From the Mailbag [ref001] [ref002] From the Mailbag I have been very pleased with _The_Ske

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From the Mailbag [ref001] [ref002] 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. _(Richard_Trott,_78-A_Phelps_Avenue,_New_Brunswick,_NJ_08901.)_ 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. _(Tony_Powell,_41044_179th_Street_East,_Lancaster,_CA_93535.)_ 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. _(Name_withheld_for_obvious_reasons.)_ 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. _(Barbara_Briggs,_230_Ocean_Winds_Drive,_Kitty_Hawk,_NC_27949.)_ 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 library. 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 ignorant? 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 patience. _(Dr._Dorothy_Thompson,_P._O._Box_562,_Bandon,_OR_97411.)_ 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. _(Dutch_Williams,_3325_Hunter_Lodge_Road,_Marietta,_GA_30062.)_ 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. _(Glenn_W._Wood,_24806_Walnut,_Apartment_1,_Newhall,_CA_91321.)_ 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 brevity. 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 nonarguable point. 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.... _(Thomas_T._Wheeler,_322_Highland_Street,_Rochester,_MI_48307.)_ 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 recorded. 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 forward. Please! 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.... _(John_Sears_III,_17_Forest_Avenue,_Millinocket,_ME_04662.)_ 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 [his] name"). 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, would you? 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! _(Corey_Wicks,_1620_Chestnut,_Apt._25,_Clarkston,_WA_99403.)_ 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. _(Rhonda_Diane_Jockisch,_1018_South_13th_Street,_Pekin,_IL_61554-4956.)_ 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 about. 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! _(Rychard_Bouwens._1750_Liberty,_Apt._8,_El_Cerrito,_CA_94530.)_ 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 purpose. 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. _(Thomas_N._Thrasher,_P._O._Box_1941,_Decatur,_AL_35602_1941.)_ 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. _(Robert_Norton,_1709_West_Queen's_Court,_Peoria,_IL_61614.)_ 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 expected. 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. _(Eliel_F._Kirkpatrick,_326_West_Elting_Street,_Macomb,_IL_61455-1132.)_ 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 [ref018]Mark 12:26, 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. [ref001] http://freethought.tamu.edu/mag/sr/1995/3/3mail95.html [ref002] mailto:jlowder@atheist.tamu.edu [ref003] http://freethought.tamu.edu/mag/sr/1994/4/4jair94.html [ref004] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?version=KJV&passage=Matthew+5:23 [ref005] http://cc.org/ [ref006] http://www.vix.com/objectivism/ [ref007] 3claim95.html [ref008] http://freethought.tamu.edu/freethought/thomas_paine/ [ref009] http://freethought.tamu.edu/freethought/thomas_paine/age_of_reason/ [ref010] http://cc.org/ [ref011] http://www.crocker.com/~ifas/fw/ [ref012] http://www.nmis.org/NewsInteractive/CNN/contents.html [ref013] 3claim95.html [ref014] http://freethought.tamu.edu/~jlowder/ [ref015] http://freethought.tamu.edu/mag/sr/ [ref016] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?version=KJV&passage=Matthew+19:8 [ref017] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?version=KJV&passage=Romans+12:10 [ref018] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?version=KJV&passage=Mark+12:26 [ref019] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?version=KJV&passage=Exodus+3:1-6 [ref020] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?version=KJV&passage=II+Kings+22:8

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