Tuesday, February 3, 2015

    Don't look now, but Hell may be freezing over - Evangelicals embrace gay marriage (!!!)

    I found this article to be moving in a couple of ways.  First, just the fact that an evangelical church has pivoted to a position of acceptance of same-sex marriage.  The second was in reading the thought process that led up to this decision, grounded in scripture, if you can believe it.  Even though we don't share the same views on religious issues, maybe there really is a way we can work it out so that we achieve the same end.  It's not the belief, it's the action that counts in the end.

    David Brooks of the NY Times takes on secularism - worth reading for the comments

    Conservative NY Times columnist David Brooks has recently strayed into the minefield of philosophy.  This column is worth reading not necessarily for what he says but rather for the comments, many of which rebut Brooks' argument in thoughtful responses which contain nuggets of wisdom that HSGP members could use to further refine their own thoughts about secularism.  (Sorry for the bad pun but I couldn't resist.)

    Monday, February 2, 2015

    Bookworm Report #6: The Jefferson Bible

    By Russell Pizer

    The Jefferson Bible
    The Life and Morales of Jesus of Nazareth

    Christians like to assert that Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, et al., founded these United States of American on Christian principles and especially the Ten Commandments.  However, those who assert such appear to discount one of Thomas Jefferson’s activities regarding The Bible.

    On 3/16/2011, this headline appeared in the Hoffington Post: “Will the Jefferson Bible Spark New Smithsonian Controversy?”  The article read, in part: “The Smithsonian recently began the painstaking restoration of one of America’s great hidden treasures: what is called the “Jefferson Bible.” Composed through a process of rigorous editing, Thomas Jefferson assembled a spare, concise book that was devoid of supernatural events from six different biblical texts. Even the crowning moment of the Christian story, the Resurrection, is completely deleted from Jefferson’s version. . . .

    “[Religious] pundits . . . would have you believe that the Founding Fathers were devout believers who saw America as a Christian nation. They point to the phrase in the Declaration of Independence,* noting that natural rights are ‘endowed by a Creator’‡ . . . 

    “[T]he Founding Fathers shared little consensus on religion.  Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine were explicit deists.  Franklin’s writings revealed ‘some doubts as to [Jesus’s] divinity' . . .”  [Presidents Jefferson and Madison were charged with being atheists.]  “Madison, the author of the Constitution and no friend to organized religion, composed a ‘Detached Memoranda’ to the Constitutional Conventions decrying religious influence as injurious to public life. . .”

    Concerning the “Ten Commandments,” Jefferson selected only six for his version of The Bible.  He included these: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother; and Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  These are the same six that Jesus gave in Matthew 19:17-19.  Historically, it should be noted that in 787 the 7th Ecumenical Council nullified the 2nd commandment. This was done so the Roman Catholic Church could have its statues, paintings, icons and images of God, the Holy Family and all the saints.

    People who are not familiar with this effort by Jefferson will probably be mortified to learn that one of our Founding Fathers mutilated the Bible.  Jefferson literally took scissors and cut out the portions he liked and glued them together – making him perhaps the first great American Cafeteria Christian.

    NOTE:  The Jefferson Bible can be downloaded for free from the internet.  An 8½- by 11-inch version contains 33 pages.
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    * Contrary to popular belief, there is no such document in U.S. history that is titled “The Declaration of Independence.” The heading on the first broadside as printed by John Dunlap is: “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of American in General Congress Assembled.”  The embossed official document – the hand-written version by Timothy Matlack – has the title: “The unanimous Declaration of the united States of America.”  Notice it is not the United States of America – with an upper case “U”.  And, history shows that it was not “unanimous.”

    ‡ When Thomas Jefferson submitted the hand-written version of the so-called “Declaration of Independence” to the printer – John Dunlap – the word “creator” appeared with a lower case letter “c.”  There seems to be no historical record as to who changed the word “creator” to “Creator.” It was probably some unknown typesetter in the Dunlop printing office on the night of July 4, 1776. Also note, the phrase is “endowed by their creator,” not, “endowed by the Creator.”

    Friday, January 30, 2015

    Labeling GMO foods - followup to January presentation

    For those of you interested in knowing whether or not what you're buying is GMO, here's an article from the NY Times that doesn't offer much reassurance about product labeling.

    Tuesday, January 6, 2015

    Bookworm Report #5 The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer

    Submitted by Russell Pizer

    The Quest of the Historical Jesus
    by Albert Schweitzer

    There are a large number of books that are supposed to show that the man the Christians call Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus the Nazarene was an historical figure, i.e., was a real person that lived and walked the roads of Galilee 2000 years ago.  One great attempt is by an almost saintly figure, Albert Schweitzer. His book is titled: The Quest of the Historical Jesus. The paperback dated 2001 contains 562 pages.

    For the most part, there are 354 pages of typical Christian dogmatic prose and “interpolations”* of what The Bible is supposed to teach or what should be a true interpretation of the original written materials. It includes discussions of eschatology and contain citations from biblical literature and what those citations should really mean.  Schweitzer then gets to the subject of the book – the quest of the historical Jesus. However, he never gets to the point in question: Was there ever a person named Jesus as depicted in The Bible that appear in any historical source other than that which can be found only in religiously-biased writings?

    The title of Chapter 22 (page 355) is: “The Most Recent Disputing of the Historicity of Jesus.”  Christians who are looking for an historical Jesus – as was Schweitzer – often quote from Flavius Josephus who wrote The Jewish Antiquities ca. 93-94 A.D.  On page 359, Schweitzer uses a questionable quotation from Josephus’ book 18, chapter 3, section 3.  That quotation consists of a 126-word highly disputed passage. That passage begins with these words:  “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man. . .”  It then goes on to state that: “He was the Christ; and when Pilate, on the indictment . . . condemned him to the cross . . . [but he] [re]appeared on the third day . . .” At the end of this section it is alleged that Josephus recorded that: [his followers were considered] to be “the tribe of Christians . . .”

    Strangely, following this Josephus quotation presented by Schweitzer, Schweitzer states, “This note is either inauthentic or so extravagantly interpolated that it can no longer be presented as credible evidence.”  (Here Schweitzer appears to be destroying his own thesis.)

    A complete condemnation of this passage as being a fraudulent interpolation by an unknown Christian copyist is presented in The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy by C. Dennis McKinsey.  Beginning on page 100, McKinsey presents 18 major errors in this oft-quoted section from Josepheus beginning with: “[Josephus], a devout Jew, would not imply that [Jesus] was divine.”  And, “a devout Jew would never say that Jesus was the Christ.”

    After fully describing 18 major errors in this passage, this is added, “[O]n page 50 of The Mythical Jesus, Patrick Campbell notes that the historian Edward Gibbon, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, considered this passage to be a forgery as do many theologians.” 

    Question: Did Schweitzer achieve his quest, i.e., show there was an historical Jesus?  Not in these 562 pages!
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    * The word “interpolation” in this case means inserted information that is believed to be true or is believed to have actually occurred or been handed down by oral tradition. For example: The Bible states that wise men from the east visited the baby Jesus after having followed a star in the east. Somehow the wise men became the three kings. The names of the three kings are somehow known to be Balthasar, Caspar, Melchior. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Somehow we now know their mode of transportation.  It should be noted that many astronomers have searched ancient astronomical records and attempted to recreated events that could have caused a conjunction of stars, or planets or asteroids or comets that would have resulted in the star of Bethlehem. No such phenomenon has ever been found or replicated in a planetarium.

    Thursday, December 25, 2014

    Religion with God? Column from NY Times

    This column bears re-reading even if you saw it in the NY  Times.  The comments section is, as always, revealing of how people think on the topic.

    At HSGP, we recognize the need for community mentioned in the column, even if we're not big on ritual.  Our Humanist Community Center is not a psuedo-church consuming vast amounts of resources, as one commenter put it, but a focal point for building community for freethinkers and other like-minded people, a place where non-theists can feel comfortable and not worry about adherence to dogma.

    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    Another way of explaining why everyone needs to be vaccinated

    Recent HSGP speaker Will Humble did a fine job of explaining why vaccination is a good thing.

    Here's another explanation, this time in pictures.  (Actually a "comic" but I wanted you to take it seriously.)