Friday, April 6, 2012

The Secular Web's Great Tinfoil Age

Someone wrote me the other day about The Jury Is in, asking if I could refute it.

Ha ha. Of course I can, I already did. TJII, formerly the showcase project of, was my second major online refutation project back in the late 90s (the first being a comparison of Lincoln biographies), and from it grew much of the content of my books. You'll still see remnants of it here and there on the site, too.

I still check now and then to see if there's anything worthy of attention. Uploads seem to be a lot less frequent there than I remember, though, and it seems quality control over there has gone clockwise down the loo.

A good example of this is an item by one Daniel June, a professed former Assembly of God believer -- and still one mentally, to judge by his performance -- who offers an extended rant on Revelation and the horror of dispensational end times scenarios.

I can't do much more than laugh at most of June's extended rant, for more than one reason. To start, of course, as a preterist, I don't hold to the position June is ranting about, so my own refutation could stop at, "YAWN -- what else you got?" There's a lot of argument by outrage, which as usual seems to comprise at least 50% of any presentation by your average run of the mill Skeptic who believes that there's no reason to waste time arguing rationally when there's a chance to throw blood and guts in the reader's face. I'm especially amused inasmuch as June also whiffs past me with the whole "eternal torture" in hell tango.

So, of course, June's miserific paean over allegedly wholly innocent people (eg, "elderly men and women, who have worked to put their children through college, and are enjoying their golden years spoiling their grandchildren", blah blah blah -- all we need is for Fred Rogers to waltz in and change his socks) being ransacked by Jesus on his white horse pretty much falls on deaf ears for lack of relevance. One would hope that would someday get enough quality control to sift out people like June who still carry this kind of emotional baggage. But as I've said, a fundy atheists hasn't really changed from being fundies; it never occurs to them that their idea that Revelation preserves a doctrine of only "a few thousand Christians" being saved (!), and their absurdly literalistic reading of apocalyptic language (so backwards that it would warrant a collection of high-five noogies from the Essene community) was a joke when they believed it and is even more of a joke now that they're critiquing it. Maybe the reason infidels. org doesn't filter such people out is because it would leave them with only enough writers to count on one hand.

One might also have hoped that June would have checked out some scholarly commentaries on Revelation to set him straight, but his first source Bloom. On the virtue of his being someone who "has probably read more books than any man living, and published more literary appraisals than any scholar I have heard of..." That probably speaks more to June's lack of exposure to scholarship than to any virtues Bloom may actually have, but the fact is that Bloom remains a patent ignoramus on the interpretation of first century Jewish apocalypse, and his opinion of it -- which assumes as grossly literalistic a reading as June does -- deserves little more than a laugh track.

It doesn't get much better later, as Jung and Nietzsche (!) are called in for comment; obviously neither expense nor time was spared by June in engaging the most reputable Biblical scholarship available. Harrumph. NOT.

From there it doesn't get much better in terms of content either. June engages an extended screed on end times movements and their failures; on supposed parallels between Revelation and Genesis which he apparently swallowed as a Christian (and which owe far more to homiletics than to contextualizing scholarship); and a series of frankly dumb statements like this one:

The gospel of John calls the Jews "sons of Satan," and this John calls the Jews "the synagogue of Satan," though Yahweh had put a curse on anybody who cursed the Jews... The Gospel of John does no such thing, actually. It calls certain Judeans (natives of the nation of Judaea), whom Jesus specifically addresses, sons of Satan; and that's the sort of riposte folks back then used without being the least bit sensitive about it (read: Jesus to Peter, “Get thee behind me, whatsyername!”). So likewise the "synagogue of Satan" reference in Revelation; the modern ignoramus like June gets into hissies over such language, but for the first century reader, this is raindrops fallin’ on their head while they take a few moments to think of a better riposte to throw back. June is walking straight into a contest of the dozens and having a cow over these guys making such offensive comments about each others’ mothers. His gross literalism, a rebound from his ignorant fundamentalist past, erupts like a geyser of pus from the overinflated pimple of his mind; and to grasp the depth of his absurdity, try to imagine him taking what I just said literally, too.

June further laments a "confused young man" he knew who "wouldn't touch anything electronic because 'Computers are the Beast.' " What he fails to grasp is that he has become no more grown up in his exegetical skills than those people have. He amuses himself with all the variations made upon 666, but had he more of a mind than to quote someone as ignorant of such matters as Thomas Jefferson (!) and Thomas Paine (!!) he might have discovered that -- golly! -- Nero does indeed fit that bill quite well, thanks. And it doesn't take the Riddler to figure it out, either.

Seriously, folks. This is meant to be the cream of the crop at these days? This is what they allow to write for them? It's almost enough for me to demand that James Still and Jim Perry come back. Or maybe even (gulp) Stevie Carr. Stupid as they were, not even they were bozo enough to rant about Revelation as the product of a "half-wit, no-talent writer". Nor were they of such childish mind as to think that a yards-long blood and guts rant substituted for the legwork of textual analysis. (On the other hand, Stevie did sometimes think quoting someone of the level of Paine was a good idea.)

I guess the Golden Age of the Secular Web has been given over for the Tinfoil Age. It’s too bad they don’t have better hats than that.

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