Friday, August 17, 2007

Bible Bending Conspiracy?

Michael Ireland, a freelance journalist who writes for ASSIST News Service, reports that Pat Robertson "has influence on both the East and West coasts." How so? By sending graduates from his university (Regent University) to Washington and Hollywood.

I have reported on Regent University's influence on politics before, but influencing Hollywood is different. Even if we allow that Robertson has sway in Hollywood (and it is a stretch to connect one writer and director with mild success to Robertson), it is Hollywood's job to sell what people are buying. Ireland's only revelation is that writers trained to communicate a message "through the lens of scripture" are creating a product that is selling.

Like 911 conspiracies that attempt to assure us that the White House was really in control all along, perhaps this "Robertson Factor" is about an allusion that some maniacal Right Wing Christian mastermind is in charge, not the free market. I think it might be time to stop playing "follow that Regent graduate!" and ask ourselves why we care so much anyway.

Cartoon by John Cox, posted in accordance with the Cox and Forkum Terms of Use policy.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Academics Fight Back!

Eric H. Cline, the archaeologist and historian of National Geographic, shines "new light on questions that have intrigued scholars and believers for centuries" with his new book From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible. Questions such as where Eden, the Ark, and Sodom and Gomorrah are located, and why mention of the Exodus is conspicuously absent from Egyptian records.

Although USA Today makes it sound more like The Da Vinci Code than SBL material, Cline presents a long awaited challenge to the community of biblical scholars. In the The Chronicle of Higher Education's podcast, Cline argues that "Bible studies have become dominated by 'junk science' (Noah’s ark found in Turkey!) because academics have yielded the field." To which I say, here, here! The field of Biblical Studies is in desperate need of a Skeptic magazine or the James Randi Educational Foundation to respond to this "junk." Or course, there is always Bible Bending...

(The above picture is from National Geographic's Kids News--an article on the discovery of what could be Noah's Ark in Turkey)


By this point it should be clear that figuring out "what the Bible says" and "what the Bible means" is a national pastime in many countries. When it comes to the Bible, everyone's a scholar and thanks to the Internet, everyone is also a student (albeit, not always a willing one).

I am not breaking any earth-shattering ground here. But in my defense, neither does Evil, the official website of The Church of Theists Suck. Its primary purpose is to point out the Bible's cruelty (or, in its own words
"to spread the vicious truth about the Bible") by highlighting instances of rape, murder, slavery and human sacrifices. It also counts 143 inconsistencies.

This need to vent about the Bible--its ridiculousness, its inapplicability to modern life--is an itch many have needed to scratch. And not just recently. Thomas Jefferson cut out all the bits he did not like, Mark Twain's wrote his own hilarious account and Robert Ingersoll in the late 19th century offered a large sum to any pastor who would preach the passages he chose.

It is an understandable itch. Of course, I have to ask the same question of Evil as I have of Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris: who is your audience?

The fire to talk about the Bible is coming from all directions. So how do we get light out of this heat?

You say "Allah," I say "Jehovah," let's call the whole thing off!

Or so says Tiny Muskens, the Bishop of Breda (Netherlands), who says that Christians should replace the word "God" with "Allah." While it works well in Indonesia, 92 percent of the Dutch are opposed to the idea.

The Chicago Tribune wondered rather 'God' by any other name would be just as holy. Many readers responded either with their choice words for God or by pointing out that the God of the Bible and the God of the Quran are different. Here is my favorite:
Sorry, but the God of the Christian faith is a different deity than the god the muslim faith!!!!!!!! It would be like having 2 children, but using only a single first name for the both of them.