Thursday, July 24, 2008

Are Atheists the only sane people on the Planet?

This gentleman is Antonie Dixon.

Last week, jurors in the Auckland High Court were told he heard the voice of God, before a violent spree that left a man dead and two women with horrific injuries.

His weapon of choice to inflict those injuries: a samurai sword.

"I went outside and spoke to God and he said they were Judas's, to behead them, and to turn the sword and kill myself."

Dixon is charged with seriously injuring Renee Gunbie and Simone Butler and murdering James Te Aute in January 2003. Dixon said he shot Mr Te Aute because he could see horns coming out of his head.

Dixon also testified he could telepathically communicate with his mother, and that he was told by her that he had inherited a demon from his father.

What the court must decide is whether Dixon was truly ‘around the bend’ when he went on his rampage or simply feigning mental illness to get off the rap.

The ‘Devil made me do it’ defence is a fairly prevalent occurrence.

David Berkowitz, the serial killer known as ‘The Son of Sam’, claimed demons drove him from his family home and then the neighbours pet Labrador was possessed, and the dog commanded him to go on his killing spree.

But let’s face it - it’s not just so called ‘nutters’ say they can ‘hear’ God, Demons, Angels etc.

Are there simply degrees of ‘religious psychosis’ that modern psychiatry has yet to get a grip of?

Let me introduce my theory:

- At one end of the spectrum we have individuals who are not susceptible to religious indoctrination. They form the backbone of the skeptic,atheistic communities.

- In the middle some where, is your standard Sunday Church goer who likes to ‘believe’ in nice things, and accepts the existence an invisible god father. They engage in the practice as a harmless diversion to the real world. They would either label Dixon 'mad' or claim 'God would never instruct anyone to do this'.

- Then at the other end of the scale we have the Antonie Dixon’s, David Berkowitz’s of the world who claim profusely, to hear the literal voice of entities, and act on these. These are also the people that crash planes into buildings.

Worryingly we have people in the corridors of power in fall into this last category.

Namely, the most powerful man on the planet.

“God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them”

“George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq. And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me"

Believing in a deity, believing that deity controls your actions etc, is therefore a matter of degrees.

Billions of humans believe invisible deities guide their lives, and are not thrown into straight jackets.

By in large we treat those grasped by religiosity in the same way we treat a child with an invisible friend.

It’s only when that ‘friend’ instructs you to slice an arm off using a samurai sword, your sanity is questioned.

Speaking to God is fine, but receiving instructions from an Alien out the back of Proxima Centauri would be enough to get you certified.

Are atheists by definition, the only sane ones on the planet?

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Jelly Bean Approach to the Bible

This is obviously a rather large jar of jelly beans.

It contains literally thousands of jelly beans.

But some of them, for purposes of this summation, are salted.

Specifically it’s the red and green ones that taste disgusting, and are best avoided where possible.

So when anyone reaches into the jar, they are soon careful to exclude the greens & reds.

Now let’s just imagine each of the jelly beans in this jar is inscribed with a biblical passage.

Further, you have to wear a blind-fold every time you reach in for one.

There are of course plenty of ‘tasty’ beans to enjoy.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...and now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (I Corinthians 13:4-8,13)

Do unto others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)

A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables." (Proverbs 24:3)

Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good works." (Hebrews 10:24)

But now and again, you get to chew on one of those hideous salted beans.

Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. (Exodus 35:2)

If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city. (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)

And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend. (Jeremiah 19:9)

Behold, I will corrupt your seed and spread dung upon your faces. (Malachi 2:3)

We then take the blind-fold off.

After a few experimental plunges, those dipping into the jar are again soon practiced at ‘cherry picking’ the contents.

Sound familiar?

Friday, July 18, 2008

The GODS of The Bible

“In the beginning Gods created the heavens and the earth”

The word for Gods in the Old Testament is Elohim.

Elohim is a plural noun, and the ‘im’ on the end denotes masculinity.

Christian scholars agree with the fact the word Elohim is plural, but attempt to argue that this plurality is negated when put alongside a singular verb. But we see in Genesis 20:13, Gen 35:7, 2 Sam 7:23, and Psalms 58, this proposition is not born out in fact. In these writings the word Elohim is followed by a plural verb.

More importantly if God is singular, why not simply use the singular term for God available at the time: Eloah? The word Eloah is, after all, used no less than 250 times in The Bible.

In my humble opinion the ‘gods versus god’ debate , does not surround the linguistics.

The writers of The Old Testament referred to multiple Gods ‘Elohim’ no less than 2,500 times, and they knew the difference between the plural and singular.

So let’s not forget, the word for multiply Gods appears ten times more in the Old Testament than description of a singular entity.

The Hebrew writers therefore used Gods and God where necessary.

“In the beginning Gods created the heavens and the earth” is the literal translation.

There are also other clear references to multiple Gods in the scriptures.

"Let US make man in OUR image". (Gen 1:26)

Christian scholars attempt to discount this text by claiming God is part of a trinity and therefore is in effect suffering a case of schizophrenia, by talking about himself to himself.

Besides which, this trinity business only occurs in The New Testament & not when the tracts referring to ‘us’ and ‘them’ were scribed.

A much more obvious conclusion is the God referred to in The Old Testament, is not alone.

Theologians however try and make the story fit the facts (simply cut and paste where necessary)

"Behold, the man has become like one of US” (Gen 3:22)

God clearly has some buddies.

And other Gods do pop-up in the pages in the scriptures.

To name but a few we have: Ashima, Baal, Bel, Chemosh, Dagon, Milcom, Nebo, Nibhaz, Rimmon, Tammuz.

More importantly to this debate – to the writers of the Bible these were real Gods in the sense of the term, not just historical entities:

“Then they carried the ark into Dagon's temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD (Yahweh)” (Sam 5:2-3)

But wait I hear you say, there are plenty of contrary passages where state there is only one God.

"Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4)

[ Footnote: Hold on, you guys are telling me ‘The Lord is one’?! I thought he was a trinity for one second? ]

“Yet for us there is one God,the Father,from whom are all things and for whom we exist”

Despite the texts which refer to ‘a’ God, in my mind the door is still open to the interpret that ‘this’ god has fellow entities.

There is nothing to discount my proposition that the God of the bible is but the ‘regional’ God of Earth and man should worship only him, and not say his twin brother Zeus who is off being adulated in some other part of the universe.

A simplified view of what I’m saying here is: the God of the Bible was allocated the heavenly caretakers role for planet Earth, but in no way is he alone (to accept that argument you must disregard the story of Jesus which indicates Gods can go forth and multiply, even if it means knocking-up the local populous without their permission)

“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord (Yahweh), who name is jealous, is a jealous god” (Exodus 31:14)

When considering the plurality of Gods in The Bible you are faced with these choices.

1.) You believe God is a diverse character with a habit of conversing three ways with himself.

2.) All passages of the Old Testament which indicate plural theism, like the 2,500 usages of the word ‘Gods’ are not to be taken literally, and instead need to be ‘interpreted’ . Any confusion regarding these writings arises due to linguistics, and the times at which they were written.

3.) You believe literally in just the Biblical passages which support the proposition for one god, but disregard other passages which counter this position. Christians of course love engaging in this ‘jelly bean’ approach to the bible. Pick the ones you like, leave the ones you don’t.

4.) Combinations of 1, 2 and 3.

5.) When God talks about ‘us’ and ‘our’ he IS referring to other God like beings, and he wants mankind to worship but him and not his fellows, a small variety of which are mentioned by name. It’s obvious the Hebrew writers knew the difference between the words ‘God’ and ‘Gods’. Monotheism is a fallacy, best summed-up in this passage: (Deut 10:17) “For the LORD (Yahweh) your god is god of gods and lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome”

I find the most credible option to be number five.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Popes Pilgrims do a runner!

The Popes new feature movie ’78 year Old Virgin’ was meet with rapturous applause at its initial screening.

Indian pilgrims bound for Catholic Youth Day in Sydney, have taken the opportunity of a stop-over in Auckland to ‘do a runner’.

The absconders from an escorted group of 220 were billeted in Auckland prior to traveling to Sydney, but almost as soon as the plane had touched town, a number high-tailed it and are now in hiding.

It’s become clear a number of this group were simply using Catholic Youth Day as a ruse to scam N.Z Immigration authorities into issuing temporary visa’s and it’s that very same Department that now has to spend tax-payers dollars tracking down the missing pilgrims.

One of the naive billets from St Thomas Moore Church in Auckland tried to persuade the public that this was not a mass immigration scam by claiming “I’m guessing they’ve taken a holiday in New Zealand, but I don’t think they’d give up the chance to meet the Pope”.

Clearly this individual was not at Auckland the airport to see the 39 missing seats on the connecting flight to Sydney, the equivalent of one in five from the original group.

Another host was more realistic as to the absconders motives. Kim Wannenburg told Newstalk ZB the two men she was billeting told her they were going to the local shops to buy her daughter a present. They never returned.

To rub salt into the proverbial wound, a spokesman for the N.Z Shikh Community who are now assisting authorities find the group, said the majority of the missing men were not even Catholic!

New Zealand Catholic Church spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer (pictured) told Radio New Zealand the mass defection was “shocking” and “there was no reason to believe the missing pilgrims were not genuine”.

As per usual this shock and indignation from Catholic Church authorities did not translate into dollars. It’s the standard ‘all care no responsibility’ policy and the cost for finding the group is now being picked-up by the muggin’s tax-payers.

What Freer and the N.Z Catholic Church have yet to answer is ‘why were large numbers of pilgrims of other faiths traveling with the group in the first place?’.

With a modicum of journalistic detective work is was easily established (via the local Indian community) that the pilgrims contained a large number were Shikhs, and it’s likely it will be within this community, that the missing men will ultimately be located.

The lyrics to Monty Pythons ‘Every Sperm is Sacred’ seem strangely ironic:

I'm a Roman Catholic,
And have been since before I was born,
And the one thing they say about Catholics is:They'll take you as soon as you're warm.

You don't have to be a six-footer.
You don't have to have a great brain.
You don't have to have any clothes on.
You're a Catholic the moment Dad came,

As I’ve rallied before on this blog, New Zealand is now seen as a soft haven for economic refugees who use ‘religious persecution’ as a guise to gain access to residency. In this case a so called pilgrimage sponsored by The Catholic Church was sufficient for N.Z Immigration officials to ‘lower their guards’ and the result of their intransigence is all there to see.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The intriguing story of Alfred Wallace: Darwin’s Rival

Alfred Rusel Wallace

It's 150 years since Darwin made one of the the most significant breakthroughs in scientific history - the theory of natural selection. But if it hadn't been for a young ornithologist Alfred Wallace, on the other side of the world, his seminal work might never have appeared.

Alerted to Wallace’s own theory of natural selection, and afraid it would be Wallace who be credited with ‘his’ theory and in effect washed a life-times work down the toilet, Darwin was was prompted to publically announce his research, and then publish them as ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’.

The Observer's Robin McKie tells the extraordinary and fascinating story behind 'The Origin of Species'
press here .