Friday, October 24, 2008

Wake Me Up for The Truth

I got woken up today by my doorbell ringing. This is a rarity, so I jumped into some close and went upstairs: no one in sight. Then I noticed the piece of paper tucked into the door handle. I groaned and shut the door. It's an occasional thing that we'll get a service schedule from one of the fifteen churches within walking distance. When I went back out to retrieve it after sleeping some more, I saw that it was even better than a Come-To-Jesus-Meeting invite. It's a tract put out by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania for a book titled "What Does The Bible Really Teach?". Since I wasn't able to chat with the person who delivered this wonderful bit of morning tripe I'll have to make due with refuting it here. Why waste my time doing that?

Because it's easy.

The tract contains two front-and-back pages with "answers" to six of life's big questions that are posed underneath the heading, "Would you like to know THE TRUTH?". Each question contains a sentence or two about why the question arises, then a paragraph on what the bible teaches. I'm actually reading this for the first time as I'm writing, so let's break it down one apologia at a time.

Does God really care about us?
First off, the tract admits that the world is riddled with cruelty and injustice. It also states that many religions teach that suffering is God's will. This obviously isn't one of the Calvinist brands of Christianity...must be Jehovah's Witnesses. Under it's subheading for "What the Bible teaches" are the words "God never causes what is wicked", followed by verse references to Job 34:10, Matthew 6:9, and John 3:16.

But hang on...Isaiah 45:7, anyone? "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." ?!?!?!?! Even if you want to use your New World translations, you still are left with "I bring prosperity and create disaster", "I make harmonies and create discords", "[I am] creating calamity", "I send good times and bad times", "[I create] happiness and sorrow". I would have guessed that the only way to make sense of this was to hone in on one verse, then find others to match and conveniently ignore the ones that contradict that idea. Sermons are crafted by this approach.

Will War and Suffering Ever End?
More suffering. Again, the tract starts by using the Logos tool of argumentation that is concession. It agrees that, yeah, bad shit is happening. Let's see what God's Book says about it.

I have good news my friends! The answer is a roaring YES....but only when the world ends. The tract points to Revelation and Isaiah where promises of God establishing his kingdom on earth and ending suffering. So just hang in there, all you starving children, all you sick and dying. When Jesus brings the pork chops, God will make you forget.

What Happens to Us When We Die?
I was prepared to be sarcastic, expecting the usual drivel about Heaven, but here's what I found. I was so shocked I had to read it a few more times to make sure: "Most of the world's religions teach that something inside a person continues living after death. Some hold that the dead can harm the living or that God punishes the wicked by condemning them to eternal torment in a fiery hell. What the Bible teaches: At death, humans cease to exist."

I'm stunned. This is usually not something a Christian would admit -- but, are Jehovah's Witnesses "Christians"? It references Ecclesiastes 9:5 ("The dead ... are conscious of nothing at all") and says "Since the dead cannot know, feel, or experience anything, they cannot harm--or help--the living; Psalm 146:3,4". Yeah, that's about right. I didn't think I'd be saying that anything in this tract would be correct, but it seems they're right about this point...although their source is shady.

Is There Any Hope for the Dead?
"Most people who have died will be resurrected." Oh. So that's the tricky way you're gonna sneak it in? And here I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, you were onto something. Shoulda known better. Read John, Luke, Job, and Acts to see where they get their "credible information" on this.

How Can I Pray and Be Heard by God?
The tract tells you to listen to Jesus' words on not praying by repeating set formulas, but that "if we want God to listen to our prayers, we must pray in the way that he approves". To do that, we have to learn God's will and then pray accordingly. So basically, if you want me to drive you to the store, don't ask me unless I was already planning on going there. Only then would you actually have a shot at going. Gee, thanks God.

How Can I Find Happiness in Life?
Like all good Christians, the people passing out this tract target those who are unhappy in life. After all, there's no better need for religion than suffering, depression, or general sadness. And like most Christians, this tract offers the same old story: don't hold to worldly possessions like money, fame, or beauty, but seek spiritual (whatever that means) happiness. So don't worry about being able to feed yourself, or try to make a better life for your family; you should be focused on the spiritual realm.

This tract then offers a form to order the book, or to enroll in a program in which a Jehovah's Witness "friendly neighbor" will come to your house and teach you the Bible each week. Maybe I should...they have a lot of shit wrong with their flier.

Well, I guess that's all for now. It was simple to discredit this, and I somewhat enjoyed the exercise since I haven't done much writing since my gall-bladder episode (which, by the way, should be ripped from my body sometime next month).


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I Help Edit A Book!

Yep, a friend of mine on YouTube named Todd Allen Gates asked me to help edit his 2008 edition of "Dialogue with a Christian Proselytizer".

The book takes a different approach to talking with fundamentalists. Based on the Socratic method, Todd crafts a series of arguments that ultimately force the theist to question themselves. It's sort of a long approach, but getting a believer to become internally conflicted is much more fruitful then just attacking them "from the outside", so to speak. Anyway, it's a great read for anyone who is skeptical, questioning, seeking, or doubting (and I'm in the credits!).

Buy a copy today!

Here's Todd talking about the book.