From the Mailbag
From the Mailbag
I have been very pleased with _The_Skeptical_Review_.
However, I must express a small amount of alarm over some of the
logic in your article [ref003]"Jairus's Daughter: Was She Dead or Wasn't She?"
On page three, you write, "However, Matthew's omission of
the message brought by some[one] from Jairus's house gives sufficient
reason to reject their explanation," and "Hence Matthew's
omission of this detail is sufficient reason to reject the premise
that he wanted readers to understand that Jairus was speaking
figuratively in this version of the story." I think you are
clearly overstating your case. Necessary, yes. Sufficient, no.
It is not impossible that Matthew meant for Jairus's words to
be interpreted figuratively, and for him to have omitted mention
of anyone delivering news of the girl's death. This possibility
is hardly outlandish in the world of fundamentalist thought. Surely
you can produce a more convincing argument on this point or find
an issue where the woolly-mindedness necessary to maintain inerrancy
is more clear-cut.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm not sure I understand the distinction that
Mr. Trott tries to make in "necessary" and "sufficient";
however, I will admit that my statement was a little excessive.
Perhaps I should have said that Matthew's omission of the message
that the girl had died was sufficient reason to doubt the fundamentalist
"explanation" of this discrepancy.
As for the possibility that "Matthew meant for Jairus's words
to be interpreted figuratively," we should remember a major
point that I made in the article. What a person says is what he
says, so if figurative meaning was intended in what Jairus said
to Jesus, then Jairus, not Matthew, would have been the one to
determine whether figurative meaning was intended in his statement.
If Matthew was verbally inspired by an omniscient deity, his task
was to produce an inerrant account of the incident, and he could
not have done that by putting figurative meaning into a statement
that the speaker had intended to be literal in its meaning.
It will do no good for inerrantists to quibble on this point and
argue that for all we know Jairus did speak figuratively to Jesus,
because that would merely shift the problem to Mark's version
of the story. As the article pointed out, Mark had Jairus saying,
"My little daughter lies at the point of death" ([ref004]5:23).
So the problem for inerrantists is simple: Jairus either spoke
figuratively or he didn't. Their "explanation" of the
apparent discrepancy in this matter in no way resolves the problem
because it just isn't possible that two writers could have inerrantly
reported what a man said, and one of those writers had the man
speaking figuratively while the other had him speaking literally.
I believe, then, that my article did expose the "woolly mindedness"
of fundamentalist thinking. This opinion has apparently been confirmed
by the conduct of some preachers who were asked to write a response
to this article for simultaneous publication. At the Gulf Coast
Lectureship last May (where I also debated Jerry Moffitt), I sat
patiently and listened to three different preachers who had been
assigned the task of resolving "fancied contradictions"
in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but not a one of them even mentioned
the problem in the story of Jairus's daughter. I talked to two
of them individually about this after their lectures and later
sent them advanced copies of my article with invitations to write
responses. Another preacher at the lectureship had said, probably
for my benefit, that atheists and skeptics reject the Bible only
because they want to live evil lives, so I sent the article to
him too. Not a one of these preachers accepted the invitation
to respond to my article. If they are so right about the Bible
being inerrant, why would they not have jumped at the opportunity
to show the hundreds of _TSR_ subscribers that the
problem discussed in my article was only a "fancied contradiction"?
Their silence in this and other matters we have discussed in _TSR_
gives us sufficient reason to doubt that they are as sure of their
position as they claim when speaking to partisan audiences.
You are such a beautiful example of why freedom of the press is
so necessary and why church and state must stay separate. If the
fundamentalists of any religion were allowed to govern.... I shudder
at the thought.
I have read only about 80% of the NKJV once. I picked it up and
read it as I would any other piece of literature, trying to put
together the pieces of the puzzle to make a complete picture.
I too found far too many inconsistencies for it to form a rational,
logical, factual piece of work. I even went to many bible studies
thinking there must've been something I missed, for these other
people had something totally different from what I got out of
the "book." I always ran into the same lines of question
beg ging and definitions that were pure fantasy whenever I critically
questioned the bible. From my little bit of education in psychology,
I believe there is something too painful in a fundamen talist
life to deal with objective reality. I pity them.
Keep up the brilliant essential work. Enclosed is $10 for the
next year's subscription. The extra $5 is a donation to help keep
the press rolling.
I thoroughly enjoyed my copy. All of it!
I particularly got a hoot out of X's letter to Dear Brother Dobbs
(p. 13). Especially amusing is his contention that people rarely
lose their faith for intellectual reasons but because they suffered
personal hurt. As another of the horde who escaped religion, I
must say that being brought up in church is abuse in it self,
and personal hurt is the name of the game.
But long before I studied the histories of religion, with the
ignorance, cruelty, and control therein contained, I knew it was
crap! As a child, sitting through endless sermons, I sure wondered
about this god people worship, who decreed death for thousands
of offenses and who had prepared a boiling lake of fire for nearly
everyone so that they could suffer forever and ever. It took me
many years to break away. After being abused as a child by a churchgoing
father, I had no self-esteem to break away. In fact, I married
a preacher and stayed in that crummy marriage for 25 years. He,
I must add, sexually abused our daughter, and was extremely unfaithful
as well, but I didn't believe in god or any of the dogma for years
before I escaped.
Mr. X's opinions, answers, and explanations are certainly run
of the mill. Ho hum! Why is it religionists never concoct anything
new? They just parrot what they hear someone else say.
Please renew my subscription. I'm so pleased that you are increasing
the number of issues in '95 and '96. I get pretty depressed between
issues of _TSR_. I live in an area of fundamentalists,
and I'm terribly close (in miles) to Pat Robertson and the [ref005]Christian Coalition.
Even Jerry Falwell isn't all that far away. [At least the voters
in Virginia didn't elect Ollie North.] Here in North Carolina,
we have that bundle of joy, Jesse Helms. See why I get depressed?
I would move back north, but it's too damned cold up there.
Keep up the good work, and would you please include some reading
lists in _TSR_ for those of us who want to learn more
about atheism but are afraid to ask.
I'm 67 years old and have been a nonbeliever for 50 years. Your
publication has been a lifesaver (or a mind-saver). Thank you.
EDITOR'S NOTE: We have published a few suggested reading lists
in recent issues. Subscribers who are interested in further study
of atheism/agnosticism and the issues addressed in _TSR_
should ask to be put on the mailing list of H. H. Waldo, Book
seller, P. O. Box 350, Rockton, IL 61072-0350. The telephone number
is (800) 66-WALDO. Most of the books cited in _TSR_
articles are available at Waldo's.
Most local libraries now have interlibrary-loan systems, which
give patrons access to books that aren't actually in stock at
the library. Just go to the library with the book title and author's
name and ask if it can be obtained on loan. The lending time,
usually two or three weeks, will give you the opportunity to decide
if this is a book you would like to purchase for your personal
Listening just now to the Till-Hovind Debate on the flood, I hear
the audience saying, "Amen," "Yes," "Yes,"
when Professor Till says their answer to all the problems in the
story is that "God could do it."
According to Hovind, miracle after miracle had to take place in
preparation for this so-called worldwide flood. So my question
is, "Why didn't God use up some miracles doing good things
for people?" If they were so bad, couldn't he have helped
them in some way? Why did he use all these miracles for the purpose
of drowning every man, woman, and child on earth except for eight
and to drown most of all animals, birds, and insects that he him
self had created and pronounced good???
Why did the audience consider those miracles so wonderful when
they were for the purpose of mass murder? These same Christians
always say, "God is love," "God is merciful,"
"God forgives," yet the Bible is filled with mass murder,
slavery, infanticide, torture, rape (even gang rape), etc., etc.,
etc. How do they have the nerve to be insulted when they are called
Hovind said that the animals and people were vegetarian then,
so Noah didn't have to provide meat for their diets, because they
ate vegetables and fruits. So I suppose vegetables and fruits
fell into the window from heaven, kind of like manna, during that
year in water.
Well, Professor Till, listening to you in all the debates was
interesting, entertaining, and educational, but as for your opponents,
listening to them was painful! You are greatly admired for your
A year ago I ordered a free one-year trial subscription as advertised
in _Freethought_Today_. The trial was over and the
verdict rendered before the second page was turned. Today I am
enclosing $5 for renewal, plus $4 as belated compensation for
the first year. As [ref006]Ayn Rand
noted, a rational man neither desires nor accepts the unearned.
The value of your product is too great to accept for free. In
fact, I believe you could and should raise the rate.
Your work is outstanding, your presence reassuring, and your courage
inspiring. You have my support and admiration. Keep up the assault.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I just can't resist rubbing the noses of those
who say that _The_Skeptical_Review_ has no following
in letters like this to prove that they are as wrong about this
as they are their ridiculous inerrancy belief.
It was with great joy and satisfaction that I read my first copy
of _The_Skeptical_Review_. I received my first copy
after requesting it from you after seeing your advertisement in
_The_Humanist_. I have been looking for a publication
like yours for a long time.
I am 42 years old. I grew up a Southern Baptist, and my father
was a Southern Baptist pastor. He pastored in Orange and Los Angeles
Counties for over 20 years. When I was in my late 20's, I began
to experience doubts concerning the things I had learned about
God, the Bible, Jesus, heaven, hell, and salvation. I wrestled
with my doubts for a long time, because the tenets of orthodox
Christianity were so much a part of my psychological make-up and
identity. I can now say with conviction that I do not believe
in the fundamentals of Christianity or in the inerrancy of the
Bible. I am basically an agnostic. I began to look honestly at
all I believed to see if it made sense and was logical. I found
much of it was not. I see that what most people call faith is
but credulity. I see most people do not want to be challenged
to think for themselves. It seems most people accept the status
quo and what is most comfortable to them rather than have the
strength to think for themselves. They are afraid of what people,
especially relatives, will think of them if they expressed aloud
their doubts and misgivings of what they hear ever Sunday. Think
of the pastors who often get a flash of enlightenment on the idiocy
that they teach the people but immediately shut off those skeptical
thoughts because expressing them would cost them their careers
and financial securities.
Here's my renewal check. Five beans can't cover much more than
the cost of printing and postage.
As one of your fans, I can't resist the urge to toss a few words
and ideas in your direction. I warn you; I have a problem with
I like the quotation on your banner: "It is wrong, always,
and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence"
(W. K. Clifford). That reminds me.... One way to attack nonsensical
religious ideas seems all too obvious to me, yet it's one I have
never heard. It's highly intuitive and goes like this:
ONE: We can be quite sure Jack Ruby shot Oswald. A number of people
were present and saw it happen. Millions of people saw it on TV
as it happened. Video tapes are available for re view. It's a
TWO:We can be only partly sure that Bruno Hauptmann kidnapped
the Lindbergh baby, since there were no eyewitnesses. There was
a lot of circumstantial evidence, such as the ladder, which pointed
to his guilt. A jury convicted him, yet some say he was inno cent.
It's an uncertain matter, at best.
THREE: We really can't be confident that young George Washington
chopped down a cherry tree. There is no supporting evidence and
only he and his father, so the story goes, would have had direct
knowledge of the event. It's an appealing story but really can't
be relied upon. It's a popular legend.
FOUR: The story of Jesus of Nazareth being born of a virgin has
no supporting evidence whatsoever. It arises out of hand-me down-stories.
Only one person could have had direct knowledge of the event,
and the only written accounts were drafted many years after her
death. Like the cherry tree story, it has wide appeal for those
predisposed to believe it, and for that reason it has endured.
It has all the earmarks of a myth. Now think of it. One of the
major religions of the world turns on an event for which there
is no supporting evidence. Christians love to beat on the Mormons
and the Joe Smith tales and the Mormons' silly ideas of advanced
civilizations in the Americas many centuries ago. They sneer because
there is neither supporting evidence for Smith's claims nor for
the civilizations. Yet the same folks will swoon and rattle their
beads over the event recounted as #4 above.
_TSR_ beings me the recurring idea that extreme religiosity
destroys the reasoning power of the minds of the believers. Isn't
it a good thing that Jonas Salk was born into a Jewish home that
respected learning and inquiry instead of a Christian "Science"
household? Has a Christian fundamentalist ever made an information
-based contribution to the world? I can't think of any....
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Wheeler is making essentially the same point
about historical information as Richard Rich did in an earlier
"Mailbag" column (Winter 1995, p. 13): people tend to
accept ancient records of ordinary events, which are possible
or probable, even though they aren't necessarily true. As I noted
in "[ref007]Evaluating Historical Claims,"
pp. 9-11 (this issue), [ref008]Thomas Paine
made this same point in [ref009]Age of Reason:
reasonable people accept ordinary claims that were recorded by
ancient historians but reject the fantastic or extraordinary.
As the article also noted, the works of early historians like
Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, etc., all contain accounts of miraculous
events that no rational person can believe really happened even
though they are no more fabulous than many biblical stories. This
should tell Bible fundamentalists something, but of course it
doesn't. Nothing can budge a confirmed bibliolater from his irrational
belief that all events written in the Bible happened exactly as
Thanks for the Moffitt-Till debate tape loan. I mailed them back
to you by "priority" this morning.
The debate was interesting, although I was tempted to fast forward
when Mr. Moffitt spoke. I forced myself to listen (I tune out
when people start quoting Bible scripture). Just think, I wouldn't
have learned that God didn't require creation because he lives
in a different dimension where time flows backward as well as
After viewing this debate, I had a scary thought. I wonder if
the 52 GOP congresspersons that received 100% ratings from the
[ref010]Christian Coalition this November
election ([ref011]Freedom Writer,
Institute for First Amendment Studies, Jan. 95, p. 4) would agree
with Mr. Moffitt and his ilk that the Amalekite slaughter of babies
was morally justifiable if Yahweh commanded it. I learned last
night on a "Bible prophecy" show on a Christian Cable
station that Ted Turner of [ref012]CNN
is possibly the anti-Christ....
Although I am skeptical of biblical skeptics, I shall request
a free subscription to _The_Skeptical_Review_, as a
result of "strong urging" from a foremost biblical skeptic
in this neck of the woods, Ralph Nielsen (whom I suppose you are
already familiar with since I am to "feel free to mention
However, you are hereby forewarned that if you offend my conservative
Christian sensitivities I shall be forced to invoke an ancient
Hebrew curse upon all of you: "May a camel urinate in your
drinking well." And I'm sure you wouldn't want that to happen,
I am the type of "whacko" that actually believes the
events in the Bible really happened. You know, the kind who thinks
that Daniel really wrote the book of Daniel and there was only
one person named Isaiah who wrote a warning to Israel. Yes, I'm
the kind of person who believes that Jesus walked on water with
out it being frozen solid. That the Red Sea parted and the Israelites
walked across on dry land. That Sodom and Gomorrah was [sic] burnt
to crispy critters for all their deeds in and out of the closet.
(But you can breathe easy now because I didn't vote for the Republicans,
nor for Clinton for that matter.)
So go ahead, send me your skepticism! I dare you to make me a
believer in skepticism!
EDITOR'S NOTE: In a letter to Mr. Wicks, I asked him why he believed
that Daniel and Isaiah really wrote the books that bear their
names. Was it because he had carefully examined all the evidence
on both sides of the issue and decided that logic and reason were
on the side of the fundamentalist view of authorship? I asked
why he believed that Jesus had walked on water and that the Red
Sea had parted for the Israelites? Was it because he had examined
evidence that indicated a high degree of probability that these
exceptional events had actually happened? In all probability the
answer to both questions is no, for unless he is an unusual Bible
believer, he believes the Bible because... well, just because
he believes the Bible. He was taught to believe it as a child,
and so he believes it. I would be very surprised if Mr. Wicks
had ever seriously investigated biblical claims to see if there
is any kind of reasonable evidence to support those claims.
Let's take the parting of the Red Sea as an example. What evidence
is there to indicate that such an event ever happened? None whatsoever
beyond the fact that the event is recorded in the Bible, a book
that is filled with fabulous tales that Mr. Wicks would instantly
reject if they were recorded in any other book.
I refer again to "[ref013]Evaluating Historical claims"
(pp. 9-11), which notes that historians like Suetonius and Tacitus
recorded as facts fantastic events that no reasonable person can
believe actually happened. I am sure that Mr. Wicks does not believe
that such events as those are historical facts, even though they
are no more fantastic than many biblical stories. If Wicks had
been taught from early childhood that he must believe everything
that Suetonius, Tacitus, and Josephus wrote, he would probably
accept as truth every fabulous event that they recorded.
So I really don't have much hope that I will convince Mr. Wicks
that his view of the Bible is naively credulous, but I hope I
am wrong. Certainly, I will not try to make Mr. Wicks "believe
in skepticism," because skepticism is not something that
one be lieves in. Skepticism is simply a critical thinking process
by which one evaluates information and rejects claims that have
no reasonable evidence to support them.
As for the ancient Hebrew curse, why should I object to a camel
urinating in my drinking water? I am a part of the humanity that
Christianity has been pissing on for almost 2,000 years. Compared
to that, a little camel urine in the drinking water would be nothing.
I want to thank you for being courageous enough to speak the truth
and willing to take the time to do so. Until four months ago,
I was a hard-headed fundamentalist, certain that I had all the
answers. I'm sure my friends and family would have voted me least
likely ever to become an agnostic. Indeed, no one was more surprised
than I when I did so. You mentioned in _TSR_ that computers
will hasten the demise of Christianity. They certainly did so
in my case. I started writing on a secular humanist bulletin board
with the intention of converting those "poor souls"
who didn't have the truth. At the least, I would be able to say
to God that I'd done my part in spreading his word. In the end,
they ended up converting me!
The case against Christianity is airtight. No one who is aware
of the evidence can honestly go on believing the lie that Christianity
is. Unfortunately, Christians, even intelligent, scientific, studious
Christians, aren't aware of the truth. When I did find out the
truth, I went through the stages of grieving: first denial, then
intense sadness, then intense anger at having been so deluded,
and then the best stage, acceptance. Now that my eyes are open,
now that I can look at what the Bible actually teaches, I would
never want to go back to blind faith. The God of the bible is
a hateful God, a lying, untrustworthy God.
Again, please keep up the good work. When you are talking to Christians,
it must seem as if you are talking to a brick wall. Some of my
agnostic/ atheist friends said they felt that way when they talked
to me. But truth cannot be denied. And even brick walls can be
penetrated by truth.
Please send a copy of your newsletter to my fundamentalist friends
(names and address given).
Thank you very much.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a letter that hardly needs comment, except
for my expression of delight at Ms. Jockisch's awakening to rational
thought. I suspect that fundamentalist Christianity is going to
suffer the loss of many Rhonda Jockisches in coming years. In
the Spring 1995 issue of _TSR_, letter-writer Herschel
Davis ridiculed me for saying that the personal computer would
hasten the demise of fundamentalist Christianity (p. 12), but
in Ms. Jockisch's story we have an example of what Bible fundamentalists
will have to contend with in the future. There was a time when
the truth about the Bible could have been suppressed and kept
from Ms. Jockisch, but that is no longer possible. The information
age offers very little for Bible fundamentalists to be optimistic
I really enjoyed reading the first copy of _TSR_. I
also enjoyed reading the copies I found at a WWW site maintained
by [ref014]Jeff Lowder,
namely, http://paul.spu.edu:80/~jlowder/sr/. I've enclosed a check
for $26.50 for the following materials: (materials listed).
Thank you very much. Keep up the fine work!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jeff Lowder's support via computer bulletins has
introduced _TSR_ to many new subscribers. I am publishing
Mr. Bouwens' letter to illustrate the contribution that computers
can make to the advancement of rational thought. As I said above,
computer bulletins are not good news for Bible fundamentalism.
[JEFF LOWDER'S NOTE: The Skeptical Review is now available on
the World Wide Web at [ref015]http://freethought.tamu.edu/mag/sr/.]
In one of the back issues of _TSR_ you offered to provide
all past issues on floppy disks. As I recall, two high-density
disks are required. I have enclosed two 1.44 MB disks for this
Several months ago I ordered a set of all back issues (through
Volume Five, Number Two: Spring 1994). I have enclosed $2 for
Numbers Three and Four of Volume Five. I have viewed tapes of
your debates with Kent Hovind, Buster Dobbs, and Jerry Moffitt.
Although I disagree with you on the propositions involved in those
debates, I still found them profitable for study. Are there any
other debates you have available for loan (at a modest charge,
of course)? If so, and you do not mind shipping them with the
items mentioned above, I will be glad to mail the loan fee. If
you would rather send them after the loan fee is paid, just let
me know which ones are available and how much the fee is.
Incidentally, in reading all of the past issues of _TSR_
(except the last two which I am ordering above), I have appreciated
the sense of fairness that you seem to manifest. Not many editors
of periodicals allow the open discussion opportunities that you
do. I think this is commendable. Although I disagree strongly
with most of what you write, and (to be perfectly frank) I believe
that you are headed for eternal torment in your present course,
I also think you are more open and fair in some respects than
some so-called Christians. As a gospel preacher for nearly 30
years, I would be interested in our participating in a two night
public debate of the issues related to Biblical inerrancy discussed
in _TSR_. If you would be willing to come to the Huntsville,
Alabama, area in early August 1995 (about the earliest I could
get to such a discussion in view of my present commitments), I
will be happy to secure facilities and do extensive advertising.
If we can agree upon terms for a debate, I will assure you that
I will conduct myself as a gentleman and attempt to deal fairly
with your arguments.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I commend Mr. Thrasher for the attitude that he
conveyed in this letter. It was a refreshing change from the venomous
letters that I am accustomed to receiving from other Church-of-Christ
preachers. Mr. Thrasher, by the way, belongs to a faction of the
Church of Christ whose members are considered apostates by guardian-of-the-faith
preachers like Jerry Moffitt, Buster Dobbs, and Lindell Mitchell,
yet Mr. Thrasher, who preaches "error," is willing to
defend the Bible inerrancy doctrine in public debate while most
of the "faithful" preachers aren't.
Sometimes it's hard to figure out just who the apostates are.
For the moment, the only serious suggestion I have for Mr. Thrasher
is that he should reexamine the religious belief that makes him
think that I am "headed for eternal torment" when by
his own admission I am "more open and fair in some respects
than some so-called Christians."
Needless to say, I welcomed Mr. Thrasher's debate proposal. I
have accepted it, so people in the Huntsville, Alabama, area should
contact either him or me for details about time and place.
_The_Skeptical_Review_ is certainly the best bargain
around. I look forward to each issue and usually read most of
the articles. I found the articles by Sierich and Till on the
size of armies and battles to be particularly interesting in the
winter 1995 issue. It was always difficult for me to read the
passages that were discussed without feeling that they just had
to be grossly exaggerated.
It's obvious that debating many of your antagonists is pointless
from the standpoint of changing their thinking. It is difficult
to imagine that anything, except possibly rejection by denominational
peers, would ever cause some of them to admit limitations in their
reasoning. But at least the chance exists that a few people less
committed to absolutist viewpoints (including those in the rationalist
camp) might take a more objective look at the basis for their
convictions. If nothing else, they could conclude that people
who differ from them in their beliefs might possibly be as reasonable
as they. Providing a forum for the exchange and defense of ideas
sets _The_Skeptical_Review_ apart from fundamentalist
publications. It's difficult to imagine the folks at ICR, for
example, letting an evolutionist present the scientific evidence
relating to one of their _Acts_and_Facts_ tracts.
The winter issue of _The_Skeptical_Review_ came today.
It has some interesting items, but it is a bit tiring to read
all of it.
Might I suggest that the answer to all fundamental inerrantists
is a good lesson in history. The first six books of the Old Testament
were written much later than the FI people assume. Deuteronomy
was written ca. 600 B.C.E. by the priests to get King Ahaz to
bring the Hebrews back to JHWH. The lst, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th books
of the OT were written later at the time of the Babylonian captivity.
Ezra and his scribes gathered a lot of folk lore and gave fanciful
authenticity to them to unite the Hebrews who were enjoying life
on the banks of the Euphrates. Even as many New York Jews give
lip service to the state of Israel but prefer the Hudson River
to the Jordan, so the Hebrews needed a unifying document. Compare
Joshua's alleged version of the conquest of Canaan with that of
the book of Judges. Most of the conquest was imaginary.
All together the first seven books are a collection of folk tales,
and numbers of people as well as historical anomalies are to be
Now as to the New Testament, the strongest material is found in
the Pauline epistles. Saul (Paul) never saw Jesus. The gospels
had not yet been written. Whence came his authority? The prophecies
in Matthew are nonexistent. Isaiah did not forecast a virgin birth;
Daniel was written a couple of centuries after the fact. How could
the writers miss in their prophecies? So let the inerrantists
stew in their own silly myths. Answer them with historical facts
about the writings.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I just wish it were as easy to answer Bible fundamentalists
with historical facts as Mr. Kirkpatrick seems to believe. The
problem with the approach that he suggests is that no fundamentalist
will accept historical evidence when that evidence contradicts
his/her interpretation of the Bible. Let's take the creation-evolution
controversy as an example. Geological evidence that the earth
is billions of years old is overwhelming, yet Bible fundamentalists
reject this evidence because it disagrees with their creationist
beliefs, which require a young earth view. Biology, microbiology,
geobiology, paleontology, archaeology, chemistry, etc., etc.,
etc. all support the evolution ary view, but Bible fundamentalists
reject all of the findings of any branch of science that disagrees
with the biblical claim that Yahweh created the earth and all
life on it about 6,000 years ago.
So if Bible fundamentalists have this attitude toward science,
we can imagine how they would react to the "historical facts"
that Mr. Kirkpatrick summarized in his letter. Bibliolaters, in
fact, believe that the only truly accurate ancient history is
that which is recorded in the Bible or that which seems to confirm
the Bible version of history. They would scoff at the notion that
the book of Deuteronomy was written around 600 B. C., because
they know that Moses wrote Deuteronomy. How do they know this?
Well, you see, Jesus ([ref016]Matt. 19:8)
and Paul ([ref017]Rom. 12:10)
indicated a belief that Moses wrote Deuteronomy, so bibliolaters
must insist that he did or else admit that the two most important
people in the founding of Christianity made judgment errors about
the authorship of the Old Testament, and no fundamentalist can
do that without irreparably damaging the inerrancy doctrine. In
Jesus said, "Have you not read in the book of Moses..."
and proceeded to tell about Yahweh's appearance to Mos es in the
burning bush, which is recorded in [ref019]Exodus 3:1-6.
According to Mark, then, Jesus thought that Exodus was "the
book of Moses," so bibliolaters must believe that it was
or else admit that either Jesus or Mark made a mistake. It's easy
to guess which choice they going to make.
As for the historical facts about the authorship of the Bible
that Mr. Kirkpatrick related in his letter, they aren't really
historical facts in the sense that Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo
or the assassination of Julius Caesar are historical facts. The
latter are facts that can be reasonably verified by reliable historical
records; the former are only sensible conclusions that have been
arrived at by painstaking--and often controversial-- methods of
critical analysis about the authorship of documents in a time
when corroborative records were scarce. In other words, we have
no 6th century B. C. records from Babylonian archives that say,
"Yesterday in the third month of the reign of King Cyrus,
the Hebrew priest Ezra released a scroll that he has written,
in collaboration with a group of scribes, about the exodus of
the Hebrews from Egypt and their subsequent wanderings in the
Sinai wilderness." No, the scholarly information that tells
us who wrote the books of the Bible and when they were written
was obtained through meticulous methods of higher criticism, and
anyone who has had any experience at all with Bible fundamental
ists knows that they will simply wave aside the scholarly conclusions
of higher critics and make them go away with the magic word--liberalism.
None of this is intended to dispute what Mr. Kirkpatrick said
in his letter, with the possible exception of his associating
the authorship of the book of Deuteronomy with the reign of King
Ahaz. Most higher critics believe that the "book of the law"
discovered during repairs to the temple in the reign of King Josiah
([ref020]2 Kings 22:8)
was actually the book of Deuteronomy, which some priest had written
at that time and passed off as a book written by Moses. Josiah
reigned from 640 to 609 B. C., a time that is compatible with
the date that Mr. Kirkpatrick assigned to Deuteronomy, but Ahaz
reigned a hundred years earlier from 732 to 716 B. C. For additional
information on the authorship views that Mr. Kirkpatrick has summarized,
readers should consult _Who_Wrote_the_Bible?_ by Richard
Elliott Friedman, but don't expect the conclusions of higher criticism
discussed in this book to make any kind of impression on bibliolaters.
When it comes to choosing between "the wisdom of the world"
or "the word of God," any Bible fundamentalist worth
his salt will take the good book any time. This is why we use
the overkill method that you so often see in _The_Skeptical
Review_. We simply take the same Bible that fundamentalists
use in their churches, examine in detail passages that common
sense and face-value meaning of the texts clearly indicate are
points of discrepancy, and defy the inerrantists, with offers
of free space, to show that they are not discrepant. Through this
approach, we expose the utter inability of fundamentalist spokesmen
to defend the inerrancy doctrine and give skeptics on our subscription
list information that they can use in their contacts with door-to-door
missionaries and other bibliolaters.
What About Kobe?
Without belief in God and the Bible, there can be no morality.
How many times have we heard this from Lindell Mitchell, Bill
Lockwood, and other fundamentalists whose articles and let ters
we have published? It's a common claim but one that has no basis
in fact, as the earthquake in Kobe, Japan, proved. Although the
city was devastated, the Japanese "heathens," who as
a nation have no faith in either the Bible or its god Yahweh,
did not exploit an excellent opportunity to loot. Who reading
this seriously believes that no looting would have occurred if
an earthquake like this struck a city in our "Christian"
nation? Perhaps some fundamentalist can explain where the Japanese
got their morality.