Where’s Jesus’ birth certificate?! (Photo)

While my wife and I were traveling through Arkansas this weekend, I decided we just had to pull over to take a picture.

I couldn’t help but laugh at this. I’m assuming there were two separate intended messages here:

• I haven’t seen enough proof that Barack Obama was really born in America, and therefore he shouldn’t be President.
• Jesus Christ is my savior, since he definitely died on the cross and rose again for our sins.

My reading of this scene, however, is

• People may say that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, but
• We don’t even have solid historical evidence of his birth, death, or resurrection, so how do we know he even existed?

My wife, who is a Christian, also understood right away why putting these two symbols together was pretty funny, since the result is almost certainly not what was intended in rural, highly Christian Arkansas.

By posting this photo, I am not necessarily claiming myself that Jesus never existed (although many before me have made such claims, understandly given the Bible can’t even get his stepdad Joseph’s ancestory right). It would be nice, though, if people became skeptical in a more productive way than being an Obama birther. They could start by demanding that their god or their church give them better proof of the “greatest story ever told” than a very deeply flawed Bible


Genesis 24 — looking for SWF, no Canaanites, please!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Half Breed
By Cher
see related

Genesis 24 — looking for SWF, no Canaanites, please!

This is a long-winded, but interesting story. I think it reveals a lot about the mindset of the author and/or the people of the day.

First, you would think a marriage would be important enough for someone to take care of personally, but not so in the Bible. Not only does Isaac not try to find a wife, his father doesn’t either: he sends a slave to take care of it. It was the "chief servant" though (24:2, NIV), thank goodness! Some translations have "oldest" or "eldest", but I think the idea is the same.

We see that racial purity is important. God doesn’t want Isaac to be breeding with those Canaanites apparently. No reason is given, but what other reason would there be than to maintain a "pure" bloodline? No mixed breeds allowed I guess. I wonder what God thinks of Obama….If Abraham’s story is any sign, God would rather you marry your half sister than someone from outside your clan. He didn’t seem to mind Lot’s daughters having children by their dad, either…

The way the servant, who is a complete stranger sent by the father of a complete stranger, convinces the family to give up Rebekah to him, is funny in my opinion. It’d be sad if it actually happened, but I suspect and hope not. Rebekah offers the stranger and his camel water. Later, this random guy comes in to her parents’ place and says, after the fact, that he knew if a beautiful girl offered water to him and his camels, then she would be the girl for his master’s son to marry. That proves that God wants her to marry his son!

And the best part is, they completely buy the story. "This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other." (NIV 24:50) Just mention Yahweh, and people believe the strangest things I guess.

What is interesting, though, is that the family wants a 10-day waiting period first. Why, we don’t know. But when Abraham’s servant refuses, the family actually asks Rebekah if she will go with the servant, and she agrees. Now, they’re probably only asking her how soon she will go (they had already agreed, without consulting Rebekah, that she would go with the servant), but it’s still a good thing that she has at least SOME say in the matter. This surprised me.

Another thing that is good is that it says Isaac loved Rebekah. Unless my memory deceives me, the Bible really hasn’t talked about love up until this point. It’s mostly been about having children to carry on the line. If Isaac truly loved her, then that is a good model for people. We’ll see in future chapters if something comes up that goes against this.

Two other quick observations:
• The oath by Abraham and the servant at the beginning of the chapter is weird. Why should putting your hand under someone’s thigh (or perhaps this is a euphemism for somewhere higher up??) seal the deal? Is it to prove that the servant wasn’t crossing his fingers behind his back, or something???

• When Rebekah approaches Isaac for the first time, she suddenly puts a veil on. Why would she do this? It isn’t explained. If it’s some sort of decorum, I don’t see why you would NOT wear a veil in front of a strange man but would wear one in front of your future husband. I don’t see why you’d wear a veil at all, but that’s another story. If it’s similar to Islam tradition, then it’s degrading to women to say they have to cover themselves up. Instead, God should have created men with a little more self-control and respect for women…

No one dies in this chapter, making it tame compared to many others I’ve read so far. Isaac and Rebekah appear to actually love each other. But the way they meet and marry is not a model, and the fact that Abraham excludes an entire clan of people from possible wives for his son shows his and/or God’s bigotry.

PS Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. All rights reserved.


Obama throws us a bone

Saturday, January 31, 2009

I’m A Believer (and other hits) : Flashback Vol. 49
By Monkees
I’m A Believer (not!)
see related

Obama throws us a bone

I really wish I had more time!! I wanted to post about Obama’s inauguration when it happened, but life got in the way. Anyway, here are some of my thoughts.

I was frankly shocked when Obama said "non-believers" during the inaugural address. Here is the passage in context, from the Associate Press (via Yahoo News )

We know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

When Obama started "we are a nation of Christians and Muslims…", I thought, oh great, he we go again with the religion bit. When he said "non-believers", my initial reaction was one of shock, then disbelief (no pun intended), then I got this huge smile on my face. I was watching the inauguration with a colleague at work, and I don’t know if he saw my reaction or not. I’m still not "out" in real life, but I couldn’t help my facial expression at such a surprising event. A president of the United States not only mentioning non-believers, but not immediately saying something nasty about them à la George H. W. Bush.

There was a lot of God during the inaugural events, not to mention the word "God" showing up 5 times during the speech itself. I won’t rehash the whole debate over whether or not there should be benedictions or inuagural prayers, and Obama’s disappointing picks for these (in particular Rick Warren , who hilariously thinks being open-minded means being able to say Jesus in several languages). There was too much God for a secular occasion.

But Obama did not have to mention non-believers. In fact, he has many reasons not to in the current climate of hyper-religiosity in the country. But he reportedly wrote the speech himself, and decided to include it. Not only include it, but put it in a section of the speech that says "our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness." This would seem to be a reference to his own mixed heritage. So I don’t think he would have chosen the words in the next sentence lightly.

There have been rumors that, like his dad, Obama may have agnostic or even atheistic leanings. We’ll probably never know, but what this speech proves I think is that he accepts it as a valid viewpoint. For Obama to include nonbelievers in a paragraph about our diversity being our strength puts nonbelievers in a positive light. We’re a long way from being seen as equals by most Americans, but with Obama’s address I feel that we are one step closer.


Election commentary—Not out of the woods yet

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Election commentary—Not out of the woods yet

So Palin was not elected VP after all! That is reassuring on a number of fronts, but especially as religion goes. She very well may have been the most openly religious VP ever had she been elected. And I truly believe she thinks the end of days is upon us and God is calling the shots to get us closer to Judgment Day. Scary that someone with religious views that extreme could get so close to being elected VP.

This presidential election was, as far as I can tell, the most religious in American history. McCain and Obama had a religious debate *before* the official debates, and the candidates’ religions came up frequently during the primary and general election campaigns. This is very dangerous. Our founders got a lot wrong (slavery most notably), but their decision to keep religion separate from government was a milestone in human history after millennia of bloodshed in countries around the world over whose god is better.

While I think Obama has the potential to do a good job as president, his change on a number of positions (most notably campaign finance) worries me. What else will he change his mind on? He seemed, according to a number of observers, to be mostly pandering when he would talk about the importance of faith in his life, the continuation of faith-based initiatives, and other religious matters. He may have been exaggerating or fibbing about his religion because he thought it would help him get elected. But this worries me, because I wonder: will he become "more" religious if it becomes politically expedient for him?

He seemed to be trying to please everyone. He has openly said his father was an atheist, and he claims his stepfather wasn’t very religious. But he claims his faith is very powerful for him. This would appeal to the religious: despite the faithlessness of his parents, he "saw the light" and become Christian. This would also appeal to atheists and the mildly religious, who would see him as being open-minded and exposed to ideas his father or stepdad may have exposed him to.

Some people, both religious and non-religious, say Obama used churches more as a way to get things done than actually representing his beliefs. Some freethinkers might find this to be a relief after 8 years of Bush in office and the risk that Palin would have been a heartbeat away from being president.

But I almost think it would be worse if it turns out Obama truly is not very religious or is areligious. What does that say about him that he would lie about his faith to get elected? A "necessary" compromise of his values? I certainly would understand on some level, being a rather secret atheist myself, but I’m not running for public office and do not lie to hundreds of millions of people about my beliefs. He either should not have commented on his religion (reminding people of the no-religious-test clause of the Constitution) or should have been upfront with the American people. If he’s a true believer, then I guess we’re getting what was advertised.

Whether he is a true believer or not, I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet regarding the increasing intrusion of religion in the public sphere. Religion is still likely to play a big role in the foreseeable future here in the US, and there is nothing in what I read or heard in Obama’s speeches that gives any indication that he would do anything to start working towards fighting the increasing presence of religion in our political system. The fact that more and more atheists and agnostics are coming out does give me some hope though.