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Ch. 7: Revelation: The Nightmare of the "Old" Test 
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Post Ch. 7: Revelation: The Nightmare of the "Old" Test
God is Not Great

Ch. 7: Revelation: The Nightmare of the "Old" Testament

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Mon Mar 02, 2009 6:07 pm
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Some quotes, summarising this chapter.
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argument from revelation ... by direct contact - very obvious objections ... hopelessly inconsistent ... false ...apparent tendency of the Almighty to reveal himself only to unlettered and quasi-historical individuals ... sympathetic words for the forgotten and obliterated Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites ... pitilessly driven out of their homes to make room for the ungrateful and mutinous children of Israel. ...Pentateuch ... was all, quite simply and very ineptly, made up at a much later date. Freud ... critique of wish thinking is strong and unanswerable. ... Revelation at Sinai ... an ill-carpentered fiction ...Paine has never been refuted ... these books are spurious ... ignorant and stupid. Pentateuch contains two discrepant accounts of the creation, two different genealogies of the seed of Adam, and two narratives of the Flood. ... rabbis solemly debate ... whether the demand to exterminate the Amalekites is a coded commandment to do away with the Palestinians.... provincial yokels ... supreme guide and wrathful tyrant ... made in their image, even if not graven?



Thu Apr 09, 2009 4:00 am
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I don't know if this will make sense to anyone besides me, but when I was confronted with Christianity as an adult, my biggest puzzlement was why such great importance was being placed on so many things that were stated to have merely happened. This seemed to be not the foundation that anyone would want for a religion. Regardless of the truth or falsity of the events, why would it be so important that this or that event merely happened? A religion should have a much better claim to legitimacy than its insistence that its god has shown, by stepping into history, that it is the true god revealing the only truth. The claim should be based not on events that prove there is only one metaphysical truth, but on common ethical understandings--which all of the world's religions do in fact contain. The problem is that the matters that should be taken as peripheral are elevated far beyond their real importance, becoming things to die and kill for.

The problems with revelation begin with this pretense of having been blessed by a god that has intervened in history to hand out the one truth. It is therefore almost unnecessary to critique the particulars of any one set of such claims. They are fables, which is not such a problem in itself, only if their fictiveness is taken as real.

Hitchens admits that dredging the Old Testament can be tiring. He must know that few of his readers need convincing that, both logically and morally, the OT is wanting as any kind of handbook for a just and reasonable life. But still he does his yeoman's work with it. An advantage he points out is that all three monotheisms are treated in a single critique, since all originate in OT narratives.

Not knowing how much interest there is in talking about all the "nightmare" qualities Hitchens finds in the OT, I'll just take his first topic of the 10 commandments.

These commandments explicitly show their time-bound and thus manmade nature. The first several are the sort of "monarchical growling" with which a "Babylonian or Assyrian emperor might have ordered the scribes to begin a proclamation." Punishment for sins is not to be seen as limited to perpetrators, but will be exacted on descendents several generations down the line, in violation of all human notions of fairness. The commandments also share a quality with all religious edicts in demanding the impossible, which is not even to think about doing a bad thing. Obviously, this extension into minds expands the purview of religious authorities. Hitchens further details the desert nomad character of the commandments in remarking on what they omit: "protection of children from cruelty, nothing about rape, nothing about slavery, and nothing about genocide." Two of these offenses are in fact about to be "positively recommended" in succeeding verses: the conditons of buying and selling slaves, and the rules for selling daughters.



Thu Apr 09, 2009 8:23 am
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I hope DH and Interbane will continue the discussion of the bible on this thread (and that others will join in). I wanted to comment regarding DH's posts that I'm sure we may regard the bible non-traditionally, as he does, if we can manage to wrench it out of its own context. Looking at the bible in this way is a little like altering the traditional concept of God as put forth in the bible. It can certainly be done. As far as Hitchens is concerned, such non-traditional versions are not in his line of fire. They are all giant steps away from the literal readings of the bible that have been troublesome and to which he objects strongly.

The question regarding the bible chapters is do we or don't we agree with Hitchens' criticisms. We may agree with them but still think the bible has a role to play, but I suggest we mght do better not focusing on that for the time being.



Fri Apr 10, 2009 9:18 am
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