Posts Tagged ‘literal truth of the Bible’

Two items caught your indefatigable correspondent’s eye today, Dear Reader.

The first is a YouTube video (currently 65 million hits and rising) in which 20 strangers volunteer to kiss someone they have never met before. And we mean, properly kiss: real tonsil tangling, spit-swapping snogging.

It is really rather beautiful and life affirming and funny and wistful and weird and vaguely erotic and heart warming. See what you think.

It’s the work of someone called Tatia Pllieva and it’s the first video she has posted. I suspect we’ll be hearing more from her. Well done.

The second is the death of Fred Phelps, the founder and thoroughly awful leader of the Westboro Baptist Church who became famous for celebrating the death of American soldiers (and picketing their funerals) as punishment from God because gays exist in America.

If you really want to refresh your memory as to his drivel, you can watch this.

He thinks he’s going to Heaven. I was never more certain of anything but that he is going straight to Hell … do not pass Go, do not collect $200 … and people like Tatia Pllieva are going to Heaven.

The one thought that cheers me this morning more than any other is that Fred Phelps is today standing in front his Maker, hearing in no uncertain terms exactly how much of an un-Christian asshole he was.

Phelps died on Wednesday in a Kansas hospice at the age of 84. “People die – that is the way of all flesh,” a blog post on the church’s website said.

Earlier this month, his son Nathan, who ran away from home as soon as he turned 18 and later became a gay rights advocate, said in a Facebook posting he had learned Phelps was near death in a hospice and that he had been excommunicated in 2013. The church would not confirm the excommunication report, saying membership issues were private.

Phelps’ church was widely denounced as a hate group and was not part of any mainstream Baptist organization. Its membership has been estimated at about 100, many of whom were related to Phelps.

By Phelps’ reasoning, cancer, the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, school shootings and the deaths of soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other tragedies involving Americans, were God’s retribution for a lax attitude toward what he called “the modern militant homosexual movement”.

“God Hates Fags” was the overriding slogan for Phelps and his followers, as well as the name of their primary website. They carried that message to protests, brandishing signs declaring “Thank God For AIDS,” “America Is Doomed,” “Thank God For Dead Soldiers” and “God Blew Up The Troops”.

“Look, you can’t preach the Bible without preaching the hatred of God,” Phelps said in a 2010 Huffington Post interview.

The news of his death was met with an outpouring of comments on social media, including many who said Phelps’ teachings inadvertently served to promote tolerance.

“I’d like to thank Fred Phelps today, for accidentally inspiring me and countless others like me to fight for tolerance and against hate,” Russell Hainline, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, tweeted.

Phelps’ rhetoric was hotter than fire and brimstone. He called President George W. Bush a “Bible pervert,” Barack Obama a “bloody beast” and conservative TV commentator Bill O’Reilly a “demon-possessed messenger of Satan”.

Phelps’s church gained notoriety in 1998 by picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was beaten outside a bar in Wyoming and left to die. His story was turned into a movie and play.

SUPREME COURT RULING

Phelps and his congregants had their biggest impact at military funerals, where they faced an angry backlash from veterans’ families and their supporters. Their right to picket led to action by the U.S. Congress and a freedom-of-speech legal battle that the church won at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The father of a Maryland soldier killed in Iraq took on Westboro, seeking damages and saying church members had turned his son’s 2006 funeral into a circus. But in an 8-1 ruling in 2011, the court said that even though the Westboro protest was hurtful, it was constitutionally protected. Phelps’ daughter, Margie, argued the case.

To curb Westboro, Congress in 2006 passed the Fallen Heroes Act, which prohibited protesters from coming within 300 feet of a federally administered cemetery within an hour of the beginning or end of a funeral. States passed similar laws.

Phelps based his ideology on an Old Testament passage – the book of Leviticus, chapter 18, verse 22 – that says, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.”

Phelps, however, was mis-informed and wilfully ignorant, as you can read here: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-wX

If you’re feeling research minded, (or just irritated by bigoted fundamentalist neighbours) you can also read how it is now scientifically proven that the Bible is not literally true by clicking here: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-1Y5

Or even how the Roman Catholic Church no longer believes the Bible is literally true: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-ud

On its website the church claimed to have held almost 50,000 demonstrations since 1991. Westboro would send protesters on the thinnest of premises. A store in Topeka was a regular target because it sold vacuum cleaners made in Sweden, where a preacher had been prosecuted for his anti-homosexuality message. Phelps’s church even sent a contingent to Pittsburgh in 2003 for the funeral of Fred Rogers, the mild-mannered host of the children’s TV show “Mister Rogers Neighborhood,” on the grounds that he was “a wuss” and had not denounced homosexuality. Other protest targets included churches and synagogues, rock concerts, NFL games, Twitter headquarters and the school attended by President Barack Obama’s daughters.

British journalist Louis Theroux lived with the Phelps clan for three weeks while making the 2007 documentary “The Most Hated Family in America”.

“The dominant note in his personality was a bitter contempt for humanity in general and me specifically,” he wrote in the Guardian newspaper.

Theroux said the family did not always seem hateful.

“Away from the pickets, they were – much of the time – very, very normal,” he said. “Not just normal, but intelligent and urbane. They’re not hillbillies, they’re urban professionals.”

Well, anyway, he’s gone, Thank God.

And now I think I’ll go and watch the 20 strangers kissing again and make my mind feel just a little cleaner, and creep a little closer to my understanding of God at the same time.

Adam and Eve debate the finer points of theology. By Rubens. Except they never did. No, the serpent never beguiled Eve, nor was Adam ashamed of his nakedness. Whatever next?

I have decided to republish this post for a couple of reasons.

  • It was very popular last time.
  • A Catholic Bishop in America says voting for Barack Obama will imperil your immortal soul. (But he isn’t telling his parishoners how to vote, mind you, despite the fact that this presumably only leaves them the option of supporting a billionaire cult member who thinks when he dies he gets a whole planet to himself plus forty wives to play with. Plus Anne Romney, who I can see liking that idea. Not.)
  • And just the other day the Pope also expressed the opinion that gay people were not whole human beings. (They are therefore sub human, presumably. And we know where that led us with Cardinal Ratzinger’s countrymen last time around …)

So, my question is simply this: What are the people on?

The original article begins here:

In a comment that will rock the confidence of many traditionalist or literalist Christians of all denominations, Australia’s Roman Catholic Cardinal George Pell – one of the most conservative Roman Catholics in a senior position worldwide, and a possible future Pope – has publicly described the biblical story of Adam and Eve as a sophisticated myth used to explain evil and suffering rather than a scientific truth.

Cardinal Pell appeared on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Q&A” TV chat show, where he was debating British evolutionary biologist and celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins.

Cardinal Pell said humans “probably” evolved from Neanderthals (this is not strictly true*, but at least it concedes that mankind has a long history) but it was impossible to say exactly when there was a first human. “But we have to say if there are humans, there must have been a first one,” he said.

(By the way, this is widely considered, in the case of homo sapiens, to have been a female from Africa, if the DNA sampling of the world is understood. Originally, we were all Africans.)

According to Genesis, God created Adam and Eve as the first man and woman.

Asked by journalist Tony Jones if he believed in the existence of an actual Garden of Eden with an Adam and Eve, Cardinal Pell said it was not a matter of science but rather a beautiful mythological account.

“It’s a very sophisticated mythology to try to explain the evil and the suffering in the world,” he said.

“It’s certainly not a scientific truth. And it’s a religious story told for religious purposes.”

The interesting issue is that when a senior Churchman concedes one story in the Bible is mythology – meaningful, but mythology, nevertheless – then we must ask, what else is?

Noah and the Flood is one biblical story which is clearly ludicrous, unless you think he also collected two by two of every grub, bacteria and virus on the planet.

Critical theologians have long demonstrated that some of the chronology of the Old Testament – especially concerning Moses and Joshua, is not literally true. Once you remove one brick from the wall, the edifice of the literal 100% truth of the Bible collapses – correctly, in my view – and we can start to apply a modern mind to the writings of the past.

This, of course, is why so many Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants are hysterical about not reducing the verisimilitude of the Bible by a single word. What, for example, of the argument that the Bible says nothing at all about homosexuality when it is read in the original languages, even Pauline comments in the New Testament which appear irrefutable.

Will we next see Pell refute his implacable opposition to homosexual communicants and priests?

Will we see him weaken his opposition to female celebrants? (The Catholic Church long ago quietly forgot that women were supposed to stay silent in Church, and wear hats, of course.)

Pell directly contradicts the Catholic Catechism

As others have pointed out, this commentary on Adam and Eve also violates the Catholic Church’s official attitude toward the Primal Couple.  The Catholic Catechism, for example, states:

390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”.

399 Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness. They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image – that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.

402 All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”

403 Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam’s sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the “death of the soul”. Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.

As one commentator remarked: “I wonder if the good Cardinal will now be excommunicated? Don’t count on it – the Vatican tends to turn a blind eye toward these local violations of dogma.”

PS Some Days Later and more than 4,500 hits later:

This article has been criticised on some (predominantly atheist) forums because it ignores the logical argument that if Adam and Eve was bunkum then “Original Sin”  is bunkum too, and therefore the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice is a nonsense, so, logically the whole of Christian religion is nonsense.  (The point made in 402 and 403 above.)

To my mind this interpretation sheets home to some atheists as much obsession with literal interpretation as I criticise in some Christians. Indeed, sometimes when I see leading atheists and leading believers go at it hammer and tongs, they remind me more of each other than anything else. Anyhow: “Original Sin” – being a description of humanity’s essentially imperfect state – does not, in my opinion, need to be established by the literal truth of the Genesis story. I am quite content to assert that humanity is flawed, (just look around you), and that Christ was not (read the stories).

When, how, and why humanity became flawed and why God chose the unique nature of Jesus to correct the matter can, for me, wait until I no longer see as through a glass darkly, which I do not expect to be anytime soon, and certainly not in this life.

Meanwhile, the facts on evolution as far as our God-given brains can discern them …

*While human evolution begins with the last common ancestor of all life, it generally refers to the evolutionary history of primates and in particular the genus Homo, including the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species of hominids (“great apes”). The study of human evolution involves many scientific disciplines, including physical anthropology, primatology, archaeology, linguistics, embryology and genetics.[1]
Primate evolution likely began in the late Cretaceous, 85 Ma (million years ago) by genetic studies and no later than the Paleocene by the fossil record 55 Ma.[2][3] The family Hominidae, or Great Apes, diverged from the Hylobatidae family 15-20 Ma. Around 14 Ma the Ponginae or orangutans diverged from the Hominidae family.[4] Later the gorilla and chimpanzee would diverge from the lineage leading to the genus Homo, the latter around 5-6 Ma. Modern humans evolved from the last common ancestor of the Hominini and the species Australopithecines some 2.3-2.4 million years ago in Africa.[5][6]In the Hominini tribe, several species and subspecies of Homo evolved and are now extinct or introgressed, and only one species remains. Examples include Homo erectus (which inhabited Asia, Africa, and Europe) and Neanderthals (either Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) (which inhabited Europe and Asia). Archaic Homo sapiens, the forerunner of anatomically modern humans, evolved between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago. Examples of archaic humans generally include Homo heidelbergensis, Homo rhodesiensis, Homo neanderthalensis and sometimes Homo antecessor and Homo ergaster.[7] Anatomically modern humans evolved from archaic Homo sapiens in the Middle Paleolithic, about 200,000 years ago.[8] Behaviorally modern humans developed around 50,000 years ago according to many although some view modern behavior as beginning with the emergence of anatomically modern humans.[9]

Time magazine has a go at explaining, er … time. Lots and lots of time.

One view among scientists concerning the origin of anatomically modern humans is the recent African origin of modern humans hypothesis (the “recent single-origin hypothesis” or “recent out-of-Africa” model),[10][11][12] which posits that Homo sapiens arose in Africa and migrated out of the continent some 50,000-100,000 years ago, replacing populations of Homo erectus in Asia and Neanderthals in Europe. An alternative multiregional hypothesis posits that Homo sapiens evolved as geographically separate but interbreeding populations stemming from the worldwide migration of Homo erectus out of Africa nearly 2.5 million years ago. Evidence suggests that several haplotypes of Neanderthal origin are present among all non-African populations, and Neanderthals and other hominids, such as Denisova hominin may have contributed up to 6% of their genome to present-day humans.[13][14][15]