Why Should We Give A Hoot About Arkansas Oklahoma Flooding?

Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

For days now we’ve been hearing all the heartstring-pulling stories about the flooding in Arkansas and Oklahoma, 2 states that continuously vote for garnet-red state legislatures and governors. Both governors are, even as they cry about record flooding, climate deniers and have some of the worst environmental records in the country. So I ask you dear reader, neither pejoratively or rhetorically, why should we care? Furthermore, do you really want your tax dollars going to help out a state that not only denies the existence of climate change, but continues to disregard the hazards of their polluting ways and in a very real way, continues to contribute to the problem of climate change?

Oklahoma had quite possibly the most fanatical climate denier in the country in Scott Pruitt, known for his dozens of lawsuits filed against the EPA at the behest of his corporate donors. On the other hand, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is presently extolling the virtues of Comrade Donald Trump’s environmental deregulations while simultaneously agonizing over his state’s flooding, currently running at maximum levels and expected to get worse very soon.

So for days I’ve been listening to interviews on NPR, blocks on CNN and MSNBC, and I am starting to feel a strong sense of resentment. Furthermore I can not help but place the blame squarely where it belongs: on the voters in these red states. Voters that choose to listen to and vote for these know-nothings (or more accurately, liars, since they probably do understand the science behind climate change but instead declare “not to believe” it.) Voters that deliberately choose not to educate themselves at all, not a book or newspaper article or, goodness forbid, an actual science paper! This is willful ignorance, nothing less. And, now that they’re feeling the “burn” of their ways so to speak, the rest of the nation will have to bail them out and I can’t help asking myself why? Why is this our problem? I understand that we can not work around climate deniers and expect to make an impact; it has to be an all-or-nothing effort but I refuse to help anyone that will not acknowledge that they are part of the problem anymore. I have decided that I no longer want my tax dollars being used to bail out a state that will not acknowledge reality and take action to interdict the problem.

Comrade Trump stated recently of his own government’s report on the dangers of ignoring climate change, “I don’t believe it.” Our “very stable genius” rejected it summarily, out-of-hand, without any word of an opposing opinion or anything else. He just doesn’t believe it. This as if climate change cares whether or not the Comrade believes it or not. It just keeps rolling along, record-breaking floods, over 400 tornadoes this month alone, and much, much more to come. All while the voters of Arkansas and Oklahoma decide they too don’t believe in climate change. Well here’s my new response: you made your bed, you voted for people over and over again that continue to ignore the problem, now you sleep in it.

You know what else? I don’t believe there are floods in these states. I think they’re making it up to try and grab some federal disaster flood money. That’s what this is all about; they’re looking to try and abscond with some federal disaster funds. That’s my new conclusion. I just don’t believe it, period.

Now you can solve your own problems Arkansas & Oklahoma, with your own tax dollars and then come back to us and tell us your thoughts on climate change. Or better yet (but highly unlikely, I grant you) pick up a book somewhere and educate yourself on the topic. Make up your own mind instead of having it made up for you by some corrupt politician making money on their opinions. Yeah, probably not.

The Specious Persecution of Modern Christians

Driving home last night I listened to what I assume was a rebroadcast of WMUR’s show On Point about the supposed present-day persecution of “Christians” or what are really White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such dribble in all my life. Unfortunately, I could not call in as I was literally salivating to respond to the nonsense I was hearing from the Christian pastor asserting this inane claim.

Anyone following my blog, RaPaR knows, I been researching the the origins of Judaism & Christianity for many years. I was born Roman Catholic into an Italian-American family in Brooklyn, NY in 1955. I am now an Atheist since delving into the Bible to find alternative answers to Catholic doctrine that I believed to be man made. This lead me to some very unexpected skeins of inquiry, not the least of which is the history of Christianity.  And, unsurprisingly, you will find that no one group of people in history have done more persecuting than Christians. Even a cursory review of history bears this out.
While the pastor (forgive, I can not remember his name) was crying about why people are so intolerable of Christians today, let me make just two relevant points:

1) Christians have been persecuting people in America well before it was even a nation. They came to America, slaughtered most the inhabitants, enslaved others, and then encumbered them with Christianity as if this would help them in some way. The persecution of Africans (and African-Americans, as they were forced to become) was almost exclusively perpetrated by White Anglo Saxon Protestants or White Evangelicals. The result was to lull them into the false hope that there was some “Jesus” that would come from the sky and save them. So far it hasn’t happened and they’re still awaiting some kind of social justice to this day and continue to be discriminated against and persecuted by, white Christian society. A society that could lynch a black child on Saturday, sing hymns in the pews of their churches on Sunday.

2) The so-called Christian values and morality that the Pastor asserted can be found in the pages of the New Testament, in today’s society, is a non-starter. For instance, the Bible – Christian & Hebrew, collectively and individually – doesn’t say anything about abortion yet they hold their narrow-minded belief as something to which all of society must adhere. Therefore their belief is going to be crammed down the throats of others against their will. Why? Why can’t the supposed children of god keep their own moralities to themselves? Why must they insist upon changing the laws of our society-at-large even against the wills of a majority of Americans that believe that this should be a woman’s or a couple’s personal choice?  Remarkably they would claim that a twelve year old girl, raped by her father, should be forced to bear a child even against her will because this is a creation of their god. I can’t think of anything as cruel as this and yet they would have it encoded into our law whether society agrees or not. This kind of Christian hegemony has gone on since time immemorial and is just one example. 
Remember that the Ku Klux Klan was entirely populated by Christians, from Nathan Bedford Forest to David Duke, from beginning to end. They persecuted most “others” – although primarily African Americans but others as well; Jews, Catholics, Italians, etc. not to mention homosexuals – even into the 20th and 21st centuries. Furthermore, they continue to assert their ignorant beliefs which they selectively extract from their Christian dogma in order to alter society against the will of the majority. And now they want to decry some self-perceived persecution perpetrated by the “rest” of the American people.

The Pastor also decried the injustice at the exclusive teaching of Darwinism or Evolution in public schools at the exclusion of “creationism,” as if the two are somehow equivalent. They are not. Creationism is mythology, pure and simple, and a ridiculous one at that. Argued against a massive corpus of scientific data is their myth that god created the entire universe in six days, created light four days before creating the sun and stars, and most puzzlingly, creating man in full, mature form day one. All without an iota of supporting data; in fact in the absence of such empirical data. If they would like to have a flat Earth curriculum, they are welcome to at a Christian or Catholic school. They can help themselves. I just will not have my taxes used to pay for it. 

What the Pastor perceives as persecution I consider to be the process of standing up against an oppressive and reprehensible minority. They need to keep their narrow-minded and offensive beliefs to themselves. If they can not then they should expect a vigorous and raucous fight.

“Let Us Make Man In Our Image…”

In the last few years I’m finding out how much I really do enjoy the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible, that’s what Christians call the “Old Testament.” Testament is a Latin word meaning covenant, so the Hebrew Bible is the “old” covenant Yahweh made with the Jews. That covenant, of course, being abrogated by the “new” covenant; i.e., the one that Jesus brought to humanity with his life, message and ultimately his death, called by Christians the New Testament. Of course, an open-minded, scrupulously conducted, reading of the New Testament (NT) clearly reveals quite the opposite: Jesus brought no such message. There are, as I like to call them, some very unfortunate quotes from Jesus’ very lips that refute this claim in the NT. “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here today who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:27) seems fairly straightforward to me. Of course, with religion we can always come up with an alternative explanation that supports whatever position it is you’re looking to advance.

However, that being what it is, I’d like to review some of my favorite passages and events from the Hebrew Bible, some quite tantalizing. For instance, there are some very interesting events that occur during the Creation story in Genesis which I believe warrant further scrutiny. One of my very favorites concerns the creation of man. In a most peculiar verse, Yahweh (actually “EL” in this case since the passage is from the “E” author of the Torah) announces, seemingly to no one since there shouldn’t have been anyone else with him:

Genesis 26 “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Excerpt From NIV, Holy Bible, Red Letter Edition Zondervan) So the obvious question is “To whom is Yahweh speaking?” Are we to believe that, after billions of years (or, more to keeping with the myth, thousands of years,) of life alone, Yahweh (YHWH) is simply talking to himself? And even more curiously, in the first person plural? Who is “us?” Seems very unlikely that the god of Israel spent his time wandering around the universe talking to himself in such a way.

However, delving into the archeological record of the ancient “Holy Land” (way before it was known as such) a little further – say 500 to 1000 years or so – and new, lesser-known events present themselves as possible answers to YHWH’s enigmatic words. YHWH, as it turns out, was the god of Canaan long before he ever heard of Abram/Abraham. And he wasn’t alone; there were many lesser gods and goddesses not the least of which was his consort, Asherah. Could these be the entities to whom YHWH was speaking while he created man? It seems likely since, according to Genesis, there simply wasn’t anyone else there to witness creation. One may assert that YHWH was speaking to the animals “Dr. Doolittle-style” however that doesn’ explain the “let us make them in our own image” phrasing. What other explanation can there be for this seemingly cryptic phraseology? But let’s delve further into this most mysterious chapter.

For now we’ll overlook the “doublets,” or the secondary story of the creation of man and woman however I highly recommend their study and further inquiry. My favorite on this topic is Richard Elliott Friedman’s “Who Wrote the Bible?” Published by Summit Books, New York. Friedman’s translation of the Hebrew Bible is nothing short of groundbreaking and I am thankful to have had it to reference. Furthermore you will learn that the real story of the writing of the Hebrew Bible is even more incredible than one could ever imagine, even if Moses had somehow written it himself! It is simply too much to take on at this moment however I will turn our attention to it at sometime in the near future as it is, I believe, something everyone should understand as it puts much of the mystery of the Bible into a more human dimension.

For now, I’d like to go back to the story of creation and where we left off. YHWH was talking to “something” (“someone?”) and, as it turns out, this dialogue continues in the creation story. However, something even more curious happens: Adam and Eve meet the serpent.

It seems YHWH took “the human,” (singular) into the Garden of Eden to “work it and watch over it” and, at some point, decides that adam, which, in this case refers to “human,” not to gender, since there was no other gender at this time, (the word man was not used until after the creation of Eve thus, according to Friedman, it may have some connection to this monotheistic “male” aspect of the Hebrew god. Much more on this to come in later posts.) At this point, YHWH instructs the human not to eat of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad” under any circumstances or “you’ll die!” Here we enter one of the most mysterious and enigmatic chapters of the creation story: the introduction of the most humanistic of all features of the god of Israel.

As with most people (who’ve read the Bible that is,) I’ve read this story a hundred times and it never occurred to me to be one of the most incredible passages of the book had just passed before my eyes without my recognizing it. But I diverge…..

At this point something quite inconceivable occurs; the snake engages the new couple in the garden. “Has God indeed said you may not eat from any tree of the garden?” To which Eve responds “We may eat from the fruit of the trees of the garden. But from the fruit of the tree that is within the garden God has said, “You shall not eat from it, and you shall not touch it, or else you will die.” As a parent, this seems pretty clear to me: we can eat from the trees of the garden however from the tree (singular) that is within the garden, we can’t even touch it, or we’re goners. Got it.

But that isn’t how this story turns out, is it? No. It isn’t. As it turns out, it’s the snake that informs both newly formed humans (who, apparently, were formulated in adult form, amazingly, but we’ll let that go for now) the “real” story. The snake says to Eve “You won’t die! Because God knows that in the day that you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you’ll be like God – knowing good and bad!” No, in fact, as it turns out, after they inevitably eat of the tree of knowledge of good and bad, something quite different happens. First, of course, Eve shares it with “her man with her as well and he ate.” So the entire time Adam was right there with Eve listening to the snake and hearing his explanation and going right along with her but somehow Eve takes the brunt of the fall for their joint actions and Adam walks. Gee, go figure.

Here it starts to get really weird, especially for an omnipotent, omniscient, all-powerful god. The newlyweds hear YHWH “walking in the garden in the winds of the day” and what do they do? They hide. One might think this most unusual; hiding from the all-knowing god of the universe however Adam and Eve decide to give it a go and they almost pull it off. Believe it or not, YHWH calls out or them (or, more accurately, to “him,” since, for some reason, YHWH doesn’t even think to call out to both of them or to Eve, but only Adam. Again, go figure.) Most curiously YHWH calls out to him: “Where are you?” Hmm. Interesting. YHWH calls out to him “Where are you?” It seems that YHWH, the all-knowing, all-powerful, omnipresent deity can’t figure out where his newest creation is. I can’t tell you how many times I read this as a young adult before I recognized the unusual nature of this passage. And it goes on as Adam admits that he heard YHWH’s sound in the garden and “was afraid because he was naked, and I hid.” (Gen 3:10) To which YHWH inexplicably replies “Who told you that you were naked?” Again, YHWH seemingly does not know from whom or how his newest creations found out they were naked. He continues to query them and ultimately discovers that Eve offered the fruit to Adam after being told by the snake that they will not die, as YHWH had claimed after eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and bad.

So, interestingly, it is YHWH that is actually lying to Adam and Eve and it is the snake that tells them the truth: they will not die from eating the fruit, they will actually become “like us,” as YHWH states earlier to the unknown audience he apparently has with him in the garden and again, YHWH returns to his soliloquy thus: “Here, the human has become like one of us, to know good and bad. And now, in case he’ll put out his hand and take from the tree of life as well, and eat and live forever;” And YHWH God put him out of the garden of Eden, to work the ground from which he was taken.” (Gen 3:22-23) Oddly, YHWH seems only to direct his anger at Adam, he never really includes Eve (she/her) in his dialogue or punishment, though she is eventually punished with painful childbirth and domination be her man, Adam. But the point remains that YHWH seems to be talking to some other witness or witnesses to these events in real time. Who are these witnesses?

[More to come….stay tuned!]

How Can Evangelicals Support Trump?

I saw something today that, while I have been aware that it has been going on since the disastrous 2016 election, it still irks me and I have to share it.

Craig Melvin of MSNBC was interviewing evangelical leader Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham about their support for the 2020 presidential election. Melvin eventually asked Graham if he has been following or keeping track of all the lies that Comrade Trump (I never refer to him as “president.”) has told since being elected, some 8,000 whoppers. Graham replied no, he wasn’t keeping track but he was wondering if anyone was keeping track of the media’s lies! Graham said he didn’t believe that Trump lies and that a lot of the “controversy” is because the media hates him so much. A completely incredulous Melvin stopped him to say, “Mr. Graham, surely you are aware that this president lies; he says a lot of things that are just not true.” And, once again, Graham reiterated his response that, no, he doesn’t believe that Trump lies.

If nothing else, Mr. Graham certainly has the most elastic morals and ethics of anyone I’ve ever heard of. I believe this of all religious people – especially Catholics who can seemingly tolerate just about anything. This is nothing more than selective, purposeful denial. This is the battle we are engaged in with the evangelicals: they are so enamored of a man who is stacking the courts with right wing conservative judges that they wouldn’t call him on a single thing. Not his “pussy-grabbing” comments, not his numerous marriages, his innumerable infidelities during those marriages, his payoffs to strippers, porn stars, and Playboy models. Not his history of cheating his contractors and employees, his lies about Barack Obama’s birth certificate, not even his phony religiosity! His quote of “Two Corinthians” has to stand out as one of the most transparent efforts to feign faith! This so-called “man of God” doesn’t have a single criticism of Comrade Trump, an almost impossible feat unless one is intentionally covering his ears, eyes, and mouth (think three monkeys) and discounting the media coverage completely – virtually all media coverage. Absolute willful ignorance in a nut shell.

Why would this be? Why would a Christian minister, a man of the cloth, the proverbial Bible-thumping televangelist, debase himself by standing behind a man of such low morality as Trump? Is the appointment of conservative judges that important in the world of evangelical Christianity? Overturning Roe V Wade, allowing prayer in public school, expanding tax benefits to Christian schools and universities, etc., is so important that they can overlook even Comrade Trump’s egregious record? I can not think of any other reason but then again, one thing Comrade Trump and Graham have in common is that they are both snake oil salesmen. Graham and his father have been selling their ridiculous mythology and bogus salvation to anyone that would pitch them a buck for a couple of generations and it has made them quite wealthy; WikiPedia has his net wealth at $10,000,000. Apparently Jesus pays and how!

The evangelicals want a Christian America more than almost anything else. They believe and preach – falsely – that our founding fathers all wanted a Christian nation and it has been highjacked by left-leaning liberals and non-Christians. They rewrite history, preach and teach to in their schools, and spew it out to whomever will listen but it doesn’t change the fact that it is also a lie, pure and simple. We know from the history of Christianity that there have been an awful lot of lies, false claims, subterfuge, and just plain nonsense sold to the masses over the last two thousand years. So, in the end, I see what the two have in common; lie to achieve your goals, no problem. Tell anyone/everyone anything you have to say, deny, deflect, or do in order to achieve your goal. Same ideals for both men. Bravo.

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Mark 7: 6-7.

And So It Begins…..

For most of the last 20 or 25 years, I have been “studying” up on religion. It began long ago – when I was around 18 or so – that I decided to read the Bible and see exactly what was in these mysterious pages. Being born and raised the first years of my life in an Italian-American household in Brooklyn, N.Y., there was never any question as to how I would practice my faith: it would be as a Roman Catholic. Of course, as a Catholic your religion is pretty much spoon-fed to you; here’s how it is, here’s God, here’s what He wants for you, here’s what you have to do to avoid burning forever in a lake of hell fire, and don’t forget He loves you, and so on. Good stuff.

Yes, good stuff, but confusing. In Catholicism all – and I do mean all – salvation comes from the Church, and only the Church. There is no salvation without the Church, right? Which makes sense because, as a religion, “we” have to have the monopoly on “the truth,” right? The Church must be infallible otherwise someone else has the monopoly on the truth and we simply can’t have that. However, if you are the least bit curious, which I am, then you have questions, and they’re not always answered by the Big Two. The Big Two are my characterizations of the two most sited responses to questions about the Catholic God and Catholicism in general: 1) God has a plan and, when that doesn’t answer your question, 2) He works in mysterious ways. There it is; now go play in traffic, kid, you’re bothering me.

At some point, at least for me, it became necessary to find my own answers. I heard from some Protestants that a lot of the Catholic tradition isn’t supported in scripture. Wait, what?! That’s right, there are no saints, no sacraments, no salvation only through the Church, no restrictions against eating meat on Fridays, (son of a…!) etc.

Thus began my modest trek to find a or the “true religion,” and I began to read the Bible to find out for myself. Of course, at least initially, I thought perhaps Protestantism was the answer; Catholicism without the big hats but, alas, that wasn’t to be either. The simple fact and basic defect of religion is that is just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Fast forward 20 years or so and I find myself an atheist – or, at least, an agnostic – researching scripture, Hebrew & Christian; how and when it was written, and by whom. And I discover an entire universe of research dating back to the 18th century and beyond. To call it an epiphany would be both humorous as well as ironic.

However now we’re in the province of history with which I am very much more comfortable. “History” removes the faith aspect completely, it requires substance, evidence, testing the arguments and prevailing. I have been a so-called history buff so many, many years, even as a grammar school kid it was my favorite subject and has remained so ever since. This is the venue in which I found the answers for which I had been searching for so long; that and much, much more.

These will be the topics of this blog; unwinding the mythology behind religion, exposing the emptiness of belief upon faith alone, assigning culpability for the history of unspeakable horrors perpetrated upon the world by religion. Religion as what it truly is: mythology.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I will.