Monday, January 19, 2009

The Straight Dope on The Exodus

Here's an old entry(dated March 3, 1981) to Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope trivia column regarding the veracity of the Ten Plagues of Moses and the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. The Book of Exodus portrays the Plagues and Exodus as historical fact, but the archaeological record is silent. Not only is there no other evidence (outside of the Bible) that the Hebrews fled Egypt afer a series of devastating plagues, but some of the plagues are naturally-occurring phenomena anyway, such as the river Nile turning blood-red.

Furthermore, the story of Exodus clearly portrays the capriciousness of Jehovah and the Hebrews who worshipped him. Jehovah punishes the Egyptians for enslaving the Hebrews, but for some reason needed over four hundred years to work up the appropriate amount of divine wrath. Once the devastation began, however, Exodus records that Jehovah hardened Pharoah's heart in order to allow the plagues to continue. During the tenth plague, the "angel of the Lord" kills the firstborn of all Egypt with the notable exception of Pharoah himself, who should have been the firstborn in his family, no? Finally, after the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea, Jehovah didn't close the waters behind them preventing the Egyptian army from chasing them down. No, he waited until the Egyptians were in the river bed before releasing the waters, thus needlessly drowning them.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Colorado gunman targets non-Christians

On December 30, 2008, Colorado resident Derik Bonestroo, an employee of the Eldora Mountain Resort, orchestrated a plan to target and kill his coworkers who were not Christian, according to the Denver Post.

After arriving heavily armed at the resort, Bonestroo fatally shot Brian Mahon, resort manager. Witnesses claimed that Bonestroo shouted, "If you're not Christian, you're gonna die!" Bonestroo was later shot and wounded by a sheriff's deputy, and the gunman finally killed himself.

Religious apologists argue that, whether belief in God is true or not, religious faith is useful in curbing violent behaviors. I wonder how this incident can be justified. If Bonestroo said that God speaks to him and wants him to, say, work in an orphanage, religious apologists would applaud his testimony, and point to him as an proof that God is alive and working in his heart. But if Bonestroo said that God speaks to him and wants him to kill his non-Christian coworkers, religious apologists would distance themselves from him, calling him insane, or doubting his testimony.

And yet numerous times in the Bible, God did exactly that: tell one of his believers to kill non-believers. Moses organized the slaughter of 3,000 people because the Israelites were worshipping a golden calf rather than Jehovah (Exodus 32).
If Moses tried to do that in twenty-first century America, he would be captured and convicted as a serial killer. But he was merely obeying the command of God.

However, if Bonestroo was criminally insane, then his faith failed to prevent him from committing pre-meditated murder. What's more, God failed to prevent Bonestroo from carrying out his plan. Is it because God can't prevent someone from comitting murder in his name, or is it that he could do so but chooses not to?