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Ch. 3: Unjust 
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 Ch. 3: Unjust
Please use this thread to discuss Ch. 3: Unjust.



Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:00 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3: Unjust
3. Unjust
The episode of the man killed for touching the ark of the covenant is here described as a fictional story designed to instill fear, as a method for elites to instill compliance, enthralling by majesty. This is all sound analysis. My favourite story about the ark of the covenant is Graham Hancock’s book The Sign and the Seal, in which he argues the ark was real, and was secretly taken by the Jews first to Elephant Island in southern Egypt and then to Ethiopia where it remains to this day hidden for safe keeping. This is all rather like the legends about Jesus and Mary Magdalene founding the Merovingian Dynasty in France, lovely but fanciful.

Barker then expresses what he considers to be a universal principle of justice, that it is wrong to punish someone for something they did not do. While that appears reasonable for human legal systems, it is actually quite stupid in terms of any reasonable theory about God.

But Barker is not interested in reasonable theories, he only wants to tear down the straw man of literal faith. One good example that illustrates how people are routinely punished for the crimes/sins of others is foetal alcohol syndrome. In no way is the foetus guilty of the mother’s drinking, but it is an inexorable causal fact that the baby suffers as a result. So this fond hope of a Nice God who will punish the guilty and help the innocent is unfortunately not related to reality or to the God of the Bible. It seems Barker wants to indict God for failing to perform miracles that would break the laws of physics, which in moral terms mean the laws of karma.

One example of why Barker is so affronted by divine injustice is Ezekiel’s claim that one bad deed can wipe out the memory of a lifetime of goodness. This looks to me like a sound piece of cautionary prophetic wisdom from Ezekiel. We often hear stories of people who became notorious for one bad deed that was allegedly out of character. But Barker thinks that is unfair. Maybe life often is unfair. But so what? That is reality.

The Bible claims to be about moral reality, and Barker’s observation that life is often unfair fails to dent this claim. He wants to have it both ways, rejecting God for not doing miracles and then implying a better God would be one who could do miracles.

It is really pointless from an atheist perspective to engage with literal faith, since the only real meaning of faith is symbolic, and claims of literalism are mainly a way of reinforcing moral teachings to an illiterate audience. Until Dawkins and Barker discuss the possible cultural meaning of the absurd literal ideas in the Bible their critique is rather empty. Atheist analysis of religion often looks like an elaborate exercise in shadowboxing, aiming to denigrate faith by finding the simplest caricature and showing it is not literally true.

Even if many people consciously believe their myths, what is really needed here is psychological analysis of why those myths provide comfort and vision. The truth is secondary, given that the ethics of science have no practical replacement for the role of religion in building community and instilling social values.


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Sun Sep 11, 2016 4:26 am
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Post Re: Ch. 3: Unjust
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It is really pointless from an atheist perspective to engage with literal faith, since the only real meaning of faith is symbolic, and claims of literalism are mainly a way of reinforcing moral teachings to an illiterate audience. Until Dawkins and Barker discuss the possible cultural meaning of the absurd literal ideas in the Bible their critique is rather empty. Atheist analysis of religion often looks like an elaborate exercise in shadowboxing, aiming to denigrate faith by finding the simplest caricature and showing it is not literally true.

A major problem with this - recognizing you don't live in America - is the majority of Americans are illiterate in the way you mention. As a result, religious publishing and broadcast companies are controlled by Bible literalists/fundamentalists. That's the only brand the vast majority of Americans hear about and will tolerate. So we may get tired of "absurd literal ideas in the Bible", but that dominates faith in America.

Perhaps a few short videos will give you a flavor for religious discourse in America. Here's a guy who passes himself off as an expert historian arguing a vaccine for AIDS will never be found because of a particular verse in the Bible. Relating to the current chapter in the book, how's that for justice?
http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/davi ... sexuality/

Jim Bakker ran a huge religious television network a while back and eventually had a sex scandal and went to jail for fraud, but he's still on the air! Here he claims Obama sounds like a rep for the anti-Christ. Obama also caused Hurricane Matthew - a Gospel is striking back!
http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/jim- ... ntichrist/
http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/jim- ... -on-obama/

Perhaps those short clips will help you understand why religious leaders in America will NEVER "discuss the possible cultural meaning of the absurd literal ideas in the Bible."
Quote:
...aiming to denigrate faith by finding the simplest caricature and showing it is not literally true.

This has been stated before, but the person making the claim never comes out and clarifies what sort of religious groups do not have this problem, which ones should be discussed as examples of a more complicated or nuanced philosophy? And if they're a tiny minority, how relevant would that be?


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Exodus 21: 23 - 25


Wed Oct 19, 2016 5:49 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3: Unjust
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The truth is secondary, given that the ethics of science have no practical replacement for the role of religion in building community and instilling social values.

Secular institutions built communities and social values in America. The U.S. Constitution is a secular document. Our legal system is secular. Our systems are opposed to many of the Ten Commandments - we have freedom of religion, there are no legal requirements to honor a sabbath or one's parents, adultery is not illegal, coveting is good because it leads to increased sales, etc...


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When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you multiply your prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.
Isaiah 1:15

But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
Exodus 21: 23 - 25


Wed Oct 19, 2016 6:01 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3: Unjust
LanDroid wrote:
we may get tired of "absurd literal ideas in the Bible", but that dominates faith in America.
Hi LanDroid, I think you missed my point. Barker (and Dawkins) imply that by proving absurdity wrong, the necessary conclusion is that we should entirely abandon religion. That is an absurd implication, but it is central to the arguments of atheism. What I am saying is that the replacement for absurd religion is not the equal opposite atheist absurdity that man can live by bread alone, but rather a recognition that within the absurdity of religious faith there exists an adaptive memeplex that can be engaged by rational people to enable human evolution.
LanDroid wrote:
religious leaders in America will NEVER "discuss the possible cultural meaning of the absurd literal ideas in the Bible."
So what? These intransigent religious leaders you mention are damned by their insanity. Serious discussion can only engage people who are open to truth, which does not include religious leaders in America, who are a pack of delusional ideological political hypocrites.
LanDroid wrote:
what sort of religious groups do not have this problem, which ones should be discussed as examples of a more complicated or nuanced philosophy?
My sense is that the ability to hold a sensible conversation about religion is an extremely rare thing, since it is such a complex emotional topic. But that does not imply we should not try to find such conversation. I personally quite like the reformed theologians of Germany from the mid twentieth century such as Barth and Brunner as examples of a more nuanced theology, but I think we are on the cusp of a major revolution in theology based on the importance of the central fact that Jesus Christ was invented and did not exist, something that completely blows apart the tradition of literal faith.
LanDroid wrote:
And if they're a tiny minority, how relevant would that be?
Only tiny minorities have ever created serious reforms.
LanDroid wrote:
Secular institutions built communities and social values in America.
The USA is the most religious country in the western world. These secular institutions that you mention were infused by an assumption of a central place of religion in civil society, while maintaining a deliberate Jeffersonian wall between church and state. I think that a big factor in the polarisation and decline of civil society in America is precisely this problem of the derision towards religion, which religion brings upon itself by holding absurd beliefs. I also think that in days of yore sensible people were able to recognise the symbolic meaning in religion without getting so huffy about literal errors.
LanDroid wrote:
The U.S. Constitution is a secular document. Our legal system is secular. Our systems are opposed to many of the Ten Commandments - we have freedom of religion, there are no legal requirements to honor a sabbath or one's parents, adultery is not illegal, coveting is good because it leads to increased sales, etc...
The inference there seems to be that salvation can come from the abandonment of all faith. That seems a treacherous path. The city upon a hill is a phrase from Jesus Christ in the sermon on the mount. It entered the American lexicon through the 1630 sermon "A Model of Christian Charity" by Puritan John Winthrop. The new community would be "as a city upon a hill", watched by the world—which became the ideal that the New England colonists placed upon their hilly capital city of Boston. The Puritans' community in New England would set an example of communal charity, affection, and unity to the world or, if the Puritans failed to uphold their covenant of God, "we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world" of God's judgment. Winthrop's sermon gave rise to the widespread belief that the United States of America is "God's country" because, metaphorically, it is a "Shining City upon a Hill," an early example of American exceptionalism.

Societies, like all complex systems, are sensitive to initial conditions, as a basic law of complex chaotic evolution. The initial conditions of the USA are intensely religious, and this Bostonian vision remains part of the country’s genetic constitution.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Thu Oct 20, 2016 3:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 3: Unjust
That's a good discussion. I currently don't have the energy to address all these, but I will pick on one.
Mr. Tulip wrote:
Hi LanDroid, I think you missed my point. Barker (and Dawkins) imply that by proving absurdity wrong, the necessary conclusion is that we should entirely abandon religion. That is an absurd implication, but it is central to the arguments of atheism. What I am saying is that the replacement for absurd religion is not the equal opposite atheist absurdity that man can live by bread alone, but rather a recognition that within the absurdity of religious faith there exists an adaptive memeplex that can be engaged by rational people to enable human evolution.

That's taking it too far. Counteracting literal stupidity in Christianity or Judaism doesn't mean "we should entirely abandon religion." We might abandon those two due to the rickety foundations they're built on, but that would say nothing about Hinduism, the Vague Generic Deity, or Zoroastrianism to name a few...

The implication that a secular world view is living by bread alone is absurd. Perhaps you should read The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Sagan. We can leave behind savage bronze age myths and instead marvel at the Universe.


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When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you multiply your prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.
Isaiah 1:15

But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
Exodus 21: 23 - 25


Mon Oct 24, 2016 5:40 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3: Unjust
LanDroid wrote:
Counteracting literal stupidity in Christianity or Judaism doesn't mean "we should entirely abandon religion."
I think though, that the effort to abandon religion provides the tenor of the new atheism, which is the school of thought Barker advocates for in this book. The argument, as I understand it, is that theology is an obsolete method of thought and learning, which is completely and adequately replaced by modern scientific rationality. Therefore, in the New Atheist view, religious ritual should be abandoned as a harmful practice, serving only to inculcate false belief.
The point of Barker’s trawling of the Bible is mockery and derision of religion, serving as a commissioned addendum to The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, justifying the assertion that God is the most unpleasant character in all fiction. I do not see any suggestion by either Barker or Dawkins that there might be ways to improve religion by reforming it. Instead, their focus is on building a completely different way of viewing the world, through the scientific world view, that will completely displace all religion.
LanDroid wrote:
We might abandon those two [Judaism and Christianity] due to the rickety foundations they're built on, but that would say nothing about Hinduism, the Vague Generic Deity, or Zoroastrianism to name a few...
My view is that this atheist mentality that sees Judeo-Christian culture as evil and primitive involves a major misunderstanding. Judeo-Christian culture is the foundation of western civilization. Its foundations are indeed flawed and rickety, but the solution here is repair, not demolition. The great thing about the Judeo-Christian tradition is its evolution at the centre of human existence, drawing from a whole range of influences such as those you mention from India, Persia and Europe. There is certainly a strong problem of error within the monotheist traditions, but my view is that these errors arise from misinterpretation, and are not what you might call congenital. It is quite untrue to suggest to abandon Christianity “would say nothing” about other non-Western religions. It would say a lot about our attitude to spirituality, mythology, ritual, worship, reverence, tradition, authority, and numerous other social and identity factors that relate to religion.
LanDroid wrote:
The implication that a secular world view is living by bread alone is absurd. Perhaps you should read The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Sagan. We can leave behind savage bronze age myths and instead marvel at the Universe.
For a start, and sorry for the minor pedantry here, but the Bronze Age ended in 1000 BC, and the books of the Old Testament were not compiled until half a millennium later, well into the Iron Age. Such sloppy denigration is indicative of how atheism regards religious scholarship with disdain.

“Live by bread alone” is one of those sayings of Jesus that are well known to everyone who is strongly familiar with Christianity, but which recede into an unknown when people lose contact with the Bible. It reminds me of JM Keynes’ comment that men of action form their values from old philosophy without knowing the sources of their ideas. The “bread alone” metaphor has a broader meaning about materialism and spirituality. It is a genuine question to what extent a secular worldview involves abandoning spirituality. Yes there is often a vague culture of marvelling within secularity, but it lacks the capacity for systematic analysis of what such marvelling means that can be obtained from a respectful dialogue with theology. Unfortunately part of the problem is that much theology has no respect for science, and that is at the basis of the savage reaction from people who see the ethical power of scientific truth as fundamental to engaging with reality.


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Post Re: Ch. 3: Unjust
Mr. Tulip wrote:
The point of Barker’s trawling of the Bible is mockery and derision of religion, serving as a commissioned addendum to The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, justifying the assertion that God is the most unpleasant character in all fiction.

This reminds me of Donald Trump complaining about media bias against him. "They show every speech I give live and report verbatim on everything I say and do. I've had astonishing amounts of free media publicity. It's so biased and - I can tell you - it is terrible." <=paraphrasing. Similarly, Barker quotes directly from Scripture. To complain about "mockery and derision" you'd have to explain how this former preacher misunderstands each passage. Otherwise mockery and derision (plus outright denunciation) for Holy Scripture like the following quote from this chapter is well deserved.
Quote:
The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.
Hosea 13:16

Mr. Tulip wrote:
Judeo-Christian culture is the foundation of western civilization. Its foundations are indeed flawed and rickety, but the solution here is repair, not demolition.

Excellent point. Potentially. The problem is religion is highly resistant to "repair." I'd say it has indeed improved, but mainly because secular laws have largely prevented religion from regaining government power in America and UK. All religious programming we hear is fundamentalist, hostile to repair, and aching for more power in government.

If I understand it correctly, your "repair" involves proof and agreement that Jesus did not exist. Somehow that would lead to a symbolic understanding of Christianity rather than a literal one. I don't want to get distracted by your beliefs here other than it's very difficult to see how a general agreement that Jesus didn't exist would not lead to the "demolition" of that faith. Your efforts could be more destructive than those of secularists?
Quote:
For a start, and sorry for the minor pedantry here, but the Bronze Age ended in 1000 BC, and the books of the Old Testament were not compiled until half a millennium later, well into the Iron Age. Such sloppy denigration is indicative of how atheism regards religious scholarship with disdain.

OK perhaps I should have said "ancient age" instead of bronze, big deal. This is the sort of nit-picky stuff that I don't have much energy for these days, but I'm finding the bronze age existed from about 2500 - 700 BCE and parts of the Old Testament may have been written as early as 1000 BCE so your point is not clear cut...


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When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you multiply your prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.
Isaiah 1:15

But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
Exodus 21: 23 - 25


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Robert Tulip
Sat Oct 29, 2016 12:59 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3: Unjust
LanDroid wrote:
Mr. Tulip wrote:
The point of Barker’s trawling of the Bible is mockery and derision of religion, serving as a commissioned addendum to The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, justifying the assertion that God is the most unpleasant character in all fiction.

This reminds me of Donald Trump complaining about media bias against him.
Hi LanDroid. I appreciate the comparison, but it is easily refuted. The Bible contains lines like ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ and the main idea from Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount is that the blessing of God is upon the meek, mourners, peacemakers, the pure, the poor in spirit, the merciful and the persecuted. The existence of views in the Old Testament which argue that unbelievers are damned does not invalidate the positive ethics within Christianity. Jesus goes on to explain that he is bringing a new system of ethics that supersedes these old fashioned ideas which Barker mocks. Barker is taking a highly biased reading of the Bible and suggesting it is objective. That is not good scholarship.
LanDroid wrote:
"They show every speech I give live and report verbatim on everything I say and do. I've had astonishing amounts of free media publicity. It's so biased and - I can tell you - it is terrible."
If only Barker did the same!! Instead he quote-mines for a few lines which support his extreme prejudice and ignores the vast quantity of scripture that refutes his view, while also ignoring any attempt to place the morality of the ancient Jews in historical context.
LanDroid wrote:
Similarly, Barker quotes directly from Scripture. To complain about "mockery and derision" you'd have to explain how this former preacher misunderstands each passage. Otherwise mockery and derision (plus outright denunciation) for Holy Scripture like the following quote from this chapter is well deserved.
It is not similar. Trump’s critics do, as you say, “show every speech” and form a rounded systematic view of Trump. But Barker has such a big chip on his shoulder that he is motivated to present a highly distorted picture of Christianity, even ignoring its central main teachings. As he later explains this is due to his Native American ancestry and his realization of how Christianity destroyed native theology and myths and culture. That opens a reasonable debate, but Barker is an extremist, and the value of his work is in pushing the centre of debate away from fundamentalism, not providing a balanced view.
LanDroid wrote:
Mr. Tulip wrote:
Judeo-Christian culture is the foundation of western civilization. Its foundations are indeed flawed and rickety, but the solution here is repair, not demolition.

Excellent point. Potentially. The problem is religion is highly resistant to "repair." I'd say it has indeed improved, but mainly because secular laws have largely prevented religion from regaining government power in America and UK. All religious programming we hear is fundamentalist, hostile to repair, and aching for more power in government.
Well said. But I think that in assessing Christianity, treating American Fundamentalism as typical is wrong. It is interesting in reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin at the moment (Booktalk’s fiction selection) to see how Fundamentalism served to justify slavery. I think that traumatic distortion remains a serious problem in American Christianity today. Fundamentalism is a heresy.
LanDroid wrote:
If I understand it correctly, your "repair" involves proof and agreement that Jesus did not exist. Somehow that would lead to a symbolic understanding of Christianity rather than a literal one. I don't want to get distracted by your beliefs here other than it's very difficult to see how a general agreement that Jesus didn't exist would not lead to the "demolition" of that faith. Your efforts could be more destructive than those of secularists?
Many thanks for making this observation LanDroid. Yes indeed, my view is that literal orthodox Christianity is a fallen corruption from an original symbolic Gnostic faith, and that the recognition that Jesus Christ was a fictional invention is central to the rehabilitation of Christianity. I argue that my view is purely scientific and correct, and is entirely able to demolish the old paradigm of supernatural tradition, while restoring its superb ethical inner meaning.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Sun Oct 30, 2016 5:28 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 3: Unjust
Well I know you don't like it, but up until the last chapter this book is limited to the Old Testament. That scripture is historically critical, stands on its own, and is regarded as Holy by Jews and Christians, so discussing it in isolation is entirely proper.

You've mentioned context several times, but as I've also stated before there is no conceivable context that would justify the war crimes described in the passage from Hosea in my previous post (as just one example).
Quote:
Fundamentalism is a heresy.

That could work if it actually catches on...


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When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you multiply your prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.
Isaiah 1:15

But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
Exodus 21: 23 - 25


Mon Oct 31, 2016 12:07 pm
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