Friday, July 13, 2018

Talk to the Animals

Number 17 of 17 in the *Twilight Zone*series:
A silly tale about a talking donkey.

by Farrell Till
A popular movie last year [1996], which even received an academy-award nomination for best picture, was Babe, a story about a talking pig. Even with animated cartoons aside, talking animals have not been at all uncommon in movies and TV. Years ago we had Francis, the talking mule, and later came Mister Ed. Doctor Dolittle, a movie about a man with a special affinity with animals, even gave us the popular song "Talk to the Animals."

Monday, July 9, 2018

Child Abuse Yahweh's Way

Number 16 of 17 in the *Twilight Zone* series:
A great "hero of faith" considered loyalty to an oath more important than the life of his own daughter.

by Farrell Till
Only in the Twilight Zone of biblical times could one become a "hero of faith" by killing his daughter in order to keep a foolish oath. In in our last trek through the twilight zone, we saw that vows were serious business in those days. None of the Israelite fathers, for example, felt free to give their daughters in marriage to the 600 males who had survived the massacre of the Benjamites, because "the men of Israel had sworn an oath at Mizpah, saying, `None of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin as a wife'" (Judges 21:1). In the law of Moses, it was written, "When you make a vow to Yahweh your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for Yahweh your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you.... That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to Yahweh your God what you have promised with your mouth" (Deut. 23:21,23).

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Pioneers of Loophole Religion

Number 15 of 17 in the *Twilight Zone* series:
The Israelite rationalization of a problem they had created shows that loophole religion is as old as the Bible.

by Farrell Till
Our last trip into the Twilight Zone left God's chosen people grappling with a terrible problem. They themselves had virtually wiped out the tribe of Benjamin in a battle described in Judges 20, only to realize that they were responsible for practically destroying a tribe of Yahweh's pet nation Israel. Six hundred had survived the Benjamite massacre, but these were all males, soldiers, who had retreated to the rock of Rimmon (20:47). Our last trip found the Israelites in the "house of God" pondering what they could do to rebuild the tribe of Benjamin. They couldn't give their own daughters to the Benjamite survivors, because they had sworn with an oath at Mizpah before the massacre that "(n)one of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin as a wife" (21:1,7), and neither could the Benjamite survivors violate Yahweh's holy law and marry foreign women (Dt. 7:3-4Ex. 34:12-13).

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Last Hurrah of the Inerrancy Doctrine

From *The Skeptical Review*, 1990 / Jan.-Feb. Issue:

by Farrell Till
Many fundamentalist Christians sincerely believe that the Bible is the verbally inspired word of God. As believers in verbal inspiration, they see the Bible much differently from those who respect it as a book with only concepts and ideas that were divinely inspired. Christians who believe in the doctrine of verbal inspiration think that God directed the writing of the Bible on a word-by-word basis so that the authors of the original manuscripts were protected from writing even as much as one word that might inadvertently mislead readers or incorrectly communicate the truths God wanted man to know.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Evolution Of God

From *The Skeptical Review*, 2000 / Nov.-Dec. Issue:

By Farrell Till 
Biblical writers seemed unable to make up their minds about the nature of their god. In one passage, he is given a trait that contradicts the nature attributed to him in another. To some writers God was omnipresent, i. e., simultaneously present everywhere
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast (Psalm 139:7-8).
To others, his presence was limited, and so he had to go from place to place as the need arose. When the descendants of the flood survivors were building a tower to heaven, "Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower" (Gen. 11:5), whereas an omnipresent entity would have had no need to "come down," since he would have already been present at the construction site. Prior to this, Adam and Eve, having broken Yahweh's command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, heard Yahweh "walking in the garden in the cool of the day" and "hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden" (Gen. 3:8). Hiding from an omnipresent deity would have been impossible, so, unlike the psalmist quoted above, the writer of this story must have seen Yahweh as a god whose presence was limited to a specific location at any given time. When Yahweh exiled Cain for killing his brother Abel, for example, the Genesis writer said that "Cain went out from the presence of Yahweh" (4:16), but if Cain went out from the presence of Yahweh, then Yahweh could hardly have been an omnipresent entity. Other biblical passages restricted Yahweh's presence in the same way, whereas others agreed with the psalmist who thought that God was omnipresent. The prophet Amos declared that no one could escape from Yahweh's wrath. Though they dug into Sheol, his hand would take them; though they climbed into heaven, he would bring them down; though they hid themselves on the top of Carmel, he would find them; though they hid in the bottom of the sea, he would command the serpent to bite them (Amos 9:2-3). There was just no place for Yahweh's enemies to flee from his presence, yet other writers presented him as a deity restricted in space. The Israelites, for example, thought that God sat enthroned on the mercy seat that was on the ark of the covenant (Ps. 80:1; 99:1; Ex. 25:22; Num. 7:89; 1 Sam. 4:4).

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Even Holy Massacres Can Have Their Drawbacks

Number 14 of 17 in the *Twilight Zone* series:
The silly results of an intratribal holy war are examined.

by Farrell Till
In the Twilight Zone of biblical literature, silliness occurs in direct proportion to the length of the story. Our last two journeys into the Twilight Zone concerned events that followed the rape and murder of the Levite's concubine. After twice having Yahweh's counsel lead them into military disasters inflicted by the Benjamites defending the city where the atrocity against the Levite's concubine had occurred, the Israelites directed a third inquiry to Yahweh that brought them success, if a victory that had cost 40,000 lives can in any sense be considered a success. Anyway, in their third attack against the city of Gibeah, the Israelites withdrew in apparent defeat to trick the Benjamite forces into following them out of the city and into an ambush where "ten thousand select men from all Israel" were lying in wait (Judges 20:32-34). We are told that the battle was "fierce" and that "Yahweh defeated Benjamin before Israel" (v:35).

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Truth Will Make You Free

From *The Skeptical Review*, 1993 /July-August Issue: 

by Farrell Till
A question we are frequently asked is, "Why are you doing this?" By "this," the questioners mean evangelical skepticism, so what they are asking is why we spend so much time promoting freethought philosophy and especially rationalistic approaches to biblical interpretation. The question implies that we are doing something wrong or at least something that we are not entitled to do. Christians can publish papers, preach their religious beliefs over the airwaves, go door to door trying to convert the unchurched, and maintain a high profile in the community through various other evangelical activities, and no one wonders why they are doing this or questions their right to do it. However, if an atheist or an agnostic attempts to promote his philosophical views, his motives are impugned, and he is viewed with suspicion and branded a troublemaker.

Why are we evangelical about our skepticism? There is no simple answer to the question. A skeptic may be evangelical in his attitude for several reasons, not the least of which would be the value that he puts on truth. If there is intrinsic value in truth--and we believe there is--any truth that the skeptic may know should be shared with others. If he keeps it to himself, he denies others the benefits of it. If one knows a medical truth but chooses to keep it to himself, his morality is suspect. We are where we are today, scientifically and technologically, because those who discovered truth shared it with the societies they lived in. Where would we be today if this had not been done?