Thursday, December 30, 2010

Black Ice

Black ice on the highway and freezing temperatures in the air.
Winter has gripped the roads
The commuter’s tires have not
Spun out and dizzy
He looks wary
Too late! 

Notable Quotable


Hector Avalos in his scholarly book, The End of Biblical Studies points out out that Bible translations are tainted by the doctrines and profit motives of the translators : 

“…Ecclesiastes 2:25, of which a good English rendition would be: ‘For who will eat and enjoy, except for myself.’  The author’s idea is radical because he could be construed as saying the God is irrelevant in the happiness of human beings. For some, the author of Ecclesiastes expresses a very humanistic idea insofar as he thinks that one should pursue one’s happiness for the sake of oneself, not for some god.  This humanistic concept was sufficiently bothersome to prompt the following alternative translations:
    NAB: For who can eat or drink apart from him?
    NJB: for who would get anything to eat or drink, unless all this came from him?
    REB:  For without God who can eat with enjoyment?
The REB suppresses the humanism even more assertively by introducing “God”,  which is definitely not in the Hebrew text."

Later, Mr. Avalos provides us with one definition of a lie:  ‘According to the ethicist Sissela Bok, a lie is “an intentionally deceptive message in the form of a statement.”’

Remember, the verse could be reasonably translated as "For who will eat and enjoy, except for myself.” So, the Bible scholars who did these interpretations are lying.  They are using words that do not match the words, nor the intent, of the original language.  And they know they are fudging to make sure that we, the  audience, won’t get the idea that humanistic ideas are in the Bible.  They are placing God into the text when God is not present. How do you get a phrase like" For without God who can eat with enjoyment?"  when the phrase says: "For who will eat and enjoy, except for myself.”   

Throughout church history this has been the case.  That it is fine to lie as long as you do it in the name of, and for the glorification of, your version of God.  A shameful way to present your Truth is to lie to make your point.  How can Truth ever come from all these lies?

How about just being honest?  Then I might have a bit more respect for the Christian religion.  The lies, the misquotations, the rewriting of history are enough to make me think that Christianity doesn't have anything real to offer.  Oh, wait, it doesn't for the most part. 

I’m really enjoying this book.  Hector Avalos shows, through examples, what, where, when, why and how the Bible has been manipulated for the doctrines and ideas that various churches want to believe.  He also points to the profit motives involved, as well.  So, if they aren't lying to make sure their version of god is presented correctly through the Bible then they are lying to make sure that people want to buy their product, to make the Bible more acceptable to our modern tastes and sensibilities. He says it a way that is clearly understandable.  Thank you, Hector Avalos for writing The End of Biblical Studies.  It is a keeper.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Notable Quotable

From Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary by Kenneth W. Daniels in Chapter 15.

    Others go even farther than C.S. Lewis and deny the eternality or existence of hell altogether in favor of some form of universalism.  For instance, quasi-evangelical Thomas Talbott systematically examines every New Testament text on the subject of hell and concludes that hell is not eternal after all, but that everyone will ultimately be saved, though for unbelievers this will entail a stindt of finite duration in a refining hell before repenting [Talbott 1999].  While some of his hermeneutic practices used to reach this conclusion may be somewhat strained, and traditionalists like William Lane Craig are quick to identify his weaknesses, Talbott does make a valiant and [mostly] effective effort to rescue the gospel from the pit of eternal damnation.
    Whether or not Talbott's position is scripturally defensible, [footnote: I believe Talbot's biblical case for dismissing the eternality of hell is stronger than any biblical case for abolishing slavery], I can only hope that more and more Christians will embrace his perspective, thus rendering the gospel infinitely more humane, tolerant, and unifying.

I am going to stop there.  This idea of universalism in Christianity has mostly failed to catch on in the United States although I find it very appealing.  I have read quite a bit on the topic of hell. Frankly, the word hell isn't even in the Bible. The  four words used in the Bible are Sheol, Gehenna, Tartarus and Hades.  They are mistranslated as Hell.  The word used most often translated as eternal is "aionios" in the  Greek and should really read age or eon not eternal and forever and ever.  This is another mistranslation.  I think men like Talbott have every bit as good a case that eternal Hell isn't in the Bible as any other Christian that wants to believe in eternal Hell and says that it is to a Biblical concept.

I could almost  have stayed a Universalist Christian.  This is a much kinder belief than traditional Christianity, whether liberal or conservative.  However, I kept reading and studying and after awhile I realized that I simply didn't believe any part of the Christian story and didn't even think that the magnificent man portrayed in the Bible was all that magnificent.  Simply a sad and gory story with the crucifiction and such. Apparently God was not  even appeased by His Son's death since there is a lot of talk about an unsatisfactory after life and punishment for us humans even though His only Son was sacrificed in our place.  It is all so ridiculous once you give it some thought.

May reason and peace find us all.

Untitled Poetry


The wind howls in from the south southwest,
    blowing dust and banging shutters.
Bouncing over the low sparse brush,
    tumbleweeds scurry by,
Hurrying to make it to the river by dusk.


The raging wind batters
With the fury of Mongol forces
Sweeping across the desert
The clumps of tall, stiff grasses
Unable to run before the enemy
Bend deeply
Groveling like peasants
Refusing to break
Willing themselves to survive until
The soldiers have marched through
And their tall, quiet serenity will be returned

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Personal Relationship with Jesus

Sometimes it still hurts when another human being accuses me of never having been a real Christian.  To know that they haven't taken the time to get to know me before pronouncing judgement on what I believed as a Christian. To say it like it is a swear word, "You weren't a real Christian like I am. I have a personal relationship with god"

It seems to be utterly unfeeling.  They aren't even trying to look at it from my point of  view. They can maintain their superiority. Humility goes out the window and hard-heartedness flies in.  It doesn't matter who you brush aside when you are a real Christian like them.  The only people who count are themselves and maybe a  few other people who they think are getting the Jesus thing right.

Well, I was a real Christian and now I am a real atheist.  And I hope that you will find your way to being a better human being despite your Christian beliefs. While you are busy patting yourself on the back for having a personal relationship with Jesus, I am busy looking into the mirror of my soul and trying to understand others through understanding who and what I am.  

Keneth W. Daniels addresses this idea of a personal savior in his book "Why I Believed".  He quotes Kenneth Green:  The use of the term "Personal Savior" isn't very harmful in itself, but it shows a kind of mind-set that is willing to "invent" terms, and then allow these terms to be preached as if they were actually found in the Bible.

Daniels goes on to quote Robert Price from "The Reason Driven Life":  The greatest irony of the whole thing is that the "personal savior" piety to which Warren reduces the whole of Christian worship, indeed the whole of Christianity itself, is never so much as intimated in the New Testament.   Also:  There is simply nothing implicit or explicit in such texts suggesting that the believer has an ongoing personal acquaintance with Jesus.

This concept of "personal savior" just isn't in the Bible.  Just like the term "original sin" or any number of other ways of making up the Jesus concept as you go along.  You can then preach whatever you would like.

Perhaps you could consider being less of a preacher and more of an example.  However, I won't be rejoining you in a religion that thinks that suffering is the better part of life.

Notable Quotable

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.  Abraham Lincoln

I've always liked this quote.  I believe it is quite true.  There are those who are born with unimaginable and painful  illnesses and yet they make an effort to live each day to the fullest.  Giving of themselves when ever they are able.  They choose happiness.

There are those who have lived through hell, been down and out, been in war zones,  been beaten, raped, robbed, felt the death of loved ones. They make every effort to live each day to the fullest.  They choose happiness.

The sorrows and pains do not leave us.  They are simply the catalyst to the realization  that this is the one day we have.  This is the one life we get.  We can live in peace within ourselves once we have ascertained this fact.  And we can make every effort to look at the bright side.  We can choose happiness.

It Might Rain

It might rain
But this is the driest of the dry deserts
So more than likely it is mere clouds
The sun is always there
The clouds thin and float away
It is a bright and shining day
It is like that for me
Though my days are good 
And my sorrows are rare as desert rain
The sun is always there
My worries are clouds
When I let my worries float away
It is, in reality, a bright and shining day

Monday, December 27, 2010

Notable Quotable

There can be but little liberty on earth while men worship a tyrant in heaven.
Robert Green Ingersoll 

Jesus has left the Building

I went to the Church of St. Mary’s just up the road
I knelt outside the closed doors and I prayed
In front of that long unused church
But Jesus had left the building
There was no answer to my prayer

I went to the local Fundamentalist Baptist church
I joined the service there and I prayed
In the hard backed pew surrounded by grace
But Jesus had left the building
There was no answer to my prayer

I turned to the Episcopalians, the church of a friend
I sang the hymns and I confessed my sins as I prayed
The light from the stained glass streaming in
But Jesus had left the building
There was no answer to my prayer

I walked through the church of the great starry night
In the clear desert air and I prayed
On a rock in the sand surround by open space
But Jesus had left the planet
There was no answer to my prayer

I came upon the atheists who carefully explained
There is no god above to whom you have prayed
The answers come from inside my mind
There’s no Jesus to leave the building
And that was the answer to my prayer