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Religion, Philosophy, Deep Thoughts

Tallowood's Vacation Bible School 2014
by TheEtruscan at 19:19 April 14, 2014


Normally when I get mail touting the Bible I roll my eyes and I promptly dispose of it the way it deserves. This time the mailer from Tallowood Baptist Church caught my attention for three reasons:

  1. It purported that Pastor Duane Brooks has a Ph.D.
  2. It targeted very young impressionable people.
  3. It promises to come to see, taste, hear, smell and touch life in Bible times.
Don't get me wrong I don't denigrate religious people only fairy tale beliefs. Rome had a Pontifex Maximus long before the Israelites with their tall tales came on the scene as did religious sentiments. People have been building temples to deities for millennia, ever since hunter-gatherers settled down in fearful farming communities.

1) Why would a person in the 21st century with a Ph.D. want to spread fairy tales then?

And the list goes on. It may have worked centuries ago before archaeology came on its own but isn't it time now to put an end to the Bible as a god's revelation? 60+ years of furious Israeli archaeology in Palestine have yet to find anything of significance about the fictitious Biblical characters like Abraham, Moses, the shepherd David, Solomon... and has (unintentionally) so disproved much of the Old Testament events such as the Exodus.
How pathetically misguided is believing in Abrahamic immanent, divine revelation religions then. The Hebrew Bible (the Torah) was penned down by scribes of the king Josiah (640-609 BCE), a religious fanatic, to glorify his reign. Proof is that the world described in that scripture is a late Iron Age (700-500 BCE). Meteoric iron has been around ever since the Earth coalesced but it is more than just the mention of iron in the Hebrew (un)Holy Scripture. It is the environment, the ambience that spells the 600-500 BCE era. You know the time when a calendar was in place, the circle 360 degrees, societies organized, etc... Another sticking point, the "Flaming Sword". A weapon in the Garden of Eden... (Genesis 3:24 ...After he sent the man out, God placed angels and a flaming sword...). Neat trick to skip the Stone and Bronze Ages in a single bound...

While biblical characters and Moses' Tablets exist only as figments of imagination, the Egyptian Book of the Dead (as the Papyrus of Ani) is at the British Museum in London, the Stele of Hammurabi is at the Louvre in Paris, France and the monotheistic Pharaoh Akhenaten rediscovered as Amarna, Egypt is dug up.

The ankh  Icons  The cross
For the most part all these ancient sacred texts are coarse books that promote misogyny, slavery, brutality and most of all continued ignorance. Today the religious promoters cherry pick around the verses of slaughter, trivialize the sections of barbarism and point to the real messages of this spiritual and historical hogwash. These texts should have warnings like cigarettes. The Hebrew Bible is fiction and if believed can be harmful to your mind and your ability to engage in critical thinking. Group structure and cohesion and solace for weak minded individuals are about the only non-corrosive effects associated with it.
We are now facing global cultural wars with a well funded Islamic fundamentalist movement that thinks that their book of fiction is incontestable and should take precedence over any other text. And in the opposite corner we have Apocalyptic Christians waiting for the Rapture who influence and control about half of our elected officials in mostly red states and are actively proselytizing in the U.S. armed forces.

I have always wondered if Bible pushers are dumb, blind or deceitful?
I have learned that there is a distinction between Bible thumpers, Biblical scholars and that other category: Apologists.
Bible thumpers don't know any better. Biblical scholars may be Trivial Pursuit enthusiasts and should study the Bible as they would any other ancient document but should not endorse it. Apologists are just plain frauds.

Which are you, Pastor Brooks?

Hmm, I may not be a Biblical scholar by I can smell a rat when I see it. I was aware of the double creation in the Bible but how to overlook that Cain and Abel were practicing pastoralism and agriculture ahead of what chronologically happened on Earth? If a document is wrong on key points, the document should be tossed in the garbage. Biblical scholars should move on to study other documents not give credence to fairy tales. If the slavery in Egypt didn't happen, as is the case, the whole Biblical narrative is a fraud and a lie. Why waste time on such trash? Did I mention that the mastery of fire, the most important development for mankind, is not present at all in that fairy tale? The Greeks had the Prometheus myth. The Israelites? Too busy self-aggrandizing their make-believe epic.

2) Why poison the mind of impressionable children with tales of hatred, sectarianism, racism and narrow-mindedness?

Is it for future gain, control or power?
Why expose them to a vengeful, immanent and interventionist tribal god? An alleged holy scripture that endorses slavery, servitude, collective punishments, cruelty to children and animals, misogyny, polygamy, ethnic cleansing, graphic violence, guilt by association, an eye for an eye, etc... is so edifying (not!).

Global religious syncretism is not happening after two millennia. Why continue with this short list: Sunnis vs Shias, Catholics vs Protestants, Hindus vs Muslims, Muslims vs everybody else, Christianity vs its many cults and sects, ....

As if vampires and zombies were not popular enough.

As for Jesus, a dubious, imaginary Jewish zombie clothed in Hellenistic humanism, what proofs are there that historically he existed? (Did Saul/Paul invent him?)
Worshiping death and resurrection zombie gods born of virgins (Jesus, Osiris, Attis, Bacchus, Dionysus, etc...) is very old hat. In these ancient myths though, other gods were responsible for the killing. With only one god (=monotheism) postulated, mankind has to step in to be the perpetrator. Ironically mankind also is supposed to be the beneficiary of this murderous act (but given the Trinity it could have been a conspiracy between the Father and the Holy Ghost. Why pick on the son?). A god who sacrificed himself on mankind's behalf through mankind. Really? What kind of sacrifice is it when he resurrected (sic) three days later? Why three days and not immediately or two or four? And wouldn't a god know the future already?

Unfortunately for Christians the Jesus' advent is being sold as having happened in historical times unlike the myths of similar resurrected zombie gods.

The 3 billion+ true believers (in a 7 billion+ people world) could all be better served united under the banner of Humanism. The spark that makes the New Testament somewhat palatable due to its Hellenistic Greek stoicism not the Judaic immanent and interventionist tribal god and its legacy of (false) self-proclaimed prophets. Adopting the Ankh instead of the cross would have a more universal appeal and if a resurrected redeeming god is required then a re-resurrected Osiris (or Bacchus, Dionysus, etc..) should do. Ancient primordial creeds with less excessive baggage, a nobler pedigree and of much older standing. Why be beholden to someone else's tall tales?

Two millennia of Church rule gave us the Dark Ages. Why wish for more even if it is not the Roman Catholic Church but the Evangelicals' Rapture this time around?

3) Palestine. Why give holy status to that unfortunate land?

A tribal god, YHWH, in the real estate business that gives a Promised Land of Milk and Honey that belonged to other people as well, the Canaanites. A god that does not know how to give his/her Chosen People an uncontested land.

Why should anyone cheer the make-believe ethnic cleansing of Canaan? Joshua:6:21: And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.

Why portray it as a hallowed, mythical, mystical, idyllic, ideal and desirable realm?

4) The case being if Tallowood Baptist Church and Duane Brooks, Ph.D., Pastor can proselytize so can I.

Why be against studying the Bible? Because it is not my narrative and the world has many religious traditions.

You can read more on religion and other topics in this blog.
Comment by TheEtruscan at 15:53 April 21, 2014

This is Pastor Duane Brooks's reply of April 15, 2014
We are glad to hear from you. How are you? We so rarely hear from people who are offended that religious mail comes their way. More often we get the people who come and see what we at Tallowood, in particular, actually believe and make informed decisions about whether to believe; or we get the silence of those who go to other churches or have no interest. So sincerely, I want to thank you so much for your response to our invitation. You understand of course that church attendance is voluntary, so we do not expect that everyone will accept our invitation. You are welcome to attend or not to. This is the beauty of freedom of religion: we are free to believe or not to believe. I always leave room for the possibility that I am wrong.

As a history major in my undergraduate work, I would note for your blog that you might check your first factual assertion about the dates of the Roman (pre-Catholic) Pontifex Maximus against the origins of Judaism. I believe most scholars would agree that Rome was founded around 753 B. C. while most place the origins of Judaism back in the 2200-1800 B.C. time frame. Again, I leave room for the fact that I could be wrong about this. Please let me know what you find. I am always striving to learn. I am also aware of the many historical references you have made. Of course I disagree with your particular interpretation of those as somehow disproving the validity of Christianity. I would make room of course for you to disagree without disparaging what you believe.

On the subject of whether we are poisoning the minds of children by teaching them the Bible, I would also disagree. Studies say that Christians, on the whole, are much more likely to help people and give to humanitarian causes than non-Christians. The problem with atheists as one atheist lamented is that for all their talk, they don’t do much in the way of helping others. While I understand Christians have done harm through the centuries, a simple survey of Christians and atheists would reveal, (I could be wrong), that Christians are more likely to help people. It turns out that despite the campaign, people are not especially “Good without God.”

Let’s say we are wrong about all of this and that you are right: I am curious about how you see this harming the children. You may be familiar with Pascal’s wager. The mathematician/philosopher/apologist contended that we all bet with our lives on the existence or non-existence of God. If we live as believers and it turns out there is no God, we may lose some temporary luxuries, pleasures etc, but on the whole we are not harmed. On the other hand, if there is a God, and we do not believe in him, then our loss would be much greater. As one has put it, “If we are going to live like there is no God, we had better be right.” I welcome your thoughts, your attendance or non-attendance. This weekend is the main event for us: the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. I am aware that the Mystery Cults postulation of resurrection precedes that of Christians. This make it all the more interesting to me that nobody seems much interested in those religions these days. Meanwhile as you asserted in one of your earlier blogs some 1/3 of the 7 billion people in our world actually adhere to Christianity (you had it in reverse – 2/3 don’t). Maybe 2.3 billion people believe in the risen Christ because he actually did . . . The essence of our message is this: all of us are worse off than we had thought and more loved than we had ever dreamed. I recommend a book by Tim Keller called The Reason for God if you are interested in further reading. I wish you no harm – only good. And I hope you are well. Dialogues are great. I find life too short to spend much time in anger at those with whom I disagree. I suspect we will all discover that love wins in the end. But I could be wrong. Could you?

Sincerely,

Duane Brooks, Ph. D.

Pastor (and delighted to be) Tallowood Baptist Church

Comment by TheEtruscan at 10:23 April 22, 2014
I am not sure if you want to dialog so this is an attempt to test the water.

I have taken the liberty to post your April 15, 2014 reply as a comment to the article in my blog as is this reply of mine.

You may want also to check my http://si-si-blog.com:8080/Si-Si-Blog/bfiles/trelgn4.htm.

Si-Si Blog (Say it, See it Blog) has many topics already posted and my backlog list of articles to work on is quite long but my time is still consumed on developing and enhancing my four web sites (prior to going public? I don't know. I am really not that entrepreneurial or ambitious).

I read your condescending and dismissive reply and I don't know where to start.

If you know that the Old Testament has lots of antecedents why not let your congregation also know about them? Why not reveal the truth? So for example are you preaching the Epic of Gilgamesh along with Noah's tale and the Ten Commandments along with the 42 negative confessions to Ma'at?

The problem as I already said is that in Christianity Jesus' advent is supposed to have happened in historical times (and 2,000 years ago people could already write in very legible scripts) yet the historical record is not there. You don't mind then telling and make people believe in fairy tales if not outright fabrications?

How is it that a supposedly divine revelation can have so many different interpretations and engender so many sects and cults? (It smells like a man-made affair to me.)

Pascal's wager? How about Henry of Navarre (Paris is well worth a mass)? Most people just go along with tradition without much thinking and the United States with a colonial past is much more traditional than the mother countries (but think of the many cults that have sprung out here. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormonism among others?). If the invention of free will or freedom of choice is true why would a god give a manual on how to behave and judge people on how well they followed it? Why not let people be and judge them for what they are (without the prompting)?

In my view the world is made up of hunter-gatherers and farmers. Farmers are much more numerous and the ones that can be more easily converted into true believers.

I thank you for the invitation to come and visit your temple but personally if I wanted to be a believer, the Roman Catholic Church would be a better fit. They kind of pay lip service to the Old Testament (they well know how unpalatable it is outside a few set pieces) and I would not have to carry the burden that my salvation (from what? Another meaningless notion) depends on the grace of a god forgiving my sins and trusting my faith (John 3.3. I just thought of an argument to show how heretical Lutheran beliefs really are but I am going to run it by a Catholic priest first). The Catholics have confession and Ma'at weighed souls against a feather...

Here is what I find ironic, Martin Luther who launched the heretical Protestant movement made the Old Testament (a very Jewish tale) central to his creed yet he was an avowed anti-Semite.

Apropos of the Old Testament, isn't it funny that a god had to make two contradictory covenants (See the New Testament)? A god who made a mistake?

As for Rome and its Pontifex Maximus, don't you think that things can happen in parallel and not be aware of each other? The Etruscans, who passed their culture to the Romans clearly came before if not contemporary of the Israelites. Besides, the Torah (not the Israelites as a tribe) clearly points to a King Josiah formulation. That is people have put their faith in gods long before the Israelites and their tall tales burst into the scene. Are you saying that the Parthenon in Athens is less of a religious expression than the Israelites' Torah?

The point is that almost all that is good in the Jesus' cult is in the New Testament and the New Testament is Greek Hellenism in action (Stoicism, Hedonism, Epicureanism, etc.). Why touch the Old Testament at all?

I am glad you mentioned the Mystery Cults and how nobody seems much interested in those religions these days. As a History major you should well know what happened to Julian and to the Library in Alexandria (the 391 CE event) after that motherpecked Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity and placed it in control (three centuries after what is supposed to be the one and only true god incarnated himself). Constantine's social reforms continuing those of Diocletian established the feudal system and his Edict of Milan in 313 CE gave the Church a virtual monopoly on knowledge. A situation broken only by the race to build ever bigger cathedrals which spurred practical knowledge and eventually real science, the Black Plague and Gutenberg's printing press. Organized religions still have the louder megaphones (but those who want to know know better). Will the internet now revive the Enlightenment that brief period in human history when reason was ahead of superstition and myths?

Help people and give to humanitarian causes you said? Even in Islam (and I know nothing about the Quran) charitable giving (Zakat) is one of its Five Pillars.

Why would you assume that someone who is not willing to swallow the Jesus' tale and who finds the Old Testament abhorrent is an atheist? Are Shinto followers atheists? Are Buddhists atheists? ... Are all atheists unethical?

Finally love. Isn't telling the truth and letting people know how things really are the ultimate form of true love due to the risk of rejection?


Comment by TheEtruscan at 23:41 April 29, 2014
On Saturday April 26, 2014 I went to Port Isabel looking for Our Lady Star of The Sea Parish with the intent of talking to a Catholic priest.

The first warning sign should have been that although there is a big billboard on Port Isabel main road (Hwy 100) the actual church is many blocks further south.

I picked Saturday because the schedule on the billboard said there would have been "Confession" on that day from 3:30 to 4:30 PM.

I left South Padre Island around 2:30 PM to work around that schedule and for a priest to be available. When I arrived, a mass was in progress celebrating a wedding to a couple with a toddler in tow. Perhaps this is the new social norm.

I had made myself more presentable by wearing long pants and a decent T-shirt with a collar instead of my habitual shorts and more casual T-shirt.

I waited around for the mass to end. The church had no effect on me. I stood in a corner with plaster statues of Saint Joseph, the divine cuckold, Jesus with a bleeding heart and St. Teresa de Avila, the mystic marrano.

When it was time I approached the priest, for his height, speaking voice and dark skin I placed from somewhere in Asia, possibly the Philippines. He seemed annoyed even before I tried to present him with a copy of the document I had prepared and printed; all for saving time' sake. He said he had no time but to leave it there which I did and that was the end of it.

I don't sugarcoat or make things up. To him I could have been a crazy, delusional individual; to me he was what is wrong with the Roman Catholic Church. A church that doesn't stop to listen and minister mainly nowadays to the third world. In the competition for souls, no wonder the Evangelicals are eating their lunch. The latter have a better script and a more modern and more engaging approach.

So be it. Here then is my meticulously prepared dissertation (I wonder if like a modern day Martin Luther I should have nailed my disputation on the church door...)
hammer and nail
Although I have been baptized and I grew up in a Catholic environment now and for a long time I am neither a believer in god nor a nonbeliever. I am indifferent. It is also difficult to pinpoint when I started finding the Old Testament distasteful. I know how the Roman Catholic Church pays lip service to the Old Testament. They well know how unpalatable it is outside a few set pieces. I had known the Bible only through generic, general knowledge but that changed when my mother-in-law, the wife and daughter of Protestant medical missionaries in Africa started trying to convert me to embrace the lord Jesus (fortunately she has now given up).

It is not that I embarked on studying the Bible to be able to spew up verses and verse numbers. I got a machine-readable, copyright-free version of the King James Bible on which I could apply my skills as a computer code debugger and do searches for specific words or phrases. What makes the King James version of the Bible uniquely suitable for my kind of analysis is its consistency.

Martin Luther who launched the heretical Protestant movement made the Old Testament (a very Jewish tale) central to his creed while being an avowed anti-Semite. But that is not my point.

Studying the Bible and specially the Old Testament became then a staple of the Protestant canon. Again however distasteful this is it is not my point either.

I have become acquainted with the Protestant view on salvation. It seems that Luther based his break in dogma from Rome on a verse from the evangelist John.

John 3.3 states: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That is god's grace and faith alone not the mediation of the Church are the key to salvation.

Born again became synonymous (at least among Protestants) with being true believers in possession of the truer faith and a banner with which to taunt the errant and corrupted Catholics.

Never mind that John 3.3 could be easily countered with Matthew 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. That puts the Church completely in the picture as intermediary. See also possibly John 20:23 and vaguely Luke 5:10, 9:60, 9:62 and 11:52. "Remission of sins" is found in Matthew (26:28), Mark (1:4) and Luke (1:77, 3:3, 24:47) but not in John. Also "forgive" and its variations are found in Matthew, Mark and Luke but again not in John.

While mulling about the preponderance of Bible-thumpers and true believers in the South of the United States and in Texas it occurred to me that discounting the epistles that should serve only as commentary, the New Testament has four gospels yet only John has the Nicodemus encounter.

Here is my main point: Should something so important for salvation and so fundamental to what constitutes the whole Christian message (according to the Protestants) be relegated to being mentioned by only one evangelist? Shouldn't it have been written up by at least two or ideally by all four evangelists?

If the desirability of entering the kingdom of god (or the kingdom of heaven) is found in all four gospels shouldn't the requirements for how to get there (salvation) be also found in all four then? The requirements are not something trivial but essential and John portrays it as having happened at a public gathering - something that all eyewitnesses and reporters would comment on.

That John 3.3 is only in John and nowhere else proves that it is not as paramount as it is made out to be. I think therefore that this argument of mine is a strong statement with which to refute the entire foundation of Protestantism.