Valerie Tarico: gentle as a feather, sharp as a blade:

This is from the comments section, where she replies to a detractor:

Valerie Says: Hi Sonia –
You ask how what I think about two verses. But I cannot consider these two or any verses outside the whole trajectory of scripture. I cannot consider them without regard to who wrote those verses and why, who decided that a specific fragment of writings to be a part of the Bible and why, or what rationales are used currently to emphasize different parts of scripture and to downplay others. All of these are human decisions.
That is all I’m trying to say. I keep saying it, or at least struggling to find the right words, because it when we don’t recognizing these as human decisions, we mistake human creations for manifestations of God. That is idolatry. And it puts us at risk of violating the deepest values of Christianity itself, the heart of the ministry that is described in the Gospels, and the moral core that Christianity shares with many of the world’s great wisdom traditions. Human history and Christian history are fraught with errors of this type made by people who earnestly sought to do God’s will.
If we ignore the layers and layers of human judgments that lie between us and the ultimate realities we are trying to understand, then verses such as the ones you quote not only seem clear, but seem to be a clear statement of the will of God.
If we do look at the layers of human decisions that have brought those specific verses in that specific English form to your attention, then we realize how humble we must actually be about asserting that we are absolutely sure what is right.

Mars Hill: Light and Darkness

For whatever reason, I can’t help but admire that.  There’s something…..elegant and balanced in the way that she responded.

It also encapsulates (in a particularly ‘gentle” fashion), why I have never been able to buy into “biblical inerrancy”, or the other cop-outs/gimmicks used by Fundies (and even some “mainstream” Christian apologists).  I am incapable of buying into the notion that a purportedly omnipotent/omnibenevolent “God” would “create” Earth over 7, 24-hour “days” at a specific point in 4004 BC, FAKE the fossil record to deliberately mislead “the Proud”, and then “divinely inspire” a myriad of errors/contradictions/textual corruption, etc.

The whole chain of “reasoning” is just indefensibly stupid, and, quite frankly, unworthy of even an overt irrationalist such as martin Luther

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Valerie Tarico is a Fundie’s worst nightmare: an intelligent, Female Ex-Fundie who refuses to just STFU:

And boy oh boy, does she go right for the throat:

For centuries the Roman Catholic Church and derivative Protestant religions have done everything in their power to obstruct freedom of thought, inquiry, and speech—from destroying heathen temples and texts, to torturing and executing heretics on a mass scale, to imprisoning Galileo and killing other early scientists, to—in modern times—censoring books and homeschooling children and incessantly threatening hellfire whenever they feel their grip slipping.

Still today, a frightening minority of Christians want to impose their biblical worldview on the rest of us by any means necessary. And that worldview includes truly ghastly concepts—like holy war, chosen people, male headship, blasphemy, genital mutilation, blood sacrifice, and eternal torture—all given the imprint of righteous authority by an inerrant Bible or infallible pope invoking the name of God. Biblical theocracy would look more like Saudi Arabia than America in the 21st Century.

The problem isn’t just religion.

Humanity’s future may depend on free thought and intellectual rigor, but instead of protecting these engines of innovation, many members of the Left and Right are retreating full-speed into a post-modern morass in which mindshare goes to the highest bidder, and each person or institution has the right to their own “facts.”

While the cultural Right frantically tries to re-impose old orthodoxies and hierarchies, the Left is busy imposing an orthodoxy of its own, one in which all opinions are created equal; only white Christian men can be confronted with uncomfortable truths; pontification privileges mirror those on the Right, but in reverse; and evidence—rather than dictating priorities—is simply, selectively, a narrative tool in the service of ideology.

On both sides, feelings win arguments when logic and evidence fail. “I just know in my heart,” says the religious believer. “That offends me,” says the aggrieved social justice warrior, “Therefore, you must be racist or sexist or both.”

These positions abandon the most powerful tools we have to advance knowledge and solutions to problems. They also abandon real people.

Liberalism’s Great Challenge: How Can We Critique Ideas while Protecting People?

Quite frankly, if Valerie Tarico is at all representative of even a small subset of what Fundies have growing within what are otherwise weirdly-insular “in the world, but not OF the world” cultic traps — then  Fundies are in for a bumpy ride over the next few decades.

 

 

The quest for a “historical Jesus” is utterly futile:

Several reasons:

  1. “Christians” will probably just dismiss any attempt to even question what they (mis)understand as the “Biblical” account — in even the slightest detail.  Fundie “Literalists” will simply, blithely hand-wave away all counter-evidence, no matter how rigorous or persuasive, as having been fabricated by Yahweh as a “Snare for the proud”/”test of faith”.  (Hint: “Young Earth” imbeciles already do that on a regular basis, with pretty much the whole of biology/paleontology, geology, etc.)
  2. On the other side, the “better” sort of “believer” (so-called “religious moderates”) will engage in a different sort of hand-waving: the same kind THEY do in regard to everything else in “The Bible”:

As the issue is (brilliantly) illustrated by one commentator:

Now, fundamentalists and other conservative believers will hotly deny this charge. They’ll insist that they really do follow the literal word of their sacred text. They’ll come up with any number of contorted excuses for why they embrace parts of their religious text and reject others: why they’re wearing cotton-poly blends, why their disobedient children are still alive.

But progressive and moderate believers take a very different approach. They freely admit to cherry-picking. “Sure,” they say. “The Bible says a lot of things — things that are anachronistic and absurd, factually inaccurate and morally grotesque. The Bible (or whichever sacred text we’re talking about) isn’t a perfect document written by God — it’s a flawed document written by people who were trying to understand God. You think you’re telling us something we don’t know? Yes, we cherry-pick. We should cherry-pick. We have minds, and moral compasses, and we’re supposed to think for ourselves. Isn’t that what atheists do? When you read works by thinkers you find inspiring, you get inspired by the parts that resonate with you, and you reject the parts you think are screwed up. Why shouldn’t believers do the same thing?”

http://www.alternet.org/story/152210/progressive_religious_believers’_big_hypocrisy%3A_cherry-picking_the_parts_of_religion_they_like_and_ditching_the_rest

In other words: “Fundies” will simply hand-wave away counter-evidence the same way they ALWAYS hand-wave away counter-evidence.  “Religious moderates” will simply — evasively — “ignore” all the idiotic, indefensible, vicious shit in their OWN “sacred” text — WHILE FRANTICALLY CONTINUING TO “POLISH THE TURD” (by trying to rescue whichever of the 38,000+ denominations/Non-denominational variants of “Christianity” happens to give them “Jesus bumps”, for whatever reason. — while frantically denying that they have ANYTHING to do with the Fundie whack-a-loons from Wesboro Baptist, or suchlike.

NEITHER SIDE can afford to openly acknowledge what should be blindingly obvious to everybody at this point: the history of “Christianity” is basically one, unbrroken trail of MARTYRS: whether we’re talking about the Inquisition MARTYRING “heretics”, or “the Church” MARTYRING unrepentant “pagans”, or the Crusades, — to say nothing about the “Global Jihad”  which has become essentially just another aspect of the cultural background noise of our post-9/11 world (but which nobody can bring themselves to admit is ACTUALLY ABOUT — and not merely “in the name of” — religion.)

(Hint: much of the animus of the “Islamic World” toward “infidels” stems from the fact that they are still pissed off about the Crusades. — among many other things.)

Quite simply, the fact that “Christians” have become better over the last 200 years or so comes down to exactly ONE factor: Christianity has progressively been rendered ever more IMPOTENT.  For example, the Roman Catholic church is prevented (for now) from actually taking any sort of punitive action against the 38,000+ Protestant ‘Heresies’ — of which (Baptists/Lutherans/Calvinists, etc.) have managed to grow into “denominations” in their own right.

The only thing “Christians” can do nowadays is: whine, cry and throw tantrums thinly-disguised as “Fire and Brimstone” preaching.

Ultimately, that’s all they can do.  They’ve pretty much been culturally impotent since “Deism” happened.  The fact that Elihu Palmer and Robert G. Ingersoll didn’t have to fear being burnt at the stake, or otherwise “tortured” back into orthodoxy should tell you everything you ever need to know about why the “Separation of church and state” is a genuinely good thing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elihu_Palmer

The corruption goes to the base of “Christian” history:

(Hint: What would you do if (say) Muslims somehow managed to have Islam declared the “State Religion” of the United States, after which they forced the closure of all churches and synagogues?

What’s that?  I’m pretty sure “Christians” (like Becky Wegner Rommel) would be screech-weeping about “religious freedom” in a heartbeat.

The dirty little secret at the base of “Christian” history?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_pagans_in_the_late_Roman_Empire

Hint: Any religion which spreads by “the sword” should DIE “by the sword” — just sayin’. 🙂

Personally, I’m going to find it amusing if — (or more likely, WHEN) some variant of the “Global caliphate” comes a-knockin’ on Becky Wegner Rommel’s door, and tries to get her to obey their “Hijab” bullshit.

It’s gonna be fuckin’ hillarious, watching all those “persecuted” homophobic wedding photographers and such being lined up right along side the “sodomites” they hate so much, and beheaded en masse.

Quite frankly, that is the only aspect of the next (self-inflicted) Dark Age which I would find even marginally interesting.  Theocratic tyranny itself?  Not so much.

Anyway: I’m off topic-again.

Really, I have absolutely nothing against those who happen to self-identify as “Christian” — well, nothing specific against most of them.  I’m well aware that the primary reason they “believe they’re Christians” (to use the terminology Fundies are so fond of) typically has infinitely more to do with MERE GEOGRAPHY (and/or “Mommy and Daddy”), than any kind of coherent understanding of whichever of the 38,000 “Denominations” of Christianity happens to have been inflicted on them.

In the same vein, I am fully aware that those who find “refuge” or “consolation” in a religion are seldom – if ever — capable of EVER dispassionately evaluating the specific dogma foisted on them.  Any attempt to do so, after all, would constitute “walking by ‘sight’ and not by ‘faith’ — and would probably result in a relapse into whatever existential crisis precipitated the initial bout of religiosity in the first place.

Which brings me (finally!) to my point about the “historical Jesus” (IF such an individual actually existed — which really is debatable.)

Quite frankly, “Jesus Christ” is to the “historical Jesus” what “Santa Claus” is to ” Nikolaos of Myra” (“Saint Nicholas”):

To put it another way, the question of the “historicity of Jesus” is equivalent to the question of whether or not Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter.

Quite frankly, I’m pretty sure THAT fact goes a long way toward explaining the implicit (and often explicit) contempt most “Christians” exhibit toward Jews/Judaism:  The mere fact that Jews/Judaism continue to exist at all is a CONSTANT (and implicitly painful) reminder that “Christianity” is neither ubiquitous, nor unquestionable.

Quite frankly, the fact that Jews have (what they consider to be) sound theological reasons for not UNCRITICALLY SWALLOWING “CHRISTIAN” DOGMA (even when FORCE-FED such dogma at sword-point) has to be rather galling — especially for those who  pretend that their status as “clergy”/religious “authorities” actually means anything — even though they are legally barred from slaughtering “heretics” and “unbelievers” at whim.

https://www.youtube.com/user/JewsforJudaismCanada/videos

 

 

 

The central – inescapable – failure behind “Young Earth” Creationism:

Any attempt to rescue the “Genesis” narrative from the status of overrated folktale is disastrous:

First: Any attempt at “young Earth” creationism NECESSARILY requires DAMNING THE EVIDENCE AGAINST IT.    (The “Yahweh faked the fossil record to ‘test our faith’ gimmick.)

But, here’s the interesting part:

Any attempt to “defend” the Genesis narrative as “literally true” presents a whole series of — rather disheartening — problems, itself:

let me take a step back from this, and consider something rather mundane: making toast.

Making toast is a process.  Any given process can be understood (at least in part) as a series of steps (“means”).  Further, any specific process implicitly presumes some goal (“end”) — at least in relation to the specific “means” leading up to it.

For example: the process of making toast involves (at least) the following steps:

  1. Grow grain
  2. Harvest grain
  3. Grind grain into flour
  4. Use flour to make dough
  5. Turn dough into bread
  6. Bake bread
  7. Slice bread
  8. Procure toaster (or other “toasting”-device)
  9. Insert bread-slice into toaster
  10. Push button
  11. Remove toast from toaster (or other “toasting” device.)
  12. apply utter to toast (optional?)
  13. Eat toast

Now, notice something:

  1. Each of the steps mentioned can be treated as a ‘mere means” — but only with respect to step #15 – the “end” (“Eat toast”)
  2. Each of those steps is itself most likely a “mere means” to a multitude of other ‘ends” — most of which are utterly unrelated to step #15, itself.

For example: most likely, some other portion of the flour mentioned in step #3 is also going to serve as a “mere means” to other baking-related “ends” (for example: cupcakes, donuts, etc.)

Along the same lines: it is exceedingly unlikely (to the point of absurdity) that you procured the toaster mentioned in step #8, MERELY for the specific purpose of making the specific batch of toast mentioned in step #13.  If nothing else, you most likely have made/will make OTHER batches of toast/pop-tarts, etc.

Now, here’s the thing:

The least obvious thing about the whole process of making toast mentioned above is: it involves a MYRIAD OF ‘STEPS”, all of which are equally required to reach #13.   Moreover, the steps MUST take place in a specific sequence.  EVERY step is (to some degree) ontologically dependent on the preceding step:

You can’t toast the bread, unless you have bread, and some sort of toasting-device.  You won’t have the bread, if the flour was never ground in the first place.  You won’t be able to grind the flour, if you never harvested the grain.  You won’t be able to harvest grain that DIDN’T GROW — etc.

Now, contrast the above sequence with what (say), “Q”, from “Star Trek: the Next Generation” would do:

  1. Q decides (for whatever reason/no reason at all) “I want some toast!”
  2. *POOF*
  3. Q now has toast

Now, you might think that the above-mentioned ability to (seemingly) “poof” toast into existence indicates that an entity such as Q did not engage in any specific “means”, or necessary  sequence of steps.

But, here’s the thing: At bare minimum, there are at least 3 stages to EVEN Q’s process — all of which are equally necessary:

Q had to “want” toast — and to engage in some sort of “process” (no matter how seemingly magical or “supernatural” or whatever you want to call it), which resulted in the state of “Q-without-toast” becoming “Q-with-toast”.

The weird thing is: the mere fact that “Q+toast” DIFFERS FROM “Q-toast” neccesarily indicates that Q “Himself” is NOT “changeless”.

Even the most mundane (or seemingly “Omnipotent”) change from “State A” to “State B”  necessarily implies the following:

  1. A difference between “State A” and “State B”
  2. Some sort of “evaluative” relationship between “State A” and “State B”.  (For example: Q is — at least subjectively — “better off” with the toast, than without it.  Otherwise, there would be no purpose in having “generated” the toast, in the first place.

(Other than sheer, unmitigated WHIM, that is.)

Now, think about this:

“Young Earth” idiots resort to all manner of brain-destroying idiocy in an attempt to “defend” the notion that Yahweh engaged in the specific sequence of “steps” mentioned in the Genesis narrative — both SEQUENTIALLY, and OVER A VERY SPECIFIC TIME-SPAN (6 24-hour “days”).

In other words: Yahweh engaged in specific MEANS, in a particular sequence, over a specific time-frame — in pursuit of a specific goal.

Quite simply, ANY of the above would be enough to disprove the notion of Yahweh as “omnipotent”.  In the aggregate, they disprove “Omnipotence” — and “changelessness” at least 3 times over.

  1. Was Yahweh constrained as to the sequence of steps which “He” had to enact?  If “yes”, then Yahweh is constrained by necessary “laws”?  if “no”, then why would “He” pretend otherwise?
  2. Further (assuming that Yahweh is in some way “goal-directed”): To the extent that State-A (“Yahweh-Cosmos”) is worse than “Yahweh+Cosmos”, it FOLLOWS that State-B represents an improvement in Yahweh’s “situation”.

In other words: “Yahweh BEFORE” differs from “Yahweh After” in (roughly) the same way that “Me before eating toast” differs from “Me, after I eat toast.”

NOTHING “changeless” or “immutable” about either example.

3.  Last (but by no means least): why exactly would “creation” have SPANNED ANY INTERVAL, WHATSOEVER (let alone the “6, 24-hour days” Young-Earth imbeciles insist upon?)

Why not 15 seconds?  Why would the steps occur in ANY specific sequence, spanning ANY duration, whatsoever?

The only even halfway “credible” answer, of course, is the only answer “believers” can ever provide: the inscrutable, miraculous, magical and Mysterious  cop-out known as “God’s WILL”.

Quite frankly, if Yahweh gained any benefit whatsoever from “creating” an entire cosmos of entities — for ANY reason whatsoever, then it NECESSARILY FOLLOWS that Yahweh was — in some way — lacking.  Any “lack” (even something subjective and amusingly petty like “Yahweh was ‘lonely’, and wanted a ‘relationship’ with ‘Creatures’ who would ego-stroke Him eternally” — bespeaks IMPERFECTION.

In other words: If “Yahweh” HAD TO engage in a specific “steps” leading to any kind of “goal” which (even subjectively) improved “his” situation — “He” is neither “immutable” or “Perfect” — EVEN BY “His” own estimate.

 

 

 

 

 

A voice of sanity (which will undoubtedly be ignored):

This radicalizing effect of a religious text — what I call the Josiah Effect — is not uncommon. It happened to Josiah, it happened to Steven Anderson, and to some extent, it happened to me. Perhaps it also happened to the Tsarnaev and Kouachi brothers. What I would like to point out here is that this effect is an inevitable consequence of even moderate religion, which is culpable in at least three ways.

First, moderate religion primes children — by the millions, if not billions — from an early age to accept without question the authority of the very same books that serve as the basis for fundamentalist ideologies, and it teaches children that the gods described in those books are worthy of worship. This renders these children susceptible to fundamentalist ideology when, as young adults, they begin seeking a purpose for their lives.

Second, moderate religion propagates and legitimizes the vehicles of fundamentalist ideology — both the texts and the rituals. The fact that millions upon millions of Americans believe that the Bible is a holy book drives publishers to print millions upon millions of copies every year. Bibles are available in every home and on the back of every church pew. And all it takes for a fundamentalist to be born is for one lost soul to pick up a copy and find a powerful sense of purpose in a literal interpretation of the text. The same is true of the Koran.

Third, moderate religion lends credibility to fundamentalism by claiming to believe in the very same gods and the very same divinely-inspired texts that are exalted by fundamentalists. If not for moderate religion, the absurdity of fundamentalist beliefs would be much more obvious. But those beliefs are not as easy to identify as absurd when billions of people worship the same god and study the same scripture. The result is that fundamentalist beliefs are seen not as ridiculous, but as merely unorthodox or misguided interpretations of an ideology that is, on the whole, widely regarded as correct.

The absurdity of the situation would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. For generations, we have been printing billions of books containing verses that command us to kill idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, and unbelievers. We teach our children that these books are holy and then cross our fingers in hopes that they won’t take those verses seriously. Then we have the temerity to be shocked when, like King Josiah, some of them read the texts with fresh eyes and decide that they should be taken literally after all.

The Josiah Effect: How Moderate Religion Fuels Fundamentalism

Personally, I think the best way to at least postpone the next dark age would be an organization explicitly dedicated to “corrupting the morals of the youth”, by giving them free copies of the “sacred” texts from religions OTHER than the one into which they were unlucky enough to have been born.

If children are exposed to the fables and folktales of others, then at least some of them just might be intelligent enough to doubt the “literal” truth of the specific fables/folklore being foisted on them, which they would otherwise most likely buy into merely on the basis of “cultural osmosis”.

I would really, really really love watching Christian fundies pants-shitting over (for example) their children being exposed to Tales from the Rig Veda for Children, or some such thing.

I would really love for them to be unable to engage in VBS (“vacation bible study”) propaganda/recruitment without having such “blasphemous lies” pressed into the children’s eager little hands.

 

The question “religious moderates” will NEVER be able to meaningfully answer:

WHY?

Let me “unpack” that:

Religious “moderates” DO NOT actually “believe” most (any?) of the truth-claims put forward by whichever text they pretend to consider “sacred”.

For all of their frenetic hand-waving and disingenuous attempts to play the Capitalization game (IE: to draw an arbitrary line between ‘Big-T’ Truth, and ‘small-t truth’), no religious “moderate” can credibly be said to actually “believe” any of it.

Let me give you an example:

Did the events of the “Noah’s Ark” narrative ACTUALLY HAPPEN?

There are two, mutually -exclusive, mutually-exhaustive answer:

  1. “Yes”
  2. “No”

But, here’s the thing: any religious “moderate” who admits that the specific account contained in “the” Bible DIDN’T “literally” happen, has tacitly admitted that it didn’t ACTUALLY HAPPEN.

Even granting the (wholly unsupported) notion that the “Biblical” account is itself based on earlier legends (the “Epic of Gilgamesh”, or suchlike), and that those legends themselves are garbled re-tellings of something that ACTUALLY happened at some point — the fact remains that the “Noah’s Ark” thing NEVER ACTUALLY TOOK PLACE.

Let’s think about this from a different perspective:

The fact that there ACTUALLY IS a historically-verifiable “Saint Nicholas”  cannot — CANNNOT — legitimately be used to “prove” any of the myriad of traditions related to the FICTIONAL CHARACTER variously named “Santa Claus”, “Father Christmas”, “Pere Noel”, etc. — any more than the fact that “Abraham Lincoln” is a verifiable historical figure can be used to “prove” that he was a “vampire Hunter”:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln:_Vampire_Hunter

So, there’s the first question:

Why would ANY religious “moderate” — from whatever tradition — continue to even pay lip-service to what he or she has tacitly acknowledged to be a GARBLED MORASS OF FABLES, FOLKLORE AND SUPERSTITIONS?

Moreover, why would any particular religious “moderate” even bother to privilege a specific collection of such fables/folklore/superstitions (“The Bible”) over any other (The “Vedas”)?

At least Fundies take their own “sacred” text seriously enough to ACTUALLY DELUDE THEMSELVES INTO BELIEVING THAT IT NEVER RAINED BEFORE “THE FLOOD”.

Sometimes, I toy with the idea of writing a novel set during some kind of “future dark age”, where civilization has regressed where most of the population are no longer even semi-literate, and the few who have managed to preserve some level of literacy have only a fragmentary and garbled (mis)understanding of our era — to the point where they regard “Atlas Shrugged” as being “literally” true. 

In other words: They “explain” the current state of the world in terms of “John Galt”, “Dagny Taggart”, and all of Ayn Rand’s other fictional characters as having been real, flesh-and-blood humans, who really did what their “sacred texts” describe.

(In case you’re wondering: their “sacred Text” is a garbled, centuries-old transcription of somebody’s attempt to “summarize” Ayn Rand’s various FICTION writings (“We the Living”, “the Fountainhead”, “Atlas Shrugged”, “Anthem”, etc.), for some reason.

Think about it: researchers trying to find archaeological evidence for “Starnesville”, or “Galt’s Gulch”, or suchlike.