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31-07-2015, 11:24 AM
Counter to posit: Need god for morals
Well, we know from Anthropology 101 where human customs come from, and in general why they arise. One of the fallacies religionists claim is that without their deity, morality would not exist. The fact is that EVERY SINGLE commandment, injunction and law in the Bible existed already in ancient Near Eastern culture and was imported into the Bible. Religion took their laws from existing culture, not vice versa.

Religious people and popular culture likes to draw a correlation between morality and religion, but upon close inspection, one has nothing to do with the other. One is not needed for the other.

Lets go back to hunter-gatherer time....it didn't take long to figure out that ones odds for survival were greatly increased if we stick together in groups, hunt in packs, protect each other....it also doesn't take a genius to figure out that as we started to build bigger tribes, groups, villages, towns, etc...that the basis of self-preservation and safety is a tier one concern. It would be frowned upon to put it lightly, if you stole my food, raped my wife or children, or killed one of my family....these type of actions would be considered against everyone's self-preservation and safety...thus banned...thus SOCIETY dictates what is acceptable behavior, and this evolves with time. No made up god/s needed at all. No BS "ten commandments" which are so obviously written by a group of empowered, ignorant patriarchal men.....thou shalt not rape? ....nope, not on there, thou shalt not enslave other humans? ...nope, not on there, and surely the all knowing god knew that would be a problem...but no...the MEN that created the ten commandments were more concerned with pressing matters like thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife.

Religion’s basis is their holy books, and their holy books are filled with horrific threats and deeds. Hardly the go-to reference for how to conduct oneself. The well-known passage from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, "If God is dead, all is permitted," suggests that non-believers would not hold moral lives without the possibility of punishment by a God. This perspective is absurd as all one has to do is look at Denmark or Sweden to see that these largely atheist areas enjoy being at the top tier of civilization. This is broken down in great detail in a book by Phil Zuckerman, "Society without God".

Phil Zuckerman, associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College in California, in his article, "Is Faith Good For Us" states the following: "A comparison of highly irreligious countries with highly religious countries, however, reveals a very different state of affairs. In reality, the most secular countries (those with the highest proportion of atheists and agnostics) are among the most stable, peaceful, free, wealthy, and healthy societies. And the most religious nations-wherein worship of God is in abundance are among the most unstable, violent, oppressive, poor, and destitute."

A study by Gregory S. Paul, entitled "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look," was done and the study's conclusion was that there was an inverse relationship between religion and poor societal health rates. What that means is that the higher the level of religious belief in a country, the lower the level of societal health (more violent crimes, suicides, teen pregnancies, etc.).

So it seems that a plethora of evidence exists to show that not only do we not need religion in our lives to be good humans but that having it in our lives can be counter-productive and unhealthy. Our world IS corrupt and broken, but only parts of it. Guess what correlation exists in those broken areas? High levels of religious belief. Even within the US, there are a plethora of studies and statistics that show the Bible belt has the lowest average IQ, highest poverty levels, lowest average education levels, poor health, and….you guessed it…high levels of religious beliefs. The areas of the world that have a zealous belief in religion are usually the most violent, and enjoy being at the bottom tier of civilization ranking for quality of life.

Creationists have long been of the opinion that atheists are evil and corrupt. Well, lets take a peek at US prison statistics. US population of Christians is about 70%...and that number is reflected with entrance statistics for US prisons IAW the FBI database for religiosity and prison population. About 70% of US prisoners are of some flavor of Christian delusion. Guess what percentage are non-religious? .07%.....Contemplate on that for a moment.

One would surmise to make the world unbroken and less corrupt, a step in the right direction would be to remove religion from it. The only thing wrong with the human condition is the embracement of religion. People like to say, "why take away faith if it helps people get through the day"...I've never really understood how removing a bad way to reason will make it difficult to get through the day. If anything, it would seem that correcting someone's reasoning would significantly increase their chances of getting through their day.

With reliable forms of reasoning comes the capability of crafting conditions that enable people to navigate life's obstacles. By using a more reliable form of reasoning, people are more capable of bringing about conditions that enable them to flourish.

To argue that people need faith is to abandon hope, and to condescend and accuse the faithful of being incapable of understanding the importance of reason and rationality. There are better and worse ways to come to terms with death, to find strength during times of personal crisis, to make meaning and purpose in our lives, to interpret our sense of awe and wonder, and to contribute to human well-being...and the faithful are completely capable of understanding and achieving this..if they would only try.

Asking “If there is no god, what is the purpose of life?” is like asking, “If there is no master, whose slave will I be?”

Reference:

Zuckerman, Phil. Society without god: What the least religious nations can tell us about contentment. New York: New York University Press, 2008. Print.

Interesting link to new info that reflects atheists are .07%, not the .2% reported from that old report that has been circulating around the web forever. (of course the accuracy of any statistical data has an error range based on multiple factors, but overall, the numbers validate the posit that atheists are a small number within the prison population, which negates the posit that those who believe in god are somehow more moral)

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyath...-imagined/

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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02-08-2015, 04:47 PM (This post was last modified: 02-08-2015 08:58 PM by goodwithoutgod.)
The Evisceration of the Exodus
The Evisceration of the Exodus

“The Exodus from Egypt is unknown to history save what is written in the Hebrew Bible. Outside of the most meager a circumstantial evidence we possess nothing to substantiate the text.”

-Dr. Michael D. Oblath. The Exodus Itinerary Sites (2004)

Michael D. Oblath received his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Religions from the University of California and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Currently, he is Adjunct Professor at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, and St. Mary’s College of California. His publications include articles on the patriarchal narratives and the Exodus from Egypt.
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This is just one of a copious number of scholarly experts who have spent years studying and investigating the Exodus. I will endeavor to eviscerate the myth of the Exodus. To recap the fairytale; 600,000 Jewish slaves, their families, Egyptian booty, and a plethora of animals numbering between two and three million spent 40 years stomping around the Sinai desert which is only about 130 miles across, fleeing to the promised land, guided by God who tested them greatly.

Nonbiblical references

The earliest reference to the Exodus story can be found in the writings of the Greek historian Hecataeus of Abdera (fourth century BCE). It is surmised that he had a copy of the Pentateuch before him, based upon what appears to be a direct quote from Deuteronomy. Of course, there exists no contemporary literary record of any sort depicting the Exodus as a historical event, and this silence was maintained for many centuries, until the story started circulating after the Jewish Scriptures began to emerge publicly in the latter half of the first millennium BCE.

Logistic Implausibility

Exodus 1:5 - and all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were 70 souls…

Exodus 12:37 - and the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about 600,000 on foot that were men, beside children.

Exodus 12:38 - and a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even a very much cattle.

Exodus 12:39 - and they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither have they prepared for themselves any victual.

First is the amazing explosion of the Israelite population; they went from 70 to more than 1 million in about 400 years (Ex 12:37, 38:26, Num 1:45-46). They must have been very bad at mathematics back then. It is reminiscent of the great mythical global flood(2348 BCE) which posited that eight humans repopulated the earth in 350 years(2000 BCE) to 27 million people. The sheer impossibility of there even being 600,000 male descendants of Jacob during four generations of Hebrew existence in Egypt(Gen 46) should give a thinking person pause. Most calculations show that the most that could have been produced in four generations would be approximately 7000 males.

However, let’s wave the wand of magical belief, and pretend that there was 2 to 3 million Hebrews in the time since Jacob entered Egypt. Let’s break down the logistics of moving that many people… About 2000 people can fit comfortably into a mile, with no belongings and a little space between them. If 3 million people were lined up single file, the length of the column would require an estimated 1500 miles. In order to fit into the 130 mile broad Sinai, the Israelites would need to line up more than ten abreast, without belongings such as wagons and animals. The front row of the column would have been safely in the promised land and the last row would have still been in Egypt.

Animals and treasure

Let us not forget the hundreds of thousands of animals they must’ve had with them. How were these animals fed, and what plant matter did they eat? When you calculate the amount of lambs needed to fulfill the Passover decree at Exodus 12:21 would be something around the number of 240,000, slaughtered in one night. If these are only the lambs, how many other animals were there, including all the adult sheep, cattle, goats and horses, all spared miraculously during the plagues?

Exodus 3:22 and 12:35 state that the Israelites are to flee through the desert with the enormous wealth of Egypt, taking a massive amount of silver and gold. Why carry all this immense weight of worthless treasure into the desert for 40 years where it has no value? This ridiculous story would’ve left Egypt bankrupt and destitute, and the Israelites extremely wealthy. Oddly, this fairytale is not supported by the historical and archaeological record. Archaeologists have found zero evidence of such wealth among the hill settlers that became the Israelites.

Geography and archaeology

Sadly archeologists cannot find any clues to support the story of the Exodus as an actual historic event. They cannot identify Mount Sinai and many other place-names in the story; nor were there any remains from this found anywhere in the Sinai. An Exodus of such great size would’ve left a plethora of evidence as I will get into later.

The burning/talking bush

Surprisingly, this great universe and life creating deity deemed to speak to Moses through a burning bush. It is even more amusing that(Exodus 3:5) the great and powerful Oz was more concerned about Moses wearing shoes to walk on the patch of dirt in front of him: “do not come near, put off your shoes from your feet, for the place in which your standing is holy ground”… What is not surprising, is this same tale differs little from the Greek or Roman myths about Zeus and Jupiter, as well as a number of other gods and goddesses that manifested themselves to humans over the millennia. Then the great and powerful Oz (Exodus 3:19)tells Moses that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. Then God hardened the Pharaoh’s heart. After all, the story needs a little spiking.

The 10 Plagues

The first plague - all the water was turned to blood and that he killed all the fish in Egypt. How in the world did this event escape the notice of all literate Egyptian writers, travelers, historians, Royal scribes, and any other literate person who witnessed this amazing event? The death of all the fish, as well as under the ability of water everywhere in Egypt, would’ve been something historical to say the least. To no surprise, there is not one scrap of contemporary, literary, or historical evidence to corroborate this ridiculous story. Fiction.

The second plague - frogs covered Egypt, again; there exists no historical account anywhere of such an extraordinary event. The economic cost of a pandemic frog invasion would have been enormous, as would the potential illness when hundreds of millions of frogs died and rotted away everywhere. Fiction.

The third plague - the supernatural invasion of lice or gnats which spread everywhere. Again, such a pestilence would be very costly to their economy, as did all of these plagues, and there exist no scientific, historical, or contemporary evidence for this claim. Fiction.

The fourth plague - and invasion of flies next attacks Egypt. At this point, it is difficult to comprehend much being left to plague at this point. I apply the same point as the third plague. Fiction.

The fifth plague - now it gets interesting, the all-powerful deity kills all the cattle, horses, camels, oxen, and sheep of Egypt, sparing only the cattle of Israel (Exodus 9:3-6). The economic cost would’ve been staggering, and the resulting epidemic of disease from all the rotting animals would’ve been extraordinary… Fiction. And again, no evidence exists to support this myth. But wait there’s more…

The sixth plague - the attack of the boils, the all-powerful deity had Moses sprinkle some ashes toward the heaven in the sight of the Pharaoh, and a dust spread across the land inflicting man and beasts with painful boils… Wait a minute, what beasts? In the previous plague, God had destroyed all the beasts, sparing only those owned by the Israelites. To no surprise, no evidence supports this.

The seventh plague - next the all-powerful deity rained hail down upon every man and beast that shall be found in the field, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die (Exodus 9:19). Hey, wait a minute… What beasts? Where these beasts come from? They were killed in plague five, and then again in plague six…. Something sounds suspicious here. Fiction.

The eighth plague - wait there’s more, the plague of the Locust since the previous plague of hail would have destroyed most of the foliage, what in the world were the Locusts going to destroy? Whatever, so now there is no foliage.

The ninth plague - the three days of darkness *key dramatic music* Dunh Dunh Dunh..the Pharaoh must’ve been quite the hearty individual, having survived eight plagues so far, having lived through bloody water, mosquitoes, boils, hiding inside during the great hailstorm that killed every living thing caught outdoors, and the famine that would’ve followed the locust plague, and now a three-day blackout. Curiously, there exists not one word written anywhere outside of the story in the Hebrew Bible, of three days of darkness. One would surmise that this would’ve been a great time for the Israelites to sneak away from their master as by this point everyone would’ve been hiding inside, and three days of darkness allows one a lot of time to leave. Fiction.

The tenth plague - this infamous plague (Exodus 12:12-29) is the event commemorated during Passover: the killing of all firstborn humans and other living things, except of course the Israelites putting the mark of Lamb’s blood upon their doors. One would question, why would an all-powerful God, all-knowing God, require a drop of lambs blood upon the doors of his chosen people to identify them? Are they suggesting that God did not know who his chosen people were? Truly? Logistically, how does one inform 2 million Israelites in one night, to mark their door with blood? Where did the Israelites immediately obtain an estimated 240,000 or so lambs necessary for this mass sacrifice? Why would the universe and life creating God require animal sacrifice?

Additionally, the Egyptian population itself throughout the entire nation is estimated to have been 3-3.5 million people. Is one to believe that the slaves equaled the Masters? After the utter decimation of the Egyptian population by God, why would the slaves need to flee in the first place? Surely the Egyptians, having gone through 10 levels of plague, had other things to worry about besides where the 3 million slaves went too. How could the few survivors have even tried to stop it? If Egypt was so devastated, with nearly every living thing killed, including most able-bodied men, it would be easy for the millions of spared Hebrews to overwhelm the remnants of the Egyptians and take over the entire country, rather than fleeing into the relatively poor and inhospitable wilderness.

Unleavened bread

Exodus 12:8 talks about the unleavened bread and bitter herbs to be eaten as Passover. As the story goes, they had to flee so quickly that they did not have time for the bread to rise. This is a simplistic and anachronistic story. The Bible (Gen 19:3) records the use of unleavened bread by Abrams nephew, Lot, centuries earlier, according to the story.

No formal organization

As per the story, the Israelites had no formal and centralized organization until after they were already settled in the desert. How could any of the Exodus events have been organized with millions wandering around aimlessly with no chain of command? Exodus 13:18 claims the Israelites left Egypt “equipped for battle.” Where did the slaves get the equipment? How could Moses have executed “brilliant” military tactics with these untrained fighters? Where did these slaves learn these military tactics? Such a massive force on the move would surely have left some mark in the desert. To no surprise, despite the wishful attempts by various devout researchers, not a single unambiguous and scientifically verified artifact has ever been found from such a vast and long-term migration.

Exodus encampments

Biblical literalist like to claim the existence of purported ancient encampments along the supposed Exodus route, now visible using technologies such as Google Earth, and that this evidence proves the biblical story to be true.

First, if these were the biblical sites, they would need to be enormous. Regarding the massive encampments of the Israelites and their animals, the latter that is estimated to be at least the same as the number of Israelites, over 2 million, consider the following:

Every one of the 42 times the camp was pitched (Num 33) there must be suitable space found for some 250,000 tents, laid out (Num 2) regularly four-square around the holy Tabernacle, after that was constructed, and with the necessary streets and passages, and proper spaces between the tents. A man in a coffin occupies about 12 ft.², 6’ x 2’. Living people would not be packed in their tents like corpses inside a sardine can; they must have at least, say, three times that space, 36 ft.² or 4 yds.² each. A tent to house ten persons with minimum decency must occupy an average of 40 yds.². If 241,420 such tents were set one against another, with no intervening space or separating streets, they would occupy 9,656,800 square yards, or over 1995 acres of ground, a little more than 3 mi.².

Second, where did all the tents come from? It is estimated that the amount of tents needed for this proposed 2 million refugees would be at least 200,000. Who would’ve owned so many tents inside Egypt, or how did the Hebrews construct them all in the desert wilderness? Exodus 12:39 says the Israelites fled in a hurry, without even their bread time the rise, yet they are depicted as hauling a huge amount of Egyptian gold and other precious artifacts, along with the massive animals and, apparently, an enormous quantity of tents.

Water Sources

Two to three million people and hundreds of thousands of animals would have required a huge amount of water. In Exodus 15:25 we find that the well was bitter, and God gave Moses direction to make it sweet. Calculations show that the Israelites and their livestock would’ve needed some 8000 m³ of water per day.

Heavenly manna

At Exodus 16:4 appears the magical story of “bread from heaven,” elsewhere known as manna. This magical and supernatural manifestation is described as made with honey, or taste like fresh oil, and described as a flake-like a thing, round thing, or coriander seed. Of course, there’s never been any evidence of this magical food raining from heaven, or any residue of it.

Bird sacrifice

In the book of Leviticus, we read about the numerous animal sacrifices, including thousands upon thousands of birds per day, but we are not told where these birds come from in the middle of the desert. Indeed, throughout the entire book appeared detailed instructions on how to sacrifice all these animals, repeated abundantly; yet the common people apparently were kept out of that feasting and were fed flake-like round things (manna)found on rocks instead.

Wait there’s more, while the Israelites were starving subsisting off manna and water, the great and powerful Oz required not only the sacrifice of thousands of animals but also heaps of “shewbread” (Exodus 25:30) made with fine wheat flour (exodus 29:2, 40). Now where did the Israelite priest obtain this “fine flour” out in the middle of the desert, where people were starving? It seems rather odd that 600,000 lawyers would subsist solely on manna while watching their wives and children go hungry, while thousands of food animals were being immolated, and expensive and difficult to procure fine wheat flour was given as bread to God.

29 trillion quails?

At Exodus 16:13, the great and powerful Oz brings forth a huge amount of quails from the sea to feed his chosen people. Let’s examine this, we read at Number 11:31 that these quails were “stacked up on the face of the earth” to a height of two cubits, equivalent to about 44 inches high, in a row the length of “a day’s journey around the camp.” Estimates show based on the settlements descriptions at Numbers 2 and 24, that the camps total mass would be 4,569.76 square miles or 452,404,727,808 cubic feet of birds. This equates to approximately 29 trillion individual birds. Let’s say this estimation was 99% inaccurate, we would still be discussing 290 million birds, to be picked up immediately, cleaned, cooked and consumed by couple million people, providing dozens or hundreds of quails per person. Where do they get all the wood to cook with, and what did they do with the birds remains?

I could go on at great length, but who truly wants to read all that? In conclusion, scholarly consensus asserts that there is no archeological evidence to support a late bronze age Exodus, and no historical proof for the Exodus can be placed within any specific period. Not a single shred of credible physical evidence has ever been discovered anywhere in over a century of scientific excavations, and scouring of the Sinai desert for any sign of the Israelites 40-year journey. The entire Exodus story appears unreal, even beyond supernatural miracles. The Pharaoh is never named, in dozens of pages of text, despite the fact that Egyptian kings were well-known and inscribed their names all over monuments.

Furthermore, the biblical text contains abundant anachronisms including the names of people’s such as the Philistines, Edomites and Midianites who did not exist as such at the purported time. The inclusion of these anachronisms fits in with political issues during the seventh century. Clearly, the Exodus account was written long after the purported events, revealed in its anachronisms and simplicity in many instances. The setting reflects an era centuries later and unfamiliarity with the milieu of the purported Exodus period.

The Exodus is not a historical event fictionalized but a mythical motif historicized. Again, the difference may seem subtle but is highly important. The archetypal myth existed first and was utilized as a framework upon which to build a national epic. The fact that anyone can purport to believe that this ridiculous tale has even a grain of truth to it, is disingenuous, and hubris in nature.

References:

Finkelstein, and Amihai Mazar. The quest for the historical Israel. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. 2007. Print.

Frankee, William. The Exodus Epic: Universalization of History through Ritual Repetition.Lanham, Md: Association and University Press of America, 2012. Print.

Murdock, D. M. Did Moses exist? The Myth of the Israelite Lawgiver. Seattle. Stellar House Publishing. 2014. Print.

Redford, Donald. Aspects of Monotheism. Biblical Archaeology Review, 1996.

Tait, John. Never Had the Like Occurred: Egypt’s View of its Past. London: UCL Press, 2003. Print.

Wheless, Joseph. Is It God’s Word? New York: Cosimo, Inc. 2007. Print.

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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03-08-2015, 01:59 PM (This post was last modified: 03-08-2015 04:37 PM by goodwithoutgod.)
Problems with Mormonism's "first Vision"
To begin, lets do a quick short summary of mormonism:

- Joseph Smith "translated" golden plates given to him by God into english, but he did not translate the "reformed egyptian" into contemporary english - instead he translated them into King James style english. Coincidentally, Joe Smith grew up reading the King James Bible.

- The Book of Mormon claims the following tools existed in ancient MesoAmerica: chariots, steel swords, bellows for blacksmithing, and silk. None of these were in the Americas until the Columbian exchange.

- The BoM describes a vast civilization of millions who inhabited cities for hundreds of years, yet no ruins from even a single BoM city have ever been identified. No BoM place-names were in use when Europeans arrived in the New World.

- The BoM peoples had a seven-day week, but no Mesoamerican calendar matches this.

- The BoM says that the Native Americans descended from Hebraic (Semitic) origins. However through archaeology and DNA testing, we know that Native Americans descend from Asiatic origins.

- There are no examples of "reformed Egyptian" in Mesoamerican history. And no Native American language is related to either ancient Egyptian or Hebrew, whereas a relationship does exist between Native American languages and Asian (Siberian) languages.

- As shown in the Mormon South Park Episode, a woman stole a "translation" from Joseph Smith, and demanded that he replace it with an exact copy saying, "If this be a divine communication, the same being that revealed it to you can easily replace it." Smith refused, and wrote the same manuscript from a different point of view.

- Joseph Smith was given real egyptian from an ancient Egyptian burial to translate (this was pre-Rosetta stone, and Egyptian could not be read). Modern day scholars agree that his translation is entirely manufactured and incorrect.

According to LDS scripture, when Joseph Smith was 15 years old, he was confused as to which church was true. He claimed this confusion was sparked by an 1820 religious revival in his neighborhood. His heart was powerfully impressed one night when he read James 1:5, and subsequently he went into the woods near his house to pray that God would tell him which of all the Christian sects was right. As he began to pray, he claimed that he was nearly overcome by "some power" of "astonishing influence" that prevented him from speaking. As he called out to God, he was miraculously delivered by two beings who identified themselves as Jesus Christ and God the Father. Joseph Smith claimed that he was told the following: "I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt" (Joseph Smith – History 1:19).

This story is referred to in the LDS Church as the "First Vision." It was this vision that ultimately led Joseph Smith to organize what is today known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Whenever LDS missionaries meet with potential converts, their message always includes the "First Vision" story. This vision is obviously the cornerstone upon which the LDS Church is built. In fact, the ninth president of the Mormon Church, David O. McKay, said that "the appearing of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith is the foundation of the Church." (Gospel Ideals, p. 85). Preston Nibley, a descendant of an early LDS apostle, once wrote that "Joseph Smith lived a little more than twenty-four years after this first vision. During this time he told but one story..." (Joseph Smith the Prophet, p. 30).

So important is this vision that it is published as scripture to the Mormon people in a book known as The Pearl of Great Price. This official version was taken from the early LDS publication Times and Seasons, which originally published it on April 1, 1842 (pp. 748-749). Joseph Smith wrote this account of the vision in 1838, 18 years after it supposedly happened.

However, contrary to what Mr. Nibley claimed, this is not the only version Joseph ever told. In 1965, a BYU student named Paul Cheesman found a different version of the first vision. He noted that the accounts differed in significant details. This led others to start looking into the matter, and a surprising detail came to light. There are at least nine different versions of this first vision, each of which differs in the more significant parts of the story. Here is a brief look at them, starting with the latest known account, and working back to the earliest one.

Version 9. On May 24, 1844, Alexander Niebaur wrote the first vision in his journal as Joseph Smith told it to him. In this account, most of the details are the same as the official version, except that Joseph was not told that all of the Christian sects were wrong. Instead, he was specifically told that the Methodists were not God's people.

Version 8. In 1843, Joseph Smith gave an interview to the Pittsburgh Gazette, which was reprinted in the New York Observer on Sept. 23, 1843. In this version, Joseph said he was 14 years old, and there was no mention of any dark power trying to overcome him.

Version 7. This is the officially accepted version of the first vision, published in Times and Seasons on April 1, 1842.

Version 6. On March 1, 1842, the Times and Seasons published contents of a letter written by Joseph Smith to John Wentworth. This was published one full month before the account that is accepted as the official version today. In this one, Joseph Smith did not give his age. He mentioned no evil power overcoming him, and he said two personages visited him, though he never identifies them. It is significant that he did not mention the evil power that played so prominently in the story and also that he omitted that the personages visiting him were supposedly God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Version 5. In 1841, Joseph Smith's brother William Smith told the story to James Murdock. This account is published in A New Witness For Christ In America (2:414-415). This account lists Joseph as being 17 years old when he received the vision, and rather than God and Jesus appearing to him, William states that it was only a "glorious angel." Admittedly, this account is third hand, and William could certainly have been mistaken about Joseph's age. But it is not likely that he would forget that God Himself and Jesus Christ visited his brother, unless he was never told that to begin with.

Usually we dismiss third-hand accounts in our research, believing them to usually be very unreliable. However, this account is substantiated by other sources. For example, in the early LDS publication Times and Seasons for December 15, 1840 (Vol.2 pg. 241), Oliver Cowdery stated specifically that Joseph Smith, Jr. was 17 at the time of the first vision - specifically placing the year of the vision in 1823. And in at least seven other places in the Journal of Discourses, early LDS leaders shared that it was only an unidentified angel that visited Joseph, not God and Jesus (2:171, 196, 197; 10:127; 13:78, 324; 20:167).

Brigham Young even stated specifically that the Lord did not visit young Joseph. In reference to this vision he said "The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven...But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith jun...and informed him that he should not join any of the religions of the day, for they were all wrong;..." (Journal of Discourses 2:171).

William Smith's account was also printed in part in the RLDS Church publication The Saints Herald (Vol. 31 No. 40, page 643, 6/8/1884). No correction or retraction of the information published there was ever printed. We must keep in mind that both the LDS and RLDS (now known as the Community of Christ) share the same history for the first several years of Mormonism's existence. Contradictions regarding Smith's Vision would affect the credibility of both groups.

Finally, this account is also worthy of special consideration because it was first brought to light by a Mormon researcher from the LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University. As mentioned earlier, Paul Cheesman wrote his master's thesis in 1965 entitled "An Analysis of the Accounts Relating Joseph Smith's Early Visions." In that study he discusses this differing account of the first vision in detail. It was subsequently discussed by LDS scholars in the publication Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought for Autumn 1966. None of these researchers and scholars dismissed the account as mere gossip; rather they discussed it as a valid account worthy of consideration. There is no reason, then, for us not to consider it as well.

Version 4. In 1837, William Appleby recorded the vision story as given by Orson Pratt in his diary. In this version, the revival was not until 1822, Joseph was 17 again, and the visitors were not God and Jesus but beings who identified themselves only as angels who claimed to have forgiven Joseph's sins. Again, this is a third-hand account, but the most important details of the vision are left out or completely different.

The differing details of this vision account have been verified by other statements of LDS leaders throughout the early years of the LDS Church. George A. Smith and Orson Hyde both stated that Joseph was visited not by God but by angels (Journal of Discourses 6:335; 12:334). This corroborative information makes this third-hand account worthy of our consideration. In addition, the discourses and statements of the early LDS apostles and prophets, as published in many books by the LDS Church, were mainly recorded from the diaries and journals of the early Mormons. The LDS Church considers these third-hand accounts to be valid enough to accept for "inspirational" material. It would be inconsistent for the Mormons to accept only those accounts that support their teachings and to disregard those accounts with which they disagree. Since Orson Pratt was a first-hand witness to the early events of Mormonism and to the life of Joseph Smith, Jr., his version of the events are of significant importance for consideration – even when recorded in a listener's journal.

Version 3. In 1835, Joseph Smith dictated his own account of the first vision for his personal diary. There is some question among scholars, even those who are LDS, as to who the scribe was for this part of the diary. Some believe it was Warren Parrish, but others believe it was Warren Cowdery. Regardless of which man physically wrote the account, the fact is that it appears in the official diary of the Prophet, and this journal entry is accepted as accurate and valid. In this account, which was first published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (VI, No.1, pg. 87), the evil power is mentioned for the very first time. In all previous published accounts (listed below), no evil power was ever mentioned by Joseph. Also, he does not claim that the messengers were God and Jesus, just that many angels visited him. That seems to be a very curious omission.

Version 2. In February 1835, the LDS publication Messenger and Advocate recorded the account of the vision that Joseph Smith gave to Oliver Cowdery. In this account, Joseph was 17 years old, the revival is in 1823, and no mention is made of James 1:5. Instead, Joseph claimed he had been wondering if there was a God and if his sins could be forgiven. His only reason for praying was to ask if God did exist. After "11 or 12 hours" in prayer, he was visited by "a messenger from God" who forgave Joseph's sins. While this vision is given in the Messenger and Advocate as the first vision of Joseph Smith, this story was later revised and published as a second vision from the angel Moroni preparatory to giving Joseph Smith the golden plates.

It should be noted that this account was printed not only in an LDS publication but also during the lifetime of Joseph Smith. No statements by Joseph against the accuracy of this account have been found, indicating his approval of the information given. It was also a second-hand account given by Oliver Cowdery, a witness to many of the key events in LDS history. The same account was also copied unchanged into Joseph Smith's Manuscript History of the Church and subsequently into the LDS publication Times and Seasons. Since it was copied into so many LDS publications and records without any changes, the account must have been considered accurate and valid to Joseph Smith at that time. This adds quite a bit of significance to the differing details of this version.

Version 1. The earliest known account of the first vision was written in 1831-32 in Joseph Smith's own handwriting. This was the version made public by Paul Cheesman in 1965, published later that same year by Jerald and Sandra Tanner in Joseph Smith's Strange Account of the First Vision. This account had been in the hands of LDS leaders for over 130 years, hidden away in their vaults – presumably because it differs so greatly from the official version. In this account, Smith claimed to be 16 years old and that he already knew that all churches were wrong from reading the Bible. Joseph sought forgiveness, and it was Jesus alone who visited him and forgave his sins.

We are left, then, with various differing stories of this important event. Joseph never did tell "but one story" of the first vision; he told several, as already shown by the various published statements of early LDS leaders. There is no way to tell, then, if any of the details of the vision really happened. Was it one angel or several who visited Joseph? What was the identity of the heavenly visitor to Joseph – Jesus and God, Jesus alone, Peter (JD 6:29), Nephi (Times & Seasons 3:753; 1851 PoGP, pg.41; Millennial Star 3:53, 71), or Moroni?

Was he 14, 15, 16 or 17 years old when it happened? Was his reason for praying to get forgiveness, to determine if there was a God or to find out which religion was correct? Was he overcome by a dark and evil power or wasn't he?

All these variations – particularly in the accounts that came directly from Joseph Smith himself – lead us to the inevitable conclusion that the official version of Joseph Smith's "first vision" is, at best, unreliable. Though unproveable, Joseph may have had some kind of a vision in his younger years that he expanded upon and/or changed the details of each time he re-told it. Eventually the story was developed into the heart-rending official version that the LDS Church publishes today as fact, though it clearly is not.




"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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03-08-2015, 04:10 PM (This post was last modified: 03-08-2015 04:47 PM by goodwithoutgod.)
Mormonism: The inconvenient problem of DNA counter-evidence
Mormonism: The inconvenient problem of DNA counter-evidence

The book of Mormon is one of the most solidly debunked religious holy books known to man, outside of Scientology of course. According to the Book of Mormon, a “lost tribe of Israel” migrated to the Americas in 600 BCE. The introduction to the Book of Mormon tells a wild tale of the Lamanites, which apparently were “the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” The Lamanites supposedly lapsed into apostasy, but Joseph Smith claimed he had been shown magical golden tablets bearing their story by special angel named Moroni. Joseph Smith went on to state that he was able to translate these tablets in 1823 from an unknown language called Reformed Egyptian… Thus creating the Book of Mormon.

Mormons assert that they are the true remnant of the Christian church, the one true church. I’m sure this surprises no one, as every strain of Christian delusion claims to be the one true church. Leaders of the Mormon church initially hoped that genetic research would validate their beliefs. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. So far, no support for Mormon beliefs linking American Indians to ancient Israelites is evident in the DNA data. Native American researcher Michael Crawford, a biological anthropologist from the University of Kansas, “I don’t think there is one iota of evidence to suggest a lost tribe of Israel made it all the way to the New World. It is a great story, slain by an ugly fact.” Current genetic research indicates that today’s Native American people dissented from Asia, not from European or Jewish stock.

Counter arguments from Mormon apologists try to assert that the DNA of Lehi and his followers would have been obscured over time by the more dominant genetic force of the Native Americans with whom they intermixed upon arrival and North America. This argument doesn’t pass scrutiny however. That is because this assertion contradicts the Book of Mormon.

Ether 2:5 and the Book of Mormon states, “and it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been.” As such, the Book of Mormon clearly states there was nobody there. And 600 BCE there was approximately several million Native American Indians living in the Americas. If a small group of Israelites entered such a massive native population it will be very, very hard to detect their genes 200, 2000 or even 20,000 years later. However, that scenario does not fit with what the Book of Mormon clearly states, and as per what the Mormon prophets have taught for over 175 years.

Another counter argument from Mormon apologists asserts that we don’t know what Lehi, Sariah, Zoram, Ishmael, Ishmael’s wife, or Mulek’s genes look like. Sure, we don’t know what DNA lineage these Book of Mormon people had, but we do know they were Israelites. We know a great deal about the DNA lineages of living Israelites and living Israelites are descended from dead Israelites who lived 2600 years ago. Israelite DNA lineages belong to the same family groups found in European populations. These are the H, I, J, K, N, T, U, V, W and X groups. Essentially all Europeans and Israelites possess one of these lineages. In fact many other Middle Eastern populations such as the Syrians, Egytpians, Lebanese and other Arabic groups have similar DNA lineages. There is a smattering (<0.4%) of European lineages in American Indian populations but scientists justifiably assume they arrived after Columbus. They are most common in tribes that had greater impact with Europeans (North American); they are not common in Mesoamerica, the only “plausible” site for the Book of Mormon; and the lineages found so far are most common in Western European populations such as Spain.

Yet another counter argument from Mormon apologists is that mitochondrial DNA only tells us about one ancestral line out of many. If we go back 10 generations it only tells us about 1 in 1024 of our ancestors. If we go back another 10 generations it only tells us about 1 in over a million of our ancestors. You have to give them credit for trying. But, this is a specious argument that has been quite popular among the apologists lately. It is a clever ruse, which on the surface looks sound, but which is based in deception. The vast majority of mitochondrial lineages found throughout the world can be grouped into less than 25 families, represented by letters such as A, H, X etc. If we look at American Indians, essentially 100% of their mitochondrial lineages fall into one of 5 families; A, B, C, D or X which were not derived from Israel. So 20 generations back, we are not talking about millions of unknowable mitochondrial lineages in an American Indian’s pedigree chart. We are talking about 5 that occupy virtually all of those millions of ancestral slots. Essentially all of those lineages, even those that end up in males and are not passed on, clearly must have belonged to the 5 lineage families. It is possible that some lineages may have not been detected yet or have been lost in time through chance, but these would have been very rare lineages.

Another misguided counter argument from Mormon apologists is that the X lineage could be evidence for Israelite ancestry. Nice try, however, Native American Indian X lineages are descended from common ancestors who lived over 20,000 years ago in Asia. American Indian X lineages are even more distantly related to Israelite or European X lineages. In fact, most Israelite X lineage are now grouped in a different family, the N family, because they are so different to Asian and American X lineages. The X lineage has been found in ancient remains that pre-date the Book of Mormon period.

A final counter argument from Mormon apologists is that the wives of the early Book of Mormon colonists (Sariah etc or even the Jaredite women) may have brought the A,B,C,D and X lineages to the Americas. The stupid it burns, it truly does. The amount of DNA variation found in all 5 American Indian female DNA lineage families is sufficient to indicate that they have been present in the Americas for at least 15,000 years, possibly longer. This predates the existence of Israel by many thousands of years. Of course it is possible (but exceedingly unlikely) that several Asian woman carrying Asian lineages travelled to Israel where they intermarried with the ancestors of the Lehites and Mulekites, and that some Native American A, B, C D or X lineages came from them. What are the odds that this absolutely remarkable scenario actually happened in reality? I guess everything is possible for the Lord, but again it leaves me feeling less than kind thoughts about a God who could allow this to happen, knowing how much it would trick people. Why don’t we see these Asian lineages among Middle Eastern populations? The truth usually lies in the simplest explanation.

So in summary, an exhaustive and conclusionary analysis of the inconvenient problem of DNA evidence that completely eviscerates the Mormon story, as per the Book of Mormon, shows that it is a completely fictional story.

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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04-08-2015, 09:58 AM (This post was last modified: 14-10-2015 07:05 AM by goodwithoutgod.)
Joseph Smith's "Book of Abraham" lie
In 1835 a traveling curiosity peddler of Egyptian mummies arrived in the small town of Kirtland, Ohio. He caught the attention of Joseph Smith (1805-44), the controversial founder of the Mormon religion. Smith secured a large sum of money from his followers ($2,400, or $60,000 in today’s dollars) to purchase four Egyptian mummies with scrolls of papyri. Smith announced that he could do what no one else could do: translate the ancient hieroglyphics. Smith asserted that the papyri contained the writings of the biblical prophets Abraham and Joseph. He titled his translation of the papyri the “Book of Abraham.” Smith’s translation contained several images from the papyri and in 1851 was published as part of the Mormon scripture called “The Pearl of Great Price.”

The surviving papyri have been translated into English in their entirety. In analyzing and translating the ancient texts, Robert K. Ritner, foremost American scholar of Egyptology, has determined that they were prepared for deceased men and women in Thebes during the Greco-Roman period. They have nothing to do with Abraham, Joseph, or a planet called Kolob, as Smith had claimed.

Not like this:

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[Image: 2ynf5o6.png]

Original:

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remnant bought by JS:

[Image: r0qjas.gif]

“Except for those willfully blind,” writes Professor Ritner of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, “the case is closed.” In his new book, The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition, he also accuses two scholars of Egyptology at Mormon-owned Brigham Young University of borrowing and distorting his own writings in trying to defend Smith’s interpretations as authentically translated Egyptian. Smith’s translation narrative tells of a young Abraham who is about to become a human sacrifice at the request of his father. It also tells of a human pre-mortal existence and teaches that the Egyptian pharaohs were cursed by God (leading to the Mormon priesthood restrictions on African Americans). It also established the Mormon theology for multiple gods.

For members of the Mormon religion, Smith’s “translation” remains a product of their faith.

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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04-08-2015, 12:31 PM (This post was last modified: 04-08-2015 01:07 PM by goodwithoutgod.)
Understanding Biblical Terms Redefined by Mormons
Understanding Biblical Terms Redefined by Mormons

Mormons often use common terms that to them have completely different meanings than those used in the Bible or by orthodox Christian churches. Mormons may say they believe in "Jesus Christ," trust in the "scriptures," believe they are "saved by grace," and have been "born-again". They will talk about "eternal life" and things like "heaven," but they rarely explain what they mean when they use such terminology.

Holding back information is especially a problem with Mormons in the mission field. It is not uncommon for Mormon missionaries to purposely refrain from discussing doctrines which clearly separate Mormonism from the usual perception of Christianity. They are well aware that to do otherwise would risk any chance of a return visit. In many foreign countries the local population is at a severe disadvantage. Very few books are printed in their native language which critically examine LDS teachings. In many areas they do not even have a translated set of the standard works. At best they may have a copy of the Book of Mormon (or selections). Since the Book of Mormon does not reflect modern LDS teaching on many critical issues, this only adds to the deception.

Here is an alphabetical list of some of the more important terms and their meanings to a Mormon:

AARONIC PRIESTHOOD: This is called the lesser priesthood, and is usually held by young men starting at the age of 12 to the age of about 18. It is also held for a short time by men who have just become members.

AFTERLIFE: The Mormon afterlife is divided up into four levels. From the lowest to the highest they are: hell, and then three levels of heaven: the telestial, the terrestrial, and the place where God dwells, the celestial (also called the kingdom of God). The celestial is also divided, the highest level being "exaltation," or becoming a God.

APOSTLES: The Mormon Church claims to have the same organization as the primitive church that Jesus set up. They also have twelve apostles and sometimes use this as a proof of their divine appointment as the one true church. But they actually have fifteen or more most of the time. The general practice has been for a new president, who is also an apostle, to appoint counselors from the Quorum of the Twelve; then the openings left by the president and his counselors are filled, resulting in a total of fifteen.

CELESTIAL KINGDOM: See Heaven.

ELOHIM: The name of God the Father.

EXALTATION: This is becoming a God in the highest level of the celestial kingdom.

ETERNAL PROGRESSION: The teaching that each of us has the potential to become a God just like God the Father did. He was once a man capable of physical death, was resurrected and progressed to become a God. We can take a similar path and get all the power, glory, dominion, and knowledge the Father and Jesus Christ has. We then will be able to procreate spirit children who will worship us as we do God the Father.

GOD: Usually means God the Father. He was once a man like us capable of physical death and he progressed until he became a God. He has a body of flesh and bones, but no blood. Within Mormonism, Gods, angels, people and devils all have the same nature or substance but are at different stages along the line of progression to Godhood.

GRACE - The Mormon concept of grace means making oneself worthy of the grace of God by doing good works in the church, temple, and community.

HEAVEN-The Mormon church teaches there are three levels of heaven (three "degrees of glory"):

Telestial - where unbelievers go

Terrestrial - for religious people who aren't Mormons and for Mormons who have not met the requirements of the

Celestial - for Mormons who have kept ALL of the laws and ordinances of their church. What will the celestial heaven (kingdom) supposedly be like for a good Mormon? He will be a god, he will rule over a planet with his wives and spirit children.

HELL: A place of torment from which the worst of sinners are resurrected (if they repent) into the Telestial kingdom; only a limited number remain in hell forever, - the devil and the demons and apostates who consciously reject and work against Mormonism.

HOLY GHOST: The third member of the Godhead, a personage of spirit, unlike the Father and Son who have bodies of flesh and bones.

JEHOVAH: The pre-incarnate name for Jesus Christ.

JESUS CHRIST: The spirit of Jesus Christ was the first spirit born to God the Father and his wife (Heavenly Mother). He progressed to become a God under the Father. (The Father is also the literal father of Jesus' body in the exact same way we were begotten by our earthly parents.) He now has a body of flesh and bones, but no blood. He is the spirit brother of Satan whose spirit was procreated in the same way as Jesus'. To Mormons, even the atonement of his shed blood is not enough to provide forgiveness of sin and bring eternal life. Stripped of his Deity and demoted to a partial Savior, the Jesus of Mormonism has been robbed of his power and authority. Not only is the Mormon Jesus one who had struggled to achieve his own salvation, he also failed to establish his church. Both in Jerusalem and in the America's where Jesus was supposed to have visited, he attempted to build a group of followers. But in each case, truth was overcome by the alleged early church apostasy into false teaching.

MARRIAGE: The Mormon Church teaches two types of marriage. One ends at death. The other is for "time and eternity." If the couple is married in a Mormon temple by someone with authority it is believed they will stay married in the next life. This kind of marriage is needed if they are to progress, not only as husband and wife, but as God and Goddess.

MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD: The higher of two categories of ministry in the LDS Church, assigned primarily to seasoned members over the age of 18, males only.

POLYGAMY: The practice of men having more than one wife was started by Joseph Smith in the early/mid 1830's and ostensibly ended in 1890. It is not now sanctioned by the LDS church headquartered in Salt Lake City. Members found practicing it are excommunicated. While the practice was ended, the revelation teaching it is still in Mormon scripture (Doctrine & Covenants 132). Some Mormon splinter groups believe the teaching was for eternity and still practice it. These modern-day polygamists (called fundamentalists) number in the 30,000-50,000 range.

PRE-EXISTENCE: The Mormon teaching that our spirits (Mormons and non-Mormons) were procreated in a premortal life by God the Father and our Mother in Heaven, that our spirits were born and raised to maturity before coming to earth to obtain physical bodies, and that the spirit of Jesus Christ was the first one born to our Heavenly parents.

PRIESTHOOD: A category of ministry in the LDS Church open to all worthy males 12 years of age or older, empowering them to act in God's name. Non-Mormons cannot hold the priesthood, hence they have no authority. Men of African descent have only recently (by special correction of the original revelations) been allowed to hold these offices.

PROPHET: The top leader of the Mormon Church is considered not only a prophet but is also a seer and revelator. He has the title "president." He is the only one who can speak for the whole church and receive new revelation for the whole church. When the current prophet dies, the most senior (time as an apostle, not age) of the twelve apostles, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, becomes the new president. He can appoint counselors, who receive their authority from him.

SALVATION: A word that Mormons qualify in one of three ways: unconditional or general salvation is simply resurrection from the dead, granted to all through Christ's atonement; conditional or individual salvation involves entering the celestial kingdom through works of Mormonism; full salvation means exaltation to become a God as a result of temple ceremonies and other works. The word 'salvation' can have a two-fold meaning: a) forgiveness of sins and b) universal resurrection:

"There will be a General Salvation for all in the sense in which that term is generally used, but salvation, meaning resurrection, is not exaltation" (Stephen L. Richards, Contributions of Joseph Smith, LDS tract, p.5).

"All men are saved by grace alone without any act on their part, meaning they are resurrected" (Bruce McConkie, What Mormons Think of Christ", LDS tract, p.28).
The Mormons have several different levels of "salvation".

General salvation- in Mormon theology, the death of Christ ransoms men from the effects of the fall (Mormon Doctrine, p.62), except for a few sons of perdition who fell with Lucifer. Thus, all mankind will eventually receive general salvation because all men will be resurrected.

Individual salvation - to obtain individual salvation, the standards set forth by the Mormon church must be met. This comes by grace plus baptism plus works.
Exaltation - different degrees of exaltation

Eternal life on the other hand is reserved for the elite few who qualify and are found worthy of this "honor" or "reward" and who will move on to be "exalted." This salvation is in fact the personal "exaltation" or the fast track of the "eternal progression" process in attaining your own self-made status of godhood in order to people your own planet.

SATAN: One of the spirit children of God. As a consequence of their rebellion Satan and his angels cannot have mortal bodies - hence cannot progress.

SCRIPTURES: The Mormon Church has four documents it calls canonized scriptures: the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

SON OF GOD: Along with Jesus Christ, all of us are viewed as the children of God, his literal spirit children. This makes us all - Mormons, non-Mormons, Jesus Christ and Satan - spirit brothers.

SPIRITS: Nonmaterial beings allegedly procreated in the pre-existence by God the Father and his wife. Jesus Christ, and even we ourselves, were supposedly born and raised to maturity as spirits before coming into bodies on this earth. The spirit of Satan was also procreated in this way. This makes Satan and Jesus Christ spirit brothers. Jesus selected a righteous path; Satan selected the opposite.

STANDARD WORKS: The four canonized scriptures (see Scripture above) used by the Mormon Church are called the Standard Works.

TEMPLE: One of about four dozen special (for LDS) buildings around the world in which sacred (to LDS) ceremonies are performed for the living and the dead; off limits to nonmembers and even to Mormons who lack a "temple recommend" from their leaders. Only about 20% of the Mormons qualify to go.

TRINITY: This word is used by Christians to summarize the Biblical teaching that within the one true God is three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. They share the same nature or substance so that there are not three Gods, but three persons in the one God. Mormons say they also believe in the Trinitarian concept of God. But really what they mean are that God the Father is a God, God the Son is another God, and God the Holy Ghost is a third God and they are "one God" because they are "one in purpose." Mormons often have an incorrect understanding of what Christians mean by the "Trinity." They say Christians believe that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one person (i.e., Monophysiteism) or that God shows himself as the Father or the Son or the Holy Ghost (i.e. Modalism).

VIRGIN BIRTH: A concept negated by the view that God, a resurrected man with flesh and bones according to Mormon teachings, literally fathered Jesus in the flesh in the same way in which earthly men father their children. Despite the documented position of previous Mormon prophets, presidents, and apostles about the nature of Christ's conception, modern LDS apologists maintain that "Christ was born of a virgin". How can they? By changing the definition of the word "virgin". The reasoning goes like this: since Mary had sexual relations with an immortal man, not a mortal man, the phrase "virgin birth" still applies.

WORD OF WISDOM: The name for the Mormon Church's teaching requiring abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, and hot drinks (tea and coffee).

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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07-08-2015, 02:54 PM
Evolution: Out of Africa theory
Out of Africa theory

One of the most hotly debated issues in paleoanthropology (the study of human origins) focuses on the origins of modern humans, Homo sapiens.9,10,3,6,13,15,14 Roughly 100,000 years ago, the Old World was occupied by a morphologically diverse group of hominids. In Africa and the Middle East there was Homo sapiens; in Asia, Homo erectus; and in Europe, Homo neanderthalensis. However, by 30,000 years ago this taxonomic diversity vanished and humans everywhere had evolved into the anatomically and behaviorally modern form. The nature of this transformation is the focus of great deliberation between two schools of thought: one that stresses multiregional continuity and the other that suggests a single origin for modern humans.

Understanding the issue

The Multiregional Continuity Model contends that after Homo erectus left Africa and dispersed into other portions of the Old World, regional populations slowly evolved into modern humans. This model contains the following components:

- some level of gene flow between geographically separated populations prevented speciation, after the dispersal.
- all living humans derive from the species Homo erectus that left Africa nearly two million-years-ago
- natural selection in regional populations, ever since their original dispersal, is responsible for the regional variants (sometimes called races) we see today
- the emergence of Homo sapiens was not restricted to any one area, but was a phenomenon that occurred throughout the entire geographic range where humans lived

In contrast, the Out of Africa Model asserts that modern humans evolved relatively recently in Africa, migrated into Eurasia and replaced all populations which had descended from Homo erectus. Critical to this model are the following tenets:

- after Homo erectus migrated out of Africa the different populations became reproductively isolated, evolving independently, and in some cases like the Neanderthals, into separate species
- Homo sapiens arose in one place, probably Africa (geographically this includes the Middle East)
- Homo sapiens ultimately migrated out of Africa and replaced all other human populations, without interbreeding
- modern human variation is a relatively recent phenomenon

The multiregional view posits that genes from all human populations of the Old World flowed between different regions and by mixing together, contributed to what we see today as fully modern humans. The replacement hypothesis suggests that the genes in fully modern humans all came out of Africa. As these peoples migrated they replaced all other human populations with little or no interbreeding.

To understand this controversy, the anatomical, archaeological, and genetic evidence needs to be evaluated.

Anatomical evidence

Sometime prior to 1 million years ago early hominids, sometimes referred to as Homo ergaster, exited Africa and dispersed into other parts of the Old World. Living in disparate geographical areas their morphology became diversified through the processes of genetic drift and natural selection.

- In Asia these hominids evolved into Peking Man and Java Man, collectively referred to as Homo erectus.
- In Europe and western Asia they evolved into the Neanderthals.
Neanderthals lived in quasi isolation in Europe during a long, relatively cool period that even included glaciations. Neanderthals are distinguished by a unique set of anatomical features, including:
- a large, long, low cranial vault with a well-developed double-arched browridge
- a massive facial skeleton with a very projecting mid-face, backward sloping cheeks, and large nasal aperture, with large nasal sinuses
- an oddly shaped occipital region of the skull with a bulge or bun
- molars with enlarged pulp chambers, and large, often very heavily worn incisors
- a mandible lacking a chin and possessing a large gap behind the last molar
- a massive thorax, and relatively short forearms and lower legs
- although short in stature they possessed robustly built skeletons with thick walled limb bones
- long clavicles and very wide scapulas

By 130,000 years ago, following a prolonged period of independent evolution in Europe, Neanderthals were so anatomically distinct that they are best classified as a separate species — Homo neanderthalensis. This is a classic example of geographic isolation leading to a speciation event.

In contrast, at roughly the same time, in Africa, a body plan essentially like our own had appeared. While these early Homo sapiens were anatomically modern they were not behaviorally modern. It is significant that modern anatomy evolved prior to modern behavior. These early sapiens were characterized by:

- a cranial vault with a vertical forehead, rounded occipital and reduced brow ridge
- a reduced facial skeleton lacking a projecting mid-face
- a lower jaw sporting a chin
- a more modern, less robustly built skeleton

Hence, the anatomical and paleogeographic evidence suggests that Neanderthals and early modern humans had been isolated from one another and were evolving separately into two distinct species.

Archaeological evidence

Very interestingly, while Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens were distinguished from one another by a suite of obvious anatomical features, archaeologically they were very similar. Hominids of the Middle Stone Age of Africa (H. sapiens) and their contemporary Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals of Europe had artifact assemblages characterized as follows:

- little variation in stone tool types, with a preponderance of flake tools that are difficult to sort into discrete categories
- over long periods of time and wide geographical distances there was general similarity in tool kits
- a virtual lack of tools fashioned out of bone, antler or ivory
- burials lacked grave goods and signs of ritual or ceremony
- hunting was usually limited to less dangerous species and evidence for fishing is absent
- population densities were apparently low
- no evidence of living structures exist and fireplaces are rudimentary
- evidence for art or decoration is also lacking

The archaeological picture changed dramatically around 40-50,000 years ago with the appearance of behaviorally modern humans. This was an abrupt and dramatic change in subsistence patterns, tools and symbolic expression. The stunning change in cultural adaptation was not merely a quantitative one, but one that represented a significant departure from all earlier human behavior, reflecting a major qualitative transformation. It was literally a “creative explosion” which exhibited the “technological ingenuity, social formations, and ideological complexity of historic hunter-gatherers.” This human revolution is precisely what made us who we are today.

The appearance of fully modern behavior apparently occurred in Africa earlier than anywhere else in the Old World, but spread very quickly, due to population movements into other geographical regions. The Upper Paleolithic lifestyle, as it was called, was based essentially on hunting and gathering. So successful was this cultural adaptation that until roughly 11,000 years ago, hominids worldwide were subsisting essentially as hunter-gatherers.

In the Upper Paleolithic of Eurasia, or the Late Stone Age as it is called in Africa, the archaeological signature stands in strong contrast to that of the Middle Paleolithic/Middle Stone Age. It was characterized by significant innovation:

- a remarkable diversity in stone tool types
- tool types showed significant change over time and space
- artifacts were regularly fashioned out of bone, antler and ivory, in addition to stone
- stone artifacts were made primarily on blades and were easily classified into discrete categories, presumably reflecting specialized use
- burials were accompanied by ritual or ceremony and contained a rich diversity of grave goods
- living structures and well-designed fireplaces were constructed
- hunting of dangerous animal species and fishing occurred regularly higher population densities
- abundant and elaborate art as well as items of personal adornment were widespread
- raw materials such as flint and shells were traded over some distances

Homo sapiens of the Upper Paleolithic/Late Stone Age was quintessentially modern in appearance and behavior. Precisely how this transformation occurred is not well understood, but it apparently was restricted to Homo sapiens and did not occur in Neanderthals. Some archaeologists invoke a behavioral explanation for the change. For example, Soffer11 suggests that changes in social relations, such as development of the nuclear family, played a key role in bringing about the transformation.

Klein7, on the other hand, proffers the notion that it was probably a biological change brought about by mutations that played the key role in the emergence of behaviorally modern humans. His biologically based explanation implies that a major neural reorganization of the brain resulted in a significant enhancement in the manner in which the brain processed information. This is a difficult hypothesis to test since brains do not fossilize. But it is significant that no changes are seen in the shape of the skulls between earlier and later Homo sapiens. It can only be surmised from the archaeological record, which contains abundant evidence for ritual and art, that these Upper Paleolithic/Late Stone Age peoples possessed language abilities equivalent to our own. For many anthropologists this represents the final evolutionary leap to full modernity.

Shortly after fully modern humans entered Europe, roughly 40,000 years ago, the Neanderthals began a fairly rapid decline, culminating in their disappearance roughly 30,000 years ago. Neanderthals were apparently no match for the technologically advanced fully modern humans who invaded Europe and evidence for interbreeding of these two types of hominids is equivocal.

Genetic evidence

Investigation of the patterns of genetic variation in modern human populations supports the view that the origin of Homo sapiens is the result of a recent event that is consistent with the Out of Africa Model.

- Studies of contemporary DNA, especially mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) which occurs only in the cellular organelles called mitochondria, reveal that humans are astonishingly homogeneous, with relatively little genetic variation.1,5
- The high degree of similarity between human populations stands in strong contrast to the condition seen in our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees.2 In fact, there is significantly more genetic variation between two individual chimpanzees drawn from the same population than there is between two humans drawn randomly from a single population. Furthermore, genetic variation between populations of chimpanzees is enormously greater than differences between European, Asian and African human populations.
- In support of an African origin for Homo sapiens the work of Cann and Wilson1 has demonstrated that the highest level of genetic variation in mtDNA occurs in African populations. This implies that Homo sapiens arose first in Africa and has therefore had a longer period of time to accumulate genetic diversity. Using the genetic distance between African populations and others as a measure of time, they furthermore suggested that Homo sapiens arose between 100,000 and 400,000 years ago in Africa.
- The low amount of genetic variation in modern human populations suggests that our origins may reflect a relatively small founding population for Homo sapiens. Analysis of mtDNA by Rogers and Harpending12 supports the view that a small population of Homo sapiens, numbering perhaps only 10,000 to 50,000 people, left Africa somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago.
- Scientists recently succeeded in extracting DNA from several Neanderthal skeletons.8 After careful analysis of particularly the mtDNA, but now also some nuclear DNA, it is apparent that Neanderthal DNA is very distinct from our own. In assessing the degree of difference between DNA in Neanderthals and modern humans, the authors suggest that these two lineages have been separated for more than 400,000 years.

Although in its infancy, such genetic studies support the view that Neanderthals did not interbreed with Homo sapiens who migrated into Europe. It is, therefore, highly likely that modern humans do not carry Neanderthal genes in their DNA.

Additional considerations

The chronology in the Middle East does not support the Multiregional Model where Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans overlapped for a long period of time.

- Cave sites in Israel, most notably Qafzeh and Skhul date to nearly 100,000 years and contain skeletons of anatomically modern humans. Furthermore, Neanderthal remains are known from sites such as the 110,000-year-old Tabun cave, which predates the earliest Homo sapiens by about 10,000 years in the region.
- The presence of Neanderthals at two other caves in Israel, Amud and Kebara, dated to roughly 55,000 years means that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens overlapped in this region for at least 55,000 years. Therefore, if Homo sapiens were in this region for some 55,000 years prior to the disappearance of the Neanderthals, there is no reason to assume that Neanderthals evolved into modern humans.
- Archaeological evidence from Europe suggests that Neanderthals may have survived in the Iberian Peninsula until perhaps as recently as 30,000 to 35,000 years ago. Fully modern humans first appear in Europe at around 35,000-40,000 years ago, bringing with them an Upper Paleolithic tool tradition referred to as the Aurignacian. Hence, Neanderthals and fully modern humans may have overlapped for as much as 10,000 years in Europe. Again, with fully modern humans on the scene, it is not necessary to have Neanderthals evolve into modern humans, further bolstering the view that humans replaced Neanderthals.
- Neanderthals probably did not breed with modern humans but they borrowed some of their tools and skills
- The situation in southern France is, however, not quite as clear. Here, at several sites, dating to roughly 40,000 years there is evidence of an archaeological industry called the Châtelperronian that contains elements of Middle and Upper Paleolithic artifacts. Hominids from these sites are clearly Neanderthals, sparking speculation that the Châtelperronian is an example of Neanderthals mimicking the culture of modern humans. The lack of anatomical intermediates at these sites, suggests that if Neanderthals did encounter and borrow some technology from Homo sapiens, they did not interbreed.
- A potential 24,500-year-old Neanderthal/sapiens hybrid was announced from the site of Lagar Velho, Portugal.4 This 4-year-old has a short, squat body like a Neanderthal, but possesses an anatomically modern skull. There are a number of problems with interpreting this find as a Neanderthal/sapiens hybrid.14 First of all, as a hybrid it should have a mixture of traits throughout its body and not possess the body of a Neanderthal and skull of a modern human. For example, if we look at hybrids of lions and tigers they do not possess the head of one species and the body of the other, but exhibit a morphological mixture of the two species. Secondly, and more importantly, acceptance of this specimen as a hybrid would suggest that Neanderthal traits had been retained for some 6,000 to 10,000 years after Neanderthals went extinct, which is highly unlikely. This is theoretically unlikely since Neanderthal traits would have been genetically swamped by the Homo sapiens genes over such a protracted period of time.
- Proponents of the Multiregional Model, such as Milford Wolpoff, cite evidence in Asia of regional continuity. They see an evolutionary link between ancient Homo erectus in Java right through to Australian aborigines. A possible problem with this view is that recent dating of late surviving Homo erectus in Indonesia suggests that they survived here until 50,000 years ago, which is potentially when fully modern humans may have arrived in the region from Africa.
- China may contain the best evidence for supporting the Multiregional Model. Here there are discoveries of a couple of skulls dated to roughly 100,000 years ago that seem to possess a mixture of classic Homo erectus and Homo sapiens traits. Better geological dating and more complete specimens are needed to more fully assess this possibility.

Conclusion

For the moment, the majority of anatomical, archaeological and genetic evidence gives credence to the view that fully modern humans are a relatively recent evolutionary phenomenon. The current best explanation for the beginning of modern humans is the Out of Africa Model that postulates a single, African origin for Homo sapiens. The major neurological and cultural innovations that characterized the appearance of fully modern humans has proven to be remarkably successful, culminating in our dominance of the planet at the expense of all earlier hominid populations.

Something to ponder...

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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09-08-2015, 10:39 AM
Creation Myth types
Creation Myths
It has always amused me to consider the vast number of diversely different creation myths. There is no way I could capture them all in a forum post, but perhaps someday when I am bored I would like to write a book comparing and contrasting them all. For all I know there may be already an exhaustive number of books doing this very thing, I have not bothered to even Google the subject. Anyway, I will endeavor to cover the different types, and provide a couple of examples.

A creation myth is a symbolic story that merges indigenous cultural history, and sometimes contain a smattering of historical events that have been passed down through oral tradition. Analysis of creation myths usually reflect a unique worldview and contain a framework that places this group of believers in a universal context. There are five major classifications of creation myths. Let’s go through them briefly:

Ex Nihilo

This is Latin for “out of nothing” and is a common type of mythical creation. This can be found in religions from ancient Egypt, the Bible, the Quran, the Rig Veda (1700-1100 BCE ancient Indian texts leading to Hinduism), and a plethora of animistic (worldview that animals, plants, and inanimate objects possess a spiritual essence) religious cultures found in Africa, Asia, and North America. Ancient third millennium (3000 – 2100 BCE) Sumerian Mesopotamian creation myths were extremely complex and includes seven different “disputations” (formal debates). These deeply philosophical disputations address humanity’s place in the world. One of the most popular of these disputations was the debate between sheep and grain (Black, Cunningham, Robson & Zolyomi, 1998).

Quintessentially, these ex nihilo creation myths can sometimes blur the line between creation ex nihilo (from nothing) and creation from chaos. In ex nihilo type creation myths the very substance of creation springs from within the creator.

Creation from chaos

In these myth creations, there is nothing but a shapeless, formless expanse. This expanse contains the material with which the created world will be made. This expanse is like a vapor, or water, dimensionless, and the very definition of disorder. The act of creation is a promulgation of order from disorder. It is intriguing that this world perspective usually believes that at some point order will degenerate back into this disorder at some point.

World parent

In these myth creations, there are a set of parents for the world. One version of this describes the primeval state as an eternal union of two parents, and the creation takes place when the two are pulled apart. Commonly, the two parents are identified as sky (male) and earth (female) who were so tightly bound to each other that no offspring could emerge. Another form of world parent creationism is that creation sprung from the dismembered parts of the body of the primeval being. Usually the limbs, hair, blood, organs, etc. are somehow severed or sacrificed and become sky, Earth, animal or plant life, and other worldly features. An example of world parents mythology can be found in Maori(New Zealamd) mythology (Biggs, 1966).

Emergence

In these myth creations humanity emerges from another world into this one. The previous world is viewed as the womb for the earth mother, and the act of emergence was like the birth of humanity. These are generally found in Native American cultures where the myths correlate the emergence of people from a hole in the underworld. An example of this can be found in the Pueblo peoples. Their “temple”or room from which they practice their religious rituals was called a Kiva, and there would normally be a small round hole in the floor representing the portal through which the ancestors first emerge from the underworld (Vivian, Gordon, Reiter, & Paul, 1965).

Earth-diver

In these myth creations a supreme being usually sends an animal into the primal waters to find bits of sand from which to build habitable land. This focuses on the beginnings emanating from the depths. These are also common in Native American folklore, and found amongst the Chukchi (Russian indigenous people residing along the shores of the Chukchi Sea), Yukaghir (Russian indigenous people living in East Siberia), Tatars (Old Turkic people living in Asia and Europe who were one of five major tribal confederations and the Mongolian Plateau in the 12th century) and several Finno-Ugrian (ancient Hungarian mythology) traditions. The earth-diver is the first of them to awaken and lay the necessary groundwork by building suitable lands so that the coming creation web a place to live. For example the ancient Finnic mythology had an emphasis on astronomy, and it’s creation myth involved a world egg and a world pillar.

one of my favorite creation stories

Pima Creation story.

These Native American Indians lived in the Arizona desert along the Gila and Salt rivers and were named “Pima” in the 15th century by the Spanish, who later recorded their stories. Here is their creation story:

In the beginning there was no earth, no water – nothing. There was only a Person, Juhwert-a-Mah-kai, “The Doctor of the Earth.”

He just floated, for there was no place for him to stand upon. There was no sun, no light, and he just floated about in the darkness, which was Darkness itself.

He wandered around in the nowhere till he thought he had wandered enough. Then he rubbed on his breast and rubbed out moah-haht-tack, that is, perspiration, or “greasy earth.” This he rubbed out on the palm of his hand and held out. It tipped over three times, but the fourth time it stayed straight in the middle of the air and there it remains now as the world.

The first bush he created was the greasewood bush.

And he made ants, little tiny ants, to live on that bush, on its gum which comes out of its stem.

But these little ants did not do any good, so he created white ants, and these worked and enlarged the earth, and they kept on increasing it, larger and larger until it at last was big enough for himself to rest upon.

Then he created a Person. He made him out of his eye, out of the shadow of his eyes, to assist him, to be like him, and to help him in creating trees and human beings and everything that was to be on the earth.

The name of this being was Noo-ee – the buzzard.

Noo-ee was given all power, but he did not do the work he was created for. He did not care to help Juh-wert-a-Mah-kai, but let him go by himself.

And so The Doctor of the Earth himself created the mountains and everything that has seed and is good to eat. For if he had created human beings first they would have had nothing to live on.
……………………………………..
Isn’t mythology fun?

References:

Biggs, B. B. (1966). Maori Myths and Traditions. Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 3 Volumes. (Government Printer: Wellington). Print.

Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G. (1998). The debate between sheep and grain, The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford. Print.

Vivian, Gordon; Reiter, Paul (1965), The great kivas of Chaco Canyon and their relationships. University of New Mexico Press. Print.

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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09-08-2015, 02:24 PM
Falsehood of Mormonism's Eternal Marriage concept
"The Mormon temple is considered an earthly point of contact with higher spheres of being. Mormons believe that God is present in the temple space. This makes it a sacred place set aside to learn things that allow individuals to progress toward becoming like God -- the temple ordinances, especially celestial marriage, make "eternal progression toward Godhood" possible. The family unit is central to Mormonism, and the primary ritual function of the temple is to perform ceremonies that seal families together, thus allowing them to dwell together for eternity when they pass on to the celestial kingdom. The specific rituals supporting this function are marriage and family sealing ceremonies -- in which a husband, wife and children are officially bound together -- and baptism for the dead -- through which individuals who died without accepting the Latter-day Saints' Gospel and no longer possess the physical body required for baptism are represented by living proxies, thereby granting them the opportunity to join their families in the celestial kingdom.

The temple is also used to perform the Mormon endowment ceremony. During this ritual, adult Mormons go through a series of lessons and exercises to deepen their faith, and they make covenants with God to keep his commandments. After receiving their endowments, Latter-day Saints wear a distinctive underwear on which special marks are embroidered. Known as "garments", this underwear, worn next to the skin at nearly all times, is meant to remind individuals of their commitment to their faith and to God. Men generally receive their endowment before going on a mission and women before they marry, but it is not a one-time ceremony like baptism. Saints are encouraged to return to the temple throughout their lives to continue growing their faith by experiencing the rituals of endowment."(LDS.org)

Mormons generally use Matthew 16:19 to prove that marriage is for eternity or “…whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in Heaven…” In doing this, they fail to take into account the true meaning of this scripture. Jesus is speaking to Peter and the apostles and says,

“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (KJV).

The Biblical cross reference to this verse is John 20:23. The subject is the forgiveness of sins, not marriage. As theologian J. Carl Laney explains it, Christ was saying that “based on one’s response to the Gospel, the apostles could declare, ‘Because you have rejected Christ, you are bound to the law and to its penalty.’ Or, ‘Because you have received Christ, you are free from the law and its penalty’.” Christ “offers the disciples the privilege of giving assurance of the forgiveness of sins by correctly announcing the terms of forgiveness.” This passage in Matthew is not talking about marriage for eternity; the subject is the forgiveness of sins through Christ which was to be announced through His disciples.

In Romans 7:2 Paul says,

For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.

So the statement of “until death do us part” or “as long as we both shall live” is in accordance with the Bible.

A concluding note: Although the Mormon temple marriage for eternity holds a very high priority in the life of a Mormon, it’s interesting that it cannot be found in the Book of Mormon. Yet, Joseph Smith said in Doctrine & Covenants 27:5 that the Book of Mormon was the “fullness of the everlasting gospel.” If it’s the complete gospel we should be able to find something on eternal marriage, as well as most of the doctrines of Mormonism. They can’t be found in the Book of Mormon.

While christianity is as false as the rest of the world's religions, there is a reason many consider and classify Mormonism as a cult, as it is not in line with christian doctrine.

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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15-08-2015, 10:42 AM (This post was last modified: 15-08-2015 11:14 AM by goodwithoutgod.)
The systemic errancy problem of the scribes
The systemic errancy problem of the scribes

TL : DR version: Transcribing and copying ancient texts was an inaccurate process.


In the ancient times consisting of the era around the formation of the New Testament, events were recorded in written form several ways. The elite and powerful were of course educated in the arts, philosophy, and written form. However, most of them would not have written things down by their hand, but spoken to a scribe. This scribe would have been educated in one of the several versions (a spectrum going from book hand, chancery hand, to documentary hand) of literary style usually by apprenticeship to a master craftsman. They would typically sign an obligatory two-year contract to learn shorthand for example. The elite also pressed slave scribes into service. The various churches had members that would write down teachings, oral tradition and were also copyist of other written material. This is why there are hundreds of thousands of minute differences amongst copies of copies of copies throughout this time.

There also existed literate historians like Philo of Alexandria, for example, who would travel around an area and record all noteworthy events. Some copyists (especially the uneducated slaves) were not even literate, but would simply copy down the symbols over and over. This is way before the printing press, after all, and the only way you can get your books or writings copied for others to enjoy was to have a copyist's hand scribe it letter by letter. Of course, the cheapest form of this was slave scribes, which may explain the massive amounts of errors throughout copies of ancient writings.

These minute differences are usually of no real significance, and a cross spectrum comparison can usually identify the “typos”. Some of the differences are simply just accidental mistakes, although we can never be certain if the changes were intentional or not. At the end of the day, scribes and copyists of all calibers were human and prone to make mistakes. This was a slow, tedious, and painstaking process. The majority of scribes who endeavored under their masters hand most likely did not have a vested interest in the accuracy of their work. The scribes would inevitably make alterations in those texts, changing the words they copied either by accident or by design. This was such a systemic problem that it was constantly mentioned in the writings of ancient historians, and philosophers. In a famous essay on the problem of anger, the Roman philosopher Seneca points out that there is a difference between anger directed at what has caused us harm and anger at what can do nothing to hurt us. To illustrate the latter category he mentions “certain inanimate things, such as the manuscript which we often hurl from us because it is written in too small a script or tear up because it is so full of mistakes.”. Another example from the Roman poet Martial, “if any poems in those sheets, reader, seem to you either too obscure or not quite good Latin, not mine is the mistake: the copyist spoiled them in his haste to complete for you his tale of verses”.

In the churches, the early Christian texts were not being copied by professional scribes, at least in the first two or three centuries of the church, but simply by educated members of the Christian congregations who could do the job and were willing to do so, and inevitably this resulted in many transcriptional mistakes. This is not conjecture, as we have solid evidence that this was the case, as it was a matter of occasional complaint by Christians reading those texts and trying to uncover the original words of their authors. For example, the third-century church father Origen once registered the following complaint about the copies of the Gospels at his disposal: “the differences among the manuscripts have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they make additions or deletions as they please”.

Some 70 years earlier, Celsus in his attack on Christianity and its literature, pointed out that, “some believers, as though from a drinking bout, go so far as to oppose themselves and alter the original text of the gospel three or four or several times over, and change its character to enable them to deny difficulties in face of criticism” (Against Celsus, Origen, 2.27). Celsus was a pagan opponent of Christianity who lived in the late second century and authored a book called The True Word, in which he attacked Christianity on a number of grounds, arguing that it was a foolish, dangerous religion that should be wiped off the face of the earth. 70 years later Origen wrote a book called Against Celsus to answer the criticism. There is not an intact copy of Celsus’s book to be found, but because Origen quoted the book so much in his work, we can reconstruct with fair accuracy Celsus’s claims. Overall Origen posited that true Christian believers are in fact wise, but they are wise with respect to God, not with respect to things in this world. He did not deny, in other words, that the Christian community at the time was largely made up of lower, uneducated classes, whose work on literary matters was understandably inaccurate.

This inaccuracy problem was so prevalent, that mention of it is even seen within the Bible itself. In the book of revelations, the author near the end of this text, utters a dire warning, “I testify to everyone who hears the word of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book: and if anyone removes any of the words of the book of this prophecy, God will remove his share from the tree of life and from the holy city, as described in this book” (revelations 22:18 – 19). This was obviously not a threat intended towards the reader, but towards the copyists of the book.

We see this yet again as indicated by the rather severe threats uttered by the Latin Christian scholar Rufinus with respect to his translation of one of the Origen’s works, “… Beseech everyone who may either transcribe or read these books, by his belief in the kingdom to come, by the mystery of the resurrection from the dead, and by that everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, that,… He add nothing to what is written and take away nothing from it, and make no insertion or alteration, but that he compare his transcription with the copies which made it”.

Now to be forthright, one must accept that the majority of the changes are the result of mistakes, pure and simple… Slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort or another. Scribes could be quite incompetent, and it is important to recall that most of the copyists in the early centuries were not trained to do this kind of work and were simply the literate members of their congregations who were more or less, able and willing. Regardless, this task could be tedious and frustrating as indicated multiple times by notes occasionally added to manuscripts in which a scribe would pen a kind of sigh of relief, such as “the end of the manuscript. Thanks be to God!”. Another issue was, even in later times like in the fourth and fifth century, when the church scribes were professionally trained, they would make an intentional change, for example, when they came across a passage that appeared to embody a theological mistake that needed to be corrected, possibly a contradiction found in the text, or a mistake in geographical reference, or a misplaced scriptural allusion. These small, minute, changes built one upon the other over time so that we have major changes in key areas down the road.

For example: in Paul’s letter to the Galatians he was writing to one of the churches, or perhaps all of them as Galatia was not a single town but a region ain Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in which Paul had established churches. We presume he meant them all as he did not single out a particular town or church. So that means he had to have copies made of this letter for each church. If he made multiple copies, how did he do it? To begin with, it appears that this letter, like others by Paul, was not written by his hand but was dictated to a secretarial scribe. Evidence for this comes at the end of the letter, where Paul added a postscript in his own handwriting, so that the recipients would know that it was he who was responsible for the letter (a common technique utilized in antiquity for dictated letters). “See with what large letters I am writing you with my own hand” (Galatians 6:11). In other words, his handwriting was larger and probably less professional in appearance than that of the scribe to whom he had dictated the letter. Many questions arise, did Paul dictate the letter word by word, or as a busy person over tasked with many things did he spell out the basic points, and allow the scribe to fill in the rest? Both methods were commonly used by letter writers in antiquity.

Let’s assume that Paul dictated the letter word for word. If so, did he glance over it before making this postscript and signing it? Did he read it word for word to ensure its accuracy? We do not know. Once the copy is in circulation and delivered to its destination in one of the churches in one of the towns, it is of course copied, and further mistakes can potentially be made. These mistake ridden copies get copied, and copied again, and copied again and so on down the line. At some point, the original is lost, worn out, or destroyed. At which point it is no longer possible to compare a copy with the original to make sure it is “correct”. What survives today, then, is not the original copy of the letter, nor one of the first copies that Paul himself had made, nor any of the copies that were produced in any of the towns of Galatia to which the letter was sent, nor any of the copies of those copies. The first reasonable complete copy we have of Galatians, which is fragmentary, has a number of missing parts and is a papyrus called P-46 (the 46th New Testament papyrus to be catalogued) which dates to about 200 CE. That’s approximately 150 years after Paul wrote the letter. It had been in circulation, being sometimes copied correctly and sometimes incorrectly, for 15 decades before any copy was made that survived down to the present day.

Another example, the Gospel of John. In John, the sayings of Jesus are long discourses rather than pithy, direct sayings; Jesus never tells a parable, for example, in John, unlike in the other three Gospels. Moreover, many events narrated in John are often found only in this gospel. For example, Jesus’s alleged conversations with Nicodemus in chapter 3, and with the Samaritan woman in chapter 4, or his miracles of turning water into wine in chapter 2, and raising Lazarus from the dead in Chapter 10. The author of John no doubt has sources for his account, and he put those sources together into his own flowing narrative of the life of Jesus, his ministry, death, and alleged resurrection. Chapter 21 appears to be a later add-on. Other passages of the Gospel of John also did not cohere completely with the rest.

Even the opening verses 1:1 – 18, which form a kind of prologue to the gospel, appear to be different from the rest. The passage is written in a highly poetic style not found in the rest of the gospel; moreover, while its central themes are repeated in the rest of the narrative, some of its most important vocabulary is not. Is it possible that this opening passage came from a different source than the rest of the account, and that it was added as an appropriate beginning by someone other than the author after an earlier edition of the book had already been published and circulated? Perhaps.

The examples are numerous, but the point is since we do not have an original of the New Testament, and all we have to consider are copies, of copies, of copies, of copies, of copies… One would presume an intelligent reader would view them with a critical eye, and a grain of salt.

References:

Tregelles, Samuel P. An Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament London. Samuel Bagster & Sons. 1854. Print.

Fox, Adam., Mill, John., & Bentley, Richard. A Study of Textual Criticism of the New Testament, 1675 – 1729 Oxford. Blackwell. 1954. Print.

Metzger and Ehrman. Text of the New Testament Oxford. Oxford University press. 1964. Print.

Ehrman, Bart. Misquoting Jesus: The story behind who changed the bible and why. New York, Harper Collins. 2005. Print.

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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