Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Is the Bible still useful in the 21st Century?

I don't know.  

But if you consider that it refers to Unicorns four times and Dragons thirty-six times it may be difficult to argue!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Bible seems to promote killing

Just out of curiosity I got a .pdf copy of the entire King James Bible and did some scanning.

The phrase "thou shalt not kill" appears in four different places.

The instruction that someone should "be put to death"  appears a total of 57 times.

So please don't try to tell me that Christianity is all peace and love!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Bible a definitive source - I think not!

In this week's Sentinel, Pastor Graham Beckett writes in the Faith Matters page:
"I am only interested in what the Bible has to say on the subject, anything else is 'suspect'."

This amused me because I can't imagine a more unreliable source!  Let me explain why.
(I'm going to quote extensively here from the Wikipedia.)

  • There is no single "Bible" and many Bibles with varying contents exist.  Ever heard of the Apocrapha?  These are the books that were rejected by the  Council of Trent in 1545–1563 as being "not correct".  But there is no universal agreement among Christians worldwide as to which of these should be 'in' and which 'out'.  So, depending on which Christian church you belong to, you get a different Bible.
  • There is precious little original text in the Bible.  What we have in the Bible that most Christians on St. Helena would recognize is an English translation from a collection of documents written in a variety of other languages, not one of which is demonstrably attributable to its original author. Take, for example, the Gospel of Matthew.  Supposedly written by one of Jesus' disciples, but apparently not!  "Most scholars believe the Gospel of Matthew was composed between 80 and 90. The anonymous author was probably a highly educated Jew, intimately familiar with the technical aspects of Jewish law, and the disciple Matthew was probably honored within his circle. According to the majority of modern scholars, the author drew on three main sources to compose his gospel: the Gospel of Mark; the hypothetical collection of sayings known as the Q source; and material unique to his own community, called "Special Matthew", or the M source."  The Gospel of Mark is no better. "Most modern scholars reject the tradition which ascribes it to Mark the Evangelist, the companion of Peter, and regard it as the work of an unknown author working with various sources including collections of miracle stories, controversy stories, parables, and a passion narrative." NOTHING was written by anyone who actually knew Jesus, let alone interacted with him!
  • The old testament is no better.  Most of the events it portrays happened many centuries before they were written down.  What we have is based on hearsay - not one word of it would be accepted in court as evidence!
  • When King James I in 1611 set out to create his Authorized Version England was in religious turmoil.  Henry VIII had abandoned Catholicism and set up the Church of England, then his heirs kept switching the country back and forwards between Protestantism (Edward VI), then back to Catholicism (Mary I) and then back to Protestantism (Elizabeth I).  The country was, to say the least, divided.  So what James 'authorized' was based far more on political expediency than it was on any sincere religious belief.  And yet all our modern translations of the bible are based on it.

I could go on but I think I've proved my point.  You could probably argue that the Bahai's are the only ones with demonstrably valid holy texts - their prophet was around in the middle 19th Century so what he said and did was documented at the time and even appeared in newspapers.

Pastor Beckett would probably say that the bible is inspired by God so it must be prefect, but that seems to be a circular argument:

  • I know of God through the bible
  • God created the bible so I could know about him

As Luke 1 puts it: "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,  that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed."[my emphasis]

The bible isn't an objective document.  It was written by people who believed, to convince others to believe also.  It cannot possibly be considered a definitive source.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Church gets its knickers in a twist over gay marriage

The Anglican Church in St. Helena (or, at least, prominent members of it - I don't know if there have been any official announcements) seems to be getting its knickers in a twist over gay marriage.  More specifically it is apparently opposing the creation of our new Human Rights and Equalities Commission because it believes this will promote gay marriage, same-sex adoption and other sinful practices.

For anyone who spends their Sunday morning on their knees, I've got news for you:
Our Constitution, implemented in 2009, already legalises gay marriage, same-sex adoption, etc.

Part 2 (5) says "every person in St Helena is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, that is to say, has the right, without distinction of any kind, such as sex, sexual orientation, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, age, disability, birth or other status..." [my emphasis]

So if you offer marriage, adoption, etc. to 'straight' couples, you have to offer it to gay ones as well.

And the Constitution is our 'super-law'. If any Ordinance does not agree with the Constitution, that Ordinance must be changed.  So gay marriage and same-sex adoption are already legal in St. Helena.

The only way in which the Human Rights and Equalities Commission would get involved was if our Government denied a gay couple their rights under the Constitution.

So is that a reason o oppose the setting up of the Human Rights and Equalities Commission?  It damn well shouldn't be!

Maybe our Church has other motives?  Maybe they oppose anyone having any rights other than those set out in their bible - a 1,500 year-old document of dubious origins.  Or maybe they're just mad.  Who knows?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sh*t happens

People's reasoning sometimes amazes me.  Take this simple piece of logic.  A person believes in God.  The God he believes in is caring and omnipotent (can do anything).  But if so, how come there is evil in the world (defined as "bad things that happen").  Bit of a problem, that one.  If this God is really caring and omnipotent, wouldn't he banish evil?  So is he not caring, or is he not omnipotent?

If you find that hard to follow, try this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodicy!  (Now far did you get? I gave up in the 3rd paragraph.)

To me it's all very simple:
1) there is no God
2) sh*t happens
The end

Why complicate things?

Monday, October 13, 2014

"The Miracle of the Sun" occurred this day in 1917

Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_the_Sun - so what do YOU think?

I, you will doubtless guess, believe that nothing peculiar happened that can't be explained scientifically.  Get a mob of hyped-up believers together and tell them to expect a miracle and you can bet your last coin that someone will claim they saw something.  And once one starts "seeing something", so do loads of others.  Crowds are like that.

Sorry folks - no miracle.  Just a load of people suffering some kind of mass delusion based purely on what they want to see, not what actually happened.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Myths are fun, as long as you don't confuse them with the truth

"What I can’t understand is why you can’t see the extraordinary beauty of the idea that life started from nothing – that is such a staggering, elegant, beautiful thing, why would you want to clutter it up with something so messy as a God?"

Richard Dawkins, who also said:
"It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)."
(He later added the category "brainwashed".)

I think we can take it that Richard Dawkins is not a creationist!

He also said:
Don’t ever be lazy enough, defeatist enough, cowardly enough to say “I don't understand it so it must be a miracle - it must be supernatural - God did it”. Say instead, that it’s a puzzle, it’s strange, it’s a challenge that we should rise to. Whether we rise to the challenge by questioning the truth of the observation, or by expanding our science in new and exciting directions - the proper and brave response to any such challenge is to tackle it head-on. And until we've found a proper answer to the mystery, it's perfectly ok simply to say “this is something we don't yet understand - but we're working on it”. It's the only honest thing to do. Miracles, magic and myths, they can be fun. Everybody likes a good story. Myths are fun, as long as you don't confuse them with the truth. The real truth has a magic of its own. The truth is more magical, in the best and most exciting sense of the word, than any myth or made-up mystery or miracle. Science has its own magic - the magic of reality.