Sunday, December 9, 2012

Flippancy against apologists: The bible according to them

I've been spending some time on John Loftus's blog, Debunking Christianity, where I've had the delight of getting to discuss religion-related matters with actual Christian apologists, who seem to target him fiercely. In the course of that discussion, a notable apologist (I figure--I'm not really up on my make-it-up artists these days) there defined "theism" to mean "belief in a necessary agent cause of contingent reality." He did not defend why this belief needs to be in an agent cause, nor did he specify what someone should be called if they hold a belief in a "necessary non-agent cause of contingent reality." In other words, he tucked some question-begging deep within the heart of complicated philosophical language like a good theologian. It is noteworthy to mention that this definition also has been made so loose as to subsume deism into theism--indeed, this definition of god that he proposed is even weaker than the definition assumed by deists: a necessary agent creator of contingent reality.

All that criticism aside, I thought it would be fun and instructive (to see what a heap of bull it is to use this kind of definition) to plug it into the bible and see how it reads. This should give us a sense of how close to the original definition this new-fangled desperate-apologist's definition is. I've chosen to use the relevant book here, to give as much leeway as possible to the apologist, and chosen Genesis 1-3, where the necessary agent cause of contingent reality is going about causing the contingent reality. It is particularly worthwhile to notice the overwhelming amount of stuff that seems to be wrapped up in "causing contingent reality." It is also worthwhile to notice that this rendition creates more questions than it answers--indeed, it answers none of the challenges to Genesis except the question-begging in the first half of the first sentence (proving my points in God Doesn't; We Do that (1) people wrap a lot of extra baggage into whatever their definition of God and thus get away with a lot more with that term than they would if they were more careful with it and (2) it's harder than apologists pretend to leap from this kind of "easy" to establish definition of God to the ones that people, including themselves, care about).

The bible text is provided by BibleGateway. Enjoy! Annotations in brackets (and red, like the bible) are my own, indicating problems that jump out at me on a first reading. Feel encouraged to look for others and report them in the comments!

Genesis 1-3

 

New International Version (NIV)--Apologists' edit

 

The Beginning

 

In the beginning the necessary agent cause of contingent reality caused contingent reality and thereby created the heavens and the earth [why heavens and earth? I thought this was just the necessary agent cause of contingent reality.]. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the necessary agent cause of contingent reality was hovering over the waters.
And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let there be light,” and there was light [is light a necessary part of contingent reality or could it have come about on its own from contingent reality?]. 4 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw that the light was good [by what measure of goodness?], and he [It's a male? Necessary agents of contingent reality usually are, I guess.] separated the light from the darkness [this seems like a lot more than 'causing contingent reality']. 5 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” [It speaks English and also makes our words for us?] And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. [Did it name "evening" and "morning" for us too, as part of its role as cause of contingent reality?]
And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let there be a vault [a vault? really?] between the waters to separate water from water.” [seems like this could follow from the creation of contingent reality and is a bit superfluous for our agent cause--also, what other water?] So the necessary agent cause of contingent reality made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it [???]. And it was so. 8 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality called the vault “sky.” [Again with the making up words thing.] And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” [Couldn't this have happened on its own, given what we know about contingent reality?] And it was so. 10 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” [Again with this.] And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw that it was good. [And this.]
11 Then the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” [And this.] And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw that it was good. [And this.] 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
14 And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” [And this!] And it was so. 16 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night [And this!!]. He also made the stars. [So much making things that wouldn't need making if it was really just a necessary cause of contingent reality! We know contingent reality would make these things by itself and with fewer nonsensical errors in the process!] 17 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, [bullshit] 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw that it was good. [This again... big surprise.] 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
20 And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” [Here we go again...] 21 So the necessary agent cause of contingent reality created [Created! How?] the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind [Including bats, right?]. And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw that it was good. [...] 22 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” [Seems legit. Animals never have sex unless told to by a necessary agent cause of contingent reality.] 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
24 And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” [What a control freak!] And it was so. 25 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And the necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw that it was good. [...]
26 Then the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” [Uh oh.]
27 So the necessary agent cause of contingent reality created mankind in his own image [Is man a necessary agent cause of contingent reality too, then?], in the image of the necessary agent cause of contingent reality he created them [redundant]; male and female he created them. [So "He" is both genders? Wtf?]
28 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality blessed them [blessing things is clearly part of the role of a necessary agent of contingent reality] and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number [People also apparently need to be told to have sex?]; fill the earth and subdue it [Um, we're working on that, and it's looking like a mistake. Is the necessary agent cause of contingent reality sure this is what (s)He/it meant?]. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” [Take that, creatures! Know your role!]
29 Then the necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. [Here we go again.] 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” [I'm not a scientist, but I don't think this is going to work.] And it was so.
31 The necessary agent cause of contingent reality saw all that he had made, and it was very good. [By what jacked-up definition of good?] And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.


Thus contingent reality, apparently especially heavens and the earth, were completed in all their vast array.
By the seventh day the necessary agent cause of contingent reality had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. [Necessary agents get tired too, even if they are nonphysical. Causing contingent reality and then doing all that extra stuff is tiring.] Then the necessary agent cause of contingent reality blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. [Most holidays are once a year, but the necessary agent of contingent reality demands once a week. Damn.]

 

Adam and Eve


This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created [what was that up there, then?], when the necessary agent cause of contingent reality, now also a LORD [I didn't vote for him.], made the earth and the heavens. [Again?]
Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground [This doesn't match the previous part of the story. Maybe the necessary agent cause of contingent reality did it twice? It also seems to miss the water cycle part of contingent reality.], but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. [But... (s)He/it already made mankind, male and female. What the hell is this, a joke?]
Now the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed [Contingent reality needs a garden, you see, and gardens obviously need agent causes. Hello!]. The Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. [Here we go. Good planning, necessary agent of contingent reality. It's almost like (s)He/it isn't intelligent at all, though why should anyone assume a necessary agent cause of contingent reality has intelligence? Also, why isn't this tree or garden mentioned in the previous story about the necessary agent cause of contingent reality?]
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. [This is a bit trifling, we'd think, for the necessary agent cause of contingent reality to be getting involved in.]
15 The Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. [Know your role, man created in my image out of dust, a dust-born necessary agent cause of contingent reality!] 16 And the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality commanded [Necessary agents of contingent reality do a lot of commanding.] the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” [This is the strangest bit of behavior yet!]
18 The Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” [More dust, then?]
19 Now the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds [Including bats!] in the sky. [Looks like more dust, indeed.] (S)He/it brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. [The man, also a necessary agent cause of contingent reality, gets to name animals as part of his agency. See, it makes total sense, especially since man wasn't allowed to name the rivers.] 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky [Including the bats!] and all the wild animals.
But for Adam [Who? The dust-born man necessary agent cause of contingent reality is Adam now?] no suitable helper was found. [Because the necessary agent cause of contingent reality hadn't thought of seeing-eye dogs yet and couldn't just create a robot--(s)He/it isn't a creator, (s)He/it is just the necessary agent cause of contingent reality.] 21 So the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, (s)He/it took one of the man’s ribs [whoa! What happened to the dust?] and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality made a woman from the rib (s)He/it had taken out of the man, and (s)He/it brought her to the man. [This is getting weird, like Voldemort-weird.]
23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh [read: my property]; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. [That makes sense since the woman in another family is made out of the rib of the man she will marry.]
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. [Sinners!]

 

The Fall


Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality had made [Nice work, necessary agent cause of contingent reality. Maybe instead of doing all this creating that you clearly screw up, you should have stuck to being the necessary agent cause of contingent reality]. He said [The serpent said? The necessary agent of contingent reality made snakes that can talk? That's trippy!] to the woman, “Did the necessary agent cause of contingent reality really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but the necessary agent cause of contingent reality did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” [That's not actually what (s)He/it said. Extra rules about not touching handed down from the necessary agent cause of contingent reality!]
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said [I'm still not okay with this talking snake thing.] to the woman. “For the necessary agent cause of contingent reality knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like the necessary agent cause of contingent reality, knowing good and evil.” [This is more than a little preposterous, even for a talking snake, but it highlights that even necessary agents of contingent reality like to keep trade secrets to maintain their power bases.]
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, [Did he talk to the snake too? Why doesn't it mention that? The religions of the necessary agent of contingent reality have taught us clearly that if the man had reported it, it would be vastly more believable. A man's testimony is worth far more than a woman's, after all, in these religions.] and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day [Necessary agents of contingent reality do enjoy a good walk in the garden in the cool of day, and surprisingly, they make sounds while they do it!], and they hid from the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality among the trees of the garden [like that could work...]. But the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality called to the man, “Where are you?” [Oh crap! It did work! Because, again, necessary agent causes of contingent reality need not be all-knowing.]
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And (s)He/it said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” [Uh oh.]
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” [The man pointed at the woman, deferring blame from himself, and started two traditions that has echoed throughout the entire history of believing in the necessary agent cause of contingent reality: blaming others and especially women. What a stud.]
13 Then the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust [or rodents and birds (including bats) and eggs and fish and amphibians and other serpents--but not honey badgers] all the days of your life [and equip you with poisonous fangs that can kill large animals with painful neurotoxins, for I am the necessary agent cause of contingent reality!]
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” [That's a reasonable response for the necessary agent cause of contingent reality to make.]
16 To the woman (s)He/it said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” [That's a bit misogynistic for the necessary agent cause of contingent reality, can't we agree?]
17 To Adam (s)He/it said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” ["Let that be a lesson to you about listening to your wife!" I am the Lord, thy necessary agent cause of contingent reality .]
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. [Except the animals, which apparently aren't living. Also, good luck with genetic diseases!]
21 The Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. [Pretty nice of (s)Him/it, given the above.] 22 And the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality said, “The man has now become like one of us, [Us? So much for monotheism. Apparently the necessary agent cause of contingent reality is not unique but is rather one of many necessary agent causes of contingent reality.] knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” [Yeah! The necessary agent causes of contingent reality couldn't abide by having the necessary agent cause of contingent reality created in the image of one of those agents living forever!] 23 So the Lord necessary agent cause of contingent reality banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After (s)He/it drove the man out, (s)He/it placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim [A what?] and a flaming sword [Made out of what, exactly?] flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. [I wonder if this cherubim, or the tree, is on Google Maps yet? It's probably one of those blurred areas.]

Well, that was fun. It's pretty clear that this is all ridiculous, not because I'm taking anything out of context but because the apologists are too willing (because of necessity for their arguments) to assign philosophically useful, but bullshit, definitions of God. In Chapter 7 of God Doesn't; We Do, I talk about how the very existence of apologetics acts as evidence against the validity of the religions they attempt to defend. I hope this helps make clear why that is the case.

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3 comments:

  1. How come the contingent reality creator didn't know that the sun was but a star... and "day" was just when a certain part of a planet faced a star and night was when that planet rotated away from it's star... and why didn't "he" know the moon was just a reflective satellite rather than a source of light? And what makes him a "he"? What "he" things does "he" have? A Y-chromosome? An penis? And what language did this necessary agent speak-- one he whipped up from scratch?...

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    1. That's actually easy to understand, in terms of its ignorance: it is only a necessary agent cause of contingent reality, not a knowledgeable creator. That's a jump to make still--good luck apologists!

      The rest: I know, right?

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