Holiday Announcement

I am going to be in Costa Rica for the next week or so, so this blog won't be updated until I return. Apologies!


Who Wrote the Bible? [Old Testament]

I must have missed this being on TV, but I managed to source a copy. It is a documentary by Robert Beckford, a Christian, and his journey to uncover who wrote the bible. I found it interesting to note that Beckford attributes his personal success and in some cases his morality to being raised as a Christian.

Early on in the documentary Beckford said something which I, as an atheist, was relieved by. He said that studying the history of the bible made him doubt his own beliefs. The ability to question religious beliefs is an important liberty.

Traditionally the first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses, although the archaeological evidence suggests that the people at the time were unable to record their history. Interestingly Beckford makes the claim that archaeology tests historical truth. He seems more confused however regarding whether a lack of truth means the bible is wrong. Beckford must be applauded as a Christian for actually seeking sound evidence, and ignoring 'Biblical Archaeology' where evidence is skewed to promote the accuracy of the Bible. Indeed he talks with Israel Finkelstein, a renowned mind from Tel Aviv University, about, amongst other things, the dating of the Solomonic Gate.

Interestingly archaeology has provided no evidence for a Jewish kingdom or the exodus from Egypt, indeed at that time Jerusalem was not the capital of a great empire, but a small village.

The documentary's destruction of the Old Testament focused mainly on the pentateuch (the books of Moses). The Mosaic authorship of the pentateuch is questioned first by the Deuteronomy account of Moses' death - something impossible to write about in the first person. The weight of the evidence however came from Beckford's discussion with Jill Middlemas of the University of Oxford, who explained to him the theory, first advanced in the 19th Century, that the pentateuch itself comes from four separate authors.

This would not be so bad for the authenticity of the bible if these sources agreed on the very nature of god. In the 'J' text god converses with his peoples directly, whereas in the 'E' text god can only talk through intermediaries. There is not even a single word (or name) for god! This leads to the 'revelation' that the "Bible is a big editing job".

The most interesting point made on this is a rhetorical question: why have these details not filtered to the church going public?

The question of dating the Old Testament is left fairly open. A later limit is set at 586BC (the year of the destruction of Judah, which one of the Psalmist believes would stand forever). The Psalmists were also clearly aware of all four of the pentateuch texts.

Beckford then goes on to investigate the various spin-like modifications of the texts' meaning, favouring at various times monotheism, suffering and hope.

Particular mention is made of the prophet book Isaiah, although the authorship is split between more than one author. Perhaps the most important concept introduced by these authors is the prophecy of a messiah. as Beckford puts it; mission+messiah=hope for future.

So where do the Dead Sea Scrolls fit into the picture? These scrolls, found in the 1940s, are from a radical Jewish sect, the Essenes. The 'Temple Scroll' irons out many of the inconsistencies in the Old Testament, so why was it rejected? If it had been written previously it may well have been accepted as the word of god, however the Old Testament had been around long enough to become accepted, and the word of god could no longer be modified.

Well, that's it for now. I will comment on the New Testament soon, drawing from the same documentary. The documentary also reminded me to do a piece on Zionism, so that too should be up here shortly.

Somebody e-mailed me to say that I just regurgitate other articles and sources. That is true, I want to build a kind of mini-library for a while here, and I will add comprehensive personal analysis later when I have added sufficient source summaries. May sound odd but it makes sense to me!


An Update / Carnival of The Godless

Well, it's still well under a month since I started this blog, and already the response is heartening. So far I have had visitors from 26 countries, mainly in Western Europe but also some slightly less unexpected corners of the world. In particular the response in the USA and at home in the UK has been very positive.

There are already a few people coming in from search engines, particularly Google. Technorati has been the main source of incoming links, closely followed by sites on the Atheist Blogroll.

Obviously I'd love you to link here, or to any posts that you find interesting. If you do so drop me an e-mail or a comment and I'll make the effort to have a look through your blog/site and make a few comments.

Also please feel free to make a few more comments, I know that this blog is still in its infancy but I do try and reply to all those where a reply is appropriate. Hopefully the resulting discussions will be of interest to somebody! It's worth noting that although I moderate comments I do this only to remove spam, I have no problem publishing comments which disagree with what I have to say. Open discussion is the way forward.

The final comment is that this blog will host the Carnival of The Godless on the 19th August this year which I am looking forward to already!


Remove Gideon Bibles Petition

For all you UK residents I have made this petition on the Prime Minister's petition site. If you agree that Gideon bibles should be removed from hotel rooms then I urge you to sign up, it only takes a few moments.

If you want to link to the petition the address is http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/removebibles/, or just link to this post.


Confused by Reality?

I am amazed by the number of people I have seen posting on the internet about things such as creationism vs evolution who get the science totally wrong. I was reminded of this by the same podcast as I mentioned yesterday, which I downloaded again to check a few things out.

The most striking thing said was that it may take a scientist hours, or even days to properly explain why the pseudo-science spouted by a preacher is incorrect. The incorrect use of scientific language in these speeches lends an unwarranted authority to the words of these preachers, and makes them more believable to the lay religious citizen.

I wish I could say that I thought these preachers were just misguided. But I think it is more sinister. Backed up with authoritatively delivered, despite incorrect, words and concepts bastardised from the world of science these preachers set out to deceive their congregations and get them to believe in their own world view. Whether is this is morally justified by religion or not is another matter.

Arguments Against Creationism

Here are a few arguments made against creationism a while ago now on the Infidel Guy podcast, when he was talking to Frank Zindler.

Zindler made a huge attack on creationism as it is told in Genesis. Two points that I found particularly interesting (although I'd heard them before) were the fact that a literal interpretation of Genesis requires a flat Earth, and an argument made on that favourite science topic of creationists - the fossil record.

The 'flat Earth' requirement comes from the six days it supposedly takes to make the Earth. Well, if we take this literally it is nonsense, at any time half of the Earth is in day, the other half in night. At the poles day and night are 6 months each! If on the other hand we take 'day' to be a significant length of time, then the order of creation is ridiculous.

My favourite argument is however based on the fossil record. Creationists often use this as a trump card in disproving evolution, even though there are so many intermediary forms in the record that to claim it doesn't support evolution is wrong. But anyway, surely if, as many creationists believe, we lived at the same time as the dinosaurs (who in some cases could breathe fire in order to explain dragons), then there should be fossil records of people ad dinosaurs in the same strata. None has been found. There are also other glaring inconsistencies that support evolution, there is a cut off point for pollen from angiosperms, even though there are other plant fossils before this date.

I just love the fact that one of the creationists trump cards has been turned on them!


Louis Theroux: The Most Hated Family in America

Louis Theroux is an undoubtedly talented master of documentary making. Indeed I would have found it nearly impossible to make this film.

It follows the Phelps family and what is effectively their church, the Westboro Baptist Church. The family has gained notoriety for protests at the funerals of American servicemen, blaming their deaths on an increasingly homosexual or homosexual tolerating country.

Theroux managed to cut to the heart of the matter. The family and church is led by 'Gramps,' who has a lot of unresolved anger, and a rather novel interpretation of the bible. Those of his children who do not follow his beliefs are disowned. Theroux couldn't even get an answer out of him for the number of children he has had, or has.

The most shocking part, as for Jesus Camp, was the indoctrination of the children. Theroux questioned several of them at a protest while they were holding up banners. One was only four years old and had no concept of tyranny she was supposedly supporting. The fact that the family allow this, and allow children to protest even when they come under fire from missile attacks shows just how sick and twisted the leaders of this cult are.

BBC Website