28 October 2014

Guest Post: Apparent Contradictions #2, by Berend de Boer

This is the second guest post by Berend de Boer. For this post, I invited him to have the floor to discuss contradictions that he thinks I should remove from the Skeptic's Annotated Bible. Berend created a website called "The Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered", where he has went through the entire SAB with his comments, alongside mine, explaining his stance on the relevant verses.

Here's an example page from his website.

It took him 7 years to complete, so it's pretty clear that although he's a believer, he does really know his Bible. So let's hear what he has to say. So far he's given me 5 explanations of contradictions. I'm going to post them one at a time so we can examine them here at the blog.

Is marrying or not marrying good?

Mr. Wells claims another contradiction in comparing 1 Corinthians 7:1 with Proverbs 18:22. 1 Corinthians 7:1 says:

It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

And Proverbs 18:22 says:

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing.

Let's turn this into a syllogism:

  1. All who marry do well (Proverbs 18:22).
  2. All who do not marry do well (1 Corinthians 7:1).
  3. Therefore we have a contradiction.

Hearing the conclusion, most people would say:
“huh?” This is an example where there is nothing wrong
with the premises. The problem is that the conclusion does not
follow. It's a so called “non sequitur.”

As an Euler circle it looks as follows:

The diagram demonstrates there is no contradiction: both things
are good, one does not come at the exclusion of the other.

To make this into an actual contradiction we would need premises like:

  1. All who marry do well.
  2. All who marry do not well.

And the corresponding Euler circle:

From this diagram it is immediately clear we would have a
contradiction. But this is not something the Bible claims.

EJ&T - Deuteronomy 8 - 10: Circumcise the foreskin of your heart

In the Every Jot and Tittle project, I am listing all of the Bible's commandments from Genesis to Revelation, in accordance with Jesus's words in Matthew 5:18-19. I have no idea how many commandments I'll find, but Jewish tradition claims there are 613. See here for a list of those that I've found so far.

  1. Bless God when you finish eating.
  2. When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Deuteronomy 8:10

  3. Don't forget God.
  4. Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God. Deuteronomy 8:11

    Thou shalt remember the LORD thy God ... if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God ... I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. Deuteronomy 8:18-19

  5. Circumcise the foreskin of your heart.
  6. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart. Deuteronomy 10:16

  7. Stop being stiffnecked.
  8. Be no more stiffnecked. Deuteronomy 10:16

  9. Cleave to God.
  10. To Him [God] thou shalt cleave. Deuteronomy 10:20

27 October 2014

EJ&T - Deuteronomy 7: Genocide and intermarriage

In the Every Jot and Tittle project, I am listing all of the Bible's commandments from Genesis to Revelation, in accordance with Jesus's words in Matthew 5:18-19. I have no idea how many commandments I'll find, but Jewish tradition claims there are 613. See here for a list of those that I've found so far.

  1. When God takes away land from other people and gives it to you, you must kill, without mercy, all of the current land's inhabitants.
  2. When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them ... nor shew mercy unto them. Deuteronomy 7:1-2

    Thou shalt consume all the people which the LORD thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them. Deuteronomy 7:16

  3. Don't intermarry with any survivors of your God-assisted genocides (or God will kill you too).
  4. Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. Deuteronomy 7:3-4

25 October 2014

The Mormon church finally admits that Joseph Smith had many wives (to "raise up seed unto God" by making big Mormon families)

Something strange is going on in Salt Lake City.

Last week the official website of the Mormon church (LDS.org) showed off its magic underwear; this week it admits that Joseph Smith was a polygamist.

And this is just the latest of their most recent public confessions. In the last year or so they have also: admitted they were wrong about race (while keeping their racist beliefs); pretended to deny (but didn't) that Mormon men get their own planets after they die; and admitted that Joseph Smith didn't translate the Book of Abraham.

Now, in a series of recent articles at LDS.org, the Mormon church comes clean on its dirtiest little secret -- that Joseph Smith Jr. was a polygamist. This, of course, is not news to anyone who knows anything about Joseph Smith. But it is news to most Mormons, since the Mormon church never mentions it to its own members. Not until now, anyway.

I suspect that there are two reasons for this new openness: the internet and the Book of Mormon musical. The embarrassing aspects of Mormon beliefs and history are readily available on the internet and are openly mocked in the musical. When the whole world is laughing at your beliefs, its time to face up to them.

In its article, Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, the church begins by saying that monogamy "is the Lord’s standing law of marriage." But sometimes the Lord changes his standard and forces men to marry more than one woman.

Latter-day Saints believe that monogamy—the marriage of one man and one woman—is the Lord’s standing law of marriage.1 In biblical times, the Lord commanded some of His people to practice plural marriage—the marriage of one man and more than one woman.2
Since I couldn't recall any biblical passage in which God commanded a man to have multiple wives, I checked their footnote. Note 2 refers to Genesis 16, which includes the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Sarah's female slave, Hagar. (Abraham and Sarah's names were "Abram" and "Sarai" until God changed them in Genesis 17 to celebrate Abraham's circumcision.)
Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived. Genesis 16:1-4
So the reference to Genesis 16 doesn't work. God didn't tell Abraham to have sex with (or marry) Hagar. Sarah commanded Abraham, and he did as she told him to do. God was an innocent bystander.

But then I checked out the other reference in note 2, the one from The Doctrine and Covenants (D&C). Here are the relevant verses:

God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises. Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it. D&C 132:34-35
The discrepancy between these two Mormon scriptures is explained in the Mormon church's intro to Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
Section 132: Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant and the principle of plural marriage. Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, evidence indicates that some of the principles involved in this revelation were known by the Prophet as early as 1831. See Official Declaration 1.
And that pretty much explains it. God changed the story in Genesis 16 to provide a justification for Joseph Smith's multiple wives.

Still, it wasn't easy for God to get Joseph Smith to take plural wives. Abraham was easy; he just did as Sarah God commanded. But God had to send an angel who threatened to kill Joseph if he wouldn't comply, as the article explains:

... Joseph told associates that an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage when he hesitated to move forward. During the third and final appearance, the angel came with a drawn sword, threatening Joseph with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully.

And that did the trick. Joseph Smith obeyed the sword-bearing angel, marrying as many women as he could. God only knows how many, since all of his marriages (except his first marriage to Emma Hale) were secret and illegal. But estimates run from 30 to 50, nearly all of which occurred within a few years (1841 to his death in 1844). Among his known wives were five pairs of sisters, one mother-daughter pair, and twelve women who were married to other men (Fawn Brodie, 1971, No Man Knows My History, p.336).

So Joseph Smith was just doing what God commanded. But why did God command it? For this reason, as the article explains:

God declared in the Book of Mormon that monogamy was the standard; at times, however, He commanded plural marriage so His people could “raise up seed unto [Him].”44 Plural marriage did result in an increased number of children born to believing parents.

Note 44 refers the reader to a verse in the Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:30, which contains a loophole for polygamy.

For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.
God forced plural marriage on Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other Mormon men from 1843 to 1890 to make big Mormon families -- just like it says in the last verse of Joseph Smith American Moses from the Book of Mormon musical (begins at about 5:00).

For more information about Mormon polygamy, I recommend that you watch this excellent 4-minute video:

22 October 2014

The Mormon church shows off its magic underwear (and then lies about them)

I guess we should be used to it by now.

In the last year or so, the official website of the LDS church has produced a series of videos that lie about address some of its more well-known (and absurd) beliefs.

First they admitted they were wrong about race (while keeping their racist beliefs); then they pretended to deny (but didn't) that Mormon men get their own planets after they die; and they admitted that Joseph Smith didn't translate the Book of Abraham.

Now they are exposing their magic underwear in front of God and everybody.

Of course, they insist that their magic underwear are neither magic nor underwear.

Many faithful Latter Day Saints wear a garment under their clothing that has deep religious significance. Similar in design to modern, modest underclothing, it comes in two pieces and is usually referred to as "the temple garment."

Some people incorrectly refer to temple garments as "magical" or "magic underwear." These words are not only inaccurate, but also offensive to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There is nothing magical or mystical about temple garments....

And yet temple garments are underwear since they are garments worn under clothing, similar to "modern, modest underclothing."

And Mormons believe that their underwear are magic, as the official LDS church handbook makes clear:

When properly worn, it provides protection against temptation and evil.

So if you wear the special underwear properly, they will protect you against temptation and evil.

Sounds like magic underwear to me.

Still, for the magic to work, you've got to wear the underwear properly, day and night. Don't ever take them off, if you can help it. And if you can't help it, put them back on as soon as possible.

Endowed members should wear the temple garment both day and night. They should not remove it, either entirely or partially, to work in the yard or for other activities that can reasonably be done with the garment worn properly beneath the clothing. Nor should they remove it to lounge around the home in swimwear or immodest clothing. When they must remove the garment, such as for swimming, they should put it back on as soon as possible.

The underwear are sacred and must be treated with respect. Keep them clean, off the floor, and don't hang them to dry in places where the neighbors might see them.

The garment is sacred and should be treated with respect at all times. Garments should be kept off the floor. They should also be kept clean and mended. After garments are washed, they should not be hung in public areas to dry.

And for God's sake, don't display your magic underwear in front of the gentiles (non-Mormons).

Nor should they be displayed or exposed to the view of people who do not understand their significance.

Oops, I guess the LDS church just broke its own rule on that one!

For a much more honest look at the LDS church's magic underwear, see this video from The Thinking Atheist: