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286 weeks ago @ - Words of Comfort: Lear... · 0 replies · +8 points

No, Ray. Someone can feel a sense of despair so intense that death seems like the best option and still be a Christian. Christianity is not a magic talisman that keeps its adherents from ever developing a mental disorder or from losing hope in the face of a crisis.

There are Christians out there who struggle with suicidal ideation. That does not mean that their faith is not real. It does not even mean that their faith is weaker than yours. It just means that they are suffering in a way that you, though good fortune, apparently never have.

I hope that you'll think a bit more the next time that you decide to write something that touches on suicide. Throwing suicidal Christians under the bus is thoughtless and inconsiderate. They deserve better than that.

319 weeks ago @ - Words of Comfort: Lucy. · 0 replies · +11 points

“Paleontologists have discovered a new skeleton in the closet of human ancestry that is likely to force science to revise, if not scrap, current theories of human origins.”

This is the opening line of USA Today article "Discovery Rocks Human-Origin Theories" by Tim Friend. It was published on March 21, 2001.

The article says that the then-recently discovered Kenyanthropus platypus lived 3.5 million years ago, which would make it contemporaneous with Australopithecus afarensis. (Friend uses the name Lucy as if it is synonymous with A. afarensis. I really wish that people wouldn't do this, since it could easily give less-informed readers the impression that she is our only A. afarensis specimen, which simply isn't true.) The article also says that Kenyanthropus seems to resemble modern human beings a bit more closely than A. afarensis does in some respects. It also mentions Maeve Leakey saying that she thinks that Kenyanthropus is more likely to have been a direct ancestor to modern human beings than A. afarensis, but that it's also possible that neither of them are our direct ancestors. The article also points out that experts have understood for some time that assuming that we can trace human descent in a straight line which goes back to Lucy.

So, to make a long story short, the actual substance of the article does not support the sensationalistic claim made in it's first line. There is no reason to suppose that Kenyanthropus would lead scientists to scrap current theories of human origins, since it actually fits into those theories rather nicely. There isn't even much revision to be done. It doesn't much change our understanding of when or where human beings emerged.

Reuters reported that the discovery left “scientists of human evolution . . .confused,” saying, “Lucy may not even be a direct human ancestor after all.” USA Today

Although Ray attributes all of this to USA Today, this part isn't in the USA Today article that Ray quoted in the first line of this post. I've found other articles from USA Today articles mentioning Kenyanthropus, but neither of them contain the words which Ray's quoted. This is incredibly sloppy sourcing.

Regardless, as I've already explained, the discovery of Kenyanthropus is not particularly confusing and paleontologists have long understood that A. afarensis may not be a direct ancestor of modern human beings.

329 weeks ago @ - Words of Comfort: One ... · 0 replies · +8 points

The Bible and modern science both posit a monogenetic origin for humankind. But that's where the similarities end. The Bible says that we are descended from an original ancestral pair of human beings who were created out of dust. On the other hand, science demonstrates that we evolved from earlier hominins. Science shows that even during the most severe bottleneck in our history we had a population of at least 10,000 individuals. We are not a very genetically diverse species, but we'd have even less genetic diversity if there had ever been a time when there were only two human beings. In confirming monogenism, science has established that just about everything that the Bible says about the origins of humankind is mythical.

It's true that the Bible does not endorse modern racial classifications, but that is hardly surprising. The modern concept of race developed with European expansion during the early modern period, centuries after the Bible had been composed. It's easy to avoid using a concept when that concept does not yet exist. When scientists say that the modern concept of race has no genetic basis, they are not catching up with the Bible any more than they are catching up with every other text written before the early modern period.

This is not to say that the creators of the Bible didn't have any idea of race at all, just that whatever idea of race they had, it is not going to match our idea of race. The men who wrote the Bible divided up humanity into different ethnic groups and told stories about the supposed ancestors of these groups. Some of Bible's writers clearly regarded their own ethnic group as superior to all others. They invented tales about their ancestors had committed genocide against other ethnic groups at God's command. They created laws which gave Hebrews preferential treatment over people from different ethnic groups. Not only did the creators of the Bible have something analogous to our concept of race, but parts of the Bible even condone something analogous to our racism, even if other parts seem to condemn it.

333 weeks ago @ - Words of Comfort: Anot... · 0 replies · +6 points

In my experience, it's more common for people to use "Jesus Christ" as a way to express surprise or dismay than it is for people to use it to express disgust. So why focus on "Jesus Christ" being used to express disgust and ignore the other ways that the interjection is used.

"Jesus Christ" is used as an interjection in English because England has been Christian for hundreds of years. The language that we speak today developed in a country where everyone was Christian. So of course most of our religion-based profanity is going to reference Christianity. This is not going to be the case with languages that didn't develop in areas dominated by Christianity. For instance, if someone who speaks Mandarin Chinese wants to express surprise, dismay, or disgust, they are not going to use the name of Jesus Christ. The fact that English-speakers use "Jesus Christ!" as an interjection isn't a sign that everyone despises Jesus. It's a sign that Jesus has been venerated by the English for centuries.

Even if you look only at the English language, Jesus Christ isn't the only name that's used in this manner. Holy Moses, Ray! Would it really be so hard for you make sure that what you've written is accurate before you post it?

342 weeks ago @ - Words of Comfort: Shak... · 0 replies · +5 points

"In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria." -- Luke 2:1-2

Quirinius became governor of Syria in 6 AD. He would conduct his first census during that same year.

If you want to argue that Luke is describing another census, then that census must have taken place after 6 AD. Luke cannot have been describing a census that took place earlier than that because Quirinius would not have been governor yet and Luke claims that the census was taken after Quirinius was governor.

I'll agree with you that the census described by Luke doesn't really match the census of Quirinius. But that's only because no census matches what Luke describes. No census has ever told people that they need to go to be registered in the hometown of their ancestors from 1,000 years ago. It just doesn't make any sense.

If Luke is trying to describe the census of Quirinius in 6 AD, he's wrong when he says that Joseph had to go to Bethlehem because that's where David was from. If Luke was describing another census, he's still wrong about that point. And if he's trying to describe a census that took place in 9/8 BC, then he's not only wrong about that, he's also wrong when he claims that the first census of this sort took place when Quirinius was governor.

342 weeks ago @ - Words of Comfort: Shak... · 0 replies · +5 points

Ray, the term "common era" has been in use for centuries at this point. The term was coined by Christians. It was not invented to "get rid of Jesus." It was later used by Jews, not because they were trying to "get rid of Jesus" but because the don't want to call Jesus their Lord when they don't think that he is. (AD is short for "Anno Domini" which means "In the year of our Lord.")

I generally prefer using AD/BC over CE/BCE, but that's largely for aesthetic reasons. I don't consider Jesus to be my Lord, but as far as I'm concerned AD/BC notation system has a life of its own at this point and the origins of the system and what the letters stand for don't really matter that much at this point. But even though I personally prefer the AD/BC system, I don't go around misrepresenting the people who prefer the CE/BCE system.

The people who prefer the CE/BCE notation are taking the religious implications of AD/BC far more seriously than I am. They take what AD and BC stand for far more seriously than I do. They take the words that AD and BC stand for seriously. On the other hand, I don't take it seriously at all. They care about the religious implications of AD/BC, whereas I could not care less.

The calendar notation system that someone prefers is not an accurate way to determine how devoted they are to Jesus.

342 weeks ago @ - Words of Comfort: Clea... · 0 replies · +9 points

If you think that the only reason that rape is wrong is that some authority figure said so, then you have an incredibly stunted sense of morality.

343 weeks ago @ - Words of Comfort: Dino... · 0 replies · +9 points

Also, I suspect that the "tail" described in Job 40:17 isn't referring to a literal tail. The preceding verses are focused on the creature's loins and belly and that the second half of Job 40:17 talks about its "stones." All of those things seem to relate to fertility. But tails don't have anything to do with fertility. If the word "tail" is taken literally, it seems completely out of place. But if we assume that "tail" was a euphemism for something else, then the thematic unity of the passage is preserved.

Other translations of the Bible once again seem to offer credence to this view. Where King James Version says "He moveth his tail like a cedar," the New Revised Standard Version says "It makes its tail stiff like a cedar." The English Standard Version says "He makes his tail stiff like a cedar." The Common English Bible says "He stiffens his tail like a cedar."

If someone came up to me and asked me what anatomical feature stiffens like a tree, I know what my answer would be. And it wouldn't have anything to do with tails.

343 weeks ago @ - Words of Comfort: Dino... · 1 reply · +9 points

Behemoth could not have been a dinosaur. Read the description again.

"The sinews of his stones"? What do you think that means? Well, one obvious meaning comes to mind. Since "stones" are not an anatomical feature, it seems likely that "stones" is likely a euphemism for a certain anatomical feature. It should be noted that the King James Version is a bit unusual in its use of the word "stones" in Job 40:17. Most English translation of the Bible use the word "thighs" instead. Since there are plenty of other Biblical examples of "thighs" being used as a euphemism for the anatomical feature that I'm thinking of, I think we can be pretty sure about what Job 40:14 is describing. And what Job 40:17 is describing is an anatomical feature that is exclusively found in mammals.

If Behemoth was a real animals (and not an imaginary monster) then it must have been a mammal. And dinosaurs are not mammals.

345 weeks ago @ - Words of Comfort: Imag... · 0 replies · +6 points

If God does not exist, then you obviously can't violate his law or disobey his will. And, since sin is typically defined as violating God's law or disobeying his will, if God does not exist, then sin can't exist either. This does not mean that the things which are typically categorized as sins do not exist, it just means that the category itself has no basis in reality.

If you are going to argue for the existence of sin, it is not enough to just rattle off a bunch of things which a lot of people categorize as sins. You have to demonstrate that God exists, and that He has a set of rules that He wants us to follow.