JW pamphlet
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27-01-2016, 02:43 PM
JW pamphlet
So today the pamphleteer were out, bringing their books and magazines to our lovely campus. I stopped and picked up one of their books and sat down to read it. They quickly picked up their stand and moved so now I'm stuck with this book. The Bible God's Word or Man's? is published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, and it is what I have picked up. It is 180 pages (or there about) and I've been spending some time reading this thing. It was clear I'd either have to do a written or video response to this because by the time that I'd gotten through the first few pages the margins were filled with notes. I'm still unsure if I'll do a video for my SSA group but I wanted to rant a bit.

Chapter 1, Why Read the Bible?

I'm going to put the actual text in spoiler tags in case you want to see what I'm responding to.

We are living in a world with too many problems and far too few answers. Many millions regularly go hungry. Increasing numbers are addicted to drugs. More and more families are breaking up. Incest and family violence are constantly in the news. The air we breathe and the water we drink are slowly being poisoned. Meanwhile, more and more of us are victimized by crime. Do you think problems like these will ever be solved?

I have no notes in these margins, because I initially didn't read it. It's an intro paragraph, who cares? But already this shows problems. This is the best time to live in, the safest, and the most prosperous. The fact that we see more of these bad things in the news is because news has become about ratings. Statistically you are far safer now and far less likely to be the victim of violence than ever. This is just fear mongering, trying to make the reader afraid and primed for whatever is to come.

And while it is true that our air and water are not the cleanest it seems rich coming from this source. The issues are ones caused by people and those who are most against measures to deal with the problems are routinely religious. If you want to really do something about pollution and sustainability do not look to divine intervention. The only thing that has had a positive effect is human action.

In addition, we live in an age of hard choices. Many, for example, are implacably opposed to abortion, calling it the murder of the unborn. Others feel just as strongly that women have authority over their own bodies and should decide such a matter for themselves. Many view homosexuality, adultery, and premarital sex as rank immorality. Others believe these practices are a matter of personal choice. Who is to say who is right and who is wrong?

The Bible offers guidance in matters of morality, and it describes effective solutions to the problems of crime, hunger, and pollution. The trouble is, most people no longer view the Bible as an authority in such matters. At one time, it was listened to with respect - at least in the West. Although the Bible was written down by humans, in the past the majority in Christendom accepted it as the Word of God and believed that God himself had inspired its contents.

A few things about this. I understand that many Christians conflate premarital sex and homosexuality with adultery, but almost no one else does. Adultery is usually defined as a married person having sex with someone who is not their spouse. This is almost always accompanied by some level of deception. This is a legitimately harmful act that does have real consequences. Homosexuality and premarital sex, however, do not. These two have no moral weight by themselves and harm no one.

The comment that homosexuality is a choice also bothers me. The copyright date on this is 1989 so this hasn't been updated in a while, but we now know that it is not a choice. I'm fairly certain we knew that back in 1989, but the certainty on this point has only gotten stronger since then. I know why they want to say it is a choice, they view homosexuality as wrong and if it is innate then God made a mistake and we can't have that! However simply wanting something to be so does not make it so.

Moving on, it claims that the bible has the answers to all the problems we face today. I didn't make notes on this because this is simply a claim, and if they can justify it then terrific! I'll see if they do. What I do have issue with are the things that follow it. In fact we are coming up on the bit where I first have "logical fallacy" written in the margin. And it relates to the second part of that paragraph.

Today, however, it is fashionable to be skeptical about everything: customs, ideas, morals, even the existence of God. Especially, people doubt the value of the Bible. Most seem to consider it out of date and irrelevant. Few modern intellectuals view it as the Word of God. Most people would rather agree with scholar James Barr, who wrote: "My account of the formation of the biblical tradition is an account of a human work. It is man's statement of his beliefs."

They give a source for that quote but I'm not going to check it. It's a reasonable enough statement and one I tend to agree with (I have kept their formatting, that is their italics). As the quote stands it's a fair representation of how most people view the bible.

The thing I wanted to pull out of this is the idea that "it is fashionable to be skeptical about [...] customs, ideas, morals." These are not new things. Moral philosophy and anthropology are old fields that have been well established for a very long time. It is not new for people to be wondering about the existence of God, or where we get our morals, or about the value of our customs. We have been doing this for thousands of years. This is how morality and culture have progressed. It is through questioning our previous ideas that we are able to move forward.

Is this your opinion? Do you think the Bible is God's word, or man's? However you answer that question, consider the point: If the Bible is merely man's word, then logically there is no clear answer to mankind's problems. Humans will just have to muddle through as best they can, hoping somehow to avoid poisoning themselves out of existence or blowing themselves up in a nuclear war. But if the Bible is the Word of God, it is the very thing we need to get us through this difficult time.

This publication will present evidence that the Bible really is God's Word. And the publishers hope that after you have considered the evidence, you will realize that the Bible contains the only valid answers to mankind's problems. First, though, we would like to draw to your attention some facts that, in themselves, make the Bible worthy of your consideration.

Oh boy, this is where my initial reading found the first logical fallacy and the first real problem upon initial reading (I was skimming). We have a false dichotomy, either the Bible provides all the answers or we are doomed to struggle through this world blindly. Well maybe some OTHER religion is right, and THEIR book has the answers. Maybe moral philosophy and secular values will provide good guides for humanity. But these possibilities are ignored. It has to be one or the other.

It's also an appeal to consequences. If this isn't true, bad things will happen. You don't want bad things to happen, do you? Well then this must be true! But the world STILL does not work that way. Perhaps by the end of this book I'll be corrected, perhaps they will provide evidence of their claims.

I"m not going to pull that low-hanging fruit that is the claim of how the bible offers all these wonderful solutions. I'm going to assume they will provide evidence of this later on, although I'm highly skeptical. I've read a good bit of the Bible, and have found it lacking in what they are claiming it is the sole source for. But hey, I could be wrong.
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27-01-2016, 03:41 PM
RE: JW pamphlet
An All-Time Best-Seller

To begin with, it is a best-seller, the most widely circulated book in all history. According to the 1988 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, an estimated 2,500,000,000 copies were printed between 1815 and 1975. That is an enormous figure. No other book in history has come even close to the Bible in circulation figures.

Besides that, no other book has been translated into so many languages. The Bible can now be read, in its entirety or in part, in more than 1,800 different tongues. The American Bible Society reports that it is now accessible to 98 percent of the population of our planet. Imagine the huge effort involved in producing so many translations! What other book has received such attention?

This entire section has a note by it: logical fallacy, argumentum ad populum. Just because something is popular does not make it true.

Our entire world is now connected as ever before, and more information is available than ever before. Moreover, Christianity has a long history of evangelism. Is it any wonder that it would make printing and distributing these books a priority? Again, it is notable that this was printed before the advent of the internet, and as such these would reflect physical books. However today the books would be more widely available in much more complete formats to even more people.

Christianity is the world's single largest religion, but does that make it true? No. It used to be the case that the majority of people thought that the earth was flat, or the center of the universe. They were wrong. The popularity of their beliefs did not add truth value to said belief. Likewise just because the bible is popular does not mean its contents are true.

As a easy jab I want to say that neither does it make it good. Twilight is insanely popular, and we all know that thing is terrible. So is Justin Beiber. It's popularity simply means that some people find something appealing in it. It doesn't mean that the thing is actually good.

A Book With Influence

The New Encyclopedia Britannica calls the Bible "probably the most influential collection of books in human history." The 19th-century German poet Heinrich Heine confessed: "I owe my enlightenment quite simply to the reading of a book . . . the Bible. It is quite rightly called Holy Scriptures. He who has lost his God can rediscover Him in this book."3 During the same century, anti-slavery activist William H. Seward proclaimed: "The whole hope of human progress is suspended on the ever-growing influence of the Bible."4

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, called the Bible "the best gift God has ever given to man . . . But for it we could not know right from wrong."5 British jurist Sir William Blackstone highlighted the influence of the Bible when he said: "Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation [the Bible], depend all human laws, that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these."6


This is where I started checking sources. For example, the source given for 3 turns out to be a book no longer in print by a Rabbi Solomon Goldman. I actually couldn't find the quote BY the poet Heinrich Heine anywhere. Reading up on Heine I found that he was a friend and relative of Karl Marx even though he did not share his political views, and as such I find this quote highly suspicious. Number 4 I could actually find attributed to Seward, who was an abolitionist. Number 5 I also did find attributed to Lincoln from multiple sources, though it does need to be balanced with quotes such as

Abraham Lincoln Wrote:My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.

or

Abraham Lincoln Wrote:The United States government must not undertake to run the Churches. When an individual, in the Church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest he must be checked.

source: http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/06/24/...ian-right/

Number 6 I did find attributed to William Blackstone, and like the last two he wasn't surprising to find this type of quote attributed to him. These three men were politicians. While they might be sincere, it is important to remember that they were all three in the public eye and that their religious views were something that would be under scrutiny. But it is clear that the one attributed to Lincoln is a quote mine.

Oh boy, already we have a quote mine. Are these folks creationists? Perhaps later chapters will tell.

But let's be very generous for a second and grant that ALL of these quotes are legit. So what? Just because some people have found it to be influential doesn't mean anything.

Moreover this selection smacks of another type of dishonesty. Notice how two of the most prominent abolitionists are on this list? They don't mention the people who were on the other side, claiming that the bible justified slavery.

James Thornwell Wrote:The parties in the conflict are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders. They are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, Jacobins on the one side, and friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is the battleground – Christianity and Atheism the combatants; and the progress of humanity at stake.

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Henley_Thornwell

Look, you don't get to claim only one side of this. There were people on both sides of that particular fight who used the Bible to justify their position. The same is true today, there are people who point to the Bible as inspiration for their good deeds, and there are those who claim the Bible is the inspiration for deeds we think are bad. The Bible is very much a blank slate where you can write your own motivations onto it.

I'm actually surprised that they didn't mention how influential the Bible has been on literature. I actually agree that the bible is an incredibly influential work. However I recognize that this doesn't mean that it is divinely inspired. I do think that people should read it. But not for guidance on how to live their lives, or for any special insight into the divine, but because it has been so influential in Western culture.
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28-01-2016, 03:53 PM
RE: JW pamphlet
Those pamphlets give me the heebee jeebees. I went to a JW service once when I was young and searching for answers. It was truly a frightening experience. The elders or whatever they call them read from one of those pamphlets then asked members questions. The members all recited what had just been read to them from the pamphlet. It was brainwashing to the max. I never went back.

Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. - Ayn Rand.

Don't sacrifice for me, live for yourself! - Me

The only alternative to Objectivism is some form of Subjectivism. - Dawson Bethrick
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29-01-2016, 11:51 AM
RE: JW pamphlet
I've had a small handful of run in with JW's.

I remember this one time my family and I were in Flordia on Vacation. We went into an IHOP grabbed breakfast and when we came out every car in the parking lot was covered with watchtower pamphlets. My parents threw the one on our car off and we got in the car a drove off. As we were driving I saw every car in the area was covered. Some with multiple pamphlets. We drove around a corner and saw a conference center had big signs welcoming people to be saved. Turned out there was a major gathering of some sort and during their break they went out to cover the city in pamphlets.

The other was my Best Friends girlfriend. I found out more about the belief system from here about how they didn't celebrate holidays, birthdays and such. How they believe earth is heaven and their just waiting for the second coming so they can run the earth. She participated in all the holidays while at college. But didn't share it with her family in fear of persecution.

Don't Live each day like it's your last. Live each day like you have 541 days after that one where every choice you make will have lasting implications to you and the world around you. ~ Tim Minchin
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