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Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Most Logical Iteration of Christianity


So right now, there is a baby penguin in Antarctica. It still has feathers on its body, so it’s completely dependent upon its parents to get food for it, since with feathers it cannot swim in the ocean to get food for itself. But, this particular baby penguin’s parents have died; eaten by orcas.

Without its parents, it will starve to death.

Right now, this baby penguin is scared, cold, and alone… not knowing where its parents are at. Most importantly hungry and without any means of obtaining food. Other penguins realize this, and start attacking the baby penguin to make it even more frightened up to the point that it vomits up its food… the attacking penguins do this so they can eat this regurgitated food.

As human beings, we know what it’s like to be scared, cold, and alone. We know what it’s like to be oppressed; to be picked on – attacked because we seem weak. We know what it’s like to be hungry, so we know exactly how this baby penguin feels. Modern Christian apologist claim that human suffering is ultimately for some sort of “greater good”. But what about that baby penguin? It’s going to die a slow, painful death by starvation; exacerbated by feeling scared and alone before it dies. For what purpose? What’s the “greater good” in this scenario? In Antarctica, far removed from any human civilization?

And that’s just one baby penguin. This situation happens hundreds of thousands of times a year; not just with penguins in remote Antarctica, but in the remote jungles of Brazil, the African savannah, everywhere where there is no human around in sight. Thousands of times a year, animals suffer cruel, painful deaths. And this happens every year. Thousands of these painful deaths 10 years ago, thousands of these painful deaths 100 years ago, thousands of these painful deaths 10,000 years ago, thousands of these painful deaths 10 million years ago, thousands of these painful deaths 1 billion years ago.

There were no humans around 1 billion years ago. What greater good did animal suffering back then grant human beings – who wouldn’t be around for another 880 million years? The equivalent of probably 100 billion baby penguins starving to death, or being painfully eaten alive throughout the existence of this planet.

If a personal god created the world, then it must have intentionally designed a world for maximal suffering. A world where for one living thing to live, another living thing has to die. Even that deer on the side of the highway is the cause of a living thing’s death; the grass it’s eating must die in order for the deer to live.

Maximal suffering.

Marcion, the very first Christian to put together a “New Testament”, realized that the world seems designed for suffering. So he said that Jesus was sent by a different god, a god other than the one who created the world. Makes sense. Cerinthus, an Ebionite, also argued the same thing. That the world was created by the angels who were incompetent and that YHWH hadn’t created the world… and that the Logos/the Christ, which descended into Jesus upon his baptism, was sent by YHWH to redeem mankind from the world of suffering created by the incompetent angels.

If I believed in a personal god, I would have to conclude the same things that Marcion and Cerinthus believed: that this personal god was either abjectly malevolent or an idiot. There’s no way that this Universe, that is 99.99999…% hostile to life (how long would a human survive outside of the Earth in the 99.99…% vaccuum of space?), or this Earth with its billions of (non-human) lives extinguished in the most brutal of fashions prior to any human being gracing it, was created by a “God of love”.

What kind of “God of love” would design a world where for one living thing to live, another living thing has to die?

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Posted by on March 29, 2009 in cerinthus, god of love, marcion, problem of suffering

 

Philosophical and Intellectual arguments

Here are two lines of arguments that Christians haven’t given me a satisfactory answer to:

Philosophical
Let’s say that you are married to a guy/girl for 10 years. Would you prefer that your spouse lie to you so that you stay faithful to them, or would you rather them tell you a truth that might make you lose faith in them?

What would your spouse do if, above all else, they wanted you to be faithful to them? They would lie.

If any system of beliefs, philosophies, religions, etc. place faith on too high a pedestal, then this system of beliefs will necessarily lead to deception. If the overvaluing of faith necessarily leads to deception, how can someone tell the difference between faith and self deception?

Intellectual
Some Christians claim that Christianity isn’t a “religion”, it’s a “personal relationship” with Jesus. But this equivocation was always suspect in my eyes. In every single “personal relationship” I’ve been in, I could always enumerate things I knew about the other person that I didn’t read in a book or had someone tell me. On the opposite side, I can’t name anything about say President Obama that I didn’t read in a book or had someone tell me.

So, the challenge for Christians – if they indeed have a “personal relationship” with Jesus – is to list some things that they know about Jesus that they didn’t read in a book or had someone tell them.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2009 in deception, faith, personal relationship

 

Pharisees vs. Sadducees

The Sadducees were a priestly group, Levites, associated with the leadership of the Temple in Jerusalem. Sadducees represented the aristocratic group of the Hasmonean High Priests, who replaced the previous High Priestly lineage. The earlier Priestly lineage had been blamed for allowing the Syrian Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes to desecrate the Temple of Jerusalem with idolatrous sacrifices and to martyr monotheistic Jews. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the ousting of the Syrian forces, the rededication of the Temple, and the installment of the new Hasmonean priestly line. The Hasmoneans ruled as “priest-kings”, claiming the titles of high priest and king simultaneously, and like other aristocracies across the Hellenistic world became increasingly influenced by Hellenistic syncretism and Greek philosophies: presumably Stoicism, and apparently Epicureanism in the Talmudic tradition criticizing the anti-Torah philosophy of the “Apikorsus” אפיקורסות (i.e., Epicurus) refers to the Hasmonean clan qua Sadducees. Like Epicureans, Sadducees rejected the existence of an afterlife, thus denied the Pharisaic doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead.

The Dead Sea Scrolls community, who are probably Essenes, were led by a high priestly leadership, who are thought to be the descendents of the “legitimate” high priestly lineage, which the Hasmoneans ousted. The Dead Sea Scrolls bitterly opposed the current high priests of the Temple. Since Hasmoneans constituted a different priestly line, it was in their political interest to emphasize their family’s priestly pedigree that descended from their ancestor, the high priest Zadok, who had the authority to anoint the kingship of Solomon, son of David.

The Sadducees rejected the Oral Torah (Talmud), which the Pharisees claimed to be a continuously passed down oral tradition which Moses received on Mount Sinai as a companion and elucidation of the Written Torah (Five Book of Moses). Instead they insisted on strict literal interpretation of the Five books of Moses, the Written Torah.

Sadducees followed the Hebrew Bible literally. They rejected the Pharisees’ notion of an Oral Torah even before it was written (the written Oral Torah, the Talmud consisting of the Mishnah and Gemara which were completed by many Pharisee rabbis by 500 CE) by which the Pentateuch could be explained hermeneutically.

An example of this differing approach is the interpretation of the law of retribution (lex talionis):

And a man, when he maims his fellow, as he has done, so shall be done to him. A fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth—as he gives a wound in a man, so shall be given in him. (Leviticus 24:19-20)

Most Pharisees understood this to mean that the value of an eye was to be sought by the perpetrator rather than actually removing his eye too. In the Sadducees’ view the law was to be taken literally.

R’ Yitchak Isaac Halevi suggests that while there is evidence of a Sadducee sect from the times of Ezra, it emerged as major force only after the Hasmonean rebellion. The reason for this was not, in fact, a matter of religion. He claims that as complete rejection of Judaism would not have been tolerated under the Hasmonean rule, the Hellenists joined the Sadducees maintaining that they were rejecting not Judaism but Rabbinic law. Thus, the Sadducees were for the most part a political party and not a religious sect. Being associated closely with the Temple in Jerusalem, after the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE the Sadducees vanish from history as a group. There is, however, some evidence that Sadducees survived as a minority group within Judaism up until early medieval times, which may have been the origins of Karaite Judaism.

So the name “Pharisee” comes from the Hebrew פרושים perushim from פרוש parush, meaning “separated”. “Parushim” was transliterated into Greek as ΦΑΡΙΣΑΙΟΙ/φαρισαιοι [farisaiee] The name “Sadducee” comes from a “follower of Zadok” – צכים “[T]Sadokim” . Transliterated into Greek as ΣΑΔΔΟΥΚΑΙΟΙ/σαδδουκαιοι [Saddoukaiee]. The name “Notzrim” (Nazarenes) נֹצְרִים or נוצרים means “sentry” or “watchmen”. Possibly deriving from “offshoot” נצר netsir.

What does “Essene” mean and what is it derived from? According to the events unfolding here, the Essenes wanted the priestly line prior to the Hasmoneans/Maccabees to stay in power… but these priests were sympathetic to Hellenic Judaism and Hellenism.

But Christianity is Hellenic Judaism! Maybe another connection between the Essenes and Christianity? If Jesus or his followers wanted him to fulfill the role of “son of David”, wouldn’t they need some support from the Essenes and their “legitimate” line of High Priests, since only – supposedly – an “Essene” would be the only legitimate anointer of kingship?

Could Jesus’ “clearing of the Temple” leading to his arrest be representative of reversing the Hanukka/Hasmonean rule and re-establishing the rightful High Priest lineage?

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2009 in dead sea scrolls, essenes, Nazarenes, pharisees, sadducees

 
 
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