Archive for Atheism

Jesus is not Krishna, and he isn’t Mithra, and he isn’t Horus,…etc

Posted in Atheism, Bullshit, Christ Myth, Debunking Zeitgeist, Jesus, Krishna, Mithra, Mythicist, Osiris, Skepticism, Stupidity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2014 by theicidalmaniac

If you have had the misfortune to have befriended a gullible idiot with internet access and a lot of free time, then no doubt you have been shown the Zeitgeist Youtube phenomenon.  If so then you are ashamed, and you are right to be ashamed, but you are not alone and you should take comfort knowing that even though you gave the dipshits who produced it another “view” and, as a result, some ad revenue, at least you aren’t stupid enough to believe their presentation.  Which is more than can be said for your gullible friend.  Since you’re so smart, I won’t bother debunking Zeitgeist here…it’s been done.

But I will recap;
The general idea behind the video is that everything you know is wrong and that the narrator has the special insight that will set you straight.  I mean, it must be insight, because it certainly isn’t facts-based.  Despite the fact that deconstructions and debunkings of Zeitgeist have been done and done again it appears that such rebuttals have not effectively inoculated everyone against Zeitgeist‘s very bad reasoning and even worse fact-checking practices.

Perhaps the most annoying result of this video is that it has cast light on the heretofore well-concealed fact that there are a few people who happen to be atheists who happen also to be ignorant fucking tools who will not only believe anything they hear, but who will willfully repeat it.  For example the gentleman who runs the BeyondAllReligion blog, an author of two books that I wouldn’t buy if the world ran out of toilet paper, appears to be one such individual.  Though he was clearly moved by their stunning expose on the “inside job” in Manhattan on 9/11/01 (“stunning” means “grossly inept and fictitious,” right?), what he seems mostly to have gotten hung up on is the segment on astrotheology.

Using my intellectual resources to go into detail about astrotheology just might be the thing that causes me to experience a fatal apoplectic response, so I won’t do it here.  Many, many people have already undertaken that task.  I want to get into Sam Butler’s specific claims at BeyondAllReligion.

Christianity was invented by Constantine, and he based Jesus on Mithra.
I almost don’t even need to discuss this, because after several lenghty paragraphs offered as proof that Christianity was invented, whole cloth, in the year 329 CE, Samuel actually admits that there are much earlier references to Christ worship.  That one fact would seem to negate everything he wrote previously, but I’ll carry on anyway.  Butler makes some interesting claims about Mithra, claims that can be found from other sources like the writings of Acharya S or on a myriad of unsourced webpages that all seem to make the same claims – often verbatim (though I stress again – unsourced).  Such claims include:

Krishna Was an Archetype for Jesus!

Butler states the following drivel as evidence that the Jesus myth is based on Krishnaism:
1. His miraculous birth by a virgin.
2. The mother and child being visited by shepherds, wise men and the angelic host, who joyously sang, “In thy delivery, O favored among women, all nations shall have cause to exult.”
3. The edict of the tyrant ruler… ordering all the first born to be put to death.
4. The miraculous escape of the mother and child from his bloody decree by the parting of the waves of the River…to permit them to pass through on dry ground.
5. The early retirement…to a desert.
6. His baptism or ablution…

Well, I actually read about the birth of Krishna.  I must say, everything listed above is horseshit.  The nativity of Krishna is found in the Bhagavad Purana (also known as the Srimad Bhagavatam) specifically in Canto 10, often referred to as the Summum Bonum.  What does it say?

1.
Krishna was the eighth child conceived by his mother, Devaki, with her husband Vasudeva.  This woman was not a virgin by any stretch (pun not intended) of the imagination.
2.
Devaki was shackled and imprisoned by her brother Kamsa when she gave birth.  There is no mention of shepherds, wise-men, or an angelic host being in her cell, and the quote offered appears nowhere in any English translation of the story.  (Hint; that means it is made up)
3.
The “tyrant ruler” would be Kamsa, but he never ordered that all first-born children be slain.  In fact, thanks to a prophecy, he was expecting Krishna to be the eighth child of his sister.  Killing all first-born children in his realm would hardly have addressed that issue.  I guess that’s why he never issues that order in the story.  For fun, though, he does eventually kill 6 of Krishna’s older siblings.
4.
Krishna is carried across a river to escape the wrath of Kamsa, not by his mother, but by his father.  Does the river part?  Not exactly.  But this one, at least, is sort of close to what happens in the Krishna story.  The problem is, it isn’t at all close to what happens in the Jesus story.  Herod ordering the deaths of the first-born in his lands is mentioned in only ONE place – the Gospel According to Matthew, chapter 2.  There is absolutely no mention of Jesus crossing a river in his flight to Egypt, much less of a parting of waters.  That’d be Moses.
5.
I’m not aware of Krishna living in the desert, but I’m no expert on the Hindu canon.  Perhaps it’s in a Veda somewhere, or in the Gita.  One thing I can definitely say…Jesus does not “retire” in the Biblical accounts.  He dies, badly.  That’s actually a pretty key element of the story.
6.
Baptism OR ablution?  Well, that’s sort of like saying “being touched by water.”  Ablution and baptism are not the same thing, and it should come as no shock that two iconic figures of purity might have come into contact with water at some point in their lives.  Certainly Krishna was never said to have been baptized, though I have no doubt that he is being baptized at some Mormon temple at this very moment.
AND…
There is this whole business of Krishna being crucified.  It may strike you as odd that crucifixion would be used several thousand years prior to the Roman period in a far-distant land.  If so, good for you.  Butler initially claims that Krishna was Crucified, and provides an unsourced quote which states that there is no doubt about this.  He then backs off that statement and admits that Krishna was shot in the foot, accidentally, by his friend’s arrow.  But, reasons Butler, the foot was still pierced, so it doesn’t matter how he died (here he fails to note that Krishna never died).

But that’s okay, because actually…

Mithra Was an Archetype for Jesus!  No, Horus was…

Look, this shit has been rehashed so many times it isn’t even worth getting into it anymore.  I never saw anything before specifically addressing Krishna, so I tackled that.  But many other people have deconstructed the Mithra-Jesus connection and the Horus-Jesus connection, and they come out just as poorly as the Krishna-Jesus connection.  Compounding the problem is that there are MANY Mithras from different religions and time periods, and the Horus myth evolved greatly over the time that it was active.  Suffice it to say, these are all deities, so there are certain things they may have in common (for instance they’re all magic!), but next time you see a website that claims a connection as specific as crucifixion, or virgin birth on December 25th, look for a source.  If you don’t see one (and you won’t) write it off as the bullshit that it is.

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Regarding Agnosticism, Atheism

Posted in Atheism with tags , on November 2, 2013 by theicidalmaniac

WHAT WE LACK
If there is some other-worldly being, or group of beings, out there that are responsible for our creation, however intentional or unintentional that creation was, however active or inactive a role that being or beings played in the subsequent development of this creation, we could spend our entire lives imagining what those beings might be, how they might behave, what they may have done, etc etc, but after all our imaginings we are left with only this:
We simply don’t have any evidence to support the existence of such.

Without the restraints of reality placed upon what we ponder, what we imagine a creator or creators to be, our imaginations can go absolutely wild and we, as a species, may invent or imagine or hypothesize or hint at an endless parade of such beings or forces. The chance that any one of those guesses would be right is vanishingly infinitesimal, and I honestly think it takes a great deal of overconfidence for an agnostic to hold out “yeah that’s possible” for any such beings.

WHAT WE HAVE
We have to go with what we have evidence for, because everything else is a crapshoot. Actually, a guess in a crapshoot has remarkably better odds at panning out, since the craps table has a known and finite, and relatively small, number of possible results.  All we can know is that which we can measure and test – that’s it. So all the pondering in the world gets us nowhere, all the uninformed openness in the world gets us nowhere on its own, because without actual input we are completely and forever lost in the unknowable.

What we DO know, (that is, what we can work with) is that people do present their ideas of gods, – what they are, what they do, what they can do, what they are like, etc – and those presentations offer us testable claims. I think that it should be readily apparent that virtually any atheist has found that the arguments for these gods, for every god that they themselves have ever been presented with, are either insufficient or are contradictory to the known world, and therefore must be rejected.  This is the very definition of an assertive atheism. We do not know of, that is we have absolutely no evidence to suggest the existence of, anything remotely like a god outside of the things that people have presented to us. And for each god that has been presented the conclusion is clear to us;
“THIS IS MAN-MADE.”

WHAT WE CAN SAY
If we were to conclude from this anything other than “gods are imaginary” it would have to be based more or less solely on our previous introductions to, and indoctrinations by, the world religions. I know it’s a type of analogy that is all-too-often trudged out, but in this scenario where our only input is from religious tradition, then holding on to the possibility that there may be a god out there somewhere in the Ether is absolutely no different than holding on to the idea that St. Nicholas the jolly fat old elf might exist out there somewhere. We KNOW it is made up.  Without evidence, all we can say is that if there just so HAPPENS to be such a being out there somewhere, accurately asserting so could never be more than the universe’s luckiest guess.  This position is a tautology; the religious tradition is evidence for God because God inspired the tradition.   We know people invent fantastical stories, and without proper evidence we shouldn’t assume that there is a nugget of truth at the center.  So why cling to that security blanket? This position is not intellectual honesty, nor is it humility, and it certainly is not, in itself, courageous.

It IS courageous to be open to the possibility that you may be wrong, and I understand that the objection by agnostics toward the atheist position runs along those lines. But it is a misplaced criticism. The overconfidence lies not so much with the atheist’s unwillingness to be open to the external reality of a phenomenon about which all evidence indicates origins in human culture, but rather with the agnostic’s continued insistence that known myths have a real counterpart in the unknowable depths of existence.  To make that latter assertion you HAVE TO have given some credence to the myths in the first place, a move that is wholly unwarranted, and decidedly theistic.

Sure, this universe had to start somewhere, but it didn’t have to be started by Santa Claus, or a grendel, or a jabberwockie, or any other human invention, even if you give that invention the special name of God, as if the name itself were sufficient to establish existence.  We have no grounds at all to posit it, to expect it, to think it remotely possible.  And thus we revert to the default position of non-belief, not agnosticism, but atheism.

Atheism is a Religion Assholes

Posted in Atheism with tags , , on June 26, 2011 by theicidalmaniac

A title that can hook people on BOTH sides of the issue.  I won’t bother building suspense; to clarify I’m not saying “Hey assholes, Atheism is a religion.”  No, this is actually a post about assholes who insist that atheism is a religion, and the tripe they spew.

Generally I have resisted simply copying dialog from forum chats and pasting them here, cuz it’s lazy, but this is just too perfect to pass up.  I recently encountered a young lady (a hot, svelte, blonde 19-year-old, I’m sure) who had THIS to say:

Technically atheism is a RELIGION.

1. People gather in groups to discuss it.
2. There are organisations[sic] devoted to it.
3. People have FAITH in atheism theology.
4. They have their own worldview.
5. They have their own prophets: Nietzsche, Russell, Feuerbach, Lenin, Marx.
6. …They have their own messiah: He is, of course, Charles Darwin.
7. When you think about it,you atheists really are a bunch of narrow minded sheeple.!

(Though the double punctuation at the end is original, I added the neat ordering and the numbers – I can’t be sure she knows what numbers are)

Amazing right?  But a bit unfair to poke fun at someone who is clearly stupid, you say?  Not at all.  As any atheist who can’t turn down an argument knows these are claims you hear all the time.  I will counter them here in the hopes that some wayward soul who types up “atheism is a religion” will be directed to me, and educated a little bit.  There is so much more to say about this, and there are even some (slightly) more intelligible arguments to this point that I am ignoring for this post – but feel free to leave them in the comments section if you aren’t bashful about your ineptitude in the area of critical thought.

Let’s tackle these one at a time:

1. People gather in groups to discuss it.

Gathering for discussion is called a MEETING.

2. There are organisations[sic] devoted to it.

An “organisation” that is “devoted” to something is not a de facto religious group, unless they are devoted to a religion…

3. People have FAITH in atheism theology.

a) “theology” is the study of the divine beings and religious rituals, neither of which atheism accepts
b) The vast majority of atheists reject the notion that it is possible to gain knowledge by faith, as this would imply the supernatural

4. They have their own worldview.

Worldview does not equal religion. Everyone has a worldview.

5. They have their own prophets: Nietzsche, Russell, Feuerbach, Lenin, Marx.

a) “Prophets” use a supernatural connection to the divine to gain knowledge via faith-based means. Atheists reject the divine, are unlikely to believe in the supernatural, and – again – reject a faith-based epistemology due to its reliance on the divine.
b) Nietzche is a badass philosopher who used LOGIC and FACTS (as opposed to faith) to reveal falsifiable truths that I am allowed to question and try to disprove – this is the EXACT OPPOSITE of prophecy.
c) Bertrand Russell, mathematician, same as above
d) I have never heard of Feuerbach – odd if he is supposed to be my prophet
e) Lenin was an atheist, yes, and he was an out of control power-broker who advocated violence, and I do not revere him or know anyone who does
f) Marx, philosopher, see a). Karl Marx’s primary goal in his writings and political theory were to highlight and relieve the suffering of the underprivileged, which is honorable, but many, MANY atheists disagree STRONGLY with Marxism. If he was a prophet, you would not find his “followers” so fervently challenging his claims, would you?
6. …They have their own messiah: He is, of course, Charles Darwin.

Messiah” is a Jewish concept, and it is based on the Old Testament prediction that a leader would arise among the Jewish people, anointed by God, to become a great military dictator, and expel the enemies of Judaism from Zion by military force, take the literal throne as a literal, Earthly king, and establish a theocratic government to enforce Old Testament law and custom. NONE OF THIS is compatible with atheism (or with Christianity, for that matter).

7. When you think about it,you atheists really are a bunch of narrow minded sheeple.!

Why?  Because they have a RELIGION?  When you THINK about it, it would be REALLY stupid for a religious person to argue that atheism is a religion, and then conclude that its followers are therefore  “narrow minded sheeple.”  It seems to imply that the followers of religions (like the author of said criticism) are sheeple…she called herself a sheep because she didn’t THINK before she typed.  Then again, perhaps that was a brilliant way of proving the point.

This just needs to be stated CLEARLY in as many places as possible:
+ Religions involve a belief in the supernatural
+ Religions are established to provide ritualized appeasement of the supernatural
+ SOME religions have prophets, preists, messiahs, and some don’t, but those notions are antithetical to atheism.
+ Many religions have codes, creeds or scriptures. In one sense atheism lacks this.  There are certainly codes and creeds by which an atheist could live, but there is no capital-A Atheism, and never has been.  The only necessary feature of atheism is a rejection of the theistic.
+ The only 2 things that are really KEY to religion are a belief in the divine, and a set of rituals. Atheism has neither.

Please, do your part in ending this senseless meme in its infancy.  Not because there’s any real danger of it becoming taken seriously by thinking people, but because it’s just annoying.

The End.

New Zodiac Signs? Panic? Turmoil?

Posted in Skepticism with tags , , , , on January 15, 2011 by theicidalmaniac

The Facebook is a-flurry this week with a lot of hubbub about a new zodiac sign being recognized, and adding to the panic is the fact that people’s sense of wellbeing is being besieged, plagued even, by worries that matters of fate will no longer be crystal clear through a detailed understanding of time-honored astrological principles, due to the fact that the signs’ places in the Earth’s night sky have shifted due to the wobbly orbit of our little planet.

All of this got me thinking.  Thinking hard.

When I was born Aries was the predominant sign. So hypothetically speaking…(stay with me here)…had I been on the MOON when I was born, and the moon had been between the Earth and the constellation Aries, I would have been even CLOSER to the great goat sign in the sky, and thus more strongly influenced by it.  Doesn’t this mean, therefore, that an April baby on the moon would grow up to be even MORE stubborn and goatish than an Earth baby?

Of COURSE it does.

Obviously.

Crap. Imagine what it’s going to be like when future-people finally leave Earth for good and terraform other planets like Neptune, or Uranus, thinking they have conquered the solar system only to find out that their children are all being born with socially-crippling personality disorders relating to their new proximity to the influence of these powerful stellar arrangements, causing the fledgling human settlements to collapse under self-destructive cancer-on-pisces warfare.  O, the bitter irony!

I have to wonder, though, how this incredible cosmic force affects GOATS who were born in early April. And I wonder if bulls that were born under the sign of Aries ever feel like a goat trapped in a Taurus’ body. Like, is a bull that was born on May 1st more of a bull than one that was born April 1st? Sorry…that’s a silly question.  Of COURSE it is.

Obviously.

But in all seriousness…

…isn’t it amazing that a stone-aged superstition remains intact after all these thousands of years of technology advancement and migration, that it survives despite being at opposition to every premise of physics and biology that we are aware of, and that it flourishes with nothing to support it but pure faith and the notion that it gives meaning to people’s lives?

Gosh.  Really makes you think, don’t it?  I wonder what ELSE we could say that about.  I wonder if there’s anything, anything at all, that many MANY MANY people believe in RIGHT NOW, that is the same kind of hocus-pocus…

Nah.  Doesn’t seem likely that we’d make that mistake more than once.

Lost in Translation, or “Oh, the Mormanity!”

Posted in Language, Mormonism, Skepticism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2009 by theicidalmaniac
Arabic Book of Mormon

Arabic Book of Mormon

Utah has no shortage of mythology and folklore, a great deal of which is tied to the LDS church organization and its, er, interesting tales.  A recent discussion on Postmormon.org , in which I participated, reveals the ubiquity of these dubious stories.  Among them are claims that a Mormon official encountered bigfoot while on horseback, and discovered the beast to be none other than Cain, the son of Adam.  And of course no suite of tall tales would be complete without a lake monster story.  Utah’s Bear Lake is said to be the home of one such monster, and local folklore has it that Bear Lake is connected to Loch Ness in Scotland by a long tunnel which serves as a a thoroughfare for Nessie as he travels, apparently through magma, between the two locations.  It has even been reported that Brigham Young himself went to great expense to catch the monster using 300 feet of rope and a large custom-crafted hook baited with a sheep.

Myths abound here in the wild country, but I wanted to focus on something that came up recently in my family.  My mother handed me an email recently, which was given to her by her mother, forwarded by her sister-in-law (that’s how these things apparently propagate in the digital age, even among octogenarians).  It was a four page “transcript” of a “speech” given by former apostle Russel M. Nelson.  She handed it to me saying “you’re a linguist,” (I’m not, although I am studying linguistics) “I think you might find this interesting.”  She then qualified this by saying that she was in no way attempting to “re-convert me,” although I think that this was precisely her intent.  Fortunately, I had come across this story some time before and was prepared to handle it.  I’ll only provide a link to the “talk” called “Reflections of Sami Hanna,” rather than post the entire contents here.  In the text, it is claimed that one Dr. Sami Hanna, an expert in Semitic languges, was converted to Mormonism after determining that it was a true Semitic text.  Here is a link which, in its preface disclaimer, alludes to the biggest problem in establishing the truth of the claims that lie within.  The author of the page states:

Elder Nelson has mentioned Sami Hanna in several talks. All the information mentioned in this talk regarding what Mr. Hanna learned during his translation of the Book of Mormon into Arabic is accurate and verifiable. Why I have a disclaimer is because I have not been able to find where THIS PARTICULAR talk originated. I am not nor have I ever intimated that Elder Nelson or anyone else made up Sami Hanna or his story. I just don’t know if Elder Nelson gave this specific talk as it is written, or if it is just a compilation of other talks given by Elder Nelson on this subject. It could just be a copy of a sacrament meeting talk he gave in 1976 that was never published. The origin of this talk itself is not what’s important. What is important is that everything mentioned in it is true.

Elder Nelson did, indeed, mention Dr. Hanna in several talks, however Elder Nelson’s office released an official statement denying that he wrote “Reflections of Sami Hanna.”  One might wonder then, is Elder Nelson lying about having written it, or did the author lie about being Elder Nelson?  Either way, the entire story is therefore discredited as a hoax.

Do I stop there?  Oh no.  Not on your life.  Because people still believe this!  To be fair, this has been rejected by most of the online Mormon apologetic community, but it is still circulating, so I feel I must treat it.  I’m going to look at the specific claims, and deconstruct them.

*This may not be of interest to all readers.  I have provided this information for anyone who has been duped by this fraud of a story, or for non-Mormons who have heard the tale and lack the inside info to tackle the technical aspects.  For those who are uninterested, rest assured that I will return soon with other, more tantalizing tidbits!

(cracks knuckles)

The story claims that Dr. Hanna was converted when he translated the Book of Mormon into Arabic.

Sami Hanna is an expert in Semitic languages, and legend has it that, upon being presented with a Book of Mormon, he began to translate it into Arabic.  He was stunned by the ease with which the book flowed back into a Semitic language, so much so that he became immediately convinced of its authenticity and converted to Mormonism.  This claim has been supported by Nelson elsewhere, and a certain Mark Hanna, who claims to be Sami’s son, affirms that this is true, but says that it was a momentary lapse of reason, and that now Dr. Hanna has reverted to some more ancient form of Christ worship.  So this checks out, but it is hardly helpful in supporting the major claim being made.

The story further claims that “this was to be a translation back to the original language of the book.”

As far as I can tell this would, indeed, have been the first Arabic translation, however to claim that this would convert it back into the “original language” is problematic, to say the least.  The book of Mormon is said by Mormons to have been started around 600 BCE.  But the earliest evidence of Arabic, the ABSOLUTE earliest thing that linguists can call Arabic, dates from 328 CE, over 900 years AFTER Nephi supposedly started writing in America after traveling from Jerusalem.  What’s more, the Book of Mormon directly states in Mormon 9:32-33 that the native tongue of the authors was Hebrew, but that they had to write in “Reformed Egyptian” characters, a writing system unknown to linguists, and not optimized for Hebrew.  The same verse goes on to state that due to their inability to write in Hebrew script, there were imperfections in the record, complicating any “easy translation.”

If Nephi’s people (Nephi being the supposed first author of the canonized Mormon text) were linguistically isolated from their original language community for nearly 1,000 years, and during that time another language popped up from the same source in a different location, it is HIGHLY unlikely that those two languages would have much in common, except for some word roots, the way English and Persian share some roots.  A language COMPLETELY replaces approximately 10% of its vocabulary every 1,000 years or so.  This may not sound impressive at first glance, so allow me to illustrate:

Britain is invaded by waves of Germanic and Roman groups for centuries, until around 500 CE a language, Old English (Anglo-Saxon), forms as a composite of Germanic and Latin, and the local Britton languages.  500 years later, the Normans invade England and English takes on a Norman twist, then is later influenced heavily by French as France became the great world power.  Thus English is related to German, and also to French, and to Spanish through Latin.  All of these languages share a common ancestor, Indo-European, as does Greek and Persian (Farsi).  Let’s look at the word for HEART in each of these languages:

ENGLISH: Heart
OLD ENGLISH: Heorte
GERMAN: Herz
LATIN: Cor
FRENCH: Cœur
SPANISH: Corazón
GREEK: Kardia
Proto-INDO-EUROPEAN: Kerd

Some of these may seem unrelated.  You might say that over the years – the thousand and a half years since English split from Latin, the several thousand years since each of these split from Indo-European, that the vocabulary for heart has changed.  But it hasn’t, as such.  These are merely morphologically different incarnations of the same original Indo-European root word.  Indo-European “Kerd” morphed into “khertan” in Proto-Germanic, into “kardia” in Greek, and “cor” in Latin.  Latin is responsible for both “cœur” in French and “corazón” in Spanish, as is plain to see.  “Kardia” is responsible for our term “cardio,” and “khertan” became “heorte” and by 1500 CE, the present-day English “HEART“.  So the vocab of this word is considered the same, and would not be part of that 10% new vocab I mentioned above, despite the very different look between the Greek, German, and French.  The kinds of changes that represent a shift in vocabulary are even stronger than that.  What is meant when it is said that 10% of the vocabulary changes is that COMPLETELY NOVEL words are invented out of whole cloth, or are replaced by loan words from unrelated languages.  For instance, if an Englishman moved to Utah, he might see mountainous rock formations that were completely alien to his English mountains, and would have to either invent a new word to describe them, or borrow an Indian word, thus changing the vocabulary of the language.

We would expect such changes to vocabulary from 600 BCE, when Nephi began writing his American adventure, to 328 CE, when Arabic was in its infancy.  Not to mention the regular morphological changes and vowel shifting, dialectical anomalies, and spelling changes that would have taken place during that time. Not to mention the fact that the Nephites would have invented TONS of new words when they came to a completely NEW WORLD with (apparently) no native hosts from whom they could borrow vocabulary.  The Arabs, too, would have had their own unique words, because they would have had completely different technology at the time the language came about, again requiring novel vocabulary.  The two languages, even at that point 1700 years ago, would have been mutually unintelligible, to say nothing of the difficulties Sami Hanna would have run into 30 years ago.  There is NO WAY that there would be an easy flow between the languages, ESPECIALLY if translating from a writing system that is not optimized for the given language!  The LAST thing you could expect here would be ease in translation between unrelated languages separated by two and a half thousand years of technological advance.

…the Prophet Joseph did not merely render an interpretation, but a word for word translation from the Egyptian type of hieroglyphic into the English language.

There is no 1-1 exchange for word meanings between ANY 2 languages, but this is ESPECIALLY true for languages from completely different linguistic families, like Indo-European (English) and Semitic or Afro-Asiatic (Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew).

My copy of the Qur’an is in English AND Arabic. In my copy of the Qur’an the first five verses are dissected in full-page detail by multiple scholars.  The first verse of the Qur’an, and probably the most common phrase in Arabic caligraphy and art, and Muslim worship, is
“Bismillah, ar-rahman, ar-rahim…”
or roughly,

“In the name of Allah, the merciful, the benevolent…”

The first page shows the verse in Arabic, the second page shows the translation from EACH of 32 different scholars.  NOT ONE of the 32 professional translations is identical.  NOT ONE.  This is ONE verse, 3 words, yielding 32 distinct translations out of 32 attempted translations.  Granted the differeneces are subtle, but they would be compounded if you then attempted to translate those translations BACK into Arabic!

An HILARIOUS illustration of this is something I found in a DVD version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, (click title for example) in the special features.  There is a feature where they take the Japanese version of the film, and translate the Japanese dubbed dialog back into English.  The original feel of the dialog is lost completely, the phrasing mostly quite different, and several utterances are virtually unintelligible.  We see instances of words and concepts replaced altogether (“bonsai” for “shrubbery,” is one such example, but “sake cup” for “Holy Grail” is the more poignant example, as clearly the purpose of the quest is completely lost if all they are after is a cup for their warm rice-wine).  The sequences still make me LOL.  Funny as that example is, that is typical of the kind of results you can expect when trying to translate from language A to language B, and then back to A again, and this is something that will crop up independent of the other factors I mentioned above.  The whole notion of this “easy flow of translation” is utterly recockulous!

His conversion came purely from the linguistics of the book which he found could not have been composed by an American, no matter how gifted.

Probably one of the favorite apologies for the Book of Mormon goes a little something like this:

“there is no way that an uneducated farm-boy like Joseph Smith could have written a masterpiece like the Book of Mormon.”

We shall see, going forward, that this is far from the case, but here are some examples given:

1. Jarom 2: “It must needs be . . .” This expression, odd and awkward in English, is excellent Arabic grammar. Elsewhere in the book the use of the compound verbs “did eat,” “did go,” “did smile,” etc., again awkward and rarely used in English, are classical and correct grammar in the Semitic languages.

Must needs be appears in both the Old Testament (ex. “must needs be circumcised,” Gen 17:13) AND in the New Testament (ex. “scripture must needs have been fulfilled,” Acts 1:16) of the King James Bible, which is, incidentally, the version of the Bible that Joseph Smith himself purported to have read over and over long before translating the Book of Mormon.  Furthermore, I’d hardly call the phrase odd and awkward, given its liberal use by the likes of Shakespeare (Hamlet, All’s Well that Ends Well, Henry VI, and many other plays and poems), Johnathan Swift, and Charles Dickens. http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20010817

“Did eat”, “did go,” etc, is used throughout the KJV, like King James thought it was going out of style.

Not only did the old farm boy have ACCESS to the KJV, he admitted freely to having poured over it prior to any divine work as God’s translator.

2. Omni 18: “Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory.” Brother Hanna indicates that this is a typical custom of his Semitic forebearers to recite their genealogy from memory.

Indeed.  For that matter it was also a common practice among many other cultures, particularly European and Britton which provide the principle ancestry of America in Joseph Smith’s lifetime.  Here is an excellent write-up on the topic of geneological recitations: http://nicolaa5.tripod.com/articles/Hector/hist/HGene.htm

3. Words of Mormon 17: Reference is made here as in other parts of the Book of Mormon, to the “stiffneckedness” of his people. Brother Hanna perceives that this word would be a very unusual word for an American youth as Joseph Smith to use. An American would likely prefer an adjective such as stubborn or inflexible. But the custom in the Arabic language is to use just such a descriptive adjective. Stiff-necked is an adjective they use in describing an obstinate person.

Again, this is found in multiple places in both the Old Testament (ex. Exod 32:9, 33:3, Deut 9:6) as well as the New Testament (Acts 7:51).  Sure, Smith COULD have gotten this phrase by reading it out of a hat using the same seer stones that he had once used to con money out of farmers when he used them to locate “buried treasure” left behind by ancient Indians on their farm land, but if he did he’d have been doing it the hard way; everything he needed was right there in the KJV, and would hardly be “unusual” considering the religious fervor of the time.

4. Mosiah 11:8: “King Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings and ornamented them with fine work and precious things, including ziff.” Have you ever wondered about the meaning of the word “ziff” referred to in this scripture? This word, although in the Book of Mormon, is not contained in dictionaries of the English language. Yet it translates freely back into the Arabic language, for ziff is a special kind of curved sword somewhat like a simitar which is carried in a sheath and often used for ornamentation as well as for more practical purposes. The discovery of the word “ziff” in the Book of Mormon really excited my neighbor, Brother Hanna.

Although I was unable to find any reference to an Arabic word “Ziff” on the entire internet (Google’s never heard of it, outside of references to the Sami Hanna story, nor has my Arabic-English, English-Arabic dictionary) I was able to find the ACTUAL reference (the above quotation is not correct) to “ZIFF” in the BoM that is CLEARLY not meant to denote a weapon:

Mosiah 11:8 – “And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ZIFF, and of copper.”  This is clearly some type of raw metal used as a decoration, and does not support the claim in regard to an archaic weapon that may or may not have ever existed.  Clearly, the verse was misquoted in order to support an already unlikely claim.  Unfortunately for the author of “Reflections,” he also failed to realize, or at least to acknowledge, that archeologists have discovered that although Native Americans may have had some crude metal-working abilities, they never developed the technology to construct metal weaponry, nor was weapons-grade steel introduced to the continent until Columbus arrived in the late 1400’s CE.  Later the Natives’ stone weapons, still in vogue in indigenous America in the 1500’s, were easily overcome by Spanish steel.

What’s more, it seems quite likely that I could make a sound with my mouth, any sound at all, and find dozens, perhaps hundreds, of languages for which that sound has a specific meaning among the nearly 7,000 human languages that currently exist, or the thousands more that have perished.  It would hardly require divine inspiration.

6. Helaman 1:3: Here reference is made to the contending for the judgment seat. Brother Hanna observes that the use of the term “judgment seat” would be quite strange to an American who might have used a more familiar noun such as governor, president, or ruler. Yet, in Arabic custom, the place of power rests in the judgment seat and whoever occupies that seat, is the authority and power. The authority goes with the seat and not with the office or the person. So, this, in the Semitic languages, connotes the meaning exactly.

Romans 14:10, KJV “…we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”  (yawn)

Points 5, 7 and 8 also describe characteristics of the KJV Bible, and we’ve beat that dead horse enough, so I’ll not include them, but feel free to refer to the document from the link I provided earlier and check it out for yourself.

“Well, I have just cited a few of these examples. There are many more! As Latter-day Saint leaders, we are aware of the Semitic origin of the Book of Mormon. The fact that an Arabic scholar such as this seems[sic] a beautiful internal consistency in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s translation of the book, is of great interest, for the Prophet Joseph did not merely render an interpretation, but a word for word translation from the Egyptian type of hieroglyphic into the English language. Brother Hanna said the Book of Mormon simply flowed back into the Arabic language.”

“As Latter-day Saint leaders,” the quote says.  Remember that Elder Nelson was, in fact, a leader in the LDS church, but that he denied authorship of this document.  One wonders what the true author must have been thinking as (s)he wrote this line, which can only be a boldface lie.  Did the author intend a pious fraud, where shady means justify the glorious ends, or was this merely a prank?  Are there people out there whose role it is to create and propagate salacious stories like this in order to reinforce faith falsely?  We don’t know.

But this bullshit has been laid to rest.

What Kind of Religion Won’t Let You Quit?

Posted in Atheism with tags , , , , on February 18, 2009 by theicidalmaniac

I know…you’re all expecting that I’ll answer the question in the title by saying, “a CULT, of course!”

Well, I’m not gonna do that.  I’ll let you, the reader (yes, that’s singular INTENTIONALLY*) decide what kind of religion won’t let a person quit.  Also, this marks the last time I’ll bother apologizing for the unreasonable length of my post.  It’s long get used to it.

That’s what she said.

I have been an atheist for, hell, nearly a decade.  As an apostate of the Mormon faith I’ve heard other ex-members mention having their “name removed from church records,” and for the longest time I thought that this was a silly, reactionary thing to do.  I mean, does anyone think they can stick it to Salt Lake City’s biggest pyramid scheme by sending them a resignation letter?  Do they really think it would be honored?

Well, I ended up resigning a few weeks ago.  I’ve moved maybe a half-dozen times since becoming a godless heathen, never bothering to let the church know my whereabouts.  They’d always manage to track me down, and missionaries would inevitably stop by and ask for me by name.  But missionaries, the poor saps, are a tasty breakfast treat, easily taken in a single bite.  HOME TEACHERS on the other hand (the Church’s way of letting you know that your peers are checking up on you and will be stopping by your home occasionally to ask you questions about your private affairs) are not so easy to eschew.  For one thing, you often know these people, and they are just low-level do-gooder henchmen, after all.  Sometimes they even bring treats.  It’s tough to be rude to these people, and as an atheist struggling to be seen as a legitimate human being by these Mobots, I just don’t want to give them the impression that the d-d-devil is living next door and can’t be trusted.  You think they watch you close when you’re a member, try letting them know you aren’t anymore and see what happens.  Besides, I like people to like me, and I might need to borrow a pinch of salt some time.

That’s why, when they stopped by t’other day, after I stopped puzzling over how the hell they knew where I lived and chalked it up to my mother’s meddlng, I decided to make it all stop.  But they won’t let me to quit, which is odd, ’cause I stopped paying tithing years and years ago.

This incident with the visitors was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I have problems and oppositions against that organization on pretty much every level and on nearly every policy, and that is in fact why I quit attending and calling myself a Mormon…why I stopped arguing with people as a Mormon apologist.  But 2008 was a bad year.  There was the issue with Prop 8, the recurrence of the issue of the church YET AGAIN baptising holocaust victims despite the Jewish community’s outrage, and my revelation (from a friend, not from Jeebus) that the “15 or so million members” of that church included people like me, yet that number was still being touted as some sort of ad populi argument for the truth of their flavor of sky-god worship.   I couldn’t let them count me as a supporter any longer.

So I sent them a letter.  The wife of a friend had done this some years ago and had gotten a letter from the church in question saying, basically,

We are so grateful for your interest in the informercial-cult that is Mormanity, here’s a free holy undershirt, and expect 2 hired goons to visit you soon.  Remember the d-d-devil is using you, and the d-d-devil is bad.”

So I did my research, and discovered through www.MormonNoMore.com that technically speaking, if you say the magic words in the right order and put it in a letter, that you are effectively NO LONGER a member the moment someone from the customer retention department of Mormon Corp, Llc reads the notice.  So I went to the USPS, dropped $5 US on priority, got delivery confirmation so they wouldn’t pull the kind of tricks that MormonNoMore says they like to do:

You sent a letter, huh?  Well, uh, we never saw one.  Just a sec…Hey, Jedidiah, you see a letter?

Naw, didn’t see no letter…

Sorry, the United States gov’ment’s postal service musta lost yer letter.  Next year vote on the Utah House Bill to relinquish letter delivery and editing over to the LdS Church…or don’t, we’ll get the vote anyways.  Thanks a bunch for calling, we’re so grateful ya did!

In my letter I made a few things clear:

  1. I quit, effective immediately
  2. I know that when you read this I am officially NO LONGER a member
  3. I know you think that’s a big deal
  4. I don’t
  5. The only thing I want to hear from you in return, E-V-E-R, is a letter saying that you closed out my account
  6. I know that you dick people around…I know my rights, so don’t do it to me
  7. Since I am no longer a member no other member has any authority over me…DO NOT SEND PEOPLE MY WAY
  8. Your church is ruining my state, and now it’s trying to ruin California, give up the ghost

Guess who didn’t listen?  I mean, maybe I’m wrong, but that seems pretty straight forward.  Of course, I worded it much better than that.  Made it all official-like, and shit.  Still, just this weekend I got a letter saying, basically:

We are so grateful for your letter.  But we know what’s best for you.  You are clearly confused.  Obviously you are not competent, so we’ll have a couple goons swing by and talk you down.”

Here’s a sample of some the sparkling gems of respectful consideration with which they bejeweled their correspondence to me:

Such a request [is] considered an ecclesiastical matter that must be handled by local priesthood leaders before being processed by Church Employees. …This, despite the fact that it is patently untrue, and in spite of the fact that I let them know IN MY LETTER that I knew that they would play this card and not to bother, and just to piss me off even though I specifically stated that no clergy members have any authority to act with me in ecclesiastical or disciplinary actions, they’re gonna send some ANYWAY!  Assholes.

In view of the eternal consequences…[we] urge you to reconsider your request and to prayerfully consider the enclosed statement from the First Presidency (the Mormon leaders)” …Eternal consequences!?  Reconsider!? Prayerful consideration!?  I told them I was an atheist! ROFL. So what did the “enclosed statement” have to tell me?

We invite you to return and partake of the happiness you once knew.” Right.  Because I left the church due to the unbearable agony of pure truth and endless, blissful happiness.  My face hurt from smiling so damn much.  Apparently they think that ex-Mormons are the only people in the world who  are not influenced by the economic principle of rational self-interest.  Somehow it is our own misery that makes us as atheists happy?  Pair Of Docs, anyone?  Ya know, I find this one offensive.  REAL fucking offensive.   Becoming an atheist can be an arduous mental task, one which alienates you from friends, family, and good social standing.  It is a trial by fire, for sure, and often a painful journey of awakening.  Most zealots-turned-atheists are so in-your-face about their atheism because they are so damn proud of their accomplishment, and yet at every turn, strangers are compounding this pride by saying “the fool hath said in his heart there is no God.  It’s in the Bible, so it’s true!  You’re a fool!  (as if that would persuade an atheist – and apparently ignoring the New Testament verse where Jesus prohibits calling men fools),” family members cry over your new beliefs, and old friends recieve your harrowing tale of overcoming impossible intellectual odds and abolishing mental slavery with, “Oh you fell away from the true church.  How sad.”  God damnit, that’s just asinine.  No wonder fresh meat atheists are so pissed all the time.

I’ll tell you what’s sad…being so junked-out on Christamphetamines that you can’t imagine any happiness that doesn’t include your sunday fix.  Nothing in life is good unless you can cling to your belief that I’m going to hell and you aren’t.  That’s sad.  REAL fucking sad.

So now I play the waiting game.  And, to pass the time, perhaps I’ll play the tuck-away game for a minute or two.  Whatev, I’m keeping my schedule loose.  The Mormon Mafia should swing by someitme in the next few days (I’ve been assured that all my relatives will get a “still small voice” or perhaps just a written letter telling them about my resignation, and asking for their help in saving me.  So it’s a debate they want, eh?

They can’t think like us.  They just aren’t able.  That’s why they can’t win.  That’s why they’re making the mistake of coming to visit me, and why I’m getting my damn confirmation letter a lot sooner than they thought.

Keep your prayers with me…LOL

TheicidalManiac

 

* Statement based on an evaluation of current and past readership

“I Think I Just Proved There is No God, Again”, or “Being Omniscient pt. II”

Posted in Atheism with tags , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2008 by theicidalmaniac

INTRO

Ok, so I thought I disproved God before in a previous posting.  I got really good feedback from the one person who gave me feedback…so thank you.

But it turns out when I say that I disprove God, often I am talking about a particular notion of God, not necessarily the POSSIBILITY of some thing or force or *other* that created us, intentionally or not. No, I am talking specifically about the more commonly held ideas about what God is, concepts that can be found right here in my American home town.  Previously, in pt I of “Being Omniscient” I did little more than set the stage for what I wanted to say in THIS post.  Truly, for many people, particularly the sort of people who might read my blog, what I am about to say might not be controversial, or novel.  I hope that at the very least I cause people to think some interesting new thoughts on the topic, but certainly I am not the first to have figured this all out.

If you’ve not read my last post, this one my lack a lot of clarity.  By all means, read part one first.  This is a piece that can stand on it’s own if you already think like I do, but if you think like I do, why are you reading what you could write yourself?  So, if you’ve done the first part then let’s carry on.  I discussed minute fragments of time, and I now move to the next point:

THE MEAT OF IT

An omniscient being is one who knows all.  It knows THE future; it is able to calculate ALL possible universes, meaning that it MUST have access to ALL information, so It knows the past.  Admittedly it is tough to make the claim that a being knows EVERYTHING if there is an infinite number of things to know.  After all it is impossible to encompass that which has no end, so if there is an omniscient being then we might suppose that the universe is finite and that there is a limited number of things that can fit in it, due to the limitations of the universe itself, and a limited amount of ways that things can interact with eachother.  Were the universe infinite we would then have to say of an omniscient being; “It knows ALL POSSIBLE FUTURES; it is able to calculate INFINITE possible universes, meaning that it MUST have access to INFINITE information…”  This case would only be possible if “God” was actually the universe itself, all matter-energy-space-time, a set which includes us, and that hypothesis sort of takes all of the meaning out of the term “God,” and it doesn’t matter much here anyway.

Now, this being, this creator created each person, including you, or at the very least started a chain of events that led to you.  It knew this could happen.  It knew this would happen.  It knew and it still created, and it is therefore responsible for the outcome.  It knew what your name would be, when you would be born, when you would die, what you would do at 10:14:27 am mountain standard time on October 22, 2003, and every other possible moment of your relatively short life.  Not only would it know what you did at 10:14:27 am, but also 10:14:28 am, AND the state of you and every other thing in existence at all of the nearly 10 billion tick marks in between 10:14:27 am and 10:14:28 am.  Truly astounding.  It literally stupefies the mind, but it is nevertheless an implication of omniscience.

This has powerful implications for the idea of free will and for the problem of evil, as well as for any relationship a human might hope to have with a being of this magnitude.  They can pretend it doesn’t, but they only bury their heads in the sand when they do.

FREE WILL

If God has already conceived each and every second of your life, and each and every micro-, nano-, AND picosecond in between, then what can you do that could possibly surprise, anger, or disappoint this being?  Honestly what can you do that would MATTER to this being, but we’ll stick to the former question;   What could you do that could possibly surprise this being or experience the emotions borne of surprise, like anger and dissapointment?  What would make God sit up (assuming that God sits) and say,

Whoa, I didn’t see THAT coming!

This being has already conceived of every prayer that you will say next year and has set it up so that the answers will come to you in the culmination of everything that will have happened from the beginning of time right up to that fateful moment when you asked God to help you locate your car keys sometime next July.  Everything has already been conceived of and is therefore already mapped out, even if only in God’s crystal ball or his cosmic dvd player.  There is nothing that you can do to escape this path, THE path.  God would have foreseen it and accounted for it before the Earth even existed.  Your destiny and your path are set.  You are on a cable car and you are most definitely NOT the driver.  You can not possibly make a move, not even the flaring of a nostril, that God has not already watched happen in his flawless, omniscient Mind’s Eye.  There is no free will in this scenario, only you playing the part you were born to play until you die the death you were born to die.  And everything that happened in between was “all part of God’s plan.”

EVIL

This also means that it’s not the d-d-devil compelling you to do all those nasty things that people are compelled to do.  God saw it.  God saw it and still created THIS universe, THIS reality, having seen all possible universes and all possible realities, having foreseen your nastiness aeons ago.  You are, in this scenario, in no way responsible for your own actions.  But God certainly IS responsible, knowing perfectly in full detail each and every consequence of the creation of THIS universe.  In effect you are God’s robot, and God will send you to burn in hell for executing your program to PERFECTION.

In fact, assuming God’s omniscience, It is responsible for EVERY act of sin that ever occurred on Earth.  Every attrocity that God’s robots ever committed are God’s attrocities. If you program a computer to carry out a function, then you provide it with the data, and it executes the function, is this the computer’s fault?  To give blame to the computer would be to glorify it above even the man who programmed it, and in this way giving men credit or blame for their deeds places them as equals to God, or perhaps GREATER THAN God, through their defiance of It’s infinite power. In essence the doctrine of evil is PURE blasphemy!

Most religions, curiously enough, do not define evil as an act that causes suffering, but rather they define evil as a failure to follow God’s commandments.   We have seen that if you believe in an omniscient, omnipotent God you can not possibly act in manner which God did not map out for you.  Clearly we need to look at the moral bankruptcy of this decree, but misplaced morals are not the only issue here.  Separating good and evil by the lines of “he who does as God says” and “he who does not” is absolutely meaningless.  According to this approach each and every one of us can only act in exact accordance with God’s will and are therefore not capable of committing sin. 

By contrast if we define good and evil in a way that emphasizes happiness as its goal and suffering in this world is the antithesis of good, then the only one we have to blame in this scenario is God Itself for knowingly and willingly setting in motion the events that would lead to this suffering.  If suffering is pre-ordained by an omnibenevolent God, then we must conclude that suffering is benevolent.  On the other hand if we want to say that suffering is bad, then that which caused it cannot be omnibenevolent, so either:

A) God did not cause it, so that God is not omnipotent, or

B) God is not omnibenevolent.

However, if we reject the hypothesis of God or of sin, then we can begin to mave forward.  At its base the doctrine of sin may appeal to humans, but it is baseless and wildly arbitrary.  If we instead recognize that happiness is good (a fact upon which all could agree) then we have something to work with. There are still many obstacles in the path of such a utilitarian ethic, but there is something solid at its root.

The fact is, the ideas that prop up religion are not intuitive, that is, the ideas are not conclusions that could be rationally deduced from the available empirical evidence that surrounds us.  The idea that there is a God and that this God had a son who came to Earth and died to save us all is not an idea which can be derived from careful study and observation of this world.  If this idea is not a derivitive of rational thought and careful study, if it is not a logical solution or product or property of the natural world then it can only be a product of the human imagination.

 Obviously it is logically impossible to disprove the existence of anything, as with Bertrand Russel’s Jupiter-orbiting teacup.  You can go to the North Pole, survey and photograph every square inch of ground, collect samples, send probes deep into the glacial masses, use infra-red heat detection to search for mammalian lifeforms, and in the end, though you come up with nothing but ice and an occasional polar bear, you still haven’t PROVED that there is no workshop filled with elves, flying reindeer, and a fat, toy-dispensing, time-defying, white-bearded man in a red suit.  Can I “prove” that there is no God? No. You can always move the goalpoast, always invent ad hoc a new property of God that allowed It to evade my investigation.  What we can examine are the specific claims made about God, and prove that they are logically impossible…let them move the goalpost again, if they like.  Soon there will be nowhere left to go.

 

Stay reasonable friends!