30 April 2011

The good people in the Bible

A while back, I said that Vashti was the best person in the Bible. And while I still think she's a good choice for that award, I'd like to consider all possible candidates. Here is my attempt to do that. Let me know if I've left out any of your favorite Bible characters.

  1. The Talking Serpent

    OK, so maybe he wasn't human, but he was the wisest and most honest character in Genesis. Here's his conversation with Eve.

    Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

    And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

    But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

    And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

    For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Genesis 3:1-5

    And the serpent was correct, according to the Bible anyway. When Eve and Adam ate from the tree of knowledge, they didn't die*, and their eyes were opened to know good and evil.

  2. Eve

    The Bible doesn't say much about Eve. There is only one conversation recorded and that is with a talking serpent. But in it she shows a courageous love of goodness, beauty, and truth.

    When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat. Genesis 3:6
  3. Hagar

    At Sarah and God's insistence, Abraham sent Hagar and their son Ishmael into the desert. When Ishmael was about to die, Hagar left him under a bush and cried because she couldn't bear to see him die.

    And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. Genesis 21:15-16
  4. Zipporah

    Zipporah saved Moses from being killed by God by cutting off the foreskin of their son with a sharp stone. I don't know how she knew what had upset Moses' psychopathic god, but she figured it out quickly and did what had to be done. Then she threw the bloody foreskin at Moses' feet saying, "a bloody husband you are to me."

    It came to pass ... that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.

    Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. Exodus 4:24-25

  5. The ten honest scouts

    Moses sent out twelve scouts to check out the land of Canaan. When they returned, one of the scouts (Caleb and maybe Joshua) told Moses that it would be easy to invade and conquer the people of Canaan. But ten other scouts disagreed.

    The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.

    And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. Numbers 13:32-33

    So God, who only likes good news, killed them for their honest report.

    Those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD. Numbers 14:37
  6. Korah and his companions

    Moses and Aaron had absolute authority over the Israelites -- until it was challenged by Korah and his companions. Here's what they said to Moses.

    Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? Numbers 16:3

    So God and Moses arranged a test. If Korah and his companions die a natural death, then God didn't send Moses. But if Korah and his friends (and their families) are buried alive, then God is Moses' special friend.

    And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me.
    If these men die the common death of all men ... then the LORD hath not sent me.

    But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD. Numbers 16:28-30

    The test proved that Moses is God's special friend (since the other guys were buried alive).

    But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD.

    And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them:

    And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods.

    They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. Numbers 16:28-33

  7. The people who complained about God's killings

    During the Exodus, God burned and buried people alive, had people stoned to death, and killed tens of thousands in plagues. So, as you might expect, the people were pretty freaked out about it. Here's what they said:

    All the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD. Numbers 16:41

    So God sent a plague and killed another 14,700.

    And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

    Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. ...

    Behold, the plague was begun among the people. ...

    Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred. Numbers 16:44-49

  8. The couple murdered by Phinehas

    The Israelites pissed off God by having sex with Moabite women.

    the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. Numbers 25:1
    So God sent a plague to kill them all. Then Phinehas saw an Israelite man and a Moabite woman,
    One of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman. Numbers 25:6
    and impaled them with a spear through their bellies.
    When Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand ... and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. Numbers 25:7-8
    God was so pleased by Phinehas' double murder that he stopped killing people with the plague, after only 24,000 died. (Well, 23,000 if you believe Paul.)
    So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. nd those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand. Numbers 25:8-9
  9. The daughters of Zelophehad
    Then came the daughters of Zelophehad ... Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah.

    And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,

    Our father died in the wilderness ... and had no sons.

    Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.

    And Moses brought their cause before the LORD.

    And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

    The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them. Numbers 27:1-7

  10. The peaceful unsuspecting people of Laish
    The children of Dan ... came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire. Judges 18:26-27
  11. Nabal

    When David was fighting with Saul, he hung out "in the wilderness" with a gang of outlaws. While there, he heard about a rich man named Nabal and sent some of his "young men" to pay him a visit. So they went and introduced themselves to Nabal and told him to give them whatever he owned.

    David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name. ...

    Give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David. 1 Samuel 25:5-8

    But Nabal was on to David's protection racket. He refused to give his belongings to people he didn't even know just to get them to go away and leave him alone.

    And Nabal answered David's servants, and said, Who is David? ...

    Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be? 1 Samuel 25:10-11

    When David heard about it, he swore to kill Nabal and all his men (everyone "that pisseth against the wall").

    So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall. 1 Samuel 25:22

    But, as it turns out, God beat him to it and killed Nabal for David,

    And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died. 1 Samuel 25:38

    and gave David his wife and other stuff.

    When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the LORD .... And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife. 1 Samuel 25:39
  12. Phaltiel

    After Michal helped David escape from her father Saul, Saul gave her away to another man named Phalti.

    Saul had given Michal his daughter, David's wife, to Phalti.

    But later, after he had collected a half dozen or more wives, David demanded Michal back. (Heck, he paid 200 foreskins for her!)

    And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul's son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines. 2 Samuel 3:14

    Poor Phatiel must have loved her dearly since he "went along weeping behind her."

    And Ishbosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish. And her husband went with her along weeping behind her. 2 Samuel 3:15
  13. Uzzah

    When the ark was being transported to Jerusalem, Uzzah, one of the drivers of the cart, reached out his hand to steady the ark to keep it from falling. God thanked him in his usual way: he killed him.

    And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. ...

    And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor , Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.

    And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. 2 Samuel 6:3-7

  14. Michal

    David bought his first wife with 200 Philistine foreskins. She was the daughter of Saul and her name was Michal. She rescued David from her father by lowering him on a rope through the window (1 Samuel 19:11-17), which was both brave and clever. But what impresses me even more was the way she criticized David for dancing nearly naked in front of God and everybody.

    David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. ...

    Michal ... said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! 2 Samuel 6:14-20

    Of course God doesn't like it when anyone criticizes David. So he made her die childless. (But not really.)

    Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death. 2 Samuel 6:23
  15. Rizpah

    To appease God and end a famine that was caused by his predecessor (Saul), David agrees to have two of Saul's sons and five of his grandsons killed and hung up "unto the Lord."

    There was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites. ...

    Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make the atonement. ...

    And they answered the king ... Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the LORD. 2 Samuel 21:1-6

    So David rounded up and delivered two sons of Rizpah, Saul's concubine, and five sons of his daughter Michal, and they hung them up before the Lord.

    The king took the two sons of Rizpah ... whom she bare unto Saul ... and the five sons of Michal ... And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death. 2 Samuel 21:8-9

    Rizpah stayed with her dead sons, chasing the birds away in the daytime and animals away at night.

    And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night. 2 Samuel 21:10

    And God stopped the famine after Saul's two sons and five grandsons were killed and hung up for him.

    They gathered the bones of them that were hanged ... And after that God was intreated for the land 2 Samuel 21:13-14
  16. Jeroboam's wife

    Jeroboam's wife (the Bible doesn't bother giving her a name) was worried about her sick son. So she went to see the blind prophet Ahijah to see if he could help.

    Jeroboam's wife ... arose, and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. 1 Kings 14:4

    When she arrived, Ahijah had a message from God regarding her son.

    Bhold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone. 1 Kings 14:10

    Which wasn't particularly good news to Jeroboam's wife, since her sick son had pissed on a few walls here and there.

    But it got worse as the prophet elaborated a bit.

    Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it. 1 Kings 14:11

    So God was going to kill all of the male descendants of Jeroboam, strew their dead bodies on the ground like dung, and use them for dog and bird food.

    Oh and her son? He would be dead by the time she got home.

    Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. 1 Kings 14:12

    After hearing the words of God from his prophet Ahijah, Jeroboam's wife returned home. And, sure enough, God killed her sick little boy the moment she entered his room.

    And Jeroboam's wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah: and when she came to the threshold of the door, the child died; 1 Kings 14:17
  17. Vashti: The best person in the Bible?

    Vashti refused to entertain the king's drunken guests.

    The king made a feast ... seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace ... And they gave them drink in vessels of gold ... and royal wine in abundance.

    On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded ... Vashti the queen ... with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.

    But the queen Vashti refused. Esther 1:5-12

  18. Job's wife

    In the book of Job, God and Satan play a cruel gambling game with the lives of Job and his family. Satan bets that Job will curse God to his face if Job's life is made unpleasant enough. So God (or Satan, it's hard to tell them apart) kills Job's family and sends various torments upon him.

    Job's wife rightly says that if Job is to keep his integrity, he should curse God (for playing vicious games with Satan) and die. She is the only voice of reason in the book of Job.

    Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. Job 2:9

* God told Adam that he would die the day that he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yet he and Eve ate from that tree and lived another 930 years. (In the case of Adam, anyway. The Bible doesn't say how long Eve lived.)

28 April 2011

Afterbirthers and bloody bedsheeters

From the Onion:
WASHINGTON–In the continuing controversy surrounding the president's U.S. citizenship, a new fringe group informally known as "Afterbirthers" demanded Monday the authentication of Barack Obama's placenta from his time inside his mother's womb. "All we are asking is that the president produce a sample of his fetal membranes and vessels—preferably along with a photo of the crowning and delivery—and this will all be over," said former presidential candidate and Afterbirthers spokesman Alan Keyes, later adding that his organization would be willing to settle for a half-liter of maternal cord plasma. "To this day, the American people have not seen a cervical mucus plug, let alone one that has been signed and notarized by a state-certified Hawaiian health official. If the president was indeed born in the manner in which he claims, then where is his gestation sac?" Keyes said that if Obama did not soon produce at least a bloody bedsheet from his conception, Afterbirthers would push forward with efforts to exhume the president's deceased mother and inspect the corpse's pelvic bone and birth canal.

And the bloody bedsheeters have a point here, too. If you believe in the Bible, that is.

The Bible says this about a woman that cannot produce a bloody bedsheet on her wedding night:

If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her.

... And say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid.

Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate.


But if ... the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel,

Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die. Deuteronomy 22:13-21

So Alan Keyes and the bloody bedsheeters are just obeying the Bible by asking Obama to "bring forth the tokens" of his mother's virginity.

Is that too much to ask?

April 29 note: The Onion article is not far from the truth.

Alan Keyes is demanding a forensic investigation of Obama's birth certificate.

22 April 2011

A Muslim / Mormon Good Friday to you!

We all know what Christians believe about Jesus' death. It's impossible to live in the western world without hearing the crucifixion stories, especially around this time of year.

But what about Muslims and Mormons? Do they have any cool Good Friday stories?

You betcha!

Muslims just deny the whole thing. Jesus (peanut butter and jelly be upon him) was a prophet and Allah would never allow one of his prophets to die by crucifixion. (Allah saves that for his enemies.)

No, according to the Quran, Jesus didn't die by crucifixion.

Oh sure, the Jews like to brag about crucifying Jesus (we've all heard them do that!), but they didn't really. It just looked that way to them.

And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them. 4:157a

Allah and Jesus faked the whole bloody mess. Jesus beamed up to heaven and had some stand-in do the crucifixion for him. (Some Muslims say it was Judas.)

And lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. 4:157b-8

And what about the Mormons? What do they believe about it?

Well, they've taken a crazy story and made it even crazier.

Remember how in the Bible story it got dark for three hours just before Jesus died? Well, in the Book of Mormon the darkness lasts for three days!

For three days there was absolutely no light -- not from the sun, moon, or stars, or from candles, campfires, or fireflies. And this was in North America!

It came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land ... And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all; And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land ... It came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen. 3 Nephi 8:20-23

Of course that's not what the Bible says. Matthew, Mark, and Luke say it was dark for three hours just before Jesus died. (It's one of the few things those three guys agree on.) But that's because the evil Catholics changed the plain and precious shit in the Bible.

The Bible stories say that there was an earthquake when Jesus died. Well, the Book of Mormon tops that one, too. Not only was there an earthquake, but entire cites sunk into the ocean, were burned, or were completely destroyed. The whole earth was deformed.

The city of Zarahemla did take fire. And the city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof were drowned. And the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah that in the place of the city there became a great mountain ...

The whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth ...

And many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the buildings thereof had fallen to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were slain, and the places were left desolate. ...

And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth. 3 Nephi 8:8-17

And you thought the zombie story in Mathew 27:52-53 was crazy!

16 April 2011

Vashti: The best person in the Bible

It's hard to find good people in the Bible.

There are lots of bad guys, though. Noah, Lot, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha, Jehu -- all are candidates for "The Worst Person in the Bible" award (or even "The Worst Person in the World," if existence isn't a criterion). Heck, even Jesus behaved badly as often as not.

But there are a few people in the Bible that can honestly be called good. And Vashti is one of them. Of course, whoever made up the story about her didn't see it that way, which just goes to show how messed up the Bible truly is.

The story takes place in the first chapter of Esther, where King Ahasuerus is getting ready to throw another party. This is a guy who liked to show off. He'd just finished displaying his riches in a 180-day feast.

In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him: When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days. Esther 1:3-4

Still, he wanted to party some more, so he invited all the men in the palace to come to a seven-day drink fest.

And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace ... And they gave them drink in vessels of gold ... and royal wine in abundance. Esther 1:5-7

On the seventh day, when he was good and drunk, the king ordered Queen Vashti to put on her crown and strut her stuff before him and his drunken male guests.

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded ... Vashti the queen ... with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. Esther 1:10-11

But she refused.

But the queen Vashti refused. Esther 1:12a

Which, of course, royally pissed off his drunken highness.

Therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him. Esther 1:12b

The king asked his wise me what to do about it.

The king said to the wise men ... What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king? Esther 1:13-15

The wise men told the king that Vashti's offense wasn't just against him, but against every man in the kingdom. For if the king can't force his own wife to do whatever disgusting thing he wants, how will regular guys be able to do it?

Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people ... For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not. Esther 1:16-17

The solution, they said, was to banish (or refuse to have sex with, or imprison, or kill, or whatever) Vashti and give her crown to a woman "better [prettier] than she."

Let there go a royal commandment ... That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. Esther 1:19

So all the fair young virgins throughout the kingdom were brought before the king, and the one that "pleaseth" the king the most replaced Vashti.

Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king ... that they may gather together all the fair young virgins ... And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. Esther 2:2-4

And the king sent out a royal decree to everyone throughout the kingdom commanding all wives to honor and obey their husbands, "both great and small" so that "every man should bear rule in his own house."

The king's decree [that] ... all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small ... that every man should bear rule in his own house. Esther 1:20-22

That's all the Bible says about Vashti.

Not much to go on, is it? A queen who had the courage to refuse to entertain her husband's drunken guests. But can you think of another Bible character that is more worthy of "The Best Person is the Bible" award?

10 April 2011

Should Christians grow the word of God by burning the Quran?

Here's what the Bible says about it:

Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. Acts 19:19-20

And here is the Brick Testament story:

The first book burning

The early Christians mightily grew the word of God and prevailed by burning the books of their competitors. If the Quran had of been around at the time, would they have burned it, too?

08 April 2011

Read before burning

I think I've found the solution to the read or burn problem with scripture.

My first reaction was the politically and religiously correct suggestion to read it, don't burn it. And I still think that it's a good idea to read it.

But while reading, apply the newest and most ancient principle of scriptural interpretation, which is this:

Any scripture that includes verses that breed violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate.

So if you find in the scripture that you're reading verses that breed violence, hatred, or disdain, reject that scripture as illegitimate.

Of course, what you do with illegitimate scripture is your own damned business. But burning seems like a reasonable option.

The Sovereign Lord says, "Beck will lift up my banner to the people."

Jon Stewart spent his whole show last saying goodbye to Glenn Beck. And it was worth every minute of it. It was all great, of course, but the part I liked best was his quote of Isaiah 49:22.

Here it is in the King James Version:

Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

But that's not what he quoted from. He used the New International Version (NIV), which reads this way:

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders.

Which, with a little erasing, became this:

...the Sovereign LORD says: "... Beck... will lift up my banner to the people...." Isaiah 49:22

I can't find a way to embed the video here, but here's a link.

Applying Karen Armstrong’s new ancient principle of scriptural interpretation

Here it is in all its glory, as expressed in The Charter For Compassion:

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate.

Now let's apply Armstrong's new ancient principle to these scriptures.

  1. If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known ... thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die. Deuteronomy 13:6-10

  2. As for those who disbelieve, garments of fire will be cut out for them; boiling fluid will be poured down on their heads, Whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted; And for them are hooked rods of iron. Quran 22:19-21

  3. He had caused the cursing to come upon them... that ... wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome ... God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them ... that they shall be loathsome unto thy people. 2 Nephi 5:21-22

I can't find a way to apply the new ancient principle of scriptural interpretation to these verses.

So I hereby proclaim an even newer and more ancient principle of scriptural interpretation.

Any scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate.

That way we remove all of the verses that breed violence, hatred or disdain from the Bible, the Quran, and the Book of Mormon.

But I have an even better idea: the newest and most ancient principle of scriptural interpretation.

Any scripture that includes verses that breed violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate.

That way we can throw the Bible, Quran, and Book of Mormon in the trash.
(Or burn them. Your choice.)

06 April 2011

The Best Book in the Bible (revisited again)

(Updated to include the recent Genesis - Ecclesiastes SAB revision.)

In my last post I tried to find a way to measure the goodness of the books in the "Good Book", but I wasn't completely satisfied with the results. So here's one more try. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

In the SAB, I identify the Bible's verses that contain good advice about how we should live our lives, whatever our religious views might be. For example, I think it's a good idea to try, at least as much as possible, to treat others kindly. So I include Leviticus 19:18 ("Love thy neighbor as thyself") in the "Good Stuff". Of course, not all the verses that I've marked good are as good as this verse, but I marked them good because they seemed (at least somewhat) good to me.

So take a look at the SAB's good stuff to see if you agree, at least most of the time, that the verses that I've marked good are, in fact, good. If so, then the following analysis should be reasonable for you as well.

I began my analysis by plotting the number of good things in each book of the Bible. (Of the 66 books in the Bible, there were 30 in which I could find nothing good.)

When size is taken into account, Ecclesiastes is the best (36.0 good passages/ 100 verses), with Proverbs second at 20.4. So Ecclesiastes has more good stuff (per 100 verses) than any other book in the Bible.

But what about all the bad stuff in the Bible? Shouldn't we try to find a way to rate the goodness of a book by weighing both the book's good and bad?

The simplest solution, I think, is to count up the good things in each book and subtract the bad. The result is the net good. (I totaled cruelty, injustice, intolerance, bad family values, insults to women and homosexuals to get the number of bad things, since the verses marked with these categories are all morally objectionable.)

When I did that, I found that there are only three good books in the Bible: Ecclesiastes (of course), Proverbs, and James. Three others have a zero net goodness. The other 60 books are all more bad than good.

Other goodness metrics that might be useful are the percentage of marked passages that are good and the net good number of passages per 100 verses. Since there are only three books with a positive net goodness, we can limit our analysis to these three.

Here is a table that summarizes the data.

Ecclesiastes Proverbs James
Good 80 187 13
Bad 1 75 9
Net good 79 112 4
verses 222 915 108
net good/100 verses 35.6 12.2 3.7
Percent good of (good and bad) highlighted verses 98.8 71.4 59.1
good/bad 80 2.5 1.4

So no matter how you look at it, Ecclesiastes is by far the best (and pretty much the only good) book in the the Bible.

05 April 2011

The Best Book in the Bible

(Re-post after revising Genesis - Ecclesiastes. I'll do it again when I get through Revelation.)

What is the best book in the Bible?

Well, that, of course, depends on how you define "best".

One way to try to determine it, though, would be to identify all the passages in the Bible that contain ideas that you consider good, and then compare the number of good passages found in each book of the Bible.

That's easy for me to do, since I have already marked as "good stuff" everything I can honestly call good in the Bible. Here are the Bible's books ranked according to the number of good passages.

So Proverbs, at 187, has the most good stuff.

But Proverbs is a fairly large book, with 31 chapters and 915 verses. How would it look if we adjusted the good stuff rankings to acount for the size of the book?

Here's the list when adjusted for size (number of good passages per 100 verses).

When we adjust for size, then, Ecclesiastes is by far the best book in the Bible (36.0 good passages / 100 verses).

(The overall average for the Bible is 1.5 good passages / 100 verses.)

01 April 2011

The Quran made them do it.

Earlier today a mob in Afghanistan attacked a United Nations compound, killing at least 8 workers. Two of the victims were reportedly beheaded.
The crowd was reacting to a Quran burning on March 20th by a US fundamentalist Christian pastor named Terry Jones.

What would make people behave in this way, you wonder?

The book that Terry Jones burned. That's what.

Here is what the Quran says about beheading people.
I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite the necks and smite of them each finger. That is because they opposed Allah and His messenger. Whoso opposeth Allah and His messenger, (for him) lo! Allah is severe in punishment.Quran 8:12-13
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks ... if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain. Quran 47:4
The mob was just doing what Allah told them to do in the Quran: to strike fear into the hearts of unbelievers by smiting their necks. (The news reports didn't say anything about smiting unbelievers' fingers.)
The whole thing has made me change my mind about Quran burning.

A while back I wrote a post entitled, "Don't burn the Quran. Read it." But a book that tells its followers to strike fear into the hearts of unbelievers by beheading them is a book that no one should read or respect.

Go ahead and burn the damned thing. The world would be much better without it.