Christians’ Damning Refuge in “Difficult Verses”

Christians’ Damning Refuge in “Difficult Verses” February 13, 2016

Let the Bible clarify the Bible

Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation has a new book, God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction, that builds off Richard Dawkins’ famous quote:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.  — Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

In his book, Barker’s theological expertise shows that Dawkins’ eloquent summary is actually understated.

What’s curious, though, is that Christians seem to cite the Dawkins Quote more than atheists. On the Unbelievable radio show for 12/7/13, Christian Chris Sinkinson gives his critique:

[The Dawkins Quote] is clearly a very slanted view of how to read the text of the Old Testament. Most of us would take the clearer passages to interpret the harder passages. We would be talking about Leviticus 19 “Love your neighbor as yourself” before we look at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We would have an approach to scripture that would weight things in such a way that that description of God just does not sound like the god who I believe in or the god who I worship. (@ 36:23)

For starters, “Love your neighbor as yourself” means, “Love your fellow Jewish neighbor as yourself,” so let’s not imagine a big worldwide hug from Yahweh.

But set that aside. I can see that Christians prefer “love your neighbor” to death and destruction, but they make a mistake when they call the former a “clearer” passage when it’s actually just a more pleasing passage.

You can see that in the last sentence: “We would have an approach to scripture that would weight things in such a way that that description of God just does not sound like the god who I believe in or the god who I worship.” It’s clumsily worded, as live radio often is, but he’s saying that he adjusts how he interprets the Bible to preserve his preconceived god belief. That is, he hammers the copper of the Bible on the anvil of his belief, not the other way around.

I see this approach frequently, though it’s unusual to see it so plainly stated.

Thought experiment

My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment. But suppose I wanted to improve my understanding by reading the Bible cover to cover. I find an experienced Christian friend who will mentor me and give me their interpretation as needed.

At any point, I might have a question about social customs at the time, or I might complain about the miracles. But things get interesting when we get to the morally questionable activities—God hardening Pharaoh’s heart to prevent him from giving Moses what he wants, demanding genocide, supporting slavery and polygamy, insisting on a human sacrifice to satisfy his divine wrath, and so on.

When we hit one of these, my mentor will say, “Okay, now let’s take things slowly to unpack this one.” But what’s to unpack? Seen from the standpoint of modern Western morality, God is obviously a savage monster—what’s confusing or difficult? It’s just that my mentor doesn’t like that.

He can respond by saying that God is unjudgeable or that God’s ways are not our ways so it shouldn’t be surprising that we don’t understand. He can say that that reading of the passage is displeasing. What he can’t say is that it’s unclear. He can say that acceptance of chattel slavery (Leviticus 25:44–6) is unpleasant or disturbing and “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16) is happy or satisfying, but only an agenda would cause him to say that those verses are unclear and clear, respectively.

Continue: I critique five online guidelines for biblical interpretation that are variations on this biased approach to the Bible here.

One of the saddest lessons of history is this:
if we’ve been bamboozled long enough,
we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.
We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth.
The bamboozle has captured us.
It is simply too painful to acknowledge—
even to ourselves—that we’ve been so credulous.
(So the old bamboozles tend to persist
as the new bamboozles rise.)
— Carl Sagan, “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection”

Image credit: Marcin Chady, flickr, CC

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  • Michael Neville

    I have read the Bible cover to cover. I discovered that Yahweh is a narcissistic, sadistic bully who kills people just because he can. Jesus is nicer but still has his moments of “kill ’em all, let Dad sort them out.”

    • Greg G.

      The Bible is better if you start with the front cover and read it backwards.

    • Sophia Sadek

      The teachings of Jesus presented in the gospels are remarkably close to what Pagan philosophers taught at the time. One of the concepts that he promoted was the metaphoric interpretation of Jewish literature. “Let the dead bury the dead” is clearly a reference to metaphoric death.

      • Greg G.

        Would you happen to know of a possible source for that phrase? It sounds like a Stoic saying.

        I think The Sermon on the Mount Site: James and the Sermon on the Mount by Robert I. Kirby is pretty good evidence that Matthew used James for much of Jesus’ words that didn’t come from Mark but I haven’t come up with anything for “let the dead bury the dead”.

        The Jews may have been influenced by the pagans:

        Life of Josephus 2 (excerpted)
        So when I had accomplished my desires, I returned back to the city, being now nineteen years old, and began to conduct myself according to the rules of the sect of the Pharisees, which is of kin to the sect of the Stoics, as the Greeks call them.

        • Sophia Sadek

          There is far more Pagan influence in Jewish culture than Jews would like to admit.

        • Greg G.

          I think there is more pagan influence in Jewish culture than Christians would like to admit, too.

        • Sophia Sadek

          When I mentioned the Assyrian version of the Flood, a Christian who was familiar with there story said that there were two Noah’s rather than two versions of the same story. Ignorance knows no bounds.

        • Greg G.

          Do you remember the series of commercials where a man in a suit sat at a small table with 5 year olds around it. He would ask a question that the children couldn’t answer but they would make up fantastical answers. I think that may be where Christian apologetics come from.

        • epicurus

          I remember those, just tried a google search but nothing came up.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, those are the ones. There were about three of them that talked about basketball. I was hoping they would show the one with the retired NBA players instead of the kids.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Apologetics MillSunday School!

        • It sounds a lot like Diogenes the Cynic to me, but I don’t know of a specific parallel saying.

      • buttle

        Given its context this one is an elaboration on the call of Elisha in 1 Kings 19:19-21. Unless you believe Jesus was constantly trying to imitate Elijah this is more likely to be a product of the author of Luke or Matthew (or Q): they were greek speaking intellectuals and more likely to know cynic philosophers than the average palestinian jew.

        • Greg G.

          1 Kings 19:19-21 seems like a reasonable source for Matthew 8:21-22. Mark 1:12-13 is about the Spirit driving Jesus into the wilderness for forty days where he was tempted by Satan and served by the angels. 1 Kings 19:4-8 has Elijah being served food by an angel and going forty days and forty nights to Horeb. Matthew seems to use 1 Kings 19 for Matthew 8:19-20 and for the added details in Matthew 4:1-2.

        • buttle

          Not only that: the calling of the disciples in both Mark/Matthew and in Luke is modeled after the very same episode in Kings, so it makes sense for it to come up again.
          I see that you credit Matthew with this creative use of Kings, probably you assume Luke copied it from Matthew, so I have a question: is Luke 7:1-10 copying Matthew 8:5-13, or is it the reverse? I can see Matthew removing the jewish elders in Luke because they serve no purpose, and adding the future gnashing of teeth as a further commentary on the jews rejecting Jesus, but why would Luke add the elders and remove the prophecy?
          It seems quite unlikely for someone to readily associate Matthew 8:5-13 with Jewish Wars 2.10 (a possible source for the idea of the jewish elders pleading for the centurion), while the author of Luke 7:1-10 could more easily be inspired by the story of Petronius to create this whole episode later edited by Matthew. But since the beginning and ending of canonical Luke betray its late date, there must have been another gospel after Mark and before Matthew… So there was some kind of Q after all, an expanded Mark, or a proto-Luke, and its author is the guy inventing the two-source material.
          Do you have a take on this, or am i just talking nonsense?
          There is also Adam Garrow theory on the “two ways” doctrine as a source for the sermon on the plain/mount, another instance where Luke appears more primitive than Matthew:
          https://isthatinthebible.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/has-the-q-source-been-under-our-noses-all-along-luke-matthew-and-the-didache/

        • Greg G.

          My theory is that John used Mark but not the way Matthew and Luke did. There are several pericopes shared between them and the order of details are the same where it is clear that Mark is writing fiction.

          John and Matthew share some information between them that doesn’t give a direction but John 7:41-42 is a conundrum about how Jesus could be the Messiah who was supposed to be from Bethlehem and descended from David was from Galilee. I think Matthew made up the genealogy and the nativity story to answer that.

          Luke seems to have used all three of them but completely rejected Matthew’s genealogy and nativity and John’s resurrection of Lazarus. Mark Goodacre has some good arguments about Luke using Matthew. He show editorial fatigue where Matthew used Mark, where Luke used Mark, and where Luke used Matthew but there doesn’t seem to be any other cases. I think there is something similar where John uses Mark where he has Jesus predicting Peter’s denial, Jesus being beaten at his trial, but leaves out that Jesus was being ordered to prophesy while his prophecy was occurring. I call it “editorial missing the irony”.

          I am beginning to think Mark may have had War of the Jews. I was reading that a few days ago and came across the name “Jairus”, who has sons named Simon, Judas and Eleazar. I have Jewish War 2.10.4 associated with Luke 7:1-10 in my notes. I see a relationship between Mark 5:21-23; 35-36, John 4:46-53, Matthew 8:5-13, and Luke 7:1-10. There is begging, appealing and asking in each. The man making the request went from a leader of the synagogue to a royal official to a centurion. The ill went from a daughter to a son to a servant. The ill is at the point of death in Mark and John, terrible distress in Matthew and close to death in Luke.

          I think Matthew put words in Jesus’ mouth by reworking the Epistle of James. Luke uses the same wording so Luke had to have used Matthew so there is no need for Q, just M sources. The Sermon on the Mount Site: James and the Sermon on the Mount by Robert I. Kirby shows many correlations. It looks like a pattern, not just coincidence.

        • Greg G.

          I like Paul D’s writing here in the comments and in his own blog. I think he is wrong in that particular article. For example, Garrow is saying that making the Golden Rule positive would be more likely where it is in Luke than in Matthew. But Matthew also has that this is the law and the prophets which makes it sound like he got it from James 2:8-10, where James has a positive “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I think James is a refutation of Galatians and that James 2:8-10 begins the refuting by starting with Galatians 5:14, which I presume that Paul (the apostle) got from Hillel. (I think Luke did as well, by putting Paul at the feet of Gamaliel, a descendant of Hillel.)

          Where Paul D writes “What are the odds that Luke scoured Matthew, found the positive Golden Rule two chapters further on, and moved it into a passage that just happens to parallel the Didache’s negative Golden Rule?” I would point to where Luke moved the beheading of John the Baptist from Mark 6 to where he was copying from Mark 1. Luke mostly follows Mark’s sequencing except from about Luke 9:50 to Luke 18:15, Luke’s central section that follows Deuteronomy but selects topical passages from Mark and/or Matthew.

  • JBrown971

    I get it. You reject the Bible. Yet it’s words consume you. So are your doing your best to rationalize or is this an obsession you can’t shake?

    • Sam

      I don’t think you get it.

      • Pofarmer

        Hard to fathom, isn’t it?

      • JBrown971

        Well obviously.

    • Rationalize what? If you’ve got a critique of the post, make clear what you object to and what your views are.

      Or are you wondering why atheists care about American Christianity? The answer seems pretty obvious.

      • JBrown971

        I just never understand the atheist desire to convert. It seems pointless.

        • Otto

          But Christian conversion seems reasonable? Why the double standard?

        • JBrown971

          It is Christian Doctrine to spread God’s Word. What atheist doctrine fills that desire in atheism?

        • Otto

          Many of us view the spreading of “God’s word” as problematic and destructive and therefore we make up the opposition. There is no reason to think they are God’s words nor that any of you can demonstrate you understand them. In fact Christians demonstrate that they have no coherent understanding among themselves.

          The point is you think you (Christians) are right.. and we disagree. Apparently it is OK for you to spread the message of how ‘right’ you are but you just can’t wrap your head around the idea that anyone could possibly disagree.

        • Michael Neville

          We prefer reality to superstition, truth to fables and myths. Also we are talking to Christians like you in self-defense. You try to convert us and we try to convince you that your superstition is just that, superstition. If we can convince you that your unfounded beliefs are false, then maybe you folks will shut up and leave us alone.

        • JBrown971

          Convert/Convince Sounds like two sides of the same coin.

        • MNb

          Not really. If you prefer to stick to your superstition that’s just fine with me, provided that you respect the rights of non-christians. That’s exactly the problem in the USA of course, not so much in other democracies.

        • Susan

          Convert/Convince. Sounds like two sides of the same coin.

          You missed Michael’s point.

          You are selling people imaginary cars.

          We are explaining why we’re not buying them and why we don’t think other people should buy them.

          If you choose to buy an imaginary car anyway, you can’t say we didn’t try.

          Also, when the city council (or the military or the school board, etc.) is full of imaginary car dealers throwing their weight around, it’s time to speak up.

          =====

          Edit: Pretty much added the second half.

        • Greg G.

          I hope I get a chance to use this metaphor while it is fresh in my mind. 8o)

        • Susan

          🙂

        • Greg G.

          We just tell people that if they stop making payments, nothing gets repossessed. But some don’t want to stop because it’s almost paid off.

        • Greg G.

          There is no atheist doctrine.

          There are correlations between religiosity, crime, education, and income. Religiosity comes out on the wrong side all the time.

          It doesn’t hurt when people stop believing in myths.

        • JBrown971

          “There are correlations between religiosity, crime, education, and income. Religiosity comes out on the wrong side all the time.”

          Explain that to people who lived in Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Rouge in Cambodia, etc.

          The current public education system is decidedly secular, grades keep dropping.

          Do you have evidence for income?

        • MNb

          Yeah, that’s to be expected when you compare democracies with dictatures. Shall we now compare democracies with democracies? Of all democracies the good old USA has the highest religiosity and the highest crime rates. Add to this that unbelievers are underrepresented in jails – even in American ones – and the question begs itself: what does this tell you?

        • JBrown971

          Which Federal Republics are you comparing the US with? Is it fair to compare a Federal Republic to a Democracy?

          Furthermore, remove the liberal progressive inner city, controlled almost exclusively by secular democrats, and we rank at the top.

        • MNb

          Why must it be Federal Republics? Since when are Federal Republics not democratic (not that I didn’t use a capital – I talked about political systems, not about a certain political party).
          But if you insist – try Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.

          “we rank at the top.”
          Yes – of crime rates.

        • The U.S. is also both a federal republic and a democracy. Not sure what distinction he had in mind there.

        • MNb

          Neither am I.

        • Greg G.

          Why not just stick to dictatorships and not-dictatorships?

        • Greg G.

          States ranked by median income levels:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_income

          Religiosity by state:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_religiosity

          The second list is in order of total population but you should be able to see a correlation in the maps between lower incomes and high religiosity.

        • JBrown971

          Yes and that is sole factor. Maryland and Mississippi are exactly the same if not for religion.

        • Greg G.
        • JBrown971

          What I meant was Christianity is not the only factor in place in those states. If you removed Christianity from MS, they would not be culturally, economically equal. Thus in order for the comparisons to be true, you need to find states of equal cultural/economic environments where Christianity is determining factor.

        • Greg G.

          There is still a correlation. I never said it was the determining factor or a cause. Education and poverty might be the reason for the crime and resorting to religion. The religion might contribute to the lack of education which lead to crime. It does show that Christianity doesn’t really help in those areas.

        • Good point about the public education system. Maybe if the conservatives would let schools just teach things as evidence suggests–evolution, sex ed, history–things would improve.

        • RichardSRussell

          No doctrine or dogma, just simple self-defense and belief that the world would be a much better place if everyone behaved rationally.

        • JBrown971

          “rationally”

          By who’s standard? You mean to impose your idea of rational thought on others?

        • MNb

          He expresses a wish. Do you now lack comprehensive reading skills as well?

        • Greg G.

          Is there some definition of “irrational” that you think would make a better place?

        • JBrown971

          Is it rational to think the speed limit should be 75 or 65 mph? Yet, when states make changes, both sides argue. ‘Rational’ is subjective based on experience.

        • Greg G.

          Is there an answer to my question in there?

        • RichardSRussell

          I presume you meant to write “whose standard”. Not my own, as it happens, not least because I’m not into imposing myself on others. No, I favor the rational standards adduced as a goal to aspire to in both science and law. As you’re undoubtedly aware, the “reasonable person” standard is widely employed in Western jurisprudence. Too bad that theologians (whether pros or amateurs) feel so completely free to ignore it.

        • JBrown971

          “Too bad that theologians (whether pros or amateurs) feel so completely free to ignore it.”

          You are already imposing a standard. Especially since the link you provided states the subjective nature of that standard.

        • RichardSRussell

          Again, J, since you apparently missed it the previous time, it is not my standard. It’s a widely accepted social convention, and at the foundation of American jurisprudence. I’m not imposing it, I’m accepting it.

          Rather than continuing to ascribe things to me that I never said, you should probably take a shot at answering Greg G.’s question as to why you think “irrational” would be a preferable goal to shoot for.

        • Susan

          It’s a widely accepted social convention, and at the foundation of American jurisprudence. I’m not imposing it, I’m accepting it.

          Amazing how relative theists suddenly get when you ask them to be held to reliable standards of evidence and logic i.e. no special pleading. .

          Then, they accuse you of willy-nilly, spineless relativism because they don’t have an argument that meets those standards and what better defense than an offense?

          They always revert to that claim when you ask them to make anything like a solid case for their position.

        • Yes, it’s popular to imagine that the Great Commission was directed at lay Christians, but read it and you’ll find that Jesus was addressing the disciples. When you read about the magic powers they got, you’ll see that that’s not how it works when today’s ordinary Christians pretend that they’re Jesus’s disciples.

        • You should know by now that there is no such thing as “atheist doctrine”. But why should we need “doctrine” (from on high?) to motivate us to moral action anyway?

          Speaking for myself, I find motivation to speak out in my desire to combat falsehoods that enslave minds* – falsehoods which motivate people to harmful actions for bad reasons (faith, i.e. belief without evidence or justified reason – or even in spite of evidence to the contrary). The harm need not be so egregious as injury or death – it can be things like seeking to follow the will of an imaginary god that isn’t there, or trying to impose supposed moral standards on otherwise consenting adults, for example.

          * Enslaving minds – you know, like when you’re commanded to “take every thought captive to Christ”. Christianity had many built-in defense mechanisms like this. It’s a resilient bugger.

        • The atheist desire … to convert to Christianity? Or the atheist desire to deconvert Christians to atheism?

          I don’t really have that much of a desire to deconvert. My interests are twofold: (1) respond to Christian arguments for God. If God exists, I’d like to know about it. So far (spoiler!) they suck. When the Christian says, “Look, I just believe, OK?” that’s fine with me–nothing to talk about. It’s when they claim that they have a good argument that I push back if necessary.

          (2) To push back against Christianity in society, either breaches of the line between church and state or Christian morality trying to get in the way of abortion rights or same-sex marriage, for example.

    • Greg G.

      Yes, we reject the Bible because of the lack of supporting evidence for its claims and the evidence that it was made up. Unfortunately, we live in a society where most voters do not reject it. There are politicians who are willing to exploit those voters. Worse, there are politicians who don’t reject the Bible who simultaneously tout small government and want to make sex acts felonies.

      • JBrown971

        So it’s all about politics? People might be allowed to pray? Which sex acts are to be considered felonies by the GOP Christian leaders?

        “Supporting evidence”, aka “Unless God comes to my house and serves tea”. Then list all the reasons why you a loving God would serve you tea, otherwise he is not a loving God.

        • Michael Neville

          Have you ever read the Bible? According to your own propaganda your god isn’t loving, he’s a sadistic, narcissistic bully with the emotional maturity of a spoiled six year old. He kills people just because he can. He’s “loving” the same way an abusive spouse is “loving”.

        • JBrown971

          To explain that in a forum would be pointless and disingenuous. Especially if you are unwilling to consider opposing view points.

        • Michael Neville

          In other words you’re either too lazy or too contemptuous of us to respond. How very Christian of you.

        • JBrown971

          No, exactly what I said.

        • Michael Neville

          Which means exactly what I said.

        • Susan

          To explain that in a forum would be pointless and disingenuous.

          No. This earlier comment of yours was pointless and disingenuous:

          “Supporting evidence”, aka “Unless God comes to my house and serves tea”.

          Addressing the actual subject would be honest and useful.

          Especially if you are unwilling to consider opposing view points.

          And accusing people of being narrow-minded to conceal your lack of argument or evidence. Very nice.

          So basically, your position is that your doctrine commits you to make claims without arguments or evidence, that we don’t have a doctrine so we should shut up about the lack of arguments and evidence and that the problem is with us because we are unwilling to consider opposing view points.

        • I think most of us are willing to consider opposing viewpoints. You’ll probably sway some people on minor points here and there, but many of us have already done a thorough analysis, and there’s a hell of a lot of background knowledge of ours for you to overturn to convince us that your perspective is correct on the whole.

          OTOH, your doctrine forbids you from questioning the foundation. Are you willing to consider opposing viewpoints in spite of it? Will you acknowledge the plain meaning of the text when it contradicts your preconceived notion of a benevolent god?

        • Sam

          I remember that 2014 movie where God was portrayed by a young child. I enjoyed it from then on.

        • Otto
        • JBrown971

          It is always interesting that people here post opinion pieces and never the exact text itself.

          http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2015-2016/billengrossed/Senate/pdf/2015-SEBS-0219.pdf

          and if you need further explanation:

          http://www.snopes.com/michigan-senate-crime-against-nature/

          Please try again.

        • Otto

          Where do you think the original language came from? What basis do you think the lawmakers originally used to make sodomy illegal. (Here is a hint…it’s the Bible).

          And are you telling me there are not Christians and Christian lawmakers that would love to make it illegal again if they could?

        • JBrown971

          All sodomy laws were struck down by the Supreme Court.

          Yes, I am saying there is no Christian wants those laws back. Excluding the Westboro morons.

        • Michael Neville

          There are large numbers of other Christians besides the Westboro fanatics who indulge in homophobia.

        • Otto

          I am not convinced Ted Cruz wouldn’t do it if he thought it would not be political suicide. Same for many others.

        • No Christian wants sodomy laws reinstated? That sounds laughably naive to me, especially considering how good a response the GOP candidates are getting playing the religion card. Do you have evidence?

        • I’ll admit I’m not sure what appetite there is today for reinstating those laws–or rather, reversing Lawrence v. Texas, strictly speaking. At the time of the litigation in 2003, though, a who’s-who of religious right organizations went to the trouble and expense of filing amicus briefs urging the Supremes to preserve state criminal sodomy statutes. The biggest names included the American Center for Law and Justice (Pat Robertson’s legal outfit), Liberty Counsel (currently representing Kim Davis and Scott Lively, among others), the Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family.

        • I agree that there may be no appetite for big legal battle, but that wasn’t exactly what JB said. I think there are millions of conservative Christians who’d prefer an America where abominations were punished appropriately (“appropriately” from the standpoint of their dirty little minds).

        • Rudy R

          No Christian? How do you explain the new Michigan Senate bill banning sodomy?

        • Greg G.

          Psst. It turns out that the story was exaggerated. But Snopes quotes the GOP sponsor of the bill saying that the bill would have been rejected if he put that into the bill, not that it would be wrong to put it in.

        • Rudy R

          Psst. That was in response to JB stating no Christians want sodomy laws back.

        • Greg G.

          I had tried to make that point but when I checked my source, I saw that JT Eberhardt retracted his version of the article and deleted it because his source had exaggerated the claim. The bill does not criminalize sodomy. Were there Christian sources cheering the story that I don’t know about? That would be interesting.

        • avalpert

          You are patently wrong – start with Don Boys who introduced legislation in Indiana to re-criminalize sodomy just two years ago. It was a plank of the Texas GOP platform as recently as 2010. Santorum didn’t hide that desire when running for President in 2012…

          Plenty of Christians want those laws back.

        • Greg G.

          So it’s all about politics? People might be allowed to pray?

          I don’t care if someone wants to practice a religion. I don’t want them to practice their religion on others, especially me.

          Which sex acts are to be considered felonies by the GOP Christian leaders?

          The original article on that seems to have been exaggerated. Snopes.com explains it. Here’s a quote from the page:

          GOP Senator Rick Jones, one of the sponsors of SB219, said that the language referring to “crimes against nature” was purposefully left intact in order to give the bill a chance to pass through the senate:

          Jones [said] that a blogger in Texas distorted the bill to make it sound like it applies to people. That information was then circulated around social media. He adds that sodomy is already illegal under current Michigan law and that his bill simply added specific language meant to protect animals.

          “The minute I cross that line and I start talking about the other stuff, I won’t even get another hearing. It’ll be done. Nobody wants to touch it. I would rather not even bring up the topic, because I know what would happen. You’d get both sides screaming and you end up with a big fight that’s not needed because it’s unconstitutional.”

          “If we could put a bill in that said anything that’s unconstitutional be removed from the legal books of Michigan, that’s probably something I could vote for. But am I going to mess up this dog bill that everybody wants? No.”

          Jones says his legislation does not change current law as far as sodomy between people.

          The Michigan Penal Code still contains language stating that a person who commits “crimes against nature with mankind” is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. While this language is outdated and in direct opposition of the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas ruling, it still requires the efforts of lawmakers to be removed. When the Michigan Senate passed SB219, the senators opted for reasons of practicality to focus on implementing stronger animal cruelty laws and ignore language referring to a unenforceable, decades-old sodomy law.

          It appears that Jones won’t cross the line because he knows it wouldn’t pass but it doesn’t sound like he wouldn’t like to do it.

          Then there’s what the GOP forces women to do just to end an unwanted pregnancy:

          Kentucky Women Tweet Vagina Questions at Goveror Who Signed Anti-Abortion Law

          “Supporting evidence”, aka “Unless God comes to my house and serves tea”. Then list all the reasons why you a loving God would serve you tea, otherwise he is not a loving God.

          For one thing, there is the inconsistency of an omnipotent, benevolent god with the existence of unnecessary suffering. An omnipotent being could prevent the suffering as easily as not doing it.

          But now that you mention it, why can’t God serve me some tea? I would expect it to be a hundred times better than the best tea I’ve ever had. Wait, a thousand times better, no a million times… How much better would it be? Why can an omnipotent god only communicate through a voice in your head that is indistinguishable from just a voice in your head?

        • MNb

          Of course it’s all about politics. Organized religion is always politics. There is not exactly a shortage of organized religion in our world.

        • Don’t some GOP/Christian leaders want to make sodomy a felony? (I’ll ignore the outliers who want to make homosexual acts a capital crime.)

          You mock substantial evidence to believe the most unbelievable claim possible? I for one won’t ask for your forgiveness–demanding evidence must just be how God made me. Your mileage may vary.

    • RichardSRussell

      It’s not just the Bible. I also reject the legend of Gilgamesh, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Zend Avesta, and all the comparable Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Norse myths, and all for the same reason — because they’re mythology!

      • JBrown971

        Great!

    • Michael Neville

      It’s not an obsession except for Christians. Unfortunately in the US Christians will not let us ignore the Bible. We get Christianity thrown in our faces all the time, often with Biblical verses attached. We learn about the Bible and how to rebut it as self-defense.

      I saw a poster recently which went basically: “I have to read the Bible to argue with Christians but they don’t have to read a single paper to argue against evolution.”

      • JBrown971

        How often in your daily life are bible passages thrown at you, unsolicited? My guess is, this atheist author threw more passages at this week that any Christian.

        “I have to read the Bible to argue with Christians but they don’t have to read a single paper to argue against evolution.”

        That is a good one. It usually comes up when questions regarding gaps in science that are currently unbridgeable. It is less about knowledge and more about the faith of an atheist being tested.

        • Michael Neville

          How often in your daily life are bible passages thrown at you, unsolicited?

          I work with several Christian fundamentalist evangelicals who are trying to “save my soul.” I get Bible verses on a daily basis. It’s not as bad as it used to be ever since a Hindu joined the department. Unfortunately for the Christians, Jitendra is a Brahman, a member of the priestly caste, and was trained as a priest. Religious discussions at work can be involved and all us Americans are learning a great deal about Hinduism (which is much more interesting than Christianity).

          It usually comes up when questions regarding gaps in science that are currently unbridgeable. It is less about knowledge and more about the faith of an atheist being tested.

          While creationists try to poke holes in evolution they’re usually so pig ignorant about evolution that people like me who do know a little about the subject can just laugh at them. Also atheism requires zero faith, something you’d know if you weren’t pig ignorant about atheism.

        • JBrown971

          “Also atheism requires zero faith”

          Really, you have all the answers?

        • Michael Neville

          Yes, prove that I don’t. :þ

        • JBrown971

          Nice. LOL

        • MNb

          Non-sequitur.
          The difference between you and me is that I never replace “I don’t know” with “goddiddid” and you selectively do.

        • JBrown971

          That is an assumption, one you use very frequently.

        • MNb

          Nope. See, I don’t know how life originated on Earth. You replace it with “goddiddid”. I don’t know (nobody knows) how comes that superconductivity at relatively high temperatures is possible. You don’t replace that one with “goddiddid”.
          That’s selective.

        • JBrown971

          The evidence supports my notion of the how the earth and life came to be. It’s not ‘replace’ it’s an informed decision.

          Superconductivity, is the same as the origins of life. Super conductivity occurs do to the interaction of natural laws that requires no additional input of information. The origins of life requires information. It can’t happen with out it.

        • Susan

          The evidence supports my notion of the earth and life came to be.

          No. Or you could provide the mechanism, and show how the evidence overwhelmingly supports your position.

          Instead, you make up wacky probabilities without showing your math and without learning a thing about the evidence.

          The origins of life requires information.

          Link please.

        • Greg G.

          So MNb was wrong because he wrote

          “You don’t replace that one with “goddiddid”.

          because of the “n’t”. You explain everything with “godidit”, even when you don’t have a clue.

        • Greg G.

          The origins of life requires information.

          We get this often and it is followed by “information comes from intelligence.” But natural processes can produce information that requires an intelligence to decode.

          Stars emit light at a range of the spectrum of wavelengths. Some molecules and atoms absorb certain frequencies which can be seen as dark lines when the light is split by wavelength with a prism. The atoms and molecules can be identified by their “fingerprints” of missing wavelengths. No mind produces the information, it occurs naturally. If a star is moving away from us, the Doppler Effect makes those fingerprints show up a longer wavelengths, that is, red-shifted, and we can calculate the relative speed of the star. No intelligence is required to put that information in to the rays of light, it is a natural process. If the light passes through a gas cloud, the fingerprints from the star are shifted at the distance for one speed and for the cloud at another.

          The intensity of stars vary so we can’t tell the distance for certain because we can’t tell a near but dim star from a distant bright star but we can determine the distance by triangulation by detecting the shift with respect to the more distant stars when looked at from opposite sides of the sun. There are stars that have variable intensities and the fluctuation rate is related to its intensity, so the brightness can be calculated by its apparent intensity and its distance. These variable stars can be detected in other galaxies to determine the distance to the galaxy. It is found that was that the red shift correlates to the distance to far away galaxies.

          All that information comes from natural processes. The information in DNA comes from natural process of chemistry and the natural selection of chemical arrangements of this natural “information” in succeeding generations.

        • MNb

          Your “explanation” consists of “goddiddid”. You put it in the place of my “I don’t know”. That’s to replace by definition.

          Evidence belongs to our natural reality by definition. Your “explanation” belongs to a supposed supernatural by definition. Hence “explanation” – you’re incoherent.

          “requires no additional input of information”
          This word doesn’t mean what you think it means.

          http://www.talkreason.org/articles/stephen-meyers.cfm
          http://www.talkreason.org/articles/information.cfm
          http://www.talkreason.org/articles/olle.cfm

          And like Greg G already points out: I’m still saying “we don’t know where that additional input of information comes from” – assuming a coherent definition of information, which in your case is highly unlikely. And you still replace that by “goddiddid”.
          I always like it when somebody brings up arguments that show the exact opposite of what he/she claims to defend. You’re a fine example.

        • Great links, thanks.

        • I attended a Creationist lecture last week, and a professor of EE at a local university recommended Stephen Meyer’s book on me.

          What is it about engineers that they so easily fall for Creationist BS? Maybe they’re so confident in their abilities that they allow them to judge other fields in which they’re not competent.

        • MNb

          The same with surgeons. An untested hypothesis is that engineers and surgeons project their own activities – they design a lot – on natural reality and hence assume that it must be designes as well. It looks plausible to me.

        • Thought2Much

          Possibly because engineers think in terms of “systems,” and that they see systems as necessarily “designed.”

        • What is your notion of how the earth and life came to be?

          Or perhaps that’s too general a question. Let’s focus on Homo sapiens. Do you subscribe to the Genesis 2 account, that Yahweh crafted the first man and woman from dirt and bone near the Tigris and Euphrates?

        • adam

          ” The origins of ‘god’ requires information. It can’t happen with out it.”

          ftfy

        • Chemistry doesn’t have all the answers. Neither does atheism–it’s just a rejection of the god claim.

        • Otto

          “How often in your daily life are bible passages thrown at you, unsolicited?”

          I drove to Omaha and back 2 weeks ago for a total of 5 hours in the car and saw 6 Bible passages thrown at me from billboards, more than half of them outright stated or at least implied those that do not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior deserve unending torture. Driving around my town I see passages calling people like me fools and other such nonsense.

          So how often you ask? The occasion is rare that it does NOT happen, and usually then because I stayed home.

        • JBrown971

          I assume you are as outraged at McDonalds, Gas stations and hotels as well right? Trying to convince you of the best food, gas or night sleep.

        • Otto

          You don’t understand my point. It does not make me mad that Christians spread their message…it makes me mad when people like you get incensed when the Christian message is opposed. You guys have every right to say what you believe…and WE have every right to call your message out for being garbage.

        • Greg G.

          McDonalds might be disappointed if I get a Whopper from Burger King but they are still going to sell me a coffee and two apple pies with no complaints.

        • JBrown971

          You’re making me hungry.

        • Greg G.

          My stomach is growling at me, too.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Eww to the the coffee unless I’m “playing Frogger with the mail boxes”, but I love me some apple pies (BRING THE OLD BOX DESIGN BACK FROM THE NINETIES!).

        • Greg G.

          I prefer McDonald’s coffee to

        • Greg G.

          I prefer McDonald’s coffee to

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          That reminds me of the construction paper mural in the lobby of my brother’s dorm this weekend. It said, “Please, look at the Clock” with a very important letter missing :-))

        • Greg G.

          Lock?

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I suppose if it were on a male chastity belt, yeah.

        • L.Long

          That’s because McDonald’s does not use semen from sodomites!

        • MNb

          See here the dishonesty of the apologist. Brown asks a question, gets an answer he doesn’t like and shifts the goalposts.

        • JBrown971

          Fair enough. I should have accepted that.

        • Greg G.

          Now that you mention it, it may be that the main reason I’m here is because I was challenged pestered by so many Christians the past 25 years, simply for not denying that I was an atheist, that I became addicted to it.

        • Susan

          It usually comes up when questions regarding gaps in science that are currently unbridgeable.

          Really? In my experience, it comes up when people are misinformed about the evidence science has provided and are manipulated by people who find that evidence inconvenient for their religious positions.

          It is less about knowledge and more about the faith of an atheist being tested.

          Forgive me if I’ve lost confidence in your desire to not make pointless and disingenuous statements.

        • Unbridgeable? Name one scientific question that is unbridgeable with a natural explanation and show your work.

        • MNb

          You missed “currently”. He is already wriggling like an eel in a bucket filled with mucus at beforehand.

      • Susan

        they don’t have to read a single paper to argue against evolution.”

        Or to proclaim abiogenesis impossible based on the laws of nature. 😉

      • adam

        Take your pick

    • Otto

      It is not rejecting the Bible. It is rejecting the Bible as being authoritative.

    • DrewTwoFish

      The damage done to countless lives consumes us.

  • epicurus

    “my mentor will say, “Okay, now let’s take things slowly to unpack this one.” But what’s to unpack”?
    It’s always been frustrating for me that many or most Christians will not take this attitude when reading the books or ideas of other religions. A flat, non nuanced reading is all that’s required to dismiss another religion’s sacred book. But If I take that approach to the bible, I’m an unsophisticated boob, who can’t understand subtleties and nuanced approaches, and how complex and all good/knowing/powerful God is.

    • It’s easy to join the club. But if you tell your Christian community that you want to leave, then they bring out the apologetics books and insist that you rebut them.

  • epicurus

    How much simpler and less violent things would have probably turned out if the Marcionite version of Christianity would have won out.

  • RichardSRussell

    I understand that, at the Republican presidential-candidate debate last night, almost everybody was fawning all over ex-President Bush 43, as with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida: “I thank God all the time that it was George W. Bush in the White House on 9/11 and not Al Gore,” the Florida senator said. “He kept us safe.”

    It was one of the biggest applause lines of the night, but it prompted Donald Trump to shout: “I lost hundreds of friends. The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush! He kept us safe? That is not safe!”

    An unpleasant, uncomfortable truth? Yup. The audience in South Carolina didn’t want to hear any of it. They were much happier with the myth they’d been fed. It puts one in mind of the old sick joke “Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

    • epicurus

      Finally, Trump says something intelligent

    • Pofarmer

      Leot’s not ignore that Bush 43 set in motion the chain of events which led to ISIS. Lets not forget tht Clintons intelligence directives may well have led to us missing the 9/11 hijackers after multiple hits in the world trade center. Lets not forget Reagans actions regarding afghanistan, which my have allowed the formation of the Taliban. And let’s not forget Carters role in allowing the Mullahs rise in Iran

      • TheNuszAbides

        ah, the glorious dynamism of our Two-EvilParty system!

    • GW Bush kept us safe from what?? The damage had already been done.

  • Otto

    A plain reading of the text is a slanted view. Cult Logic.

  • MNb

    “Most of us would take the clearer passages to interpret the harder passages”
    Assuming that the Bible is consistent – ‘cuz god.

  • Sheila Warner

    I was bamboozled for sure, and I was royally pissed that I had been so betrayed. I’m just now starting to see for myself how credulous I was. I actually started my long road to atheism when I first read through the Bible at aged 29, & saw how the cut and paste method toward the Bible led to erroneous conclusions about the Rapture doctrine, which had been so carefully planted and cultivated up to that point. I spent years trying to find a church I could trust to give me the truth. It wasn’t until I let go of the literal view of the Bible that cracks in my belief were appearing. It’s true that early bamboozling can hinder acceptance of truth.

    • DrewTwoFish

      I hear ya! My sister has asked me why I am so angry at the church. Why didn’t I just leave? Shouldn’t I be pissed off at myself? I am! But in many ways it nurtured me. It answered the big questions adequately…at first. Some of my longest and closest relationships were birthed in the church. There was community. I almost wish I been had a bad experience early on so that the scales would have fallen from my eyes sooner.

      • Greg G.

        so that the scales would have fallen from my eyes sooner.

        I see what you did there with your handle and your avatar. 8o)

        • DrewTwoFish

          : > )

          I’m a Pisces too. I don’t believe in that nonsense but the themes and the images are fun to play with.

      • The community, the music, the community projects, and so on can be positive attributes of church. That supernatural stuff, though, is a problem.

        • DrewTwoFish

          You’re preaching to the choir. (Perhaps an unfortunate metaphor to use!)

      • Sheila Warner

        I thought I had community, but no one batted an eye when I left. So, that part was easy for me. The split from my siblings is hard. But I have come to realize that it isn’t just about religion–they never learned how to listen to and respect others’ points of view. Religion is just the vehicle through which their general lack of compassion rides on.

      • epicurus

        Me too. I loved the church I went to, had great relationships and still have some friends from there, even though it was many years ago. Very hard to leave, but eventually my problems with the Bible and issues of inerrancy got so big that I just felt my integrity demanded I stop going to church and calling myself a Christian. I definitely miss the church family.

        • DrewTwoFish

          Yeah. Some great people there but I just couldn’t kid myself anymore. I got tired of making excuses in my head for the Bible, for God, letting them off the hook.

        • DrewTwoFish

          Yeah. Some great people there but I just couldn’t kid myself anymore. I got tired of making excuses in my head for the Bible, for God, letting them off the hook.

  • busterggi

    Cherry picking never sounded so pseudo-intellectual.

  • L.Long

    Unpacking BS areas is easy as the buyBull is not written in english but ginglish. It does not state in clear words what is meant as the stone age tellers of tall tales also did not like speaking straight. Perfect example is ‘he KNEW the sheep biblically’ is a common phrase because the story tellers never used the proper words in their tall tales or the buyBull. As in ‘he touched his thigh’ meaning he grabbed his penis.
    With this type of ginglish through out it is easy to see how they and make up anything they like. And so I can show that according to leviticus gay sex is 100% OK, just by ignoring the ginglish and reading it straight.

    • Greg G.

      “Feet” is often a euphemism for genitals, as when Ruth watched where Boaz bedded down and went to him and “uncovered his feet” to get him to redeem her. If she had just done what it says, he would have been annoyed and not redeemed such a foolish woman.

      When the woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair sounds kinky with that in mind. Try not to think about when Jesus washed the disciples’ “feet”.

      • DrewTwoFish

        Eeek!

      • epicurus

        Yikes, talk about a foot fetish!