Archive for January, 2005

Find Out Why Burgers Are Bad For You!

Friday, January 28th, 2005

I am making another public appearance this weekend. The good folks at Lucan Presbyterian Church have invited me to preach and worse again, talk to the children about God. Get ready for some high quality brain washing! If you are around the greater Lucan area for whatever reason on Sunday morning, maybe because you were visiting the Italian ambassador, maybe because you were surveying the socio-economic impact on this former sleepy village that is now the fastest growing town in Ireland or maybe because you missed the last Nitelink home on Saturday night and you’ve only staggered as far as Leamhchán by 10.30am, then come on in.

I will be ripping off Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and a mystery icon of the 20th Century. Even if my nemesis, O’Heresy, escapes from his thought prison and bursts in mid-sermon, it will be worth coming for the japes we have watching me try and deal with children. And for the whole connecting with God thing.

I will never be able to emulate Mimi though, who once again deserves a medal made of valuable metal and adorned with glittery jewels for the sentence:

It’s like Jacques Derrida is running a daycare center in my head.

I spent three hours in a debate last night between a very famous Islamic apologist (which I guess means he is a household name on university campuses in the Medina area) and a Syrian Catholic who writes very well received books. I was about to slip into a boredom induced coma when a Swedish grandad came along and asked me out to dinner. We resisted the urge to eat pork just because we could.

Even when I went to the pub to act as servant and driver and pun-man to ddmmyy and neuro, I refrained from alcohol. The Koran in my bag had a strange effect on me last night.

Today I have the day off and I have already added a whole new links page to Zoomtard (go see if you are there!), hung out and talked architecture with a newly arrived Christian ministry student from New York and bestowed gifts upon my wife (which is not a euphemism). Now I will go visit a friend or starving children or illiterate med students in a hospital (whoever I meet first) and then party the night away with some asylum seekers. If my life could get any better, it would only be through somone buying me U2 tickets.

Your Correspondent, Bought Gilette First.

Where Zoomy Builds A Bridge

Thursday, January 27th, 2005

Over on MrBing there is a tremendous hulla-bullo brewing. A big fat palava if you will. Needless to say, CaoimheB was at the centre of it, causing pain and discomfort for the rest of us. Thanks for that you middle aged, trans-gendered, Dutch post-modern cultural studies academic. It will all turn out to be a storm in a tea-cup but sure, what would a blog be if it were not a massive over-reaction to meaningless chatter carried down phone lines by the slow and steady surge of a crowd of electrons, like depressed GAA fans dejectedly leaving Croker after another year’s hopes are dashed.

I should definitely be a teacher. That illustration totally works! Electrons move at like, 4 miles per hour or something. They don’t buzz around like TGV trains through the Gaul countryside.

Seriously though I had something to do this morning which was write a brief open-letter to Mr. Bing and his commenters. Go check it out, comments and all.

If you are in a rebellious mood and you don’t feel like taking my advice, let me quote a bit.

Mr Bing says:

“Although, to be frank, I consider religious belief a psychological condition that calls for treatment and sympathy, not respect.”

Class! Thanks for that bud! Alrigh’!

So here is my open letter.

Dear Mr. Bing and associates,

I need your help. See, by your definition I am sick, in that religious belief is some kind of neurosis. Yet as a former atheist, loud and way-too-proud, I was sick by CaoimheB’s definition. I am one sick puppy. My brain isn’t just broken. Its broken-ness contradicts itself! You guys are the only folks around who are brave enough to diagnose me so please don’t leave me languishing. Suggest some treatment. I urge you!

I was as much an atheist as can be for four years. I know the reasons and I know they satisfy. There isn’t a hint of disrespect in me for anyone because they call themselves atheists. In fact, if they can achieve the lofty goal of overcoming a sickness shared by about 85% of the Earth’s population (making religious neurosis the biggest psychological crisis of recorded history and not something that any moral person can hope to “tolerate”!) I will be positively impressed.

Yet 6 or so years ago I came into contact with Christianity for the first time and over the course of about six months it convinced me of its claims. I guess for you, the sickness just took over. Now I can really claim with authority to be able to understand Christians and the range and spectrum that word suggests (from liberal New England Anglican, to CaoimheB, to me and Neuro to some Charismatics right out to the rapture-ready dino-denying israel-idolising fundies) believe.

In my detailed interactions which go on with both groups I would like to propose an idea (if you can tolerate and listen to an idea that comes from so sick a mind as mine). When you guys throw textbook psuedo-scientrific diagnoses of neurosis at each other, all you are doing is revealing your own old-skool no-need-for-Freud-misappropriations insecurity. The claim of a Christian that an atheist is somehow missing something important is a justification to think less of them, usually in the realm of being compassionate. The claim of a an atheist that a Christian is suffering neurosis is a justification for thinking less of them, usually in the realm of the intellect.

People, stop fighting each other and unite against a common enemy. Andy

Yours Sincerely, In Thor,

Zoomy.

Your Correspondent, Not Brave Enough To Force Christ Down Someone’s Throat on the Interweb Without Having Google Safe Search On.

The Waves Of Mutilation

Sunday, January 23rd, 2005

Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes.

CaoimheB, the balding, middle aged Dutch academic posing as a DCU Multimedia and Colouring-In student and owner of the greenest blog in Ireland, has become a bit of a locus-point for the rest of the self obsessed, self important, narcissistic, default liberal, css illiterate, template using “original thinkers” that pass for a weblogging community in Ireland. I am not linked of course because I have a JOURNAL.

Of course, before you push the red button on your Safari/Firefox/Opera browsers that says “RiGhTeOuS iNdIgNaTiOn” remember I am just kidding. CaoimheB has provided a really useful service by linking to all the blogs she can find. I slagged her once and condemned her to blogger’s hell (which is a pit with 28k connections, the only news source is FOX and the only image manipulation software is MS Paint), but I take it all back.

Having condemned her to hell, she then linked to some folks who would like to condemn God to hell for the tragedy of the tsunami of December 26th. (Joke’s on them since He has already been there!) But this edition of Zoomtard won’t have to do with the brilliance of Clint Eastwood’s new movie, although I would like to know what people think of Hillary Swank (Skank, Mank or rather attractive?) but will have to do with the topic of theodicy. Theodicy is not gambling with God, but the attempt to justify the claimed goodness of the Judeo-Christian God.

This is particularly topical after the tsunami on Stephen’s Day. Certainly, a great many people who did not believe in God in the first place have seized on the tsunami as further evidence that He does not exist. But I have yet to come across anybody who has said: “I used to believe in God until the tsunami struck, but I don’t any more.” How many times have believers been told how irrational it is to believe in a God? Regardless of the merits of that statement, belief in God doesn’t come close on the crazy, illogic scale to the gist of many of the comments I’ve heard since Stephen’s Day: “I am really angry at God, and this is precisely why I don’t believe in Him.”

Ultimately, when faced with issues so massive and tragic as this one, there are two things that a Christian must do. I appreciate the response of Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth of Nations, on the first of these: “The only adequate response is to say: ‘God, I do not know why this terrifying disaster has happened, but I do know what You want of us: to help the afflicted, comfort the bereaved, send healing to the injured and aid those who have lost their livelihoods and homes.”

The second task for a Christian is one that probably isn’t shared in any meaningful way by secular people. It is to return to the Bible to see what it has to teach us. It is best encapsulated by my poetic muse, N.T. Wright, in his Independent editorial on New Year’s Day. He writes that the Bible, “tells a story about the Creator’s plan to put the world to rights, a plan which involves a people who are themselves part of the problem as well as the bearers of the solution.”

Yet for the non-Christian, it is unreasonable to present the Bible as a source of authority. So, what response can a believer make to a challenge like Peter Buckley’s? Pete thinks that we can tell something about the nature of God by looking at His handiwork. This makes a whole bunch of sense on an instinctive level. Find me someone who doesn’t agree with that idea off the bat and I’ll show you Meg Ryan (the human sensibility radar). Go on sure, I’ll show you Meg Ryan for the craic.

But the great Scottish atheist philosopher, David Hume would disagree. Amongst his more unreadable and turgid essays is the Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion and in it he creates a couple of straw-men characters to extend the opposing view. In Part II he undermines the whole effort of theodicy when his idiot-boy Cleanthes says the world is lovely and nice and pretty and kind and lovely and that we need to believe in a good and wonderful God because it is all so lovely. In response, David Hume… I mean, Philo (meaning love, because as you can see from the picture above, he was a demon in the sack) takes him to town and debunks any such nonsense. He does a fine job of it too and if you care to read it, you will think twice, thrice and many more times before you would claim that the nature of the world can tell us anything about the nature of God. (Its notable that he can’t pull himself up to defeating belief in God, only defeating the belief of idiot-boys who deny the existence of evil).

Before you decide to never return here, let me try and present some interesting ideas on the armchair philosophising that come so easily to those privileged with wealth. Y’all know what Free Will is? Here is my bold claim: Free Will can’t be maintained without a relatively independent and unbounded Nature.

Before we get to a discussion of big-ass waves, lets go way back to the beginning: Self-consciousness. The first step to asking any questions about why the world is the way the world is, is self-consciousness. Think about self-consciousness. It exists in terms of the “Other”. It is against an environment of the Other selves that the awareness of Myself stands out.

Now this self-consciousness is a pre-requisite for Free Will, as you can’t choose if you aren’t rational. To put it another way, you can’t choose if you can’t choose.

Choice implies a selection of things to choose from; options. Free Will, like self-consciousness, requires something other than the self to define the self.

Keep going with me on this. We will work up to tsunamis. Eventually. We know that for two people to communicate they have to have things in common- namely an external world that they share. Let me elaborate: There must be a common space and a common time for people to, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “give the co- in co-existence a meaning”. We know that this communication between people requires some kind of work. If your thoughts were directly present to me, like my own, without any mark of externality or otherness, there would be no way for me to distinguish them from mine.

The Rule-ness of the Laws of Nature
What we have done here is draw out a brief picture of humanity and hopefully laid out the need for the external world in any, even the most basic of activities. This external common field is required for any kind of interaction between people. We call this the world. Now imagine a world with only one occupant, who has complete control of the environmental factors. It conforms to her tastes at every point. It could be ideal. If the occupant needs shade from the sun, trees would be there to protect her. If the occupant needed water, a pool would bubble up. But if you were introduced into this common field that had been built and changes to suit the needs of its original occupant, then you would be unable to act fully in it. In this world, your Free Will could be easily contravened for the moment your existence irritated the occupant, she could change it. Even simple things like expressing your frustration to the world’s original tenant could be beyond your control since the existence of your ability is at her whim.

You are asking, “Zoomy, why are you taking us on this mind-numbing tour to the gates of boredom-induced-coma?” I will answer. That world in the previous paragraph doesn’t exist. In our common externality, that is, world, rules have been applied without preference to any individual or indeed for anything. The laws of the universe are entirely impartial. Matter has a fixed nature and obeys constant laws. As a result of that, matter can’t be modified to avoid being disagreeable to a person. For communication to take place at all between two people, for you to hope to exercise any choice, the laws of the universe must be firm and impartial. This firmness then means that there is no way that matter can be distributed across the universe to be equally convenient and pleasurable to each human being.

To this, some might say, “Zoomy, you have done a marvelous job at making grammatical sentences but you have missed the point. Why could God not just have built the world differently?” Well, the specifics of the laws of the universe don’t matter here. What matters is that there are laws. God can set the laws up differently so that gravity is at 9.6 m/s2 instead of 9.8 m/s2, but what matters is that the law is still impartial. (And incidentally, it seems that the laws can’t be changed very easily.) As such, if I place a pebble where I want it to be, it cannot, except by coincidence, be where you want it to be.

This is still very far from explaining the 200,000+ deaths as a result of Stephen’s Day’s events. But one of the first eventualities of this fixed nature of matter is that when humans stop being corteous about the fact that the valuable pebble is in my yard instead of yours, the fixed nature of matter can be used to hurt others. Wooden beams that can be used to provide shelter in the form of houses can, due to the same properties, be used as bats to bash people’s heads in. If God were to intervene every time someone was going to abuse the laws of nature and use them to do harm, so that the beam turns into soft grass moments before it makes impact with the skull, God would remove the expression of Free Will which is vital to our nature as humans (and is a dominant theme in the Bible). Taken to its conclusion, even evil thoughts would be impossible in this world since that is the perversion of the fixed matter of the world for the pursuit of bad.

Conclusion
We can imagine a universe created by God where the laws of nature are bounded so that forces as powerful as the tsunami can’t arise. This conceivable universe would still permit Free Will. I argue that the problem of a hostile universe created by a good God still exists here though. It isn’t simply gargantuan forces that lead to natural evil. In this universe, a simple Spring ice on a February morning can cause a slippage that leads to the death of an elderly lady. The charge of shallow histrionics can be leveled at someone who rants against a God who can “kill” 200,000 people all in one go but who doesn’t have any qualms with a universe where people can be killed through co-incidence and fate and the hostile natural world on 200,000 separate occasions.

If we try to conceive of a universe where the laws are arranged so that no one dies as a result of natural events, we can all picture it (leaving aside the troublesome issue of Ree’s book). Yet a close analysis of this picture shows us that we haven’t escaped the problem. For in this universe, although no one dies, serious harm can still be done. Tsunamis and earthquakes don’t kill multitudes in moments but dying trees can still paralyse people as they fall. To the “How can a good God do this?!?”-protesters, surely this is an equal outrage.

And I hope the final picture, as I see it, is becoming clear. The effects of the tsunami are tragic and they cause us to pause and ask why it has to happen. It has to happen not because of the specifics of the laws of nature but because of the law-ness of the laws of nature. That which makes us human cannot exist without these laws and although these laws can be conceived of differently so as to lessen the forces at work, they will always be able to harm. If you are walking in one direction and it is down the hill and I meet you while going in the opposite direction, then I must be going uphill, no matter how tiring or inconvenient that is to me. We can’t logically conceive of a way for the two of us to be walking in opposite directions and still both be benefiting. And we can’t therefore ask for that of God. Nonsense is still nonsense, even when applied to God. If you try to exclude the possibility of suffering as a result of the natural world, you find that you have excluded life itself.

Epilogue
The obvious response that must be made is the call to miracle.

My Internets (in chorus): Why couldn’t God have made a miracle to stop it from happening?

Zoomy: Well you have me there. I don’t know why. It is fruitless for me to blather on like the kind of hapless parish priest that I hope doesn’t exist in Ireland anymore and say, “How do you know He doesn’t do miracles to stop that kind of thing every other day of the year? Well? Think about that one and say 26 Hail Mary’s as penance for the sin of asking a priest a question when he is trying to watch the Formula One.” But some short comments on the nature of miracles might bring that question back into focus and away from a crisis-to-faith zone.

The idea of a miracle requires the existence of a stable world where rules apply. A miracle is, after all, a God ordained departure from normal service. From this, we have to agree that miracles must occur rarely. If that weren’t the case, then the miracle would undermine the universality of the laws that create stability in the first place. In a game of chess you can make certain arbitrary decisions to improve game play. Maybe you will decide to let the opponent take his last move back or you can deprive yourself of a rook. But if you concede everything that at any moment happened to suit him, then you would not have a game at all. So it is with the universe’s laws and with miracles. If God were to intervene at every moment where the world was being cruel to us, then we would have none of the fixed laws that are pre-requisites for us to truly be US.

Yet that doesn’t for a moment explain why He didn’t intervene with this one.

Seriously, I’ll finish with this point

Ten million children will die this year as a result of hunger or easily treatable diseases- non-fatal or extinct diseases in the West. That is equivalent to one of these tsunamis happening every single week for the whole year. Yet this is caused not by the uncontrollable forces of nature, but by man’s inhumanity to man. AIDS, war and the afflictions of unfair trade laws will kill many millions more even though the West has the power to stop the vast majority of those deaths. I made the point at New Year’s that I stand by today: the most terrifying humanitarian disaster of our times is not the waves that pummeled east Africa and south Asia but the slow and ceaseless, utterly needless and painlessly prevented death of our fellow men, women and children in sub-human conditions all over the southern hemisphere. The tsunami prompts serious questions for Christians about their faith and that is a positive thing. Questioning God is always good. But as I see it, the challenge to belief in the God of Christianity isn’t in how we can love Him when bad things happen, but how He can love us when we ignore what is happening.

Your Correspondent, Plagiarizing The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis.

You are acting like a nightmare

Tuesday, January 11th, 2005

I have heard that there are people out there who still haven’t enjoyed the pleasures of a gmail account. I have a crapload of accounts and am happy to share them with you. Simply just ask. Email Zoomtard at gmail.

Your Correspondent, What Else Can He Hope To Do?

And if you are waiting for nothing, what are you doing?

Friday, January 7th, 2005

I am just out of the shower, having desperately tried to get the smell of SUBURBIA off my clothes after I met an old co-worker in the supermarket. I always suspected that I was a middle aged man trapped in the totally buff body of an early 20’s hipster, but this is proof.

The old co-worker was one of the few bright things in a fairly dismal six months with a multi-national where I excelled in my pursuit of mediocrity. I was quite surprised that she remembered who I was. She is now married and also motherly to a little ball of pink baby boy.

It got me to thinking though about how wildly my life has changed over the last two years. For the better. Back then I was directionless except for my Fabergé Egg compulsion. I was just another child from the slums, raised by wolves, who fought the system and won by coming out on top of the International Feral Child Science Fair and landing a scholarship to a prestigious Applied Maths department.

Now I am married, employable and more importantly employed and benefiting from countless tax and welfare scams to ingenius to go into right now.

On a serious note, Zoomtard is shaving and putting on a suit on Sunday morning because he is heralding the Word of the Lord in a real live church. In other words, he is preaching. If you are anywhere near Kells, Co. Meath or Ervey in Co. Louth this Sunday morning and are awake early and not too hung-over and interested in comparing steroid usage notes with me, you should come along to either (or both) services. They are in the local Presbyterian churches, but don’t worry, you don’t have to pledge allegiance to the Queen before entering.

I am running the whole of both services, which is more than I’ve ever done before, but it should be a great experience. Friendly faces in the congregation would rule.

Call out over. I have to go apply for another six credit cards, or whatever it is that international money launderers do on Friday afternoons.

Your Correspondent, Always there with a needle when the thread comes loose.

After Eden, Key Change

Thursday, January 6th, 2005

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes 15 seconds.

I have spent the day doing the sickness thing and browsing the web within the clothes I wore yesterday. Man this gets old quick. However, I did download some quite excellent little extensions for Mozilla Firefox, which I would like to share with you.

For those of you who still use Internet Explorer, shame on you. Switch to the free and cool Firefox and get improved security, a nicer interface and add-ons that give you constant local weather forecasts, a way to track all your favourite news sites as they update and helps you boil a better egg. Courtesy of the lovely Irish blogger Ms. J Dalton, I found a deadly new way to sms people and to choose web colours.

All those things are free. You are probably Irish. You have to accept free things, even if you don’t need them. It’s a national pride thing.

A sudden drop in air pressure has caused Zoomtard to become a tabloid. Here are some photos of famous people to make you feel better about yourself.


Adrian recently used the comments on one of my entries to launch an unexpected attack on the validity of the Bible. What a strange thing to do on the site of a mofo who hates everything except the HOLY WORD OF THE LORD!!! My spider senses may be tingling because of the nausea inducing medication but I think he may have posted this link because he wanted me to take up the challenge and THROW DOWN!
Buy a car seat, install it in your living room and fasten the seatbelt, as we get medieval on the ass of some dodgy biblical critiques.

The list composed by the helpful folks at infidels.org is about as convincing an attack on orthodox Christianity as those pictures of Britney are of the Sexiest Woman In The Worldâ„¢.

Some Opening Comments
Lets begin with a question. What do you think the Bible is?

The Bible is the most under-read book in the world. Considering the crazy claims it makes for itself and the massive impact it has had, it is a travesty that it is so rarely opened.

One thing the Bible is not is a moral guidebook. I suspect a large number of you had that or some version of it in your head. In fact, the only part of the Bible that consists of moral guidelines is the book of Proverbs, some “Levitical” law portions in Exodus, Deuteronomy and Leviticus (that has been fulfilled with the birth of Christ) and the Sermon on the Mount, leaving the rest of the sixty six books free from the kind of preachy do-gooding you thought would be there.

To understand anything about the Bible (and therefore to evaluate any claims made against it by infidels.org or in favour of it by The First Holy Church of Zoomtards) you must grasp that it was written in a series of different genres. These are not arbitrarily defined to suit the faith of orthodox scholars but they are categories agreed upon by everyone in the biblical scholarship world, regardless of their personal beliefs. So in the first portion of the book of Genesis we have the genre of “foundational myth”. (The “myth” here is used formally, not as a synonym for legend). The first three Gospels are historical narratives. Revelation and the Book of Daniel are the classic examples of books in the apocalyptic genre. There is poetry (Song of Solomon, Psalms, Philippians), there is prayer (Lamentations), there is prophesy (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Obadiah etc), there are annals (which are semi-historical like in Kings 1 & 2) and so on.

Much like music, knowing what genre a piece is in gives you a good idea as to why it was written and for whom. So we know that the motivations behind Britney’s newest album differs from Jars of Clay, which in turn differs from Mozart’s Linz Symphony. This kind of vital information is entirely missing from this list that Adrian has posted and so we should be highly sceptical of it to begin with.

Setting a biblical passage into its context is vitally important. The books were written in two different languages by dozens of different people, working under many different established ruling classes, all across the Mediterranean and over the course of 1,200 years. You cannot bring the same set of criteria to your assessment of Revelation 5, which was written in Greek by the apostle John on the island of Patmos in 95AD to explain what happens in the heavenly realm when Jesus resurrects on Easter Sunday that you bring to Judges 5 which is a poem that was written in Hebrew in modern day Israel 3,200 years ago.

Taking the Bible out of context is what fundamentalists do. They read every verse off the paper as they see it and so they end up with warped beliefs that are utterly untrue and also unliveable. The most clearly understood effect of this is how people take the first two chapters of Genesis without context and end up as Creation Scientists.

Taking the Bible out of context is what these anti-Christian fundamentalists are doing too. But they aren’t forming an argument; instead they are building a straw man. When you take the text out of context all you are left with is a con.

Responsible biblical study looks at three extra things when it examines a verse. It begins just like the fundamentalist by examining what the verse means in and of itself on the paper. But here is where the radical departure begins because a responsible student of the Bible will then look at where the verse fits within the chapter, where the chapter fits within the book and finally where the book fits within the plan of the whole Bible. This takes a lot more work, which is probably the primary reason why it happens so rarely.

On top of that, every time you come to study the Bible you should be asking yourself three further questions.

1) What must this have meant to the contemporary readers of this in the place this book was written?
2) What does this mean to us, as a society, today?
3) What does this mean to me, as an individual, today?

To look at the Bible without asking these questions is to abuse it. It is not a 10 step self help book. It is not a manual for righteous living. To fail to read it carefully is to totally miss the point.

The Actual List
So lets actually deal with some of the contradictions that they claim to have found.
Under the title, “Earth supported?”, the author quotes Job 26:7 and Job 38:4. If God claims to have created the Earth, as He does in 38:4, there is no contradiction with Him claiming to have created it to hang on nothing, as he does in 26:7. There is no contradiction.

He goes on to say “Heaven supported too?” and quotes Job 26:11. He doesn’t propose a second clause to this so there is nothing to contradict against. I think he is suggesting that if God was real, heaven couldn’t possibly have pillars. I am going to be charitable here and say that isn’t quite the major problem most people have in believing the claims of Christianity. But it is a good example of ignoring genres. The passage quoted is from Job, which is a wisdom book in the form of a play and the language used is far from a dry, journalistic account of an unfortunate series of events. As such, the pillars here referenced may be more poetical than literal.

“The shape of the Earth” is another case of comparing like with unlike. Matthew is a Gospel, written as history, with real journalistic credibility. But the passage being considered is a miraculous one. What Jim Merritt is doing is taking a passage from the 2800-year-old prophecy of Isaiah written in Hebrew that glorifies God and comparing it to the desert temptation of Christ and saying, “Here is a mistake! Argh! We all see it!” The mistake he is trying to point out is that Matthew must think the Earth to be flat. Quite. It’s a unique interpretation of Matthew I’ll give it that. I don’t understand why we would disregard Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God because Matthew may have believed the world to be flat, but then I am psychologically weak and need the crutch of faith to save me. By the way, the passage has been interpreted for over 1900 years as Satan tempting Jesus with visions of Earthly power.

This failure to let the Bible be anything but literal accounts for a heap-load of the contradictions listed. “The hydrological cycle”, “God be seen?”, and “God change?”, for example, are all just places where Merritt doesn’t permit a non-literal reading of the text.

So many of the arguments on the list come down to a simple failure to understand what orthodox Christians think the Bible is in terms of its divine input. The Bible is not claimed to be the pure and unfiltered Word of God (which is the claim for the Koran, which can only truly exist in Arabic and which allegedly existed before the creation of the universe and will exist after we all fall away too). Instead, Christianity claims that the Bible was the Word of God as originally given. I believe that when God inspired the authors, the terms He used were perfect descriptions. However, there were varying degrees of unavoidable data loss between that point and when the words got down on to paper.

A way of describing it might be the compression of the “perfect” sound of a CD file into the functional sound of an MP3 file. Most of the time, the human ear can’t notice the difference but the difference is there.

So the words of the Bible have to be interpreted. That does not puncture the credibility claims of the texts. I think that many of the claims come under this category. Re-examine “Insects do NOT have four feet”, “Rabbits do not chew their cud”, “Snails do not melt” and “The bat is not a bird” considering the questions I have laid out and the nature of divine inspiration and you’ll see that these don’t even amount to challenges. Its not that I am avoiding the question, rather I am trying to show that there isn’t even a question here to deal with.

The perfect example of the cynical way this list was put together is the fact that it quotes only from the 1607 King James Bible instead of the up-to-date and massively more reliable NRSV or NIV translations.

I am sure you are getting tired of this and so I will do just one more. Randomly I choose to take on, let me see, “The GENEALOGY OF JESUS?”. This is a great example of how important it is to ask what the initial readers of the book would have understood. Genealogies counted for a huge amount in the strictly demarcated Jewish culture. There are dozens of examples of ancient Jewish literature that include a genealogy. They are not complete genealogies that are listed but rather, the highlights of the character’s ancestors. The genealogies of Matthew and Luke don’t contradict each other they just list different highlights. The genealogy is no longer of much importance to the modern Western reader but in the society that the Gospels were written it was vital that the biblical authenticity of Jesus’ heritage be established.

Wrapping It All Up, At Least For Now
Adrian writes in a later comment, “Why assume that a person who lived in the middle east many hundreds of years ago is any more reliable than me, or David Koresh or L. Ron Hubbard?”

Well thanks Adrian! I just assumed that the Bible was true when I found it in the bedside locker of my hotel. I never thought to consider the claims in the book. God becomes man and dies to get us all into heaven (how-way the lads, we’re off to Candy land!) just seemed such a natural meta-narrative to me.

Expecting the Bible to be perfectly understandable as a literal document is like going to a play based on the tough life in a deprived inner-city slum and being disgusted when the actors don’t attack the audience. “Well that’s just plain unrealistic!”, they would say as they left the theatre. They are simply missing the point. Its their loss.

Seriously though, the Bible is the most researched and studied book in history. There is no need for crappy lists to bring its validity into doubt. It tells the story of how God loves everyone and has sent His son to save each of us. You would be a crazy fool if you didn’t begin from a position of doubt.

I firmly believe that if you open your mind to the arguments for its validity then you would never be able to slip into the certainty of Merritt and his cronies at infidels.org. I hope that I’ve answered the challenge Adrian. If not, come back like a man and make another challenge in my comment section!

Your Correspondent, Has Donated So Much Money To Tsunami Relief, India Is Naming A Province After Him

First Date Foods to Avoid

Wednesday, January 5th, 2005

Screw you 2005. First you stole February 29th and now you steal my health. C had a swelling of the paranoia gland that forced me to go to the dreaded doctor on Sunday morning. She claimed that stomach ache localised in the abdomen, shortness of breath, complete lack of appetite, diarrhoea, frequent urination, dehydration and headaches required professional advice. She has no faith. Surely we could have just prayed it better? But no. She bullied me with her feminine fists of fury into leaving church without talking to anyone and going straight to some quack straight out of med school.

Dr. Winnifred turned out to be about 86, seemingly suffering from Parkinson’s and wearing the suit he’d been sleeping in since his wedding night. He wasn’t a young, handsome, neurotically hilarious friend with medical knowledge who would cure what ailed me with laughter, like TV taught me doctors were. Neither was he a scary, unhinged, egotistical sociopath who would use me to boost his lagging self esteem due to childhood issues like I had been warned about in a documentary on TV.

In three minutes he earned €45. Some people would moan about this but I say, “Hey, he deserved it. I should reward efficiency”. He poked me a bit and then told me not to eat anything for a few days and I was officially sick. Which means C is legally bound to care for me, due to the “in sickness” part of “in sickness and in health”. Who ever said marriage is pointless? Caring for me, of course means serving me like a slave. But when my diet is limited to boiled 7up and 6 pieces of toast a day, my slave has plenty of time to pursue other interests.

Today though is the day for the big ill-health pay-offs because I am back on solids baby! I think I will demand a lunch of tiramasu followed by Ben and Jerrys ice-cream and a dinner consisting of pesto pasta, chilli con carne and baked Alaska. In truth I can’t eat anything spicy until Friday and no coffee till then either. I yearn for some flavoursome food. I feel like I’m trapped in Peig’s house, being served nothing but broth and black tea and deep down misery at every meal. Speaking of Peig, has anyone seen The Grudge. Some enterprising film or communications or media student should take Peig and turn her into the villain in an Irish horror. You have your target audience of generations of honours leaving cert Irish students captive. Just do it! Which is Modo Fac in latin.

Like most people with real jobs and I suspect even people with mcjobs, I work in a “team”. The team I work with differs from the team you probably work with because the ideas behind the word team actually apply to mine. That and the actual make up of the team, people wise, is likely to be different. Anyway, the team are quite close and work hard at maintaining links with each other. The highlight of the year is the post-Christmas retreat when we get together in a beach side conference centre and the eight of us chill, chat and reconnect with the reasons we do the work we do. This was to be my first staff retreat. Oh the joy I felt when I discovered it was being led by a guy I partially based my Masters thesis on.

Oh the despair I felt when my boss called me and said “I know you want to come but it is more important that you stay home, get yourself rested and ready for the new semester.” Man I hate that guy! He has it in for me. How dare he tell me to take as long as I need to get well again. I want to go to work. Where work consists of walking the cliffs of Down and talking about materialism. They had the gall to ring me this morning after their first session of the day to let me know what I had missed and to reassure me that they missed me. Urgh! Your stupid care means nothing to me when I can’t even participate in the round table discussion on Homosexuality and the Church that they are hosting later today. I had prepared and researched my position.

Seriously though, while it is a total ass bag that I am missing the retreat, it is cool to know that your employer puts such a high priority on your health. Few people have bosses who care about their health more than they actually do.

But I took his advice seriously. Yesterday, after he phoned me to ground me, I went back to bed. Then my predecessor in the job (an unbelievably great man, a major influence in my life and a close friend) rang and said he and the missus were in Dublin for a while and could we get together to hang out for a while.

Forget you guvnor! No recuperation for me. I am socialising. We’ll call it networking and put it down as job-time if it makes you, the reader, rest easier. It was agreed that the mid-point between our two locations was Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, timings were set and watches were synchronised. The fact that I was willing to go to the 5th Circle of Hell (home to the Wrathful and Sullen) shows how much I like my predecessor.

We had a fine old time. I re-acquainted myself with their daughter, who at one year is the most amazing bundle of cells and proteins bound together by a soup of dna I’ve ever come across. I can’t help but internally praise God when I see a one year old who fresh from conquering walking is now a little empiricist, investigating everything and investigating it again to her obvious delight. We talked about their grand new project which is going swimmingly and discussed books and whether we want to go to this together.

Then I came home and stayed up until 4 in the morning playing this. Its totally shit. The only redeeming thing about it is that I won by a landslide. I live with three genii (a plural for geniuses?). Beating them at any board game that isn’t Operation is an achievement for me. I mean, I live with the reigning female Irish Go champion. I even come last in Connect 4 contests. I dread the Scrabble rematch proposed by C to protect her dignity. Even if that does happen tonight, I’ll always have Go Mental to remember.

I have avoided coverage of the ‘gQuake and Tsunami as best I can. I tend to disappear into these disasters. I had a mini-nervous breakdown after 9/11. But now we are removed enough from the event for me to figure some stuff out about it. This site is essential reading. If there is hope, it lies in the technology.

Your Correspondent, Answering Phobia Quizzes For The Voices In His Head

MSN Report: Drug dealers prefer Euros

Saturday, January 1st, 2005

There is a need for a response to this by the brainiacs at Zoomtard. And seeing as another year has come and gone without anyone inviting me to make the definitive movie of the life and times of Dev (which would be a cross between Pi, The Motorcycle Diaries and King Ralph) I will take this first day of the 2009th year since the birth of Christ to make a list.

The One Thing I Wanted But Didn’t Get In 2004
Job. As in the Biblical character and not a career. As everyone knows, I am a full-time Christian. That is a job and I work for a charity so that means I always have the moral high-ground. Even when stealing mp3s.

There has always been a great hole in my life because of the lack of biblical characters molded out of plastic sitting on my office desk. Imagine the sermons I could preach if the guy was standing right there in front of me, all covered in sores and raggedy clothes. If anyone buys me this, I’ll show you something special over a webcam. Namely my signed photo of R.E.M.

The 3 Books By Big Name Authors That Totally Failed To Live Up To Expectations

Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
I have written at predictable length about this book in the last couple of weeks but my hope for some earth shattering challenge to Christianity just didn’t materialise. In my search for an anti-Christian alternative to Narnia or Lord of the Rings, I will be reading the Pullman Dark Secrets series in 2005.

You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers
He will be great but darn it, the hype makes it easy to be disappointed. He did grow up in the same town as my cousins though. So in a way, I know him.

Eleanor Rigby by Doug Coupland
There are parts that are absolutely exhilarating and deeply thought provoking but it still isn’t a great novel. Which means we’ve been waiting since Microserfs (or maybe Girlfriend In A Coma) for a book that is more than just original thoughts expressed beautifully. Read it though.
If you feel like it.

Things I Did Which I Regret

Nothing. Unless marrying a foul-mouthed working-class soccer-hating scummer from Cabra counts as a regret.

Greatest Humanitarian Disaster of 2004

Debt. Not tsumanis. If debt had been cancelled, these countries wouldn’t have been crippled before the tsunami hit. 6,500 Africans will have died from AIDS before this day is over and seven times as many children will die from nothing but hunger in 2005 as have died from the tsunami. News like this makes me fear that this tsunami will not be the end of suffering for the people of the affected nations. I wonder what the APR will be on those loans?

Most Depressing Thing I Read In 2004
Maybe this. It inspires me to keep trying to live by the actual Gospel of Christ and stand against these hateful lies. I don’t like to use the word hero too often, but it certainly applies to my wife, who at the age of 15 went up against the author on a tabloidy late-night call-in show and won. Confronted with the actual content of the Bible by someone who actually had read it, Phelps ran and hung up. By the way, the text referenced in that photo I link to, Romans 9:13, reads, “Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”.”

For those of you who can’t read, that doesn’t say “God Hates Fags”. He doesn’t.

Finally, Best Gift I Received In 2004
Thanks Andy. This is the greatest thing in the world. I never thought I’d need it but there you go. Life is funny like that sometimes.

Your Correspondent, Researching Your Ancestry