Friday, February 16, 2018

Pharaoh, the Nincompoop

Number 6 of 17 in the *Twilight Zone* series:

by Farrell Till
Absurdities in the story of the ten plagues go far beyond the changing of all the water of Egypt into blood, which was the subject of our last journey into the Twilight Zone of biblical fundamentalism. As Moses and Aaron called down the plagues, the implausibilites multiplied so rapidly that no rational-thinking reader could possibly believe that these events happened as recorded in the Bible. As previously noted, the story began as a tit-for-tat confrontation between Pharaoh's magicians and Yahweh's emissaries, Moses and Aaron. When Aaron changed his rod into a serpent, the magicians "did in like manner with their enchantments" (Ex. 7:11); when Aaron and Moses changed all the water in Egypt into blood, the magicians, in some way known only to Bible fundamentalists, "did so with their enchantments" (7:22). So the die was cast, and the duel was under way.

In the next exchange of preternatural blows, Aaron stretched out his magic rod (wand?) and  brought forth a wave of frogs that infested all the land of Egypt. Frogs were everywhere in all the houses--in the bedrooms, in the beds, in the servants' quarters, in the ovens, in the kneading bowls (8:5). It was clearly a matter of here a frog, there a frog, everywhere a frog frog. However, the magicians, not to be outdone, "did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs on the land of Egypt" (v:7). But at this point in the story, problems begin to multiply quicker than the frogs. If the invasion of frogs that Aaron produced was as massive as the Bible claims, how could anyone possibly have determined that Pharaoh's magicians had succeeded in adding even more frogs to the infestation? Did the magicians bring forth frogs that were labeled "ours" so that they could be distinguished from "theirs"? Who really knows? We must remember that in the Twilight Zone anything can happen.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Show Me the MONEY!

Even Christians realize that some NT commandments 
are ridiculous. From the *Errancy Discussion List*, 
11 Feb. 1997:

The passages that were quoted don't refer to loans, although there are
some passages that address loaning. In this case, the scripture that was
quoted says, "Give to EVERYONE who asks you and of him who takes
away your goods ask them not again" (Luke 6:30). So, Dave, I'm someone,
and I am asking you to give me $10,000. Your obedience to this
commandment of your savior will be appreciated.

(COURT 2/10) Farrell: My responses to Jason also apply here - so I won't
repeat them. I will not be sending you any money as there are others who
are in more dire need than you are for what limited resources I have -
beginning with my own son (and soon to come baby). My suggestion, if you
need money quickly, is to begin dismantling the expenditures you make on
your publications, time, computer and whatever other fringe payments you
have so that you can afford the basic necessities of life. That would be a
start - if you are really suffering, then let me know privately what exactly
you require and why, when and how you can expect to pay back the money,
and I'll be glad to help out should I be able to.

I didn't say anything about NEEDING the money, I just said that I want you
to give it to me. If you don't do it, then you are practicing smorgasbord
Xianity by selecting the passages to obey and rejecting the others. I also
have a question for you. If I came to Toronto, hot wired your car, and stole
it, would you report me to the police and try to get it back?

(COURT 2/10) Farrell: Yes, of course I would. You should abide by the law
and pay whatever penalty the government has set in place for your crime -
are you expecting a lawless society?

Would this also have been true in the time of Jesus when he said, "And of
him that takes away your goods ask them not again"?

(COURT) Would I ask for more from you than the law specifies? No. I have
nothing to gain from such action. By the way, I drive a Saturn - you may want
to try the Mercedes next door.

No, I want to steal your Saturn. The man next door may not be a Christian,
and so he could try to take the Mercedes back from me. By the way, I want
the money to be in US dollars. Every little bit helps.

(COURT 2/10) Farrell: Actually, $0 remains just that regardless of the
currency - so, no problem.

Well, you have confirmed exactly what I set out to prove: even Xians
recognize that some NT commandments are ridiculous. Your assistance
has been greatly appreciated.

Farrell Till

When All Is Not All

Number 5 of 17 in the *Twilight Zone* series:

by Farrell Till
To the Twilight-Zone mind of the Christian fundamentalist, nothing in the Bible is too absurd to believe. Twilight Zonery at its absurdest is exemplified in the way that Bible fundamentalists insist that the story of the Egyptian plagues is literally true in all of its details.  The plagues began when Yahweh commanded Moses to have Aaron stretch his staff over "the waters of Egypt" (Ex. 7:19) to change them into blood. The transformation was to include water that was in the rivers, streams, pools, ponds, and even vessels of wood and stone. When Moses and Aaron did so, "all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood" (v:20), and the blood, as Yahweh had decreed, was "throughout all the land of Egypt" (v:21).

"Well, why not?" Christian fundamentalists will demand. If we concede the existence of an omnipotent God for whom Moses and Aaron were acting as emissaries, the performance of a deed like this would have been rather insignificant compared to, say, the creation of the world. Perhaps so, but the writer of this little yarn so blundered in the way he told the story that, even with that concession, rational thinkers will have no difficulty seeing that it is pure fantasy. Whoever wrote it clearly intended to present it from the very beginning as a contest between the powers of Pharaoh's magicians and the power of Yahweh acting through Moses and Aaron. In a display of power to Pharaoh before the plagues themselves actually began, Aaron cast his rod down, and it became a serpent (Ex. 7:10). Not at all impressed with the demonstration, Pharaoh called for his magicians, who "did in like manner with their enchantments" (v:11). They cast their rods down, and they too became serpents.  Aaron's serpent, however, came to the rescue by swallowing the magicians' serpents [rods], presumably demonstrating that the power of Yahweh was superior to the power of the magicians (v:12).


Number 4 of 17 in the *Twilight Zone* Series:

by Farrell Till
"And it came to pass that Abraham said to God, `You want us to cut off our what!'" (1 Babinski 13:7).
Of all the strange ideas that found acceptance in the Twilight Zone of biblical times, perhaps none was any stranger than the notion that males had to have their foreskins cut off in order to please the petulant Yahweh. Actually, the rite of circumcision wasn't just a matter of pleasing Yahweh; it was either done or his wrath was incurred. When Yahweh gave the commandment that all eight-day-old males were to be circumcised, he made it clear that he meant business: "And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant" (Gen. 17:14). What a clever way to put it! The uncircumcised person "shall be cut off from his people." Who says that Yahweh didn't have a sense of humor?

We might note that Yahweh was a little redundant too. The uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin--boy, Yahweh wanted to make sure he was understood on this point, didn't he? And no wonder. The expression "cut off from his people" didn't mean just banishment or exile, as some wrongly assume; it meant, as Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, "Hasta la vista, Baby!"

Friday, February 9, 2018

Biblical Babble about Babel

Number 3 of 17 in the *Twilight Zone* Series:

by Farrell Till
Why do nations speak different languages? If you think it is because of isolationism in the distant past that made cultural interchanges and hence consistency in language evolution impossible, then think again. A trip to the Twilight Zone will give you the right answer. You see, there was a time when "the whole earth had one language and one speech" (Gen. 11:1), but the linguistically unified people of that time ticked off the petulant Yahweh, who "confused" their language so that they couldn't understand one another.  Ever since the world has been linguistically divided.

What did those people do that so irritated the whimsical Yahweh? Well, silly, they tried to build a tower whose top would reach "unto heaven." What else? It's all right there in God's inspired word. If people would just open their Bibles more often to experience the joys of traipsing through the Twilight Zone, they wouldn't have to ask stupid questions. It makes perfectly good sense to suppose that a linguistically unified people trying to build a tower to heaven would quite naturally arouse Yahweh's ire.  What if they succeeded? What then? The upstarts would have probably undertaken even more ambitious projects.

Monday, February 5, 2018

What Will the Bible Tell the Court?

This is article 2 of 17 in Farrell Till's *Twilight Zone* series:

by Farrell Till
[Editor's Note: This article in the Twilight-Zone series was based on a murder committed by Michael Griffin, a born-again "Christian," who has since been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.]

Back in the days of black-and-white television, the Twilight Zone was a fictional place where reality was so distorted that anything was possible. In discussions with Christian fundamentalists, I sometimes characterize their belief in biblical inerrancy as a journey into the Twilight Zone, because, like characters in the old TV series, Bible-believers often find themselves in situations where they cannot distinguish the real from the unreal, the possible from the impossible, or the rational from the irrational.

A case in point would be the born-again Christian who assassinated a doctor at an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida. After attending an Assembly of God Church on Sunday and asking the congregation to pray with him for Dr. David Gunn, Michael Griffin "allegedly" shot the doctor three times the next day at point-blank range. During his arraignment, Griffin asked the court's permission to serve as his own attorney and to keep his Bible with him "as one of [his] legal documents." One can only wonder what kind of journey into the Twilight Zone this twisted mind will make as Griffin looks for biblical justification of his actions, but, unless the prosecutor is completely ignorant of the Bible, the defense just may find itself in serious trouble.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Samson: The Hebrew Version of the Strong-Man Myth

This is article 1 of 17 in Farrell Till's *Twilight Zone* series:

by Farrell Till
Judges 15:15 claims that Samson killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, but according to the mythology of other nations of biblical times, Hercules and other strong-man heroes did similar feats, defeating entire armies and such like single-handedly. Now if Samson had killed 20 or even 10 of a thousand men rushing to overwhelm him, that would have been remarkable enough, but the entire thousand? That's just too incredible to believe.

His final feat, however, taxed common sense and credulity even more. After being tricked by Delilah into revealing that his uncut hair was the secret of his strength, an unlikely aspect of Samson's story that I will say more about later, she cut off his hair so that the Philistines could overpower him. He was then blinded and taken as a captive to a prison-house, where he was put to work turning a grinding stone. After his hair had grown back, his captors put him on display between two pillars in Dagon's temple. While the Philistines were making sport of him, Samson cried out to Yahweh, who gave him the strength to pull the temple pillars down to cause the structure to collapse on the people inside and on the temple roof.