Considering The Source

I’ve always been a proud Jew, but never a very observant one. I believe in God, but only in a … Continued

I’ve always been a proud Jew, but never a very observant one. I believe in God, but only in a please-please-desperation-prayer kind of way. I’ve never met a pig I didn’t want to eat. I say the Lord’s name only to take it in vain. I don’t have any other gods before Him, but mostly because I haven’t looked for any. I rarely remember the Sabbath day, and never keep it holy. I go to the synagogue about as often–and with about as much pleasure–as I go to the DMV.

But not long ago, I made one of those rare synagogue visits for my cousin Alina’s bat mitzvah. As usual, I found myself confused (and bored) by a Hebrew service I couldn’t understand. During the second hour of what would be an NFL-game-plus-overtime-length ceremony, I picked up the Torah in the pew-back, flipped it open at random, and started reading (the English translation, that is).

I landed on Genesis, Chapter 34. I was immediately engrossed–and horrified-by a story I didn’t know.

It begins with a young man named Shechem raping Dinah, who’s the daughter of the patriarch Jacob. (Someone is in the kitchen with Dinah.) After the rape, Shechem realizes he actually loves Dinah, speaks to her “tenderly,” and decides he must marry her. He and his father, a local idol-worshipping chieftain named Hamor, pay a conciliatory visit to Jacob and his sons, Dinah’s brothers. Hamor pleads: My son loves Dinah and yearns to marry her. Hamor and Shechem offer to share their land with Jacob’s family, marry off the women of their clan to Jacob’s sons, and pay any bride price if only Dinah will be Shechem’s wife. (I should note that Shechem and Hamor aren’t suckers: They’re also eager for the marriage so they can get their hands on Jacob’s land.)

Jacob’s sons pretend to agree to their proposal, but on one condition: Shechem, Hamor, and all the men of their town must get circumcised before the marriage. Shechem and Hamor accept this. They and their fellow townsmen get circumcised. And here is where the story turns macabre. Three days after the mass circumcision, “when they were in pain,” Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi descend on the town, spears drawn, and murder all the incapacitated men. Then Jacob’s other sons plunder the town, seize the livestock and property, and take the women and children as slaves. Jacob, who hasn’t said a word in the chapter till now, complains to Simeon and Levi that, because of the massacre, neighboring tribes won’t trust him anymore. “But they answered, ‘Should our sister be treated like a whore?'”

Needless to say, this isn’t a story they taught me at Temple Sinai’s Hebrew School back in 1980. The Garden of Eden, David and Goliath, Noah’s Ark, sure. But the founding fathers of Israel lying, breaching a contract, encouraging pagans to convert to Judaism only in order to cripple them for slaughter, massacring defenseless innocents, enslaving women and children, pillaging and profiteering, and then justifying it all with an appeal to their sister’s defiled honor? And the tale of Dinah isn’t hiding way in the back of the Bible, deep in Obadiah or Nehemiah or one of the other minor-league books no one ever reads. It is smack in the middle of Genesis, the one book of the Bible even ignoramuses think they know.

Like many lax but well-educated Jews (and Christians), I had long assumed I know what was in the Bible–more or less. I read parts of the Torah as a child in Hebrew school, then attended a rigorous Episcopalian high school in Washington, D.C., where I had to study the Old and New Testaments. Many of the highlights stuck in my head–Adam and Eve, Cain vs., Abel, Jacob vs. Esau, Jonah vs. whale, 40 days and nights, 10 plagues and Commandments, 12 tribes and apostles, Red Sea walked under, Galilee Sea walked on, bush into fire, rock into water, water into wine. And, of course, I absorbed other bits of Bible everywhere–from stories I heard in churches and synagogues, from movies and TV shows, from tidbits my parents and teachers told me. All this left me with a general sense that I knew the Good Book well enough, and that it was a font of crackling stories, Jewish heroes, and moral lessons.

But the tale of Dinah unsettled me, to say the least. If this story is strutting cheerfully through the heart of Genesis, what else had I forgotten or never learned? I realized that I needed to read the Bible–really read the Bible–for the first time in my life. I would begin with “In the beginning,” and see how far I got. That’s how “Good Book” began.

For the millions of Jews and Christians who know the Bible intimately, this project may sound obscene or at least absurd: Why should a numbskull beginner interpret the Bible stories that you know by heart? I didn’t intend any kind of insult. My goal was not to find contradictions, mock impossible events, or scoff at hypocrisy. I was reading out of genuine curiosity and fascination. I needed to understand the book that has shaped my religion and my world.

I also knew enough to know that Judaism and Christianity aren’t just the Bible. Judaism is built on thousands of years of commentary, interpretation, and law. This library of wisdom was totally unfamiliar to me, and I couldn’t hope to compete with it. Nor did I expect to solve Biblical mysteries that have baffled readers for centuries. I was coming very late to the game. There are books to tell you why the Bible is literally true, others to advise you how to analyze it as history, and still others to help you read it as literature. There are experts standing by to teach you how to approach the book as a Jew, a Catholic, an evangelical Protestant, an archeologist, a historian, a feminist, a lawyer, an athlete, or a teenager.

So, what could I possibly do? I have one–and only one–advantage over the experts, which is that the book is fresh to me. I didn’t know what I was supposed to know. My goal was pretty simple. I wanted to find out what happens when an ignorant person actually reads the book on which his religion is based. I was in the same position as many other lazy but faithful people (Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus). I love Judaism; I love (most of) the lessons it has taught me about how to live in the world; and yet I realized I was fundamentally ignorant about its foundation, its essential document. So what would happen if I approached my Bible empty, unmediated by teachers or rabbis or parents, if I ignored commentary and learned experts, if it was just me and the word(s)? What would delight and horrify me? How would the Bible relate to the religion I practice, and the lessons I thought I learned in synagogue and Hebrew School? How would it change me? Would it make me more faithful or less? I have two small children: Would it teach me how to teach them about God?

The answers are in my book about the Good Book. Go here to read an excerpt.

David Plotz is editor of Slate, the award-winning online magazine, and author of the book “Good Book,” based on his “Blogging the Bible” series in Slate.

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  • WmarkW

    To be blunt, it would have been hard to find anyone 3,000 years ago who didn’t think that was either right, or at least how the world worked. What’s amazing is that anyone today would actually believe the creator of the universe wrote that.What’s even more amazing, is that many educated people think such gross ignorance should be treated with respect.

  • wpc09

    David Plotz’s foray into his own unmediated reading of the Bible represents the spiritual principle of independent investigation of truth. Indeed, every person may have an unspoken spiritual obligation to read books that are seen as divine Scripture and understand them for themselves. I did this when I was a teenager. I read the Bible entirely through on my own. In doing so, I became convinced that many current readings, colored by centuries of overlayed doctrine or modernist dismissal of revelation, may have distorted the deep spiritual meaning and impact. At the church where I went to Sunday school until age 12, I had been told that Muhammad, the Buddha, and other claimants to spiritual authority, were false. I did not simply accept this. At the age of 15 I read the Qur’an. I found it to have the divine Voice as much as the Bible did. I studied every great scripture and was able to discern in each a reflection of God – the God of the Bible, but also a God bigger than our limited imaginations. At the age of 18, I learned of the Baha’i faith. I investigated it on my own, read its Scriptures, and determined – without intermediary or contact with its members – that God had spoken again through Baha’u’llah, God’s Manifestation to our time.Others may have make different choices. But independence in the search, free from received and traditional filters, gives depth and life and conviction to the journey. Read on, David.

  • msmith65

    Mr. Plotz, you are embarking on a dangerous mission. Would you enter a minefield without a map of its contents? Set sail without a compass and star chart? Build a house without consulting with those who’d done it before?The Bible is God’s instruction book. But without learning what others have learned about it first, the human tendency is to read our own story into it. The “bible” churches do this all the time, tossing out thousands of years of scholarship in favor of their own understanding. And once a misunderstanding is “set” in the human mind, it tends to stay there.It took several hundred years for the Christian church to get past the various heresies that threatened to fragment it. (The Council of Nicea meeting alone lasted more than two years.)Those who, today, set out to take the Bible into their own hands will probably never get as far as the Christian church did in its first years, before stumbling into a pit of misunderstanding. Such is the human ego that so many still try.

  • tmg2

    David, Wow, thank you for recording all your thoughts from reading the story of the rape of Dinah. You teased out a lot of the issues and questions that I experienced when I, as a Catholic, came across that same part of Genesis. The Bible, like a lot of good literature, will sometimes *show* people doing evil without necessarily *telling* you they are doing evil. It’s like Solomon and his 700 wives and 300 concubines. Many peoples will say, “Aha! If Solomon (builder of the Temple) could be a polygamist, then how can Jews and Christians say it is wrong?” Of course, all those wives and concubines draw Solomon away from the worship of God, causing God to withdraw his favor and leading to the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Would it be helpful if the writers of scripture put up big warning signs, “Do not attempt this at home!” and connected the dots to show how Simeon and Levi or Solomon did a very bad thing? Probably, but then you would lose a lot of the depth of the stories. You can glean a lot on your own, but other resources (rabbis, priests, commentaries, professors) can help you get to the core issues and context more quickly. After reading the bible on my own for a couple of years, I took a bible study course, and it made a big difference in helping me understand the context of the biblical stories.

  • outragex

    I think it is great that you, Mr. Plotz, are reading the Bible for yourself. You can always consult other authorities later. It amazes me that many have such a limited understanding of the Bible, since so much of Western Civilization is shaped by Biblical ideas. It is also frustrating to see mistaken versions of theology endlessly repeated in the media or in religous organizations that should know better.You have run into an interesting question that puzzles me a great deal. Does the Bible (esp. the Old Testament, since I am Christian) give us a model of how to live in all its material? Or is it a history of how the Jews wrestled with their understanding of God, sometimes correctly and sometimes in error? Some commands seem to have great relevance today (such as do not kill, or a Sabbath day to rest yourselves, your servants, and your beasts of burden). Other ideas (slay your enemies’ children, don’t touch pigskin-even to play football) don’t seem so wise. We Christians have the additional burder of trying to reconcile Old Testament versus New Testament lessons. There is a lot of agreement, but also contradictions. The good thing, Mr. Plotz, is that you are taking the books seriously enough to carefully ponder them.

  • globalone

    Kudos to you Mr. Plotz. I would only add that if you are looking for a very, very high level view of the Bible, then reading it on your own straight through will probably accomplish that.But if you wish to ascertain a modicum of understanding in regards to the more important scriptures, you will certainly need some help as you read. There are a number of “companion” books that serve to offer additional guidance when reading the Bible.In some ways, the Bible is no different from the great pieces of literature that we read in college. It takes a number of readings or someone who is an expert on the book, per se, (i.e., professor) to determine the underlying thoughts, motives, or actions.Rich blessings.

  • agapn9

    The bible has some wild stories to be sure. They can tend to be a little bit gory for our culture. We like our violence on Television not in our front lawn.Heads chopped off, warriors committing suicide, friends trying to kill each other, a mother plotting with one son against another. What kind of a mother would do a thing like that?Is there a point to all this gratuitous violence and wickedness?I hope so. The point is that for all our weakness, greed and let’s face it – savagery – the God of Israel, the God of Abraham and Moses – the Blessed Trinity – loves us and is with us in our struggles to make sense of a rather confusing and sometimes treacherous human experience that we find ourselves immersed in. And that’s not going to change at least for a while.

  • semidouble

    Most christians don’t know the OT as well. Otherwise they would know that their deity killed 2.2 million people. That was before he killed every living thing on earth by drowning. It’s all in the GOOD book! Can you feel the love??

  • bevjims1

    msmith65 wrote: “Mr. Plotz, you are embarking on a dangerous mission. Would you enter a minefield without a map of its contents? Set sail without a compass and star chart? Build a house without consulting with those who’d done it before?”Its a book for crying out loud! If this 21st century man who is educated and literate can’t understand it, why should he turn to the interpretations of 1st century men, some of whom were literate and much less educated? Mr. Plotz knows the earth is round and the stars are other suns, something the writers of the bible had no clue about. Intellectually he’s a genious compared to those who attended the council of nicea.msmith65 wrote: “The Bible is God’s instruction book. But without learning what others have learned about it first, the human tendency is to read our own story into it. The “bible” churches do this all the time, tossing out thousands of years of scholarship in favor of their own understanding. And once a misunderstanding is “set” in the human mind, it tends to stay there.”Well, anything we read is interpreted in our own way. You seem to think its been perfectly interpreted. I’d like to know why since the church that maintains the interpretation gave us the inquisition, prodded kings into the crusades, and stood by in Germany as the Nazis built up their government, started their wars and killed their own nation’s people.msmith65 wrote: “It took several hundred years for the Christian church to get past the various heresies that threatened to fragment it. (The Council of Nicea meeting alone lasted more than two years.)”The church is fragmented. And much testament was tossed out at the council. The bible is but a fraction of the writings of Jesus’ time. So Mr. Plotz and others should look at it as a censored book.msmith65 wrote: “Those who, today, set out to take the Bible into their own hands will probably never get as far as the Christian church did in its first years, before stumbling into a pit of misunderstanding. Such is the human ego that so many still try.”Or maybe they will read it differently, in a time when individual freedom is a right. In a time when slavery is not condoned. In a time when human rights exist in law. In a time when the people determine the government. In a time when war is not considered glorious or a way to advance religion. In a time when life is prescious and not cheap. In a time that has surpassed many of the ills of Moses’ and Christ’s time. Today’s interpretation will not likely lead to inquisitions, religious wars and witch trials. Maybe its time for the church to have a new council of Nicea, to reexamine its 2000 year old interpretations with educated minds, and to bring what America has brought to the world that the church never did and by its 1st century mentality cannot understand: individual freedom and liberty.

  • raylward

    I very much enjoyed the author’s Blogging the Bible project in Slate. As a Christian I would add one comment (Plotz doesn’t blog the “new” testament), that few Christians actually read the four Gospels. Yes, they read Paul’s letters, and they are fixated on Revelation, about which they have much to say, but entirely omit the teachings of Jesus reflected in the Gospels. Instead, read the Gospels and omit the rest. It will improve your outlook.

  • ravitchn

    Forget the horrible stories in the bible. Even the warm and fuzzy ones are ridiculous. Take the crucifixon for instance: what kind of God would send his son to die? For what?

  • Pamsm

    Raylward says: Here’s an even better idea: Pitch the stupid thing into the nearest dumpster and learn to care about the natural world and the species you belong to.

  • pwaa

    The author has fallen into a trap which many fall into. The bible is a story about PEOPLE and God’s interaction with PEOPLE. It is NOT a book cataloguing saints. PEOPLE do horrible things, good things,learn, grow, are sad, die etc. God is with us even when we, PEOPLE WITH FREE WILL do things that are horrible. I am thankful that God loves us so much that he made us free, thinking people rather than automatons which is what so many atheist and ill informed people hink is the logical thing and can’t understand God’s deep love and gift of freedom.

  • LeeH1

    Before you can pretend to understand God, you need to understand people.Good people do bad things. Bad people do good things. Everyone has an evil side as well as a righteous side.Everyone also has a choice from their own free will- to do good or to do evil.People who do evil can affect the lives of many others, often unintended, even to many generations afterwards. People who do good can affect the lives of many others, even to many generations afterwards. The choice belongs to you, but the effects afterwards are beyond your control.Reading the Bible will show you that the people of yeteryears had different customs, but that human nature hasn’t changed. People in power often use that power corruptly. Other people in power do not. Some men are rapists. Some women are immoral. All have problems living as good a life as they want, or evading the consequences of their own evil.Enjoy reading the Bible. It is not what you think, but it is something to make you wonder and review your relationships with others, and your relationship with God.My only real comment is that you should do this with one or two other people. Each of you read the selection, and then discuss it among yourselves. The Bible was started as a series of stories, and they are best digested in a group discussion. This system doesn’t need experts or clerics- just people interested in good stories and trying to understand the world they live in.You will read stories about bad people in the Bible doing bad things, and stories you disagree with and don’t understand. Congratulations! This begins the path of wisdom.

  • csintala79

    One has to wonder why an omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient god would communicate with his creatures as he does. Why would God only talk to a few select individuals over millennia, and have his guidance set down in arcane and turgid language? Why are a multitude of scholars and priests, who seem to be more at odds with each other than in agreement, required to untangle the guidance of the Most Holy for the layperson? If scripture is indeed the word of God, the words should leap off its pages with brilliant clarity, requiring no mortal to clarify them. What is this game God is playing? Why didn’t God speak plainly and directly to the Inca, Atahualpa, instead of allowing the absurdity of a Spanish priest declaring him a heretic because of his violent reaction to having the priest shove a musty book covered in indecipherable scratching into his face and not, then, falling down on his knees in worship? If God’s intent was for his message to creep across the globe by snail mail (surely he knew email was on the way), why didn’t he empower more competent representatives? Couldn’t He have chosen better emissaries to the hot, humid tropics than those rigid, humorless Northern Europeans and New Englanders who couldn’t wait to hide the indigenous people’s naked flesh in stifling wool clothes from head to foot? When one reflects on all of this seriously it seems pretty absurd.

  • gamiller1

    PAMSM -Go hug a tree for all of us!!! That will be at least one tree that we cannot cut down and consume in printing the Bible on….Seriously, get a life…..

  • spidermean2

    Baum wrote “Jesus became the Son of God when He became the Son of Man when Mary said YES”This is what happens when an ignorant man read the Bible. Catholicism was built by ignorant people who tried to understand the Bible but failed. For centuries they prohibit their flock from reading the Bible coz they can’t understand it themselves.The same with the writer of this column. What happens when you give a fool a knife or a scalpel? Instead of saving lives thru surgery, they will end up killing other people and themselves later.

  • spidermean2

    “Take the crucifixon for instance: what kind of God would send his son to die?”When a person starts burning in hell and think that the burning won’t end, he would then understand why God has to send his Son to warn the people of that horrible thing he is in.We don’t know the mind of God, but it’s a reality that people (the lost) will burn for eternity.It’s a sad thing that many people think that it is just a joke. They are still alive and yet you’re 100 percent sure that they will fry in hell. Hell is so terrible a place so rebelious souls won’t have the capacity to ridicule God. Because of the intense heat, they would become instant “saints” like the rich man in the Lazarus story.Imagine President Obama telling a crowd that hell is real and to prove that he’s telling the truth, he multiplies the bread and the fishes right before their eyes. Won’t you guys be convince if he does that?It happened before and despite that, many people are not convinced. God gave his all to warn the people. If a person won’t listen, it’s not God’s fault anymore.

  • cornbread_r2

    ThomasBaum wrote: “When He became One of us even tho He was still God, He gave up His Omni’s, so to speak.”Can you imagine Jesus drowning nearly every living thing on the face of the earth? How about slaughtering the Egyptian first born or ordering the slaughter of Canaanite babies? Why does it appear that the morality of the OT god seems to conform to ours only after god supposedly becomes fully human?

  • raylward

    Plotz makes the most important contribution to our understanding of the “old” testament: he makes us read the text. I make the same point about the “new” testament: read the text. I emphasize the Gospels, as they come closest to the actual teachings of Jesus. You can read Paul or any other evangelist, but only the Gospels include the teachings of Jesus. To further emphasize the significance, even the most secular of our founders, Thomas Jefferson, appreciated the teachings of Jesus: the “Jefferson Bible” (which is Mr. Jefferson’s edited version of the Gospels) was for many years given to new members of Congress.

  • Chops2

    WmarkW:What’s amazing is that anyone today would actually believe the creator of the universe wrote that.What’s even more amazing, is that many educated people think such gross ignorance should be treated with respect”I couldn’t agree more, i would only add that anyone who thinks that 1st century morality and society is something to strive for is frankly insane, especially given the horrors of the bible as pointed out in the article by by Mr. Plotz. It ignores and disrespects human moral and scientific evolution over time need only look to the Taliban and other religious crazies to see the type of “justice” that would be metered out to those that do not conform. When Americans start stoning gays and adulterers in Arkanasas and Texas you will see the side of the bible that all te faithful ignore in reality. Its not all love and compassion, its emblemeatic of the human experience, much of which we should have outgrown by now.

  • aussiebarry

    There’s me thinking what a great article, then I find it’s a advert for a book

  • adipalm1

    David:The Genesis of Ethics by Burton L. VisotzkyExcellent look at some dilemmas put out in Genesis.

  • Andrews4

    This is interesting. It’s the one tactic atheists and the religious can use to their favor:”Have you gone back, read every word, and are still convinced you’re a Christian?”The argument works both ways.I’m a minister’s son and I was a lukewarm agnostic until I read every chapter of the bible at 21. I owe my atheism to a healthy grasp of the Bible. That’s also what it takes to be a good Christian.

  • jamesmmoylan

    You don’t have to go far into the bible to find fairy stories dressed up as fact.Anyone who believes the bible contains ‘facts’ is deluded and should seek treatment.

  • ThishowIseeit

    The Good Book by David Plotz will be released on March 3, 2009. If pre-ordered now , it will cost us $ 17.81. My question to David Plotz is: how much will go to charity or all will go in your pockets? Is there a connection of religion with money in recent years? Why are irrational beliefs still so prevalent?

  • RudeIsraeli

    Violence and desolation permeate the Old Testament. It’s easy to see why it could arouse feelings of awe. YHVH is indeed a terrible and terrifying god.

  • furtdw

    Ravitchin wrote: “Take the crucifixon for instance: what kind of God would send his son to die? For what?”************************************************The answer to question number one: A God of love and mercy.The answer to question number two: To redeem us for the sins of mankind, offer us the free gift of salvation if we are willing to accept it and we have faith.Ravitchin, I have read your many posts.It is very apparent you do not think well of Christianity, Catholicism in particular.

  • furtdw

    Spiderman2 wrote:”Catholicism was built by ignorant people who tried to understand the Bible but failed.”*************************************************Huh?It was the early Catholic church (early Church Fathers) that gave us the cannonical bible.”Catholicism was built by ignorant people who tried to understand the bible but failed.”Huh?St. Augustine? St. Thomas Aquinas? Erasmus? Canius? Early church fathers? The 33 Doctors of the Church? Many, many more who were intellectually switched on and had a full grasp of the bible and were not ignorant of it. Are you suggesting that today’s 1.1 billion Catholics over 23 denominations remain ignorant?Spiderman2, it just may be you who is the ignorant one.

  • coloradodog

    “What happens when an ignorant person actually reads the book on which his religion is based?”Spidermean2

  • washpost18

    furtdw: Don’t waste your time. spidermean2 is an unassailable bastion of supreme ignorance.

  • FrankOHara1

    To truly comprehend The Bible, you have to approach it with a fresh mind and comprehend it and it’s times as you read it. Only then will you truly understand it.In biblical times, there were few if any laws. The Bible endeavors to correct this omission. There was little if any law enforcement depending on where you lived and what tribe you were a member of. The Bible endeavors to correct this omission through fear of an all powerful being that can impose the worst imaginable punishment on you with nothing more than a simple thought.Understanding it in this light, it becomes clear that it is simply an effort to control the actions of others and bring order to an otherwise disorderly society. It is simply a book of and by man. This is not necessarily bad but it’s function has been replaced by modern societies and governments.That does not mean I do not believe in God. We only have to look at the wonders surrounding us to know there is an intelligence that began it all. I simply do not believe The Bible is the word of God. There are simply too many contradictions in its content to be the works of such an intelligent being.

  • jimfilyaw

    mr. plotz’s comments remind me of what justice hugo black said about what many people believed of the u.s. constitution, ‘they think it permits what they want permitted and prohibits what they want prohibited’. it seems to be especially true of the fundamentalists who claim to believe literally every jot and tittle.

  • bevjims1

    spidermean2 spouted: “Imagine President Obama telling a crowd that hell is real and to prove that he’s telling the truth, he multiplies the bread and the fishes right before their eyes. Won’t you guys be convince if he does that?”But the same people who witnessed miracle upon miracle by Jesus let, ney, encouraged, the Romans to crucify him. If people witnessed Obama multiply fish and bread in front of their eyes, it would make him a bigger rock star than he is. So if Jesus was such a miracle worker, why did the people not save him? Is it possible these “miracles” are on the order of miracles reported today, such as shapes of faces seen in moss growing on an underpass? Wouldn’t these amazing miracles be reported in documents of nearby civilizations? Wouldn’t kings and the wealthy travel the globe to see such a miracle worker. Yet none of that happened. Jesus raised Lazerus from the dead. Did Lazerus report on what he saw after he died, whether heaven purgatory or hell? Maybe he was in limbo … oh right, limbo is no longer part of the religion. The one thing fundamentalists do not comprehend is that even the most atheistic person on earth would accept God if he truly showed Himself. No one denies obvious truth. The question is why God hides himself and relies on the likes of people like Spidermean to tell us about Himself. I’d just as likely believe the words of a madman telling me about the voices he is hearing, or the miracle he performed, yesterday.

  • Skowronek

    I still think Spidermean2 should stick to playing engineer with Thomas & Friends.

  • Wallpass

    You are not alone. Many Christians are quite ignorant of the Jesus they claim to follow. If/when they crack open the Bible and read the 4 gospels they are surprised, like you were, at what they find out about Him. Reading the Bible is a wonderful thing!

  • hyjanks

    Fine. Let people of all intellectual pursuits and those “ignorant” among us believe in fairy tails. But PLEASE keep it to yourselves! You are all starting to look like ignoramuses in this, the 21st century.

  • Respectthe9thAmendment

    Please remember that the idea that the Bible is the Word of God is only a theory: there is nothing outside the Bible itself to indicate this and all the writers in the Bible making such claims are long dead and cannot be cross-examined. Further, contemporary individuals who claim God is speaking to them directly are largely judge to be utterly unreliable.I tried a similar project back when I was in college and gave up at the story where the brother rapes his sister and she complains he should have married her. If society could take this stuff seriously, there were far more problems with the world than I had hitherto thought.

  • elife1975

    Maybe it’s just me, but while skimming past some of the more lengthy posts on these types of discussions, I tend to quickly scan the last line or two to see if the author ends their thoughts with “god bless you”, or “amen”. If that’s the case, I immediately assume the bulk of the argument being posed is preachy and ignorant and move on to the next one. Am I alone here?

  • jimfilyaw

    this reminds me of an observation by mark twain, to the effect, ‘its not the parts of the bible i don’t understand that bother me, its the parts i do understand.’

  • US-conscience

    One must first realize that the Bible is not just one type of literature. There are historical books, poetic books, wisdom literature, prophetic books and you simply dont read history the same way you read poetry. In a true historical document, one would expect to find people doing selfish, sinful, stupid, helpful and all types of actions. People are born with a sinful nature, so it should be no suprise when we read of sinful people doing stupid, sinful things. This is not surprising. What is surprising is that a ‘Holy Book’ paints pictures of their “hero’s” ( David, Solomon, Moses…) with warts and all. Most other books of similar nature paint their hero’s in mythical shades, whereas the bible shows their heros as true humans: mistake prone, often sinful and in need. How refreshing is that ? What we should learn from reading the Bible is not what horrible things people did ( they still do ) – but what God has done to reconcile a rebellious people to himself. What are Gods attributes, his character ( holy ) and most importantly the old testament shows us our need of, and how to understand the role of and reason for the appearance of the Christ.

  • TOTE

    With all due respect, the author seems to have the same misunderstanding about scripture as most of humanity has for centuries. Yes, it is a book containing God’s law, the Word who became flesh, and what true, Godly love is. Where the author and many others miss the point is that it is also a chronicle of how mankind took determining good and evil into his own hands from the get-go and it also chronicles the progression of that fateful decision from Eden, forward. Did God give up on man? Well, no. He has chosen certain human beings thru the ages that He felt he could work with – His perrogative, considering the decisions that mankind made (that is, maybe, just maybe He would find one or two here and there that actually DID listen to Him or at the very least, tried). Would there have been wars and killing if the correct tree was chosen in the Garden? I propose – most likely, no. Man came to realize, in short order and in a big way, that warring and fighting was a part of their lives. But, God was, and is, still going to be fulfilling His purpose (part of which is letting us learn the hard way..due to our decisions) ..and played along, if you will, with our gross misunderstandings and wretched ways of doing things…all the while, if you notice, still giving rules to those He worked with, regardless of our lack of wisdom and understanding. If man had made the right decision from the start, there would most likely would not have been any wars, no idols, no adultery, no …etc etc…at the very least, they would be a small news item on the front pages of the world. Think about it. Its not hard to unlock the bible and realize that the reason for scripture is not only to learn how God wanted it done (and, more importantly, how He wanted it to be for us all), but it is also preserved for our admonition – to read the beginnings of how we got to the mess we are in today. Regards

  • Comunista

    Anyone who wants to read the Bible to understand its real messages needs to do so with a lot of additional resources- namely, an understanding of literary devices, keen interpretation, and precise contexts. One of the unintended consequences of the great boon that was/is cheap, mass-printed Bibles is that now anyone with literacy can pick up the Bible, read through it, and draw their own conclusions — arguably ‘drawing their own conclusions’ was the entire point of many Protestant movements, but the problem is that the Bible, for any contradictions and ramblings it may have, is a pretty sophisticated scripture, requiring these assets I previously mentioned. Without them, people are liable to take things completely out of context, take figurative things too literally (or vice versa), quote a passage while ignoring the greater passage in which the statement was included, etc. For better or for worse (from this standpoint it’s arguably better), it’s been the job of the Church for millenia to provide expertise in the wisdom of its clerics to interpret the Bible’s teachings, and in particular to convey them to the masses. One good example of this is the incredibly detailed stained glass windows in cathedrals all across Europe, specifically used to teach the (completely illiterate) parishioners about the teachings within the Bible. -And do so with the expertise unique to them. Today, with public education (whether it’s satisfactory or not) being parsecs better than the virtually non-existent educations of all the pre-modern eras, it’s much more appropriate for individual Jews and Christians (and certainly Muslims with the Koran) to individually read and understand the teachings of the scriptures, but it’s still as important as ever to have the right study tools entering this endeavor. After all, if every person did this, we’d certainly not have the Creation-Evolution divide, nor countless other divergent beliefs that have splintered Judeo-Christian religions all over the place.

  • bevjims1

    TOTE wrote: “Where the author and many others miss the point is that it is also a chronicle of how mankind took determining good and evil into his own hands from the get-go and it also chronicles the progression of that fateful decision from Eden, forward.”Lets just focus on slavery since its pretty well documented. In many places in the old and new testaments God explains how slaves are to act, how to obey, and what punishments their masters can bring upon slaves. These are not cronicles of bad events for us to ponder. These are God’s laws on how slaves should act, how masters should act, how to buy, sell and punish slaves, how to take slaves in conquest, even how to sell one’s own daughter into slavery (Deuteronomy 15:12-15; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1, Exodus 21:7-9, Joel 3:8, Matthew 10:24 and John 13:16). What is more irksome is that God equates God and man as being Master and slave. Unless you can explain God’s laws regarding slavery and why such savagery is good enough to regulate with His laws, then the bible can never be considered the “good book”. And if you simply ignore those passages, then you are a bible cherry-picker, which is pretty much required to consider it a good book, and is why many fundies do not want you to read the bible “without interpretation” because you might get “confused”. Maybe someone can unconfuse me about this passage from the bible, which if anyone spoke it as a proposed law today would be considered barbaric, yet it is God’s word and God’s law:

  • obx2004

    I just read this chapter and continued on to Chapter 35. They start on another topic involving Jacob fleeing the land, etc.Why don’t they reconcile this problem with Dinah and her brothers? And does this mean I have justification to murder innocent people because they may live in the same village as the one who raped my sister?And why is Jacob more concerned about the fact his sons duped the villagers as opposed to having mass-murdered them?

  • DoTheRightThing

    It’s too bad David Plotz didn’t pay closer attention when you had the chance. But today is the first day of the rest of your life. Now you can recognize that, like you, the world is not perfect, and neither are any of the human beings mentioned in the Bible (except for one: Mary, Jesus’ mother; remember that Jesus is not a human being but the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity in human form – He is one Divine Person with two natures (divine and human)). So, for all these people to do bad things should be expected, because “they are human.” The wondrous thing is that God loves us even while we are sinners and is always ready to forgive us if we but sincerely turn away from sin and toward Him!

  • ivri5768

    “What happens when an ignorant person actually reads the book on which his religion is based?”Hmmm.Just read Revelation and finally understood the lunatic who raves on the corner near the bakery.So tellme, how do I get a book contract and free WaPo publicity?

  • vince2

    Sounds like one long sales pitch to buy his a new book.Vinny

  • pookiecat

    Yeah, isn’t it great? More gratutitous violence, race-baiting, disease, and sex than a Hollywood movie script with an “R” rating. And that’s just the Catholic version. When you read the new “Assemblies of God”, “You Matter to God”, and all the other blah, blah corporate, evangelical neo-versions, you also get all the juicy homophobia stuff, just the right things to preach to our kids. While a lot of it is a wonderful guide for good living, way too much of it is still a fairytale that the uneducated have bought into lock, stock and two smoking barrels as “absolute truth”, which is utter, absolute nonsense.

  • MGT2

    To bevjims1 : Second, in the bible, the term slavery does not, in all cases, mean someone kept against their will. It also means an indentured servant and, it can also mean someone who sells himself as a servant in order to sustain his family. This is the case in the scripture you quoted.

  • obx2004

    “Second, in the bible, the term slavery does not, in all cases, mean someone kept against their will. It also means an indentured servant and, it can also mean someone who sells himself as a servant in order to sustain his family. This is the case in the scripture you quoted”OK, how did you come to that conclusion? And if it doesn’t mean slavery in the sense of forced labor, then would it be translated as such in English? We don’t call butlers “slaves”. And if the translations are this loose, it makes it harder to accept it as literal. Maybe all the fuss about homosexuality being an “abomination” is really just the lack of a Hebrew word for “eww, gross!”

  • elife1975

    I enjoy reading all the posts by the biblical apologists who beg the author to read the bible with an open mind, or treat the scriptures as metaphorical. They well know that any critical and learned individual, upon reading the bible, will simply dismiss it as a fantasy for weak-minded simpletons.

  • respondus

    The God of the Old Testament is a racist and mass murderer. He killed all the children in two cities for the sins of their fathers. One of his prophets had children killed by a bear because they teased him about being bald. God really is a prick if you actually read the thing.Oh, also – no democracy in the bible – they loves them some monrchy though; no human rights in the bible; lots of honor killings though – to the authors of Gen. what was wrong with the rape of Diaah was it soiled menfolk in the clan. They really couldn’t care less about the Woman. Did they ask Dinah what her POV was – nope, just another outrageous honor killing by men, after lying and tricking others…Do unto others indeed…

  • ivri5768

    Just finished the Greek Testament and found out I need a human sacrifice to redeem me. Anybody willing to step up?

  • bevjims1

    MGT2 wrote: “First, most critics of the bible interpret the customs of biblical times based upon today’s customs and become confused and dismissive when thing do not meet their expectations. Value systems are different depending on ethnicity and culture. There were even more different the further back you go in time.”Well, that makes sense if the bible was written strictly by men and is based on their customs. But those who profess it is God’s words must then believe that God’s customs are man’s customs. That would make one stupid God, if he just went with the flow of what man considered right and wrong. I thought God determined what was right and wrong? Your argument seems to say that God lets men do what they want, and is pragmatic, not wanting to loose his flock. That would mean Abraham Lincoln had more guts than God to point out a wrong when he sees it and fight to right it.MGT2 wrote: “Second, in the bible, the term slavery does not, in all cases, mean someone kept against their will. It also means an indentured servant and, it can also mean someone who sells himself as a servant in order to sustain his family. This is the case in the scripture you quoted.”So what? Why does how a slave becomes a slave matter? There are people today who agree to be slaves for say 5 years if they are smuggled into America. Should this be legal? Its called human trafficing and bondage and it rightly illegal. Do you advocate indentured servitude? Do you advocate people selling themselves into slavery? Should we make Iraqis our slaves since we beat them in a war? God thinks so by His own words.Slavery is wrong but God thinks it is ok. How can a christian square that, or has God changed His mind? If so, when did that happen?

  • ThomasBaum

    SPIDERMAN2You wrote, “Baum wrote “Jesus became the Son of God when He became the Son of Man when Mary said YES”This is what happens when an ignorant man read the Bible. Catholicism was built by ignorant people who tried to understand the Bible but failed. For centuries they prohibit their flock from reading the Bible coz they can’t understand it themselves.I became a human being when it was my time to become one and God knew when and where that would be.I cannot live anyone else’s life but it is not my job to belittle and condemn others.God’s Plan is unfolding before our very eyes and God’s Plan will come to Fruition.If God was the vile, putrid, puny, egotistical, revengeful piece of garbage that you imply Him to be, there is no way that I would want to have anything at all to do with Him.Since God is a Being of Pure Love that cares for ALL OF HIS CREATION including ALL OF HUMANITY since we are part of His Creation, then I am grateful that He has chosen me to be one of His Messengers.See you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    Chops2 : You wrote, “I couldn’t agree more, i would only add that anyone who thinks that 1st century morality and society is something to strive for is frankly insane, especially given the horrors of the bible as pointed out in the article by by Mr. Plotz.”Would you like to look at 20th and 21th century “morality and society”, has man changed?Our toys have gotten more sophisticated and our knowledge of how things work has increased but has man’s inhumanity to man changed any?If anything the 20th century was probably the most blood-thirsty century in the history of mankind, maybe we should look in our own backyard before speaking of what has happened and look at what is happening.No one can live anyone else’s life except for their own.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • obx2004

    If I go to a car dealership and the salesman tells me to buy a certain car because it’s a great car, I’m still going to get in and drive it around to see for myself if it is a great car. Then I’d likely buy it.What the church essentially says is they want you to believe in God and accept Christ as your savior, but they cannot show anything evidentiary to support this. Then they say we’re not allowed to question this claim because of a convenient Bible verse about “putting the Lord to the test”. We have to accept it as truth based on faith.Well, a lot of people struggle with that logic, including myself. How am I testing God by merely asking for some tangible evidence of his existence? Why does it only count if we believe in Him under the guise of faith, which itself has been manipulated by the Church. Faith is the ultimate gun to the head. It is faith that keeps most of the sheep quiet and not asking questions.If God wants us all to worship him, all he’d probably have to do is go “Here I am”, and this debate would end.

  • Pamsm

    Tote says:Here are some examples of Godly love from Leviticus 26:14-38:”If ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments…I will appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it…and you shall be slain before your enemies.I will punish you seven times more…for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits…I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle…and I will bring a sword upon you.I will send a pestilence upon you…And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters…and I will make your cities waste…and I will bring the land into desolation.”But no pressure…

  • Pamsm

    God also discriminated against the disabled. From Leviticus 21:18-23:”For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or anything superfluous. Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookbacked, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones [testicles] broken…that he profane not my sanctuaries.”And who made them this way?But my absolute favorite bible quote is II Thessalonians 2:11:”God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.”Truest thing in the whole book.

  • tbloomquist

    OBX2004,You write: “If God wants us all to worship him, all he’d probably have to do is go “Here I am”, and this debate [about his existence] would end.”Jews might argue He did, in the form of a burning bush to Moses and the commandments given to him.Christians might argue He did, in the form of His only begotten son Jesus of Nazareth and the sacrifice he made for humanity.Muslims might argue He did, in the form of His word given through the angel Gabriel to Muhammad.And I’m sure followers of other faiths might argue He/She did through various other forms. (Like the author, I’m a student of Abrahamic tradition and thus cannot provide such examples.)The point being, for those who believe, God has already done what you propose He do. For those who do not believe, you ignored or misunderstood His revelation, for one reason or another, but you can still try to understand and accept it.

  • obx2004

    “Jews might argue He did, in the form of a burning bush to Moses and the commandments given to him.Christians might argue He did, in the form of His only begotten son Jesus of Nazareth and the sacrifice he made for humanity.Muslims might argue He did, in the form of His word given through the angel Gabriel to Muhammad”That is correct, but people will still grapple with this as none of us were there when these events happened.

  • tbloomquist

    So you’re arguing that God needs to reveal Himself to every generation in order to ensure a continued belief?

  • Pamsm

    TBloomquist says:What could it hurt? Why hide completely for 2000+ years, making skepticism easy? What is the value of blind belief?

  • obx2004

    not really, but it would sure make a lot of people sleep better at night.on the original article, why did they have to murder all the men fo the village instead of punishing those who attacked Dinah?

  • Pamsm

    OBX2004 asks:”on the original article, why did they have to murder all the men fo the village instead of punishing those who attacked Dinah?Oh, God’s famous for that. After all, we’re all supposed to be guilty for Adam’s sin, right? If your great grandfather was a horsethief, should we put you in jail?I Samuel 6:13-19:He killed 50,070 people because a few – *who were only trying to worship him* – made the mistake of looking into the ark of the covenant – likely not knowing that they shouldn’t.In another chapter, a man puts out his hand to steady the ark, which is wobbling from the movement of the oxen pulling the cart. He, too, is struck dead.What a sweetheart!

  • ThomasBaum

    CORNBREAD_R2 You wrote, “Can you imagine Jesus drowning nearly every living thing on the face of the earth? How about slaughtering the Egyptian first born or ordering the slaughter of Canaanite babies?”I am not God, but there is one thing that I can say, since God gave us free will, He also had to make it safe enough even for Him to become One of us and live long enough to do what He became One of us to do. This was accomplished by the obedience of a few.You also wrote, “Why does it appear that the morality of the OT god seems to conform to ours only after god supposedly becomes fully human?”I don’t exactly know what you mean with this question.By “our morality” are you referring to how man can seem to come up with any reason whatsoever or no reason at all to treat his fellow human, shall we say, unnicely. If one takes an honest look at reality, past and present, man’s treatment of his fellow man is to put it mildly, rather shabby.Also as you put it “god supposedly becomes fully human”, it is not that God grew into becoming one of us but that He chose to become One of us for a reason.One day you will know that the reason is that God cares for ALL OF US. God’s Plan is for ALL and God’s Plan will come to Fruition.Divine Justice and Divine Mercy are two sides of the same coin.We are responsible for what we do whether or not we accept that responsibility, it is important what one does and why one does it and what one knows.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Pamsm

    ThomasBaum says:Have you been reading any of the verses that I’ve been posting? How can you call any of that “caring?” Or “just?” Or “merciful?”I could go on posting verses like that for weeks without running out of material. The God of the bible is a disgusting, bloody-minded petty tyrant.I would be beyond horrified if I thought for a moment that he was anything more than a fictional chracter.

  • AnotherContrarian

    I just want to make a simple point that when a person reads Scripture they should remember that the Bible is a very blunt record of the interaction of God and man and the acts people did should not always be considered as being what God condones or wills. The context is the key. In this case, the story of Dinah, the Bible is not endorsing the acts of Jacob’s sons. It is recording the history of Jacob’s lineage with all their faults and failures. Who would believe a scrubbed and sanitized pristine Bible where no one ever sins? Who then would understand that the whole message of the Bible is one of redemption?

  • AnotherContrarian

    I just want to make a simple point that when a person reads Scripture for the first time they

  • Pamsm

    OK, Anothercontrarian, but what about the acts that are God’s own – or at his express direction? How do you weasel out of those?What about Job? God killed all of his children and destroyed everything he had in order to win a bet (a BET!!) with Satan that Job was so pious that he still wouldn’t curse him. How is that moral or just? How is that *loving*?

  • spidermean2

    When Christ talked about the story of servants with talents, the one who went to hell accused God of wrongdoing.Pamsm don’t realize that she represents that doomed servant. What a pity. She’s still alive and you already know where she is heading when she dies.It’s good to ask questions but not to the extent of blaming God.

  • Pamsm

    The mean spider says:Oh, Spidey, I don’t have to blame him – it’s all right there in the bible in black and white for all to see.At any rate, I can’t blame what I don’t believe exists.What I do blame, is people like you who actually think all this is real and consider it a good guide to morality. No wonder we’ve made such a mess of the world!

  • stadtbear

    Spidermean2 wrote:>The same with the writer of this column. What happens when you give a fool a knife or a scalpel? Instead of saving lives thru surgery, they will end up killing other people and themselves later.Little boy, did your mother never warn you that self-abuse would lead to madness? And where, in god’s name, did you learn to speak English?

  • spidermean2

    Among the servants which were all given one talent each, the one who was the least productive was the one who accused God of wrongdoing.The reason why he was the least productive is because he’s the most idiotic and usually it’s the most idiotic who blames others first rather than themselves. You would know if the a person is so dumb if he starts blaming God. Who can blame perfection? Only idiots does.

  • spidermean2

    The Bible is like a sharp two edged sword. You give it to a fool and he would become more dangerous. Give it the the wise and he’ll be much wiser.The reason why this world is in trouble is because too many fools are reading the Bible. They make their own foolish interpretations.

  • stadtbear

    spidermean2 Author Profile Page:>The Bible is like a sharp two edged sword. You give it to a fool and he would become more dangerous.And when you are old enough to shave, you will find in the mirror the face of the dangerous fool you describe.

  • spidermean2

    The Bible is a book of good instructions. It also says that fools despise instructions.What can we conclude from that? It means that its the fools who will hate the Bible. Be careful of these peole coz they are dangerous.Communist countries burned the Bible first before they imprisoned their people later and refused them to go abroad. I can site many other examples.

  • MGT2

    To bevjims1:My answer is no and no to your questions. But you miss the point which is: What is taboo in one culture may be perfectly normal in another culture. Serious bible scholars and academics will confirm this, especially when it comes to text criticism and the influence of customs and culture on the style and idiomatic expressions of the biblical scribes. in additionAnotherContrarian wrote:”I just want to make a simple point that when a person reads Scripture for the first time theyI would just add that it is not only first-time readers who should understand this.

  • stadtbear

    Spidermean2 wrote:>I can site many other examples.No, you festering baboon, you cannot site any other examples. You may, however CITE other examples, as in “citation”. If you were educated in public schools, the taxpayers of your state should demand their money back.

  • spidermean2

    Baum wrote “Jesus became the Son of God when He became the Son of Man when Mary said YES”.Anyone who understands the Bible think that this statement (endorsed I think by Catholicism) is blasphemous.Who in his right mind would think that Jesus won’t be the Son of God if Mary had said NO?These people don’t know the power of God. Look at what happened to Zachariah when he doubted the angel’s message.”The angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you will name him John.Zechariah said to the angel, “What proof is there for this? I’m an old man, and my wife is beyond her childbearing years.” The angel answered him, “I’m Gabriel! I stand in God’s presence. God sent me to tell you this good news. But because you didn’t believe what I said, you will be unable to talk until the day this happens. Everything will come true at the right time.”In short Zachariah became dumb or was not able to speak for months for asking such foolish question about the coming birth of John. Mary could have died instantly if she was foolish enough to say NO. Catholicism gives so much power to Mary coz its an ignorant religion.

  • spidermean2

    “No, you festering baboon”Im not an evolutionist who believe that my great great grandpa is a baboon. There are indications that evolution could be true if they were looking at your family tree.

  • stadtbear

    spidermean2 wrote:>Im not an evolutionist who believe that my great great grandpa is a baboon. There are indications that evolution could be true if they were looking at your family tree.Yet even more evidence of your abysmal ignorance. Evolutionists do not believe that man descended from apes. Darwin never said it, thought it, taught it or wrote it. You are a victim of your own stupidity.

  • newsboy3

    David: Did you get to the part about hell?

  • spidermean2

    You should read the “Descent of Man”.

  • Pamsm

    I notice that no one is answering my posts – apart, that is, from Anothercontrarian, who tries to tell me that the bible tells of sinners and God had nothing to do with their sins, even though the passages I cited are entirely about acts of God, himself.Is this because none of you apologists *can* answer me?

  • aredant

    David, I kind of had the same experience as you. I had the bible every day as a child going to Catholic school. It was always interpreted FOR me. As a middle aged adult I stole a Gideon and started reading some of it. I felt I had been lied to – well that wasn’t anything new really, but I found so much that was inaccurate, repetitious and inconsistent that it made a lot of sense as a tome of oral tradition that was cobbled together by a bunch of controlling bickering elders, hence forth to be translated, copied, embellished and rewritten over the centuries. As a literary work, frankly its a mess. It’s a great tool for any religious organization because its very confusing to read. If you can get your followers to join a bible study group, they can waste hours and hours of their time trying to find meaning in passages whose original intentions have become grotesquely disfigured instead of questioning your sermons. I for one, have more interesting things to do.

  • CCNL

    Spidermean2 aka Canyon Shearer, Bible Thumper, Fortune Teller and Severely Brainwashed in that Old Time Religion,What “voodooer of the hoodoo” blessed you with such stupidity in the field of fortune telling and interpretations of said stupidity???The reality of it all is that the “pew sitters” and “bowers” are coming to grips with the flaws in their religions and in ten years the religions of today will be unrecognizable or extinct as the “pretty and ugly wingie flying thingies” are finally buried in the piles of utter stupidity.

  • ThomasBaum

    SPIDERMAN2You wrote, “The reason why this world is in trouble is because too many fools are reading the Bible.”As I have said before, God has a Plan and has had His Plan since before Creation and His Plan will come to Fruition.You are not God and I am not God, God is not the loser that you seem to think that He Is.God created everybody and everything, God cares for His Creation and so should we, we are all brothers and sisters of God, since He became One of us.Jesus came not to just teach us but also as part of God’s unfolding Plan.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    SPIDERMAN2You wrote, “Baum wrote “Jesus became the Son of God when He became the Son of Man when Mary said YES”.Anyone who understands the Bible think that this statement (endorsed I think by Catholicism) is blasphemous.”Why do you think that it is “blasphemous”?You also wrote, “Who in his right mind would think that Jesus won’t be the Son of God if Mary had said NO?”I guess anyone who believes that God gave us free will.You then wrote, “Zechariah said to the angel, “What proof is there for this?” “In short Zachariah became dumb or was not able to speak for months for asking such foolish question about the coming birth of John.”Have you ever thought that this could have been the proof given to Zechariah?You then wrote, “Mary could have died instantly if she was foolish enough to say NO”.If you remember Mary also asked a question before you gave her YES, did she not?You also wrote, ” Catholicism gives so much power to Mary coz its an ignorant religion.”As I have said before, I cherish my Catholic Faith and it is not about religion, it is about relationship. I do not speak for Catholicism, God chose me to speak for God.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    PAMSM You wrote, “ThomasBaum says:Have you been reading any of the verses that I’ve been posting? How can you call any of that “caring?” Or “just?” Or “merciful?””First off, even tho I am a messenger, that does not mean that I know what everything in the bible means or how it all fits together, as I have said, I am a messenger, I am not God.At least one of the things that it means, is that I have met God and God chose me to speak.You also wrote, “I could go on posting verses like that for weeks without running out of material. The God of the bible is a disgusting, bloody-minded petty tyrant.”You have never met God, how would you know?One thing that I would like to say: Since God gave us free will, even God had to make it safe enough, by the obedience of a few, for Him to become One of us and live long enough to do what He came here to do.You could also post many things that people have done since the time of Jesus, supposedly in His Name, that are to put it mildly, not very nice, could you not?You also wrote, “I would be beyond horrified if I thought for a moment that he was anything more than a fictional chracter.”I suppose you will not only one day be “beyond horrified”, as you put it, to not only think it but you will know that God is Real. You will also one day realize that God is not the “disgusting, bloody-minded petty tyrant” that you think He Is but really is a Being Of Pure Love.If this life was the totality of our existence, which you seem to think that it is, I can see how you could view it the way that you do but this life is not the totality of our life and this life is also very temporary.I repeat: God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof and that it is important what one does and why one does it and what one knows.I also repeat: God has had His Plan since before creation and His Plan will come to Fruition.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    PAMSM You wrote in reply to Spiderman2, “What I do blame, is people like you who actually think all this is real and consider it a good guide to morality.”I would like to make a comment concerning this, it seems that a lot of people think that the bible is suppose to be a “good guide to morality”, if people would actually let some of the things sink into their hearts, it could be, but it is more, much more than that.Even the people that look to Jesus, as One Who spoke highly commendable ways to treat others, miss the point, for one thing because some of the things that Jesus spoke of would be absolutely crazy if taken the wrong way and if Jesus were not God-Incarnate.You also wrote, “No wonder we’ve made such a mess of the world!”Some people blame God because He gave us free will, some people say if there is a God that it is His fault, I suppose for the same reason, God giving us free will.Some people blame others, some take personal responsibility for their actions.I agree that the world is a mess, I cannot see how anyone could see it differently if they look beyond themself.All one can do is live one’s own life, of course there are plenty that want to tell others how to live.I am thankful that God has a Plan and that His Plan will come to Fruition.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Counterww

    Pam,You missed the point of 2 Thes 2:11—(of course you did, you don’t believe)- Paul is speaking of people like you YOU- who will believe in a man to help the world out of its calamity and who reject the truth of the gospel of Christ. If you are so NOT believing in God, why do you bother do read it?

  • Pamsm

    ME: Have you been reading any of the verses that I’ve been posting? How can you call any of that “caring?” Or “just?” Or “merciful?”THOMASBAUM: “First off, even tho I am a messenger, that does not mean that I know what everything in the bible means or how it all fits together, as I have said, I am a messenger, I am not God.”That’s a cop-out, Thomas. After reading those passages (and many more like them) how could you want to be a messenger for such a being? How can you square saying that he’s a being of “pure love” with those passages?TB: “You also wrote, ‘I could go on posting verses like that for weeks without running out of material. The God of the bible is a disgusting, bloody-minded petty tyrant.'”You have never met God, how would you know?”I’ve read the book that he supposedly inspired. The WORD of God. I have the inborn sense of justice that is the gift of my evolutionary ancestors, and it tells me that the acts of God as told in the bible are reprehensible, revolting, and as far from “moral” as I can imagine anything being.TB: “One thing that I would like to say: Since God gave us free will, even God had to make it safe enough, by the obedience of a few, for Him to become One of us and live long enough to do what He came here to do.”Oh c’mon, Thomas. He’s as safe as he wants to be – he’s the magic man. As for free will, I submit to you that to the extent to which God is omniscient – knowing everything, past, present, and future – neither we, nor he, himself, could possibly have “free will.” You can’t have it both ways.TB: “You could also post many things that people have done since the time of Jesus, supposedly in His Name, that are to put it mildly, not very nice, could you not?”Of course. But we’re “mere mortals,” right? How does that excuse God?

  • frederic2

    Just as a mental experiment:Let’s imagine, the world was created by a holy mouse. The earth, the stars, the galaxies, the bible, us humans – all created by the holy mouse, and everybody is convinced of this truth.From there on upward it is impossible to posit a single thing or a single event in nature or in anybody’s life that was not created by the holy mouse. The mouse even had enough humor to create spiderman2.The holy mouse, once accepted as truth, of course can punish or reward you according to the whim of the priests of the holy mouse, or of the presidents of the United States who talked to the holy mouse.Now, if you don’t like mice, you can create your own religion by substituting the mouse with your favorite pet, maybe a holy python, or a holy locust or any other holy animal.Once you believe, everything, that means EVERYTHING can be attributed to god, mouse, python, locust – choose your favorite.Thanks for joining the mental experiment.

  • Pamsm

    ThomasBaum says:Yeah, and some are pretty bad no matter who he was. Check out Jesus’s words in Luke 12:47-48:“And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. Is beating slaves your idea of a “highly commendable way to treat others”?

  • Pamsm

    Counterww says:”You missed the point of 2 Thes 2:11—(of course you did, you don’t believe)- Paul is speaking of people like you YOU- who will believe in a man to help the world out of its calamity and who reject the truth of the gospel of Christ. It’s as plain as the nose on your face and you don’t get it!”Calm down. That one was my little joke, admittedly taken completely out of context, just because it so accurately describes what has happened to believers. But as it was meant, how is it admirable for God to deceive *anyone*? Is that a good trait for one that is supposed to set the absolute standard for morality?COUNTERWW: “If you are so NOT believing in God, why do you bother do read it?”Because I believe in education. Because I want to know what goes on in the heads of people like you. Because I don’t, like many believers, think it’s right to read only that which reinforces my own way of viewing things.I also read op-eds by both ends of the political spectrum and everything in between. I don’t see how anyone can make an enlightened choice otherwise.I can be convinced to change my mind if I find something more compelling than what I have previously seen. The bible didn’t do that.

  • Chops2

    AnotherContrarian:”the Bible is a very blunt record of the interaction of God and man and the acts people did should not always be considered as being what God condones or wills”The bible is a human document written by humans, no more no less. That is reality. Believe what u will.So who decides what god condones or wills? The reader? The sect of christianity? A bit of a cop out isn’t it for an all knowing all controlling creator to condone the good parts and blame others for barbaric acts done in his name?

  • stadtbear

    spidermean2 wrote:>Anyone who understands the Bible think that this statement (endorsed I think by Catholicism) is blasphemous.I apologize for calling you a fool, stupid and a liar.You are all of these things, of course, and every pathetic sentence you write merely adds to the mountain of evidence.However, I have always tried to avoid stating the obvious, and I am sorry that I have broken that habit.

  • cornbread_r2

    Thomas Baum wrote: “First off, even tho I am a messenger, that does not mean that I know what everything in the bible means or how it all fits together, as I have said, I am a messenger, I am not God.At least one of the things that it means, is that I have met God and God chose me to speak.”For someone supposedly personally selected by god to deliver a message, you don’t seem to have any more answers to any of this than I do. Srsly Mr. Baum, if you want to keep making that claim, sooner or later you’re going to have to back it up with something substantive or be written off as a crackpot. As it stands, god’s making you look like nothing more than a more literate version of Spidermean2.

  • bevjims1

    MGT2 wrote: “What is taboo in one culture may be perfectly normal in another culture. Serious bible scholars and academics will confirm this, especially when it comes to text criticism and the influence of customs and culture on the style and idiomatic expressions of the biblical scribes.”You don’t get it. If the words in the bible are not God’s but man’s written in the venacular, then the bible is just a series of stories, written within the customs of their times, and is not the true word of God. How could someone claim to hear God’s words, write them down in such detail, like God’s laws concerning slavery? Did they not hear from God that slavery was immoral? Evidently not. They heard about a lot of immoral things from God, but slavery was not only moral, it was expected and encouraged according to the scibes. Just how did they get that part wrong? God gave instructions on how to take women and children of those they conquered into slavery. Did the scibes hear the slavery was immoral but wrote detail laws about how to take slaves?So, either God said slavery was moral and justified or He did not. So you have two choices. God approves of slavery or the bible that gives God’s laws, including laws for slavery, is not God’s word, but man’s. In which case the bible becomes a book like Aesop’s fables.Which is it?

  • bevjims1

    spidermean2 wrote: “The Bible is a book of good instructions. It also says that fools despise instructions.”Have you followed the instructions on slavery? If your neighbor had a slave and took care of that slave according to biblical instruction, would you be okay with that or would you call a cop? Why does God not only approve of slavery but insist upon it? spidermean2 wrote: “What can we conclude from that? It means that its the fools who will hate the Bible. Be careful of these peole coz they are dangerous.”The please explain Exodus 21, God’s instructions for slavery, and why he simply does not say “thou shalt no hald a slave”. spidermean2 wrote: “Communist countries burned the Bible first before they imprisoned their people later and refused them to go abroad. I can site many other examples.”This only proves that communism was totalitarian and anti religion. They burned Korans too. What do you make of that?

  • CCNL

    (1) Luke 12:47-48, according to many contemporary historic Jesus exegetes, was not said by Jesus but again was another embellishment made by one of the authors of the NT to raise the status of this simple preacher man to a state above the peasant/slave class. Luke 12:47-48″/12:47/ That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. /12:48/ But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” Single attestation i.e. only appears once in the NT and was added late i.e. 80-120 AD e.g. Bottom line: Blame Luke for the pro-slavery treatment in the NT not the simple preacher man.

  • stadtbear

    I think my biblical favorite is Psalm 137, verses 8-9:If it is true that there is a god, and that he is omnipotent and omniscient, and yet declines to protect children from starvation, Jews from the ovens, ad infinitum, then I consider him to be the worst of all criminals.

  • Counterww

    pamActually I do the same- I read other op eds and scan some atheist’s op ed or opinions. It only reinforces my faith. I made my choice a long time ago. Jesus is the truth, and he is the only way for mankind to know peace. God brings delusion to people that already have rejected Him.It is more letting people choose what they want, and in totality it comes down to losing selfish desires to see that truth of the gospel.

  • Pamsm

    Counterww says:”It is more letting people choose what they want, and in totality it comes down to losing selfish desires to see that truth of the gospel.”I didn’t “choose” to become an atheist because I have “selfish desires” and don’t want to be constrained by God, although I know this is how believers are taught to see us. I am an atheist because I *can’t* choose what to believe – I have to believe that which makes the most sense and has the most evidence to support it. Could you *choose* to believe that the grass is purple, or that 2+5=14?I notice that you said you “scan” *some* atheist opinions, which doesn’t imply a very full and fair reading. I think many, if not most, believers tend to eschew anything that calls their beliefs into question.I don’t know what flavor of believer you are – old Earth, young Earth, literal bible, allegorical bible – but read this – you might find it interesting:

  • christinelynnlilauth

    Wow, your article really hit home. I will have to read the “Good Book”. I pray all the time but have been lazy when it comes to going to church regularly. ” I wrote a book for all the children of this world titled Bella’s Marigold Cake. Will you please help me in passing them around the world! I would greatly appreciate your generous support for it shall offer encouragement to developing minds, which will help all of us, it’s our future! You can purchase a copy of my book by going to my author website at: http://www.eloquentbooks.com/BellasMarigoldCake.html It is also available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, plus many other online bookstores. ISBN: 978-1-60693-100-4 ISBN / SKU: 1-60693-100-8

  • ThomasBaum

    PAMSMYou wrote, “That’s a cop-out, Thomas. After reading those passages (and many more like them) how could you want to be a messenger for such a being? How can you square saying that he’s a being of “pure love” with those passages?”Like I said, I met God and I know that God is a Being of Pure Love. You have apparently never met God so you do not know anything about Him.You wrote, ” I have the inborn sense of justice that is the gift of my evolutionary ancestors,”It anyone would look at the 20th century or for that matter any of the history of mankind including the present, do you consider that man has treated his fellow man with “the inborn sense of justice” as you put it?You also wrote, “Oh c’mon, Thomas. He’s as safe as he wants to be – he’s the magic man.”First off, He is not “the magic man” and second, I am talking about when God became One of us.Then you wrote, “As for free will, I submit to you that to the extent to which God is omniscient – knowing everything, past, present, and future – neither we, nor he, himself, could possibly have “free will.” You can’t have it both ways.”God does have a Plan and His Plan will come to Fruition. We do have free will whether you think so or not. Do you think that you are a robot or a puppet on a string or something of the kind? Do you think that you have no say at all in your life and that you are just controlled by your biological and chemical and electrical and whatever else makeup? Do you make any decisions? We have free will and what we do with it, is up to us.I wrote and your reply, “”You could also post many things that people have done since the time of Jesus, supposedly in His Name, that are to put it mildly, not very nice, could you not?”Of course. But we’re “mere mortals,” right? How does that excuse God?”If you know absolutely everything and the reasons for everything and how it all fits together, which I don’t, then maybe you would think differently.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    CORNBREAD_R2You wrote, “For someone supposedly personally selected by god to deliver a message, you don’t seem to have any more answers to any of this than I do. Srsly Mr. Baum, if you want to keep making that claim, sooner or later you’re going to have to back it up with something substantive or be written off as a crackpot. As it stands, god’s making you look like nothing more than a more literate version of Spidermean2.I am not here to give answers, I am here to proclaim the “Good News”, which is God wins, satan loses, a tie is unacceptable, the captives shall be released and the dead shall rise.I don’t have to “back it up with something substantive”, my “job” is to speak, one day God will let you and the rest of the world know whether I chose me or God chose me.God’s Plan which He has had since before creation and which is unfolding before our very eyes will come to Fruition.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • stadtbear

    christinelynnlilauth>I wrote a book for all the children of this world titled Bella’s Marigold Cake. Will you please help me in passing them around the world!”Pass them around”? You are doing this for free? You are not making a royalty percopy? How much will it cost per copy to “pass them around”.Your self-serving “comments” in response to the article under discussion are truly pathetic. Get a life!

  • Pamsm

    TB: “Like I said, I met God and I know that God is a Being of Pure Love. You have apparently never met God so you do not know anything about Him.”That’s not what I asked you. No, I’ve never met him, and neither have you. It’s mighty odd that your meeting (at a moment of physical and emotional stress) just *happened* to confirm the exact God of the Catholicism you’d been steeped in all of your life.What I asked was how you square this “pure love” concept with all the horrible, bloody, reprehensible things that God does and says in the bible. Even if you are “just the messenger”, you must have to reconcile these things in your own mind. How do you do that?TB: “It anyone would look at the 20th century or for that matter any of the history of mankind including the present, do you consider that man has treated his fellow man with “the inborn sense of justice” as you put it?”Much of the time, yes. The atrocities are newsworthy because they are not the norm. We evolved to live cooperatively within a family or tribe. Our cooperative instincts go out the window if we can be made to see some persons or groups as alien. Military training is a prime example of this. Why do you think the enemy is always referred to as “kraut,” “jap,” “gook,” “slope,” and the like?TB: “First off, He is not ‘the magic man’ and second, I am talking about when God became One of us.”He was still magic. Loaves and fishes? Walking on water? Lazarus?TB: “We do have free will whether you think so or not. Of course we have free will. And because we do, God cannot be omniscient. You can’t know a future that can be changed at any moment by a person changing his mind.Aaah, the old “Big Picture” dodge. Yeah, that’s it. That’s the ticket. If I could just see it all, I’d know why a being of “pure love” can act like such a cruel, bloodthirsty SOB.

  • ThomasBaum

    CORNBREAD_R2You wrote, “Being questioned by skeptics is a risk you take when you move your pulpit onto the intertubes. If I claimed that god told me last night that Thomas Paul Moses Baum was full of beans, would you believe me? Do you see how some people out here in the virtual pews might think that you are, indeed, full of beans?”I see and have seen exactly what you are saying about the “full of beans” thing. I am glad and thankful that I do not have to believe that I have been chosen by God.As I have said before, I cherish my Catholic Faith but in some of the “Catholic” bible studies that I go to there have been some who do not even consider me “Catholic” because of some of what I say.I have said many places that some people get so caught up in “dogma”, “ritual”, “rules” and other things of the sort that some of them squeeze God right out of it.I have said numerous times on here and in person that God wins, and then some say, of course, and then I say, those in hell get out, and then some say, no, so as you see for some a win is if they go to the “good place” not that everyone will be in the Kingdom, what a crock this is, I refer to it as the “good enough news”, actually it is horrible news.If God’s Plan is not for everyone, then God’s Plan is not worth didly.I, probably, hear more flack from “believers” than “non-believers” and I tell you and anyone else that happens to see this, there are some “non-believers” that are getting into the Kingdom quicker than some “believers”.Of course, this is not the first time I have said or written this.It doesn’t matter if people believe me or not and for that matter it doesn’t even matter if people believe in God or not, considering that “Faith is a gift, that no one should boast”, what does one do with that “Faith”?Two of the things that I have said before, God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof and it is important what one does and why one does it and what one knows.Thanks for asking.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    PAMSMYou wrote, “That’s not what I asked you. No, I’ve never met him, and neither have you. It’s mighty odd that your meeting (at a moment of physical and emotional stress) just *happened* to confirm the exact God of the Catholicism you’d been steeped in all of your life.”First off, you said that I never met God, you don’t know one way or the other.Second, why would you say that it was “at a moment of physical and emotional stress”?Third, I don’t know what you know about “Catholicism” but there are plenty of “Catholics” that do not consider me a “Catholic” at all for some of the things that I say.Then you wrote, “Much of the time, yes. The atrocities are newsworthy because they are not the norm”, it is not just the “atrocities”, look at everyday reality. Have you ever heard of “common courtesy”, how common is it?Listen and think of some of the phrases that are every day expressions: Rat race, going out to make a killing rather than make a living, dog eat dog world, yes there is plenty of good in this world but to think that man’s “nature” has evolved seems not to line up with reality.Then you wrote, “Of course we have free will. And because we do, God cannot be omniscient. You can’t know a future that can be changed at any moment by a person changing his mind”Just because God knows what we will do, does not mean that He controls us. You seem to have a very small view of God, even tho you do not believe that He is Real and it is not a lot different than some of those that believe in God.God knew that I would say Yes and He knew when it was time for me to meet the Trinity and also to meet satan.God’s Plan will come to Fruition.Then you wrote, “Aaah, the old “Big Picture” dodge.”Call it what you will, but I definitely do not know all of the details.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Pamsm

    TB: “First off, you said that I never met God, you don’t know one way or the other.”I think the likelihood that such a being exists is so vanishingly small that this could not possibly be true.TB: “Second, why would you say that it was ‘at a moment of physical and emotional stress’?”You told us this in another thread.TB: “Third, I don’t know what you know about ‘Catholicism’ but there are plenty of ‘Catholics’ that do not consider me a ‘Catholic’ at all for some of the things that I say.”This may be true, but you were raised in the faith, and that stuff sticks in the brain. It’s the Catholic idea of the trinity that you claim to have met.”Have you ever heard of ‘common courtesy’, how common is it?”This may surprise you, but actually I find most people to be quite courteous – some even go out of their way. I’ve never been stranded when in trouble. Once when my car broke down (bad alternator) someone stopped and gave me a ride, even though I had two very large dogs with me, and he was in a big hurry to make curfew at his school dorm. I could relate many such instances – along with everyday courtesies such as doors held open.There are some rude and discourteous people – especially on the road, where you’re just a car and not a face; but on the whole, it’s good.TB: “Listen and think of some of the phrases that are every day expressions: Rat race, going out to make a killing rather than make a living, dog eat dog world…”I think those were mostly coined as humor. Black humor, maybe, but humor.TB: “Just because God knows what we will do, does not mean that He controls us.”You miss the point. He *can’t* know what we will do if we have free will. The two are mutually exclusive.Thomas, I usually try to avoid arguing with you because I perceive you as sincere and without malice. But you’re being as slippery as any megachurch televangelist or tent revival faith healer in this exchange. This is the second time that you’ve conveniently forgotten to answer the question: How do you reconcile – for yourself – this “love” with all the bloody deeds of the bible God?