TF: EBOWF

Tribulation Force, pp. 401-402

One possibility is that Jerry Jenkins had in mind a rough list of developments planned to take place in the second book and a general goal for that book of about 450 pages. After typing up the first 17 chapters, then, he found himself 400 pages along with most of those developments still unmentioned. So Jenkins thus skips ahead 18 months and spits out the final 50 pages in a hasty, jumbled rush, skipping from topic to topic without any attempt to tie it all together.

That’s one theory, and it may almost explain why the final chapters of Tribulation Force are such an incoherent mess.

Almost. The problem, though, is that theory can’t quite account for how thoroughly disjointed and scatterbrained these finally chapters actually are. They read as though they were dictated while Jenkins was distracted with some other task. Like maybe they were dictated while he was driving in heavy traffic. Or while he was driving in heavy traffic and simultaneously carrying on a conversation with his passenger about some completely unrelated subject. Or maybe all of that, with the passenger being an IRS special agent conducting a 20-year audit of Jenkins’ finances while holding a crying baby.

My alternate theory isn’t entirely satisfying either. That one holds that Jenkins, realizing the plot of this novel is far too implausible and contradictory to be believed, deliberately crammed all the action in the book into the last 50 pages in the hopes that by slamming readers with a barrage of rapid-fire plot developments they will be unable to focus enough on any given thread of the story to realize how ridiculous it all is or to protest that any supposed prophecy requiring such events all to occur just can’t be taken seriously.

This part of Tribulation Force is a weird, stream-of-subconsciousness summary of what has transpired in the past 18 months. Bruce Barnes, we learn:

… had instituted a program of house churches, small groups that met all over the suburbs and throughout the state in anticipation of the day when the assembling of the saints would be outlawed. It wouldn’t be long.

And while he’s been busy creating this network of secretive underground cells, we’re told in the same paragraph, he’s also watched “the ministry of the two witnesses and Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah swell to fill the largest stadiums on the globe.”

So in a single paragraph we’re told that the persecuted believers are gradually losing their freedom to assemble while at the same time new believers are joining the church in mass-gatherings at giant stadiums all over the world.

And while your brain is trying to figure out how both of those things could be true at the same time, or how the new believers from these high-profile stadium revival meetings could be secretly channeled into the underground house churches, your eye is already moving on to the next paragraph:

The 144,000 Jewish evangelists were represented in every country, often infiltrating colleges and universities.

I’m still disappointed that the authors did not maintain their purported “literal interpretation of Revelation” standard and portray these 144,000 evangelists as singing virgins. I’m also not sure why they’re bothering to “infiltrate” colleges and universities. Trying to influence academia is generally a smart approach if you’re looking to influence future generations, but here in the world of Tribulation Force we know that there won’t be any future generations. I’d like to think that this would be part of the message those evangelists are bringing to college students. If you’re talking to some pre-med undergraduate who’s preparing to spend the next eight years in school and you know for a fact that the universe is going to be destroyed in five and a half years, then I think you’re obliged to mention that.

But what really strikes me there is that word “infiltrating.” That implies an entire missiology and ecclesiology — one that views institutions of learning as enemy territory and views scholars, scientists and students as enemy agents. The apostle Paul did not “infiltrate” the Areopagus or the city of Ephesus. Even Jonah did not think of himself as “infiltrating” Ninevah.

Yet before you have time to think this through any further, you encounter the next sentence and yet another jarring non sequitur:

Millions and millions had become believers, but as faith had grown, crime and mayhem had increased as well.

So the growth of faith brings crime and mayhem? I think what the authors mean there is that even as “faith had grown,” crime and mayhem were keeping pace by growing among a distinct and separate group of non-believers. It’s hard to be sure, though, because once again they assert the existence of this rampant crime and mayhem, but we still never see it anywhere in the world they describe.

This phantom post-Rapture crime wave, as we’ve discussed before, reflects the authors’ misunderstanding of the doctrine of “total depravity,” which they seem to believe means instead that human nature is utterly depraved. The Calvinist/Augustinian idea of “total depravity” holds that humanity’s sinful nature is pervasive — infusing every aspect of our being, but it does not hold that this pervasive fallenness is absolute. The idea, in other words, is that we humans are rotten to the core, but not that our core consists entirely and exclusively of rot.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins believe in utter depravity, meaning that without the presence of real, true Christians as salt and light to preserve this world, the rest of humanity will revert to our unrestrained nature, becoming barbarians or Reavers or the Sawyer family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

At some level I suppose it’s necessary for them to suspect that this is what Everyone Else is really like, because otherwise the wrath and cruelty they believe will be poured out on Everyone Else would seem like overkill and an injustice. Their eschatology works like any other revenge fantasy, so just like the villains in Lethal Weapon 2 or Death Wish 3, we non-RTCs have to be portrayed as utterly, irredeemably wicked so as to allow the audience to cheer our violent death without any qualms or qualifications.

It’s understandable if you find this characterization a bit offensive. “Hey, wait a minute,” you may protest, “I’m not a drug-dealing racist Afrikaaner and I never killed Riggs’ wife or girlfriend or kidnapped Murtaugh’s daughter.” But try to keep in mind that LaHaye and Jenkins aren’t just accusing you of being such a villain — they’re also saying the same would be true of them if they had not accepted Jesus as their personallordandsavior. Their confused doctrine of utter depravity holds that absent the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit, every human would constantly be engaged in every form of monstrous, lurid, predatory behavior they could get away with. Even a moment of self-reflection should cause them to question that belief, to realize it’s incompatible with what they know to be true of themselves and of others. So it becomes yet another one of those beliefs that requires them to guard against even a moment of self-reflection.

All of which is to say that, yes, this notion of widespread crime and mayhem suggests that the authors believe some rather nasty and untrue things about you, but that’s partly due to their attempt to believe some rather nasty and untrue things about themselves. So any offense you might take at the crime-and-mayhem accusation should be tempered with a heavy dose of pity.

The chapter continues like a museum tour conducted at a brisk jog, Jenkins leading us past one display after another too quickly to take much of it in or to try to associate what he’s saying with what we’re seeing. And next up here on your left is the new One World Religion, led by the new pope:

Already there was pressure from the Global Community North American government outpost in Washington, D.C., to convert all churches into official branches of what was now called Enigma Babylon One World Faith.

Or EBOWF, for short. I can’t imagine anyone I’ve ever known or met or heard of actually wanting to join anything like the EBOWF. It’s organizing principle is that everything that everyone everywhere has ever previously believed must be rejected and replaced with substanceless pablum. That’s not a compelling sales pitch, and unlike the authors I can’t in any way imagine hundreds of millions of Muslims, Hindus, Pagans, Mormons, Animists and atheists stampeding to sign up.

Just trying to imagine such a thing brings to mind the myriad insurmountable objections that all these many different kinds of believers and nonbelievers would have to the entire project of this one world religion. And considering the gravity and seriousness of all those weighty objections, it seems a bit trifling to complain about the name of this new global church. That name, I think, would be pretty far down the long list of reasons that no one would willingly join. But that name would still have to be included somewhere on that list, because such an awful, hideous, clumsy name would still be a deal-breaker for most people.

“Enigma Babylon One World Faith.” That’s just horrible.

It’s taken from LaHaye’s weird, selectively literal reading of Revelation 17. One part of that chapter reads, in the New King James Version the authors prefer:

I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

The seven-headed beast, the angel tells John of Patmos, represents “seven mountains on which the woman is seated.” And just in case that hint isn’t sufficient, the angel drops a bunch more that this mother of all whores is a symbol of Rome. John, writing about Roman oppression while still under Roman oppression, couldn’t just come right out and say “Rome,” but when a first-century writer sitting in the middle of the Roman Empire writes, “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth,” there isn’t more than one way to understand what he’s saying.

During the sectarian violence that characterized the West in the centuries following the Protestant Reformation, it became popular among some anti-Catholic Protestants to suppose that the mother of all whores in Revelation 17 was not the imperial city of Rome, but rather the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church — as though the passage concluded with the angel saying, “The woman you saw is the church based in the city that used to rule over the kings of the earth.”

I believe that the proper reading of John’s Apocalypse is as a condemnation of all oppression, all oppressors and all oppressive systems. For some 16th- or 17th-century Protestants, the Vatican actually was an oppressor, and their application of this text for their context would have been an appropriate appropriation. The same thing would have been true for a Catholic experiencing religious oppression under one of the Protestant regimes of the time.

Revelation 17 is about Imperial Rome, and probably specifically about Imperial Rome under the tyrant Nero or the tyrant Domitian. But what it says about those particular tyrants applies equally to all tyrants and to all tyranny and it is never inaccurate for those living under tyranny to apply the meaning of this chapter to their context. To do so is to follow the example of John himself who, like the author of Daniel, was able to write openly of his oppressor by giving it the name of that earlier, archetypal oppressor, Babylon.

That’s my take on Revelation 17, but it is not at all what Tim LaHaye would call a “literal reading.” Such a “literal” approach, however, could never possibly lead one to the conclusion LaHaye has arrived at here — that “Mystery, Babylon” is a church or a religion. That’s folklore derived from centuries-old Protestant propaganda and it’s wholly unsupported by the text. I do not see how LaHaye can take the text, “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth,” and claim that this ought to be “literally interpreted” as a reference to something like EBOWF.

The one-world religion was headed by the new Pope Peter, formerly Peter Mathews of the United States. He had ushered in what he called “a new era of tolerance and unity” among the major religions.

Neither “tolerance” nor “unity” ought to be such a difficult word to understand. Yet here again, as they do throughout this series of books, the authors seem not to have the slightest grasp of what those words mean, misusing and abusing them beyond all recognition.

This Babylonian pope becomes the straw-man embodying the authors’ deformed, warped misunderstanding of the word “tolerance,” allowing them yet again to repeat one of their favorite bits of imbecile sophistry: If you’re so tolerant, then why won’t you tolerate my intolerance? Hah! Gotcha! (See earlier: The Stupid Brigade.)

The biggest enemy of Enigma Babylon, which had taken over the Vatican as its headquarters, were the millions of people who believed that Jesus was the only way to God.

“To say arbitrarily,” Pontifex Maximus Peter wrote in an official Enigma Babylon declaration, “that the Jewish and Protestant Bible, containing only the Old and New Testaments, is the final authority for faith and practice, represents the height of intolerance and disunity. … Adherents to that false doctrine are hereby considered heretics.”

The authors despise their cartoonish villain Pope Peter because in their view he gets everything precisely backwards. It’s not those who embrace the “Protestant Bible” as “the final authority for faith and practice” who ought to be branded as heretics — it’s Everyone Else. The authors are all for branding heretics and they don’t really mind any of the coercive tactics the EBOWF pope uses to enforce religious hegemony, they just think he’s enforcing the wrong religion.

One could read these pages in Tribulation Force and conclude that LaHaye & Jenkins genuinely just don’t comprehend what tolerance means, but I don’t think that’s true. I do not think anyone repeating the “If you’re so tolerant, why don’t you tolerate my intolerance” idiocy is ever being genuine.

It is simply not possible for anyone to argue something that astonishingly stupid in good faith. To be capable of speech is to be too smart to imagine this is anything more than semantic nonsense. I called it “sophistry” above, but that’s over-generous — anyone mistaking such foolishness for cleverness would have flunked out freshman year.

And yet this sort of thought-strangling semantic looping remains popular, not just among say-anything-for-attention Internet trolls, but even among some who seem otherwise smart enough to know better. John C. Calhoun, for example, often employed a parallel pseudo-argument. Abolitionists say they’re for freedom, Calhoun said, but they’re trying to take away our freedom to own slaves!

Calhoun was not a complete moron, yet he employed the same completely moronic, sub-sophistry trick — the same tail-swallowing semantic folderol, the same disingenuous accusation of hypocrisy based on the pretense of misunderstanding the concept (in his case, pretending to misunderstand “freedom” rather than pretending to misunderstand “tolerance”). So why would a smart person ever think that something so astonishingly stupid was a clever argument?

I think it gets back to what I’ve argued before — that moral choices can produce a kind of willful, self-inflicted, chosen stupidity. Moral choices can place other concerns ahead of the truth, causing us to become out of step with reality, i.e., to think and to act stupidly.

I’ve discussed this before mainly with regard to bigotry and to self-righteous indignation. Both of those elevate a pretense of superiority above reason and reality and thus lead those who make that choice to become more stupid than they would otherwise be. The defense of privilege is often another such intelligence-stifling moral choice — whether it be Calhoun’s choice to defend the privilege of the slaveowner or LaHaye & Jenkins’ choice to defend the privilege of hegemonic religion.

That willful, chosen stupidity is on display throughout the rest of this series of books as EBOWF is repeatedly and unironically described by the authors as “tolerant.”

I don’t believe that the authors are really so dumb as to think that “tolerant” means “suppressing all dissent.” But I do believe they have chosen to be that dumb.

  • WingedBeast

    Then, all we’re really talking about is how blindingly obvious is it that the portray of God’s actions makes God look like a psychopath.

    That said, without arguing, I simply point out that the level of psychopathy required by or created by following the L&J’s god naturally results in the kind of mind that sees the begging of the suffering as a plus (“Look how more powerful God looks this way.”) rather than a minus (“Look what a jerk God looks like this way.”).

    No debate here, just a note that this does put the whole “If you’re an atheist, how can you have any morals?” question into context. 

  • Matri

    No debate here, just a note that this does put the whole “If you’re an
    atheist, how can you have any morals?” question into context.

    My reply would be “If that’s your definition of morals, then I am compelled by all that is good, just & right in this universe to be an atheist.”

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    I’m probably not the first to make this observation…but I’m guessing they never deal with the logistics of how the prophets manage to travel around the world without passports.  Surely even to ride transport within Israel they would have to have some kind of ID. Even if it was a OWG, you’d need some kind of ID.  

  • Lori

     Given that the death penalty is reserved only for homicide cases, I assume you’ve pointed out that even if they had committed another crime, then unless the crime he thinks they’ve committed is murdering someone else, they still should not receive the death penalty.  

    Don’t even get me started on the crimes he thinks should be punishable by the death penalty. When it comes to this one topic he is just ridiculously, frighteningly blood thirsty. I don’t understand it and I really can’t talk to him about it.

  • Lori

     Given that the death penalty is reserved only for homicide cases, I assume you’ve pointed out that even if they had committed another crime, then unless the crime he thinks they’ve committed is murdering someone else, they still should not receive the death penalty.  

    Don’t even get me started on the crimes he thinks should be punishable by the death penalty. When it comes to this one topic he is just ridiculously, frighteningly blood thirsty. I don’t understand it and I really can’t talk to him about it.

  • Lori

     I’m probably not the first to make this observation…but I’m guessing they never deal with the logistics of how the prophets manage to travel around the world without passports.  Surely even to ride transport within Israel they would have to have some kind of ID. Even if it was a OWG, you’d need some kind of ID.  

    These are long-dead prophets who have reappeared on earth with the ability to fry their enemies. Are you volunteering to tell them that they can’t go where they want to go because they don’t have ID? 

  • Anonymous

    IIRC they simply appear and vanish at will … presumably via a divinely-powered version of the Star Trek transporter.  With the exception of the phone call to Buck, I don’t recall their using any modern technology.

  • Rob Brown

    The whole “God Hardened Hearts purposeley” thing is standard biblical
    practice, right down to stopping the Pharoe from freeing the Isrealites
    for the express purpose that Egypt suffer more plagues.

    Have you ever read the dissections of Chick Tracts on enterthejabberwock.com?  I read the dissection of “Poor Little Lamb” just yesterday, which is one about Exodus, and it includes this:

    ~~Ranting time!~~
    Ok, ok, ok, here’s the reason Exodus is my favorite book — it’s because Jealous is the one making Pharaoh so stubborn!* I thought the Christian god was a dick-monkey before reading the Old Testament, but then I get to Exodus, one of their proudest moments, and… watch their god play puppet-master?!

    So this whole time, Yahweh/Jealous/Asshole Almighty is literally
    smiting the Egyptians while giving them no chance to repent or recover,
    and Moses, being in on the joke, must find it hilarious! And it all
    escalates to this point, where Moses says his god is going to kill their
    children, and Moses couldn’t care less!

    Yahweh: “Yes, dance! Dance for me, dance my pretties!”
    Pharaoh: “Moses, please, stop this! We’re dying, we can’t take another hit!”
    Moses: “Heehee, only if you let my people go.”
    Pharaoh: “I’m… trying… I… can’t… say it! Oh gods, my heart hurts…!”
    Moses: “So, is that a ‘no’?”
    Pharaoh: “But… No, I… I… That’s not fair…!”
    Moses: “Too bad, more plagues for you then. Hope you weren’t too attached to your son, bitch.”
    Pharaoh: “NOOOOOOO!!!”
    Yahweh: “…Me DAMN it, I’m a genius! We have to write this part down,
    it’s pure gold! But be sure to give me credit, ok? I’M the one making
    all this suffering happen. Yeah. Write that down. WORSHIP ME!”

    This is all cute in mythology, but IRL, if some dude with weird hair
    and a staff made frogs fall from the sky, you’d at least be thinking
    about what he has to say before he needs to whip out the big guns,
    right? What gets me the most is that Moses supposedly grew up with these
    people! Didn’t his foster mother cry to him? Wouldn’t his childhood
    friends beg for their lives? He believed he was Egyptian for
    yeeeaaars, and out of nowhere a talking plant tells him to torture and
    slaughter his too-recent kinsmen because The Omnipotent Dick wants to —
    get this — “gain glory from this,” and Moses is FINE WITH IT?!

    No. Just… no. No. Only if Moses had less emotional capacity than the fucking Terminator.

    Except, oh,** wait,*** he didn’t.****

    J: (Further supporting evidence for my assertion that if the
    Bible is actually real, then the God depicted therein is actually Satan,
    Lucifer/The Tree of Knowledge is the protagonist, some philosopher
    named Jesus was co-opted as the “Son of God” in order to keep his
    message of “just be fucking nice to each other” from spreading around
    and undermining God’s dictatorship, and that the Bible itself is just a
    trick to get gullible people to buy into worshiping Satan. Sorry to
    interrupt…)

    It isn’t enough that the Bible has been debunked time and time again
    by DNA, fossil evidence, the earth rotating the sun, and other such
    Satan-inspired fallacies, but even in its own context it’s untrue to life, contradictory, and… frankly, horrific beyond… beyond………… (dies).

    (Resurrects.) Ok. There comes a point where a struggle isn’t about
    the victory, but the principles involved. I don’t belive in the
    Christian god because the idea of him is terrifying and–and, this is an athiest speaking–wrong.
    The people who would say that manipulating humans like this is not only
    fair but righteous, for any reason, would be few and far between (and
    have no friends), but because it’s GOD doing this, and HE says it’s FINE, then it is and we can’t question it because he’s the LOOOOOORD and has the biggest guns.

    In conclusion, he’s right because he says so. Now bend over.

    ~~End of rant. Discuss.~~

    *Exodus 4:21.

    **Exodus 32:11.

    ***Exodus 32:32.

    ****Exodus 33:13.

    Which, I’m sorry to all of the religious people here, but I’ve gotta agree with this.  Ellenjay likely wouldn’t have written the God in their books as such a sadistic tyrant if he hadn’t been portrayed that way in the Bible, and it’s always rubbed me the wrong way that anybody could be happy about those plagues visited upon Egypt.  It was overkill, and if somebody has a problem with the way God’s written in LB then logically that same person should have a problem with the God in “Exodus” as well, because in both cases you have innocents suffering horribly because God is torturing them.  What’s the difference between that woman on that tarmac and John Q. Egyptian, if there is one?

  • Matri

    I am in agreement with the overkill part. God deliberately hardened the Pharaoh’s heart so he would be incapable of feeling compassion, which is required to make the decision to free the slaves.

    As I see it, there are two possible scenarios:
    1) He wanted to soften the Pharaoh’s heart, but his fingers slipped on the dial and turned it the other way, and decides to cover up the mess by obliterating the whole place; or
    2) He deliberately did it just so he’ll have an excuse to try out the new Plague set of powers.

    The first suggests incompetence, the second maliciousness.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    As I see it, there are two possible scenarios:1) He wanted to soften the Pharaoh’s heart, but his fingers slipped on the dial and turned it the other way, and decides to cover up the mess by obliterating the whole place; or2) He deliberately did it just so he’ll have an excuse to try out the new Plague set of powers.

    3) God did no such thing, and the person(s) who wrote the story down centuries later came up with that interpretation all by themselves.

  • Tonio

    How much of a patchwork is the Old Testament? Some of the older stories in Greek myth show the gods acting more cruelly. There’s a theory that the flower myths such as Narcissus originated as stories about child sacrifices, and were retconned by later Greeks who found the premise repugnant. Perhaps Exodus began that way and never underwent serious revision while Genesis did.

  • Tonio

    How much of a patchwork is the Old Testament? Some of the older stories in Greek myth show the gods acting more cruelly. There’s a theory that the flower myths such as Narcissus originated as stories about child sacrifices, and were retconned by later Greeks who found the premise repugnant. Perhaps Exodus began that way and never underwent serious revision while Genesis did.

  • Diona the Lurker

    But they breathe fire! That’s all the ID they need, isn’t it?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    A truly malicious being would just use its plague powers without need for an excuse. To stage a set piece in which you’re given the appearance of an opportunity to repent, but no actual opportunity to repent, suggests that I’m concerned with appearances.

    So why would I be concerned with appearances?

    Well, one possibility is that, having decided that Pharaoh’s actions merit plagues regardless of his later repentance (the fate of thousands of people and also many animals notwithstanding), I choose not to allow that repentance to avoid teaching the slaves (by example) that
    repentance is useless. That is, I can leave them with the false but useful impression that, had Pharaoh repented, the punishment would have been averted.

  • Rory R.

     once you have been charged by the police/authorities you should lose all your civil rights

    Which is, of course, indistinguishable in practice from not having any in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    For what it’s worth, Christian apologist Glenn Miller attempts to answer these and other conundrums about the character of God…

    The Hardening of Pharoah’s Heart
    Didn’t God harden Pharoah’s heart first?
    Was God being cruel in the killing of the Firstborn at the Exodus?

  • P_dragon500

    There’s a tablteop RPG named C.J. Cardella’s Armageddon (it’s the sequel to C.J. Cardella’s Witchcraft, chronologically) – don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it because it was fairly obscure.

    And it did the “war against the evil armies of the anti-Christ figure” concept far better than these books – despite being pretty generic in places (a big inspiration was Star War, even though it’s setting is urban fantasy).

    It’s first step towards making the concept done well was presenting an enemy that was both well-grounded in real world evils but still injected with an appropriately unnatural and otherworldly cruelty.

    L&J haven’t done that with these books – we’ve covered why that is in detail.

  • WingedBeast

    At which point, God’s still engaging in psychological torture for no purpose.  If you just want to punish the Pharoah, just punish the Pharoah.  Leave the other Egyptians (that, by God’s word faith have no right to question Pharoah, but only to treat him as the power placed by God) out of it.

    Then, include them.  “Okay, you you you, you guys were malicious.  So, you’ve got a punishment coming to you.  But, you guys, you guys get to sit here and work with the Isrealites (because there’s no good reason to restrict by race here) to make Egypt into a righteous kingdom.”

    Any excuse you can come up with for God requires you to assume that the omnipotent/omniscient doesn’t know enough to come up with an alternate goal and/or doesn’t have the power to accomplish it another way.

    Omnipotence means never getting to make excuses.

    Then again, I have a great excuse for God, non-existance.  Unfortunately, that’s the only one that works.

  • http://www.nightphoenix.com Amaranth

    “I mentally hear that word as “discus” like an Olympic event instead of “discuss.”

    I…wait, it’s *not* ‘discus’ that sounds like “disc-us”??

    *looks carefully at the word* Oh. Disqus. Discuss. Duh.

    I would have never even contemplated putting the emphasis on the second syllable. *feels sort of dense*

  • Rob Brown

    I looked at the third one, about whether God was being cruel in killing all the firstborn.  Which includes this:

    Okay, we’ve done the sizing. Just to
    review:

    1. Innocent Egyptian Infants
    killed in the Tenth Plague: 69,000

    2. Innocent Hebrew Infants
    killed in the infanticide program of the Pharaoh (and successors) :
    2,750,000.

    Pharaoh/Egypt gets off
    incredibly easy—God could have ‘fairly’ killed every
    person living in Egypt at the time (2.4M) and STILL not have
    reached the 2.75M infanticide number…

    I find it pretty appalling that there are people in this world who think like that.  That they can justify the killing of 69k innocents and say it’s all right because it’s less than the 2750k other innocents who were killed before that.  What about not killing innocents at all?

    Anyway, the only way I believe I could ever have a positive opinion of God, if he exists would be if:

    -None of this (and other stories in the Bible) actually happened the way it says, or perhaps at all;
    -”Omnipotent” and/or “omniscient” is a gross exaggeration, and God isn’t actually capable of saving people or improving the world the way a truly omnipotent being would be.  He does his best, but he doesn’t always succeed;
    -God used to be an incredibly wrathful, vengeful jerkass who committed terrible atrocities, but eventually “grew up” and became a loving and forgiving being instead.

    Fred said in last week’s post that he couldn’t answer the question of how a loving and omnipotent God could allow the world to be such a horrible place, but that it probably had something to do with ostriches.  The link, which interesting and entertaining, didn’t actually say what he was referring to, so I asked a Christian I know, who told me that when Job called God on how wrong it had been to torment him, God said something like “Did you create the ostrich?  Did you create this?  Did you create that?  No.  I did.  I know that it’s all for the best, whereas you know jack shit.”  I don’t find that an acceptable answer.

  • Tonio

    That brings up the question of whether the Israelites even believed their god to be infinitely powerful and infinitely good, or infinitely just, or whether those were interpretations overlaid onto the text by later theologians. I’ve noted before that the problem of theodicy presumes that a god would be loving and omnipotent, as if it were obvious that a god would have those qualities. Theodicy seems to start out with a certain concept of godhood and then postulates a being that would hypothetically meet those qualifications, almost like filling a job vacancy. Or would it be like trying to fill gaps in the evolutionary chain? When Epicurus wrote, “Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” it’s not clear to me whether he subscribed to that concept or was questioning it. I would suppose that determining the qualities of a god would be part of the discovery process in determining whether the god exists. 

  • chris the cynic

    Ok, so I typed up my heresy on the official boards, it’s as long winded as anything I do.

    No idea if it will make sense to anyone outside of my head.  You can find it here:
    http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?t=81827

    Possibly noteworthy thing about it: there are almost no ethereals in the ethereal heresy.

  • JenL

    3) God did no such thing, and the person(s) who wrote the story down centuries later came up with that interpretation all by themselves.

    Honest question here – which side of the discussion are you trying to advance with this answer?  
    Are you suggesting that God is real, and presumably that the Bible is really His Word, but that some parts of this Word are … let’s be kind and say “misunderstandings”?  Inaccuracies?
    Or are you suggesting that the Bible is not in fact the divine Word of a deity?

    Because “they messed that part up when they wrote it” doesn’t give me any particular reason to believe any other specific passage is any more accurate.

    And on the “it’s a book written by people, no more accurate or divine than the [insert name of other claimed-to-be-Holy book of your choice here]” side of the column – if this section isn’t divinely inspired, is there any reason to believe it’s even based on anything remotely historically accurate?  The Egyptians were record-keepers.  Are there any records of these 10 plagues hitting them?

  • Journ O LST.3

     Enigma Babylon sounds like a super villain from the 60s.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Honest question here – which side of the discussion are you trying to advance with this answer?

    I haven’t followed this discussion closely enough to be sure of the lines drawn around either side, but I was trying to suggest that the argument “if the God of the Bibel exists then he’s an evil bastard” leaves something out.

    Are you suggesting that God is real, and presumably that the Bible is really His Word, but that some parts of this Word are … let’s be kind and say “misunderstandings”?  Inaccuracies?Or are you suggesting that the Bible is not in fact the divine Word of a deity

    Well, personally I believe that God is real, but the Bible doesn’t provide proof of it. As for the ‘accuracy’ of the Bible, my general belief is that we’ve kept some of the writings of men trying to understand their god and its relationship to its people. I believe it’s divinely inspired to the extent that prayerful people genuinely searching for God receive glimpses/understandings/revelations of God’s nature but, for one thing, God is a mystery so the closest anyone will get is an incomplete idea that points in the right direction, and for another thing they filter any revelations through their own worldview and experience–including their culture and individual personality. Of course they do. We all do. And in reading the different books of the Bible the different personalities of the authors is apparent. As is the evolution of the society’s understanding of God as their history moves on. You see the shift from monolatry to monotheism, for example.

    You read in the prophets stories of various empires rampaging through the place and the prophet trying to understand what this means. In a worldview that says God sets in motion all events, Assyrian armies invading is automatically interpretted as God’s punishment. (The same reasoning goes on today, as we all see and exclaim over.) I think Assyrian armies invaded because it was a powerful empire set on expansion. Where the Bible is instructive to me is not as an account of historical events and their causes, but a reflection on what it reveals about the nature of God. A prophet says that this or that foreign power has taken us over; it must be because we sinned–what was our sin? Why did we displease God so? Ah, this is where God speaks. Time after time the reflection points to a God who is faithful and desires faithfulness, who is concerned for the poor and oppressed, who desires relationship with his people, and who is merciful and loving.

    So, do I think the Bible is the word of God as in something dictated letter by letter from on high? No. But is it divinely inspired, and does it point to God, however imperfectly? Yes.

    And on the “it’s a book written by people, no more accurate or divine than the [insert name of other claimed-to-be-Holy book of your choice here]” side of the column – if this section isn’t divinely inspired, is there any reason to believe it’s even based on anything remotely historically accurate?

    I’d advise looking to the study of history for an assessment of what may or may not be historically accurate.

    There are various events relayed in the Bible that are verified by other sources by historians. Such as, in the year x of the reign of Darius this event took place. We can look at unrelated sources and say, yeah, it looks like that did happen. As for the whole Exodus thing–it’s not my area at all, so I don’t know. I do know, for example, there’s a debate about whether the Red Sea crossing originally referred to the see of reeds (less impressive). Personally I think it was probably the latter, but when the point of a story passed down over generations is about how you were slaves and your God set you free, historical accuracy is a secondary concern.

  • Anonymous

    Moreover, it seems that Glenn Miller got those figures from the National Bureau of Pulling Statistics out of Your Ass.

  • Tonio

    I was trying to suggest that the argument “if the God of the Bible exists then he’s an evil bastard” leaves something out.

    It’s valid to look at the incidents in Egypt and Jericho and ask how that squares with the claim that the god of the Bible is good. Of course, that question assumes that the book claims to be historically accurate, and that contradicts my admittedly limited reading here and elsewhere about theology. I’ve said before that if one knows little about a given religion, it’s not obvious that its scripture’s accounts aren’t intended to be read literally as history as well as metaphorically as parable. (A story can have a point and still be factual.)

    Having said that, I see the real problem is when specific believers in the god of the bible defend or rationalize Egypt and Jericho. (One of the Veggie Tales coloring books attempts to whitewash the latter. Dawkins and other atheists claim that George Tamarin’s famous experiment in Israel proves that religion is inherently bad. A more balanced conclusion would be that the experiment shows the toxic effects of tribalism and authoritarianism, which is found in some religions but far from unique to religion.

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I guess I’m a little late to this discussion, but I stumbled across this blog a few weeks ago and have been taking some time to catch up to the last seven years of posts.  I read Left Behind when I was 16 and loved the series (I was a very religious Catholic back then), and when I reread it this past spring, after spending my four years of college studying English Literature, I was surprised at how BAD it was. I couldn’t even get through the prequels.  I was sort of at a loss as to why I had ever liked these books to begin with, but reading Fred’s analysis explained it.  I was very much the sort of kid who bought into the whole “The world is ALWAYS persecuting Christians, but we’ll win because God is on OUR side” mentality.  I like to think I’ve grown up a lot since then though.

    Lengthy explanation aside, I wanted to add my two cents to the whole EBOWF thing.  I liked Journ O LST.3′s idea that Enigma Babylon would be a good name for a supervillain.  I think it would also make a good name for a band.  Peter Matthews and the Enigma Babylons? It has a ring to it…

  • Anonymous

    You believe what you believe, and you can’t just… not.  It doesn’t work like that.

    I’m a UU (though I haven’t been to church in ages) and my previous minister said once in a sermon that people are always accusing the UUs of “just believing whatever they want,” and he said that that was the problem — UUs can’t “just believe whatever they want.”  Life would be much easier if we could.  We believe whatever we do because we have to.

  • Anonymous

    You believe what you believe, and you can’t just… not.  It doesn’t work like that.

    I’m a UU (though I haven’t been to church in ages) and my previous minister said once in a sermon that people are always accusing the UUs of “just believing whatever they want,” and he said that that was the problem — UUs can’t “just believe whatever they want.”  Life would be much easier if we could.  We believe whatever we do because we have to.

  • Benjamin Lee

    One interesting thing about the whole “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” that I didn’t see mentioned.  For the first 5 plagues, it says “Pharaoh hardened his heart.”  Only after the first five attempts did God stop giving him a second chance.  More homiletically, after five refusals, he became so set in his ways that he couldn’t change.

    Or perhaps the authors just couldn’t believe that someone *woudn’t* give in after seeing hailstones full of fire raining down.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    This is 400+ pages.  Writer/Publisher’s rule-of-thumb is 250 words/page.

    YOU MEAN BUCK JENKINS, GCAAT, IS JUST NOW GETTING INTO PLOT DEVELOPMENT?  100,000 WORDS IN?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again:

    IF I STARTED A NEW RELIGION (H/T ELRON HUBBARD), THE LAST THING I’D CALL IT WAS “ENIGMA BABYLON ONE WORLD FAITH.”  ONLY HAL LINDSAY OR A SIMILAR END TIME PROPHECY FANBOY WOULD COIN A NAME LIKE THAT.  *COULD* COIN A NAME LIKE THAT. 

    AFTER THE AUTHOR SELF-INSERT(S) WITNESSED THIS EVENT, DID THEY TURN TO THE READER AND IDIOT-CONVERSE ABOUT HOW THIS FULFILLS SUCH-AND-SUCH CHAPTER-AND-VERSE IN REVELATION?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “Enigma Babylon One World Faith.” That’s just horrible.

    Not just “horrible”, Slack.  It’s a name only an End Times Prophecy fanboy could have coined.

    “The biggest enemy of Enigma Babylon, which had taken over the Vatican
    as its headquarters, were the millions of people who believed that
    Jesus was the only way to God.” — LH&J

    As the Cackling Conspiracy said in another one of Jenkins’ Epic Novels, “Our Greatest Enemy — Born-Again Bible-Believing Evangelical Christians!”

    IN THE PAST TWO WEEKS, I HAVE BEEN READING MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC FANFICS THAT REFLECT AND ECHO THE GOSPEL MORE THAN ANY OF THESE OFFICIALLY CHRISTIANESE CRAP BESTSELLERS!  YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME, GO TO EQUESTRIA DAILY, SEARCH ON “CREEPING DARKNESS” OR “PAST SINS” AND READ THOSE TWO FANFIC NOVELS.  THE FIRST IS A HORROR CROSSOVER THAT INCLUDES A HARROWING OF HELL AND A GOD-FIGURE SACRIFICING HER DIVINITY AND LIFE TO RESURRECT A BELOVED MORTAL; THE SECOND IS THE STORY OF AN APOCALYPTIC DARK CULT AND THEIR “RELUCTANT ANTICHRIST”.   DONE WITH BRIGHT-COLORED CARTOON PONIES GIVEN DEPTH.  DEAL WITH IT.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “Enigma Babylon One World Faith.” That’s just horrible.

    Not just “horrible”, Slack.  It’s a name only an End Times Prophecy fanboy could have coined.

    “The biggest enemy of Enigma Babylon, which had taken over the Vatican
    as its headquarters, were the millions of people who believed that
    Jesus was the only way to God.” — LH&J

    As the Cackling Conspiracy said in another one of Jenkins’ Epic Novels, “Our Greatest Enemy — Born-Again Bible-Believing Evangelical Christians!”

    IN THE PAST TWO WEEKS, I HAVE BEEN READING MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC FANFICS THAT REFLECT AND ECHO THE GOSPEL MORE THAN ANY OF THESE OFFICIALLY CHRISTIANESE CRAP BESTSELLERS!  YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME, GO TO EQUESTRIA DAILY, SEARCH ON “CREEPING DARKNESS” OR “PAST SINS” AND READ THOSE TWO FANFIC NOVELS.  THE FIRST IS A HORROR CROSSOVER THAT INCLUDES A HARROWING OF HELL AND A GOD-FIGURE SACRIFICING HER DIVINITY AND LIFE TO RESURRECT A BELOVED MORTAL; THE SECOND IS THE STORY OF AN APOCALYPTIC DARK CULT AND THEIR “RELUCTANT ANTICHRIST”.   DONE WITH BRIGHT-COLORED CARTOON PONIES GIVEN DEPTH.  DEAL WITH IT.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     Alright, it’s taken over a year to do, but I *finally* managed to put “EBOWF” as a sound effect in one of my comics ( ._.) I doubt anyone much cares, but yes, I remembered after all this time.  (Amusingly enough it wound up being the sound effect for teleportation no less!)

  • Brightie

    Perhaps Ellenjay use “full of the names of blasphemy” as their basis for the multi-religion conglomerate thing–false religions as blasphemy against the true religion under God, ergo, multiple of the same? I don’t know.

  • Brightie

     No surprise there. :) Even among fans of things worthy of fans, there seems to be an urge to spin theories and mop up plotholes in stories other folks wrote.

  • Brightie

     In this instance, “open minded” does not mean “prone to considering multiple angles and possibilities,” but “willing to surrender control of your mind to the Superior Power.” Of course, this comes with the assumption that said Power is both self-evidently existent and benevolent.

  • Brightie

     I think it’s called fear.

  • Brightie

     I wonder how many RTCs have even had personal conversational contact with Muslims.


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