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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Follow Up on Sharia Law in the UK


It is reassuring to see the overwhelming backlash that occured in the wake of the Archbishop of Cantebury's statements related to allowing Sharia law in the UK for Muslims in civil matters. However, keep in mind that historically new ideas are always at first rejected. If they are not defeated properly, that is, defeated in principle by a proper understanding and logical refutation of the underlying premises then the ideas will come back. Unfortunately, as evidenced in the linked article, the so-called critics continue to get it wrong:

The most damaging attack came from the Pakistan-born Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali. "English law is rooted in the judaeo-chrisitian tradition. It would be impossible to introduce a tradition like Sharia without fundamentally affecting its integrity." Sharia "would be in tension with the English legal tradition on questions like monogamy, provisions for divorce, the rights of women, custody of children, laws of inheritance and of evidence. "This is not to mention the relation of freedom of belief and of expression to provisions for blasphemy and apostasy."

Bishop of Southwark Tom Butler, a liberal who would normally be expected to defend Dr Williams, said the archbishop had been entering a minefield and added: "It will take a great deal of thought and work before I think it is a good idea. I remained to be convinced of the feasibility of the incorporation of the Sharia into the English legal system as it would raise many difficulties."

So it appears that two arguments are being made here. One argument is that the West was founded upon Christian traditions but Sharia was founded on Muslim traditions so they are in some way incompatible. The second argument made by Bishop Butler is that implementing Sharia is just not practical, i.e., he doesn't reject the idea in principle but only needs to be "convinced of the feasibility". These two arguments will not stop the implementation of Sharia law in the West. Rather, they will hasten it.

The "practical" problem argument is ridiculous on its face. This is like telling Socialists that the only reason you are against them is that it would be "impractical" to implement an income tax and nationalize industries. Or, it would be like telling the Nazi's that their plan to take over the world and systematically murder millions of people is not feasible. I'm confident that Muslims so inclined would eagerly craft a "feasible" plan for implementing Sharia within the British legal system. Rejecting an evil idea on grounds of its "feasibility" and not rejecting an idea on principle is a deadly error.

The more complex argument is the claim, often repeated by conservatives on the religious right, that America and here the British common law was founded on "Judaeo-Christian values". Nothing could be further from the truth. The concept and realization of individual rights occurred despite Christianity not because of it as I imagine Giordano Bruno, Galileo, and millions of other "heretics" persectued by the Church will attest.

If individual rights can not be supported logically then we have no chance. The argument that liberty and capitalism are based on Judaeo-Christian values is worse than no argument at all. It is not only historically inaccurate it places the basis for rights on grounds of faith based claims which are arbitrary. In fact, it can be logically demonstrated that rights are necessitated by man's nature and necessary for our survival and happiness. The secular argument for rights has historically been associated with unreligious periods for a reason.

The best piece I have seen on this topic is "Religion vs. America" by Leonard Peikoff at: http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2page=NewsArticle&id=5360&news_iv_ctrl=1225

Dr. Peikoff traces the philosophical history of the West to show that the concepts of individual rights and the the pursuit of happiness are ideas associated with unreligious periods and statism, misery, and oppression are associated with religious periods. Dr. Peikoff writes:

What effect does this approach have on human life? We do not have to answer by theoretical deduction, because Western history has been a succession of religious and unreligious periods. The modern world, including America, is a product of two of these periods: of Greco-Roman civilization and of medieval Christianity. So, to enable us to understand America, let us first look at the historical evidence from these two periods; let us look at their stand on religion and at the practical consequences of this stand. Then we will have no trouble grasping the base and essence of the United States.

He goes on to trace the fundamental ideas of each major historical period:

Greece created philosophy, logic, science, mathematics, and a magnificent, man-glorifying art; it gave us the base of modern civilization in every field; it taught the West how to think. In addition, through its admirers in ancient Rome, which built on the Greek intellectual base, Greece indirectly gave us the rule of law and the first idea of man's rights (this idea was originated by the pagan Stoics). Politically, the ancients never conceived a society of full-fledged individual liberty; no nation achieved that before the United States. But the ancients did lay certain theoretical bases for the concept of liberty; and in practice, both in some of the Greek city-states and in republican Rome, large numbers of men at various times were at least relatively free. They were incomparably more free than their counterparts ever had been in the religious cultures of ancient Egypt and its equivalents.

What were the practical results of the medieval approach? The Dark Ages were dark on principle. Augustine fought against secular philosophy, science, art; he regarded all of it as an abomination to be swept aside; he cursed science in particular as "the lust of the eyes." Unlike many Americans today, who drive to church in their Cadillac or tape their favorite reverend on the VCR so as not to interrupt their tennis practice, the medievals took religion seriously. They proceeded to create a society that was anti-materialistic and anti-intellectual. I do not have to remind you of the lives of the saints, who were the heroes of the period, including the men who ate only sheep's gall and ashes, quenched their thirst with laundry water, and slept with a rock for their pillow. These were men resolutely defying nature, the body, sex, pleasure, all the snares of this life--and they were canonized for it, as, by the essence of religion, they should have been. The economic and social results of this kind of value code were inevitable; mass stagnation and abject poverty, ignorance and mass illiteracy, waves of insanity that swept whole towns, a life expectancy in the teens. "Woe unto ye who laugh now," the Sermon on the Mount had said. Well, they were pretty safe on this count. They had precious little to laugh about.

What about freedom in this era? Study the existence of the feudal serf tied for life to his plot of ground, his noble overlord, and the all-encompassing decrees of the Church. Or, if you want an example closer to home, jump several centuries forward to the American Puritans, who were a medieval remnant transplanted to a virgin continent, and who proceeded to establish a theocratic dictatorship in colonial Massachusetts. Such a dictatorship, they declared, was necessitated by the very nature of their religion. You are owned by God, they explained to any potential dissenter; therefore, you are a servant who must act as your Creator, through his spokesmen, decrees. Besides, they said, you are innately depraved, so a dictatorship of the elect is necessary to ride herd on your vicious impulses. And, they said, you don't really own your property either; wealth, like all values, is a gift from heaven temporarily held in trust, to be controlled like all else, by the elect. And if all this makes you unhappy, they ended up, so what? You're not supposed to pursue happiness in this life anyway.

There can be no philosophic breach between thought and action. The consequence of the epistemology of religion is the politics of tyranny. If you cannot reach the truth by your own mental powers, but must offer an obedient faith to a cognitive authority, then you are not your own intellectual master; in such a case, you cannot guide your behavior by your own judgment either, but must be submissive in action as well. This is the reason why--as Ayn Rand has pointed out--faith and force are always corollaries; each requires the other.

Dr. Peikoff attributes the beginning of the Renaissance to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) who reintroduced Aristotelian logic into philosophy. The rebirth of interest in the ideas of the Ancient Greeks and Romans effectively ended the Middle Ages. The Magna Carta issued in 1215 and the British common law which originated in the 12th and 13th centuries were important milestones in establishing the rule of law and first steps toward undoing the absolute power of the monarch and Church. However, politically, as the Roman and Spanish Inquisition's made clear, much of Europe and Puritan America remained in the grip of Christian theocracy. Over the next 500 years, the power of scientific discovery as evidenced in the works of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton would lead to the period known as the Age of Reason or Enlightenment. It was the gradual rejection of religious dogma in favor of reason during this period that ultimately led to the founding of America. Dr. Peikoff continues:

The consequence of this approach was the age's rejection of all the other religious priorities. In metaphysics: this world once again was regarded as real, as important, and as a realm not of miracles, but of impersonal natural law. In ethics: success in this life became the dominant motive; the veneration of asceticism was swept aside in favor of each man's pursuit of happiness--his own happiness on earth, to be achieved by his own effort, by self-reliance and self-respect leading to self-made prosperity. But can man really achieve fulfillment on earth? Yes, the Enlightenment answered; man has the means, the potent faculty of intellect, necessary to achieve his goals and values. Man may not yet be perfect, people said, but he is perfectible; he must be so, because he is the rational animal.

Such were the watchwords of the period: not faith, God, service, but reason, nature, happiness, man.

Many of the Founding Fathers, of course, continued to believe in God and to do so sincerely, but it was a vestigial belief, a leftover from the past which no longer shaped the essence of their thinking. God, so to speak, had been kicked upstairs. He was regarded now as an aloof spectator who neither responds to prayer nor offers revelations nor demands immolation. This sort of viewpoint, known as deism, cannot, properly speaking, be classified as a religion. It is a stage in the atrophy of religion; it is the step between Christianity and outright atheism.

This is why the religious men of the Enlightenment were scandalized and even panicked by the deist atmosphere. Here is the Rev. Peter Clark of Salem, Mass., in 1739: "The former Strictness in Religion, that . . . Zeal for the Order and Ordinances of the Gospel, which was so much the Glory of our Fathers, is very much abated, yea disrelished by too many: and a Spirit of Licentiousness, and Neutrality in Religion . . . so opposite to the Ways of God's People, do exceedingly prevail in the midst of us." (10) And here, fifty years later, is the Rev. Charles Backus of Springfield, Mass. The threat to divine religion, he says, is the "indifference which prevails" and the "ridicule." Mankind, he warns, is in "great danger of being laughed out of religion." (11) This was true; these preachers were not alarmists; their description of the Enlightenment atmosphere is correct.

This was the intellectual context of the American Revolution. Point for point, the Founding Fathers' argument for liberty was the exact counterpart of the Puritans' argument for dictatorship--but in reverse, moving from the opposite starting point to the opposite conclusion. Man, the Founding Fathers said in essence (with a large assist from Locke and others), is the rational being; no authority, human or otherwise, can demand blind obedience from such a being -- not in the realm of thought or, therefore, in the realm of action either. By his very nature, they said, man must be left free to exercise his reason and then to act accordingly, i.e., by the guidance of his best rational judgment. Because this world is of vital importance, they added, the motive of man's action should be the pursuit of happiness. Because the individual, not a supernatural power, is the creator of wealth, a man should have the right to private property, the right to keep and use or trade his own product. And because man is basically good, they held, there is no need to leash him; there is nothing to fear in setting free a rational animal.

This, in substance, was the American argument for man's inalienable rights. It was the argument that reason demands freedom. And this is why the nation of individual liberty, which is what the United States was, could not have been founded in any philosophically different century. It required what the Enlightenment offered: a rational, secular context.

When you look for the source of an historic idea, you must consider philosophic essentials, not the superficial statements or errors that people may offer you. Even the most well-meaning men can misidentify the intellectual roots of their own attitudes. Regrettably, this is what the Founding Fathers did in one crucial respect. All men, said Jefferson, are endowed "by their Creator" with certain unalienable rights, a statement that formally ties individual rights to the belief in God. Despite Jefferson's eminence, however, his statement (along with its counterpart in Locke and others) is intellectually unwarranted. The principle of individual rights does not derive from or depend on the idea of God as man's creator. It derives from the very nature of man, whatever his source or origin; it derives from the requirements of man's mind and his survival. In fact, as I have argued, the concept of rights is ultimately incompatible with the idea of the supernatural. This is true not only logically, but also historically. Through all the centuries of the Dark and Middle Ages, there was plenty of belief in a Creator; but it was only when religion began to
fade that the idea of God as the author of individual rights emerged as an historical, nation-shaping force. What then deserves the credit for the new development--the age-old belief or the new philosophy? What is the real intellectual root and protector of human liberty--God or reason?


Anonymous said...

I have a comment and a question on this entry. First the comment. Your critique of these religious leaders throughout history makes one assumption, and that assumption is that these men represent the Creator. They may claim to represent him, but even a cursory examination of the bible will show that they teach philosophies of men rather than what is found in the bible. You've studied enough about religion to know that after the 1st century Christianity was morphed (by ones such as the Emperor Constantine) into what these men practice today. This is not the Christianity that is found in the bible.

Next the question. My question for you is on the idea of freedom being endowed by the Creator. Who is it that gave Adam and Eve the freedom of choice?

Anonymous said...

With regard to your first point, my argument was much broader. The specifics of any given religion are irrelevant. I will go farther than granting you that the early Christians misinterpreted the Gospels and grant you that the Bible calls for the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. It is the nature of religious thinking as such that is the problem.

Faith is belief in the absence of evidence and is the essence of religion. Any belief in the Bible as the word of God is arbitary and requires faith since there is no evidence. Even if the Bible or Koran called for the Bill of Rights it wouldn't matter since any claim based on the arbitrary is invalid logically. An argument must be proved scientifically, i.e., through inference from observation. One religion could arbitrarily assert that God wants individual rights and the other could arbitrarily assert that his God wants blind obedience to the Pope. Who is right?

Let me quote Dr. Peikoff again from the same link:

The fundamental concept here is "faith." "Faith" in this context means belief in the absence of evidence. This is the essential that distinguishes religion from science. A scientist may believe in the entities which he cannot observe, such as atoms or electrons, but he can do so only if he can prove their existence logically, by inference from things he does observe. A religious man, however, believes in some "higher unseen power" which he cannot observe and cannot logically prove. As the whole story of philosophy demonstrates, no study of the natural universe can warrant jumping outside it to a supernatural entity. The five arguments for God offered by the greatest of all religious thinkers, Thomas Aquinas, are widely recognized by philosophers to be logically defective; they have each been refuted many times, and they are the best arguments that have ever been offered on this subject.

Many philosophers indeed now go further: they point out that God is not only an article of faith, but that this is essential to religion. A God susceptible of proof, they argue, would actually wreck religion. A God open to human logic, to scientific study, to rational understanding, would have to be definable, delimited, finite, amenable to human concepts, obedient to scientific law, and thus incapable of miracles. Such a thing would be merely one object among others within the natural world; it would be merely another datum for the scientist, like some new kind of galaxy or cosmic ray, not a transcendent power running the universe and demanding man's worship. What religion rests on is a true God, i.e., a God not of reason, but of faith.

Once you make this distinction properly, the theme of my post is the following:

There can be no philosophic breach between thought and action. The consequence of the epistemology of religion is the politics of tyranny. If you cannot reach the truth by your own mental powers, but must offer an obedient faith to a cognitive authority, then you are not your own intellectual master; in such a case, you cannot guide your behavior by your own judgment either, but must be submissive in action as well. This is the reason why--as Ayn Rand has pointed out--faith and force are always corollaries; each requires the other.

In other words, once we enter the realm of religion it is one group's arbitrary claims against the other. There is no solution since neither side offers observable evidence. Therefore, the only way to get your way is through physical force as all of history shows.

On the contrary, science offers objective arguments supported by observation and logic. If one is wrong he can be shown to be wrong objectively.

This is why it is essential to ground the concept of rights by reference to reality not faith. To point to faith as the basis of rights is a critical error and will lead to the loss of liberty and dictatorship as we are seeing.

As to your question, I do not accept your premise. There is no evidence for an Adam and Eve or a Creator. The first law of thermodynamics says that energy can not be created or destroyed.

Anonymous said...

As to your refusal to answer my question, I counter that you don't have to accept the premise to answer the question. I am not asking you whether you believe in Adam and Eve or to explain how it is that we all descended from them. I am simply asking, in the actual words of the bible, who was it that granted them the freedom of choice? It's a simple question, not trying to trick you into saying something that I will pounce on. I am just asking, according to the biblical record, who does it give credit to for introducing freedom? Could the founding fathers of this country have been referring to that account when they stated that the inalienable rights were granted from God?

As to your definition of faith, I do not agree with it. It may be your definition, it may be Dr. Peikoff's definition, it may be Aquinas's definition, but it's not my definition nor that of the bible's. The bible is not a lexicon, but faith is one of the few words it actually gives us the definition so that there is no confusion as to what it means when it uses the word. Its definition is that "faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evidence of realities though not beheld". In this definition evidence is required. If religion has failed to teach this then it is not God's fault, but rather it is the fault of those who put forth their ideas instead of the bibles while at the same time claiming to represent it. Don't base your opinion of God and the bible on men such as Thomas Aquinas, but rather base it on actually reading the bible yourself and considering whether what it says is true and accurate.

If evidence is required for faith, then the evidence that is put forth to have faith in the bible is 1) scientific accuracy 2) historical accuracy 3) fulfilled prophecy.

Anonymous said...

Because the Bible claims to be the word of God (or you claim it is the word of God) it does not make it so. Yes, it is historically accurate on many facts. It relates many of these historical facts to myths handed down by the various tribes in that part of the world in the same way that Homer's Iliad relates facts about the Trojan War to Greek myths. Because Greek myths are told within a true historical context does it make the Greek Gods real or validate their beliefs?

These myths were primitive attempts to explain the world and were of course common to not only the Israelites but peoples all over the world (Egyptian, Norse, Aztec, Germanic, etc.) How are the rituals and laws pertaining to animal sacrifice in Levititcus any different from myths from other cultures other than in superficial ways?

You cite the passage "faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evidence of realities though not beheld" as somehow distinct from the definition that I offered.

This passage is an attempt at a contradiction. Evidence is an observable attribute or data which is available to the senses. To discusse evidence of something "not beheld", i.e., not seen or observed is a blatant contradiction. The key phrase in that passage is "hoped for". Hope is a feeling that something desired will occur and is the essence of religion. It is not belief based on evidence or logical inference from observations but a feeling. Feelings do not constitute evidence.

If faith were evidence then it would be called evidence not faith.

John Baker said...

In all respect, my definition of faith is much different than yours. Your quote said, "'Faith' in this context means belief in the absence of evidence", whereas my definition said that evidence is necessary ("..the evident demonstration of realities..") for true faith to exist. This evidence then produces hope. I agree with you that hope is a feeling and I would add to your definition that hope is a desire (or feeling) accompanied with expection of what is desired is attainable. Remember, I am giving you the definition of hope as explained in the bible, not what others advertise as hope today which may not be accompanied by evidence and may not be attainable.

To illustrate, a person may make a financial investment based on research of a company. If the person has done credible research then he has a hope (desire accompanied with expectation that the desire is attainable) of financial gain. If he has not done research, then he is simply guessing and making a wish for financial gains, this would be credulity or we might also describe the person as gullible. The hope that comes from the research gives the investor the patience required to know that the investment will pay off in the long run.

In the same way, my faith that the bible is the word of God does not come from the fact that it says it is the word of God. That would be wishing or guessing and therefore I would be gullible. Instead, in my research I have personally seen that the bible is 1) scientifically acurrate 2) historically accurate 3) contains prophecies that have been fulfilled.

As to whether we can have evidence of things not beheld, I refer to your quote of the scientist who examines phenomenon that are not visible to the human eye but may be proven through other techniques such as mathematical evidence (e.g. gravity). It would be proper to say that a scientist has faith in gravity because while not beholding it with their eyes there is indisputable evidence it is there. The bible presents the same evidence for those willing to take the time to examine it.

Comparing the bible to works such as the Greeks, Egytpians, etc does not hold up under the evidence. Consider this evidence as to the difference in the quality of Egyptian writings vs Isrealite. In the book of Leviticus, God commanded the Isrealites to bury their excrement outside the camp. Why is this significant? This protected them from diseases that would be propogated by the presence of the dung. However, the Egyptians were a people that were contemporary with the Isrealites of that time and used excrement on open sores as a physical remedy. The bible proved to be scientifically accurate in its medical laws while the Egyptians practiced medicine that was not only unscientific but harmful. I ask then, are these two really comparable? Did the Egyptian literature prove to be of any value? Did the Isrealites prove to be of value?

Anonymous said...

If a person has done research (properly) then he has objective grounds to believe he will be right. One does not need "hope" in this instance, rather, they would rationally expect to gain. Faith would consist of believing you are right in the absence of any evidence and lead to "hope" you will gain. It is entirely different. You have no scientific evidence of God and neither has anyone throughout history because there isn't any. That's why its called religion and not science.

If I drop something it falls therefore I do observe gravity. This is not "mathematical" evidence as you call it. Properly and historically, the mathematics of gravitational forces was induced from observations. Brahe's measurement's led to Kepler's laws which led Newton to the universal law of gravitation by understanding that gravity was a force acting on all objects including the planets. There would have been no concept of gravitation without observation.

One can then be led to other theories through mathematical deductions however the root concept was based on observation. Second, any deduction would not be valid without comparison to experiment.

As to your "dung" example, if God really wanted to help the Israelites why didn't he give them antibiotics? Incidentally, it's logical to assume that many primitive rituals would have some basis in reality. Another example might be the Torah's prohibition of shellfish which likely was a result of salmonella poisoning at the time which was not understood. Certainly, it also makes sense that primitive cultures might worship the sun given its importance to the harvest among other things. This is all irrelevant.

In any case, while the Israelite were burying their dung, the Greeks were discovering real philosophy (ideas without god), mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry, and medicine. I'll take Euclid, Aristotle, and Archimdedes. You can have Moses.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


I would put Egyptian achievements in mathematics, astronomy, and building as well as Babylonian math and astronomy against anything the Israelites did.

Also, explain the "scientific" basis of the following from Leviticus 23 and Exodus 29 in which the LORD demands among other things burnt animal offerings and the sprinkling of ram's blood on the big toe of the right foot (I mean c'mon, this is just bizarre):

15 " 'From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. 16 Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. 17 From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD. 18 Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the LORD, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. 19 Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. [c] 20 The priest is to wave the two lambs before the LORD as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the LORD for the priest. 21 On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.

Exodus Chapter 29

1 "This is what you are to do to consecrate them, so they may serve me as priests: Take a young bull and two rams without defect. 2 And from fine wheat flour, without yeast, make bread, and cakes mixed with oil, and wafers spread with oil. 3 Put them in a basket and present them in it—along with the bull and the two rams. 4 Then bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and wash them with water. 5 Take the garments and dress Aaron with the tunic, the robe of the ephod, the ephod itself and the breastpiece. Fasten the ephod on him by its skillfully woven waistband. 6 Put the turban on his head and attach the sacred diadem to the turban. 7 Take the anointing oil and anoint him by pouring it on his head. 8 Bring his sons and dress them in tunics 9 and put headbands on them. Then tie sashes on Aaron and his sons. [a] The priesthood is theirs by a lasting ordinance. In this way you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.
10 "Bring the bull to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. 11 Slaughter it in the LORD's presence at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 12 Take some of the bull's blood and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and pour out the rest of it at the base of the altar. 13 Then take all the fat around the inner parts, the covering of the liver, and both kidneys with the fat on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But burn the bull's flesh and its hide and its offal outside the camp. It is a sin offering.

15 "Take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. 16 Slaughter it and take the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides. 17 Cut the ram into pieces and wash the inner parts and the legs, putting them with the head and the other pieces. 18 Then burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire.

19 "Take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. 20 Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then sprinkle blood against the altar on all sides. 21 And take some of the blood on the altar and some of the anointing oil and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. Then he and his sons and their garments will be consecrated.

22 "Take from this ram the fat, the fat tail, the fat around the inner parts, the covering of the liver, both kidneys with the fat on them, and the right thigh. (This is the ram for the ordination.) 23 From the basket of bread made without yeast, which is before the LORD, take a loaf, and a cake made with oil, and a wafer. 24 Put all these in the hands of Aaron and his sons and wave them before the LORD as a wave offering. 25 Then take them from their hands and burn them on the altar along with the burnt offering for a pleasing aroma to the LORD, an offering made to the LORD by fire. 26 After you take the breast of the ram for Aaron's ordination, wave it before the LORD as a wave offering, and it will be your share.

27 "Consecrate those parts of the ordination ram that belong to Aaron and his sons: the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. 28 This is always to be the regular share from the Israelites for Aaron and his sons. It is the contribution the Israelites are to make to the LORD from their fellowship offerings. [b]

29 "Aaron's sacred garments will belong to his descendants so that they can be anointed and ordained in them. 30 The son who succeeds him as priest and comes to the Tent of Meeting to minister in the Holy Place is to wear them seven days.

31 "Take the ram for the ordination and cook the meat in a sacred place. 32 At the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, Aaron and his sons are to eat the meat of the ram and the bread that is in the basket. 33 They are to eat these offerings by which atonement was made for their ordination and consecration. But no one else may eat them, because they are sacred. 34 And if any of the meat of the ordination ram or any bread is left over till morning, burn it up. It must not be eaten, because it is sacred.

35 "Do for Aaron and his sons everything I have commanded you, taking seven days to ordain them. 36 Sacrifice a bull each day as a sin offering to make atonement. Purify the altar by making atonement for it, and anoint it to consecrate it. 37 For seven days make atonement for the altar and consecrate it. Then the altar will be most holy, and whatever touches it will be holy.

John Baker said...

First I will take what you said you last. You question the scientific value of the anointing ceremony of the tabernacle (tent with altar, ark of the covenant, etc). My answer to this is that there is no scientific explanation because it is not meant to be a matter of science. The bible is not a science textbook, but when it does touch on matters of science it is 100% accurate. Would we expect any less if it genuinely was from our Creator? The evidence of scientific accuracy of the bible (when it touches on matters of science) is unable to be refuted. For instance, I brought up its requirements for sewage disposal, you brought up its requirement to avoid meat contaminated with salmonella (more to come below).

The real benefit of the passage you quoted is that Jehovah was teaching the Isrealites the importance of worshiping according to His standards. If they were to be His people then they were to worship Him only in a way that was acceptable to Him. The portion you quote would have impressed upon them the importance of sacrifice in such worship, the importance of being clean (spiritually, hence theh term holy).

Again, returning to the idea of the scientific accuracy of the bible consider the question of the shape of the earth. That question intrigued humans for thousands of years. The general view in ancient times was that the earth was flat. The Babylonians, for example, believed that the universe was a box or a chamber with the earth as its floor.

As early as the sixth century B.C.E., Greek philosopher Pythagoras theorized that since the moon and the sun are spherical, the earth must also be a sphere. Aristotle (fourth century B.C.E.) later agreed, explaining that the sphericity of the earth is proved by lunar eclipses. The earth’s shadow on the moon is curved.

And where did the Bible stand on this issue? In the eighth century B.C.E., when the prevailing view was that the earth was flat, centuries before Greek philosophers theorized that the earth likely was spherical, and thousands of years before humans saw the earth as a globe from space, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah stated with remarkable simplicity: “There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth.” (Isaiah 40:22) The Hebrew word chugh, here translated “circle,” may also be rendered “sphere.” Other Bible translations read, “the globe of the earth” (Douay Version) and “the round earth.”—Moffatt.

The Bible writer Isaiah avoided the common myths about the earth. Instead, he penned a statement that was not threatened by the advances of scientific discovery.

Is this an isolated point? Consider this evidence from the book of Job.

In ancient times, humans were perplexed by other questions about the cosmos: What is the earth resting on? What holds up the sun, the moon, and the stars? The idea that heavenly bodies are, in effect, suspended in empty space upon nothing was unknown to them. Thus, their explanations often suggested that tangible objects or substances held the earth and other heavenly bodies aloft.

Among the most influential views were those of Aristotle. Although he theorized that the earth is a sphere, he denied that it could ever hang in empty space. In his treatise On the Heavens, when refuting the notion that the earth rests on water, he said: “It is not the nature of water, any more than of earth, to stay in mid-air: it must have something to rest upon.”4 So, what does the earth “rest upon”? Aristotle taught that the sun, the moon, and the stars were attached to the surface of solid, transparent spheres. Sphere lay nestled within sphere, with the earth—immobile—at the center. As the spheres revolved within one another, the objects on them—the sun, the moon, and the planets—moved across the sky.

What does the Bible have to say on this question? Nearly 3,500 years ago, the Bible stated with extraordinary clarity that the earth is hanging “upon nothing.” (Job 26:7) In the original Hebrew, the word for “nothing” (beli-mah) used here literally means “without anything.” The Contemporary English Version uses the expression, “on empty space.”

A planet hanging “on empty space” was not at all how most people in those days pictured the earth. Yet, far ahead of his time, the Bible writer recorded a statement that is scientifically sound.

Again, I emphasize the bible was not written to teach us about science, but when it touches on scientific matters it is 100% accurate. What scientist that has ever lived enjoys this type of success? This is one of the lines of evidence that the bible gives us so that we can have faith that there is a Creator. This faith is not based on feelings or wishes, but evidence. Just because this world around us chooses to define faith as something for which there is not evidence does not mean that this is the definition of the word that is in the bible. The world at the time was wrong about the shape of the earth and what it was suspended on, could it be wrong about the definition of the word faith?

Anonymous said...

So, when God says to bury your crap, he is 100% accurate because of the genius behind figuring out shit is bad for you. But when he tells priests to sprinkle ram's blood on the big toe of their right feet then it is simply "not a science textbook".

In other words, where it is scientifically and bizarrely inaccurate it is simply "not a science textbook" but when it is accurate it is accurate. This is a truism (and a terrible rationalization).

I'll give you another example of the bible being wrong. It says God created the Earth in 6 days. First, God didn't create the earth. Second, the Earth is billions of years old and formed naturally just as every other planet in the universe and took just as much time for life to evolve. All scientific evidence points to this. Genesis saying God created the earth in 6 days is not evidence. It is merely an arbitary assertion made by very primitive people with little to no understanding of the world around them. The Bible is ridiculously inaccurate.

You simply refuse to make a distinction between evidence or facts and the arbitrary which is an epistemological flaw in your thinking. You make rationalizations where science disputes your view because you "hope" the Bible is right and you "want" it to be true. If you choose to accept ideas in complete opposition to all scientific evidence to the contrary that is your business. I'll stick with the facts.

Let's leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

I hesitate to go into this much detail regarding the Biblical "foreknowledge" argument of the Biblical inerrancy doctrine because I'm not that knowledgable about the details and I think its prima facie ridiculous in principle. But for those interested in the details I found a good link debunking such claims:


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John Baker said...

I will leave it at that because it is your blog and I will respect your desire not to have my comments to the contrary of your opinion on your blog. However, I think one fact should be noted: you initially accused people of religious faith of resorting to violence in order to get their way. In these comments I never disparaged your beliefs, resorted to violent (foul) language, or got mad at you, yet you did all three to me (I take it that you said the last post in an angry tone, if not then my mistake). Who is it then that is resorting to violence to try and intimidate, you or I? Who is it that claims to only base his ideas on logic and therefore has no reason to resort to such tools? If you live by principles that state you will not do such thing then I would encourage you to examine your actions because they are not fitting your words, after all, from the "heart's abundance the mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45).

John Baker said...

One last item that I have to say b/c it is bothering me. The bible said 6 days, but the hebrew word used in this context does not always mean 24 hours but rather a demarcation between two events, therefore the six creative days could be "days" that are millions or billions of years long.

And as you left a link for the skeptical, then I will also leave a link since most of my information was taken from publications of the Watchtower. The link is http://www.watchtower.org

Good night Doug.

Anonymous said...

I encourage anyone who disagrees with me to write in as much as possible. It is for everyone's benefit to have disagreement and see arguments in writing. If the thread hits a wall where nothing new is being said then I reserve the right to politely end it.

My sarcasm is not meant to discourage but is simply my style and I apologize if it was taken as anything more than that.

Thanks for taking the time to write in and please do so as much as you want.