God the Father, by Ludovico Mazzolino, via Wikimedia Commons
In a previous post I wrote about the story of Noah and the Curse of Ham (which has nothing to do with the Old Testament prohibition against eating pork!). That a curse could determine a people’s fate for generations is part of the biblical notion that God shapes history. In fact, history shaped God to reflect the fears and political realities of ancient Israel. The result is the Bible’s “jealous” God… an idea that influences history to this day.
Noah’s curse fell on Ham’s son, Canaan, whose descendants had the misfortune of occupying the Promised Land without being God’s Chosen People, and were therefore slaughtered. It doesn’t change anything that this is mostly nationalistic fiction written centuries later. Simply read as a story, the tales of the conquest of Canaan are part of a sensibility that shapes the entire Old Testament and its portrayal of God. A few highlights show what I mean: Continue reading →
This is heartbreaking stuff. If you haven’t been following Nate’s deconversion story at Finding Truth, I highly recommend it. Read the whole series. Nate seems like a decent, humble, caring person, but because of his family’s and former church’s strict beliefs, they have “withdrawn” from him. Yesterday, at the conclusion of Nate’s series of posts, his father commented, in part:
I know this has been a painful journey, but even more so for your family who loves you more than life itself. It is obvious from many of the comments that quite a few people who have a belief in God think God requires nothing of them. However, if one believes that God is, and that Jesus is His son, and the Bible is the Word of God, the guide for our lives, then withdrawal is not a choice, but a duty. Submitting our will to God’s is sometimes difficult, but we must do it if we are to be pleasing to God… I would rather forgo this short time on earth with someone I love and cause them to rethink their position and circumstance and hopefully return to God, thereby spending all eternity in Heaven with them…. Continue reading →
Must’ve been the hangover. Detail of “Noah Curses Ham and Canaan,” via Wikimedia Commons.
Reading one of the Bible’s oddest stories got me to thinking about the Bible’s “jealous god” and how this portrayal came to be. I’ll say more about that in an upcoming post. Right now I just want to tell the story and show how it’s been used to justify a surprising array of atrocities.
The story begins after the great flood has ended, and Noah and his family—including sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth—have come out of the ark to resume their lives. Here’s Genesis 9:20-27 (ESV): Continue reading →
The Ladder of Divine Ascent or The Ladder of Paradise. (Wikimedia Commons; US public domain)
Will you be happy in heaven?
Do you belong to the True Faith? Do your holy scriptures promise eternal reward for the faithful, and eternal punishment for the unfaithful?
When you enter those gates, and are ushered into the presence of your God, will you rejoice knowing that (if you are a Christian), all of the world’s dead Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and followers of every other religion, along with the nonreligious, are at that moment suffering in torment?
Will you be grateful to know that you are part of a small elect, from which the vast majority of human race—all those who don’t share your religion—are forever excluded? Continue reading →
It’s rare that you can actually watch the president of the United States commit a sin live and on national television.
But that’s what happened yesterday when President Obama told the nation that he is compelled to take more money from the rich.
This is a direct, public and disgraceful violation of the 10th Commandment.
The 10th Commandment, of course, flatly prohibits the sin of lust for another man’s wife or for his possessions. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Continue reading →
I grew up at a time when church music was changing from traditional hymns and gospel to contemporary pop-style songs. One of the old songs I’ve heard countless times is “I’ll Fly Away,” which to me — years removed from church-going and religious belief — represents both what was good and what was bad about the Christian culture from which it emerged.
“I’ll Fly Away” is said to be the most recorded gospel song in history. One of the better-known recordings was made by Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss for the motion picture soundtrack of O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000).
Growing up with the song, I never really paid it close attention until I was older. It wasn’t a favorite of mine, just another old-timey hymn for old-timey people: Continue reading →
You may have heard this one. It’s not an argument that religion is true, it’s an argument that it’s useful. It’s invoked to discourage skeptics, and it rests partly on the maddening assumption that critiquing an idea is equivalent to forcibly ripping it out of someone’s hands. It usually leads to heated discussions about whether or not religion truly makes believers happy, or whether its comfort outweighs the guilt and fear that are often part of religiosity.
In audio obtained from a Family Council fundraiser in Anchorage, Alaska, Truthout has learned that a number of right-wing religious groups, including Focus on the Family, have been working with the Koch brothers to target voters across the country using their multimillion-dollar voter database known as Themis. Continue reading →
Nature is life and death equally. What is living is dying, and what is dead becomes new life. Recently on a walk through some river-bottom woods I found the “dying” part on full display. Granted, falling leaves and brown grass represent plant dormancy, not death, but certainly there’s an element of death to it. The trees grow bright with dying foliage, and the ground is littered with the carcasses of the fallen. How’s that for a cheery autumn stroll? Continue reading →