Thursday, June 21, 2012

Paul's Head Coverings (1 Cor 11) and Baptism of the Dead

I'll be coming up with a post about the Ancient Christian practice of head veiling soon. Paul, according to Mormons, commanded baptism for the dead 1 Corinthians. While his one-verse acknowledgement of the practice is taken as proof that it was taught by the Apostles, meaning the LDS church can maintain its stance as a Restoration of the church before its apostasy, an entire commandment by Paul is ignored about women wearing a head veiling during prayer. What happened to restoring the ancient practices of pre-apostasized Christianity?

Paul said of the commandment: "But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God." (1 Cor 11:16, NASB)

For what, today, seems to be a commandment rejected as born from a culture that's no longer around, we're left begging the question: if a commandment that was this serious in Paul's writings can be thrown out for pertaining only to a culture from long ago, or that Paul was mistaken due to cultural norms that no one follows anymore, what else in his writings were born from cultural norms alone? Should we toss out other commandments that were born from the mistaken assumptions of a culture?

If head veiling was a widely and officially accepted practice among the Ancient Christian church, but baptism of the dead--which deals with salvation of the dead and not just culturally-driven modesty--didn't make it, then what does that say of the claim that the Apostles actually taught baptism of the dead to the ancient christian church?

More on this later, when time allows. First, a repository for useful information:

FAIR on Restoration:
Thus, the Latter-day Saints claim their church is an actual restoration of primitive Christianity, as it existed under the Apostles in the first century A.D.

...what if we find that the doctrines Joseph Smith restored were, indeed, legitimate early Christian beliefs and practices from the first two or three centuries after Christ? If Joseph Smith taught doctrines that are in harmony with those of the early church but which were essentially unknown in his time, the skeptic must provide an explanation for the phenomenon. We shall see that the Prophet did restore legitimate early Christian doctrines, many of which can be shown to have preceded the present doctrines of the mainline Christian denominations–and he did so in the absence of much of the primary data available today. How could this have happened? If Joseph Smith’s explanation does not suffice, some other explanation must be put forth.

(Later, in the Conclusions page of the Restoration series from FAIR)
Had Joseph Smith created a church which differed from the other churches of his day and which had no relation to what we now know of the primitive church, his claim to be a restorer would be blatantly fraudulent, but since support for his teachings and ideas is so abundant from early documents, not in a general way, but in numerous specifics, one has to conclude that there was some source other than his own imagination for these striking parallels.

Early church father quotes:

"Most Christians in Corinth, regardless of their background, would have had similar feelings about the hair and veiling of women. Long hair was an expected sign of femininity, and covering it could be a sign of modesty and reverence, while cutting it was a sign of disgrace."

Cited from Eric Huntsman:
Eric D. Huntsman, “‘The Wisdom of Men’: Greek Philosophy, Corinthian Behavior, and the Teachings of Paul,” Shedding Light on the New Testament: Acts–Revelation, ed. Ray L. Huntington, Frank F. Judd Jr., and David M. Whitchurch (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009), 67–97.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jesus the Homosexual and How Apologists Use Different Translations of a Word to Support their Beliefs

You know how apologists will search for different translations of a word in the Bible? One that, in particular, would support their belief system?

This technique can also be used to show that Jesus was gay. In a surprising article from Debunking Christianity, Jesus the Homosexual:

However, the Greek social culture does not stop with Greek philosophical terms, but as in Greek society, the author of the Fourth Gospels has the older Jesus take a younger lover or what was well know and common in Greek culture as Pederasty (the courting by an older male of a younger male entering puberty until his late teens). While Jesus enjoys a close relationship with twelve men, the Fourth Gospel lets the reader know that Jesus has indeed chosen a young lover τὸν μαθητὴν ὃν ἠγάπα ὁ Ἰησοῦς (the disciple Jesus loved (ἠγάπα = Imperfect, indicative, Active, 3 singular) who is said to lie (ἀνέπεσεν) on top of Jesus’ body (κόλπῳ) at the Passover Supper.

[A note on English translations: To tone down the erotic nature, English translations tend to paraphrase John 13: 23: “the disciple, whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.” (New International Version); “The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table.” (New Living Translation); “One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table close to Jesus,” (English Standard Version) and even the King James Version, “Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.” But either these versions paraphrase the Greek with a totally new inoffensive non-erotic meaning or – like the King James Version - gives the impression this disciple was simply resting his head on a 45 degree reclining chest of Jesus.

[Note on ἠγάπα (Agape Love): Though Christians claim that agape is used only as spiritual or divine love, this claim cannot be supported in the Bible or more in precisely the LXX (Septuagint). In the story of The Rape of Tamar by her brother Amnon in 2 Samuel 13, we are told in 13: 1 that “… καὶ ἠγάπησεν αὐτὴν αμνων υἱὸς δαυιδ.” and Amnon the son of David loved (agaped) her. Here agape as used for the love of lust which would finally lead to rape. Thus, likewise, Jesus’ love for this one special disciple could just as well be one of sexual lust.]

[Note on κόλπῳ (torso): The English translation of just where the beloved disciple was lying on Jesus’ body is highly paraphrased from this disciple simply reclining next to Jesus to lying on Jesus’ breast. However, the Oxford Classical Dictionary of Liddle, Scott, and Jones gives the first definition of κόλπος either as bosom or lap. The second definition places κόλπος in the genital area between the legs as in the vigina area in women. In the LXX, it can be used for a position of sex intercourse (Genesis 16: 4).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Religious belief and the story of Fred

As a Christian, I'd think of how loving God was on a personal level with me. I'd say or think how great God was for giving me such a beautiful day, great friends, etc. I associated all my "blessings" to Him. And I did so completely without reason.

Imagine I propped up a friend of mine, I'll call him Fred. Fred is an overall great person, I think--highly intelligent, very compassionate, became a multi-millionaire by following in his Dad's high-dollar successful footsteps. But I owed Fred a huge financial debt. He lent me money to start a business of my own, and I just knew it would be successful some day. I'd become educated at a decent business program and etc.

But after two years, the cash wasn't coming in as quickly as I'd hoped it would. The debt was racking up big time. Fred knew it, too. And my deadline for repaying my loan was a month from now. The situation was horribly grim--my financial well-being was entirely on the line, let alone my family's.

The month passes, and I've made only marginal improvement. Not enough to prevent my business from defaulting on this loan by a long shot.

Fred, observing the hopeless situation from above, comes up with a plan. He buys my business and takes on all my debt (yes, I'm great at being subtle. Bear with me).

Fred is an incredibly, generously wonderful person, and it becomes clear to me that I owe my life to him. In return, he says, I need to live a financially respectable life by not borrowing more than I could return. He tells me exactly how to do just that. What a teacher, giving me the "secrets" to financial well-being. I go on living life in an abundance of wealth, happily knowing that even my grand children will have college paid for. All because Fred saved me from crushing debt and then taught me how to avoid getting into debt ever again.

Who could disagree that Fred is just a completely great person? He lifted me up when I was weak, he took on my debt--likely at the sacrifice of some asset of his, and he even taught me how to achieve financial well-being. What a man he is to pass down the lessons he learned from his own father to us!

We all know the story isn't true. I don't have financial debt like this. I completely made up the part where I was in debt. But if I was the speaker at a conference and told this story like it was true, the people would hold Fred in really high esteem. They'd probably want to know more about what this financial genius thought good money management was. Perhaps they'd see some improvement in their own financial lives and think "Oh wow, that advice actually works! Fred is so great, I hope he writes a new book soon" and so on. I'd hold seminars that'd make me rich--just so I could donate the money to charity, right? Gotta spread the good news so people are better off themselves.

This is completely analogous to God and sin. However, whereas money and financial debt convey value for the use of exchange, sin is just a mental construct. We assign sins value, but how?

Take a look at Islam. Their equivalent of the Standard Works says that it's a sin to associate anything with Allah (like drawing pictures of Mohammad).

It's obvious to anyone outside Islam that this sin is entirely false according to our own religious realities.

That sin's value was man-made.

What makes Islam's sins any different from Christianity, Judaism, or, in particular, Mormonism?

Why is your religion's definition of sin from God, but not Islam's?

Fred is an authority in finance to the people of my hypothetical conference. And I'll find you a real-world example if you think the story doesn't portray human nature at all. But Fred doesn't exist. Being well-off financially takes sacrifice and not spending more than you own. This is a timeless principle, and anyone could say some legendary Fred guy saved them from debt and taught them how to be wealthy; only to provide advice associated with him that really just came from me.

Why should you believe me when I say those financial principles are from Fred? And when you come up for reasons why not, then how do those answers relate to God?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Is the Mormon church heading towards apostasy?

A post by a Mormon thoroughly details how the Mormon church is following in the footsteps of early Christianity's eventual apostasy. He does so to instill a sense of urgency in changing the direction things are going in: one that includes a change in scripture, a self-corruption that attempts to make the church seem normal to the world, a disgusting amount of money not spent on the poor (and goes instead, of course, to the shopping malls and grand temples), a complete lack of revelation (you're challenged to find a revelation from post-late-1800's), and so on. He did a great job on the post, though, so don't think that summary did the work proper justice!

Another blog posts an article from Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought about a kid who unwittingly reveals the same pattern while conversing with his dad about something he heard from his Primary teacher(read it here). Here's a fun sample of it:
“What do you mean ‘proud,’ Daddy?” 
“Well, [the "evil" people in a story from the BoM] would talk about how they were ‘a chosen and holy people.’” 
“My Primary teach said Mormons are the chosen people and we’re a special generation.” 
“Yes, honey, but that’s different.” 
“Because we are.” 
Of course, to me it seems inevitable that the church would decline. It's run by people who, I believe, don't have supernatural anything. And these people, like everyone else, can become corrupted by other people's interests, by groupthink, by mob mentality, and on and on. Of course the church had to reverse its position on blacks not getting the priesthood, and why was that a practice in the first place? Why were the Hoffman forgeries not found out before the apologist themselves started defending them? From what I remember, it was the most infamous "anti-Mormon" duo in recent times that revealed the truth! They didn't even have the Spirit to help guide their actions (or did they?).

The church allowed the Nazis their genealogy records to help determine who was Aryan or part Jewish (terribly useful moment of revelation) (also, a starting place for personal research)

It put a lot of money and organizational effort into going against Proposition 8, which failed (and backfired).

There has been a large decrease in the number of active Mormons, and people still wonder why?

I'm glad to see posts from Mormons who can see what's happening in the church and voice a criticism while seeing that criticism can, in fact, be useful and necessary.

But it's obvious to everyone else what's going on here and in the religious world as a whole: nothing is adding up.

Churches are presenting to their members the Truth they should believe--associating the belief and following of this Truth to the almighty supernatural; to this all-knowing and all-powerful, father-creator figure that blesses us accordingly. And everything is beautiful about it.

 People say they get job offers because they converted to a new religion. They were blessed financially because they tithed to God's Church. They found their wonderful spouse because God guided them to each other after joining His church.

And everyone who leaves or criticizes this beautiful interaction is lost, hopeless, and probably led astray by the Devil.

Meanwhile, big things have happened in my life after I stopped praying about them. I've found social circles that will stand the test of time. I've found that my blessings aren't so much a supernatural occurrence, but a by-product of self-confidence, a strong personal identity, and living in a goddamn first world country.

"Life is good", I said as a straight white male born into an upper-middle class family located in the Bible belt.

Riiiiight. Wonder why.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Einstein on Religion

Einstein has some pretty set views against religion. Here's a strong quote for the next time someone brings up how Einstein makes references to God, or if you just want to relate to a pretty legendary person in history:

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. ... For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong ... have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Book of Abraham takes a massive hit from scholarship

“Except for those willfully blind,” writes Professor Ritner of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, “the case is closed.” (read full article here).

Finally, a highly credible scholar of Egyptology wrote a book about the Book of Abraham and the papyri: The Joseph Smith Papyri: A Complete Edition. He even provides the various translations to Egyptian writings on top of his own original ones!

Before you form an unsolicited opinion of him, just check out the first link you find when you Google his name--Robert Ritner. In fact, here's the summary you'll read:

Robert K. Ritner is currently Professor of Egyptology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and was from 1991-1996 the first Marilyn M. Simpson Assistant Professor of Egyptology at Yale University. Dr. Ritner specializes in Roman, Hellenistic, Late and Third Intermediate Period (Libyan and Nubian) Egypt and is the author of the book The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, and over 100 publications on Egyptian religion, magic, medicine, language and literature, as well as social and political history. He has lectured extensively on each of these topics throughout the United States, Europe and Egypt. In association with The Field Museum of Chicago, Dr. Ritner was the academic advisor to two recent British Museum exhibits “Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth,” and “Eternal Egypt,” and he has served as consultant and lecturer for the travelling Cairo Museum exhibit “Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt.”

This book might just throw it in the bag for one of the most damning bits of evidence against Mormonism.

Someone should buy it for $80.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gut feelings, the basal ganglia, and Daniel Goleman's latest Emotional Intelligence research

Guess what the Mormons got right?

Well, half right (disclaimer: not sure on the other half). In Daniel Goleman's latest book, "The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights", he said something so interesting that I decided to come out of my cave (i.e., living a really social life) and write a blog post:

Lower in the brain, below the limbic areas, lies a neural network called the basal ganglia. This is a very primitive part of the brain, but it does something extraordinarily important for navigating the modern world.

as we go through every situation in life, the basal ganglia extracts decision rules: when I did that, that worked well; when I said this, it bombed, and so on. Our accumulated life wisdom is stored in this primitive circuitry. However, when we face a decision, it's our verbal cortex that generates our thoughts about it. But to more fully access our life experiences on the matter at hand, we need to access further inputs from that subcortical circuitry [where our basal ganglia lies]. While the basal ganglia may have some connection to the verbal areas, it turns out to have very rich connections to our gastrointestinal tract--the gut. So in making [a] decision, a gut sense of it being right or wrong is important information, too."

Turns out, all of our decisions have an emotional component to them. Earlier in his book, he mentions a study done in which a highly successful and intelligent lawyer had to undergo brain surgery to get a tumor removed. This surgery marked a turning point in his life: he went on to lose his career, his marriage, and move in with a family member. However, he was just as intelligent as he once was.

Turns out, during the surgery, a certain part of the connective tissue in the brain was cut in order to reach the tumor. He can't attach feelings to decisions, so he was unable to determine simple things such as what time would be best to make the next appointment for his study.

CHRIST!! Why is our decision making and personality so tied into our biology? One more point for free will being an illusion :/

Anyways, I encourage you to download the ebook or print version of this book. Great stuff, as you can tell.