Category Archives: Bible
Messiah, the word means “anointed” and the title declares the promised deliverer of the Jewish nation prophesied in the Hebrew Bible. It’s a word we hear often associated with Christianity and the character of Jesus of Nazareth, but is it deserved? The New Testament is full of assertions that Jesus fulfilled many prophecies from the Old Testament and therefore was the promised Messiah, but a great many of those prophecies seem to be misinterpretations, corruptions, or not actually prophecies at all. (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_lippard/fabulous-prophecies.html)
Aside from whether or not Jesus merited the title is the fact that he wasn’t even close to the only one to claim it. There where at least seven possible claimants to the title between the years of 4bc and 36 CE, Jesus of Nazareth being only one.(http://www.livius.org/men-mh/messiah/messianic_claimants00.html)
Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian most responsible for giving us a non-biblical source of information in this region at this time, records several other leaders of groups who likely saw them as the Messiah. These men led groups similar to, and in some cases larger than, the character of Jesus of Nazareth and in many cases they demonstrated actions and personalities more in keeping with the tradition of David (king, military leader etc)
One of these was Simon of Peraea. (Sources: Flavius Josephus, Jewish War 2.57-59 and Jewish Antiquities17.273-277; Tacitus, Histories, 5.9.) Simon was a slave to Herod the Great who named himself king after Herod’s death and led several thousand revolutionaries who attacked and burned the King’s palace at Jericho and several other royal holdings in the area. The account tells us that Simon was seen immediately as a threat and the Romans quickly mobilized to destroy him. Simon was beheaded in 4bc and every one of his followers was crucified. It should be pointed out that Josephus gives more words to the tale of Simon than he does to the story of Jesus. Does this mean he gave it more importance? Maybe not, but it does demonstrate that he didn’t give any SPECIAL importance to Jesus’ claim.
Athronges ( Sources: Flavius Josephus, Jewish War 2.60-65 and Jewish Antiquities17.278-284.) was a shepherd who declared himself king and messiah and along with his brothers and their followers led a rebellion against Rome and their puppet king Herod Archelaus, son of Herod the Great. According to Josephus their rebellion killed a great many of both the Romans and the king’s forces. Athronges’s rebellion might have gone on for as long as two years, using raiding tactics against Roman supply trains and other targets before it was finally whittled away by the legions. Josephus’ account does not tell us what became of Athronges himself but it does say that two of his brothers were killed in various battles, one was captured and one surrendered when it became clear the cause was lost.
While both of these figures and the character of Jesus of Nazareth may have claimed or been claimed to be the messiah by others none of them actually meets the requirements laid out by the prophets of the Old Testament. The text lays out very specific requirements and ways by which the Jews will know the Messiah:
1) He must be Jewish. (Deuteronomy 17:15, Numbers 24:17)
2) He must be a member of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10) and a direct male descendent of both King David (I Chronicles 17:11, Psalm 89:29-38, Jeremiah 33:17, II Samuel 7:12-16) and King Solomon. (I Chronicles 22:10, II Chronicles 7:18)
3) He must gather the Jewish people from exile and return them to Israel. (Isaiah 27:12-13, Isaiah 11:12)
4) He must rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. (Micah 4:1)
5) He must bring world peace. (Isaiah 2:4, Isaiah 11:6, Micah 4:3)
6) He must influence the entire world to acknowledge and serve one G-d. (Isaiah 11:9, Isaiah 40:5, Zephaniah 3:9)
All of these criteria for the Messiah are best stated in the book of Ezekiel chapter 37:24-28:
“And My servant David will be a king over them, and they will all have one shepherd, and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes, and observe them, and they shall live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant…and I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant and I will set my sanctuary in their midst forever and My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their G-d and they will be My people. And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.”
If an individual fails to fulfill even one of these conditions, he cannot be the Messiah.”
A later figure than any of the three already mentioned comes much closer to meeting the requirements laid out above than the Nazarene, Simon, or Athronges. His name was Simon ben Kosiba and he was active against the Romans in Jerusalem a full century after the supposed time of the death of Jesus. Ben Kosiba appears in several Jewish sources as well as early Christian and Roman sources. In 132 ce he led a successful rebellion against the Romans routing the Tenth Legion and retaking Jerusalem. He reintroduced sacrifices at the place where the temple had once stood and was declared the Messiah by Rabbi Aqiba the official religious leader of the Jews in this age, though of course there were those who disputed it.
Simon ben Kosiba waged one of the most costly and successful campaigns that the Romans faced in Judea. So successful that the Emperor Hadrian was forced to bring in three legions and several auxiliary units of reinforcements as well as one of his best generals from Britain to meet the challenge.
Even with all of this manpower however the fighting was brutal and in the end the Romans were forced to wage a slow and ugly war of attrition using terror and atrocity to dishearten the Jewish rebels. Cassius Dio the Greek historian put the number of Jewish dead at 580, 000 and said that fifty of their most important outposts and 985 well known villages were destroyed. (Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.13.2-3) For three years however there was an independent Jewish state where there had only been a Roman client kingdom for centuries before. ben Kosiba’s revolt came closest of any messianic claimant in antiquity to meeting the old testament requirements.
Why did so many men in such a relatively short time seek, or have given to them, the title of Messiah? The answer, put simply is hope, anger, frustration, oppression, and desperation. The Jewish people were an oppressed people in their own land, ruled by a line of gentile kings supported by a foreign army. They were heavily taxed, their traditions, and indeed their very way of life was, it must have seemed to them, polluted every day by these alien invaders. Is it so surprising that rebels should arise, or that they should use the religious zeal of their fellow Jews to recruit followers and strengthen resolve?
Like so many other examples older traditions stolen, mutated and adapted into Christianity the use of the title of Messiah was no more than a way to make it easier to fold Jewish adherents into the flock, to incite existing passions and make assimilation easier. The fathers of Christianity used the apparent messianic nature of the character Jesus to justify the stature they gave him, but it wasn’t a unique title, and it wasn’t a title that he had any right to. The man Jesus no more met the requirements of being the Jewish Messiah than any other claimant in history thus far; and in fact that he didn’t even do as well as some others. As with every other claim made about the character Jesus when the evidence is looked at dispassionately we get, to paraphrase Shakespeare “A tale full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
I don’t hate god, I don’t believe there is a god to hate. I say this because one hears on a regular basis about how “Atheists hate god” which, to me, is roughly equivalent to the statement “adults hate Santa Claus”. That being said, I have to admit if somehow incontrovertible evidence of god was granted to us tomorrow it would not change my position as an AntiTheist. As a matter of fact such proof would likely cause a great deal of anger and resentment in me. My atheism is, I believe, rooted in sound rational and reasonable foundations of historical study, some scientific understanding and a critical analysis of both the reality around me and the world as it appears in the various “holy” books. That being said I have to admit there is another aspect to my atheism. Some of it, I have to admit, is just plain old human optimism. That’s right, optimism. I am comforted by the notion that the world we inhabit is not the design of some higher life form. It gives me great solace to see that there is no puppeteer on the other end of the strings, and that in the end it is us who have to decide the shape of the world we’re going to live in.
The concept of the existence of a deity who watches with indifference as suicide bombers, ethnic cleansers, and radical anti-abortionists kill and maim in its name is abhorrent to me. I find the idea of a god who would litter the world with various competing faiths and then sit back and watch the millennia of fear, horror, death, depravity and deprivation that had to ensue as a result truly disgusting. I see nothing worthy of worship in the characterisation of deity laid out before me by the various faiths. In every case you’ve got an all-powerful entity whose primary entertainment seems to be pitting one group of its creations against another. For example, we’ve got the ancient Jews against the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15: 2-3) which was only one group which the Jews were expressly ordered to kill and pillage in the book or Muslims commanded to fight and kill disbelievers (quran 2:191). These are only two examples. There are a great many more.
I am happy to know that there is absolutely no objective reason to believe that there is a force in the universe which hates some of it’s creations so much that it has ordered the rest of us to shun and kill them. I’m delighted that there is no evidence to support the idea that after we die the vast majority of us will be consigned to a place of fire and suffering for not fully embracing the proper method of worship.
The characterization that “atheists hate god” is incorrect, as I stated at the beginning of this post but if there was a god to hate the god of the abrahamic faiths would certainly be deserving of that hatred, as well as fear, mistrust and disgust. I personally can’t think of anything more reprehensible than to claim to love something while threatening it with pain and death if it steps out of line.
The optimism comes into play with the conviction that these systems of belief are entirely man made. This is optimism because if we made it that means we can unmake it. Whether or not this will ever occur is another matter, but the possibility exists and that makes me hopeful. I believe we can eventually transcend the strictures, fears and prejudices of our ancient past and put aside the divisive, damaging and dangerous concept of theology in favor of a truly humanistic system.
There is an argument, put forward by theists, that if there is no god, no divine judgement, then it follows that terrible people who do terrible things and escape human justice have gotten away with it. Their crimes, their sins, go unpunished. The theist finds this possibility too reprehensible to consider and so they choose to believe in said god and said judgement. They are comforted by the fact that those who do evil in this world will eventually meet with the judgement of heaven and be damned. First off this is not an argument for the existence of a thing. Not wanting something to be so is not the same as proving that it is not so. Secondly there is absolutely no reason to believe that your god’s morality is the same as yours, and given the bible as an example there is every reason to believe otherwise. The bible god is recorded as not only condoning but commanding genocide (1 Samuel 15:2-3) for example and yet I would say that the vast majority of modern Christians would be opposed to the idea of wiping out every man, child, farm animal and (non-virgin) woman of any particular people and carrying away the virgins of said people to one can only imagine what sort of fate. There is no reason to suppose that, if there is a god, it would judge a crime in a way that would give its earthly followers the sense of justice they seem to crave. As a matter of fact there is great reason to believe quite the contrary. John 3: 18 says quite plainly that “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” So according to this all that is required of us is belief in Jesus Christ as the son of god. All other transgressions and sins are forgiven by god as long as this single criterion is met. Where then is the divine judgement that is meant to punish the wicked?
There are of course passages which say that a person’s works and deeds are in fact the criteria by which they’ll be judged but there are just as many which, like the above, say that deeds and works are unimportant that a person is judged by faith in Christ alone. If this is the case, if all that is required to avoid hell is a belief in Jesus as the son of god then surely heaven is populated by a great many criminals and unjust people who raped killed stole, and did any number of terrible things while being absolutely sure that Jesus lived and was the walking embodiment of the creator of the universe. For that matter there are a great many devout servants of that god who are guilty of atrocious crimes against children who will not only not receive damnation but who will actually be forgiven their crimes due to their faith. Add to that the fact that the bible says that a disbeliever who is married to a believer will also be saved (1 Corinthians 7:14) and the loopholes just keep expanding.
If there is one thing the bible is absolutely clear on it is the fact that the unbeliever is doomed (Romans 14:23, 1 Corinthians 16:22, 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, 2 Thessalonians 1: 7-9, Hebrews 11:6) regardless of a disbeliever’s actions or character, regardless of their good works, their love of their fellow man, or their efforts to make a better, happier or more just world they are relegated to the flames. Is this the justice theists wish for from their almighty?
The “justice” promised by the bible god doesn’t even resemble any concept that could be called justice in any forum on this planet outside of North Korea or Soviet Russia or some other absolutist tyrannical dictatorship where loyalty to the leader and the party are the only requirement and all other crimes are secondary to that consideration. Of course theists, specifically Christians, are less likely to see the evil of this particular proposition because they themselves meet the one and only criterion, they have the keys to the kingdom so to speak. Just being on the winning side of injustice, however, doesn’t make that injustice disappear. Anyone who thinks that the “justice” of the bible god is a good thing, or a desirable reason to believe in said god should perhaps take a better look at exactly what it is their book says about their god and its justice.
I know, not a title one expects to see on a page called “The AntiTheist” yet its true none the less. There are, I think, perfectly valid reasons why the bible and indeed all of the other “holy” books should make all non-theists happy.
The holy books, with all their nonsensical claims, factual inaccuracies, and historical half truths make me very happy, and very glad. I can say that for this reason: The nonsense of the various texts gives me comfort BECAUSE it is so patently untrue, so obviously fabricated by men in order to dominate and control other men. This comforts me because if the “holy” books were more credible we might actually have to consider as a feasible possibility that there might be an omni-powerful, omni-present overseer looking down on us and judging our smallest actions and most ethereal thoughts according to its own hidden, confusing, and often contradictory requirements.
If any of the books were more believable we’d have to take as a serious possibility the idea that perhaps we were in fact created to be the grateful slaves of an all-powerful master who designed us with no other purpose than to worship and adore it. We would have to consider the possibility that there is a force in the universe so grand and powerful that it could design and create all of existence from nothing at all, meticulous enough to see to the billions of calculations and various fine tunings necessary to make the universe happen, and yet insecure enough to need us to love it absolutely, without qualm or question, and petty enough to punish us eternally for our failure in said devotion.
“Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”
There’s another aspect of the “holy” books that should make us non-theists very happy. It is engendered by the above quote from Isaac Asimov. How many of us came to our current lack of belief due to either a study of the text, or simply through considering the unlikelihood of the stories we’re told from those texts? Humanity is a more rational, logically minded people than it’s ever been in its history. That fact combined with the genuine knowledge we now possess about the realities of the world and the universe and the sheer superstitious mysticism throughout the ancient texts makes me hopeful. It gives me reason to believe that more and more people will be able reach past their tradition, culture and social conventions and actually consider what they profess to believe, to see their way free of the flower bedecked chain of theology.
The bible makes me happy because I honestly believe that an objective unemotional study of the text itself is the best case that can possibly be made against the veracity, morality or societal benefit of the claims it makes. This position is equally valid for the various other “holy” books as well. The books themselves are the best weapon atheists, antitheists and other non-theists could possibly have against theological preaching, moralizing and justification.
One of the arguments that an atheist, agnostic, or other non-theist involved in theological debate will hear often is the concept that religion is the fount of human morality, that without the steadying and moderating influence of god humankind has no incentive to act morally. While each religion does have a very specific and binding morality I would argue that none of them are really the moralities that modern humans should aspire to. This concept that religion is necessary for moral behaviour would seem to stem from an ignorance of what these holy books actually have to say about human conduct. Let’s take a look at some of the moral teachings of the Christian Bible and the Muslim Quran.
Slavery is Ok
“When a slave owner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.Exodus 21:20-21
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5)
“The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” (Luke 12:47-48 )
* These are only some of the verses in the bible that deal with slavery, some verses even lay out the proper pricing of Jewish and non – Jewish slaves.
“Prophet, We have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave girls whom God has given you as booty.” Quran 33:50
“Blessed are the believers…who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them…)…” Quran 23:1
Neither the Bible or the Quran has any proscription against slavery. I would say that most people would agree that slavery is a moral abomination that should be stamped out wherever it is found and yet the Abrahamic religions not only have nothing bad to say about it but actually embrace it.
Intolerance is OK
“But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me..” Luke 19:27
“He that is not with me is against me.” Matthew 12: 30
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16:16
In the above examples Jesus makes it very clear that there is no room for tolerance of other beliefs. There is only his way, his interpretation. Anyone who isn’t prepared to accept Jesus as lord and master is worthy of death and damnation.
“Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 10: 5-6
“And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” Matthew 15: 22-28
These two examples show a blatant isolationism and racism on the part of Jesus. He says straight out that he is only interested in the welfare of Jewish people.
“But they who disbelieve, and deny Our revelations, such are rightful Peoples of the Fire. They will abide therein“ Quran 2:39.
“Believe ye in part of the Scripture and disbelieve ye in part thereof ? And what is the reward of those who do so save ignominy in the life of the world, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be consigned to the most grievous doom.” Quran 2:85
Again, no other belief or point of view is to be entertained or permitted. Not only do you have to believe what they believe, you have to believe all of what they believe or not only die but burn eternally.
Neither the Bible or the Quran set any store in tolerance as a moral value. As a matter of fact both of them state plainly that tolerance of other views is not an acceptable value of the “faithful”
Murder and Genocide are Ok.
“Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.” (Deuteronomy 13:8-9)
“The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance. He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.” Psalms 58:10)
“Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.” (Deuteronomy 12:2-3)
“Slay them wherever ye find them…Such is the reward of disbelievers.” Quran 2:191
“Fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah.” Quran 2: 193
“If they keep not aloof from you nor offer you peace nor hold their hands, then take them and kill them wherever ye find them. Against such We have given you clear warrant.” Quran 4:91
Both texts clearly say that it is more than ok to murder, maim and kill for God. Not only is it ok, as a matter of fact, it is demanded by God.
Without even going into the atrocious treatment of women by both faiths and both “holy” books I think we’ve seen that religious morality is at best dubious and more often than not atrocious. As for the argument that without religion we’d have no morality I’d say that our morality has long since surpassed the example of both these books. Most of us, religious or not, would say emphatically that slavery is wrong, cultural and racial tolerance is important and that murder, genocide and torture are negative things. Do we really need mythology and superstitious beliefs in celestial overseers to tell us that it’s wrong to hurt people, kill people, enslave people?
Radiometric dating of the sun tells us that it is roughly 5 billion years old.(http://solar-center.stanford.edu/FAQ/Qage.html) Therefore the sun is roughly half a billion years older than the earth.
Eratosthenes in 240 BC. The earth was generally considered to be spherical in both the Hellenistic and Roman periods of antiquity and yet the myth of the earth being flat was not entirely dispelled until Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe (1519-1522) Proof the earth is round and pillar-less: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_cat.php?categoryID=1484
and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew Chapter 5.