesale persecution of Jews, expulsion of Jews from Christian nations, and other lesser but equally onerous attacks on Jews. We need only turn to the first Crusade of 1096 when Christian Knights on the way to slaughter Muslims in the Holy Land stopped along the way to kill Jews in Germany, or explore the politics of the Spanish Holy Order of the Inquisition which caused Jews to convert to Christianity or be burned at the stake. In 1492 the Spanish Monarchs expelled Jews from the Iberian peninsula followed only a few short years later by the Portuguese monarch. Need I mention the pogroms in Poland and Russia against Jews by Christian zealots. Oh, and then there are the NAZI atrocities. The new found friendship, while welcome, is suspect. I believe it derives from a modern sense of guilt and a rational sense that the acts against the Jews of the past are unsupportable and unforgivable. The easy way out is to claim an allegiance, one disrupted for 2,000 years by a sort of family dispute, but one that is born of the same traditions and beliefs. The use of the term Judeo-Christian is a guilt ridden form of saying let’s bury the hatchet. I am reminded of Rodney King’s words, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

I am all for getting along but not for the wrong reasons. I think it is important for Christians to follow their belief system but to recognize that it is not nor has it ever been rooted in a Jewish tradition. To claim such is to misread both the Jewish and Christian texts. The New Covenant is not intended to extend the old, rather it is a full and developed replacement of the old covenant so far as the Christian is concerned. For the Jew there is but a single covenant between God and man. It is and has always been and has not been replaced by anything. For the Christian the Messiah has come while the Jewish believer still awaits the coming of the Messiah. The old joke about the argument between the rabbi and the priest about whether when the Messiah comes will it be Christ returning or something altogether different ends with the rabbi suggesting that the debate is easily settled. He says, “When he arrives, why not just ask him?” These are not similar traditions. Do they derive from something similar? Jacob Neusner (1984) in a well documented work argues that the voice of Jesus and the voice of Rabbinic Judaism, Hillel, seem to have said many of the same things. But is Christianity the religion of Jesus or that of Paul, the apostle to the gentiles? Neusner asks the question is the historical Jesus and the historical Hillel perhaps one in the same person?

If the ethics of Christianity and the ethics of Judaism are similar then, it seems to me, it is enough to find ways to act responsibly toward one another and toward the other without having to compromise one’s fundamental beliefs to assuage guilt.

The second reason, the political connection of the United States and Israel, does not require a religious connection. If the relationship between the United States and Israel is one that is productive for both sides then it is one worthy of pursuit. If, on the other hand, the relationship is not good for one or the other side or both then it is not. To think of the relationship as one that is connected to a Judeo-Christian connection is to marginalize the Muslim population of the Middle East. It is, for the Christian, the Crusades by proxy. The Judeo-Christian connection, in this sense, is obscene and not worthy of rational consideration.

On all counts, as a Jewish American, a voting participant in our grand democratic experiment, I soundly reject the Judeo-Christian connection on all grounds.

References

Neusner, J. (1984). Judaism in the beginning of Christianity. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.

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Posted on Craig’s List. I think this is worth at least a quick read.

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