Friday, December 6, 2013

Celebrate the Magic 12/6/13

The big shells were so loud, they set off car alarms in the cast parking lot, and could be felt deep in your lungs.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Twenty-five Years in the Adventist Church


"Every [Christian] sect is a certificate
that God has not plainly revealed
His will to man. To each reader
the Bible conveys
a different meaning."

-Robert G. Ingersoll quoted in The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (p. 182).

There are six sections here. If you would like to skip to one, use these links:

  1. Those Jokes About it Being a Cult Aren't Funny: It Is A Cult.
  2. Adventism is a Strong, Self-Reinforcing Delusion
  3. SDA Theology is Fundamentalist and Extremely Conservative.
  4. No Private Interpretation vs Present Truth
  5. Selected Resources on Adventism
  6. HubPages Comment Collection

1. Those Jokes About it Being a Cult Aren't Funny: It Is A Cult.

I was baptized on May 17, 1986
in a little country church in southern Michigan
(the Urbandale SDA Church). As of the end of my
SDA career in June of 2011, I have moved
quickly through the "former SDA" phase to "post-Christian."
In at least three ways it fulfills standard cult definitions.

First: Despite official denials, one person dominated the founding years, in the same way Joseph Smith dominated the formation of the Mormon church. Ellen G. White's career as the SDA (Seventh-day Adventist) prophet from her teen years in the 1840s to her death in 1915 shaped a major portion of early SDA history. She and her husband (and in later years, her large entourage of secretaries and servants) crisscrossed the territory of the growing church, molding the thinking of every willing follower after her own.

Her voluminous writings heavily influence church policy and practice today. For a current example, her major work on end-time doctrine, The Great Controversy, was the church's choice as the cornerstone of the 2013 SDA evangelistic outreach to New York City. The reason her book was valued over more recently and relevantly written material is because she directed her followers to value her writings above all others, and her followers still obey her instructions. It is her writings more than other SDA authors which continue to be translated into all the languages of the world. Her books, exclusively, are condensed into versions for younger and more contemporary audiences, as with modern translations of the Bible for younger readers.

Many other examples can be found when one becomes as familiar with her writings as she (and her hoards of acolytes) prescribed. I personally took that prescription very seriously, and soon after I joined the church I became well acquainted with her writings. The observant EGW (Ellen G. White) devotee notices the indebtedness to her teachings in virtually every church publication, in the curricular decisions made throughout their K-12 and college educational systems, and all official church newspapers. Church publications constantly include excerpts of her writings, continually reinforcing her heavy influence on every church member's thinking.

There is scarcely a topic related to how the church should run its congregational life, its educational and health institutions, its church ministries, and its evangelistic efforts upon which Ellen White did not write in extreme and repetitive detail. The true acolyte does not have to wonder about how to behave. For every stage and station in life, Ellen White wrote what she claimed were inspired messages. As a child in school, as a youth in courtship, as husband or wife, as a parent or pastor or teacher or evangelist or conference officer or Sabbath School teacher-- every possible aspect of private and congregational life was described by her in terms that are very easy to summarize: you must live as she describes, or you cannot please God.

Beyond the grave, she remains the cult leader. Only the dishonest or embarrassed Adventist denies that fact. But even knowing all the facts listed above, devoted EGW followers do deny it. I was a faithful denier myself, especially in my role as a high school "Bible Teacher," passing the torch of delusion on to many generations of trusting and malleable SDA youth. I regret that part of my past.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Single Payer Healthcare Please!

UPDATE (02/02/2015): What It's Like When You're an American Using Britain's NHS 

UPDATE (11/19/2014): Canadian woman hit with $950K medical bill after unexpectedly giving birth in US hospital

UPDATE (6/21/2014): US Doctors migrating north to escape dysfunctional US health insurance system. pnhp.org/news/2014/june/us-doctors-migrating-north


UPDATE (05/16/2014): Canadians love their system, contrary to  US health insurance lobby propaganda: pnhp.org/news/2014/march/doctor-who-schooled-us-senator-thrilled-by-canadian-support


UPDATE (12/31/2013):  Outrageous costs of U.S. healthcare: viralnova.com/hospital-bill/


UPDATE (10/31/2013): LISTEN TO REASON! The following two links both let you listen in on an intelligent conversation between host David Feldman and Dr. Paul Song and Dr. Nancy Niparko from Physicians for a National Health Program. They explain why America needs a single payer healthcare system right now. The first link is the most important five (5) minutes of the show. The second is the entire show.

Link #1 (4:48 mins): youtu.be/tcmfgR25VnQ
Link #2 (90 mins): davidfeldmanshow.com/obamacare-isnt-enough/


UPDATE (10/3/2013)  Another release of damning statistics which prove the U.S. system of healthcare is extremely dysfunctional: huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/03/health-care-costs




[Note: first published at Hubpages.com on 06/21/12; the comments immediately following were copied from that location for reference. Please comment here on blogspot.com.
Updates to this post will continue to appear above this line]

Single Payer Government Run Healthcare Q&A: Some interesting questions arose when I asked my Facebook friends if they were as ready for a single payer system as I am. I decided to answer them here, on my blog, so a potentially wider readership could chime in, too...


Disease-care, or Healthcare?


Have you checked your blood pressure today? I did.
Have you checked your
blood pressure today? I did.
Source: © cienpies.net
The following statistic speaks volumes:
"52 percent of doctors would get out of medicine if they could. So many young doctors are recognizing how broken the system is..."  -from Escape Fire, a new healthcare documentary; read the interview with the maker here.

Do Canadians come here for important health care needs (in statistically meaningful numbers)?



Are Canadian doctors leaving Canada to practice in the United States (in statistically meaningful numbers)?



Review: Battlestar Galactica

Why My Opinion Might Matter To You


Glen A. Larson and Ronald D. Moore’s 2004-2009 version of Battlestar Galactica was the best science fiction I've encountered on screen so far.

If you knew how important science fiction is to me, and how much of it I've watched in search of that elusive perfect combination of “science” and “fiction”, you would be more impressed by that statement than I imagine you to be. Believability is the most important factor in my critical judgment of the quality of science fiction, especially that which is made for the screen. Whether the screen belongs to a movie theater, my television, or my gaming device, I can only grant a fully attentive glance to a story which grabs my mind and my heart from its first few frames, and leaves me wanting more when the credits roll. If at any point in the storytelling I am distracted by inferior sound, music, visuals, acting, plot, or pacing, then what began as a fully attentive glance degrades into less and less until some mental rubicon is crossed, and I leave that story behind, never to have a positive thought of it again.

Battlestar Galactica in its original form was what my pre-teen and teenage self considered really lame sci-fi. But since in the late 1970s and early ‘80s there was so much less science fiction in the screen canon available, it was a TV show that I did watch, but only very seldom. Enough to recognize the references to it appreciatively on the first Universal Studios tram tours I was fortunate to experience as a young sci-fi devotee. Enough also to recognize that Glen Larson was capitalizing on Star Wars fandom by creating Battlestar Galactica in 1978, and to appreciate his faithfulness to fans of that early version of it (bringing Richard Hatch into the new series, for example). Unfortunately, those early bad impressions of the Battlestar Galactica story kept me away from it when it reappeared in the Syfy Network’s new version. As a fan of the NBC sitcom The Office, I even let that fictional world inform my opinion of it, as the show’s characters mocked Dwight Schrute's geeky fanboy love of it. So when I finally decided to try it out when it appeared on Netflix’s instant viewing list, you can see why I approached it with very low expectations.

It turns out, Dwight was right!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Category Errors?

[This is a reconstruction of a discussion which began on the morning of October 31, 2013, on the Facebook link-sharing platform. All spelling/grammar errors are from the original; we are strictly cut-and-pasting here, with a bit of font adjusting. I reconstruct it here so that I may involve more voices in that discussion, because I'm curious where it may lead...]

Tom Doud via Word On Fire Catholic Ministries
October 31 at 10:12am [shared only with Tom's Friends--hence my efforts here]

Great line from article '
"This is why the new atheists and their army of disciples are committing a category mistake when they confidently assert that scientific advances cause religion to retreat onto ever-shrinking intellectual turf or when they stridently challenge religious people to produce "evidence" for God."
Happy Hallows Eve



  • Jim Miles The next sentence after that quoted by Tom is the one which explains the real problem in the attempt at understanding between atheists and theists: 'No amount of scientific progress can even in principle pose a threat to authentic religion, and no amount of experimental evidence can tell for or against the true God.' This seems to confirm that theists (of the Catholic persuasion, at least) have given up trying to speak to atheists' demand for evidential proof of God's existence. 

    The article assumes, of course, that the Catholic (specifically Acquinas') view of God is unarguably the only correct view, among all possible religions. It's humorous to me that one tiny slice of the pie which we could name "all possible definitions of divinity" can be so self-evidently the 'only correct' view, such that it supposedly makes atheists silly and deluded, and those holding the view from that particular slice the only ones who grasp ultimate truth. One should remember that one man (Acquinas') opinions on God, no matter how many people later agreed with him, remain just that: one man's view of God. He is not God, neither is he evidence of God.

    The author constantly asserts that behind him stands the authority of some large group of 'serious' theists from some group of 'great' religious traditions. As if that's evidence, which of course it isn't. It's only evidence that what atheists assert about agency detection and confirmation bias still operate in the species to create the phenomena of faith and religion.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Economics As Religion


Economics As Religion
Curious people who peer behind the scenes of the bureaucratic battles 
for control of the direction of our well-worn social institutions do so at the risk 
of losing their ability to easily place their trust in their economic and religious 
thought-leaders. Comfortable certainty may be replaced by the never ending 
quest to form one's own informed conclusions 
about what is best for themselves, and for their world.

Economics = Religion

If we allow the term "religion" to stand for rituals and doctrines binding faithful believers into distinct groups, we can see important similarities between economic theory and religions such as Christianity. These two ancient social organizing principles- religion and economics- are not often compared. In the United States, an intersection of the two is emerging in a third ancient institution: politics.

Before politics enters this discussion, it must be understood that there is little difference in practice between religious systems of belief and economic systems. What are sometimes labeled Schools of Economic Thought function more like religious institutions than academic ones. Economics is a religion, and that is not a terribly controversial idea, or a particularly new one. Both religion and economics train high priesthoods who master bodies of fairly obscure doctrine which go largely unquestioned by their loyal followers. These masses of trusting followers are mostly immune to the constant in-fighting between their beloved guides, settling instead for the over-simplified generic party platforms and creeds that comfort them in their quest for certainty in uncertain times.

Students who peer behind the scenes of the bureaucratic battles for control of the direction of these well-worn social institutions do so at the risk of losing their ability to easily place their trust in their economic and religious thought-leaders. Comfortable certainty may be replaced by the never ending quest to form one's own informed conclusions about what is best for themselves, and for their world.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Power Junkie Nation

Power 
is a lot like a drug. 
We all have a deep-seated need
to control our lives, to achieve goals,
to accomplish and succeed; that is a healthy
and normal human need. But needs can be corrupted
into unhealthy obsessions. When the power need corrupts
a man, it corrupts absolutely, and overrides his common sense
and morality, just like drugs and alcohol can do. It maximizes his selfishness.


It's like a drug. There’s a rush. A feeling of euphoria.

Power intoxicates. When a man cherishes the rush of adrenaline from the exercise of power, and fancies himself to be powerful, instead of distrusting his own deceptive nature, he succumbs to this ancient addiction. He is drunk with power. A power junkie is born.

And the world takes note of him, begins to size him up, judge him, evaluate his threat level.

Power is a lot like a drug. We all have a deep-seated need to control our lives, to achieve goals, to accomplish and succeed; that is a healthy and normal human need. But needs can be corrupted into unhealthy obsessions. When the power need corrupts a man, it corrupts absolutely, and overrides his common sense and morality, just like drugs and alcohol can do. It maximizes his selfishness.

And many in the world take notes from his success, applaud him, and then target him for destruction (competition, merger, acquisition). Their power addiction is threatened by his power addiction.

Once he's hooked on it (or maybe it's got him, like a fishhook in his brain), he’ll do anything to keep it and grow it, to protect his power-supply from those who would deprive him of it. Fortunately (as in good fortune, and Fortune 500) for him, wealth and power reinforce each other. Ever since bullion metal superseded all other measures of nationalistic greatness, power has attracted wealth like iron to a magnet. And conversely, power and influence are for sale to the highest bidder. So with wealth comes power. With power, comes wealth.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Logic Demands Change My Mind



Change is Hard


"What happens when one has striven long and hard to develop a working view of the world, a seemingly useful, workable map, and then is confronted with new information suggesting that that view is wrong and the map needs to be largely redrawn? The painful effort required seems frightening, almost overwhelming. What we do more often than not, and usually unconsciously, is ignore the new information.
 "Often this act of ignoring is much more than passive. We may denounce the new information as false, dangerous, heretical, the work of the devil. We may actually crusade against it, and even attempt to manipulate the world so as to make it conform to our view of reality. Rather than try to change the map, an individual may try to destroy the new reality. Sadly, such a person may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place."
-Dr. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled, p. 46
Whatever one believes about how the human mind came to be what it is today-- whether designed by a creator or evolved by selection or some other explanation-- there is a fact about how the mind works which has become very powerful to me lately: Logic is important to the human mind. Maybe that's a no-brainer (pun intended) to many readers. When I was young, I found logical thinking came naturally to me, and yet I possessed many interests in the creative arts, far outside the disciplines of logic. I think I too quickly took logic as a given, and failed to give it any further attention. Perhaps bored with the work required to become proficient in thinking logically, I found refuge in artistic endeavors like music, fiction writing, and humor, where one is allowed and even encouraged to be illogical. But now, in my late 40's, I am returning to the logic of my youth.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mr. Miles' Bible Class Lesson 4

I used to teach Bible classes to middle & high school students in the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) school system. Now, I'm a secular humanist, and an atheist. In this series, I review the major ideas I used to teach, in contrast with how I would teach them now.

Lesson Menu:
Lesson #1; Lesson #2; Lesson #3; This Lesson



Jim Miles teaching a World History class at
Armona Union Academy, Armona, California.
Aug. 29, 2007.
#4 "The Bible is Inspired History" (which brings along corollaries like "The Bible is an Inspired answer to Big Philosophical Questions" and "The Bible's Inspired Prophecies of the Future tell us Where We're Headed" and "The Bible's Inspired Gospel Story is the Only True Way to Avoid Missing Out on an Eternal Life of Bliss")

Nope. Mr. Miles, your old Bible Teacher, is here to tell you: that ancient book we tried to make seem so relevant, up-to-date, and modern is in fact just SO FULL OF OBVIOUS CLUES that it is NOT INSPIRED, well... I'm honestly ashamed to think of how many of you I convinced otherwise. I'm not going to repeat here what others have already shown about the basic reasons to know that the Bible is not inspired or worthy of your attention. (Those others to whom I would direct you include John W. Loftus and his first, second, and third books on this topic, and the website of author Steve Wells, the Skeptic's Annotated Bible).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mr. Miles' Bible Class Lesson 3

I used to teach Bible classes to middle & high school students in the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) school system. Now, I'm a secular humanist, and an atheist. In this series, I review the major ideas I used to teach, in contrast with how I would teach them now.

Lesson Menu:
Lesson #1; Lesson #2; This Lesson; Lesson #4

Jim Miles caught in the act of teaching a history
 class at Armona Union Academy, Armona,
California. "Even Einstein Asked Questions"
says the poster behind me. Yyyyep. 
#3 "Faith is a virtue."

Nope. Virus-like phenomenon corrupting the logical and critical reasoning faculties of believers, maybe. But not a virtue.

Faith is what Peter Boghossian calls it: 'belief without evidence,' and 'pretending to know things that you don't know'.

I wouldn't deny that we want to believe in something. The universality of religion demonstrates the pervasiveness of the human craving to put our trust in something. (Speaking of Professor Bohgossian, please read his book, which I would adopt as my only required textbook if I was still teaching, A Manual for Creating Atheists).

Now I would teach people to believe in themselves. It sounds trite, and I hate Pinterest-y sayings, but hear me out. When you trust God to guide your life, you might as well be trusting a jug of milk to be guiding your life. When you pray to God, expecting those silly answer-choices, "Yes, No, or Wait," you would actually get the same results if you were to pray to a milk jug. Stop wasting your mental and emotional energy on childish fantasies.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mr. Miles' Bible Class Lesson 2

I used to teach Bible classes to middle & high school students in the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) school system. Now, I'm a secular humanist, and an atheist. In this series, I review the major ideas I used to teach, in contrast with how I would teach them now.

Lesson Menu:
Lesson #1; This Lesson; Lesson #3; Lesson #4



One of those awkward yearbook photos
of the teaching staff. This was during
my many years as Bible teacher of
grades 9-12 at Armona Union
Academy, Armona, California.
#2. The next biggest idea I taught was: "Everything was created by God."

And by the way, I was a self-described hard-core 'young earth creationist' (YEC!), determined to believe that six thousand years is all there was to the history of all life on earth; that is, I took the first ten chapters of the book of Genesis as literally as any fundamentalist Christian, just like most of my academic colleagues in the SDA church, and the rank-and-file members in the pews.

The way I'd teach that now is: Bullshit. (Sorry, but no other word quite captures it). The biggest problem I have with this, besides the mountain-chains-worth of evidence backing the current scientific explanations for Big Bang cosmology, evolutionary biology, and the corresponding lack of any evidence of intelligent design or biblical inspiration (yeah, besides all that, and that pretty much sums it, doesn't it?) is that Christians insist that since something (everything, even) exists, then it must have been created by something else. That's just the illogical, fallacious delusion-warped creationism leaking into their philosophical reasoning. I can certainly conceive of two additional possibilities, neither of which keep me up at night. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mr. Miles' Bible Class Lesson 1

I used to teach Bible classes to middle & high school students in the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) school system. Now, I'm a secular humanist, and an atheist. In this series, I review the major ideas I used to teach, in contrast with how I would teach them now.

Lesson Menu:
This Lesson; Lesson #2; Lesson #3; Lesson #4

Jim Miles teaching SDA Bible class at FAA
One of the last pictures taken of me as a
Seventh-day Adventist Bible teacher.
 Here, I taught 6th-8th grades at
Fresno Adventist Academy
during the 2010-2011 school year.

#1. The biggest idea I used to teach was: "God exists."

The way I'd have to teach that now is: Bullshit. It's a popular-- strike that-- very popular delusion, but popularity doesn't make bullshit into not-bullshit.

Ironically, that is one of the main tenets of Seventh-day Adventism (without the 'bullshit' word). The whole SDA message is focused on a kind of global conspiracy theory, in which Satan has managed to delude the whole religious and non-religious world into a massive deception. The SDA "great controversy" conspiracy theory culminates in a showdown supposedly predicted in the book of Revelation (I'll get to that later).

But to swallow all the rest of the SDA delusion, one has to begin by swallowing the appetizer-- namely, the doctrine that every other religion, even all the competing forms of Christianity, are counterfeits and tools in the hands of a wiley Devil, and only exactly one group of divinely appointed people have seen through it: Seventh-day Adventists. Once you choke that hard, crusty piece of poo down, all the rest of the bullshit goes down easy. Okay, enough with the shit metaphors. And back to the point.

God does not exist. If he did exist, and was the powerful, benevolent, forward-thinking being he's made out to be as the star of the SDA story about him, he could never be dismissed for lack of evidence as easily as he has been. Why would God hide? 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Christian Atonement Claims Forgiveness Requires Punishment

Why require punishment in order to give forgiveness?

This is the question nagging me in the wake of my exit from the ranks of Christian believers. In hindsight, the doctrine seems so strange; even more so because when I was within the clutches of my Christian delusion, I never once picked up even a hint of its illogical and weird barbarity. It was the most acceptable and widely-accepted fact of the faith: Jesus died so that my sins could be forgiven.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Atheist Reasons

I recently heard a good definition of atheism:

Reason.

The person defining it this way expanded it to include another idea:

Atheists do not insist that they know God does not exist. More precisely, atheists have no reason to believe in God.

Evidence has not been presented in an amount sufficient to convince atheists of the existence of a higher power. It is not necessarily true that atheists are closed-minded to any or all offers of such evidence. After evaluating the evidence offered thus far, the atheist simply remains unconvinced. Not rebelliously unable to be convinced, and not stubbornly unwilling to be convinced. No. Rather, the atheist is sincerely choosing to remain faithful to what he or she knows to be true, often against great social pressure to give in and profess belief in a supreme being.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jesus Changes Not


"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever"

"For I am the LORD, I change not"

________


http://bit.ly/mal3-6
There is a logical contradiction in the beliefs of Christians, especially those who accept the whole Bible as their authority, not just the New Testament. But even those who lean heavily on the New Testament Jesus must cope with the connections Jesus himself made between himself and the Old Testament God.

That connection is very explicit throughout all four Gospels, but especially so in John's gospel. On multiple occasions, Jesus describes himself using the clear (to Old Testament readers) label of 'the I AM,' that distinct title God offered Moses at the burning bush when specifically asked "whom shall I say sent me?" The Old Testament God taught Moses the title "I AM" because he knew his people, Israel, would recognize him by that ancient name. The Jews in Jesus' day still knew that sacred title, because they were most offended when Jesus blasphemed God (in their evaluation) by applying it to himself. This is all to show that it is not really controversial to most Christian bible students to state that the Jesus who appears in the New Testament claimed to be the same as the God of Israel, the Creator, Moses, the whole Old Testament, really. While it may be that many careless bible readers mistake the Old Testament God for the one Jesus called 'Father God,' but it is still an error easily corrected by more carefully attending to Jesus' own words about himself. The bible God is one God in both testaments-- Jesus.

The logical contradiction is in the beliefs of those Christians who encourage the perception of Jesus to be one-sided, as in a Jesus who only really is like he was in the New Testament, shorn of all his actions in the Old.

In order to lift the Jesus of the Cross over and above Misogynist Jesus of Deuteronomy 21 (especially verses 10-13), Brutal Warlord Jesus of Phinehas (Numbers 25), and Collateral Damage Jesus presiding over the death of the firstborn sons of Egypt (Exodus 12:29), one has to explain away these statements about God's fundamental nature. Indeed, one must be willing to change, with some justification, the accepted definition of the term 'eternal' to now not include the idea 'unchanging.'

It's fine to state a preference about which actions of God upon which one chooses to dwell. But before one is asked to commit one's entire life to following a person, even if that person makes claims like 'Creator' or 'Savior', one should analyze that person's actions completely. Read the fine print, so to speak.

Jesus so identified himself with his statements and actions in the word of God that he adopted that very phrase to describe himself. Presumably, then, the person who called himself 'The Word of God,' was willing that all his prospective followers would hold him responsible for all divine activity in the only Bible available in Jesus' day, the Old Testament.

Regardless of whether or not his modern followers find the OT Jesus' behavior embarrassing, they still should be able to explain why prospective converts ought to trust in the God of the 'fine print'.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Spiritual Boundaries

  • NOTE: This was written January 11, 2013 in the style of a personal journal entry. As such, it is not a counter-apologetic statement. It is a personal statement reflecting my journey and state of mind at that time. I reserve the right to continue my journey, and change my state of mind!


I was born just 47 years ago, and have learned a little bit about myself since then.

Delusion Doesn't Mean Dummy


[The following is my answer to an accusation that I was calling Adventists "a bunch of dummies" in my essay found here http://jimmiles.hubpages.com/hub/What-Twenty-Years-in-the-Adventist-Church-Taught-Me]

"Delusion" doesn't mean "dummy."

If I believe something based on insufficient or faulty evidence, we can fairly say that I am ignorant. A new ad campaign by Amnesty International "has highlighted the unintended consequences of imposing the death penalty by focusing on a handful of prisoners who were eventually presumed innocent after death." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_Sy8jU6sS4). People within our justice system were operating under common beliefs about forensic technology as it existed up to their time. These people include forensic pathologists, attorneys, and judges-- people whose occupations require more than average intelligence and a degree of mastery of logical reasoning and the scientific method. They were no dummies.

We Must Just Trust

There's a certain frustration I have with apologists. They retreat to the following defense at times.
  • When the critic of Scripture says, "If this is accurate, such and such part of the Bible says something unacceptable;" the apologist cries, "Vague! Ancient! this all occurred so long ago, and was written so long ago, that we just can't know everything about it! We must just trust!
  • And when the critic of Scripture says, "the Bible was written so long ago, and its events so long ago, we cannot trust its claims about anything and everything, especially not for modern man," the apologist switches to the opposite side, and cries, "Inspired! Infallible! God knows all and guided his word to be the perfect view-port into God's will for man! We must just trust!"

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Great Divide?

This is the fourth of four points I made in a Facebook discussion found here: https://www.facebook.com/jim.miles/posts/10152361298826758
I feel like I missed lots of points made earlier in the discussion.
I only mention names for reference; anyone is welcome to offer comment.

POINT #4: THE GREAT DIVIDE?

In order to generically address many of both Tom and Gil's most recent comments, I would say the following.

We're talking across a great divide. On my side, I am skeptical about the Bible and its many claims. I am skeptical about the existence of God, and all things supernatural. On their side (Tom and Gil's), however different they are to each other in their doctrinal specifics (SDAs have VERY little in common with RCs on church dogma), they are both at the opposite end of what we could call a belief spectrum-- they are both convinced that God exists, and that He spoke through the Bible's writers.

All Scripture Is Inspired By God; Therefore I Reject God


This is the third of four points I made in a Facebook discussion found here: https://www.facebook.com/jim.miles/posts/10152361298826758
I feel like I missed lots of points made earlier in the discussion.
I only mention names for reference; anyone is welcome to offer comment.

POINT #3: ALL SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED BY GOD; THEREFORE I REJECT GOD
Gil said:
 "...in order to be fair with God, we need to realize that we can't explore His mind as an open book. ... I don't think it is possible to know all the issues involved... Since the Bible isn't verbally inspired...there are passages that don't set forth God's character as it really is...
"... God's plan is to save the human race... I accept this by faith realizing that I do not have all the answers but that the time will come when all will be revealed."
That extensive quote represents several paragraphs, but I think my excerpts capture the essential message of the whole. And the whole thought perfectly represents the essence of my complaint with those who put their trust in the Bible, and in the God that it reveals.

Rape Allowed By God Because Might Makes Right

This is the second of four points I made in a Facebook discussion found here: https://www.facebook.com/jim.miles/posts/10152361298826758
I feel like I missed lots of points made earlier in the discussion.
I only mention names for reference; anyone is welcome to offer comment.

POINT #2: RAPE ALLOWED BECAUSE MIGHT MAKES RIGHT

I reviewed the video, and the words spoken in it do mistakenly give the impression that God commanded rape, and not simply allowed it. Gil has asked, "As far as their accusation that God commanded the rape of virgins, where is that found? These guys are out to beat up on God and they are not intellectually honest about it." I agree with you as far as the speaker on the video being mistaken when he implies that God commanded rape. God did not command rape in Moses' era, nor do I find such a command anywhere in the Bible. As far as jumping from a mistake like that to concluding that the speaker is therefore intellectually dishonest, I cannot go that far. I don't have enough evidence to make that conclusion. Until I do, I will assume it was an honest mistake.

God Arbitrarily Exercises His Power To Protect



This is the first of four points I made in a Facebook discussion found here: https://www.facebook.com/jim.miles/posts/10152361298826758

I feel like I missed lots of points made earlier in the discussion.
I only mention names for reference; anyone is welcome to offer comment.

POINT #1: GOD ARBITRARILY EXERCISES HIS POWER TO PROTECT

Gil said: "There are situations where if you don't destroy the enemy, the enemy will destroy you." This doesn't work as a justification for the biblical cases of divine destructive power, it seems to me. Here's why.

Way back when war broke out in heaven, beings more powerful than humans fought for both sides, God's and Lucifer's, and nobody was destroyed. Exile was a better option at that time, and we are left to guess at the reasons for this--the Bible does not reveal why God did this. Instead of destroying the disobedient Lucifer-turned-Satan, God let him live to spread his disloyalty to God's recent creation, the human beings of planet Earth. God protected His first enemies, the angel Satan and all those angels who joined his rebellious cause. They were protected, not destroyed, and exiled to Earth.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Violence As Atonement

The Violence of Phinehas Called An Atonement by God

Evidence exists that Jesus praised and commended the violent act of Phinehas. That is a serious statement, one which may bring forth from Christians the familiar defense, namely that it is taken "out of context."

First, for context's sake, please note the following.

  • It is not controversial that Jesus was the God of the Old Testament, the Law-Giver of the Exodus. The gospel of John reinforces this constantly (John 1:1-14, Jesus is the Creator of Genesis), and Paul's writings confirm that the One following Israel around and tending to all their spiritual needs "was Christ" (not the Father God, as popularly misunderstood, 1 Corinthians 10:1-4). 
  • Therefore, whatever "the LORD" said to or about Phinehas which is directly quoted in the Old Testament is actually what Jesus said about him. This is the reason that the evidence is placed at Jesus' feet, not at the feet of some more vague reference to "God," who is just as likely to be interpreted as the Father or the Son, or to Trinitarians, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
  • Jesus is the main actor and agent in all 66 books of the Bible, and each book endeavors to tell something important about Jesus, even the Old Testament books, and even in those books which aren't so obviously about him. That is the context of Jesus to Phinehas.


Post-Christian

I was asked "Why do you call yourself Post-Christian?"

I'm sure that I didn't create this term, but I don't know if it has different meanings from my own. So, I'm glad you asked, so I can be clear.

What I mean by calling myself "post-Christian" includes:
  • I am not an active member of any church.
  • I am not a follower of or a believer in any non-denominational group or individual.
  • I have not become an atheist or agnostic.

Immoral God

If God has revealed himself in the entire Protestant Christian Bible (as I used to believe, and spent a teaching career convincing teens to believe), then He must answer for his horrible behavior. Otherwise, reasonable people cannot be expected to respect him as a moral leader. Regardless of whether or not he is truly a savior of sinners, the fact remains that after being saved, a person would then be expected to live in close proximity to God and be eternally known as officially endorsing everything ever done by this person who claims to be a legitimate king. We can be certain that God expects us to use our own judgment in these matters, given the pains taken to inject such reminders throughout the Bible. Such as, "Come, let us reason together," (Isaiah 1:18) and "Let each be fully convinced in his own mind," (Romans 14:5) and "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve," (Joshua 24:15) and "do you not know that we shall judge angels?" (1 Corinthians 6:3). Judgment is a theme which runs throughout the Bible, and the saved are promised a judgment role in the future, even as they are invited to judge for themselves now whether God is worthy of the reverence and obedience he expects of his people.

Apologies for Jesus

The following is a contribution I made to a discussion in the comments section of spectrummagazine.org

Apologists for Jesus abound today. It's fashionable now to re-imagine the Jesus of the Bible into a more familiar kind of progressive, humanistic, socially responsible guy. Not that he wasn't already a kinder, gentler deity than the disciplinarian OT Almighty, but now he needs to be somehow more like us. And by us, I mean us LIBERALS.

When they (the SDA progressives) want to claim biblical authority for a Christianity Lite makeover, they have to seriously twist the Scriptures. I remember doing it when I counted myself among the SDA liberal apologists. Now that I'm out from under any religious connections, I look back on the Christianity Lite I was pushing and realize how far removed I had to get from the plain reading of the Bible in order to be able to recreate Jesus in my own image.

Amok Capitalism Time

When you measure the promise of capitalism against its actual historical progress in the United States, it needs to be given the proverbial pink slip. Its resume & references were obviously inflated to the extreme. Adam Smith made us believe that an Invisible Hand would magically guide all participants in the free market to the best possible outcome for all involved. He lied! That invisible hand is more like a pickpocket's than some benign, divine mathematician's. It's not the hand of God, it's the hand of Greed.

A society duped into allowing a principle as violent and corrupting as Greed to be their basis of interacting with each other gets what they asked for: a proper fleecing by the wealthiest among them.

Apologists for the Greed system (who generously provide their free PR for those who don't need it) nowadays blame capitalism's failures on the measures adopted by previous generations to slap back that pickpocketing hand. Just get rid of those nefarious socialist measures which cripple the Invisible Hand, and the rising tide will raise all boats, they claim. (Never mind the facts about how expensive those big ol boats are, leaving so many treading water, and losing strength fast).