Monday, February 28, 2011

Debating the Idiots, Part 5

Next up we had spin’s attempt to answer the point that there’s nothing about Josephus’ style as a patchwork writer that made the “out of context” charge against the Testimonium valid. Not much to say here; spin just repeated the standard arguments, which I pointed out had been dismissed by Josephan experts. He had nothing to say in reply but yell, “Appeal to authority!” – which, when the authorities really ARE authorities on the subject, amounts to waving a white flag.

After this – my comments are done overall; John Loftus steps in to defend his comments, which were in a different topic than the existence of Jesus. He opted for the “Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet” scenario which preterism solves, though he still hasn’t got that. One amusing nutcase, frayam, said:

Have you read the book The Jesus Mysteries? Another theory has been presented for the origins of the cult figure Jesus. That is that the rise of Christianity began with Gnosticism, and Gnosticism has it's roots in Pagan traditions of a dying and resurrecting god -man. In Eygpt, his name was Osiris, in Greece Dionysis, in Asia Minor Attis, in Syria Adonis, in Italy Bacchus, in Persia Mithras. These are essentially the same figure as Jesus Christ, though told as myth.

Not even John had the stomach to reply to that one.

Replies to Zindler followed, and we see a place where spin responded to one of my reply comments to Zindler:

Paul tells us at the beginning of Galatians that he is an apostle neither from man nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the father... and taking up the idea in 1:11f he explains that his gospel was neither according to man or taught by man, but received by revelation of Jesus Christ. He is clear that his gospel of the crucified Christ was not something derived from his predecessors. He was chosen before birth and called through grace, when God revealed his Son to Paul.

Mr Holding doesn't seem to perceive the significance of this regarding Paul as a witness to Jesus. It is not merely that Paul wasn't a direct witness to Jesus, but that his knowledge of him came through a revelation, not from a source in this world. There is no indication in Galatians that the Jerusalem group, though apparently messianists, even knew anything about Jesus.

I don't think Tacitus ever claimed that he got his knowledge of Nero from a revelation.

Sorry, I do know this old canard – I handled it on Tekton ages before, in an essay that is now part of Trusting the New Testament, titled “Apparational Interpolations.” After this, an idiot “greg 6” appeal to the “silence in Paul” thesis, the same argument I refuted ages ago from Earl Doherty.

One last nut, Cherokee Fred Hussein, decided to interject this irrelevancy:

My main objection with followers of Christ is they see it as their duty to convert everyone. Also anyone that does not follow Christ is some type of lower than human not worthy of walking this earth. As in the crusades and today in the war on drugs an illegal war supported by the followers to enslave people that do not think as they do. The modern day crusades used to further their goals punish anyone that does not follow Christ.

I have lived my life by the golden rule and would pass through the gates of heaven with no problem more so than many organized religious zealots.

No, I have no idea what that has to do with Jesus existing either.

So ends the Idiot Parade. I guess I didn’t miss much the last two years.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Carpet Cleaner's Problem

I'm taking much of the day to do USDA work, so we have a guest post today from Tekton reader "Tophet" -- who has had as much fun with John Loftus as we've had.


Here is my problem," says John W. Loftus, the bankrupt carpet cleaner from Indiana.

Oh, what could it possibly be?

"The first time I went online in 2004 someone pointed me to TWeb."

Actually, Loftus posted in TheologyWeb on May 26, 2005, starting with a thread called "Is there such a thing as an Honest Doubter?" (Link below.) His first post was moderated for advertising his book.

In response to EvoUk, J.P. said,
May 26th 2005 11:30 AM:

DJ wrote me an email, what, about a week ago with the same basic info as his OP, also asking if I wanted to debate him. I said, "Until I know if we have something to debate about, I can't say, but I'm here on TWeb. How about a copy of your book?" He sez, "Buy it thus way" and I did.

To Loftus he said,
May 26th 2005 11:18 AM:

I see ya took up my invitation. Welcome aboard.

Today Loftus says, "I didn't know any better. So I went there."

Loftus didn't know any better? Here's what he told J.P. at the time,
June 1st 2005 10:49 AM:

Ed Babinski told me to watch out for you, after telling me to contact you. Then he shared some websites and after viewing them I was fearful you'd trash me. But so far you seem pleasant. I want a pleasant conversation or none at all, and so far you've treated me with respect. Thanks!

He added, I think you are understanding me, and that's all I guess that I can expect for now. So Loftus revealed Babinski told him to contact J.P. Why doesn't he admit this now?

J.P.'s response, June 1st 2005 12:07 PM:

Heh heh. Here's a "secret", DJ... I DO trash people who are a) dishonest or b) refuse to admit that they are in over their head.

So Loftus was given fair warning, both by J.P. and by Babinski.

Loftus then fished for an endorsement,
June 1st 2005 10:59 AM:

So, tell me in general terms what you think of my book. We can talk about specifics as you feel you may want to. But I'd first like to know before we get into any specifics what your general impression of my book is. That's a fair question, isn't it? What do you think of it?

Note that Loftus said, "We can talk about specifics as you feel you may want to."
J.P. responded, June 1st 2005 12:07 PM:

I think it's a story of an honest doubter, just like the title says....though the level of scholarship isn't up to standard (as you allow for) it serves well as an account of your journey. If I were writing a review for Library Journal, that's what I'd say....

June 1st 2005 01:52 PM --

That's it? Short review, isn't it, although that's the bare bones summation. Usually appraisals of works include a variety of words and phrases like: "interesting," "makes a fair case," "makes some very good points," "challenging," "very weak," or mildly strong," or even "crazy" depending on your evaluation. Don't be afraid of offending me. I'm really interested. And likewise, don't be afraid to compliment my book more than merely saying it "serves well as an account of your journey." You merely think it's better than other books that don't serve well as an account of the journey.

Note that Loftus said, "Don't be afraid of offending me."
Loftus bombarded the thread with extracts from his book, which J.P. addressed. Loftus observed, June 2nd 2005 01:34 PM:

The way you are going through my book is page by page, and you can do that. I think I had invited you to debate. I suppose what I really wanted was some kind of assessment of what I had done in my book by you. But my doubt is so deep today that if you want me to rehash all of the minutia you find in my book, then quite plainly, I never asked for that.

So much for "We can talk about specifics as you may want to."

Yes, John W. Loftus does have a problem.
It's called "honesty."

Link: Loftus comment

Link: TWeb thread

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Debating the Idiots, Part 4

Up next in order, we had spin’s commentary on Josephus. Since I had Christopher Price do the chapter on this for STCM, I referred readers there. As can be seen, spin didn’t care to engage that case, so there’s nothing to comment on.
JonC, who was a cut above some of the others, left a comment that I’d like to engage now that I have some more background to use:

Is it possible that Josephus' audience is just so familiar with Jesus that they have no need for explanatory details? I suppose. I don't find that to be plausible. If you do, I guess that's where our difference would lie.

It is plausible, actually, since under a high context scenario, in which authors presume a broadly shared base of knowledge in their readership, “no need for explanatory details” is precisely what we would have. I do happen to think knowledge of Jesus (and his career in general) was common knowledge, so that would indeed fit the scenario.

With regards to the odd nature of the orthodox Jews being upset about the death, note that Josephus says that Ananus brought charges against James as a breaker of the law. If he was a Christian and he's teaching the gospel then Ananus would probably be right to say he was a breaker of the law. Josephus says that the elders regarded this as unjust. Isn't that odd if James is a Christian?
What Josephus says is that the action was not justified – meaning, James was not enough of a threat to warrant enacting a kangaroo court, especially against Roman law. Nothing odd there.

You say the issue is they think Ananus didn't have the authority to act as he did, and this was the problem. I thought the Jews were kind of annoyed that they had to go through Rome to govern themselves, so I would think they would be slow to appeal to Rome if they thought the punishment was just. Again, this makes it odd.

The Jews may have been annoyed by this, but that was the way it was – and here, the appeal to Rome would be a wise butt-covering operation by those who didn’t want to be called down for what the high priest did. Again, nothing odd here.

This doesn't mean it's definitely interpolated. But it's not definitely original either. And again, with Christians running around modifying texts all over the place to suit there [sic]own agenda we're stuck being unsure, and hence we are unable to use this as a foundation stone for proof of the historical Jesus. Too bad, but what can you do?

What can you do? Deal in actual evidence and arguments, which is what Josephan scholars have done with the Testimonium. A vague, broad appeal to “Christians running around modifying texts all over the place” isn’t an argument.

I've read the Pearse article and I really don't think he deals with the issue, but if you need evidence that Christians had no qualms about modifying or inventing texts to further their own agenda, see the TF, the various spurious gospels, letters, and even the manuscripts of the canonical texts as Bart Ehrman has exhaustively shown. That's my main point here. I assume you don't dispute it.

As a matter of fact, I do dispute the application. But that’s another issue. I’ll only say that the case for “spurious” texts needs to exclude those done by heretics – and also not beg the question of spuriousness (eg, 2 Peter) or of intent to deceive (eg, the correspondence between Paul and Seneca).

To close for today, we return to spin’s final comments on the Josephus “out of context” charge – which merely amount to spin being unable to deal with the fact that his argument in this regard is not supported by those experts who have read, studied, and analyzed Josephus for a lifetime. He regards this as “argument from authority” – thereby misapplying that fallacy as many do. (See link.)

The Forge will have a guest post tomorrow – we’ll return Monday with more from OV.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Debating the Idiots, Part 3

So, now let’s see what else we find on the Christ myth from Opposing Views, since last time…we have a Christian nut, Stephenson Billings, who said:

I find it rather offensive to call Our Lord Savior Jesus Christ an "historical figure," as if he is simply some man who was around when important events happened some time ago. By framing your question in this way, you are disrespecting the Christian faith and all Christians , and definitely biasing the outcome of your poll . This is akin to asking, "Is Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation Worthless Because It Written On Cheap Paper?" Shame.

Yes, that it is. Just wanted to be sure ya’ll know we highlight nuts on both sides, by the way.

After this we come in order to spin’s first comment set (addressed in Part 1 of this series). Then we have a nut styled “RedDragon”: is total untrue that Tacitus is considered to be reliable. The passage you refer to is a forgery and there is little other evidence to support the claim that Nero persecuted Christians. To quote the editor of Eusebius's The History of the Church: "Up to the persecution under the Emperor Decius (250-51) there had been no persecution of Christians ordered by the Emperor on an imperial scale."

Um, did someone miss that last phrase? “Imperial scale”? Yes, they did – because all they did was take this straight out of Acharya S’ Christ Conspiracy. The Neronian persecution wasn’t “imperial” – it was local and isolated. No one says otherwise.

We’ll close the day’s business with what spin had to say about the procurator/prefect issue (remember, you’ll need to read the debate up to that point to follow this – link below).

Mr Holding cites his authorities for saying that Tacitus often uses "archaizing, rare, or obsolete vocabulary" and also "avoids, varies, or 'misuses' technical terms." Then he surreptitiously forgets that the vocabulary is described as "archaizing, rare, or obsolete", yet there is no thing "archaizing, rare, or obsolete" about the “standard administrative terminology”. He slyly omits the fact that Tacitus "avoids, varies, or 'misuses'" technical terms, which I gather we both categorized "procurator" and "prefect" as. He even seems oblivious my comment that "procurator" and "prefect" are both "*technical terms* well understood by Tacitus".

“Spin” is indeed a good name for this fellow. The whole point here has been that it was argued by Zindler and others that “procurator” was not used of Pilate in his time, so that Zindler is charging that Tacitus there used an “archaizing” word. My response was to show that since Tacitus was not reluctant to use archaisms, this is an invalid objection.

On the other hand, it was NOT an obsolete term in Tacitus’ own day. The contradiction spin tries to force does not exist because the reference is to two different time periods in which the status of “procurator” is alleged (by the argument of Zindler) to be different.

In terms of the other, spin is applying the broad categories of use and “avoids,” etc as though mutually exclusive, but Kraus and Woodman say that Tacitus does both – he sometimes uses, sometimes avoids, sometimes varies, and so on.
No one disagrees that Tacitus well understands these terms. The argument, however – based on Kraus and Woodman, and also supported by Carrier, for that matter – is that he has purposely used an improper term, knowing it doesn’t belong and yet having a purpose for using it that way.

After this, spin repeats himself for a couple of lines, and in a second entry, describes the above in terms of Tacitus using the term in a “lackadaisical” manner. That, too, is “spin” – the manner in which it is used is, rather, a clever one. He adds:

Of course it might be possible that Tacitus is using either "archaizing, rare, or obsolete vocabulary" or more "familiar" language, but not both, for they are mutually exclusive arguments.

Well, yes, they are – but there is nothing unusual about providing more than one possible answer. For my part, I find it a much stronger argument that “procurator” was never in disuse at all – that Pilate was indeed one, but that (as Carrier says) Tacitus chose the term as a sort of clever implication. If this is true, then of course the argument that Tacitus used “procurator” as a more familiar term is not true. I never said otherwise.

Back tomorrow for more.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Two Lousy Arguments Against Ridicule

We interrupt our look back at the Christ-myth debate for a check of two really goofy arguments against mocking opponents who are obviously beyond help and mainly out to eat sheep. I won't dignify the people who made these arguments by naming them -- partly because they're liable to get my keyboard wet with their tears if they find out anyone is making fun of them.

So what if mockery was used in the Bible? Leeches were used for medical purposes all through history.

This one wins the Ironic Ignorance Award, since leeches are making a comeback for specific medical purposes (link below). But no doubt the goofball who made this objection could simply find some other example.

Either way, the point remains the same: What was the purpose of mocking opponents? And is today’s insistence by some on “civil” dialogue under all circumstances a step in the right direction, or a wrong-headed concession to those who ravenously devour the flock? Since we have so many Biblical figures (including Jesus himself) who model this behavior for us, the argument that it is used in the Bible needs a lot more than a lame analogy to something like leeches to be defeated.

You can’t use Elijah mocking the prophets of Baal as an example, because he killed them all afterwards, and we sure wouldn’t want to imitate that!

As if this makes any other act of Elijah automatically non-imitatible? Not at all. In executing those priests, Elijah was enacting his role as broker of the state-enforced (theocratic) code. In contrast, the mockery was not specific to the theocracy, but to the functioning of public shame – just as it is used today.

OK – back to the Christ myth stuff tomorrow.

On leeches

Monday, February 21, 2011

Debating the Idiots, Part 2

Continuing our look at comments on Opposing Views since I left, we’ll now take a look at them from start to finish to see if there’s anything interesting or in need of response on the specific subject of Jesus existing. We’ll also note some of the oddball comments now and then…like this one from “Odd Duck”:

I believe it’s quite possible someone like Jesus walked the Earth or maybe it was actually someone named Jesus who was a man of great word and honor…..But that ”Virgin Birth” deal, that’s the one that really throws it ”Out of the Ball Park”, so to speak…...Give me a break…..Would this then mean that the ”Blessed Virgin Mary” is the FIRST female to encounter Artificial Insemenation? Just asking…..Organized Religion destroys everything…..It IS ”The Root of All Evil”.....Happy Holidays!!!

Um yeah. Whatever. There’s a lot of comments on top from people who apparently didn’t notice the topic was Jesus’ existence and took the chance to rant about other things. We don’t get anyone who does get to that topic until a guy named “Jim Harrison” says:

The only reasonable conclusion to this argument is that the state of the evidence precludes and will probably always preclude drawing any conclusions about whether there was a real man named Jesus who had something to do with the origin of Christianity. The historical Jesus is unrecoverable, and his mere existence is one of the many things we don't know and aren't going to find out.

The only reasonable conclusion, huh? Unfortunately, Jimmy never explains WHY this is the “ONLY” reasonable conclusion; he doesn’t lay out an epistemology for deciding if a person is historical or not; he doesn’t answer any of my arguments, not here or later (this was his only comment). So all we have here is a drive-by commenting that expresses a summary conclusion of what Jimmy wishes was true.

Suspending judgment on this issue is not much of a problem for nonbelievers interested in understanding Christianity as a historical phenomenon because, contrary to a well-nigh universal prejudice, knowing the origin of a tradition isn't very important—its the elaboration that creates the significance. The funny thing is, the question is also not particularly important for old-school believers either since establishing the historicity of Jesus is the least of their problems. The authenticity of a paragraph in Josephus isn't going to make the notion that a god-man died for our sins and rose from the dead more or less plausible to anyone who isn't already one of the faithful.

Well, that much is true. I do have to frequently beat people on the head to make them aware of how critical an issue this is; in one sense, we owe thanks to Zeitgeist for bringing the issue to the fore.

By the way, is anybody considering that there is a third possibility besides the existence or nonexistence of a historical Jesus? It seems perfectly plausible to me that there may have been two or more Jesuses who got melded together as the Jesus of the NT.

Uh HUH. It’d be funny except that’s what G. A. Wells has actually gone to these days. But no, no one with any serious credentials considers such a wacky idea. Why do there need to be “two or more”? Just one will fit the data just fine. Unfortunately, here again, Jimmy declines to explain any of his wacky theories in a way that makes them open to criticism. I can’t imagine why not.

After this, we have several more rant and rave messages that have nothing to do with the topic at hand; folks manage to insert such topics as American slavery, Paul revamping Christianity, atheists having psychological problems, etc etc. One nut recommends the ridiculous “Messiah Truth” website, which is more conspiracy theory than scholarship. Another nut tells Frank Zindler:

What a clear and convincing bit of writing you have put together for this ‘debate’. My hat’s off to you. I agree with your argument, that Jesus was not significant, historically.

Clear and convincing eh? Never mind that Zindler ran from the forum in flames with such monumental errors as still thinking Tacitus’ works could have been forged in the 15th century (in spite of mss from the 9th-11th century).

No, there’s no more arguments to address on the actual topic, from the top down, until we get to a guy named “chuckly74,” who writes:

Jesus most probably was just a myth, which has been blown out of proportion and made false tales into "truth".

Most of the gospels written about Jesus were written much later after he "died". One of the gospels, the gospel of Mark, mentions the destruction of the temple, which came about in the year 70 CE. Jesus is supposed to have died around the year 30 CE. There is at least a 40 year gap in the writing of the gospels and the life of Jesus. A 40 year memory gap might not neccessarily hold up as a valid interpretation of an actual event that happened, if such an event took place.

Um, right. We’ve been through this “dates of the Gospels” before, and the temple destruction prophecy doesn’t warrant a post-70 date. So, no call for that “40 year memory gap,” either, though in a society where information was transmitted in memorable formats, not even a 100 year gap would be that big a deal. Besides, writers like Tacitus report stuff from even longer periods than that. I mean, c’mon…these are stale canards, people.

Also, there are passages in scripture that make statements saying that Jesus was not a real person. In Hebrews 8:4, it says: "If Jesus had been on earth, he would not even have been a priest." The church ITSELF discounts the idea that Jesus was an actual human being.

I'm not sure what that tells you, but I'm pretty sure it means something.

Yes, it means someone’s been taking Earl Doherty too much at his word. We handled that one long ago at the link below.

We’ll check in again tomorrow with some more. Pretty dull, isn’t it? But don't worry, eventually we'll; get back to mr. spin again. At least he's somewhat interesting, even if not much brighter.

On Hebrews 8:4

Friday, February 18, 2011

Debating the Idiots, Part 1

A couple of years back I engaged in a debate with Frank Zindler on on the subject of the existence of Jesus. Zindler left fairly quickly, and I left shortly thereafter, though for reasons not apparent: For reasons still not clear to me, I was never able to post my answers directly on the site, and had to ask staff there to do it for me. Whether it was because of browser issues or something else was never determined, but I decided it was unfair to burden the staff there any further.

But anyway, now that I have the Forge to fill, I figure this will be a good place to check back on some of the comments that have been left over the past two years, and get back up to speed.

In particular, there was an opponent styled “spin” on there who made some particularly ridiculous arguments, and for our first entry in this series, let’s look at one of his treatments of Tacitus. You’ll need to follow the full debate from the start at the link below, going to the section indicated, to get the full context.

There is no pleasing Mr Holding. He refuses to consult the original text, preferring to rely on appeals to authority. When one supplies even one reference for him to read, specifically on the issue of how Tacitus indirectly develops his criticism of his subjects, Mr Holding denies the value of secondary sources. No, wait, that's not correct: he doesn't really mind appeals to secondary sources. He simply claims that I haven't read mine, so that he doesn't need to either. He has dug his hole of appeal to authority and now he is trying to claw his way out with a no-holds-barred "it's not me appealing to authority, it's you" argument, while finishing his argument with "not one such authority thinks that Tacitus did not author the full text of Annals 15.44". One cannot take this gormlessness seriously.

Indeed one cannot. Nothing spin offers here described anything I did at all. I consulted both text and authorities. I never said I did not need to read a secondary source, either, but it became quite clear that spin had not previously read his – Ryberg – for it said nothing contrary to what I actually said.

Ryberg, in the article I cited, deals with Tacitus' technique, saying "It is by various devices of his style that Tacitus was able to make good his claim of writing, in the accepted historical tradition, sine ira et studio [=impartially], and yet to leave etched on the reader's mind an ineradicable impression of tyranny and oppression..." She is dealing with what Tacitus says about Tiberius, but the technique reflects the author rather than the subject. Tacitus avoids "direct accusations of crime": he "stops short of a direct charge, and yet spares the emperor nothing of the burden of guilt." (Ryberg, op.cit. p.384.)

It is hard to see what spin was trying to prove here, since I never disputed any of this and it plays no part in my case for Tacitus as a reliable reference for Jesus. This is how spin…er, spun it as though it were:

A grasp of how Tacitus proceeded is essential to understanding the passage we are considering. Mr Holding would like readers to believe that the fanciful description of the persecution of christians tacked onto the end of the historian's masterful attack on Nero -- a description that takes the reader's mind off Nero while still dealing with the fire he has indicted Nero for --, was actually written by Tacitus. Unwilling to accept that Tacitus knew what he was doing in his proceeding against Nero, Mr Holding has no problem with one of the most highly reputed orators of his time fumbling his finish. Even Mr Holding likes a big finish: "In any event, not one such authority thinks that Tacitus did not author the full text of Annals 15.44." This is little league acknowledging the big league of course, but it's a big finish for Mr Holding (no bars held).

But as I pointed out even before this, there’s nothing in Annals 15.44 to validate the description of the side note about Jesus as something that would “take the reader’s mind” off Nero – the only way that could happen is if the reader were exceptionally afflicted with attention deficit disorder, which may perhaps explain a number of spin’s postings. This is especially the case since Tacitus returns to the subject of what Nero was doing immediately, and then a mere sentence or so later turns to the topic of how badly the Roman economy was doing. So did Tacitus “fumble” with that subject change and cause the reader for “get their mind off” Nero?

As it is, there is no warrant to describe Tacitus as “fumbling his finish.” It might be added that in ancient writing, there were no paragraph spaces, lines, or other breaks, so reader concentration would hardly be broken by such things in the first place: To read a text required much greater concentration, and indeed, reading aloud was necessary to keep on pace.

Mr Holding has difficulties with my referring to the lusty descriptions of the treatment of the christian martyrs as "salacious materials", being torn apart by dogs or lighting up the night sky, stuff that mightn't be expected from the taciturn Tacitus but juice for Suetonius, or, better, for martyr-story hungry christians. I take this as a complaint about my use of "salacious" and I thank Mr Holding for his efforts at improving my writing technique.

Well, whatever that’s supposed to mean, though I gather it is supposed to suggest that Tacitus never reported anything spin would call “salacious” which in turn supports the idea that Annals 15.44 is a Christian forgery. This argument is obviously untrue even in Annals 15 just a few lines after the reference to Christus:

At the close of the year people talked much about prodigies, presaging impending evils. Never were lightning flashes more frequent, and a comet too appeared, for which Nero always made propitiation with noble blood. Human and other births with two heads were exposed to public view, or were discovered in those sacrifices in which it is usual to immolate victims in a pregnant condition. And in the district of Placentia, close to the road, a calf was born with its head attached to its leg. Then followed an explanation of the diviners, that another head was preparing for the world, which however would be neither mighty nor hidden, as its growth had been checked in the womb, and it had been born by the wayside.

So apparently, while a two headed monstrosity and human sacrifice wasn’t too salacious for Tacitus, being torn apart by dogs was. Makes sense to me.

Ryberg describes Tacitus as stopping short of a direct criminal charges, but here in 15.44 Mr Holding accepts that he does make a charge: "a false accusation by Nero against Christians". If we are to trust Ryberg's analysis, this is out of character for Tacitus.

Um, last I checked, though, making a false accusation isn’t a criminal charge, especially when the one making the accusation is an emperor who can accuse whoever he bloody well pleases. So there’s nothing “out of character for Tacitus” by this reckoning.
So there you have it. You can see the kind of quality opposition I had over there, can’t you?

The comments are located here; for this one, look for the section, "Tacitus: A Reliable Reference to Jesus."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Trial by Jury Summons

I had to reschedule an appointment yesterday because I realized that it conflicted with my upcoming jury duty summons (see Forge entry from 2/4). As I did that, it reminded me of a few examples of why I think of the whole process of jury duty as a waste of valuable time – not because the jury system itself is bad, but because as a free people, we’ve ruined it with our abuses.

Three cases in point, two of which come from a couple of those “true crime” programs (but which I have verified with more mainstream sources). My beloved Mrs H and I like those kinds of shows, though we prefer the ones with the more technical presentations – when you’ve worked for corrections, you learn to appreciate that kind of broadcast, and can get to be a bit of a mental challenge seeing if you can figure out “whodunit” before the show itself reveals it.
First: The Tim Masters case. (Link, and others, below.) An investigator (who was recently convicted of felony perjury for covering up evidence in this case) chased after Tim Masters, who was alleged at age 15 to have committed a brutal murder, based on flimsy circumstantial evidence, including that he made scary artwork of murder scenes. (I’d better watch out; based on my toons, I might someday be convicted if anyone living near me gets killed by someone else wielding a boomerang, or a giant wooden mallet.) Masters was finally convicted 12 years after the murder, but released 10 years later when DNA evidence showed he wasn’t part of the crime. It’s bad enough that a corrupt investigator was involved, but truly, even without that, the evidence was insufficient to convict – for an intelligent jury.

Second: The Robert Jason Burdick case. The case itself was prosecuted well; investigators had clear, undeniable evidence of Burdick’s DNA at the scene of many of his crimes. What struck me on this one was Burdick’s defense attorney, who was shown orating before the jury saying, if I may paraphrase, “This case is all about DNA. Without that, they have nothing.”

Um, yeah.

Third: I’ll reach back to the O. J. Simpson trial. Vincent Bugliosi’s excellent book Outrage showed how both sides (prosecution and defense) bungled this one; the winner was the ones that bungled least – and also had an immensely stupid jury on their side. The defense offered by Burdick’s lawyer seems outrageous until you recall how little Simpson’s jurors made of DNA evidence, and how gullibly they accepted bogus defense interpretations of it.

There is a quote – variously attributed to Herbert Spencer or Mark Twain – that a jury is composed of twelve persons of average ignorance (to which it is added, who decide who hired the better lawyer). Perhaps it will be said that the above cases are exceptional. My reply is first to tell that to Tim Masters, or to Burdick’s victims, or Simpson’s. Second, I don’t think these are the exception so much as that in most cases where it happens, the case is not sensational enough to warrant media coverage. I used to run a prison law library, so I frequently had access to inmate legal papers. I saw more than a few examples of inmates convicted on questionable evidence. The Innocence Project has managed to overturn 266 cases since 1992, makes it pretty clear that there are plenty more unknown examples the media doesn’t or didn't cover. (Note: 266 cases in 18 years may not seem like much, but it is, considering how much work is involved in each case.)

From all of this, it’s fairly clear I’ll have another rocket on my back when I fulfill my summons. The only way that won’t happen is if the jury pool has at least 30 people on it that the attorneys on either side consider less gullible or malleable than I am – and that’s not likely to happen.

Oh well. At least I can bring a book to read before I get called into the courtroom.

Prior Forge entry
Masters case
Burdick case

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vote for John

There’s some sort of voting going on for the best atheist book of 2010, and John Loftus wants you to vote for his book, The Christian Delusion.

I agree that you should do so. It’s clearly the best atheist book of 2010.

Consider what he has to compete with:

Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design. Hawking, apparently losing relevance as a voice for science, now ventures as well into making sweeping statements that philosophy normally answers.

Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens and The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris. Two joke books by two leading “New Atheist” voices, people whose arguments against Christianity are so poor that they’ve caused other atheists with more reasonable mindsets to cringe.

Nailed by David Fitzgerald. An advocacy of the “Jesus never existed” position which is piled full of stale canards borrowed from other authors.

And so, I agree: Vote for Loftus’ book as the best of this crop. Because it’s been such a bad year for atheist books that even John can win this one handily.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How About Some Healthy Persecution?

My beloved Mrs H and I are members at a Baptist church that’s about 35 miles from our home. That’s a long way to go, but it’s also necessary: Finding a church that will make use of the gifts an apologist is hard to do, and actually, it’s hard enough to find one where they know what apologetics is.

There are times, though, when that 70 mile round trip is just not feasible, so we spent some time looking for someplace closer to home where we could go on off weeks. For this, I lowered my standards somewhat: Our regular pastor is very intelligent and well-informed, and doesn’t deliver pap sermons, but we were willing to accept someone less competent for our “closer to home” church home.

Unfortunately, not even with my standards lowered to that level have we found any place suitable. What we did find suggests that we could use a little good old-fashioned persecution of Christians here in America, to help strain out some of the chaff.

Mrs H was raised Southern Baptist, so that’s where we’ve started. The closest SB church was automatically out: The pastor there is one of those “pretty boys” whose appearance and sermons make it clear he thinks Joel Osteen is a suitable pastoral model. I don't imagine that Teflon hair or teeth would have held up well under a Roman whip. Also, I had once gone to this church to hand the education pastor my card, and never heard from him. So strike one.

We then tried the “First Baptist” in a nearby suburb. (The one closest to us is NOT SB; it’s ultra-fundy Baptist, the sort of place where Mrs H would get stared at for not wearing a floweredy hat, and I’d get an Inquisition treatment for my stances on things like hell and eschatology.) That lasted all of two services; the pastor taught on Ezra, and to illustrate how the people of Israel celebrated their joy in the Lord, he had the sound system play Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration”. The whole song. Everyone else was standing up. We didn’t.

We also didn’t come back. Strike two.

Then we tried a tiny little church near us. At first it seemed to be just right. They played the old fashioned hymns Mrs H loves. The sermons were nothing special, but at least they were theologically acceptable. We went 3 weeks and figured this would do it, until after that third service, a woman approached us and said:

“You should come to our Wednesday night meeting. We’re doing Purpose Driven Life again! I’ve been through it twice!!”

Nice to know that the early Christians died so you could do that, lady. Strike three.

That was about 4 months ago, and we haven’t been looking for a “localer” church since then. I don’t know that we will any time soon, and if we do, it may be any denomination that isn’t either Pentecostal or charismatic in orientation. It’s just too exasperating a quest; even with my standards lowered to the point that the pastor could teach sermons that a chimp would understand and we’d still go, it seems that no matter where we attend, we find the place infected with a form of Christianity that would make Peter and Paul lose their lunch.

It’s to the point where you have to wonder if we wouldn’t be better off being persecuted the way they are in places like Saudi Arabia.

Maybe that’d clean the place up a bit.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What Me Worry Eschatology

I’m presently in regular correspondence with someone who has become highly interested in preterism (in fact, you may see a Ticker post by this reader soon) and they’re bringing to my attention various interesting items. One of them is a website by a group that is so convinced of dispensational eschatology that they’ve basically organized themselves into a sort of commune where they hope to escape all the nastiness that’s ahead when the big Anti-guy starts setting his house in order.

To that end, they’ve got this commune organized such that they want to live by the principles of the first century church. I won’t say that’s not commendable in its own way, but it’s principles we should have been following for a while now. And of course, Satan is all over the place on this site, counterfeiting false religions, influencing politics, and so on.

I won’t dignify this wacko group with a link, or say who they are; nor will I answer their arguments, since they don’t have too many – overall, they just assume dispensational eschatology is true, and pretty much, that’s it apart from the screaming in size 25 multi-colored fonts. But there’s a lesson we can take from their existence that’s quite interesting: I’ve noticed that nearly all dispensationalists have a What Me Worry Eschatology.

It’s pretty clear that this wacko group has thought through all the meanderings of writers like Lindsey and Hitchcock and reached the expected “logical” conclusion: If you don’t prepare, you’ll end up as a can of 666 Brand Dogmeat. However, though many people profess to believe the dispensational paradigm, it’s also pretty clear that they don’t believe in it strongly enough to act on it the way these people have. In that respect, the wackos are at least being consistent with what they believe. Most dispensationalists – aren’t.

To that extent, following the dispensational paradigm appears to be for many people nothing more than an exercise in buying the last end times novel. Oh, yes, I’m sure many also figure that the Rapture will be the event which will make the world really collapse, so they’re not worried because they figure things will be hunky-dory up until the time of the Great Vamoose, so there’s no need to do anything more; just live your life as is, soak up the sun, drink the punch out of the umbrella-topped glasses, and have a good time jamming to Amy Grant until Jesus pops a wheelie on a cumulus and calls you home.

I’ve noticed that some writers in dispensationalism – like John Hagee – are starting to think that just maybe, there’ll be some pre-Rapture inconveniences to deal with too. Then there’s also some who believe in a post-trib Rapture; they were more into what the wackos believe long before this. (By the way, I am not clear on where the wacko group stands on the Rapture; I could find no clear statement on the mess they call a website.) But for the most part, the dispensationalists I see out there are What Me Worry sorts – who certainly don’t act as though there’s going to be a huge cataclysm upcoming. (Sorry, asking one of those online services to leave your loved ones a message after you are “raptured” doesn’t count.) How about, for example, stocking food for those loved ones so that they don’t have to take the mark of the beastie?

I know why they don’t do that, of course: They’re afraid they’ll be seen as nuts. But all that shows again is that they’re not sincere about following through with the implications of their views.

To be fair, What Me Worry Eschatology is just a variant on the What Me Worry theology that pervades the church generally: It’s not just that they don’t act consistent with their end times view, but that they don’t act consistent with their Christian beliefs period. Once they’re out of church and behind the wheel of the Lexus, Jesus is a T-shirt slogan again.

In this case, the nuts may be nuts, but at least they’re not hypocritical nuts.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ed's Backwards Again

Edski “I’m Talking and I Can’t Shut Up” Babinski left another one of those “advertise a link” comments that had nothing to do with the post he commented on, and it makes for a good Forge posting to deflate him with (for only the 576,876th time in the last 10 years). Mainly because it shows how, as usual, Edski's got the cart before the horse, and his head inserted where the horse doesn't shine.

I'm sure you'll have a few too, before your debate with Carrier, "a few" buckets of KFC.

When the Skeppies start making cracks about my weight (which they haven’t heard is no longer even an issue), you can tell they have sound arguments to offer. But for the record – no, Edski. I hate fast food, especially KFC, and fried food is especially on my list of dislikes. I cannot eat more than one piece of fried chicken before I get tired of it. But this, note, comes from a guy whose own scholarship is the equivalent of deep fried Twinkies.

By the way, another preterist got enlightened, at least partially so. Read about it here:

This is the link Edski wanted to advertise, and we won’t give him the satisfaction. But basically, the author was somehow persuaded by Thom Stark’s treatment of N. T. Wright that Wright’s preterist views were not perfect. Only one problem with that: Wright is not and never has been a preterist. He denies the label. As “Jaltus” of TheologyWeb, himself a Biblical scholar, said in November 2003:

I hate to tell you, all you preterists, but N.T. Wright is not of your ilk.

He specifically mentioned at the ETS conference in Atlanta that he thought preterists were severly and "seriously mistaken" and that their views were "obviously wrong" about the Lord returning in 70 AD. He did say that 70 AD was a vindication of Jesus' words in Luke and Mark, but that Matthew was split into both eschatological and 70 AD predictions.

So the blog author’s riff that Wright’s teachings “are basically preteristic” demonstrates a serious ignorance. Yes, he has some aspects that preterists find useful. But Stark’s chapter on this (which, by the way, is monumentally pathetic in itself) found my response one in which I spent little time defending Wright from Stark (akin to defending Godzilla from an ant, as it were) and more time explaining why Stark’s critique didn’t affect preterism. But I spent little time doing either, since most of what Stark offered, even against Wright, had little effect on my views anyway.

Edski then says he is waiting for me to change my mind on preterism, since I also did on “a hell of torture, and even on the efficacy of citing OT verses as NT proof texts. “ Well, Edski, sorry to break your wind-up toy, but it ain’t happenin’. All three of those views are solidly rooted in the data – the anthropology, the literature, all of it – and the only way it will change is if all of history is revealed as a hoax. Which will happen about the same time you get a brain.

Edski closes with this tried refrain, the one he only uses when he hasn’t got any better ideas:

And please tell us all what books and tracts you read prior to converting to Christianity. We'd all love to know what an "intellectual" choice you made way back then.

Sure, you would, Edski – because you sure can’t argue against the intellectual stances I hold now, can you?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

John's Logic Slave Chain

Poor John Loftus has decided that he is “sick and tired of Christian intellectuals” correcting him by pointing out that Biblical slavery is NOT able to justify what was done in the American South, saying it is an “asinine argument.” (For the record, I was probably the first one to slap him with it, on TheologyWeb, using Glenn Miller’s excellent exposition.)

I notice John didn’t (couldn’t) say it was an “incorrect” argument. Because of course, it isn’t. Here’s what he did say:

When it comes to the brutal slavery in the South that was justified from the Bible I have had enough. Have you ever read Frederick Douglass' life narrative? Have you?

Um, yes, John. It’s a great book. But it doesn’t make our point any more incorrect. It doesn’t magically poof OT slavery into the same thing as American slavery; that’s still indentured servitude. It also doesn’t justify slavery in the NT era, since although it was the same type of slavery (chattel variety), Christians had no control over whether it existed or not – the pagan state did. And as Miller shows (link below), what they did do was the best that could be expected from a tiny, deviant social group of the time. In fact better than the best.

As intelligent as you are, can you not see what it would be like to be a slave in the South, and to be told that your Christian master doesn't properly apply the Bible to his world? Can you not see that it would be like?

Um, yes. And it still doesn’t make our argument any less sound. Why does John think that whining like this will change the arguments? Would our arguments have been more correct if Douglass had been a slave for 10% fewer years? How about 25% fewer?

Wouldn't you at least be intelligent enough to ask why God did not condemn slavery in no uncertain terms, if he authored the Bible?...and say it often enough that no one could misunderstand, just like he purportedly did with murder and rape?

Oh, sure, John, that would have helped. Sort of like the 7th commandment stopped you from shedding your pants with that stripper, right? Let’s make this simple for you, though. There wouldn’t be much purpose for such a condemnation in the OT because, well, um – the Hebrews just didn’t have chattel slavery. So you’re expecting God to condemn something they don’t do anyway?

As for the NT, it does offer something – it’s what you could call a Martin Luther King approach to the issue. The very premises of chattel slavery were undermined by the NT’s insistence of slaves and masters being equal in Christ. Sorry to inform you, but anything more explicit would have been fruitless (a Malcolm X approach), as Miller shows in detail.

But really, you’re whining too much. There were many competent expositors in America doing exactly what you’re so childishly demanding: They laid out a clear, solid case for why slavery was wrong, Biblically. (See link below.) Heck, John, there’s enough lit from abolitionists to bury you 500 feet under – and you’re whining because God didn’t offer a single “no” sentence that your adulterous past shows, had you been an American slaveowner, you would have ignored anyway?

John whines, “On this issue alone, you should abandon your faith. The problem is that there are so many other issues besides this that it baffles me why a thinking person like yourself claims to believe in the God of the Bible.” Yeah, right. It sounds like John is just fed up with being the loser when it comes to this debate; he knows he can’t win on the historical or exegetical arguments, and he also knows very well (from personal experience) that a “no” command doesn’t prevent sin. (BTW, not sure what quote by Ignatius he refers to, but see our list of misused/bogus quotes from some possible references.)

John rants some more, then closes:

I can no longer sit by while absolute stupidity is paraded under the mask of education and intelligence. Someone has to tell the Emperor he has no clothes on.

Well, as we all know, John certainly is the expert when it comes to getting naked.

Glenn Miller's article

Classic Apologetics -- anti-slavery works

Bogus quotes list

comments too

Also see the E-block back issue, responding to Loftus' Why I Became An Atheist, in which guest writer Tophet in Ch 23 answers Loftus' posting of the same arguments.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Yes -- Naval Battle

I wasn't expecting to have any time to have an entry today -- and really don't, come to that -- but I thought I'd confirm in case anyone asked that yes, I'm debating Richard Carrier on April 9 at Amador Christian Center in Sacramento, CA. Subject is basically NT textual reliability -- Wallace vs Ehrman Lite is about what I'd expect.

No, my sentiments on debates haven't changed. But the invitation will give my beloved Mrs H a chance to see an elderly uncle she probably won't get to see again, so I put my reservations aside for this one.

Link to church events page.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Crackpot Crucifixion

Lately I’ve been pummeling an Acharya S nut on YouTube who maintained that Mithra was crucified; after twisting his arm a few days, and knocking him down with the “no death of Mithras” quote by Gordon that I dug up (the one Lee Strobel now uses in a couple of his books), he’s now admitted his “source was faulty” and is trying to offer various diversions about more scholarly matters such as how I was overweight some months ago and how I’m allegedly bilking people out of money. I’d say that’s a good sign of total victory for our side, wouldn’t you?

But anyway, in the process of dealing with this nut, I decided to check and see if anyone out there was providing any more solid evidence for Mithra being crucified, and discovered a couple of sites with answers – sites that are second cousins to Wikipedia. I’m talking about things like Yahoo Answers, where any average nobody can post a question that any average nobody can answer.

What lies behind these sites is the sort of idiot democracy ideal that makes people think Wikipedia is a reliable source that pools “collective intelligence” (but not also collective stupidity). I can see this sort of thing working well for say, movie reviews or consumer advice (“Has anyone had a bad experience with the Ford Mustang?”), but to use it for such depth, obscure, and scholarly questions is, well...idiotic.

As is shown by the answers that were posted, when someone asked if there was any proof Mithra was crucified. One poor soul linked to Kersey Graves on for validation (thankfully, still has the disclaimer up about not trusting Graves). Another twit said, “Look it up in” Yet another linked to Acharya’s site. Thankfully there were two answers that said it never happened.

A second site like this had another enlightening answer: They said it was, just like in any religion, a matter of faith as to whether Mithra was crucified or not. Um…right.

Things like this may make us think that it wouldn’t be a bad idea if information was more closely regulated the way (say) medication is. That won’t happen – there’s too many issues of intellectual freedom involved, and of who would control the flow. So I guess the best thing to do is to keep pummeling the misinformers mercilessly wherever we find them.

It’s a lot more fun that way anyway.

NOTE: I have to take some time off for my USDA job and some training, so the Forge may not get new posts for the next 2-3 days unless I find some free time.

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Jury Duty Rant, Redux

This is an old TWeb thread but I'm noting it now because I got a summons...again. Check it out to see why it'll be a waste of time that'll take a day away from productive ministry work.

No, I wouldn't mind serving if I knew there was a chance that I would. That's the problem.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Flowerpot Apostasy

Today is our final apostate story, from one “P_Cygni” and the portion within our expertise is summed up in the first paragraph:

For me the cracks in my faith appeared when I saw the hypocrisy in my Church. There were so many finger-pointers and nasty b***hing behind peoples backs and petty fallings-out because someone had been taken off the flower-arranging rota or whatever, no-one seemed to be
practising what the preacher was preaching.

For this one, it is enough for me to bring out something I wrote in the E-Block about Michael Spencer’s book, Mere Churchianity:


Spencer recounts of how, as a young youth pastor, he brought his youth group to a local Dairy Queen, where they engaged in all sorts of mischief. Used to such shenanigans, Spencer did nothing to correct the youth or to clean up the mess they made. Sometime later, Spencer received a letter from an atheist who worked at the DQ, informing him that “Christians like you have convinced me that God is a myth.”

Apparently, this letter haunted Spencer for a number of years. And we must say from the start that we are NOT saying, when we respond as we do below, that Christians should feel free to behave as Spencer’s youth group did; yes, he certainly should have controlled them, and cleaned up the mess they made. However, Spencer’s guilt regrettably led him to don a pair of blinders when it came to the earnestness of his atheist correspondent.

In more general terms, the problem is one that goes beyond Spencer, beyond any pastor or youth group. As we have noted many times, “personal testimony” is never used in the NT as a basis for evangelism. Brute fact – the Resurrection, the miracles of Jesus, fulfillment of OT prophecy – is what is used. One of the tragic moves of modern Christianity has been to make personal testimony the basis for evaluating Christian truth. This is a trap that has allowed critics like the atheist correspondent to engage the ludicrous dictum that the measure for whether God exists is how professing Christians behave.

Rather than permitting the atheist this fancy, Spencer should have apologized for his youth group, even gone so far as to offer to have them do "cleaning duty" at the DQ for a day – and then set the record straight about what constitutes an epistemic basis for Christianity.
Of course that assumes that the atheist was genuine, which is another matter. Strangely, Spencer at first allows for the possibility that the atheist was merely a “self-righteous” specimen who “needs someone to blame.” [2] But, he supposes, you could be “dead wrong” [3] about that estimation. By the end of his accounting of the matter three paragraphs down, though, he goes from “could be” to describing the letter as an “honest, heartfelt critique.” [3]
After so many years of dealing with atheists like this correspondent, my considered thought was, Say what???? Honest and heartfelt? Not in the least. Such critiques are rather used by atheists to invoke guilt trips in Christians, based on the premise of personal testimony as a validation of truth. Is that the criterion the atheist actually uses to decide truth? If it were, then what would happen if the next week, the Freethinker Youth came to the DQ and burned the place down? Would this atheist have then decided that atheism was false? More to the point, if behavior is the measure, then how about we weigh in with the Christian record of charity – admittedly balanced to some extent by things like the Inquisition (though these too are often overplayed), but still no match for the death record of atheism, ranging from the Reign of Terror to Stalin to Pol Pot? For Spencer to say that this atheist “cared enough to tell me that my credibility as a Christian was zero” [4] is ironically tragic.

Spencer says that he had “respect” from that atheist, but that is the last thing the atheist deserved for their performance. It was manipulative and dishonest, and sadly, accomplished with Spencer exactly the purpose intended.

For the same reasons, I don’t buy P, Cygni’s carping about the flower-arranging committee and such as worthy of serious consideration. Oh yes, it’s all stuff that should not have been done. But the simple fact is that whether or not Jane is on the flower committee doesn’t have a lick to do with whether a man rose from the dead in first century Palestine. All it means is that someone doesn’t appreciate what it implies – someones on either side, actually.

So now we have finished the roster of apostates, and what can we conclude? We have seen bad arguments galore, emotional diatribes, and all manner of petty excuses. In years of dealing with such people, I have to say that I have yet to encounter one whose apostasy was purely rational (though they have claimed that it is). Loftus’ survey sure didn’t bring any to the fore, either.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ren and Stimpy Apologetics

The featured apostate today is someone I'll style "YT Sucker," and he has a rather lengthy anti-testimony we won’t quote in full, though we won’t need to. And I'll also use his comments for a different lesson of sorts:

My experience has more to do with myself seeing atheist videos on Youtube. Being the intelligent and confident in my religion (because isn't it obvious that there's a God? Everyone knows that!) I decided I'd watch and respond to these arrogant fools.
That was my first mistake.

Christians are right to avoid religious discussions, because if sense is made, we take a ride on the slippery slope.

As someone who has lately taken to tackling some YouTube atheist stars, and seen the efforts of others, all I can say is: PLEASE!

For a long time I resisted watching or responding to these people precisely because their arguments were so lame. Truthfully, the only thing that makes responding to them now bearable is the fact that I can be creative while doing it – using my art, and engaging the challenging aspects of using film software.

It certainly isn’t their arguments that challenge me; those are never more than sound-bite versions of longer arguments that I rebutted in depth some years ago – when they were written by the likes of Till or McKinsey.
So think about that: The typical YT atheist isn’t even producing quality to the level of THOSE two losers. Now that’s pathetic.

This guy poses himself as “a thinker” whose brain was healed by these YT sources, as well as sources like the “Why does God not heal amputees?" website (yes, I hit that one square too – only I took it so un-seriously, the reply is on tektoonics, not Tekton). But if that’s the sort of thing that persuades you, your ability to “reason” clearly came out of a box of Cracker Jack. It wasn't reason that persuaded him; it was a good multimedia show with lots of drama.

One thing this does tell us is that we’ve been too slow to take up opportunities to engage these people on their own media grounds. I’ll admit to being slow on it myself; had I known that film software was so inexpensive and so easy to use, I probably would have been at it about 2 years sooner. But it’s a little more complicated than that, too. Since people like YT Sucker don’t want to hear our arguments (because, mainly, it’s what they don’t want to hear any more), our efforts have to be a little more interesting than a face or words on a screen. To put it bluntly, you need some sort of gimmick. You have to do what I would call Ren and Stimpy Apologetics.

Those who watch some of my vids know that I engage a type of humor in them at times that’s reminiscent of some of the recent cartoon programs like Ren and Stimpy, or SpongeBob, or Ed, Edd and Eddy. I do that for a reason, and it isn’t to be crude or mocking – I do it because it’s what you need to keep a lot of these people interested. Since, again, they definitely don’t want to hear your arguments, they just won’t care about your defense of the authorship of Matthew unless (maybe) you insert a few fart jokes; otherwise they’ll be on their way to someone else’s channel within a few seconds, leaving most of your hard work unseen.

That’s a sad commentary on what the world is like today – but also a true one.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Animal Cruelty Manifesto

Today’s Forge post will be a change of pace as I hand the reins to Nick Peters’ wife Allie for a special item on animal cruelty. There’s also a companion post on the Ticker from my perspective, explaining why I’m so big on this issue. For now, here’s Allie.


Animal cruelty and abuse is everywhere -- no matter where you go. Most people know it’s a bad thing, but I don’t think most people know quite just how bad it’s gotten. That was the case for me.

I have always had a passion for wildlife. Animals are fascinating creatures. They will not betray you. They go by instinct, and therefore, their choices they make are purely instinctual, while humans make their choices willfully. It is our job, and our duty, as human beings to care for animals.

Genesis 1:20-26 says:

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

I will warn you that the details in this article are very graphic, but it is also important for the world to know that these things actually go on.

When you think of Hawaii, what do you think of? Most likely you think it is paradise. It’s not that way for all, though. On June 15, 2010, the LCA (Last Chance for Animals) was contacted to check out a puppy mill on the island of Oahu. The mill was called “Bradley Hawaiian Puppies.” A special investigator, pretending he was looking for a job, came to the facility.

What he found was horrific. Puppies were in cages with only concrete flooring, no food or water, and animal feces all over. In what they called the “Puppy Nursery” there were dirty gloves, scissors, syringes, and medications just laying around. Clearly, the place was very unsanitary. The dead puppies were wrapped up in newspaper and thrown into the trash, and there were many severely injured and sick dogs. There were also major rodent infestations, which could cause many diseases and injuries to the dogs.

When you buy a puppy from the pet store, you are supporting puppy mills like the one above. The money goes to the puppy mill and they keep breeding puppies in poor conditions. Many times, puppy mills will breed a female dog 3-4 times a year for 10 years. When she can no longer reproduce, they often kill her in ways such as drowning.

President Obama recently signed a law that bans “crush videos.” These crush videos are literally torture videos. Most commonly, women wearing high-heeled shoes will stomp on small animals such as rabbits and kittens, alive. You can see their heads popped off and eyes on the ground that popped out of their heads. Illegal dog fighting and cock fighting happen all the time. Most people have heard of the football star Michael Vick getting involved in these. There are often dogs known as “bait dogs” that are thrown into the arena. Bait dogs are weaker dogs. Then they throw in several stronger dogs to attack it all at the same time. They watch to see how long the weaker dog can survive.

I recommend you visit here for more cases. At the Anne Arundel County Animal Control, puppies and kittens don’t stand a chance for survival. If they weigh less than 1.5 lbs, they are automatically euthanized.

If you are going to get a pet, please consider how you will take care of it, and whether you are truly willing to take care of it for the rest of its life. Also consider rescuing one, instead of buying one.

Many pets don’t get to have a second chance in having a good life. Give a pet a second chance.