Bloggin’ around

In case you’re wondering why the blog has been so quiet for the last week or so, it’s largely due to the fact that I’ve been writing. A lot. Just, you know, not here. In the last week or so, I’ve written a couple of books in the comment threads on posts at Bronze Dog’s place and Ryan’s pad, not to mention the 3,700-word primer on evolution I wrote on a message board I frequent. I’ve gotten quite a lot of praise on these recent posts (not to toot my own horn or anything), especially the ones over at Ryan’s, and I’m pretty proud of how those came out. But, lest you think I can cite chapter and verse from memory or have a complete working knowledge of ancient history, let me run down some of the things that have happened and that I’ve learned over the course of these writings:

  • I have probably doubled my knowledge of scripture, especially with regard to the Old Testament and the Messianic prophecies therein. I’ve always had a bit of trouble with the OT, especially as a kid, because I wanted to read the book from the beginning, but never managed to get past Noah’s Ark. More recently (last year, or the year before) I tried it again, with the KJV instead of the Golden Children’s Bible, and ended up stuck in a sea of begats. That’s a major part of why I decided to chuck the whole “reading the book in order” thing.
  • But, because one of the sticking points in that comment-argument was about the genealogy of David, I waded back into the begat-mire. Jon can tell you a first-hand account of me shouting angrily at the book after reading a chapter of “Hezron and Hamul and Zerah and Zimri and so on.” I distinctly remember wondering how anyone could actually read this and think it was the greatest book ever written.
  • The vast majority of my searches for the last week or so are iterations of “genealogy of King David,” “genealogy from Adam to Jesus,” and “Caleb, Ephrathah, Hur, Salma, genealogy.” I’ve seen more insane family trees than I care to remember, including the one I drew myself, following the lineage in 1 Chronicles from Israel to David on a page in my notebook.
  • I have had the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible pages on Prophecy and Contradictions open constantly. I’ve had Blue Letter Bible up for the majority of the time as well, and I’ve got my spankin’ new NRSV at hand to double-check all the quotations before I write anything. Reading Misquoting Jesus has given me quite a lot of insight into the transcription and translation process, so I’ve been very careful to try to use just one specific translation for all my citations. Even though it means a lot of tedious cross-referencing and typing.
  • While I greatly enjoyed The God Who Wasn’t There and while I recognize all the parallels between the Christ story and the other Monomythic heroes, particularly mythical figures like Dionysus and Osiris, I’m pretty convinced at this point that there actually was a real guy named Jesus, who actually said a large portion of the things attributed to him (and I’ll defer to the scholars at the Jesus Seminar on that matter, since they know far better than I do). I came to this conclusion by noticing that many of the inconsistencies and discrepancies between the various gospel accounts of Jesus’s life come when the different gospel writers try to fit the story of Jesus’s life into the framework of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. Different authors pick different prophecies to try to fulfill, and so we end up with different accounts of Jesus’s last words (Matthew’s “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” and John’s “I thirst,” and to a lesser degree, Luke’s “Father into your hands I commend my spirit” all have roots in different parts of Psalm 22, for instance), conflicting accounts of Jesus’s residence in Nazareth, and so on.
    If Jesus were wholly fictional, then why wouldn’t he fit more of the prophecies? Why not portray him as the military leader that the Jews expected the Messiah to be (except, as Jon pointed out, the obvious fact that they hadn’t suddenly become world-ruling conquerors)? It seems most plausible to me that Jesus was a real preacher, who may or may not have claimed to be the Messiah and/or the Son of God, and whose exploits were fictionalized by later chroniclers in the Early Church, to help convince Greek, Roman, and Jewish civilians to join their religion. I’ve got a longer post on this subject for another time.
  • People have a difficult time understanding the problem with circular arguments; in this case, trying to prove the Bible with the Bible. If one book in the Bible makes a “prophecy” and our only evidence that that prophecy was fulfilled is another book or passage later in the Bible, that’s not evidence of anything. It’s not evidence any more than if “The Sorcerer’s Stone” says “Harry will be the end of Voldemort,” and “The Deathly Hallows” has Harry killing Voldemort. If I write “X,” it doesn’t constitute proof of “X.”
  • People will find the craziest things to support their pre-existing notions. Justin (my target at Ryan’s) brought out the theomatics, apparently trying to prove the divine inspiration of the Bible with a roundabout argument from design. I’ve never actually encountered someone, Christian or otherwise, who bought into the Bible Code and its antecedents, so this was a real treat. If the patterns of seven in the Bible are amazing, then the hidden assassination prophecies of Indira Gandhi and Robert F. Kennedy in Moby-Dick are nothing short of miraculous.
  • While the boredom and frustration I felt trying to read the first chapter of Moby-Dick is comparable to what I felt trying to make it through the Biblical begats, I’d be much more likely to worship Melville, based solely on his short story “Bartleby the Scrivener.” Great story, that.
  • I’ve been reminded that it’s much easier to make claims than to respond to counter-claims. Especially when you make claims without any supportive evidence. I’ve been reminded of the frustration of staying up ’til 4 AM making sure that I’ve covered all my bases and done all the necessary research to support my arguments, only to have them completely ignored as another wave of ignorant claims are thrown at me.
  • And yet, I’ve been reminded how much I love these arguments. They’re tedious and time-consuming, excessively lengthy, and they rarely have any positive effect on the intended subject, but I always end up learning something, and I hope others reading the argument learn things as well.
  • More people need to read The Demon-Haunted World. Nearly everything I’ve talked about has been addressed, in some fashion, in that book. Especially UFOs and the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
  • More people need to be educated in basic critical thinking skills in general. My posts would be a lot shorter if I didn’t feel the need to explain Occam’s Razor, the burden of proof, and the scientific method in each of them.

So, I’ll continue to spend unnecessary hours debating theists online, whether or not they listen, whether or not they even stop to think, because if nothing else, I get something out of it. I invariably gain some new knowledge, some strange facts that I can use the next time such an argument comes around, and I get practice so I can do things a little smoother and more succinctly the next time. In this case, I really lucked out; looking at some Psalms and Messianic prophecies gave me a very different perspective on various parts of the Bible. Did I have Psalms on the list of things I’m reading for novel research? Because they are now.

So, yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Hope you get/got something out of it.

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