Thursday, May 29, 2014

Focus on the Story, Not the Excuse

Another week, another story of a disturbed individual who found the inspiration to kill children from the Bible.  Kimberly Lucas claims that after she heard what she called a "touching" sermon covering Genesis 22, her almighty god spoke to her.  Tragically, Lucas' god didn't bother to tell her to stop before she murdered an innocent two year-old.

I'm willing to admit that this murderer appears to be profoundly mentally ill.  But what most religious people that read that news story will ignore is that Genesis 22 literally tells Christians that whatever god says, goes.  That includes taking a child to the nearest altar and lifting a blade to his or her throat.

At what point is Genesis 22 not completely insane?  Is it the point where the, "angel of the Lord" takes the knife away?  Or is it the point where Abraham slaughtered a goat instead of his son?  How could this story still be so popular among Christians, much less defended with such zeal?

In this chapter alone, Abraham shows every sign of being schizophrenic.  However, we're all supposed to believe that Abraham was perfectly healthy, that god was never going to allow him to kill his son, and that this story is some kind of twisted, "teachable moment" between god and Abraham.


I would even bet that religious apologists will come out in droves to try to spin this news story as a problem with recognizing mental illness.  For example, according to the article, Brian Ladd, one of the active members of the congregation of this church, seemed almost shocked that Lucas would even suggest that a sermon inspired her to kill.  Here's what Brian said:

"The sermons that are preached in this church are always about God's love. About forgiveness. About acceptance."

Forgiveness?  Okay, there is a smattering of forgiveness in there.  Acceptance?  Unless you fit their mold, then not a chance.  Maybe Brian should start really reading his Bible.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

RYBS: Don't Tell Anyone Your Daughter is ALIVE!

Read Your Bible Series - Week Three

Don't Tell Anyone Your Daughter is ALIVE!

Luke chapter 8 contains several different miracles performed by the lamb of god, Jesus of Nazareth.  But in order to move right to the point of this week's topic, we will just concentrate on the final two described by the author of Luke.  Starting with verse 40:
Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
Fantastic!  Here is direct evidence that Jesus openly condoned universal healthcare and brazenly practiced it as well.  Take that, Bill O'Reilly.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
'Who touched me?' Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, 'Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.'
But Jesus said, 'Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.'
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.'
Poor Jesus...  Even before his blessed destiny of saving humanity by dying a horrendous and inhuman death, the ultimate plan of human salvation that our creator had devised for his one and only offspring was put in jeopardy by an inadequate venue and vastly underestimating his popularity.  Personally, I blame Peter; the wishy-washy little creep.

Then in a strange turn of events, some lunatic groupie somehow managed to get too close and brushed her hand against Jesus' stunning Iron Age threads.  But for some reason, "the Son" essence of the holy Trinity gets confused.  Jesus can feel that some idiot stole some of his power, but he didn't know who did it.  I find that odd behavior for an omniscient being.  But then again, I've never been omniscient.  So there may very well be some unknown drawbacks to knowing everything.

I guess I'll never know.

Anyway, the poor woman finally felt the weight of her guilt for being like Mr. Jingles and stealing some of the power away from John Coffey, erm, I mean Jesus Christ, so she admitted to everyone that she had been the anonymous fondler his mystical linens. I suppose that was probably a good idea since the almighty has a bit of a misogynist history; like turning women into pillars of salt.

And now, the final few verses of chapter 8:
While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. 'Your daughter is dead,' he said. 'Don’t bother the teacher anymore.'
Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, 'Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.'
When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. 'Stop wailing,' Jesus said. 'She is not dead but asleep.'
They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, 'My child, get up!' Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.
Okay, be honest.  Who out there didn't know that besides himself, Jesus had resurrected someone besides Lazarus?  C'mon... Tell the truth...

First, why was Jesus so burdened with the raising of his dear friend Lazarus, that he had to almost beg his father to allow it?  Yet in this instance of defeating death, he's just so nonchalant about raising some girl he doesn't even know.  (Let's not rehash the arguments against resurrection that we covered week two, either.)  Second, why would Jesus take the parents aside and order them to remain silent?  As I eluded to earlier, the whole point of the birth and life of Jesus was ultimately to get him murdered.  And by murdered I mean sacrificed.  So why be so secretive about the unlimited power of the Christ?

Now, I'm not omnipotent or omniscient or omnipresent, but if I'm any one of these, there's no way I would be worried about a couple of Iron Age parents doing the equivalent of putting a, "My Kid Was Resurrected" bumper sticker on their cow goat.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Child Tortured and Beaten by Parents

This story out of Oklahoma just reinforces why I stay outspoken about religion.

I just read that a couple from El Reno, Oklahoma locked their 6-year-old in a closet and beat him because they claim that he was possessed by a demon.


Whether they truly believe that a demon has possessed their child or not doesn't matter at all in this case.  Why?

Consider this...  If these two sorry excuses for parents actually believe what they claim, then religion is at fault because it continues to teach people that evil spirits are real.  If they don't believe in demons, then religion is STILL at fault because it has provided the outlet in our society for sick and twisted individuals like this to commit atrocity.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Porterville Mayor is Part of the Problem

Another day, another moron saying moronic things.

"All most people just have to grow a pair, and stick up for them damn selves."
And I didn't misquote the guy, either.  That kind of grammar rape could only come from a crass blockhead like Mayor Hamilton.  Plus, anyone that has ever been bullied will know that it is never THAT simple.

Not that his solution is even original.  This type of answer has been the standard oversimplified response of truck-nut consumers everywhere.  Talk about mantras, Mayor!

Besides, hasn't this guy ever heard of psychological bullying?  What happens when a young, desperate victim of psychological bullying decides to take this guy's advice and start a fight?  More than likely the victim will end up being punished, not the bully.

Blaming the victim is NEVER the answer to bullying, Mayor.  You're an embarrassment to your community.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Stop it, Arkansas

I'm so miserably disappointed in my home state.

First there was this:

State Supreme Court puts a halt to same sex marriages.

And now this:

Candidate for Governor wants to allow lawmakers to override court.

You read that right.  One of the Republican candidates for Governor, Curtis Coleman, wants to veto power to override rulings from the state Supreme Court.

He claims he's a, "constitutional advocate," yet he wants to pass a constitutional amendment that would be unconstitutional.

Sounds legit.

Come on, Arkansas.  Stop taking one step forward and two steps back.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

RYBS: Stealing Heaven

Read Your Bible Series - Week Two

Stealing Heaven

In John chapter 11, we start out with a quick bit of history to get the story moving:
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)
Just as a quick aside for those familiar with Saint Mary of Podiatric Perfume and Hair, this is NOT the same person as Mary Magdalene.  So don't ever, ever fall victim to Pope Gregory I and get those two mixed up.

Now back to our story.  We can already see there's some trouble brewing in the realm of the omnipotent.  The author of John dives right in:
So the sisters sent word to Jesus, 'Lord, the one you love is sick.' When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.'
If you didn't already know the end of the story here, I know what you're thinking.  "Look!  Jesus just told Lazarus' sisters that his sickness will not end in death.  Looks to me like Jesus is saying that Lazarus is sick because God needs some celebrity recognition by the locals and Jesus is God's talent agent."  If you thought that, you'd be wrong.  Jesus didn't mean END end, he just meant... oh never mind.  Back to the story:
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, 'Let us go back to Judea.'
'But Rabbi,' they said, 'a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?'
Jesus answered, 'Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.'
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, 'Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.'
His disciples replied, 'Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.' Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
Darn it, I hate when the writer gives away the ending like that...
So then he told them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.'
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, 'Let us also go, that we may die with him.'
Did you notice how sassy Thomas got with Jesus and the disciples there at the end of that exchange?  Talk about a smart-ass!  I can see Thomas now, "This dude's got a death wish or something... He's going to get us all killed!"

Anyway, Jesus decides to set off to Bethany to pay his respects to his dead friend.  But before we get back to the story, take note that thus far, we've already been told twice that Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters.  This means that logically we can conclude that Lazarus is a follower of Jesus, which would qualify him as a true Christian and get him a direct ticket into heaven.  Keep that in mind as we move forward:
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
'Lord,' Martha said to Jesus, 'if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.'
Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.'
Martha answered, 'I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.'
I find that last statement from Martha intriguing.  By that we can conclude that young Martha has been taught that her brother's resurrection on Earth is the ultimate prize for those that believe.  She doesn't speak of walls of jasper or cities of gold; she believes that she and those she loves will someday walk the Earth again.  It's funny how easy it is to miss that after reading Revelation, but that's a topic for another time:
Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?'
'Yes, Lord,' she replied, 'I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.'
After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. 'The Teacher is here,' she said, 'and is asking for you.' When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 'Where have you laid him?' he asked.
'Come and see, Lord,' they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, 'See how he loved him!
But some of them said, 'Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?'
Let's look at a few things in this section.  First, you'll see that Mary called Jesus out a bit by saying that had he been there, Lazarus would not have died.  Second, we're reminded yet again how much Jesus loved Lazarus.  Third, like any good friend of the family, Jesus was obviously upset for everyone involved.

But then Jesus does something a bit odd...  He asks Mary where the family buried Lazarus.  I've always found that interesting that the creator of the Universe didn't have the clairvoyance to psychal-locate the tomb of such a good friend.  Perhaps he had to save his psychogenic batteries for a much larger bit of messianic magic:
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 'Take away the stone,' he said.
'But, Lord,' said Martha, the sister of the dead man, 'by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.'
You got that right.  Ewww.
Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?'
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.'
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'
And there you have it.  Lazarus raised from the dead!  WOW!  That's never been done before, right?


But I'm still left with a few lingering questions here.  Why does Jesus have to convince God to do him a solid and let him raise Lazarus from the dead?  Furthermore, if Lazarus was an obvious follower of Jesus, and was thrice declared as being loved by Jesus, why in the name of himself would Jesus rip this poor sap away from the gold streets of paradise and subject him to ANOTHER death?  The guy has already died once!  I mean Jesus, isn't one death enough?

Plus, I think it's all too convenient that the story of Lazarus ended there.  In my mind, I don't think it's a stretch of the imagination to think that once Lazarus realized he was alive again, he rattled off a litany of profanity that the writer of John didn't deem fit to print.  I mean, wouldn't you?  This poor dupe didn't have the luxury of narcotics or analgesics to help with the pain, which means that I'm quite sure he suffered an extremely drawn-out and painful death.

Can you imagine what poor Lazarus was thinking once the vertigo wore off and he stumbled out of that tomb?
'What am I doing back in this dump?  Does this mean I have to die AGAIN?!?  What kind of sick bastard are you?'
Even when Jesus raised himself from he grave, he knew better than to subject himself to yet another round of the eventual agony of the demise of a human body.  No, he saved that "gift" for a man he truly loved!

Nice work... Jesus.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

RYBS: A Hungry God

Read Your Bible Series - Week One

A Hungry God

We start our journey as Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem with his disciples.  My man Jesus immediately goes gangsta by ordering two of his boys to swipe someone's donkey:
"Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'"
One interesting thing about that phrase, "... and will send it back here shortly,"  is that you can find  in the New International Version of the Bible, but it cannot be found in the King James Version.  Take that as you will.  Also notice that nowhere in that chapter does gangsta Jesus ever order the two disciples to return that donkey to it's rightful owner.  Nice.

Moving on...

While receiving very high praise from some of the locals, Jesus then goes full diva as he rides his stolen donkey into Jerusalem.  But *SPOILER ALERT*, it was too late to cause any trouble at the temple courts just yet, so he and his boys set out to Bethany.

This is where it gets really interesting.  Jesus, being God in human form, wakes up with a rumbly in his tumbly.  So as he and his merry band, "The Twelve", are leaving Bethany, Jesus spies a fig tree covered in leaves:
"The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs."
You'll note that the last portion of this verse mentions that our omnipotent hero had to know that the season was all wrong, and this tree could not possibly be bearing fruit even if its outward appearance suggested otherwise.  But this was a hungry Jesus, and he was willing to give the tree the benefit of the doubt.

Could you imagine the tension?  I mean, by now that nervous little fig tree had to have been sapping bullets!  And then the unthinkable happens (warning for the squeamish, this gets a little brutal):
"Then he said to the tree, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again.' And his disciples heard him say it."
Did the creator of the universe do what I think he just did?  Hold onto your popcorn, because we'll have to wait and see...  Mark continues:
"On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, 'Is it not written: 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.' The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city."
Thus, it looks like Jesus was finally able to show up on time and make a scene at the temple court.  And he did so by flipping tables.

Hungry Jesus -->        (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻┻

And then the story jumps right back to that indignant fig tree from the day before - the one that had the audacity to lack any ripened figs for Hungry Jesus.  Indeed, it seems that according to Mark, that foolhardy fig tree was at the business end of an omnibenevolent, albeit emotional, deity who - on an empty stomach - committed an arborilogical atrocity:
"In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!'
'Have faith in God,' Jesus answered. 'Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.'"
One must assume that this chain of violence all started because some silly fig tree didn't bother to have figs ready for its creator.  Well, that and none of these guys bothered to take a few minutes to pack a knapsack the night before, or step forward to remind Jesus that he once fed five thousand people with just a few fish and couple of loaves of bread...

Moving on to the version of the story told in Matthew, you can see that it starts off just about the same as the story told in Mark.  Jesus swipes a donkey, goes full diva, yadda yadda yadda.  But the story in Matthew has an interesting change to the chain of events.  First, Jesus arrives to the temple court with ample time to start maniacally flipping tables and causing a commotion.  Second, he does something useful by performing several productive miracles between various table flips (Hooray!  Universal health care!  Healing the blind and the lame!!!)  And third, he doesn't bother to kill the fig tree until the next morning:
"Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 'It is written,' he said to them, 'My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.' The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, 'Hosanna to the Son of David,' they were indignant. 'Do you hear what these children are saying?' they asked him. 'Yes,' replied Jesus, 'have you never read, "From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise"?' And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.
Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, 'May you never bear fruit again!' Immediately the tree withered. When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. 'How did the fig tree wither so quickly? they asked. Jesus replied, 'Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, "Go, throw yourself into the sea," and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
Now, it could very well be that the reason the story of the fig tree changed in Matthew is because the author of Matthew knew how heinous it was to completely plagiarize someone else's work.  But then again these guys were writers and like any good writer they would recognize a perfect opportunity to embellish a story.  Because let's be rational about this; when you're a writer telling a story about God walking around on the Earth, the narrative has a bit more pizzazz if, "The Twelve" actually witnessed the fig tree wither.

*          *          *          *          *

There are a multitude of Sunday sermons and religious essays written by apologists over the years that try to interpret what it was that Jesus was actually doing by killing that fig tree.  Apologists will tell you that the tree was meant as a symbol of the antisemitism that was filtering through the area.  The story of this "miracle" was a metaphor for a cursed religion that did not recognize the messianic Christ.  Further, they’ll tell you that this story can also be applied toward a person of faith that is not giving his or her best effort toward the word of God.

But if that was the case, why even take the time to mention that Jesus was hungry?  And why would the creator of the Universe need to kill a tree just to make some antisemitic point?  Sure, he didn't take an axe to the tree, but he might as well have done so because the end result was the same.  Plus, didn't Jesus say in Matthew 7 that a tree that does not bear good fruit should be cut down and thrown into the fire?

More importantly, the guy could have at least been as merciful as, say, Oscar Schindler and used one of his 37 miracles to save a life or heal another blind person.  Instead, the creator of the Universe, the first mover, the King of Kings decided to kill a tree to make his point.  Brilliant.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Read Your Bible Series

Since I write most of my blog posts for my kids to read as they get older, I'm considering writing a series covering some of the... interesting things you can find in the Bible.  I'd like for both of my children, and even some other people for that matter, to have a small but valuable resource to turn to when discussing the Bible.  Not to mention I think it would be good for me to brush up on some of the research I did some 20+ years ago.

This all started with a post I made to Facebook:

I'll include the passage for reference:
"12 Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. 13 As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. 14 For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you."
 I plan on discussing the passage for a bit, much the way the local pastor might, but instead of trying to tell you, the reader, what you're supposed to read into it, I'll cover the words as they are written on the page.

No muss, no fuss.  I'll just review exactly what the book has written between the covers, rather than gloss over the ugly bits or try to convince you that there's a hidden meaning.  Also, I'll do my best to keep it simple, so as not to get too preachy.

I'll pick my first topic and get the series started in a few days...