don't know much about religion...

The recent survey about Americans religious knowledge should come as no surprise to anyone if they stopped to think about it without their prejudices, though, most media outlets are reporting on it as though this was earth-shattering news.

Atheists (and other non-believers) know more about religion than your average American Christian. Some articles do a better job of discussing the reasons for this than others.

One correlating factor is that the irreligious tend to be better educated than the religious, and as many of the stories pointed out, level of education correlated highly with performance on the test. The correlation with lack of belief should tell you something right there. However, if you put that together with these other factors, as reported in another article (I think it was in the LA Times) that education alone was not enough to explain the higher scores of non-believers, and indeed they still scored higher than believers with the same level of education.

Another correlating factor is that in a country that has a predominantly Christian population, it was the religious that are most out of the mainstream that performed the best on the test (atheists and agnostics were followed by Muslims and other non-Christians, followed by Mormons). In such an environment, one is naturally exposed to a lot of Christian doctrine, but is also more aware of the practices of their own faith (or lack of it), and are also highly motivated to be aware of separation of church and state issues discussed in the survey.

A third factor that is related to this is that most atheists in America grow up in Christian households. Atheists don't leave religion because of a lack of knowledge (indeed, this survey confirms quite the opposite, that lack of knowledge suggests you are more willing to stay); rather, atheists leave religion because of a crisis of faith. Such crises often prompt a good deal of soul-searching, investigation into the tenants of one's religious heritage and that of other faiths prior to abandoning religion altogether. This kind of investigation of other religions is not something that those who never question their faiths ever engage in.

Save this link for the next time some apologist tells you that you don't know enough about religion. I'm nearly through the Bible, I've read the Book of Mormon, if only I can find an audiobook of the Koran... though, the Tibetan Book of the Dead might be easier to track down. :) Still, as those who have left the religion well know, there is a lot about most religions that you won't find in their holy books. These should never be considered the be-all-and-end-all of any investigation into religion. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a better resource.

New testament... part 1

Darth Vader reads the New Testament...

Beginning with a genealogy... I get that it's part of the literary style, but really dull. Too bad it doesn't agree with the other listing of Jesus' genealogy.

What's so important about 14?

Isn't Mary supposed to be a perpetual virgin? But Joseph didn't know her until after Jesus was born, it says so right there... so she healed up again after every time?

Wouldn't it be insane to up root your family and move in anticipation of... you don't know what?

Twice so far, coming out of Egypt, coming from the seacoast, to fulfill prophecy on purpose. It doesn't count if you do it on purpose.

The story keeps jumping around, and I'm having a hard time following it.

I also don't really understand the "salt" analogy. the salt of the earth, and being discarded and cast out...? I don't get that at all.

This must be where that whole thought is as bad as the act thing comes from. just getting angry is as bad as the act. If you look at her with lust it's as bad as adultery... so what incentive is there to not follow through?

Don't divorce the wife because that's also like adultery... I guess that might be important at a time when women couldn't fend for themselves, but then, educate the women and then you don't have to worry about it so much.

Almost makes him sound like a classic liberal... in context, turn the other cheek, is like a passivism, like MLK, in that hitting back tends to lead to things like blood feuds.

This section about not praying in public because the commendation of others is your reward for that behaviour, but rather pray in private (in your closet). My grandmother should really know this section, it's right at the beginning.

No man can serve two masters. More Christians need to take this into consideration, because they seem to be having problems reconciling this... because if they really believe this, they should stay the hell out of my life, and politics.

Matthew (Chapter 6?)

Chapter 7 is a bit like a critical thinkers manual, or so one could interpret it. The mote in one's brother's eye rather than the beam in ones own... or whatever, as looking at other people's (logical) flaws, and not seeing the biases in own's own thinking. Works for a lot of things, i guess. They mean sin, of course, but I think poor critical thinking is a "sin".

Catholics don't pay too much attention to this passage about "you shall know them by their fruits". Because the Church's fruits these days are pretty rotten.

Matthew 8 seems to suggest that Jesus doesn't give a flying fuck about other people's families. Christianity intends to use the death of others to manipulate their followers.

I don't understand this reference to Jesus as the "son of man". Isn't everyone?

Having watched two movies recently set in the 19th century, I was appalled by their lack of medical knowledge. I'm equally appalled by the superstition that permeates the stories of Jesus' miracles.

More evidence that Jesus is full of it... anyone who holds their family to be higher than him isn't worthy of him (Jesus). my grandmother's gonna burn in hell, because she values me more than the church's desire that I avoided because of my atheism, and my apostacy. Not to mention it's immoral.

Some of this suggests a certain consequentialism.

Talks about how the Apocalypse, and the good and bad growing together. And Jesus' unnamed sisters...

Jesus told the villagers not to feed the beggers, but then he gave them food... why do that?

An awful lot of time to spend telling people not to wash your hands before eating.

What Peter does holds in heaven, and Pope is an heir to Peter... then why do Catholics have to abide by tradition? The Pope could just change the rules and god will agree, right?

Hallucinations and visions make them sound drugs. And Jesus is like a socialist.

The chronology is all messed up. The narrative structure is poor.

What is the point of the story with the fig tree? It makes Jesus sound crazy. I mean, cursing a fig tree because its too early in the season for it to have figs? Impossible expectations much?

Sometimes it's wise to speak in parables if you fear a police state, but it also makes the message so less clear.

No marriage in heaven. Sorry Mormons.

The disciples are pissed that this woman wastes expensive oil annointing Jesus before he dies, but they could have sold it and fed many poor. Jesus' reaction was rather immoral, in that the poor would always be with them, but he would not be.

I would be curious to know what kind of political machinations were going on. What would the news be saying?

Jesus' parables are going to hurt him now because they are going to be interpreted against him.

Where did Jesus ever call himself the son of god? I only recall other people saying that, at least in this book.


Reasoning in your heart?

The rationalizations in the bible are really interesting. Sometimes people ask stupid questions. Why do your followers not fast, but John the Baptist's fast? Oh, 'cause I'm the bridegroom, and you don't fast when the bridegroom is around, and someday... how bizarre. Why not just say the truth: because i haven't told them to fast!

When the bible talks about conspiracies and how to destroy Jesus that there is this common mindset with Republicans and Tea Partiers... there must be this conspiracy, people must be deliberately trying to bring you down if it doesn't go your way.... so they can't conceive that someone might actually not see Jesus as the son of god, and might actually have a "legitimate" reason for acting the way they do. Jesus is telling his followers things in parable, so that people have to be told what they mean. Isn't that a strange way to bring people over to your side. Wouldn't just the naked truth be better? Wouldn't you want to advertise the truth rather than conceal it? Doesn't that seem more effective? And that parables are hiding the truth?

Followers of Jesus are incredibly superstitious. If you are looking for credible witnesses, these people really don't qualify.

Casts a legion of evil demons out of one guy and into a herd of swine so the swine go crazy and throw themselves into the sea. So that might seem great at first until you realize that the whole village will starve now. If I was a member of that village, I'd be somewhat pissed off.

They mention four brothers and unnamed sisters if Jesus...

Someone who will keep an oath made in ignorance and thinks it's more important to keep that oath even at the cost of killing someone... that seems morally bankrupt, don't you?

Anything that can go into a man can't defile you, but things that come out of a man can? So you can eat anything but shit, urine or semen??? What? This can mean almost anything. Blood, emotion, sex, ... it can mean whatever you want it to mean.

Peter is calling him god, Christ, but Jesus still only calls himself son of man. Why tell no man he is god, if he really believes he is the son of god. None of this makes sense.

So Elias is supposed to come first, but Jesus is just asserting that Elias has already come, and so here he is. Everyone just missed Elias, I guess.

That us vs. them mentality... he is that not against us, is among us. a bit nicer, but still.

Chapter 9? Jesus is talking about cutting off your foot if that offends god, than ending up in hell with two feet. Can you imagine the literalness with which some people take this? Gross.

If you don't receive the kindgom of god as a child you won't enter it? So, basically all the disciples are fucked because they didn't meet Jesus until they were grown-ups.

That fig tree story again... he's punishing the whole community who depend on those figs.

In Mark they say Barabas committed an insurrection against the Romans. No wonder they wanted him instead of Jesus. Jesus talked about rendering onto Ceasar that which was Caesar's, and Barabas had defined the Romans.

Where does Mark get his info about the scourging of Jesus and mocking by the soldiers? Witnesses?


John the Baptist is a cousin of Jesus through Mary. The genealogy goes back to Seth? Crazy.

He perceives their thoughts? So we've got a psychic Jesus. Okay!

So much repetition with other books.

It's so convenient to say you are the son of god, because you can just tell people you don't have to follow their rules because you are the boss's kid.

The parable of the seed, that falls on the pathway, and rock, thorns, and good ground. I look at it as natural selection. You have to produce an awful lot in order for some to divide. What authors of the parable could be saying is that god has to create man and evil in order for ANYONE to do well and live among him. Maybe he's lonely and wants company, but there is an inevitable price to be paid. Most will perish and suffer and die, but he's so fucking lonely in heaven to abide the consequences so that a few people will come to live with him. Kinda like a small child. Evil exists in the world because that's the way the world is and god is just working with the system... of course, if he's omnipotent, then he should be able to fix that. Everything depends on how you conceive of god. If you change how you conceive of god, you change how you interpret the parable.... which is why science is not written in parables.

If you are performing miracles, why continually tell people not to tell people that you are doing these things, and that no one should no about it. He raised this girl from the dead, but told parents not to tell anyone. He cures leoprosy in public, but then this? Why not?

These repeated passages are quoting one of the other gospels literally word for word. Really dull.

All these spirits are being cast out, but I want to know some follow-up stories. How are they doing a week or two later? Inquiring minds want to know.

Jesus wants people to abandon their dead relatives, their jobs, their lives, their families, and go follow him. If that isn't the sign of an egomaniac, and devoid of compassion, I don't know what is.

Jesus admits he brings division: mother against daughter, etc. Lovely.

They seem to have a different meaning of the word hypocrite than I'm familiar with. They seem to mean ignorant instead because they refer to a lack of knowledge.

Humans should forgive, but not god or the prophets.

Luke seems to make it clear that he didn't tell anyone he was the son of god, only that "they" said that he was.

The story of the crucifixion is very different than that in Mark (?).


Remarks in "margins" in the recordings are strange.

John claims that Jesus says he is the son of god. Almost every other reference has avoided that claim from Jesus' lips.

Stopping here. Need another road trip... I've only been working on this since 2007... :)

out with the Old and in with the New!

Testament, that is...

I will be posting the end of my notes on the old testament below, and I've finally managed to make it into the New Testament. My long drives will be over again until Christmas, very likely, so while this all may get broken up into two posts, I'm not likely to get much further into the Bible until the holidays arrive and I have another long drive ahead of me. But at least I can begin to see the end in sight. I may have things to say during the quarter, though. One of the philosophers I have to read loves to bash atheists, so I may make a point of commenting more on that here, more than I can really do on Twitter.

I think I'm picking up in Jeremiah...

From February!:

Lots of prophets running around. Telling people not to believe prophets, but how am I to know the real prophets from the false ones? Why believe this guy and not the guy at the next crossroads? Rather arbitrary. History is written by the victors, I guess.

I don't understand... naughty pigs? I don't understand my own comment.

That was very ungrateful. This guy releases Jeremiah from prison, but Jeremiah tells him that he's going to die because he is preaching rebellion against God, and then he dies that year. Thanks for nothing! Shoulda tossed his ass back into jail.

We jump ahead two months... to Jeremiah 47...?

I guess I don't understand why, if god is all powerful and that, why should he ever be unhappy? He doesn't have any real competition, not like the Greeks, so if it's all up to him, why should there ever be any reason why he can't have his way? Why have followers whom you know are going to constantly disappoint you? What is the psychology of that? He's beating the crap out of them? He's like a spoiled child. Okay, I'm psychoanalyzing god... ugh!

Didn't he just say people weren't supposed to believe anyone running around calling themselves a prophet? How come Jeremiah is called a prophet, then? God needs an editor, just for consistency.

Lamentations now.

Reminds me of my mindset when I was really depressed in college, and before I became an atheist, the paranoid delusions of god basically being out to get me. That's what this is like, talking about the Jews being carried off into the Babylonian capitivity. Why does god hate me? Why is he doing this to me? What did I do to deserve this? It's all very familiar, and rather destructive.

Ezekiel now.

Seems like Ezekiel is in first person, which is different that the rest. (2/3 points)

Sounds like an LSD trip. 4 faces and eyes, and floating... someone is smoking something.

We have an explicit statement that when you are righteous you can only help yourself and not anyone else. That sorta goes against this notion that (particularly with my Catholic grandmother) that you can pray to help others who are less worthy, to intercede with god, because he doesn't give a shit. Follow my rules or too damn bad. Granny can't save me.

Apparently a prerequisite for getting into heaven is not coming near a menstruous woman. I guess that kinda leaves all girls over the age of 13 in hell, then, huh? Let's kill people, but not go near a menstruous woman. And if you do, you aren't "just".

Another contradiction. A while back he said that man would bear the sins of the father onto the 7th generation, but now, no, we don't want that anymore so now the son doesn't get punished. The sons can be good and not be punished for their father's inequity. If he's all-knowing, wouldn't he have known he was going to change his mind?

If he turns away from his transgressions, you will live. But before, even if you are a just person and you commit one bad act at the end, you will be punished for all eternity because the very last thing you did in your life was bad. What have you done for me lately, I guess.

Ezekiel 19 is very confusing. Mixing metaphors is confusing.

Why is it so important to bring the heathens out of the wilderness to persuade them to follow god? If he can compel them to come into the cities, but he can't compel them to follow him? Or something? (21?)

Ranting about lewd women in Ezekiel 23. Nothing about the men, but let's kill the women.

Can someone please explain to me why god likes fat and blood from animals?

Into Daniel...

sorta homoerotic...

King tells his servant that he wants his dream interpreted, but he can't remember the dream. How is the king going to know if he just makes something up?

Why make Nebacanzzar king in order to enslave his people? This is totally illogical.

This description of Daniel's vision (9?) sounds very much like an epileptic fit. The details are just like a seizure. Hallucinations, and loss of muscle control...

What was I doing in April that I did so much driving?


Obssessed with harlotry and whoredom. Uses the words a lot. And punishing the children of these women. Why the woman and children being punished, but not the men... How did they decide which books were included in the Old Testament/Torah. Some of these are histories, and some are giving messages, and this one is like just a big long warning about how if you don't do what I tell you, big nasty punishments are coming your way. These warnings are already in there elsewhere, but why this? Individual testimonies of good men or prophets are like personal testimonies, but what is the logic because a book like Hosea? What was the context for thinking that there was a need for this?

Hosea 12 they refer to the battle of Jacob with the angel. But he beat the angel. If he beat the angel, then the only way Jacob could have done this, if angels are what they say they are, is if the angel let him win. And while that might be meaningful to Jacob, to me that's like manipulation. I'm gonna let you win in order to make you think you are such hot stuff that you will do what I tell you to do?

They've started referring to the Grecians. So these are quite late.

The claim that the Jews are the only civilization in the bible that survived to this day is obviously not true.

Two years before the earthquake? What earthquake?

Jonah and the whale...

I didn't realize there were two stories about a "fish" swallowing two different people. Job was just being fucked with, but Jonah is really bad. Kinda lacking in imagination. This is the book of Amos? Or whatever is before Micah... they are so short now they are hard to keep track of.

When was the last time you heard someone quote Habakuk? Like the third or fourth to last book in the Bible? Have you ever heard anyone quote it? Or even heard it? They talk about uncovering your foreskins and shameful spewing... virtuous Christians have got to turning beat red at this.

Zephaniah is another one. All these ones at the end... No one ever quotes these because they never make it to the end!

Is this the same Darius Herodotus talks about or a different one?

That's the end of the old testament... let's put the new testament stuff in another post...
machines think/do men?

the new agnosticism

Ron Rosenbaum's article in Slate recently is a perfectly good example of why agnostics are insufferable. They clearly don't even know what it is they are arguing about.

Consider this statement: Indeed agnostics see atheism as "a theism"—as much a faith-based creed as the most orthodox of the religious variety.

Yeah, Ron, that is dumb. I'll just be blunt about it. Criticizing a position on the basis of your own misunderstanding isn't very bright. And the agnostic's "radical skepticism"? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself if it's really warranted? If someone asked you whether Obama was really born in this country or not, are you going to say "I don't know" despite the evidence to the contrary? If so, you are just as dogmatic as you pretend we are... It goes the same for god. I can only conclude he has an odd definition of god, or he hasn't looked at the evidence at all... and that's being charitable.

Faith-based atheism? Yes, alas. Atheists display a credulous and childlike faith, worship a certainty as yet unsupported by evidence—the certainty that they can or will be able to explain how and why the universe came into existence.

Huh? Science has done a lot to get us closer, but it is still far from certain as to just what some details are. But it really is okay for an atheist to say "I don't know". It is not a dichotomous position to insist that we know something or we don't... we can know some things, and not know others. See the difference? Classic case of lazy thinking for my women's studies class.

Most seem never to consider that it may well be a philosophic, logical impossibility for something to create itself from nothing.

When has science ever said it can? At least about the Big Bang, no one pretends that mass created itself, rather the Big Bang theory claims that matter was all condensed into a single point. Knowing what came before may well be impossible. But Ron here believes the creationist, quite credulously I might add, when he pretends that cosmologists say we came from "nothing".

And then this cherished bit: none of which strikes me as persuasive. Um, Ron, you've already proved you don't know what you are talking about. What strikes you as "persuasive" is beside the point. Your ignorance is getting in the way of your understanding. What the ignorant find convincing is not in the slightest bit interesting or useful in terms of determining the truth. And the things he lists are just scientific speculation. If he can't tell the difference between informed speculation (that needs to be investigated) and well-supported facts, then he really is hopeless.

I just don't accept turning science into a new religion until it can show it has all the answers, which it hasn't, and probably never will.

More inanity. Believing something that is supported by the evidence and denying evidence to continue your belief (or your lack of it) is not the same thing at all. And Ron here, I'm afraid, now falls into the latter category. Nor do atheists believe anything like what he claims, that science will have "all the answers". Science only believes that it can find better answers.

After that, I started skipping around on Ron. I mean, really. What other ignorant claims could be possibly attribute to atheists and science that were completely false? So, let's jump down to his "manifesto".

Too much of the rhetoric and sociality is tribal: Us and Them."

Oh, um, Ron... you're doing it too. What did you just say about theists and atheists being true believers? But not you? Us, them, get it?

I'm bored now.

buried on the desk...

Oops! Three times last quarter, you say? Where are the rest...

Right, after that "wallet" and the happy-face "convert or burn in hell" message was left on my car, two weeks later (and the only one in the parking lot) was the "dollar bill" posted below. Sorry... it got buried on the desk. :(

Just to let you know how totally nuts these people are, check out the website on the end of the backside of the bill. They are linked to Ray Comfort. Yeah, need I really say anything more?

The truly disgusting part, though, is that this turned into a genuine campaign when two weeks after this, someone defaced my car with a really racist bumpersticker. (You can find the image in my twitter files.) I called campus police after that one.

As always, click to see a larger version.

$1000 $1000
left on my car May 2010
$1000 backside $1000 backside
left on my car May 2010

green rose

singled out again

This week at work (where I teach), I found these two flyers below on the windshield of my car. My car only, not anyone else's car. The flyers, if you click on them you can see the full-size versions, talk about "if you are searching..." I'm sorry, but nothing about my car suggests that I am "searching" for god or a new religion. It's plastered with tributes to reason and science and freethinking. The only reason this was left on my car was an attempt to pressure me to conform. It was an act of intimidation. Everyone else is okay, but you are deviant and you must be saved.

Of course, such methods will fail to persuade.

Whoever left them was from this church. I left them a note to let them know their flyers were not appreciated, because, after all, I don't leave flyers on their cars telling them to repent of their irrationality or anything else of the sort. And when they single out an individual car to leave these flyers on, it's no longer just a general attempt at advertising. I didn't leave my contact info, though. The last thing I want is to engage in a debate about free speech. Do they have the right to do it? Yes, but they are hypocrites if they don't expect the same in return.

This kind of thing happened to me three times last quarter at the other school. Happening at this one is new, and I'm not at all happy about it. It strikes me that someone is stepping up a campaign against atheists locally, and this is just the beginning. I hope it ends here, but one never can tell. Sometimes people behave very irrationally.

repent! repent!
flyer left on car 7/27 inside
obey! obey!
flyer left on car 7/27
believe! believe!
flyer #2 left on my car 7/27
proclaim! proclaim!
flyer #2 left on my car 7/27

Incidentally, I watched 8 a couple weeks. You should, too, to see how they justly deserve to lose their tax-exempt status. Churches influencing elections is a no-no.


Someone sent me an email with this charming signature...

Happy moments PRAISE GOD
Difficult moments SEEK GOD
Quiet moments WORSHIP GOD
Painful moments TRUST GOD

I think I am going to wretch.
taun we

Equal Opportunity... but must be Christian (and not just any Christian)

I finally finished listening to the Old Testamaent and started on the New. I'll get around to posting my notes eventually, but I came across this job listing at Ohio Christian University that could just not be ignored.

I don't know how long the page will be up, so I'm reposting the relevant parts here.

From the linked page: There is a need for adjunct faculty to teach onsite in the adult degree program in the following area(s):

•Sciences (Chemistry, Earth Science, Biology)
•English Composition I and II
•Oral Communication
•Psychology and Counseling
•Substance Abuse Counseling
•Supply Chain Management
•Healthcare Management
Faculty members are selected on the basis of their ability to teach at the University level. The required professional qualifications include the following:

•Master's degree with at least 15 hours of graduate level courses in the chosen discipline.
•A professing Christian, who agrees to abide by University standards.
•An active member of a local church.

•Experience that relates to the area of teaching.

Emphasis is mine.

Now, what do you think their chances are of finding a competent teacher of biology, who is also both a professing Christian AND an active member of a church. (Never mind the earth science teacher? Can you find a competent one who thinks the Bible is unerring?) And of course, one then has to further ask, what is their idea of "Christian". Is a UU church good enough? Are Catholics Christian enough? (I can't tell you how many times I've had Protestants insist to me that Catholics aren't.) And then, there is this lovely bit in the margins, which is just too precious for words:

OCU is an Equal Opportunity Employer
As a religious educational institution operating under the auspices of The Churches of Christ in Christian Union, Ohio Christian University is permitted and reserves the right to prefer employees on the basis of religion (42 U.S.C., Sections 2000e-1 and 2000e-2).

Again, emphasis mine.

Is it not a bald-face contradiction in terms that you are an "equal opportunity employer" and then say from the beginning that the very first protected class in America, that of religion, was the one you reserved the right to discriminate by? They don't even work hard to conceal their lie. I really hope they aren't getting any public funds for their "university". You want to discriminate? Fine, but not on my dime, and not to teach shit science.

You might be thinking, how do I know it's "shit science"? Check out the webpage of The Churches of Christ in Christian Union. Their What We Teach page says it all right at the top:

God speaks to us through the Bible. The Spirit of God guided the Bible writers so that they wrote without error. The Bible contains all we need to know about God, about ourselves, and about life here and hereafter. It contains the good news and the bad news.

Again, emphasis mine.

Without error, huh? Everything we need to know about life, huh? And where exactly does that leave science? That statement above pretty much kills everything, from psychology to physics.

Of course, given what they are willing to pay their part-time faculty, they aren't going to get competent teachers in any field. The only people who will work there are going to be the people who the community colleges and real universities and private colleges don't want.

If you know of anyone planning to attend this school, I suggest there are better church-affiliated schools out there, ones that are actually competent and fair enough to merit some state subsidies. Even as a student look at their "non discrimination policy", especially this line:

Ohio Christian University does not within the context of its religious principles, heritage, mission or goals discriminate on the basis of sex in the area of employment, admission, educational programs or other activities.

Ladies? How many conservative evangelical ministers do you need to tell you to sit down and shut up before you get the hint?

Places like this make me ill.

(and before some theist wanders in here and tries to be all holier-than-thou, I didn't say they couldn't exist or that they should be banned... just no state/federal subsidies; and their right to exist does not in any way negate my right to say they are shit.)