…For The Bible Tells Me So

I never heard the song “Jesus Loves Me” until my children were born, raised a little bit, and sent off to Sunday School. This was before I decided I was an atheist; though, in all fairness, it was to my wife’s church we sent them, which I never joined. Apparently, this little ditty was not part of the Roman Catholic repertoire that I was exposed to from kindergarten through adulthood. I’m sure that if Jesus existed, given the qualities attributed to him, he most certainly loved little children. I know I do, and I know very few people who don’t, and since, presumably we are made in his image, the converse would be true. The image of Jesus must contain attributes of love towards little children. See for example, Matthew 19:14 or Mark 10:14:

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

I have no problem with this. If there is a god, he damn well better love little children. And big children, and adults and animals, and everything else he supposedly created. No, my problem is the next line of the song. Remember?

Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
they are weak but He is strong.

What exactly are we teaching kids with this song? We’re teaching them to know that Jesus loves them, and on what basis are they to rest this knowledge? The Bible. A book. A multi-thousand year old book. Is this a good thing? Does the Pope shit in the woods? You can probably guess where I stand on this. Especially when the rest of the song lyrics acknowledges that the little ones are weak.

As an atheist, and more specifically, as a person who relies on evidence before I come to conclusions, I think that it is the hallmark of critical thinking to reject anything in a book, until I am satisfied that the book is authoritative, or until I’m shown evidence to the contrary. This means any book. I’ve learned this because over the years, I’ve read books that I took to heart and believed, and found out later weren’t worthy of belief. Yes, once we’ve reached a certain level of education and understanding of human credulity, we can start relying on books written by people commonly understood to be authorities in their respective fields, (school text books, for instance, which have been analyzed and vetted by knowledgeable people) . There’s only so much research any human can do to verify everything that we read.

The question is, should we be teaching our children that what they read is true, simply because it’s in a book? Shouldn’t childhood be that time when we start teaching our children to question everything, to not take anything at face value? Isn’t this the beginning of mindless indoctrination. “Here, kids. Here’s a book that is true in all regards. Don’t listen to those naysayers who deny it.” Since the Bible is clearly, on it’s face, not true in all regards, consisting of multiple internal inconsistencies, explanations of the world and the history of mankind that don’t jive with modern scientific facts, and extremely immoral actions and behaviors by the characters contained in it, how can we adults, in good conscience, teach children a song that they should presume something to be true because the Bible says so?

We can’t.

Why not?

First of all, we have no real idea who wrote the Bible. With regard to the Old Testament, the authorship of the first five books were attributed to Moses, but again, we have only the Bible as evidence that Moses himself actually existed. The Bible claims, for instance, that Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, but there is no independent historical or archaeological evidence that there were ever any Israelites in Egypt in the first place, at any time. Then there’s the little problem of Moses writing about his own death in Deuteronomy. Clearly, much of the OT is disputable, on the veracity of authorship alone.

To listen to Christians, however, there seems to be no problem with this, because God “inspired” authorship. See here, where this Christian notes that

“Who wrote the Bible” is a question that can be definitively answered by examining the biblical texts in light of the external evidences that supports its claims. 2 Timothy 3:16 states that “All scripture is inspired by God….” In 2 Peter 1:20-21, Peter reminds the reader to “know this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, … but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”The Bible itself tells us that it is God who is the author of His book.

Hmmmm. External evidences. So the Bible was inspired by god which we know because the Bible tells us that the Bible was inspired by god which we know because the Bible….Whoops! Gotta get off this merry-go-round.

What about the New Testament? We know that someone named Paul wrote many of the letters, or Epistles, to the various new Churches that were popping up around the Mediterranean. But Paul never met Jesus (except perhaps during an epileptic seizure on the road to Damascus). We also know that the four Gospels were probably not written by any Apostles or disciples named Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, but it’s unclear who. Not knowing the author of a work, especially one that’s two thousand years old, makes it especially difficult to determine the veracity of the contents. We don’t know where the information in the NT came from, we don’t know the motivations of the author in writing them (and there could be many that affect the truth of the NT), and in particular, we don’t have any independent sources that corroborate the information we are told to believe absolutely. Finally, as Bart Ehrman has noted, we don’t even have the original works of the authors – only copies of copies of copies than have been changed and revised and added to and subtracted from depending on the ideology, temperment and whim of the transcriber.

Second of all, the process of singing a little song like “Jesus loves me” is actually a form of teaching. The aim of good teaching should be to open the minds of the student, and get them to use their brains. Teaching is actually brain exercise. Teachers teach so that students, when they are older, can figure life out by themselves, without having to rely on others. If that’s true, doesn’t teaching them to mindlessly accept something “because I say so” counter-productive? Isn’t “…for the bible tells me so” code for “turn your brain off, accept truth on the say-so of my book”?

This song, “Jesus Loves Me”, is an example of the beginning of indoctrination in the Christian mindset, and it’s insidious because it is a song learned by young children, who have not reached the age of reason, and who trust their elders, their parents and family, their church, to tell them the truth, and teach them the way to think. Instead, they are being taken advantage of because “they are weak but He is strong”. As a result, many of them will grow up believing that the best and only way to point to the truth of their religious convictions is to point to the Bible, little knowing how circular their reasoning is being trained.

So, I propose new lyrics for this song.

Jesus Loves me, this I say
for I saw him yesterday

Nothing like irrefutable, visual evidence, eh?

97 thoughts on “…For The Bible Tells Me So

  1. *tsk tsk*

    Thats not nice now Exterminator. Speaking of priests and exterminators, go to youtube and type in priest repellent.

    Great post. Thanks for getting this song stuck in my head!

    I should have added you to the ol’ blogroll sometime ago.

  2. Inquisitor, you know what your post got me to thinkin’ bout? It’s a bit off topic.

    I was thinking how amusing it is that the “Fundamentalist” Protestant Christians nearly all despise the Catholic Church and yet relentlessly expose their children to the teachings of a book that they call the inerrant word of god that was in fact compiled by The Nicene Council in 381 AD at the orders of Constantine. The very bible that they say is so, because IT says it’s so, is a bunch of writings by authors unknown that the Catholic Church SAYS is the “correct” version of god’s word. Funny…

    I guess this really isn’t off-topic. You shouldn’t believe, or teach your children to believe, just because a book says it’s true.

  3. I think it was Sacred Slut who wrote a few months ago that (and I’m paraphrasing here) if god actually wrote the bible you would think he would have been clear enough to get his ideas across without leaving room for so many fucking interpretations.

    And, seriously, I’m with you on songs as indoctrination. Music has a power that mere words don’t. That’s why I can never go into the cereal aisle without thinking of the Sugar Pops jingle. But many kids do outgrow even that kind of brain-washing. I, for one, usually buy Cheerios.

  4. Religious indoctrination should be against the law.

    It seems that in order for religion to really stick (last a lifetime) it must be introduced (indoctrinated) as a child. A child’s untried mind, peopled with fanciful characters as real as any (Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, etc.) represents just the level of thought processes necessary for acceptance of a religious system so rooted in superstition and mythology. An adult tells the child of Santa Claus and the child believes, whole heartedly that he exists. If that child was protected and isolated from those that would tell him otherwise and surrounded by those that would continue to encourage his belief in Santa, would said child ever stop believing in Santa? How is this different than belief in God (Jesus)?

  5. So nice to read something from a fellow rational thinker. I hope you’ll check out my site http://doubtingthomas426.wordpress.com/ as I think you’ll find it right up your alley. Please recommend it to any others you think would enjoy it. I need more intelligent people commenting on my posts. I’ve categorized all my posts on the left. Take a few minutes to read through a few. Leave a comment if you like. Take Care.

  6. Actually, it was the “Jesus Loves the Little Children” that kept me from buying into the xian bit as a kid. When you’ve lived places where you could see them dead in the streets from hunger or disease, seen kids a little older than you maimed from war, or simply seen what happened during the polio epidemic from the people in your comfortable American classroom, well, some doubt is sure to ensue. Nope, when we sang that one, I thought, “I’ll take vanilla.”

    I often hear people discuss their religion, say “Well, they (another sect) say they’re christian, but they’re not REAL christians…” You can be very sure that that the “REAL christian” they percieve is looking back at them from a mirror.

    As the man in South Pacific says, “you’ve got to be carefully taught” about things like religion, and it’s got to start early. Bernard of Clooney said something about giving him the boy for seven years and he would return you the man?

  7. Everybody’s hit on the various ways christianity stamps itself on young minds, and I think the Deacon’s latest post over at the Apostate’s Chapel and JP’s recent post highlight how this stuff can screw with you as you get older. It’s beyond religious indoctrination. It’s culturally reinforced coersion, and that’s the main way that Europe managed to impose it on Latin America. You smash the native culture and replace it with pervasive messages about the christian mindset. Fascist and communist dictatorships did the same thing– everything about the culture becomes a tool for reinforcing groupthink, only churches have been doing it slowly and incrementally over time and starting for most individuals at birth.

  8. We need things for kids. Hell, I still remember most of the lines for the Schoolhouse Rocks songs. Animations, songs, the whole works. I know what I’d be doing if I won the lottery, it would be creating an atheist production company (well, after spending some of the money on some personal indulgences, of course).

  9. Lifey

    Historically, the Church was also a tool for the conquering European countries. Imperialists, all of them. They went into a country and used the church to subjugate the natives. Of course, introducing new diseases helped also, but for those who were left, what better way to create a docile, indigenous population than converting them to your religion and mindset? Of course, at the time, there was not the fine distinction between government and church that we have now.

  10. Bart Ehrmans books should be compulsory reading for anyone wishing to ascertain the likelyhood of the bible containing ANY original comment or evidence. I highly recommend them to all.

  11. SI:

    I’d agree with that analysis, but I was just using Latin America as an example of how that worked rather than Europe. The church has a long history, almost from it’s institutional inception, of cozying up to political and military power so as to increase its temporal power. Goes all the way back to Constantine.

  12. God Inhabits Eternity

    In the height of heaven (Job 22:12), in the third heaven (2 Cor.12:2) God (Isa.44:6, Isa.45:5) inhabits eternity (Isa.57:15) and dwells in Zion (Joel 3:21, Ps.23:6), the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb.12:22).

  13. Patricia Burns

    Thanks you for your comments, however I haven’t the foggiest idea what the fuck you’re talking about. If you care to elucidate, leave another comment. However, citing the Bible is worthless, so stick to the English language. Thanks.

  14. Exterminator: A short wishlist maybe?

    Spanish Inquisitor: It’s definitely an evil jingle. Spot on.

    From my recollection it makes kids shudder instinctively, as you imply, so it actually might be good at averting the will to follow the holy book.

  15. 🙂 On Patricia Burns in hell’s site the most recent question (posted by Skeptic) is:
    I’m about to reach 11,111 points, does that mean the end times are VERY near?

  16. Hey, Everybody,

    Since everyone here is a critical thinker (and critical seems to be the emphasis), I’m sure this will get some fun reactions. I’m so glad that everyone here demands “hard” evidence for what they believe. Remember, since we are the authority of the relevance or truth of knowledge, we must have been able to experience the knowledge for ourselves. Since, SI himself has so eloquently said that there is only so much one person can know, anything we “think” that we have not personally experienced must be belief. When we believe something written in a text book that we have not experienced first hand, then, no matter how we semantically slice it, we are… “taking it by faith.”

    With that in mind (and that if something is on a web-site then it must be evidence, particularly if it supports my argument), I’m wondering what each of you think about this…

    According to this, if any of us read Plato or Aristotle in literature class, which I hope we all did, and didn’t question the validity of the text we were reading, applying up-to-date methods of textual criticism, we’re worse off than anyone who believes “the good book.”

    Your thoughts please. In all sincerity….

  17. Joel:

    I’m not going to bother going to the site you listed. But I will respond to the question you pose. When you study Plato or Aristotle in literature class, you read them as historical authors who had something to say for their time and their place. Yes, you might get into questioning their methods, ideas, conclusions — but it isn’t necessary. Just as it’s not necessary to question whether Shakespeare believed in ghosts when he wrote Hamlet.

    So reading the bible as a historical document, perhaps as a piece of literature (although I would argue that at least half of the books are literarily crap), written by different people at different times, is cool. It’s only when someone puts that anthology forward as the incontrovertible TRUTH, written by a fantasy entity, that I take exception to it.

  18. Well, I did visit the link, and I think it bears pointing out, that the textual integrity of the bible has little or nothing to do with the veracity of its narrative and the other claims contained therein.

    Of course, everyone takes certain things on faith, or we couldn’t get through the day or possibly learn anything. However, we differ as to what we rely on and to what extent we rely upon when we base it purely on faith.

    My faith that the translation I read in college of Plato’s “The Republic” is, in fact, the original, that a guy named Plato wrote it, and that whatever narrative it contains is historically accurate (admittedly questionable) is tempered by the fact that I don’t let my life revolve around my faith in that regard and I am not a Platonic fundamentalist.

    People take their faith in the bible in a far different direction.

    I am as willing to entertain arguments about the veracity of the bible as I am about the veracity of Plato’s works, but I don’t consider questioning either to be heresy. I am open to reading about either issue, but I am not emotionally vested in the truth of either one of them. I just want to see the evidence, read the arguments, and make up my mind. Many christians ARE emotionally invested and I think that creates a real danger when it comes to objectively analyzing the text of the bible.

    I’m no worse off for believing in either one of those books so long as I recognize it’s all just faith. Given the claims, I’ll take Plato or Aristotle please.

  19. The next time someone tries to convince me that Plato created the universe, was born of a virgin, and rose from the dead, that’s the day I’ll start being a little more skeptical about his writings. Right now, they are simply philosophical treatises that make me think (incidentally, Joel, the opposite of the point of my post).

    I read your cite. All it says is that there was a first scripture. It doesn’t say anything about its contents, just that a lot of people thought it was important enough to make more copies, some of which have survived to today. Big Whoop. Just because there are a lot of copies doesn’t mean that we are supposed to believe what’s in them, simply because they exist.

    Do you believe everything in Shakespeare or Plato for that matter, simply because it’s in book form? I doubt it. But again, that was the point of my post.

  20. Absolutely, SI – “It is written!” is not the same as “It is true!” no matter where you find it written.

    As I noted a few days ago in my own blog*, the cry “It is written!” falls down a bit when you note that many other written sources tell a different story. I was specifically referring to the idiotic tale of Noah’s Ark, which is contradicted by the continuous written records of several local civilizations.

    No historian or archaeologist worth a grain of salt would simply assume that any given ancient text is literally true and correct in all particulars. It’s particularly stupid to place such reliance on a text (or rather collection of texts) so full of internal contradictions.

    *Note: I’m in the process of migrating Quarkscrew from Blogger to WordPress. The quarkscrew.blogspot.com address is still being updated at the moment, but I’m mostly living at quarkscrew.wordpress.com now.

  21. I think I’m a prime example of how well teaching kids songs goes towards indoctrinating them, because I have a virtual songbook of Sunday School songs in my head. And they won’t go away, no matter how many dirty or blasphemous thoughts I try stuffing into my brain.

    Here’s another one that tells kids the bible is THE FUCKING BOOK.

    The B-I-B-L-E,
    Yes that’s the book for me.
    I stand alone on the word of god,
    the B-I-B-L-E!

    And for the little militants in your life :

    “I may never march in the infantry,
    ride in the cavalry,
    shoot the artillery.
    I may never fly o’er the enemy,
    but I’m in the lord’s army. Yes, Sir!”

    And finally to make the kiddies paranoid:

    “Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.
    Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.
    There’s a father up above, looking down in tender love,
    so be careful little eyes, what you see.”

    I wonder if there’s any kind of hypnosis that remove the bullshit in my head? Just the bullshit. That’s all I’m asking.

  22. Going back to what John Evo wrote near the top of the thread, I always found it amusing that protestants considered the King James Version to be the authentic Bible. So basically they are saying that Christianity lacked an authentic Bible for the first 1,500 years of its existence.

  23. [[[Joel wrote – anything we “think” that we have not personally experienced must be belief. When we believe something written in a text book that we have not experienced first hand, then, no matter how we semantically slice it, we are… “taking it by faith.”]]]

    Joel, you are correct that, by not having personally experienced what my science book claimed, I was taking it on faith that it was true. The difference between faith in the bible versus faith in a science text book is that a science text book is the result of extensive study and research. So I ask you, what happens when I personally investigate the claims made in the science book? I discover copious amounts of evidence to support its claims. Now what happens if I personally investigated the claims made in the bible (which I have)? You know the answer, Joel. If you want to see my conclusions, just visit my site http://doubtingthomas426.wordpress.com/

  24. SI, this is a great post. However, you do realize that arguing this point in a room full of true believers would be akin to screaming in a loud disco. You’ll either get shouted down by frothy-mouthed wingnuts proclaiming a glorious is nigh or you’ll get apologetics in the form of twisted logic from the likes of Joel. In other words, you’ll get nowhere in with the people who most need a slap upside the head.

    That said, as the father of three kids (two are teens), I’ve found the because-I-said-so model of teaching to be effective when I run short on time or patience for a lengthly explanation. The way I see it, there’s always time for an apology after the fact.

  25. Joel, you mustn’t cofuse “faith” with “reasonable expectation”.

    All of us cross bridges and go through tunnels, we never think about it. Os it faith that everything is hunky-dory? Will we always make it to the other side, and if we do will we be in the same shape as when we started? Not necessarily, but if the engineers, workers, and materials do what they’re supposed to, and there’s been proper maintainace and no fatigue or undue wear of the material, or another driver doesn’t do something stupid, we should be all right. The same as getting on an airplane.

    One has heard about a (probably apocryphal) college professor who had some fear that the atomic structure of his body and that of the floor would suddenly “harmonise” and he would sink through and become part of it. Two physicists have told me that this is, in fact possible…but don’t look to see it happen soon, or, well, anytime.

  26. A PENNDOT geologist has given me his solemn word that carrying an aggressive billy goat with you while crossing bridges will greatly reduce the chances of being waylaid by trolls. People who do so have never seen a troll, let alone been stopped by one.

    Sort of like the Sholom Alaichem story about the rich man who wanted immortality. He was advised to move to the poor quarter of town, no rich man had ever been known to have died there. (He died there, and was thus, obviously, not really rich)

  27. I have been involved in many (too many (way too many)) discussions with fundamentalist biblical literalists. The circular argument has always irked me.

    In college, one of my history professors (Professor Moriarty (no, not kidding)) tried very hard to drum the ideas of logical argument into our little undergraduate minds. For some, it took. Others? Well . . . .

    In my archaeology class, one of the students shared two of my history classes and was a wild-eyed born again christian fundamentalist. We were discussing the different cultures (Clovis, Paleo, Woodland, Archaic (and I know I’m forgetting some (and that’s not even in the right order)) etc.) and the C14 dating of Clovis artifacts to ca 11KBP came up. The fundamentalist immediately said, in class, “How could that be? The bible says the earth is only 6,000 years old.” The professor patiently explained that (1) the bible does not say that, the 6,000 year figure was by a guy named Ussher in the 1600s(?) and (2) the corrected decay rates of Carbon 14 have been very well established. She sat silently for the rest of the class.

    She dropped the class. I (unfortunately for me) found myself sitting next to her while waiting for a professor (snowstorm). I asked why she had dropped the class. She said, “Becuase the teacher was lying.”

    Me: “What makes you think the teacher was lying?”

    Her: “Because he teaches things that are wrong.” (nice circular argement there)

    Me: “Why do you say that?”

    Her: “Because god wrote the bible, so it must be absolute Truth.” (I could hear the capitalization of Truth)

    Me: “What makes you think god wrote the bible?”

    Her: “Because it says so in the bible.”

    Luckily, at this point, in walked Professor Moriarty with our term paper outlines. He launched into a long diatribe against the logical sin of circular reasoning. I turned to the girl and asked, “Doesn’t that sound like your bible argument?” She never talked to me again. Ever. No great loss. Except her mind.

    Again, sorry for the long post. Occupational Hazard. (maybe that should be my tag line? Or possibly my posting name (since I dropped the Disabled Liberal Veteran bit (I initiated that while posting to a political site in which I was accused of being a liberal weenie who wouldn’t know the military if it bit me (I do and it did))))

  28. Very good post, SI. “Jesus Loves Me” is one of hundreds of Christian songs and choruses rattling around inside my skull. Like Babs, I’m a walking hymnal. At least I don’t believe their claims anymore, but it would probably require nothing less than a lobotomy to get them out of my head.

  29. Joel,

    I’m not going to bother to check out the site either because I believe I know already the gists of where it will lead. It’s the typical thing of stretching a definition so far to encompass what you want it to that it’s now unrecognizable. Maybe you stretch the definition of religion big enough so that you can call atheism a religion and now everything is a religion. Maybe you say expecting the light to come on is faith so then all faith is valid. Maybe you say we can’t know for sure if the Republic is Plato’s, if there was a Plato, or if the form we have is correct so therefore if we accept that then we should accept the bible too. It’s all the same dress just put on different pigs.

    There’s faith and as Sarge pointed out, reasonable expectation. It’s reasonable to expect the light to come on. It’s not reasonable to expect I’ll grow wings and float on a cloud after I die (and no, it’s not reasonable to expect I’ll be burning in hell or being anywhere or doing anything because I’ll be dead). As someone else said, The Republic doesn’t claim absolutes that must be obeyed. Whether Plato wrote it or some clown named Shmuckus during the Roman empire or yesterday has little bearing on the work compared to if he authored the bible. Speaking of that book, even if Matt, Mark, Luke and John actually were the authors, it still doesn’t change the fact that it sounds like nonsense and there’s no good reason to accept what it demands.

    Oh and for christ’s sake (and by christ’s sake I don’t imply I believe or accept that he was divine (or son of a god) or even real (which we don’t know (which is that whole faith thing (which I don’t subscribe to)) Billy, what’s up with all the parentheses? 😉

  30. PhillyChief: In an informal setting, I write the way I talk. Rest assured that were I writing in a formal venue*, such parentheticals would be included in the footnotes.

    *Such as a term paper or a publication at work.

  31. Joel: My memory is a little hazy on this (age, you know), but there is independent and concurrent evidence for both Plato and Aristotle (Its been a long time since my course in ancient history, so I am shooting from the cuff here). For the new testament, though, there is no contemporary evidence of an historical person named jesus who was a social liberal rabble rouser touching into the Judaic messiah theme. There is no conemporary evidence of his trial. There is no contemporary evidence of his sermons. The four gospels were written between 25 and 50 years after his ‘death.’

    We do know (with some degree of certainty) that, for instance, pieces of the Pauline writings were forged and inserted at a much later date (possibly aroung AD200). We also know that there were multiple versions of the four Canonical gospels and that they appear to have been edited in order remove ammunition for adoptionists, dualists and gnostics. We also know that there were many more gospels not included in the canon, including the acts of Hecla and a second Mark. (I refer you to a book called “Lost Christianities” (and I recommend it to anyone interested in the formation of modern orthodoxy within the christian tradition))

    So what does this have to do with your argument about Plato and Aristotle? In literature and history classes, we did study Plato and Aristotle. We did subject their writings to criticism. We did place their writings in historic context. We did discuss independent evidence for the existence of two of the great thinkers of Western civilization. And we did discuss how their writings, in a limited environment, affect todays world. Modern christianity, though, exclusive of some biblical scholars and historians who are doing great work, refuse to subject the bible to literary critism, will not place the writings in historical context, will not accept that there is no evidence for an historical jesus other than the bible itself, and yet insist on forcing todays world to fit within the writings from the first century (a severly limited environment).

    Sorry for the long post. Occupational Hazard.

    Oh, and PhillyChief, you forgot to close the last parentheses (I know, nitpicking (but hey, that’t part of what I do, dig?))

    SI: Excellent post. All: Great comments. I sit in awe.

  32. Billy

    Excellent comment. I wanted to say all of that, but you did a much better job than I would have.

    The Bible, more than any other book in the history of writing (with the exception of the scriptures of other religions) makes a claim about the truth of the reality depicted therein, in an absolute sense. I.e. It IS reality, and we should live our lives in strict accordance. At least, that’s how certain sects of Christianity view it (many don’t). Only strict Christians (true Christians?) read it and live by it that way. No one, for instance, takes the works of Plato, and organizes their lives around them, to the exclusion of all other thought. Plato is read in conjunction with all other western (and Eastern) philosophy, and individuals take from it what make sense to them. It is certainly not imposed on them via indoctrination at a young age (how many three year olds even know who Plato is? How many know who god is?).

    Also, The Bible, especially the New Testament, is premised on the existence of Jesus, and the works he allegedly performed, as historical fact. Plato’s works are not premised on the historical existence of Plato, or what he did. They could have been written by Murray Leibovitz last year while living in Brooklyn, writing under the Plato pseudonym, and the ideas contained in the works would still be valid. OTOH, strip away the historical Jesus from the NT, and you are left with a so-so book of philosophy, not a major Scripture, justifying belief in a major religion.

  33. Billy,

    Thank you for an actually civil/rational reply. To the rest, its amazing how much you respond like the very fundamentalists we decry. You make assumptions of folk’s stance and worldview. Amazing. With all of what has been said up to this point… where are your opinions on the Koran? Muhammed claimed to have received it directly from God (“Allah”)? Are we offended by that? Or do we only hate Christianity? Remember, these are just questions I have as I “get to know” you all (or ya’ll if your a moronic Texan).

    SI, what is your opinion of Josephus, particularly now that textual criticism has “cleaned up” his works that are out there? Appreciate it.

  34. where are your opinions on the Koran? Muhammed claimed to have received it directly from God (”Allah”)? Are we offended by that?


    Or do we only hate Christianity?

    No. Theism is what doesn’t make sense. Islam is, frankly, crazier than Christianity. At least Christianity, for the most part, has moved into the 19th century. Islam is still in the seventh.

    SI, what is your opinion of Josephus, particularly now that textual criticism has “cleaned up” his works that are out there? Appreciate it.

    Don’t know what you mean by “cleaned up”. My understanding is that the references to Jesus in the two places Josephus wrote are highly suspect. They are not the type of references a Jewish historian would have made, they are not consistent with the rest of the surrounding text, and there is no other corroborative writing by authors one would expect to quote from Josephus, if he did refer to Jesus. Given the lack of original documents, it’s not something that is conducive to “cleaning up”.

    What do you know that I don’t?

  35. On Josephus, my understanding, someone correct me if I’m wrong, I have FAITH… reasonable expectation… that you will!… that suspect passages of Josephus had been weeded out by up-to-date scholars. Didn’t know if you had any insight with your research. Just a wonderment.

  36. The attitude and tone of atheists dismissing irrational arguments, I grant you, can be, well…dismissive at times, but if you look closely, it’s rarely personal or ad hominem. It is almost always addressed to the argument being proposed by theists, not the theist himself, which, I’ll be the first to admit, have been heard so many times, it’s laughable. Don’t take it personally when outright nonsense is dismissed with smart-assed, sometimes caustic statements. Christians, of all people, should have thick skins.

    It’s this whole “The bible says it’s true, so it is true” circularity that I mention in the post that will drive a rationalist to say what might be construed as “mean things”. As they say, if you can’t stand the heat, get the fuck out of the kitchen.

    But from the other side of the fence, if you want attitude and tone, get into a debate with a Christian who simply refuses to acknowledge that a rational argument is being made, instead, proclaiming haughtily and superciliously that the argument is contrary to the Bible, and not worth debating. That type of tone and attitude is frankly insulting to the intelligence of the debater who is trying to get some – any – engagement from the other side, and failing miserably.

  37. As to:

    Paul Maier, Western Michigan University

    Is this what you are referring to? It doesn’t seem to clear up anything with regard to the Testimonium Flavianum. He simply quotes the passage, as we have received it, and says that it supports the historicity of Jesus. Can you say “bootstrap”?

    Here’s a better, more detailed essay on it. Certainly, the jury is still out, and most likely will never come in.

    Incidentally, Dr. Maier is also 2nd vice president of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

  38. With all of what has been said up to this point… where are your opinions on the Koran? Muhammed claimed to have received it directly from God (”Allah”)? Are we offended by that? Or do we only hate Christianity?

    Yes, I am intellectually offended by the qu’ran, though I have not studied the document itself. I am also intellectually offended by many religious writings, including (but not limited to) the Book of Hopi, the writings of Joseph Smith, the Siddarvatha (sp?) and any other book of moral philosophy which attempts to create a moral underpinning for ones life through a resort to some variation of ‘god said it, so it is right, I know god said it, ’cause it is in this book, written by god.’

    I also strongly reiterate what Spanish Inquisitor said: we do not insult the individual (or at least we try not to), however, fallacious, illogical, irrational and circular arguments are fair game for lots of abuse. If I cam across as civil/rational, I apologize. I was aiming for a sarcastic takedown. (Sigh).

    At the risk of incurring the wrath of the Spanish Inquisitor (man, I always wanted to say that (or at least type that) (and why not the Carcassone Inquisitor?)) by all means keep posting, but, from dealing with these writers for a few months, be ready for us to poke holes in bad arguments (and by bad, see the definition of argument by Monty Python).

    I know I am wordy. Occupationa Hazard.

  39. Joel: Oh, and I say ya’ll in normal conversation. Got it from the Cumberland Valley of Western Maryland. I continue to use it because I refuse to use the Northeast Pennsylvania localism, ‘youse.’

    Not all who ya’ll are from Tejas!

    Poor puns and attempted jokes are also an Occupational Hazard.

  40. Josephus argument is a dead end, and that’s the best christianity has. There’s a world of info out there on that suspect passage, and a great deal of that is available online so go Google if your interested Joel. You don’t need SI or any of us to help you. Note – be suspicious of sites like Answers in Genesis. Try a site that doesn’t have anything to gain by Jesus being real or fictional either way.

    As for tone, get over it. I think especially since you’re not bringing anything to the party, you don’t have any special right to complain about the food, capiche? Lame links don’t count.

  41. Joel:

    “Attitude and tone.” Methinks I would ascribe that to the “hornets effect” as described on the headline of Ex’s blog, but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t think anyone here has personally insulted you or anything. You’re espousing theism on a blog full of atheists, and you’ll get a barrage of critical responses.

    Look. I read your links, but I’m not convinced. I think the problem is that belief in the bible and belief in Aristotle’s Ethics are two very different things. I don’t hold beliefs about the nature of reality, good and evil, and how I should think based on Aristotle. No one does. They read it, consider what it says, and make up their minds. It doesn’t purport to be the inerrant law of a divine being and no one says it is.

    For that very reason, we don’t even feel the NEED to verify Aristotle’s Ethics as a historical document for us to consider it what it is. We appreciate it as being a contribution to the world of philosophy, debate its relative merits, and move on. People treat the bible very differently, and if you’re going to treat it as more than a book, as the divinely inspired word of god, then it had better be damn near flawless.

    Does that sound insulting to you? Like a personal attack?
    Do some of us talk about your positions with a degree of disdain? Sure, I think so, but I don’t think it gets personal so much as people sometimes take it personally because of how dearly they hold their beliefs.

    My question has always been, how can someone be objective about beliefs they hold so dearly? Beliefs they are so emotionally invested in?

  42. Ok, everybody. Listen. I have not asked anyone to be convinced of anything. Read my posts. If I’m wrong, I’ll gladly admit it and I’ll apologize. You can be asses all day. I don’t really care for myself. And, apart from you assumptions, at what point have I “espoused” Theism. Assumptions are a dangerous thing.

    Lifeguard, how can you read back through any given post and say that anyone here is not emotionally invested in what they believe. We believe what we believe, because we believe it’s right. If not, we’re insane. No one can say, I believe this, but I don’t think it’s right or true. When profanities are uttered (emotion is the point of profanity!), then it shows emotion. So my question goes to you: How can you be objective about something you hold so dear?

    And, believe me, my emotions are intact, I’m not insulted… ya’ll (yins – Southwest Pennsylvania!) are pansies compared to my ex-step-mother-in-law.

  43. Which thing held so dear? Critical thinking? Reason? Atheism? Any or all of the above? Be a bit more specific and I’ll try to answer.

    Oh, and around Philly profanity isn’t always indicative of emotion, not that I think emotion is bad. I’m not advocating being fucking Vulcans for christ’s sake. 😉

    Still to your point, if you repeatedly were told that you were a horse despite your objections to that, it would become frustrating, no? In that frustration, perhaps you’d grow angry at those insisting you were a horse. Now the fact that you’re angry would you say interferes with your objectivity of assessing whether or not you’re a horse? Should you be forced to accept that you’re a horse, or that it’s possible that you might be a horse simply because you’re angry?

  44. Joel:

    The only things people hold dear around here are reason, the methods of science, and critical thinking– things I don’t think your original post called into question. The folks here reacted to what they considered outrageous claims, and they reacted with incredulity.

    If I tell you that gravity is a bunch of baloney, you would be perfectly justified in treating me like a nut job, but it wouldn’t be fair of me to then say that you only reacted that way because you’re emotionally invested in law of gravity.

    I’m not suggesting your claim was on par with a denial of gravity, but I do think our reaction to your claim has far more to do with what we honestly think can and cannot be proven about the bible more than with some emotional attachment to our atheism.

    Come on, man… a horse is a horse, of course… of course!

  45. I’ve always heard:

    If someone tells you you’re a horses ass, ignore it.
    If two people tell you, take some time for reflection.
    If three people tell you, buy a saddle.

    Pittsburgh is the same way. We live in a profane generation… meaning… profanity has lost its proper place in our language. Our perpetual use of particularly the F-word is… illogical. Sorry, had to do it.

    Critical thinking and reason are not philosophies in and of themselves. The religious and irreligious around the world would LIKE to think of themselves as operating within the realm of critical thinking and reason. The question would then pertain to a-theism. It seems that if our assumption is that truth is what I objectively investigate and arrive at as a conclusion, what is being said is that only I can determine if I am objective. How do I know I’m an objective investigator? Because I say I am. If I look only to others who think like me to see if I’m objective… is that much better. Circular reasoning is circular, despite the size of the circle.

    Life guard was saying that someone cannot be objective about beliefs they hold dearly. Once I hold atheism dearly, does that mean I am no longer an objective thinker? If I then turn to the atheist next to me… in the blogosphere… and say “Am I still objective?” and they say “Yes! Because you’re an atheist.” At what point have I lost my objectivity? In the moment I hold to atheism dearly? What if I don’t hold it dearly. Just hold it… gingerly.

  46. Lifeguard,

    Thanks for your response. I’m just asking questions. I don’t think I’ve claimed anything yet. One contributor said that I’m not bringing anything to the party. I’ll bring quiche. But I’m here to ask questions and learn the lines of logic when simple (simplistic? stupid?) questions are asked. That’s all.

    A horse is, of course, a horse. Unless someone has been told differently their whole life and calls it a cumquat. That doesn’t change it’s horse-ness.

  47. Spanqi-

    Apparently I’m one of the few who can’t read your blog anymore. I used to enjoy it when it was readable… you know, when the text was actually visible.

    Wait! Maybe you’re activating some sort of inquisitorial torture as you seek to live up to your namesake. But which one? The Torquemada version or the Monty Python version? I guess I’ll never know since I can’t read it anymore!

    C’mon Spanqi, get back to some old fashioned, boring black-on-white. Pleeeeeeeeze?! (BTW check my spelling, would ya. I can’t see what I’m typing.)

    On the other hand what’s the point of complaining… you probably can’t read it either.

  48. Joel:

    The point about objectivity doesn’t have to do with whether or not you hold a position. It has to do with whether or not you WANT to believe in one thing or another and being conscious of that personal bias (if it exists) when you’re evaluating evidence. It’s not impossible, it’s just hard, and

    I would suggest that for many people raised as christians in christian families who went to christian schools and live in christian communities– well, maybe it’s harder for them to objectively consider an argument antithetical to christianity for reasons that have more to do with their emotional and cultural attachment than it does with the relative strengths of the arguments.

    I’d go even further to say that objectivity isn’t an easy thing for anyone regardless of their position, and that’s why we rely on each other out here in the atheosphere to keep each other honest. Believe me, with the likes of some of these guys it’s a rough crowd sometimes. Objectivity has to do with the nature of the process.

  49. “Once I hold atheism dearly…”

    No one holds it dearly. There’s your mistake. It’s not a faith based belief. Every atheist would tell you that if there was proof, we’d accept the claim.

  50. Have you heard the little ditty taught to young children in the Baptist church in Sunday School called ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS…..Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
    with the cross of Jesus going on before.
    Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
    forward into battle see his banners go!
    Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
    with the cross of Jesus going on before.

    2. At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
    on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
    Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
    brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

    3. Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
    brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
    We are not divided, all one body we,
    one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

    4. Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
    but the church of Jesus constant will remain.
    Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
    we have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

    5. Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
    blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
    Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King,
    this through countless ages men and angels sing.

    The Baptists like to scare the shit outta ya! I doth bear witness to this and I deny all teachings of any religious text since becoming clear-headed and free thinking. That took 39 years! Can I get 39 years worth of compensation for the corruption and torture my brain has sustained from the Baptists Church. No chance.

  51. I’ve always been more than somewhat disturbed by the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Christians love to point out that the religion of jesus is one of love, compassion, turning the other cheek, meekness, etc. Methinks this was a good idea back when christianity was the religion of the poor working classes and slaves. Especially since they refused to even go through the motions of the Roman state religion and got blamed for bringing disasters by not honoring the gods in the right manner.

    Constantine’s conversion, which made (eventually) christianity the state religion, meant they had to find some way of letting soldiers be christians. In all my readings, I haven’t run across how the early church made this theological contortion (sorry, I mean leap of faith) to allow christians to kill. Anyone know a good book about it?

    Today, I occasionally see a bumber sticker which says, “What Would Jesus Bomb.” Six months ago, I assumed it was a fellow free-thinker parodying militant christianity. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe the people with that bumper sticker really are christian soldiers with the cross before and are really asking who jesus would bomb today.

    Long Post, Occupational Hazard.

  52. Lifeguard,

    My point is (I believe…) exactly what you touched on. Am I being truly objective if I only look to people in my camp (maybe a military metaphor is bad timing…) to confirm my objectivity. This is a struggle I have. At what point does a free-thinker use philosophical triangulation to gain their bearings in the atheosphere (great word!). Are there any on the horn here who want to believe in a god, but the evidence is so overwhelmingly against it that we just don’t? If our travels to a-theism started with any desire to not believe in a god, does that mean we are no longer objective when we arrive at what we believe is a logical conclusion?

    To Billy,

    According to some accounts in the “gospels”, I can think of a few churches Jesus might bomb!

  53. Joel

    I can’t speak for others, but I look mainly to the other camp (to use your metaphor) for validation of my belief, or lack thereof. So far, Christianity has done nothing BUT validate my atheism. The fact that others agree with me is not helpful. The fact that others disagree with me, but seem to be particularly and consistently unpersuasive, if far more validating of my lack of belief.

  54. I cannot speak for anyone else here, but I can say that my travel to atheism did not begin with “any desire to not believe in a god.”

    I grew up in a very free-thinking household. I did attend church(es). When I lived in Arizona, there was a wonderful methodist minister who also did catholic, lutheran, jewish, basically everything but mormon (no personal bias on his part, its just there was already a mormon church in town) in an ecumenical, take everyone, church. When we moved back east, I occasionally attended a Unitarian Church which was a lot like the ecumenical church in Arizona.

    My personal theology went from nothing, to (and I use current definitions (most of which I would not have grokked at the time) theist, to universal deist, to agnostic, to agnostic with some athiesm. And there I stalled. For about 20 years.

    I became a-religious through contact with the Western Maryland version of the bible belt (and I have many times written about these encounters (actually, I’ve done it so many times I’m starting to repeat myself (luckily, I have not had bad/weird/memorable collisions with fundamentalists, christianists, dominionists, and right wing wackos too many times)) within this (and other) blogs). I decided by the time I was about 14 that churches were scams. I figured they may have some Truth, but what you had to go through to get to the Truth was, to put it bluntly, scarey.

    I remained an agnostic for many years. I bought into the idea that “it takes as much faith to be an atheist as an agnostic” and left it at that. When I discovered Atheist Revolution (and through that site the Spanish Inquisitor, the Apostates Chapel, Atheist Rants and a whole bunch of really good sites), I spent about two month just reading. Then I took the plunge and commented. And was surprised that my comments were integrated into the conversation. Sometimes I was smacked down. Sometimes I was pointed to an idea or some information of which I was unaware (I am reading the essay from Bede’s Library on the Josephus quote of which I had been unaware until yesterday). My arguments became refined. My logical skills improved. I learned how to divide by zero.

    And I decided that William of Ockham was right. Do not multiply entities beyond necessity. I realized that the world that I can observe is explained through natural philosophy — today’s science. There is, to me, no need for a god. And the more I study, read, discuss, and write, the more I view the world through a thoroughly natural lense. And, conversely, there is no ‘miracle’ which cannot be explained through natural processes (and yes, there are some we have not found yet, especially regarding such things as cancer remissions (but remember, when you talk about something like cancer remission, you are talking about an extremely unlikely event, not an impossibility)).

    My travels did not start with a desire to not believe in god. I grew up looking at the folded rocks at Dante’s Peak at Death Valley; at the great uncomformaty between the Vishnu Schist of the inner gorge of the Grand Canyon and the much younger (by about 100 million years) Tapeats Limestone of the Tonto Group; at the plutons and granite domes (the roots of mountains) at Yosemite. I grew up with a geologist father who could explain the natural processes which created the seemingly miraculous landscape of the American Southwest. I was fed critical thinking skills and a sense of time from when I was a small child. Questioning the bible (especially when I actually read it) came easy. So did questioning god.

    Your question about objectivity is a difficult one. I can view the evidence (geological, palaeontological, anthropological, hisorical) dispassionately (though I do feel passionate about the past) and objectively. I read and observe evidence. I weigh that evidence against what I already know. I make a conclusion based on the evidence. I am frequently wrong. The evidence is sometimes wrong (though both the study of science and the study of history are, in their modern form, self-correcting) but will, through peer review and new discoveries, be corrected.

    My personal conclusion that god does not exist, can not exist, is a personal decision. I will gladly discuss it with anyone (as long as they are willing to argue coherently and avoid circular reasoning (which was where Spanish Inquisitor started this whole thing)), but my conclusion is based on what I know, how I acquired the knowledge, how my brain sorts, rearranges and connects that knowledge, and my own personal biases. The arguments are important to me. The evidence is objective. The conclusion, though, is personal and, ultimately, subjective.

    And as to the part about bombing? If jesus existed, and jesus taught what is described in the gospels (both canonical and apocyphal), I doubt very seriously that a pacifist social revolutionary would have advocated the taking of a human life.

    I know its a long post. SI, I am not trying to hijack you here, but the starting point and the comments have helped me to rearrange data in new ways that I didn’t expect.

    Joel: good questions. I like questions which help me think in new ways.

    I guess thinking is, for me, an Occupational Hazard.

  55. Joel:

    First, “atheosphere” is Exterminator’s word, so I won’t take any credit for it. He’s a wealth of great terms and even came up with my own screen name “Lifeguard.”

    I can’t pretend to speak for anybody else here, but I never wanted to be an atheist. Slowly, over the course of the last year and a half or so, I changed my mind based completely on the evidence and things I have read. One day, I just realized I didn’t believe anymore. My life would have been, indeed would be, MUCH easier if I continued living my former life of faith, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I don’t look back on that faith with a certain sense of longing.

    I’m completely willing to believe in god, but I’m not going to close my mind or let that willingness distort how I otherwise evaluate the evidence. Whenever I have considered it I find in my heart and in my mind that I just don’t believe in god or christianity anymore. When I had a huge fight over it with my fiancee, I knew it might even cost me getting married, but I also knew that I could not, under any circumstances, pretend to believe or force myself to do it. Not because I didn’t want to believe, but because in my mind, I knew better.

    When I believed, I read about atheism, was happy to consider alternatives, and always enthusiastically engaged the opposition. Now that I’m an atheist, I do the same. What I’m not willing to do is close my eyes. I don’t only look to atheist peers– in fact, I often visit a blog maintained by someone who I consider a formidable theist with a heavy grounding in philosophy, and we have it out. A lot of folks out in the atheosphere do the same thing.

  56. Billy:

    Great comment and a great de-conversion story. Somewhere out there I know there’s a blog that just lists people’s deconversion stories, and you should try and check it out. You should also start blogging!

  57. I guess thinking is, for me, an Occupational Hazard.

    You know, Billy, if you keep pointing that out, we’re going to have to change your name to Billy OH. In fact, since I’m god here, I think I’ll do it anyway. 8) (this post only(maybe))

    Feel free to exposit at any length you desire. That goes for everybody. The readers decide what’s readable.

  58. Lifeguard: I don’t know if I would call it a deconversion story. I was never a true ‘believer’ in the first place. I don’t ever remember, even once in my life, praying. My story is the story of a journey. It took me 42 years to declare what has been true for as long as I can remember: I am an athiest. No modifyers involved.

    (Today, by the way, is my 42nd birthday, and it really is the first time I have felt comfortable with unmodified atheism.)

  59. Pingback: Morphing Martial Metaphors « An Apostate’s Chapel

  60. Happy Birthday, Bill of OH. You share one with my bro.

    SI, there’s a quandary to me in disagreement validating your position. But I’m trying to work through it without being an annoyance… I know… too late. Thanks everyone for your tiptoeing me through these issues… and for letting me ask questions.

    Bill, what did you mean by evidence being “wrong.” I don’t think you meant it how it initially triggered in my mind when I read through your post, but I’ve read it a few times now and just want to get clarification. And thank you, altogether, for your post. Very helpful.

  61. Joel, now ve know ver you liff! Der at’eeists der know, too!

    And, as I play about half a dozen gigs there (often in churches) and visit the Oakland VA about once a month I might run across you. Who knows?
    I’d shake your hand with a smile, articulate people are hard to come by.

    Now, we saw christianity in action in Pittsburgh about a quarter century ago, or are you a bit too young to remember? Remember all the scriptural references used? Remember how the synod wrote their own congregants off when the money boys waved a few checks? All the scriptural justifications for each side, and how each side “took it to the lord” who apparently gave conflicting answers to both sides? All the “charity” and “love”? And this was just between the adherants of one sect.

  62. Just a quick comment. The song that is the basis for your whole post is only saying, “I know my father loves me because he says he does”.

  63. Billy, more importantly than sharing the B-day of Joel’s bro, you share the birthday of MINE – The Exterminator.

    Joel, just to explain something that you may not have picked up on. A lot of “free-thinkers” toss a lot of “fuck”, “shit” and “jesuschrist” into their speech and writing. It’s because they don’t have any fear of the words and use them rather freely. But those words aren’t DIRECTED at you! For instance, they aren’t calling you a name or degrading you personally when they use them. Your sensitivity to the words themselves may make you feel like they are treating you rudely. They are not.

    On the other hand, you have said things in the course of this thread like “you can all act like horses asses if you want” and “y’all are pansies compared to…”. No one called you to task for it, even though that type of statement is exactly what NO ONE directed at you.

    My only addition to all that’s been said is that it’s extremely difficult to hold atheism as a “cherished belief”. The word itself tells you why. It simply means that we are WITHOUT belief in any gods. How I would go about cherishing my own lack of belief in gods, I’m really not sure. I suppose in some peoples cases it might be possible (I don’t want to throw an absolute at you) but it certainly is a whole different thing than when someone has a cherished belief in something supernatural that tells them, unequivocally, how to live life.

  64. Joel asked: “what did you mean by evidence being “wrong?””

    My statement that the evidence can, on occasion, be wrong is written strictly from my point of view. For instance, I read extensively in vertebrate palaeontology. As a small child, I wanted to be a palaeontologist. Unfortunately, in the late 70s and early 80s, the books available in my county and school libraries were still from the 1950s through the 1960s. These books portrayed dinosaurs as an evolutionary failure, an emblem of failure. They were boring (and it takes a lot to make dinosaurs seem boring to a pre-pubertal male) (now, of course, I have been introduced to the Dinosaur Rennaissance and they have become excititng again). I chose to concentrate instead on history. It worked out pretty good.

    I am a hobbyist when it comes to palaeontology. I do no independent research, nor do I attempt publications. I must, perforce, rely on the experts. Experts make mistakes. Luckily, through peer review, these mistakes are caught and corrected sooner or later. The conclusions of the experts are my evidence. Sometimes they are wrong.

    Experts within a field also make mistakes. These mistakes (either in interpreting the evidence, or making conclusions based upon that evidence) are eventually corrected.

    Does this clear it up?

  65. By the way, SI, when you posted the initial article, did you even have an inkling that the thread would evolve in such vigorous manner?

  66. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve always found great comfort in knowing that some guy who may (or may not) have lived over 2,000 years ago loves me. Ain’t no lovin’ like zombie lovin’! Now, that would be a good song title!

  67. Do you remember that song that Dale Evans wrote, “You have to have faith, hope, and charity, that’s the way the bible says to be, how do I know? The bible tells me so.”

    There are other verses and for a while it was even “on the charts” (or was it Chartres?) and quite popular.

    I was a boy then, and was surprised that my parents didn’t like it, especially since that seemed to encapsulate their world view. Well, it wasn’t the words per se, it was performed on television and the backup group had done something with their arms, waving them, and the song was, well, too snappy, thus all the holiness was leached out of it.

    I always get a charge out of listening to a lot of them bitching about the new hymnals that have been creeping into their churches. One old fart was groaning that that “They just want to tear everything down. We had good Lowell Mason songs, and they were good enough for us.” He couldn’t even begin to think that probably back a century or two there was an old ass like him who probably said, “They just want to tear everything down. Plain song was good enough…” And they’re so ignorant of their own background that they have never heard of Ambrose of Milan who tolled in the young pagans and the children of the nobility by putting religious words to the popular music of the day.

    Not far from here there is an event called Creationfest where people camp and listen to christian music. They have very strict rules about physical contact, expressions of affection and such things. I would be interested to see if there is a Chatauqua Syndrome associated birth rate spike nine months afterward.

  68. One of the things I like about this site (as well as a bunch of others) is that someone will write something and a little (very little) light goes on in the back of my mind and I make yet another connection.

    A few years back, my wife and a friend of hers ran a residential cleaning business. One spring, they got a contract to clean at a summer camp up the back mountain (yes, people really do say things like that around here, took me a while to get used to it). I took eight hours leave and let her company pay me for a days work (not bad, one day worked, two days pay).

    When we broke for lunch, I noticed some songbooks on the shelf. Being a folk singer and fold music enthusiast, I grabbed it and almost fell out of my seat. The first song I opened to was “Follow the Drinking Gourd.”

    I have always liked this song, both for the melody and the idea of the slaves escaping to the North. In this book, however, the paragraph to introduce it said that since jesus is the water of life, the slave happily sang about following the drinking gourd to jesus’ love. No mention of slaves escaping to freedom. No mention of the North Star. No mention of Ursa Major, also called, among ante-bellum slaves, the Drinking Gourd.

    I started to check other songs. This Land is Your Land became an anthem to god conquering America for a christian nation (complete with new lyrics). Hobo Lullabye had been rewritten to show how a worthless bum accepted jesus and suddenly got a job, stopped drinking and could sleep through the night. Wabash Cannonball had been ‘christianized.’ So had Big Rock Candy Mountain. Blowin’ in the Wind had an introduction explaining that the ‘wind’ was the bible, and the answer was jesus. It went on and on and on and on and on.

    I felt moderately ill. If this is what a substantial portion of our children is being taught in summer camp, then we are raising a generation of fanatics. Over at ‘tales of an ordinary girl’ there is a frightening look at religious textbooks.

    It is more than just the songs. Saying that ‘Jesus loves me’ is no longer enough, apparently. Every song must be reinterpreted with a christian bent. Every book must be either pro or anti christian. And history itself must be viewed only through a christian lense.

    It really is frightening.

  69. By the way, SI, when you posted the initial article, did you even have an inkling that the thread would evolve in such vigorous manner?

    No, but I’m constantly surprised by what gets comments and what doesn’t. This post, for instance, was a spur of the moment, inspirational, 30 minute write. I was actually thinking of writing an entirely different post, one I’d been mulling over for a week, and as part of the thought process, this song popped into my head, so I just started writing. The indoctrination theme is something I’ve written on before, but apparently my subconscious hasn’t worked it all out yet. It is gratifying to see so many comments. I think Joel’s comments have actually been very helpful to the process, because he’s mainly asking thought provoking questions. It’s one of the reasons why I encourage the “opposing camp” to comment.


    Ain’t no lovin’ like zombie lovin’

    Hey little babe, let me light your candle
    ‘Cause mama I’m sure hard to handle, now, gets around

  70. vjack said: I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve always found great comfort in knowing that some guy who may (or may not) have lived over 2,000 years ago loves me.

    I’m not that comfortable knowing that some guy has the hots for me and keeps sending his friends to remind me. I don’t think I’m such a prize catch that he needs to devote whole radio and TV shows to wooing me.

  71. Damn. I thought they edited out the homoerotic stuff from the NT (Second Mark, I believe (at the very least, on of ones found in the jar in Eypt about 50 years ago)). I guess I just never thought about it that way.

  72. Billy,

    Thanks for your interesting comment. Please feel free to read more on the Drinking Gourd song at my site devoted to it: http://www.followthedrinkinggourd.org. I have never heard of the songbook you reference, and if you have any idea at all which one it was, I would welcome the citation.


    Joel B.

  73. Joel: No citation on that one. It was a Methodist Camp. I didn’t think to write down the title or any other information. I was a little to floored to remember that.

  74. I do a lot of folk music, still have all my books from the sixties and many records, too. It’s amazing how many pieces are bowdlerized to suit the purpose of the publisher.

    I am a civil war reenactor, and one of the groups I’m a member of is a band. We play period instruments, period music, I am the director and arranger. Research shows you a lot of things that most people don’t know anything about.

    I knew that the Battle Hymn of the Republic originated in South Carolina, and you didn’t hear it in the camps at all (the soldiers disliked it, tended to dump people who played/sang it down latrines after massaging their ribs with boot toes and bending their teeth) but also that Dixie wasn’t a universal favorite in the south.

  75. Sarge

    No, and I looked him up in the Bar Association Directory, and he’s not in it, so I suspect that if he’s around here, he probably works for the state, or in private industry.

  76. Sarge:

    Bowdlerization (there’s something you don’t see every day) is common to all ages. What I find most fascinating, though, is plagiarism (as Lee Hayes once said, “Plagiarism is basic to all cultures”). Sometimes I will be playing and singing a song, and my wife will start singing a completely different song (almost the same tune, totally different lyrics and (sometimes) subject). She claims she has no musical talent, but she can recoginize the tune better than I can.

    I wonder if there are any other alternate words to “Jesus Loves Me?” If not, maybe someone needs to be creative?

  77. Billy, Texas Sam Hinton once said that a traditional song is like getting Daniel Boone’s tomahawk. It was given to your anscestor who was his friend, and passed down to you, and here it is, from Daniel Boone himself. Of course, throught the years it’s gotten twelve new handles and three new heads, but hey, Daniel Boone gave it to your anscestor, and…you get the picture.

  78. My father-in-law is a knife collector. He sells and trades them at knife shows and measures his collection in pounds (not sterling, weight). He has a ‘knife’ which is a nail-file stuck into a piece of green wood. He labels it “Charlemagne’s Knife: Handle replace 174 times, blade replaced 80 times. Price: $154,079.99 negotiable.” He’s never had a taker.

    I have no problem with people taking a song and changing it. Some are really good. Witness “Boys of the West,” “Acres of Clams” and another one about Lincoln (name temporarily forgotten) all with the same melody. What irks me, though, is when someone takes a song and, with minimal or no rewriting, comes up with a boatload of symbolism and tells you that the song means something completely different because you haven’t been using the proper symbolic language.

    Oddly, people do this (selectively) with the bible itself. The law regarding stoning people who work on the Sabbath has been reinterpreted to mean go to church. But genesis is absolutely word for word truth. Who makes up the rules about what in the bible can be interpreted symbolically and what has to be taken literally?

  79. Billy, it’s “Lincoln and Liberty”, it was a campaign song.

    It has a part that I think would have a different tone and meaning now, “…hurrah for the suckers so lucky…” I think the present slate would use “sucker” as a different type of noun.

  80. Sarge: Thank you. I also ran across another one with almost the same melody — its a different version of “Wild Colonial Boy”. It has almost the same words, but to almost the melody of “Boys of the West.” It sounds wrong.

  81. Pingback: Carnival of the Godless: The Book of ‘Pod Edition | Mind on Fire.

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