Monday, May 18, 2009


Our friend Ed Babinski sent this cartoon link along, which made me smile.


At 5/19/2009 12:03 AM, Anonymous Mike Koke said...

Yeah, I got to give him some credit; that comic is pretty funny.

At 5/20/2009 3:00 PM, Anonymous Jason Pratt said...

It would be funnier, and somewhat more historically accurate, if the captions were switched. {g}

After all, the 'modern' preacher noodling about the nature of God from the pulpit is only following in a tradition stretching back through all recorded history across the whole planet, where if it happened that the grey-haired prophets and priestesses weren't busy contemplating the nature of reality and God and the gods etc. (inventing science and engineering and literature and language and literally all human "cult-ure" along the way), they were coming up with complex meaningful rituals and/or epic stories for people to appreciate and participate in (for better and for worse).

It's the modern (19th century, not even 'postmodern') "New Atheist" guy in the popular pulpit today, who can't seem to get past the caveman-ish "God wants a bigger goat!" concept of "religion"; a concept long outmoded (if "religion" had ever been only that kind of thing, even back in the earliest pre-history) by the time the prophety-looking guy in the robes came along.

What's funny, consequently, is that I can imagine Richard Dawkins and his ilk thinking that this cartoon is relevantly funny. {wry g} Because, frankly, they don't know any better (and don't really care to know any better, either.)


At 5/21/2009 6:51 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...


The ancients routinely gathered together the finest of their flock and the finest of their crops, and set them aflame so that the smoke would rise to heaven and appease a particular god or gain their blessed attention. According to The Epic of Gilgamesh (an ancient Babylonian tale that featured the story of a worldwide flood), the gods had been denied their sacrifices during the time the world was flooded, so they all gathered round eagerly to get a whiff of the first animals sacrificed after the flood. A similar scene appears at the end of the flood tale in the Hebrew Bible. Noah holds a huge barbecue after leaving the ark, sacrificing “two of every clean animal” to the Lord. The Bible author added, “…and the Lord smelled the soothing aroma.” (Gen. 8:21--a similar phrase is found elsewhere in the Bible as well, see Ex. 29:18; Lev. 1:17, 3:5; Num. 15:13,24; 29:28). “Smelled the soothing aroma?” What a pretty piece of anthropomorphism to attribute to God. As if the creator of the universe needed to be “soothed” by the “aroma” of barbecued beef.

Question: Why did Noah have to murder those animals? Didn’t the Lord get his fill of “smelling the soothing aromas” of countless critters He sacrificed to Himself via the Flood? If you reply, “It’s because charbroiled critters, not drowned ones, have the ‘smell’ whose ‘aroma’ is ‘soothing,’” then I have another question. Why wasn’t Jesus charbroiled so the Lord could “smell the soothing aroma?” (Please don’t tell me after Jesus died he got a little singed in hell.)

Those Bible verses about God “smelling the soothing aroma” do make you wonder though, whether God still lusts after the scent of burnt animals. Today, if He did, He’d probably have to settle for a barstool at a steak house with Zeus, Odin, Marduk and Baal by His side, chatting about the good old days, all sneaking a whiff of that old “soothing” stuff.

Course, maybe God’s addiction to sacrificial death just kept getting worse, from flaming farm animals, to His son, and now He’s probably addicted to “smelling the soothing aroma” of whole planets filled with living creatures exploding into cosmic fireballs. Wait, isn’t that mentioned in the book of Revelation? Quick! Call the Pope to arrange an intervention, we have to get God into rehab! And tell Outback to double my order.

[See also William K. Gilders, Blood Ritual in the Hebrew Bible: Meaning and Power (John Hopkins Univ. Press, 2004)]

At 5/21/2009 6:51 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

I agree with JRP, switch the captions, because religion "today" sacrifices goats all the time, big unblemished ones. That's what modern day religion is all about.

While it was "early" religion that conceived of such things as Tillichian and Bultmannian theological concepts.

Actually scratch all that, I suspect Jason is merely attempting to pull a "Chesterton" as they are called, when you try to turn the tables on something someone has said by standing matters on their heads.

At 5/21/2009 6:54 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...


We’ve all heard the term “scapegoat,” but did you know it was based on holy commands given in the Hebrew Bible? God commanded that a priest transfer the sins of the people onto a goat, and send the goat into the wilderness, thus carrying away the people’s sins. (Lev. 16:20-22) We remember the scapegoat story, but we forget about the lowly scape-bird, a bird that God commanded a priest to transfer “uncleanness” to, then send flying into the sky. (Lev. 14:4-7,48-53) What kinds of “uncleanness” did the scape-bird carry away with it? Would you believe mold, mildew, and… leprosy?

To the ancient mind discolored splotches of mold and mildew on clothing, leather or the walls of their homes, were lumped with that dreaded disease, leprosy. The same Hebrew word was used to describe them all, despite the tendency of modern Bible translators to make modern distinctions and use the words, ‘mold’ or ‘mildew,’ in cases of clothing and walls. The ancient Hebrews made no such distinctions but used the same word to describe a discolored growth on a wall, on poorly stored clothing, or on the skin of a leper. Consequently, the same remedy was required by God’s law.

Get your “scape-birds” here! They remove tough mold and mildew stains, as well as leprosy!

Dave Matson, “God’s Ignorance Concerning Leprosy,” Commonsense Versus the Bible [edited, with added comments by E.T.B.]

At 5/21/2009 6:56 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...


According to Deuteronomy 18:10,12, “There shall not be found among you anyone who... uses divination... For whoever does such things is detestable to the Lord.” However, didn’t the Hebrew patriarch, Joseph, practice “divination?” He practiced the ancient magical art of lecanomancy, otherwise known as “cup-divination.”

Is not this [cup] it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth?...And Joseph said unto them, What deed is this that ye have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can certainly divine?
- Gen. 44:5,15

By means of cup-divination a person could supposedly foretell the future and find lost objects. Neither was Joseph condemned in the Bible for being a cup-diviner. Go figure.

And… didn’t both the Hebrews and Christians practice the ancient magical art of cleromancy, otherwise known as “casting lots to divine the will of Providence?” (How different is that from tossing Chinese I Ching sticks to find out what Providence has in mind?) As it says in the Bible, “The lot is cast into the lap; but its decision is from the Lord.” (Prov. 16:33) “The lot puts an end to contentions, and decides between the mighty.” (Prov. 18:18) Numerous examples of this magical practice of divining God’s will can be found in the Bible:

The tribes of Israel divided the “promised land” by “casting lots.” (Num. 26:52-56; 33:54; 36:1-2; Joshua 13:6; 14:1-2; 15:1; 16:1; 17:1-2,14-17; 18:6-11; chapters 19,21,22,23; Isa. 34:17; Ezk. 45:1; 47:22; 48:29)

Hebrew kings were chosen and tactical decisions in battle were decided by “lot.” (1 Sam. 10:20-23; 14:41-42; Judges 20:9) Also chosen by “lot” were “governors” for each “ward,” and for the house of God. (1 Chron. 24:5-7,31; 25:8-9; 26:14-16)

Saul, by drawing lots, found that his son Jonathan had eaten honey (1 Kings 14:58)

Jonah, when fleeing from the face of the Lord, was discovered and thrown into the sea by lot (Jonah 1:7)

People were chosen to receive special favors by “lot” (Lev. 16:8-10; Mic. 2:5; Neh. 10:34; 11:1)

The guilt of people was judged and confirmed by casting lots. (Josh. 7:13-18; the Hebrew word ‘lakad’ translated ‘taken,’ means ‘chosen by lot;’ Jonah 1:7)

According to the New Testament, Zacharias was chosen by lot to offer incense (Luke 1:9); and after the apostle Judas committed suicide the early church chose between two replacement candidates by “lot.” (Acts 1:23-26)

At 5/22/2009 4:16 PM, Anonymous Jason Pratt said...

{{While it was "early" religion that conceived of such things as Tillichian and Bultmannian theological concepts.}}

Pretty much, yep. {g} Among other things. (But then, it depends on what one considers "early". Religions from Biblical times, which seem to be what the cartoon is aiming at, aren't all that "early" in the history of humanity. According to modern anthropology anyway. {g!})

Whereas, admittedly there are some pretty modern churches around where the preachers focus a lot on either God wanting a bigger goat (church, parking lot, whatever), or else on God wanting to give us a bigger goat (i.e. prosperity mega-churches). But that would only be to say, that "religion" has always has some of both, across world history.

Which, in turn, is why I didn't compare "modern" religion vs. "old" religion.

I compared the actual religious history of humanity--which anyone who wasn't determined to make "old religion" look merely reductively simplistic and stupid ("God wants a bigger goat!"), assuming they actually bothered to learn the details in the first place, would quickly recognize and admit has plenty of examples of introspective and thematic complexity (even some rather ridiculous examples of that!--thus "noodling", as I somewhat self-critically called it, from the pulpit); vs. the "modern" "New Atheist" who is merely and only determined to make "old religion" look reductively simplistic and stupid, and who preaches that idea from his own "pulpit" on a regular basis.

In possibly unrelated news, Ed apparently couldn't find any examples of "Biblical religion" that involved reducing it to "God wants a bigger goat! {thoom}" -- even when talking about sacrifices involving goats. (Obviously he searched his spam-post file for the keyword 'goat', so he must have tried.) C'mon, Ed, even I expect I could find a verse or two from the OT (though possibly not from the NT, which is only 2000 years old), where God is asking merely for a bigger whatever. Maybe not without a number of pretty complex and abstract ideas along with the request, but still, those could be ignored or mocked or something, right?

Granted, focusing on that kind of thing, as though hugely important ideas which are still in effect and cherished today (even by New Atheist types of the sort I was referencing) are not also included in the cultural record of that religion, would be... well... a rather fundamentalistically New Atheistish thing to do. But still. Any stick is good enough to beat religion in general (and Christianity in particular) with. (As Chesterton once said, I think. I appreciate the comparison, btw. {g})

JRP (who likes to macro-post freshly written material)


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