Tag Archives: Bible

The Real Reason Why Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter is Failing

sylia

Sylia Gray

I want to explain to Ken Ham my opinion of why I think his Noah’s Ark park is failing. I don’t expect Ham to read this but I’m going to jot it all down here as a blog post anyway.

 

The BIG reason why I think his “Ark Encounter” theme park is failing is not because of the atheists, believe me! I think it’s the market forces that are working against him. I don’t think he understands his target audience well enough. I understand that the park is for Christians, but I think his biggest agenda is to reach out non-Christians too (winning souls for JEEESUSSSS!).

 

Now here’s the thing, the majority of Americans are Christians. But I think the ones who buy into Ken Ham’s snake oil are just the fundamentalist types and their numbers have shrunk, and continue to shrink, though they remain a vocal minority. I think the rest of the Christian population (the majority) are just “cultural Christians” – generally secular-minded people who only attend church casually and don’t take their faith seriously but identify as Christian simply because that’s the culture they grew up in. Now, why would those cultural Christians be interested in hearing the Christian message at some Bible-based theme park? I think many of those cultural Christians find sermons to be boring but just go to church anyway as an excuse to get off work and have fellowship with people in their community. And there is no doubt that there are some cultural Christians out there who don’t find sermons to be boring at all but find comfort and solace because a lot of people need someplace to escape from their troubles. But why would they need spend hundreds of hard-earned dollars just to go to some Bible theme park in the middle of nowhere for all of that? The reason why people go to theme parks is to be entertained and have fun with friends and family, not to be preached to. If they want to hear a sermon or engage in whatever religious activity, they don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to go to some Bible based theme park, they can just go to church on Sundays for free. Churches are not that hard to find in America! Why would they need to go some half-baked Bible theme park that looks like big old boat landlocked in the middle of nowhere that is supposed to be full of (not even live) animals with the only live animals being in petting zoos? Even my local zoo is far more impressive than that!

 

Also, millennials… More and more young people are losing interest in religion for variety of reasons and I think one of the main reasons (as a millennial myself) is because it’s hard to find any meaning that is relevant to us today in 2017 from some bronze age holy books. How could we be blamed for that? And many of us have smartphones so we have a whole world of information – the entire Internet – literally in our pockets so we can verify information coming from holy books and religious authorities (and many of those authorities – including Ken Ham – have a piss poor track record on relaying accurate information).
So in conclusion… the reason why I think Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter theme park is failing miserably is not because atheists are giving it a bad rap, even though it’s well deserved because Ken Ham is a liar and a fraud. I think it’s because most people are seeing through his bullshit. They are not stupid to buy Ham’s snake oil. The park is just a money making scheme for Ham and a rip-off to visitors. And if I remember correctly, even in the Bible itself (John 2:13-16), Jesus condemned corrupt religious people for using religion as a profit making scheme. So isn’t it ironic how Ham’s own holy book is admonishing readers to avoid people like himself? He’s using his Christian faith as an excuse to create a theme park that is a money making scheme, and he lied to the taxpayers who unwittingly funded the construction of this park (which is illegal for the state government to allow – not the taxpayers’ fault). And he made a broken promise to the people of the towns nearby by failing to bring economic prosperity to them through tourism as he promised. It never was going to happen and probably never will. Because when demographic trends show that religion is declining, religious theme parks may lose their market appeal so they won’t be marketable. Atheists don’t need to give the Ark Encounter a bad rap to make it fail. I think the free market is taking care of that for them on its own.

More Reasons Why Free Will Still Isn’t A Good Apologetic

Jeremiah Traeger

Jeremiah Traeger

Last week, I talked about how libertarian free will is not only a ridiculous concept, but the belief in it leads us to hold attitudes and perform actions that end up being discriminatory and antithetical to human rights. Add it to one more items in the stack of Christian beliefs that lead to poor actions being carried out.

Strangely enough, free will doesn’t fall within the purview of Christianity because of what the Bible says or by the decrees of church official. There’s not really much said about free will in the Bible (go ahead and look!). The reason Christians rely on the tenet of free will so much is primarily because it works well in Christian apologetics and caulks up a few holes in the theology. Largely, free will is useful when solving the problem of evil, as well as explaining why the lord doesn’t reveal himself.

The problem of evil isn’t a particularly strong counterapologetic for atheism in general, but it’s sometimes useful for addressing Christianity. After all, if we have an all-powerful being who cares about what’s best for us, why does this being allow us to suffer? The usual answer is that due to the fall in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were able to gain the knowledge of good and evil at the expense of creating a fallen world. After this, every bit of suffering is ultimately a result of the actions of Adam and Eve in the garden.

Holocaust? Free will.

9/11? Free will.

Duck Dynasty? Free will.

When asking why the Christian god allows for people to perpetuate horrendous acts, people are able to bring up “free will” as the excuse, as people are allowed to decide to do monstrous things of their own volition*. The problem is that free will doesn’t even account for all the variables here.

Take a horrendous human act, such as the Sandy Hook Shooting. Let’s assume that the perpetrator does have free will granted to him by some almighty force. He is perfectly capable of carrying out his deeds however he wants. But an omnipotent force could easily prevent suffering without restraining his free will. Why doesn’t the lord dissolve the bullets into thin air as the shooter pumps them out? Why can’t the lord redirect the bullets as they fly towards innocent children? Why can’t the bullets magically pass through people? All these could happen and they would impact the shooter’s free will in no way. He is still carrying out the action entirely of his own volition, it’s just that the physical laws (which I assume the Christian deity is in control of) have been manipulated such that they don’t cause unnecessary. In this case, evil has been freely chosen, yet this choice has been made without unnecessary suffering.

It’s not like it’s out of character for the Christian god to do something like this. In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into a fiery furnace for not worshipping his golden statue, yet they come out of the furnace unscathed for staying loyal to the Lord. While the king certainly was able to perpetuate an evil act of his own volition, there was no suffering or death.**

Of course, free will doesn’t just come up when discussing the problem of evil. In many lay arguments, it pops up when a theist wants to defend why their god doesn’t provide clear evidence that they exist (or more bluntly, why they don’t show their self). After all, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). The apologetic is that if the Christian god were to reveal himself, he would violate our free will and force us to believe in him. It’s apparently necessary to our eternal fates to believe in an omnipotent deity on faith over evidence. While my tactic of choice in this situation would be to question why faith is valuable in the first place, can we take some time to examine how ridiculous this logic is?

Apparently the idea is that if the Christian god were to appear right in front of me, it would force me to accept his existence, thus making my free will to believe in him irrelevant. Setting aside the fact that we don’t choose our beliefs, why does this type of thinking stop at observing the lord? After all, as I type at this computer, I am observing my screen fill with the words I type and I feel the resistance of the keyboard against my fingertips. As a result of this, I am forced to accept the existence of my computer. When I look up at the night sky, I have no choice to observe the bright dots among a black background. To make a big picture statement, the mere fact that I observe anything about the world around me means that I am forced to believe at the very least that the universe exists. The lord not showing up to me is just selectively providing evidence to me, and selectively forcing me to believe in different things.

Hell, if the Christian god were to exist, then he would be violating my free will just by making me be born. At some point, to interact with the world I am forced to accept certain things outside my own control. As the supposed creator of these certain things, he is the ultimate reason why I believe them, and thus he has violated my free will since I have no choice but to believe them.

Libertarian free will has problems no matter how you slice it. In my last post about free will (see link in the first line), I talked about how libertarian free will is an incoherent concept, as well as how it inherently prevents us from treating humans in the best way we can. In this post I discussed how it is an insufficient apologetic for the problem of evil and divine hiddenness. Not only that, but it’s effectively impossible for a universe creator to avoid violating our free will, since we are forced to confront the universe in some way. You could also make the case that even the Bible shows that the god of the Bible violates free will (such as when the Pharaoh’s heart was hardened during the ten plagues). Free will seems like a coherent concept and a good way to support basic Christian apologetics, but as soon as you take some close looks at it and turn it around in your head, cracks in its foundation start to emerge. Once it’s fully explored, it reveals itself as yet another flimsy excuse for a philosophical concept propped up by ancient armchair-level theology and ultimately conceptually empty. Libertarian free will belongs in the dumpster pile of bad ideas from the rest of theistic apologetics, and if we want to make the world a better place we will be better off abandoning it altogether.


*While there are apologetics addressing why “natural evils” like natural disasters exist and cause suffering, I’m only going to focus on ones where free will is relevant.

**Also, if you claim that in that case that Nebuchadnezzar’s free will had been violated, then you can’t make the case that the Christian god can’t violate free will.

If You’re a Fundamentalist Christian, then Why Did You Vote?

Jeremiah Traeger

Jeremiah Traeger

Just so the readers know, I’m not ready to stop making political posts. They’ll be religion and skepticism related for sure, and I’m definitely going to make non-political posts in the future. But ever since the nation I lived in decided that a nationalistic pomegranate who doesn’t think climate change exists would be a good thing to decide supreme court justices that could affect the rest of my life, I’ve been a bit miffed.

One of the causes of our pumpkin-in-chief, of course, is the white evangelical vote. Exit poll data showed that 81% of white evangelical/born-again voters cast a vote for him. It’s easy to point and laugh at how he obviously doesn’t belong in that camp, since he’s divorced four times and can’t even read a Bible correctly. But it’s shouldn’t be surprising, as on his campaign trail, he claimed to represent their interests. He promised bigly that he would support the repeal of the Johnson Amendment and that he would overturn Roe v. Wade (somehow). He promised to choose a supreme court justice like Scalia, who ruled in favor of evangelical interests in a thoroughly activist manner. No politician is perfect, so they decided that they might as well pick the candidate that would give them a favorable outcome.

The thing is, why do they care about that particular favorable outcome?

To Biblical literalists, the aim of the game is to become saved and end up going to Heaven. With any fundamentalist you run into, the only requirement for getting into Heaven is accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.* It doesn’t matter how many women you keep in their place in the home. It doesn’t matter how many Ten Commandments monuments you get at courthouses around the nation. It doesn’t matter how many guns are legalized or how much you can lower taxes or how many queers you discriminate against. As long as you can ascend to Heaven.

Atheist activists are well aware that with the presence of an eternal afterlife, any life on Earth is meaningless. Sure, you still have to get saved, but once you’re in, you’re in. It doesn’t matter how you compare your time on Earth if there’s an infinity after that. It’s completely negligible. Therefore, all your time on Earth better damn well be focused on getting into Heaven, otherwise you’re not taking your faith seriously enough.

time-on-earth

[Image: Equation, showing that a ratio of time during time on Earth to eternal life is completely negligible]

On a related note, does anyone know somebody who can whip me and nail me to a cross? Sure, it’ll suck, but I hear doing so allows you to be the king of the universe for all eternity. So a small investment of a weekend of torture gives me infinite gain.

The point is, according to the fundamentalist worldview, no form of political activism actually matters. In fact, they may be hurting the cause of winning more souls for Jesus. If they subscribe to the idea that all aborted fetuses go to Heaven, then trying to reduce abortions simply increases the chance that some people will go to Hell. Furthermore, a significant portion of nones left the religion they were born into because they viewed organized religion as harmful. By making the world a demonstrably worse place by legislating against queers, trans folk, and women, they are playing a hand in driving people away from eternal paradise. Of course, apparently Jesus gets the credit when someone gets saved but when someone walks away from their faith it’s their individual free will.

Contrast that with me. I’m almost twenty-five years old. Statistically I have about two-thirds of my life to live out. And since I don’t have a reason to believe there’s an afterlife, my best guess is that’s all I have.

A supreme court appointment could last thirty years, and by the looks of it they’re either supremely activist judges or severely unqualified. This is the next third of my life. If Trump gets to pick three during his first term, then around half of my remaining lifetime will have a wing of the government that thinks it’s ok for companies to deny women’s healthcare, or thinks that corporations should have the same rights as people. When my trans friends want equal access to society, the court is far more likely to accept that they deserve it.

Furthermore, with a Republican-majority congress and a leader of the EPA who is currently suing the EPA, any hope of meaningful action on climate change is incredibly bleak. We are at a point in time where we’re already pumping so much carbon dioxide into the air that we are reaching tipping points where temperature increase is inevitable. Do I want to have children if they’re going to live to see the last days of humanity?

This is not trivial. This gets down to the core of my moral behavior. As a humanist, I have no reason to think that I will have anything other than my current life I am experiencing. This also goes for everyone else. What matters is here and now. There’s no Heaven I can help someone get to, but while we are here I can try and make their life better. If I can make them laugh, or if I can teach them something new, or if I can simply make them feel loved now, then that is what matters. I see no externally-imposed purpose on my life, so I don’t have to waste time in prayer. Instead, I can define my own purpose, and I can choose to spend time during my only life making the lives of others better. Even if I can improve someone else’s brief experience in the universe for one second, then I have fulfilled my purpose. Every heartbeat is precious, and I choose not to waste mine.

The Christian pre-afterlife, comparatively, is nothing. Yet here they are, imposing their non-evidence-based values on the lives on every single American. I feel like my existence has been hijacked by people who couldn’t care less about it. They have held my life at gunpoint, all for something that is Biblically meaningless. Find me the verse that says people need to vote. Find me the verse that tells us which bathroom we must use. Find me the Bible verse that condemns abortion. I submit that you will find nothing.

What’s even more frustrating is that Christianity used to be an entirely apolitical position. It wasn’t until Jerry Falwell and other conservatives began pressing their Moral Majority movement to get Christians actively involved in the political process. If only that were true now.

I feel at the very least, if the fundamentalists can’t be bothered to critically examine their beliefs, they should at least leave us alone to have our brief time in the sun while they prepare for their eternal salvation. Apparently, that is too much to ask.

 


*If other Christians think that works are required, that’s fine. I don’t write to debate theologies and belief systems I think are complete bullshit. But we can’t deny that most evangelicals accept that only way into Heaven is through Jesus.

What is More Foundational: The Bible, or Faith?

Jeremiah Traeger

Jeremiah Traeger

I try not to get hung up on theology with fellow atheists. That is, I don’t really enjoy arguing with other atheists over which doctrines were more theologically correct than others, such as Catholicism versus the teachings of the Southern Baptists, for example. After all, we already agree that the religious beliefs are wrong. It doesn’t seem to make sense which of the beliefs are the correct wrong beliefs. I could see the appeal some people have in it, much like how Star Wars fans might argue over canonical differences in the Expanded Universe or which superhero film adaptation was closer to the original comics. But for me, I have other things to think about.

That being said, I’ve also pushed against the idea of holding all Christians to Biblical literalism. Atheists will often make the assumption that a Christian must take every word in the Bible literally. This is not always the case, as there’s a wide variety of beliefs between denominations. Plenty of the more liberal denominations (as well as Catholicism) do not adhere to things like Young-Earth Creationism, for example.

Really, it appears that all Christians pick-and-choose to some extent what teachings of the book they value. It’s obvious throughout the Bible that it is not a good thing to be rich, yet there are plenty of prominent politicians, millionaires, and televangelists who claim to hold strongly to their faith. Nobody today follows the Old Testament teachings such as bans on shrimp and mixed fibers. And really, sometimes Christians are forced to pick and choose as there are teachings that appear to conflict with each other. The important part, though, is that any given religion is not simply just what the Holy Book says. Besides holy books, religions are made up of doctrines, rituals, church hierarchies, teachings, and traditions that didn’t originate anywhere in the text.

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[Image: a wooden crucifix lays upon the pages of a Bible]

However, I’m biased. I didn’t come out of a fundamentalist background as many of my peers did. They were taught that every part of the Bible happened literally as it was stated, keeping in mind that some parts are obviously poetry or parable, and should be treated as such. Each command in the book should be followed to the letter. I hold a fantastic admiration for my fellow atheists who got out of the fundamentalist mentality, where they were taught that they couldn’t question a single word of the book. I cannot put myself in their position, and I can’t say for certain that I would have been able to escape from the effects of their indoctrination had I been born in their situation.

However, I could not ever merely take the Bible at face value, and I definitely held some parts as certainly false. People tell me that I was being more intellectually dishonest at the time, and I hope to get into that in a future post, but I don’t think I was. I knew as a child that dinosaurs had existed 65 million years ago, and there was a big bang event that “started off” the universe long before that. I could not take the words of the Bible at face value, at least in Genesis, based on my knowledge. From a very young age I began to see the early parts of the Bible as either folk tales from early tribes that would eventually become Jews, or as records of laws that these ancient people attributed to their god (whether it actually came from a god or not). I simply couldn’t reconcile the history of the Bible with the natural history of the universe, nor could I take seriously many of the laws against people such as gay folk and women, I could not agree that they were moral in any sense.

This is puzzling for my ex-fundamentalist atheist friends, as well as never-Christians who make the assumption that whatever the Bible says goes for every Christian. After all, Christians must have a foundational source for the beliefs that they hold. It’s necessary for Christians to believe the gospel stories, so what justification should they have for accepting that part of the Bible but nothing else? Christians rely on the word of their god, which apparently manifests in the form of the holy book. After all, “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Furthermore, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). While it may be circular, the Bible supports inerrancy, since “the words of the Lord are flawless” (Psalm 12:6) and “Every word of God proves true.” (Proverbs 30:5). It wouldn’t be very coherent for a Christian to accept certain parts and reject others, therefore it makes sense that the Bible is the foundation of Christianity.

This has problems, though. How can Christians justify following the Bible in the first place? What reason do Christians have for accepting that the Bible is the true word of their god?

There are a few approaches that Christians often take to justify the Bible as foundational. One approach is through evidential means. They will often try and tie the Bible to historical events, and though many of their claims are questionable, there are of course some historically accurate people, places, and events to be found within the holy pages. Another form of this appeal to evidence is claiming that prophecies in the Bible came true. They will look at prophecies found in the Old Testament and claim that they came true in the New Testament even though the books were by different authors. Both of these are used as an attempt to show that the Bible has been accurate in certain areas, and therefore we can extrapolate to assume it’s accurate in general. This is poor epistemology, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make right now. What’s important is that if an apologist tries to verify the Bible’s accuracy by these means, then their worldview is not based entirely on the Bible. Rather, they are basing their worldview on evidence from the world around them, or at least they are attempting to do so. If that’s the case, then the Bible cannot be the foundation of their Christian beliefs.

A Christian could also appeal to personal experience. They’ve gone to Church and “felt the presence of God”. Or they’ve witnessed a miracle. Or they’ve heard a voice speak to them. Or perhaps they went the intellectually rigorous route of Francis Collins and saw a frozen waterfall that was super duper pretty (and therefore, God). While this is weak justification, it is still justification. And if this demonstrates why the Bible is important, then this is the foundation of their beliefs, and not the Bible.

What I suspect is most often the case, though I cannot possibly speak on behalf of any Christian, is that it is not the Bible that is truly the foundation of the Christian’s belief. Rather, it is their faith. They have been taught the Biblical stories from Birth, and know in their heart of hearts that Jesus Christ died for their sins. They know when they pray that their god is there for them. Even when they are apparently being tested through a trial in their lives, or when a doctrine doesn’t make sense to them, or the Bible seems nonsensical, they can rectify it through faith.

This was certainly the case for me. I had plenty of skeptical tendencies even as a Christian, and I knew that I should have a good reason for my beliefs. I knew that I simply couldn’t justify the Old Testament stories of the Bible, as they didn’t match historical and scientific evidence. Furthermore, I know that my good feelings from prayer and singing at Church weren’t very good reasons for justifying the existence of my god. For me, I would struggle trying to come up with good evidence for my religious position, and I would be disappointed when my reasons were weak. However, without fail, I would eventually remind myself, “that’s why they call it faith.” Since I had been raised to believe that faith was a virtue, this was satisfactory enough for me. My thoughts were always able to quickly move on to something else once I came to that conclusion.

However, I recognize that to many people, we know we have faith because of the Bible. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

For many Christians, faith is also acceptance that Jesus Christ died for their sins and gave them salvation:

“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

 

“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

 

“Because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

Under this model, faith is a gift from the god of Christianity, and is given once the Christian accepts Jesus’ gift. You cannot have this faith unless you accept the words of The Bible, since this is the word that tells us of Jesus’ gift of dying on the cross for our sins. Therefore, since many fundagelicals adhere to this worldview, it is actually faith that is based on the Bible, not the other way around.

While some of this may be perfectly coherent for some Christians, it will be completely backwards for others. That’s fine by me. I don’t claim to be a theologian or a Christian scholar, and I reject it altogether anyway no matter the details of the doctrine. As I stated from the beginning, I don’t care to argue over which belief is the “correct” wrong belief. The Christians are still welcome to share the ultimate foundations of their worldview in the comments below, and make their case for why it’s a good foundation.

However, I’d simply like to urge my fellow atheists to not make so many assumptions about what a Christian believes. If you’re having a conversation about their beliefs system, making assumptions hinders a productive conversation, and you should ask on a case-by-case basis. While it may be far easier to lump all Christians into the category of anyone believes the Bible literally and word-for-word, that’s not how the world works. There’s a whole spectrum of Christianity. There are even people who believe in Jesus who don’t really accept much else of the Bible, and as atheists we don’t have any ground for saying that they’re not true Christians. We are not Christians, so we don’t get to decide what a Christian is. Therefore, we can’t know what someone’s “true” justifications are for their worldview. Instead of assuming their justifications, ask about their justifications and how they go about navigating their beliefs.

literal-bible

[Image: A meme featuring a person in a black shirt stating, “I’m an Atheist. Debate me”. The meme caption states, “Makes fun of people who take the Bible literally. Takes the Bible literally.”]

Perhaps this will lead to less confusion in the future. I remember one episode of the podcast where all four hosts were talking to dear friend of the show and Episcopal Reverend Alex Moreschi, who is about as far from a fundamentalist Christian you can get. His form of theology quite mapped quite closely to my former beliefs, and his beliefs seemed just as viable to me as any other form of Christianity (though, obviously, I hadn’t dedicated my education to those beliefs like he did). However, the other three hosts of the show come from a thoroughly fundamendalist evangelical background, and as such it didn’t make sense to them that a Christian could hold certain passages as non-literal. It was frustrating for them, because while Alex held the Bible as true, he didn’t appear to accept that it was literally true. They’d ask him about parts of the Bible that when I was a Christian I never would have accepted, such as the creation story, and become more and more baffled when Alex didn’t hold too much credence in them either. My other three cohosts left the episode entirely confused, but my experience of the ordeal was fairly routine, and I was just hearing yet another perspective on the Christian faith.

Were I to have that conversation again, I would like to ask Alex what he believed and why, rather than holding him to a preconceived model. Instead of asking him what he felt about evolution or Creationism, I would like to ask him what was important to him. From there, I would follow up based on what he says, and learn about his worldview based on him. I would love to have another recorded conversation to ask him about the foundations of his faith, and why he holds those foundations, instead of assuming a foundation and sticking to it the whole time, regardless of his position.

At the moment, I don’t know his foundations, and I don’t know the foundations for the beliefs of almost any other Christian. Is it faith, or is it The Bible? Or is it something else? The answer is going to be different from person to person, and that’s just how humans work. Let’s take the time to ask, and really listen, as we learn about each other.

The Fourteen Bible Passages that (Don’t Really) Address Transgender Identity

IMG_1924

Jeremiah Traeger

Transgender rights are now a large part of public discussion, which is good for a group that until recently has been invisible at best and completely demonized at worst. Since acknowledging that trans people are human and deserve to be treated as such would be progress for mankind in general, it’s conservative Christianity’s job to oppose it. This is done under the banner of “family values”, “tradition”, being against “sexual immorality”, and all the other meaningless dogwhistle phrases that they love so much.

 

It’s not difficult to find a pastor railing against transgender people, calling it immoral and against the Christian god’s plan. There are more transphobic religious leaders than you can shake a stick at. While they wave their Bible in the air, and cite scripture as the reason to oppose the existence of transgender people, there’s not really much that The Bible has to say about them positively or negatively. When I went to OpenBible.info, they listed 24 verses that (supposedly) address the phenomenon of transgender identity. A few on this list are duplicates, and some don’t really address gender whatsoever. When I took these out, what remained were 14 passages that address gender in a problematic way, indicate misconceptions about what gender is, or just flat-out don’t say anything relevant about the issue. While these verses don’t really make the case that transgender identity is “immoral” or “anti-Christian”, it doesn’t stop religious people from trying to use them to halt human progress. They are able to use these verses based on misconceptions and lies about what transgender identity means or what gender is When you actually are informed about these issues and concepts, you’ll find that these verses aren’t able to justify their hatred at all. For this reason, I’ve decided to expose these verses and explore why the Bible doesn’t actually have anything to say about transgender people or their identity, much less that it is a source of immorality.

 

Deuteronomy 22:5

“A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”

 

There are a couple things to unpack here. The most relevant thing for this post, though, is that it doesn’t say anything about trans people. A transgender person is the gender they identify with, period. Just because someone was previously thought of and referred to as a man does not mean that they are (or even were) a man. Conservative Christians probably think that this verse says something about trans people because so many of them think that a trans woman is literally a man in a dress. In actuality, a trans woman doesn’t violate this rule, because she is not a man putting on a women’s cloak, she is a woman putting on a woman’s cloak.

 

Of course, then you have to deal with the problem of knowing what a “woman’s cloak” is. For the purposes of this verse I’ll be charitable and extend its meaning to “women’s clothing”. Clothes just don’t have genders. The social etiquette that we’ve set up of pants being for men and dresses being for women is arbitrary. There’s no good reason that dresses are “women’s clothing”. Furthermore, it’s hard to compare between the clothing that we have in Western cultures today and whatever people were wearing in the Iron Age Middle East. The rule proposed here is ill-defined.

 

The only case in which it really makes sense to call an article of clothing a woman’s garment is if it’s an article of clothing that happens to be owned by a woman. British comedian Eddie Izzard is famous for cross-dressing onstage, yet when asked why he wears women’s clothes he responds by saying, “They’re not women’s clothes. They’re my clothes. I bought them.” If a woman owns an article of clothing then it follows that that article of clothing is a woman’s garment. So when a trans woman owns a dress, it is in fact a woman’s dress. If I bought the dress off her it would then be a man’s dress, since I am a man and I own it. I guess this rule might be pretty good if it meant, “you shouldn’t be wearing other people’s clothes, because they’re not yours!”  But even if that were the case, it wouldn’t have anything to say about transgender people specifically.

 

Genesis 1:27

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 5:2

Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.

Matthew 19:4-6

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Mark 10:4-9

They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.

 

These might be the most common rebuttal verses to the existence of transgender people. Again, there’s a lot to unpack.

 

For the verses found in Genesis, this is clearly a reference to the creation of Adam and Eve. “Them” is not mankind, it is very clearly two specific people. The Matthew and Mark passages also mentions this creation, but it’s also specifically within the context of a man and a wife, and even more specifically within the context of divorce. A follower asked Jesus specifically whether a man should leave his wife. None of these have anything to do with transgender people specifically. The Gospel verses do certainly enforce a harmful patriarchal idea with some strongly implied gender roles, but that would be true whether or not the man or the wife are transgender. Whether it’s Adam and Eve or a divorcing couple, being trans is a non-factor for all participants.

 

The only thing it really seems to imply about transgender people is that it doesn’t indicate that nonbinary people exist. Of course, any conservative Christian on the street likely has no clue that there are nonbinary/genderqueer/genderfluid/etc. people in the first place, so they probably wouldn’t be informed enough to even make this argument. Even if the verses mention that the Christian god created male and female people, that doesn’t mean that the god only created males and females. There’s a lot of things that exist that The Bible doesn’t mention: Neptune, the electromagnetic spectrum, mitochondria, etc., but just because the Bible doesn’t mention them doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

 

I’m going to get charitable as fuck here, so hold on to your tushy. Let’s assume that these verses actually do mean that the creator only made male and female. That still wouldn’t exclude binary trans people. Trans women and trans men already fall under the category of “male and female”. So in actuality, these verses say nothing. Until the new “Anti-SJW Version” of the Bible comes out and specifically states that the Christian god made Adam and Eve cisgender, there’s no reason to think the Bible says anything about transgender people in these verses.

 

Romans 1:24-32

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Leviticus 18:22

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

1 Corinthians 6:9-20

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

 

I mentioned earlier that some of the verses from OpenBible that I ignored didn’t address gender. These verses don’t really have anything to do with gender either so I could also choose to ignore them, but they address sexuality which is often tied to traditional gender roles. That’s why it’s worth addressing in this post.

 

Sexuality and gender are not the same thing. Heteronormative society and the Bible try and enforce the idea that the two are inextricably linked. Men fall in love with women, and women fall in love with men. That’s just the way things are.

 

Of course, we know that that’s not true. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, and otherwise queer people exist, of course. But that’s not out of a desire of trying to be another gender or pretend to be something they’re not. It’s merely out of an attraction to someone of a particular sex or gender that’s outside of an arbitrary societal norm that enforces heterosexuality. I’ve talked to Christians that were very confused about this. “If gay men aren’t trying to be a girl, then why do they act effeminate? Why do they talk all high-pitched? Why do they all like to dance and wear bright colors?” Of course, I have to explain to them that this is just a stereotype. You’ll definitely find a lot of gay men who fit the stereotype, but you’ll also find plenty who do not. There’s a reason that both bears and lipstick lesbians are important terms, since there are entire subcultures of people who have a non-straight sexuality, yet align with the stereotype for their gender.

 

It may also confuse people that “Transgender” is often lumped into the same category as Gay, Lesbian, or Straight. After all, why lump together dissimilar things? I’d argue that, for one thing, the confusion described in the previous two paragraphs causes people to treat trans people effectively the same as queer people. Ultimately, both groups eschew traditional gender roles, which is apparently scary as fuck for most people. This is a perspective I’ve learned from my dear friends Callie and Ari, who are both queer and trans. There are certainly more reasons explaining why the “T” is included in LGBTQ, since trans inclusivity is likely to bolster numbers politically for both movements. That being said, while both trans and queer people face many of the same flavors of bigotry, they are distinct identities that involve different life experiences, and it’s important to keep that in mind.

 

Deuteronomy 23:1

“No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.

Matthew 19:12

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Isaiah 56:4-5

For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

 

This may be the closest thing that the Bible gets to actually addressing behaviors that some transgender people tend to go through, but it’s highly misleading and inaccurate to say that it actually addresses transgender people. For various reasons, trans people often don’t get any reassignment surgery. In fact, apparently a majority don’t, such that trans advocates have put a lot of effort into emphasizing that surgery is far from the most important part of being transgender. The best that you could say about how well these verses address transgender people is that it addresses a behavior that some of them go through that the general population largely doesn’t. It hardly encompasses the entire transgender identity, which is just a state of having a gender identity that doesn’t conform with the sex assigned at birth.

 

The other point is that eunuchs existed largely to protect harems of powerful men, since they would be least likely to act sexually upon these women. There appears to be some debate on what the original Hebrew word indicated, but it appears that the word that the Bible uses indicates castration for the purposes of a career rather than identity. The Bible doesn’t really even indicate transgender people specifically.

 

There’s really not much more to say about that, but I do find it interesting that the first verse seems to be in direct conflict with the second two passages. It’s not exclusively contradictory, but it does seem strange that the god in question would ban eunuchs from entering places of worship on Earth, while at the same time having an apparently esteemed place in Heaven. Maybe I should give points to the Bible for specifically pointing out people who have been “eunuchs from birth”, since at least Heaven is apparently intersex inclusive.

 

1 Corinthians 11:14-15

Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

 

This one is wrong basically for the same reasons as the clothing-based verses previously mentioned. Instead of basically rehashing that, I elect to provide this image as a rebuttal instead:

jesus picture

[Image: Jesus, including his silken, luscious flowing locks]

Matthew 6:25

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

 

This is the point when it’s apparent that you really have to grasp at straws to find anything in the Bible remotely related to transgender issues. Clearly, the only relevant part of the verse is where it states that people should not be anxious about their body. This would be a nice sentiment if anxiety were a controllable mental illness, but it isn’t. If I could control what I was anxious about, I wouldn’t be anxious about anything. Yet I definitely am anxious about aspects of my life, so while I am not transgender I already disobey this verse, along with anyone else who has some sort of anxiety disorder.

 

That being said, in a sense this verse addresses trans issues far better than the “eunuch” verses already discussed due to the high rate of mental health issues that trans people experience. 55% of trans people experience social anxiety, 50% experience depression, and a large part of the transgender experience is the phenomenon of gender dysphoria. While “being anxious about your body” is too simplified a description for these terms, if you tilt your head and squint a little bit you could assume that the Bible is referring to these mental health issues. If the Bible is in fact addressing them, that hardly makes it better by telling people not to do these. These issues are largely out of people’s control outside of seeking treatment, so if someone has a disorder or condition along these lines, then they are disobeying Jesus through no fault of their own! It’s almost as if people are often designed to be born sinners by a creator that will send them to Hell through no fault of their own. Huh.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the reason that these health problems in transgender people are so prevalent is not because transgender people are inherently crazy. There is a narrative that trans people are going through life anxious, depressed, constantly upset, or otherwise out of their minds which should be discouraged. Trans people are capable of living wonderful, happy lives. It’s not the actual identity that causes the mental health problems, it’s the stigma. So just like we shouldn’t think of trans people as people who have had surgery on their intimate parts, we should also make sure that we don’t think of them as inherently mentally ill people either.

 

Galatians 3:28

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

Unlike the other ones, this is a verse that is touted by progressives as an example of the Bible actually supporting transgender people. If you’re going to focus on the one part of the verse that merely states that “there is no male and female”, then you could come to the conclusion that the Bible has come to the modern understanding that gender is a social construct. That would be awesome if it were true, but I don’t think that’s a good conclusion.

 

Read within the context of the verse, you also see other examples of things that apparently don’t exist. Galatians 3:28 also states that there is no slavery or freedom, and there is no Jew or Greek (since Jew is contrasted with Greek, I will assume that this verse is referring to cultural or ethnic Judaism, instead of the religious group). Like gender, these are also constructs. There is nothing in someone’s inherent nature that makes someone a slave, it is the fact that another human has imposed upon their autonomy. There is no inherent difference between someone from Greece or Israel, but people separated by distance cause both groups to develop different ideas, traditions, and values. Like gender, all these things may not exist as a result of someone’s biology, but they undoubtably have an effect on how we live our lives as a result of how humans treat each other.

 

The Bible is wrong about a great many things about reality, but again I will be charitable and assume that the writers of Galatians weren’t so foolish as to deny that people hold other people has property. After all, slavery certainly existed as an institution when Galatians was written, and slavery is discussed and endorsed in other parts of the Bible. Similar things can be said about the existence of other cultures. At best, this verse seems to imply that these differences don’t matter to Jesus, especially taking into account, “you are all one in Jesus Christ.” This is a decent sentiment.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t find this verse that reassuring, especially considering the emphasis on traditional gender roles you can find all over the rest of the Bible. For a book that doesn’t consider there to be much of a difference between male and female, there sure is a lot of misogyny in it. Women certainly are treated as dirtier than men from very early on. Women are certainly taught to be silent and subservient to men. Wives are taught to submit to their husbands. This hardly scratches the surface. There certainly are a lot of rules involved that go to great lengths to distinguish male and female and treat them differently. For this reason, even if this verse could in some sense support de-emphasizing gender differences, that support rings hollow within the context of the rest of the book.

When beauty becomes a curse

Image

Earlier today I was doing what every good skeptic should be doing; I was reading my Bible. I came across some verses that stopped me in my tracks. It’s not too often that I have to re-read a verse but these I had to re-read just to make sure they actually said what I thought they said and of course they did. After years of reading the Bible, there really isn’t much that shocks me anymore. I think I am more shocked by what people actually say than by what I read, but the verses I’m about to share with you had me shaking my head in disbelief.

 Have I peeked your interest yet? Good! Here are the verses…

When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her. (Deuteronomy 21:10-14 NIV)

Are you shaking your head? If not, you should be, because once again we see that women have little to no value in the mind of God. Let’s break this down verse by verse to help you grasp the extent of the ridiculousness. (V10) This appears to be the God ordained rules of war. God delivers the captives. I guess these people didn’t deserve God’s mercy or his compassion…figures! He is such a loving and caring God! (V11) I have a question; what if she is already married? What if she has children, will you take them in as well? Okay, I know I said ‘a’ question but I can never ask just one. Apparently it doesn’t matter how she feels. If you find a beautiful woman you can just take her. No big deal, just take her. Sounds like kidnapping to me, what do you think? (V12) Why of course she would have to shave her head and cut her nails, we can’t have her looking like the lady in the missing person’s poster now can we?

Isn’t it nice of her captor to give her thirty days to mourn for her mom and dad? The captors were so kind back then…NOT! So, kidnap her, shave her head, cut her nails, hide her clothes, then after a month of mourning, you can then rape your captive. I can hear the Christians now…it doesn’t say her raped her. I can’t imagine her giving it up willingly, can you? To me, that is considered rape. Then after raping her you can force her to marry you. Geesh, is that it? NOPE! We come to verse 14; then, only having changed her identity, raping her and forcing her to marry you, if you  aren’t pleased with her, let her go because after all kidnapping and rape are okay in the eyes of God so you don’t have to worry about any consequences. You can’t sell her (well that’s nice) or treat her like a slave because you have dishonored her. Really??? God calls what happens to the woman DISHONORING her! Isn’t that some shit?

How can women call themselves a Christian and claim to love the invisible sky deity after reading how he allows women to be treated? I will never understand.

 

Does God reward good deads?

ark

This is one of those stories that leave me scratching my perfectly shaped bald head. As a child I remember being told that God rewards all good deeds, but does he? Let’s see.

When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.(2 Samuel 6:6-7 NIV)

Well, well, well, look at how gracious God was for Uzzah’s loving attempt to keep the ark from falling to the ground. Does it surprise you that God killed Uzzah for trying to do a good dead? It doesn’t surprise me one bit because I’ve come to see God for what he really is; a hateful,  unforgiving tyrant with no appreciation for his own creation.

I can hear the rebuttal ‘s now as I type out this post, “you know nothing of God’s mercy”, “God’s ways are higher then our ways”, it’s the same old dribble, over and over again. The bottom line is this, there is no justification for God killing an innocent man for trying to save the ark. Where is God’s appreciation? I would think that God would award Uzzah, not kill him!

My Christian friends would tell you that his death WAS the reward because now he is living for all eternity with God in heaven, give me break!

So much for God rewarding good deeds. This is just another example of God’s lack of love of humanity and his deep love for killing.

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