Monday, February 28, 2011

Matt Dillahunty's "Leprechaun in the Box" Skit

This skit was made by Matt Dillahunty and performed on "The Non-Prophets" Internet radio show by Matt Dillahunty and Thad Engling.  I heard this skit listening through the archives of shows for about the fourth time and decided that this had to posted!  You can listen to the skit at (reproduced below) and following the audio is the script that Matt posted on a blog:

"I wrote the following little skit as part of an e-mail response and Thad and I read through it on an episode of The Non-Prophets. Several people have asked for a written version (and Martin keeps pestering me to post at the blog), so I thought I'd make a few quick edits and post it here.

This is very rough and I doubt I'll ever bother to update it to a proper 'final draft' - but, here it is...
NOTE: HUGE DISCLAIMER - the 'Agnostic' in this story represents a particular type of intellectual agnostic that makes assertions about the unknown and unknowable (and sends me countless e-mails) - this doesn't represent EVERY type of agnostic or everyone who uses the label. Many of us have used or currently use the word agnostic to describe ourselves without ever approaching the nonsense represented here.

A very sturdy looking box rests on a table as two men walk up to it…

Theist: That box has a leprechaun in it.

Atheist: I don't believe that...why do you?

Theist: I heard him talking.

Atheist: I don't believe that fact, I have no evidence that leprechauns exist.

Theist: Well, either there's a leprechaun in the box or there isn't, right?

Atheist: Right.

Theist: So it's 50/50...and since I heard him talk, I'm sure that there's a leprechaun in there.

Atheist: Either there's a leprechaun in the box or not, but that doesn't mean the odds are 50/50.

Theist: Of course it does.

Atheist: Actually, it doesn’t, but could you offer some evide...

Theist: Hang on! He's just told me that if you don't believe he's in there, he'll chain you to a tree after you're dead and stick his shillelagh up your ass for 10,000 years!

Atheist: Um, wow, but I was asking if you could offer some additional evidence beyond your claim that you heard him. I didn't hear him say that, by the way.

Theist: Well, you're not listening hard enough.

Atheist: Ok (listens)...noth...

Theist: Give it TIME! You've got to sincerely WANT to hear him...

Atheist: If he's in there, I'd like to know it...I'll keep listening.

Theist: Did you hear that?

Atheist: Nope, nothing.

Theist: You're either lying or you're so closed minded that he's not letting you hear him.

Atheist: Not letting me? Leprechauns can choose who can hear them?

Theist: Of course! He could open this lid, show himself to me...and you'd never see it, you'd think the box was closed the whole time. They're MAGIC!

Atheist: Well, do you have any evidence for any of this? I mean, I've never seen a leprechaun...I have no reason to think they even exist and every time you tell me how to prove it, the tests fail.

Theist: No, YOU fail. It worked for me.

Atheist: (Motions toward a handful of people to one side) Well, there are other people here who have tried this...and it failed for them.

Theist: Yes, but these people (motions toward a huge group off to another side) heard it. In fact there are WAY more people over here who will tell you they heard it.

(The Atheist moves off to ask them a few questions.)

Atheist: I talked to some of them...they all have a slightly different take on this. Some say it's a leprechaun; others say it's a fairy; still others say it's a goblin. They don’t all describe the same voice and they apparently have conflicting messages that they claim came from inside the box. Most of them simply said that they knew other people who claimed to know what was in the box.

Theist: Ah, yes! There's actually a troll in the box with the leprechaun. He sometimes pretends to be the leprechaun, or a fairy, or a goblin in order to fool those other people - but you'll notice they STILL heard something.

Atheist: Yes, some say that, but others don't.

Theist: Well, that troll sometimes blocks the sounds so people can't hear it.

Atheist: So, how do you know, when you hear the leprechaun, that you aren't hearing the troll?

Theist: Don't be absurd! The leprechaun is my friend; he makes sure that I only hear him.

Atheist: But how can you be sure...if you think there's a troll there too, who pretends to be a can you know? Maybe there's ONLY the troll and he's just fucking with you.

Theist: Now you're just being thick.Look, there's a box, right?

Atheist: Yup.

Theist: Now why would there be a box here unless there was something in it?? There MUST be something in it, right?

Atheist: No, the box could be empty.

Theist: No it couldn't, or there'd be no reason for the box to exist! Boxes are for holding things. We all know that.

Atheist: So you're claiming that the box could not possibly be empty?

Theist: Correct.

Atheist: And you don't see that as a flawed premise?

Theist: No, and it's confirmed by the fact that I heard a leprechaun.

Atheist: How did you hear him?

Theist: He talks to me telepathically.

Atheist: Oh, so you didn't mean to listen with my ears, you meant listen with my mind?

Theist: Your heart.

Atheist: That doesn't listen...

Theist: Your metaphoric heart!

Atheist: Ok...but that guy says he heard it with his ears.

Theist: He's wrong...he's hearing the troll.

Atheist: But I don't even hear the troll.

Theist: He's blocking you.

Atheist: do you know all of this?

Theist: The leprechaun told me.

Atheist: Ok, so you've made appeals to magic, telepathy, leprechauns, trolls and non-empty've offered no evidence. I'm sorry, but I don't believe you.

Theist: Don't forget the shillelagh!

Atheist: Right… and you've made threats about things that'll happen after I'm dead - when there's no evidence that there's any 'me' to experience anything after I'm dead. I just don't believe your claim.

Theist: What if you're wrong? Isn't that a lot to risk? He says he's got a pot of gold for you if you believe...isn't that worth believing?

Atheist: Look, even if I could make myself believe, which I can't, why would I want to do that? If there's no leprechaun in there, then I've wasted the opportunity find out what's really in the box. And if he wants me to follow his instructions...

Theist: Oh, he does...I've written them down for you, here...

Atheist: (Looks at the list) Then I'll have wasted time doing things that...does that say "Do not eat poo"?

Theist: Yup...great rule, isn't it?

Atheist: Yeah, but what about "Drop money in the box"

Theist: He's got needs too...pots of gold don't grow on trees.

Atheist: I thought he was magic.

Theist: He is...but, well, the money is so we can tell other people what the leprechaun wants.

Atheist: Why doesn't he tell them?

Theist: He could, but...well, he will, if they're open too it. Some, like you, are fooled by the troll.

Atheist: Why doesn't he get rid of the troll.

Theist: It's a mystery, but we're sure he will eventually.

Atheist: Anyway, if this isn't true, then I'll have wasted a lot of time and money on something false...only to avoid a threat that wasn't real.

Theist: Yeah...but what if you're wrong.

Atheist: Ok...look, I'm done. I do NOT believe there's a leprechaun in the box.

Theist: How can you be sure?

Atheist: I'm not, but I don't believe there is.

Theist: How can you say there's no leprechaun in the box!

Atheist: I didn't...I said I don't believe there is one.

Theist: Same thing.

Atheist: No it isn't...however, now that I've considered and rejected your claim...

Theist: Don't do it!

Atheist: I'm willing to say that I actually do believe there is no leprechaun in that box.

Theist: NO! You're making an irrational think you know everything?!??!

Atheist: No, I'm not claiming that I'm absolutely certain that there's no leprechaun in the box...but I actually believe, to some degree of certainty that there isn't...because if there were, I'd expect there to be some evidence to support it, and investigations keep coming up empty. I'll be back with some tools...we're going to open that box.

Theist: You can't open the box.

Atheist: Why not.

Theist: You just can't, it's impossible.

(Another person walks up)

Agnostic: He's right. Neither of you know what's in the box. You're both equally absurd to assert that you DO know.

Atheist: I didn't assert that I'm absolutely certain, I simply stated what my belief is...and it's based on the evidence, or lack thereof

Agnostic: Don't be're just as dogmatic as he is.

Atheist: I'm not dogmatic about this at all - I'd just like to open the box and find out.

Agnostic: The box is impervious.

Atheist: How do you know?

Agnostic: Um, well, I don' just seems impervious.

Atheist: Really, do you have other impervious things to compare it to?

Agnostic: Well, um, no...but I'm sure it's impervious.

Atheist: If you'll forgive me, as we're essentially on the same side in that we reject his assertion...

Agnostic: I don't reject it, I don't reject anything

Atheist: Do you accept his claim?

Agnostic: I don't know.

Atheist: You don't know whether you accept his claim?

Agnostic: No, I mean I don't know if he's right or not.

Atheist: Well, neither do I, but that's not what I asked.

Agnostic: The box is impervious

Atheist: Well, you sound just as dogmatic about our inability to know as he does about his private communications with the leprechaun

Agnostic: Now you're just being rude

Atheist: Look, I'm going to open this box

Agnostic: Silly atheist....

(The atheist manages to drill a tiny hole in the box...)

Atheist: Look, it's not impervious! I've got a hole here. We may eventually be able to investigate this in more detail.

Theist: You switched boxes!

Atheist: No, this is the box.

Agnostic: It's STILL impervious; your little hole doesn't give you enough information to support your claim.

Atheist: I can continue to investigate...and so far, there's no evidence to support the theist's claims.

Theist: You switched boxes!

Atheist: No I didn't.

Theist: Then, um...he's hiding. He needs you to believe without seeing him, so he's hiding.

Atheist: That makes no sense.

Theist: The troll has created an illusory hole that is providing you with false information about what's in the box!

Atheist: /sigh

Agnostic: That might be possible, I really couldn't say.

Atheist: No, I bet you couldn't.

The theist walks away, to tell other people about the leprechaun in the box.

The agnostic tries not to be anywhere near either of them, while secretly keeping an optimistic eye on the atheist's activities.
The atheist goes about his life, occasionally finding new ways to investigate the box, but he tries to enjoy his life while preventing the theist from ruining it by imposing the leprechaun's rules on everyone."

E-mail me at for any questions!  Also, feel free to leave a comment below!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Start of a New Week!

No lengthy post today!  Please, please, please e-mail me at so I may answer any questions you have!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It Takes More Faith To Be An Atheist!

To start off this post, I have to recommend this video:

When I suggest videos to watch, which isn't that often, I am really expecting that you watch the video.  I only post videos that I find to be extremely informative or helpful in aiding my readers understand what I am trying to get across.

The aforementioned video is tangentially related to the topic for the post today, which is "It Takes More Faith To Be An Atheist!".  This is is one of the most common statements I hear from theists because it falls into the category of arguments I like to call, "putting us on even footing".  The types arguments that attempt to put the theist and atheist on even footing include:  the "you have just as much faith as me!" arguments, the "your atheists groups are just like churches" arguments, and the "if we can't prove a god then you can't disprove it" arguments.  The purpose of these types of arguments from theists is to say that atheists and theists are equally irrational, have just as much evidence as the other, and have as much justification to believe as the other.

Many proponents of the "It takes more faith to be an atheist!" argument claim that for atheists to be absolutely certain that a god doesn't exist, in the face of the evidence that is this universe, takes an extraordinary amount of faith.  The first problem with this argument is that most atheists do not claim to be absolutely certain that a god doesn't exist, but rather they are convinced beyond reasonable doubt.  Using the phrase "absolutely certain" is utterly pointless when trying to sort out what we do and don't know.  We cannot be absolutely certain about anything and bringing up absolute certainty just ends the conversation.  Second, rejecting a claim that doesn't provide enough evidence isn't taking something on faith.  Recall that faith is believing in something for which there is no evidence.  Atheists are rejecting something for which there is no evidence for; the exact opposite of what faith is.  For more on this argument, see

E-mail for any questions or to start a discussion with me, or leave a comment below! 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rest Day!

I am taking today off, however I will still respond to comments and answer e-mails.  My week of three tests and two papers is finally complete and I deserve to relax!  E-mail me at or leave a comment below!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My PHIL140 Short Paper

This is my completed short paper for my PHIL140 class on "Is Pornography Morally Problematic and Does Pornography Have Harmful Effects?"  If you have any questions, concerns, or just want to have a conversation, e-mail me at or leave a comment below!

Is Pornography Morally Problematic and Does Pornography Have Harmful Effects?

Many critics of pornography (e.g. feminists, Focus on the Family, and politically right-wing Conservatives) have argued that pornography is morally problematic because it has harmful effects. I do not believe that pornography has any significant effects (in fact, pornography may even be beneficial to society; a point I am unable to address in this paper) and I counter three arguments that the aforementioned critics may have about their perceived ways in which pornography is harmful to society. These arguments are (1) that human males, if exposed long enough to pornography, will eventually try to carry out the behavior they find in pornography to human females in a real context; (2) pornography distorts human males’ perception of female sexuality; and (3) viewing pornography is inherently immoral.

Longino defines pornography as:

“verbal or pictorial explicit representations of sexual behavior that… has as a distinguishing characteristic ‘the degrading and demeaning portrayal of the role and status of the human female… as a mere sexual object to be exploited and manipulated sexually.’” (Longino, 42)
I believe that Longino’s definition of pornography is a sufficient starting point in defining the types of pornography that most critics object to, however I believe this definition needs to be broadened to accommodate other reasons I would think people would object to pornography. In addition to defining pornography as depicting human females in a “degrading and demeaning” manner, I am explicitly adding that pornography must treat human females as inferior and must necessarily be submissive to human males.

Those critics of pornography that wish for the state to regulate pornography are often citing harmful effects that pornography has on society. This has been a popular strategy in arguing for state regulation of pornography because, I would argue, that a harm based argument is the only proverbial leg these critics have to stand on. Other than showing how pornography demonstrably harms society in a significant way, critics of pornography have little hope for changing or legislating laws to regulate pornography because of the high value the United States places on The First Amendment. This is not to say that the critics of pornography may have a decent case for states regulating pornography on the basis that it is obscene, however the United States has vague guidelines on determining what is obscene. Examine the United States Supreme Court’s holding of the Miller v. California (1973) in which Chief Justice Warren Burger attempts to establish a set of criterion that defines what obscene materials are.
“The basic guidelines for [obscenities] must be: (a) whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, Roth, supra, at 354 U. S. 489, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” (Miller v. California (1973))
Take criteria (b) for instance, “…whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law…” I believe that a court would be more likely to start regulating pornography if there was demonstrable harm rather than arbitrarily deciding that pornography, as I have defined it, is “patently offensive”.

I am of the opinion that pornography has very few harmful effects (of those few effects, none are more than negligible) on society; much to the same extent as violent films and video games are insignificant in the harm they inflict on society. I am sure that critics of pornography may find this as a very strong and controversial statement to make, so I will take some time in dispelling counter-examples I find likely for my opposition to use against me.

The first counter-argument, relative to my position, I would like to dispel is that human males, if exposed to degrading, demeaning, male dominating pornography for long enough, will eventually try to carry out the behavior they find in pornography to human females in a real context. Cameron and Frazer address this fallacy by referring to this type of behavior as “[the] copycat model” or “…you see it, then (therefore?) you do it…” (Cameron, 242) Humans, being animals with the ability to rationalize and come to conclusions that may be contradictory to our natural instincts, have the self control to watch violent pornography and then not copy what they see. Cameron and Frazier believe (and I think they are correct) that:

“Humans are not like billiard balls – or indeed like animals, whose behavior can be described in terms of a stimulus-response model… [Human Behavior] is not deterministically ‘caused’. It needs to be explained in a different way, by interpretation of what it means and elucidation of the beliefs or understandings that make it possible and intelligible.” (Cameron, 249)
Human sexuality or the impulse to have sex is relatively easy to control and more easily controlled compared to animals, some of which show no reserve to act out sexually on the nearest potential mate.

The second counter-argument that is worth mentioning is from pornography critics that would assert that pornography distorts human males’ perception of female sexuality. Longino, among other critics about pornography, makes no reference to women who enjoy bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadomasochism (BDSM), to women who enjoy humiliating and compromising sexual positions, nor to women who enjoy degrading and demeaning behaviors from their male partners. I do not believe that pornography advocates indiscriminate sexual abuse with nonconsensual females, but rather, provides the same type of sexual gratification to those with BDSM/humiliation fetishes in the same way as sexually explicit material does with people who find sexual gratification in male/female consensual, respectful intercourse. I believe that most human males have no misconception of the fact that what they see in pornography is not necessarily what women enjoy. Pornography may be an outlet for which men, with fetishes that are impractical in the real world, may live out their fantasies. However, I do not find that these men with these particular fetishes are immoral. The men I would consider immoral are the men as a subset of these men with fetishes for pornography whom treat women as inferior “outside the bedroom” and sincerely hold sexist beliefs.

The third counter-argument in which a pornography critic would incorrectly find convincing is that viewing pornography is inherently immoral. I would contest the assertion that deriving pleasure from the viewing of two humans engaging in heterosexual or homosexual sexual intercourse, however demeaning, degrading, or dominating one sex or person is to another, is morally problematic. Consider this example, is it morally problematic if a human male or human female is sexually attracted to children that would be consider “underage” (under 18 years of age in the United States)? I believe that being sexually attracted to children is not morally problematic, but taking action upon real children to satisfy your sexual fantasies is, however, morally problematic (having sexual intercourse with someone who society deems unfit of making personal decisions and perhaps against their will). A person with a fetish for children may turn towards child pornography as a cathartic experience to prevent themselves from harming real children. I am not advocating child pornography to be produced for any reason (this would be immoral), but rather, I would advocate consuming computer generated child pornography (such as “lolicon” pornography). I cannot conceive anything immoral about human males and females being “turned onto” or having fetishes about having sex with children, so long as they never act out on this fetish.

Returning to the original counter-argument and relating it to people with fetishes for children, viewing pornography, for any reason one may choose to, cannot possibly be inherently immoral. I would assume that most people, including these critics of pornography, agree that playing first person shooters (FPSs) is not morally problematic. I have played and enjoyed FPSs in the past and, to be honest, never thought about the action of killing other persons via a video game. Mentally, FPSs are like engaging in laser tag. No matter how gruesome or disturbing the graphics used are, I am only thinking about the strategy similar to the one found in laser tag. Furthermore, I would never kill another human being and doubt that any of the other players in the game would kill another human being. Extending the analogy to the viewing of pornography, even if a person enjoys the degradation of women, demeaning treatment of women, and dominance over women in the context of pornography, I would not be able to make the claim that they are an immoral person.

In conclusion, although arguments that critics make against pornography that are harm based are the best arguments the critics have, these arguments alone still do not justify that states should regulate pornographic materials. I have attempted to counter three major arguments that critics of pornography may use as an attempt to demonstrate that pornography is harmful, namely that pornography is immoral, pornography distorts males’ views of female sexuality, and pornography encourages men to act on their sexual fetishes indiscriminately and with malice. 


Cameron, Deborah, and Elizabeth Frazer. "On the Question of Pornography and Sexual Violence: Moving    Beyond Cause and Effect." Pornography: Woman, Violence, and Civil Liberties (1994). P. 240-53. Electronic

Longino, Helen E.. “Pornography, Oppression, and Freedom: A Closer Look.” Take Back the Night: Women on Pornography. Lederer, Laura. p. 40-54. New York. William & Co. 1980. Electronic

Miller vs. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973). Full text of majority decision found at I find this source to be reliable because has full text copies of Supreme Court decisions verbatim.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My E-mail Exchange with Dr. Gourley

Over the past two weeks or so, I have been in e-mail contact with Dr. Gourley after he submitted a comment on my blog (see post, "Defending the Rights of Christians").  Dr. Bruce Gourley has a Ph.D. from Auburn University, is the Executive Director of the Baptist History and Heritage Society (, is the Online Editor for Baptists Today (, owner of, and has authored three books (  Today's post comes from our e-mail discussion and this particular exchange is on the nature of truth and the most accurate/reliable ways to discover it (shared below with explicit permission by Dr. Gourley).  I believe that this exchange is an excellent example of the kinds of intellectual discourse that atheists and theists should be having.  I hope you enjoy!


On the whole, I don't have any problems with someone following the teachings of Jesus if they believe that adhering to Jesus' teachings is the best way to live out their life. I would disagree, but that is a perfectly reasonable way to choose to live your life. However, Buddhists follow the teachings of Buddha and is usually referred to as an atheistic religion (i.e. a religion which has no deity they worship). So my question is, are you following an atheistic version of Baptism where you subscribe to Baptist traditions, teachings, and culture while not believing in its supernatural claims? Furthermore, if you accept the supernatural aspects of Baptism, such as Jesus' divinity, an omnipotent God, miracles, etc., how do you justify your belief? Thanks!



Baptists are all over the map; because Baptists have historically rejected religious creeds and hierarchy, there is no "official" Baptist position on ... anything. Truly, Baptists are among the most diverse religious groups in the world - perhaps the most diverse - representing some 250 distinct groupings worldwide, and within each grouping, a wide range of beliefs.

But, here's an interesting historical tidbit: in the ancient world, Jews were considered atheists because ... everyone else (read: animistic and other primitive, polytheistic type faiths) worshiped visible gods (or gods who took visible forms). Jews, on the other hand, worshiped a supposedly invisible God who did not manifest himself in nature's objects.

- Bruce


Similar to Jews being called atheists, Christians were also called atheists by the Romans because Christians didn't believe in the Pagan gods. You are correct in that I shouldn't make blanket statements about the beliefs of Baptists because their beliefs are diversified. Therefore, I would like to know more about your beliefs specifically. How do you define the supernatural entity that I assume you believe in, and why do you hold that belief?



How do I define God? Something along the lines of: mysterious, experiential, all-encompassing, ever present, ungraspable, glimpsed in Christ, allied with the poor and down-trodden, emanating compassion and love in its best sense, so forth.  I don't know of anyone, including the men who penned the Jewish and Christian holy texts, who understands the fullness of that which I (and many others) call God. But I do know quite a few folks who worship a God crafted in their own image.

- Bruce


Do you care if your beliefs are true? Or are you just content with accepting some of your beliefs on faith?



Truth is what I seek. Yet when it comes to God, no human or text can fully comprehend. So while truth I seek, I also know truth is only partially obtainable. We all see through a glass darkly, to paraphrase the NT's Apostle Paul.

- Bruce 


Well why do you believe the Bible has any type of authority on what is true or not? How is the Bible different than any other religious texts (i.e. the Qur'an, the Bhagavad Gita, etc.)? From my point of view, the Bible is not a credible source for the truth of the extravagant claims it makes. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In fact, except for a few historical truths (about place names and rulers) there are claims in the Bible that directly contradict our understanding of science. If you attribute these inaccuracies to metaphors that are taken too literally, how do we discern what is metaphorical from what is supposed to be taken literally?



Truth has many dimensions. The Bible is and never was a scientific textbook. Those who try to make it so are trying to force a modern mindset of truth upon an ancient text written at a time when truth (and knowledge) was far different than it is today.

- Bruce


How does truth have multiple dimensions? Sure, the Bible isn't supposed to be a science textbook, however when the Bible does try to make scientific claims (e.g. the Genesis story of creation) they are directly contradictory to our current scientific understandings. Although this would not dismiss all other claims found in the Bible, such as the supernatural, there should be some doubt cast on the truth that the Bible claims to have. I would agree with you that the knowledge possessed by the people who wrote the Bible was vastly inferior to ours, but that does not mean the truth has changed. Yes, their perception of what is true may be different and that is what science attempts to correct. However, the 'truth' about how our universe actually came to be is fixed. We can speculate as much as we like about how the universe came to be, but the 'truth' of how it happened does not change relative to when people are pondering the question. You referred to the Bible as an ancient text and that is exactly what it is. I have two questions for you:

1) Considering other ancient texts such as the Bhagavad Gita (came millennia before the Bible) and the Qur'an (came centuries after the Bible) along with the Bible, how do you determine (coming from my standpoint) which one is the most accurate and/or which religion I should subscribe to?

2) Suppose you are doing research and writing a scholarly paper on the history of the Middle East. After publishing this paper, a group of Muslim historians call you out and tell you that your work is very poor and obviously fallacious because there are things you talk about in the paper that directly contradict what is in the Qur'an. To me, you are perfectly justifiable in saying that the Qur'an's claims about history must be suspect because you have found contradictory evidence. How would you respond to these Muslim scholars? And how would your answer differ if a group of Christian scholars said your work contradicted the Bible?



Genesis does not make scientific claims; modern Christians force Genesis to make scientific claims.  Not until modern times (post Reformation era) have some Christians insisted that Genesis must be literal to be true. The "days" of Genesis in Hebrew are infinite periods of time; "Adam" (in our English translations) is not an actual man in Hebrew; the word "adam" literally means "earthling," and if you put Genesis in its actual context, it is talking about God creating earthlings over a great but unknown period of time. The rib story is not presented as fact in the original context, but a story-telling explanation of how man and woman are to relate. In their own time and context, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are two entirely different stories, non factual stories that harbor greater truths beyond mere facts.

In the larger context, and no offense meant, but you seem to be approaching the Bible the way religious fundamentalists do: that is, you want to make it an empirical, modern truth-based book.

Truth is far more than quantifiable fact, and is not confined to realm of science. It is found, just as readily, in poetry, ancient myths, other literary devices, emotion, experientialism, philosophy, the list goes on. Even in the discipline of history, truth has many (and often opposing) dimensions. Pick a recent historical event, such as: why did the recent revolution in Egypt happen? There is no one answer, no one truth. The truth is much more complicated, more multidimensional, and ultimately not fully known in this instance. There is not even a given truth for exactly how or when the universe came to be; if you follow current scientific thought, you are aware that there are various theories among scientists, including a theory that the universe has always been. In economics, the most learned economists disagree greatly over what is necessary for a healthy economy; there is no one truthful answer, and it is quite likely that shades of truth exist in the various economic theories of a nation's well-being.

I could even ask the simple question, "Who are you?", and you would only be able to partially answer the question, because you don't even know the full truth about who you are ... and you never will. (Nor will I as to who I am.)

Until one begins to grasp the fuller dimensions of truth - a difficult task for many modern, Western humans - he or she will have a stunted view of himself or herself, the world in which he or she lives, and the history (including the religious dimension) that has led us to this point in time.

- Bruce


Genesis does explain how the Earth was made. Animals weren't just placed on the Earth at one time, the Sun was formed before the Earth, a woman wasn't born from the rib of a man, do you think there is a talking snake?, where is the Garden of Eden now?, there was no global flood, there was no migration of species to the ark, and so forth. I know that I'm looking at empirical truths because that is the only thing that matters. Genesis, although perhaps you can argue is a particular elegant creation myth or piece of prose, is demonstrably false in a factual sense. Genesis was an attempt to explain the formation of the world we live in and how humans came to be. As I am sure you know, this is just one of thousands of creation myths throughout the world.

The reason most people don't look at the Bible as literal truth anymore is because they realize it is factually wrong. The Bible has taken a more metaphorical meaning. Again, I don't mind if someone picks out the good parts and decides to live their life based on the opinions of the writings of the Bible, however it is irrational to say that the Bible is entirely factual.

I am sorry, but I just cannot buy the, "Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are... stories that harbor truths beyond mere facts." What are these truths that you are talking about?

When I say science, it is just shorthand. Allow me to clarify what I mean by science. Science, in this context, is the application of skepticism, the scientific method, and critical thinking in order to better understand reality. Under this definition (and the definition I am referring to when I say "science") history, philosophy, and other academia, as well as science, fall into this category. So yes, I agree with you that there are way outside of literal science to discover what is true.

Using your analogies for the recent revolution in Egypt, the scientific "theories" (used in the colloquial sense; a scientific theory is defined by scientists as a well established model of something that encompasses several laws, pieces of evidence, etc.), and economics, I think you are actually in agreement with me. I am not claiming we know everything; I am also not claiming finding specific causes or best ways of doing something is easy (or if it is possible at all). What I am claiming however, is the truth of the formation of the universe, the truth for the exact ways and reasons the revolution in Egypt happened, and the truth for the best economic model to follow exists. It is impossible or nearly impossible to reach this truth. You said that, "there is no one truthful answer, and it is quite likely that shades of truth exist in the various economic theories of a nation's well-being". I am sure that there are many models of economies, that if implemented properly, would achieve positive results. However, there must necessarily be a best option, depending on what quantifiers you would use to define "best". "Shades of truth" are probably in most, if not all, economic theories, but by saying this you admit there is a truth from which these shades come from.

Your paragraph on the "Who are you?" question, I'm in complete agreement with you.  I agree with the notion that we must study, "the world in which he or she lives, and the history (including the religious dimension) that has led us to this point in time" as well as "poetry, ancient myths, other literary devices, emotion, experientialism, [and] philosophy". I love to talk about religion; it is one of my favorite topics to discuss. However, although these things may stumble amongst truths. The best method of finding/discovering truths as accurately as possible is the scientific method by far. By studying emotion or poetry we may find truths, but the tool set we use to find out if they are true or not is the scientific method or some close variant.

You also mention that truth can be found in ancient myths. I would agree that can be found (however rare that is), but we need some way to determine if these claims are truthful or not. It is not as if an ancient myth is a carefully calculated masterpiece of truthful claims. They are stories that are ad hoc in nature and can be as simple as someone writing a stream of consciousness. How does ancient myths lead us to truths unless it's by accident (which we won't even know until it is verified by some other means)? Consider this situation, for example: Suppose the Qur'an gives a detailed and correct account of the exact science of the chemistry and biology that takes place in a mother's womb throughout a nine month pregnancy. Impressive right? How would the culture of the 7th century know that this is true? They wouldn't. They would have to accept this on faith (a problematic practice in general) to accept this as true. In fact, they should reject these claims as true because there is no evidence to believe in it at the time (although now we know it to be true). The point is, we need some else to discern what is true in ancient myths, poetry, etc. and this is what I call "science".



If your contention that empirical truth is all that matters, is true ...then we live in a sad and hopeless world, it seems to me.

As to a literal understanding of the Bible: prior to the 16th century Protestant Reformation, few Christians interpreted the Bible (as a whole or largely) literally; allegory was the most common method of biblical interpretation prior to this time.

Not until the early days of the Scientific Revolution / Enlightenment did masses of Christians begin thinking in terms of the Bible as a literally-interpreted text. And only then did Christians begin forcing modern scientific truth/constructs upon the ancient scriptural texts. In short time, as modern science became the norm, believers began defending the Bible as science, or defending the Bible from science - the latter often utilizing scientific reasoning to prove the Bible's truth over science, ironically.

From that time forward, it has been very difficult for Western humans to allow the Bible to be what it is ... rather than re-shaping it by modern norms (of which many religious people, from fundamentalist to liberal, are prone to do).

- Bruce


When I say that empirical truth is all that matters, what I mean is that when we are talking about claims that people are trying to pass off as true, empirical evidence/skepticism/critical thinking is the most reliable way of discerning what is true from what is false. This is not to say that you cannot find beauty in things that are not 'true'. I find beauty in chess games, in nature, the girl that I love, in artwork, etc. I find hope in humankind, charitable acts, etc. These things (e.g. beauty and being hopeful) are wholly irrelevant when talking about truth. I am not sure how you can assert that if you accept that science is the most reliable way to discover what is true, then the world is sad and hopeless.

Perhaps I am incorrect in interpretations of the Bible over history (I am convinced that you know more about the history of the Bible than I do), but I would say that anyone who takes the Bible as literal truth is sorely mislead. I would even say that if your belief in God comes from the Bible you are mislead. There are good things about every religious text, however when looking at them outside the scope of being metaphorical, but still fictional, I would say that is harmful to an individual's understanding of reality.



Firstly, methinks you draw too narrow a box around truth.

Secondly, I would say there are good and bad images of God in the Christian Bible. Different Christians focus on different aspects.

And finally, I would argue that no one (even the most fundamentalist fundamentalist) interprets everything in the Bible in a literal fashion.  Anyone who turns to the Bible as a book of faith does so selectively.

- Bruce


I think the box around truth needs to be fairly narrow. There are people who believe that homeopathy works (excluding placebo), that evolution is false, and some people believe they have been abducted by aliens. If truth is defined any more broad then there is going to be contradictions. A pet peeve of mine is when people try to argue that all religions are correct or your theory about how the universe is formed is just as good as mine. There are statements in religions that are mutually exclusive, dichotomies that would have to be held at the same time. There may be true elements in all of them, but all cannot be 100% true. Speaking in a objective sense, there has to be a religion or scientific theory that has the best representation of reality. Drawing the box around truth any wider than I am leaves room for interpretation and when determining what is true, interpretation should be removed as much as possible. This is not to say interpretation doesn't have its place.  For example, you can interpret artwork to mean whatever you want, even if the artist didn't intend for it to mean what you perceive it to mean.

I agree. God does some terrible things in the Bible and He does some good things as well. Christians (usually) focus on the good parts.

Again, I agree. I would be scared if somebody took everything in the Bible as literal truth and we never see this (at least simultaneously). For example, people refusing to eat shellfish, stoning their unruly children to death, not wearing polyester, advocating slavery, and so forth. What I don't understand is how people decide what parts of the Bible is ok to follow and which parts are not. If they truly believed that the Bible is divinely inspired by God shouldn't they accept everything? This is why I have a certain respect for the Westboro Baptist Church more than most others. Even though their beliefs are crazy and are taken to extremes, every view they publicly share is supported by textual evidence from the Bible.

Yes I realize nobody follows the Bible literally literally. I should qualify my statement more.



And yet ... in most truth, there is some degree of interpretation. As professional historians know, history is interpretation. Historians strive for the best interpretation by trying to assemble as much evidence as possible, stitching it together (in a manner of speaking), and drawing a conclusion ... that will likely be revised later in light of new evidence ... and so on.

Conversely, historical interpretation detached from evidence is wishful thinking.

Science is a never-ending search for truth, because the more we explore our natural realm, the more dynamics and dimensions of reality open before us. We're always moving toward a greater understanding of truth, but not even science will ever unlock all truth.

In essence, the big question is this: since we humans are finite creatures with limited tools (natural and man-made) with which to examine the (essentially infinite) universe, will we ever really know the truth?

- Bruce


What I said was, "when determining what is true, interpretation should be removed as much as possible". I realize that some type of interpretation is absolutely necessary (for some fields of study) in many cases. I would just like to limit interpretation as much as possible. For example, suppose we find one piece of evidence for X during a certain time period for a location in history. Our first guesses about what X was during that time period for that location will inevitably be off the mark and require a lot of interpretation and educated guesswork. However, the more evidence we find for X, the less interpretation is necessary for X. Using a combination of critical thinking and research, we are narrowing the room for interpretation until we ultimately reach a sufficient amount of evidence that leaves room for no interpretation. We will then be able to fully and accurately describe X at that point. Granted, this is nearly impossible to accomplish and there will always be a need for some interpretation. Therefore, I agree with everything in your last e-mail! Just more to the point and eloquently then I have been saying it.

You asked "Will we ever really know the truth?" The answer is obviously no. However, that doesn't mean we should stop seeking it and it doesn't mean that some methods of finding truth are unreliable!



I think we have much agreement on the nature of truth. And I do wonder, say 100 years from now as truth continues to unfold, if humans then will know that some methods of finding truth that we now consider reliable - are much less so.

- Bruce


That is a very good question. I would like to say that I can't think of a way of discovering truth than is better than science. However, because I recognize that this is fallacious (being an argumentum ad ignorantiam,) I have to say that there could be a way in the future of discovering truth more reliably or accurately. Although, I have no idea how likely this is.



Actually, what I was thinking of is that scientific methods (broadly speaking) are constantly changing, and today's experts know that some of yesteryear's accepted methods of determining truth are not really reliable and/or are incomplete or fall short.

However, it is quite possible (as you indicate) that "science" (as we understand it) a hundred or two or three hundred years from now will be unacceptable in the search for truth, replaced by something that today we cannot imagine.

- Bruce

I hope you enjoyed this dialog because I know I sure did!  If you have any questions, suggestions, or you disagree with me, e-mail me at  If you have a comment specific to the content in this post (by me or Dr. Gourley), feel free to leave a comment below!  Have a great day!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

United Pentecostal Church International: The Apostles' Doctrine

Greetings one and all!  This is part five of my mini-series on the doctrine of the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI).  I am trying to get to bed early for my 8am class tomorrow, so I am going to breeze through "The Apostles' Doctrine".  This section, found at, is a list of many words and what they correspond to in their doctrine along with supporting Bible verses.  I will touch on each of the 18 words briefly.

The Apostles' Doctrine

Before I do anything; prove that that Bible is useful in discovering truths and/or provides accurate information!!!!  Okay, now I can begin.

"With sincerity we pray that God will grant the reader grace to accept the truth as it is in Christ Jesus."
How does Jesus Christ lead anybody to truth? What types of evidence are there that the Jesus character of the Bible is relaying accurate information that is infallible?

Wow. "[Gives] a true history of the creation of heaven, earth, and humanity...". Where is this true history in the Bible? Please show me where heaven is. Granted, heaven may be supernatural or metaphorical, however this means there is no distinguishing heaven from being supernatural/metaphorical or nonexistent. In layman's terms, please describe the differences, that we can verify, between a supernatural unicorn and a nonexistent unicorn (trick question, there aren't any). The creation of the earth, as stated in the Bible is just plain wrong. In the Bible, the "light" (or the Sun) was created after the earth. Now, through modern science (a reliable method of discerning what is true and what is bullshit) we know that the Sun, in fact, predates the earth (i.e. there was light before earth). Humans are a product of evolution, like all human life. Creationism has not been demonstrated and has no place in science. I will move on for the sake of time.

"There is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). He is the creator of heaven and earth, and of all living beings. He has revealed Himself to humanity as the Father (Creator), in the son (Savior), and as the Holy Ghost (indwelling Spirit). "
Prove it.
"God is a Spirit (John 4:24). He is the Eternal One, the Creator of all things, and the Father of all humanity by creation. He is the First and the Last, and beside Him there is no God (Isaiah 44:6). There was no God formed before Him; neither shall be there any after Him (Isaiah 43:10)."
Again, where is the evidence of this outside your Bible?
"Jesus is the Son of God according to the flesh (Romans 1:3) and the very God Himself according to the Spirit (Matthew 1:23)."
So God made a spiritual copy of himself on earth, to "sacrifice" (not a real sacrifice; sign me up to be tortured and crucified if I get to be a god in three days) Himself, to Himself, to circumvent the rules that He created. Furthermore, He is omniscient and saw all of this coming. God is pretty twisted.
Holy Ghost
"The Holy Ghost is not a third person in the Godhead, but rather the Spirit of God (the Creator), the Spirit of the resurrected Christ. The Holy Ghost comes to dwell in the hearts and lives of everyone who believes and obeys the gospel, as the comforter, Sustainer, and keeper (John 14:16-26; Romans 8:9-11)."
"Sin is the transgression of the law, or commandments of God (I John 3:4). The guilt of sin has fallen upon all humanity from Adam until now (Romans 3:23). The wages of sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:14) to all those who refuse to accept salvation as set forth in the Word of God."
"Eternal" in "eternal death" is a little redundant. I'll do a post in the future about the ridiculous laws found in the Bible such as not being able to eat shellfish, wear clothes of two different fibers, etc. and maybe your views on how Christians determine what is sinful will change.
SalvationHuman don't need saving from anything. Humans aren't inherently sinful.
Water BaptismPutting your head in water is necessary to enter into the kingdom of God? Next you'll say that babbling is a sign of possession by a ghost-like figure.

Mode of Baptism
"Sprinkling, pouring, or infant baptism of any kind cannot be substantiated by the Word of God, but are only human traditions."
This made me laugh. There's actually a way to baptize somebody wrong in the eyes of these people.
Formula for BaptismBasically just says that Jesus' name must be used.

Baptism of Holy GhostSpeaking in Tongues is evidence that your spirit has been baptized.

TonguesOh. You do.

HolinessSee previous posts on the doctrine of the UPCI.

Divine HealingShow me one case in which God has healed somebody. The first place you go to when you are hurt is a hospital; not a church.
Second Coming of Christ
Still waiting after thousands of predictions and two millennia?


"There will be a resurrection of all the dead, both just and unjust."
So now they believe in zombies.


Too bad there isn't an "I told you so moment" for atheists to tell theists after we all die.

Again, I realize that this is short as I am terribly busy. Please e-mail me at if you have any questions, comments, or just want to start a discussion. Or, if you prefer, leave a comment below if you wish to publicly humiliate me!People who "feel" the Holy Ghost, in my opinion, are being mislead by their dogma. I have no doubt that they feel something, however I believe it is akin to getting goosebumps when listening to a particular singer or eating something particularly delicious. Furthermore, even if there is a Holy Ghost, your personal anecdotes do not count as evidence. For example, there are living, breathing people today that claim they have been abducted by aliens (sometimes in entire groups) and seem to sincerely believe it. Do you accept their testimonies?

Monday, February 21, 2011

E-mail me!

I have a test tomorrow and a test on Thursday, as well as 2 papers due Friday.  Therefore, no long post today!  Instead, you should e-mail me at so I can answer any questions you have about religion, apologetics, atheism, science, etc.!  Have a great day!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

United Pentecostal Church International: Modesty

Hello all!  This is the fourth post of my mini-series on the doctrine of the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI).  The list of doctrinal positions can be found at  The UPCI's fourth positional paper is on "modesty" (see for the full article).


"Many times what we wear helps to mold their expectations as well as our own. When a woman wears an immodest dress, she begins to think of herself as seductive and acts accordingly. Other people perceive her as provocative and treat her as such, which reinforces her behavior. In short, appearance both reflects and to large degree determines what we are in the eyes of self and others."

Believe it or not, I almost fully agree with this statement.  The only part I would contend is where they mention, "When a woman wears an immodest dress, she begins to think of herself as seductive and acts accordingly".  I think they have the cause and effect mixed up.  A women who thinks of herself as seductive is the one who would wear an immodest dress and reinforce her behavior.  I don't believe that if you forcibly require a shy/timid woman to wear an immodest dress, she will suddenly become seductive.  Much like putting a seductive woman in a modest dress wouldn't make her seductiveness go away.  Sadly, however unfortunate it may be, people judge you based on the way your are dressed, how you present yourself, and how you look.  This is just reality.  I would prefer that the actions people take and values they hold are how we judge people, but we all make the mistake of forming an opinion of someone before they even open their mouth.
"God considered baring the leg and uncovering the thigh to be shameful exposure of nakedness. This gives us a good idea as to what God would regard as the minimum standard of modesty, regardless of culture."
Why would God be ashamed of our nakedness?  God must have self-esteem issues if He doesn't want us to be seen naked and we are made in his image.  Come to think of it, He is a jealous God that only allows a few lucky people to see Him.The basic reason for modesty of dress is to subdue the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.
"The exposed body tends to arouse improper thoughts in both wearer and onlooker. To implement the purpose behind modest dress, the body should basically be covered, except for those parts which we must use openly for normal living. This suggests that clothes should cover the torso and upper limbs. Reasonable guidelines, then, would-be women’s dresses over the knee and sleeves to the elbow. In addition, we should avoid low necklines, sleeveless dresses or shirts, very tight clothes, very thin clothes, and slacks on women because they immodestly reveal the feminine contours of upper leg, thigh, and hip. Likewise, swimming in mixed company is immodest. Since the primary effect of makeup is to highlight sex appeal, we reject makeup as immodest."
Sounds like the writer of this policy must have a fetish for natural looking, innocent women clothed with baggy garments.  Very similar to the fetishes of the leaders of the Church of Latter Day Saints, after all, Mormons wear "magic" underwear.

In all seriousness, it is very difficult to restrict the human body's desire to have sex.  Do you honestly think that sexually explicit thoughts are diminished significantly because the opposite sex is dressed more modestly?  Also, where is the extensive coverage of the ways in which men should dress more modestly?  Is a woman's lust less significant or less potent?  Although, I guess it makes sense because God is sexist.
"Conduct, gestures, gait, body language, and speech must be modest. If a woman wants to, she can display her body immodestly and act seductively even in the most modest of dresses. We must never use dress to promote immodest conduct, and no degree of external modesty can cover-up an immodest, lustful spirit."
Guess what, still isn't going to make men not have an erection every once in a while!  Sure, there is a culturally placed, arbitrary line of things appropriate for being in public and those things appropriate for the bedroom (with Christian groups such as Quiverfulls, Pentecostals, etc. being notorious for having excessive amounts of children, we all know these groups are not being modest in the bedroom). This being said, what is the problem with looking attractive in public?  What grave danger is anybody in that would justify dressing overly modest as opposed to having on a shirt that outlines your breasts?  I do not hold anything against the people who wish to dress modestly in public (or even privately).  This does not seem unsettling or weird to me at all.  When your cult asserts that the people that are dressing "immodestly" are filthy and unholy, your cult is pathetic.  In fact, I don't understand why it is illegal to be naked in public.  Personally, I don't think I would walk around naked in public, but I wouldn't mind if someone wanted to do that in the slightest.

It is imperative that humans, being animals, have sexual feelings for the opposite sex.  If you have sexual feelings towards the opposite sex, there isn't anything wrong or immoral about that.  When I use the word "imperative" I mean, "important if the goal is reproduction".  There is a reason that sex feels good and there are obvious evolutionary rationalizations for this fact.  Those animals that have more pleasure having sex are more likely to have sex.  Therefore, their genes are more likely to pass on (because they are having more offspring).  Restricting human sexuality is utterly pointless and having distorted views on sexuality is demonstrably destructive (google "Vatican and pederasty").

E-mail me at if you have any questions, suggestions, or comments!  Leave a comment below if you wish!  Have a great start to the week! 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rest Day!

I am taking a break from my mini-series of dissecting the United Pentecostal Church International's doctrine just for today.  I'll be back on track tomorrow!

Friday, February 18, 2011

United Pentecostal Church International Doctrine: Technology

This is the third part of my mini-series on the United Pentecostal Church International's Doctrine (found at  For a full list of the positions I am covering, see


Currently, the position that the United Pentecostal Church International (hereinafter, 'UPCI' ) holds about technology is that they hold no position on the use of technology.  The UPCI states:
"The [UPCI] has an obligation to establish standards of conduct when necessary, but it refuses to make rules for every aspect of daily living. Each Christian is responsible to God to maintain holiness in his life, for God alone is his judge, but the [UPCI] is also responsible to teach biblical standards of holiness."
The UPCI believes that it is incumbent to the specific Pentecostal man/woman to use technology so long as he/she remains "holy".  Well, this begs the question:  What does it mean to be "holy"?  The UPCI says:
"Holiness as a spiritual experience and a way of life is not an option for a Christian but a biblical injunction. We are to 'cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God' (II Corinthians 7:1). We are urged, 'Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God' and 'be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind'” (Romans 12:1-2).
Again, prove that the Bible is an accurate representation of the will of God.  I am sorry, but I have to mention this every time someone tries to use the Bible as a justification for something.  The UPCI gives this warning:
"As new media appear in the marketplace, the Christian must not accept their usage without evaluation of their impact on his spiritual walk with God. We are to 'walk circumspectly [looking around us], not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil'" (Ephesians 5:15-16).  
This seems to insinuate that if you encounter a type of new media that contradicts your beliefs about your "spiritual walk with God", you should automatically reject this new media.  This is the antithesis of skepticism, critical thinking, and science.  You should never start with a conclusion and evaluate where the evidence is leading you (with the possible exception of a reductio ad absurdum or assuming the conclusion as true to show how the argument is invalid/unsound).

Let's take a look at the positions which the UPCI has taken in the past (according to their own testimony):
"...the [UPCI] has expressed its concern that Christians may be influenced by the media to compromise biblical holiness. It has officially dealt with technology in three ways:

(1) allowed its use without voicing caution or disapproval (telephone, automobile, microwave, central heating, printing press, photography, computer, etc.);
(2) accepted its use with warning and restrictions (radio, video);
and (3) rejected its use as being unsuitable for Christians or for their homes (movie theater, television)."
I will address each case individually.
  1. This is the way the use of technology should be (excluding warning labels for uses that may be hazardous to yourself).  The invention of technology is a wonderful byproduct of science and the critical thinking that accompanies science.  We have improved medicine, this laptop that I am using to write this post, the Internet which is used as the proverbial public marketplace for the exchange of ideas, telephones, electricity, and so forth because of science.  We know Christianity has historically been against scientific progress (examine the Dark Ages), but we have been dragging religion kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
  2. I am not quite sure why radio and video need to be warned against and restricted.  Perhaps the UPCI is afraid of atheistic/devil inspired programming such as the Internet radio show The Non-Prophets or YouTube videos from popular atheists such as thunderf00t and AronRa.  Why would the UPCI need to shelter its members from these sorts of un-Christian materials?  Are they so dogmatic as to not even consider other points of view?
  3. Well too bad none of those people will be able to read these doctrinal positions without the use of their computer.
Overall, allowing for Pentecostal Christians to use technology when they see the use as appropriate is good enough for me.  Technology should never be restricted unless when, in extreme cases, the use of which will inevitably lead to excessive amounts of harm (e.g. releasing the blueprints on exactly how to build an atomic bomb). 

I apologize for the brevity of this post, however the task of arguing against these particular positions is pointless if their only leg to stand on is their Bible.  They should make a statement about how they know that the Bible is an accurate representation of God's will, history, and infallible; then my post would take days instead of hours to write!

As usual, e-mail me at or leave a comment below!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

United Pentecostal Church International Doctrine: Homosexuality

This next section of the mini-series is on homosexuality.  Recall that I am systematically addressing each of the position papers of the UPCI located at and today's topic is homosexuality.  The entirety of this paper is one sentence spread out between 4 paragraphs (an homage to the Bible perhaps?) so this post will be shorter than some others may be.


I may as well include the entire positional statement from the UPCI on homosexuality because of its brevity.

"Inasmuch as some segments of liberal Christianity have expressed a willingness to accept the so-called 'gay rights' movement as a legitimate lifestyle, and

Whereas the inerrant, inspired Word of God emphatically declares, in Romans chapter I, homosexuality to be vile, unclean, unnatural, unseemly, and an abomination in the sight of God, and

Whereas the United Pentecostal Church International is a fundamental Bible-believing organism entrusted with a divine destiny to provide spiritual direction to a wayward world,

Let us therefore resolve that the United Pentecostal Church International go on public record as absolutely opposed to homosexuality and condemn it as a moral decadence and sin, and do hereby encourage prayer for the deliverance of those enslaved by that satanic snare." (
Let us go line by line to dissect this.
"...some segments of liberal Christianity have expressed a willingness to accept the so-called 'gay rights' movement as a legitimate lifestyle..."
Good for them!  I question why the phrase "so called 'gay rights' movement" is used, as if this movement was insignificant or meaningless (which it's not).  Also, who are you to determine what type of lifestyle is "legitimate"?  It is almost like this is implying that being a homosexual is a lifestyle choice that should be condemned and corrected.  Why would, if it is even possible, try to "cure" someone of being a homosexual?  What is so threatening to you if two people of the same sex are attracted to one another?

"Whereas the inerrant, inspired Word of God emphatically declares, in Romans chapter I, homosexuality to be vile, unclean, unnatural, unseemly, and an abomination in the sight of God"
From here to the end of this post you will have to pardon my language.  There is a time and place in which profanities are useful and, although I rarely use them, this type of post makes me extremely passionate for the work I do as a blogger and activist of human rights.  First of all (and I will mention this every time the "Good Book" comes up), please present the evidence that demonstrates that the Bible is the "inspired Word of God".  Until then, don't use it as a means of authority.  However, even though the Bible is just a book, like all other books, I can refer to the God of the Bible as part of literary criticism.  Therefore, your God is a dick.  Plain and simple, your God (speaking towards the UCPI's view of God) is an immoral, vindictive, homophobic prick as described in the Bible.  First of all, according to your beliefs, God made them this way, so unless you want to defy God's will, just leave them alone.  Sure, you could say that God made them homosexuals as a test to overcome the devil and lead them to Christ.  However, for all those homosexuals that stick to that sexual preference, God is all-knowing and would have already have known that they weren't going to change.  If God, sends them to Hell for not changing when He knew they wouldn't, he is still a dick.  Enough with the apologetics for now.  These are the probably the same people who try to legislate against homosexuals (i.e. prevent same-sex marriage, keeping homosexuals outside the military, etc.).  Show me the homosexuals that are attempting to force people to be homosexual.  It is not as if your personal freedoms are being restricted by homosexuals; they aren't running around yelling about how heterosexuals are immoral people.  The attacks on homosexuals by churches show the bigotry and xenophobic views of a not just corrupt, but morally bankrupt organization.  My deity, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, says that all people who enjoy vaginal intercourse are "vile, unclean, unnatural, unseemly, and an abomination in the sight of the Invisible Pink Unicorn."  Therefore, these people deserve less rights (even if they aren't subscribed to my specific religion) and anal and oral sex should be the only type of sexual intercourse permissible under the law!  It's absurd.  Nobody outside your religion gives a rat's ass about what your God thinks.  Unless the homosexuals are voluntarily part of your club, you have no right to legislate laws against them.
As a side note, I fully respect the rights of the members of the UPCI's to hold these views about homosexuals.  However, I think they are immoral for doing so.

"Whereas the United Pentecostal Church International is a fundamental Bible-believing organism entrusted with a divine destiny to provide spiritual direction to a wayward world"
One, your divine destiny is no more important then a divine destiny of Sunni Muslims, of Baptists, of Sikhs, etc.  Two, organism makes very little sense in this context even as a metaphor.  Three, prove that your Bible has any authority whatsoever!!  Four, the world may be "wayward" in some aspects, but you're more wayward when it comes to views about homosexuals.

"Let us therefore resolve that the United Pentecostal Church International go on public record as absolutely opposed to homosexuality and condemn it as a moral decadence and sin, and do hereby encourage prayer for the deliverance of those enslaved by that satanic snare."

You may go ahead and think that homosexuality is "a moral decadence and sin", but you only have the Bible to work from.  Yet again, prove your Bible has any authority when it comes to moral issues.  You can believe as strongly as you want that homosexuals are an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, but it doesn't make it true.  I do encourage prayer in order to cure homosexuals though; as long as this is all you do.  That way, the act of praying will accomplish absolutely nothing in restricting homosexuals' rights and you won't be wasting anyone's time but your own.

Please e-mail me at, preferably if you would like to have an extended conversation.  If you wish to correct me or to make a quick, substantive point, feel free to leave a comment below!  Have a spectacular day!
I addressed this earlier but I will reiterate.  The only "satanic snare" there is, from a theological/apologetic viewpoint, is either imposed by God Himself, or purposefully ignored by God and left to Satan to do as he pleases.  God is at fault in both instances.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

United Pentecostal Church International Doctrine: Computers & the Internet

Hello everyone!  About a week and a half ago I did a review of one of Antioch's church services (see:  "Antioch Pentecostal Church:  Arnold, Maryland Congregation").  Antioch is affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church International and this afternoon I took some time to look at their position statements on some issues (which they call their doctrine).  The condensed version can be found at  I would like to go down the list of topics the UPCI have included and inject my point of view.  However, I am only going to do one or two  positions a day, so I will have post topics for the next week and a half or so.  When I state the position paper that I am responding to in the post:  go to the aforementioned website; click on the topic that I will give in the title verbatim; lastly, click on Full Article.  These posts will be kept brief so I can still focus on my studies while still publishing posts with some substance.  I hope you enjoy this mini series!

Computers & the Internet

Overall, this position paper gives generally good advice on how to maintain a safe, Internet friendly environment for children to be apart of.  Sadly, I believe that the advice given in this article is aimed towards Pentecostal adults as well.  The author uses fear mongering to sway the readers from accessing "lewd, pornographic, [and] dangerous" webpages that are ill-defined.  I am curious what webpages the author would classify as lewd or dangerous (and I am not going to speculate), but, leaving that aside, I do not see anything inherently immoral or wrong about adults viewing adult pornography.  Could somebody please tell me what is so wrong about viewing sexually explicit material (yes, even hardcore pornography)?  Also, saying, "Many people have been unwittingly snared into corruption by participating in [chat rooms and e-mails]" is just as idiotic as me saying, "Many people have been unwittingly snared into becoming pedophiles by participating in the Christian religion."  Perhaps this is a horrible analogy because of the frequency the clergy practices pederasty, but the point is that just because it has happens once doesn't mean that many e-mail/chat room users will be "snared into corruption".  The author is trying to scare the reader from something that just isn't there. 

The position paper goes on to list five guidelines to "monitor the access and use of the Internet."  I will address each of the five below:
  1. Placement of the computer
For young children I would say that the author gives good advice.  Parents, at some level, should casually monitor the websites their children are browsing.  However, when the child is older, what constitutes the "wrong use" of the computer?  I was fairly lucky in the breath of websites I was allowed to view, but I feel I was restricted too much in the amount of time I was allowed to be online.  The Internet is one of the best tools for young people to learn.  Books definitely have their place in the development of children seeking knowledge, but, in contrast, the Internet allows the child to skip around the Internet to learn about whatever topic they wish.  My knowledge of counter-apologetics and religious studies comes from this type of learning.

    2.   Blocking software

Again, good advice for families with children, but bad for adolescents.

    3.   Shared passwords

Good advice

    4.    Log of visited sites

Evaluations of the websites for children view once they are maturing is a bit excessive.  I would want my child to feel like he/she is entitled to view whatever interests them, albeit pornography, Christianity, Nazism, civil rights movements, homeopathy, etc.  I learn this way and find it to be beneficial.  I don't want to make excuses and have parent to child "talks" on topics I am not comfortable in having yet.  I may have a conversation with my child about what he/she may find on the Internet, however I would let them make their own decisions on what they want to view.  In addition, it is none of my business what my child views.  Of course I would always be there to talk to them about whatever they would like, but I won't try to sway them towards anything; even atheism.  The beauty about being a skeptic and holding rational beliefs, you aren't afraid of someone doing too much research on the subject.  There is a reason why churches encourage their own versions of science classes and restrict children from the information found on the Internet.

    5.   Time-Consuming

Moderately good advice, however I think that my amount of "too much time spent on the Internet" and their amount are radically different.

The last paragraph is a bunch of nonsense.  Stop being afraid of "your people" to go out and learn about other points of view.  What are you scared of if your church is already the correct path?  Shouldn't it be obvious even if your children and you learn about other views?  I am worried that there might be kids out there that won't be able to learn about evolution, skepticism, science, critical thinking, and atheism for the sole reason that their family is keeping them insulated from these things.  Whether or not they accept them is a different matter, but they should at least be able to learn about them.

Thanks for reading!  E-mail me at or leave a comment below if you have any questions or you disagree!  Also, inform me on whether or not you enjoyed this type of post!  Have a great day!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Science has an Agenda!

The "Science vs. Religion debate" is a very popular topic in social media nowadays.  Science and religion, no matter what some people say, obviously conflict with each other in some areas.  The question religious people need to answer is, do I accept where the evidence collected from scientists leads us or do I accept what my fellow religious adherents believe whether their views conflict with science or not?  I, for one, choose to follow where the evidence leads me.  Of the two (science and religion), science is the one that consistantly comes up for the best models of how the world works, finds the most answers, and adds to our ever-increasing knowledge of the universe.  What has religion accomplished?  Catholicism was responsible for the Dark Ages and the Roman Inquisition confined Galileo Galilei (one of the fathers of modern science) to house arrest for the last 10 years of his life because he said that the Earth was not the center of the universe.  The Middle East used to be the most scientifically advanced region in the world during the Middle Ages, but now many Islamic sects have many anti-scientific views (i.e. Creationism, distorted views of the comsos, rejection of evolution as a scientific theory, etc.).  Scientology, ironically, has ideas about the universe so far from reality, I must insert a quotation from wikipedia:

In the OT levels, Hubbard explains how to reverse the effects of past-life trauma patterns that supposedly extend millions of years into the past. Among these advanced teachings is the story of Xenu (sometimes Xemu), introduced as the tyrant ruler of the "Galactic Confederacy." According to this story, 75 million years ago Xenu brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners, stacked them around volcanoes and detonated hydrogen bombs in the volcanoes. The thetans then clustered together, stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to do this today. Scientologists at advanced levels place considerable emphasis on isolating body thetans and neutralizing their ill effects. (Wikipedia,

By the way, yes Scientologists, I am making fun of your beliefs.  Feel free to sue me if you please!

The point is that religions around the world have conflicting views and cannot be simultaneously correct.  Additionally, find me the series of claims from a specific religion that is consistent with scientific findings before science discovered them and I will be impressed.  Science and religion are not compatible.  Some people realize that science and their religious views about the universe do not coincide and therefore attempt to assert that "Science has an agenda in which they won't support anything that has to do with religion!"  This is utterly false.  If a scientist found concrete evidence for the existence of, let's say, God.  Imagine the hundreds of thousands of dollars in research money and grants that scientist would be getting from the Vatican, various protestant denominations, Mormans, etc.  If I was a scientist, finding the proof of the existence of a god or evidence that lends credence to a specific religion would be monumental to my career!  The reason that scientific views are not compatible with religious ones is because there is no extrabiblical or scientific evidence for most religious views!!  There isn't an agenda; finding evidence of a religious nature would be incorporated into our understanding of the natural world and would eventually be accepted by virtually all scientists if the research was accurate and compelling.  However, none is being found.

Please e-mail me at or leave a comment below!  Have an awesome day!  

Monday, February 14, 2011

Another Short Post

I had four classes today and I was really busy (being Monday and the start of a new school week).  Tomorrow's post is going to be on, "Science has an Agenda!"  Please e-mail me at or leave a comment below! 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chess Tournament Today!

Round one of the Free State Chess League and I won my first game against a 2010 rated opponent. I am publishing this post from a different dorm building than my own because we are going over our games and playing more chess. Sorry about the short post today! E-mail me at or leave a comment below and I will answer you tomorrow! Have a great Monday!

God is the Reason that the Seasons Change!

Today's topic was specifically asked for by my sister and fellow atheist.  She informed me that she once went to church and the speaker said that God was the reason for the seasons changing.  She told me that she thought this was "stupid" and wanted my opinions on it.

These kinds of statements (like "God is the Reason that the Seasons Change!") dovetail into, what I like to call, the "Look at the trees!" fallacy.  This fallacy usually begins with the theist stating that there is a type of order in the universe that could only be the work of an intelligent designer.  The theist then points to the trees and nature and asks how these organisms could have about any other way but through God.  This is called the "Argument for Design" (see: for more information).  More recently, Bill O'Reilly said that God exists because "the tide goes in, the tide goes out; the sun comes up, the sun goes down; and there is never a miscommunication."  Please watch -  Mr. O'Reilly is the very definition of forming a conclusion (i.e. God exists) and then doing everything you can to stretch your "evidence" in any way you can to fit that conclusion.  He was called out on his "tides go in, tides go out" mantra and then just asked, "Well how did the moon get there?" and "Why doesn't Mars have a moon?".  Well Mr. O'Reilly, Mars has two moons and the moon is where it is today due to a massive collision with the Earth and another, perhaps larger, celestial body.  We do know these answers due to scientific inquiry.  However, your response would most likely be, "Well how did Mars' moons get there?" and "What made the other celestial body hit the Earth?" (begging the question as usual).  O'Reilly is attempting to push science farther and farther back until scientists are forced to say, "We don't know" to which O'Reilly will exclaim, "Aha!  Therefore God must have done that!".  This is called the argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy; or, an argument from ignorance.  Just because scientists don't yet know the answer to a question does not give O'Reilly any justification to assert that a deity had something to do with it.  In order to show that a deity did anything you must have proof.  If you don't have any proof for your hypothesis then you must disprove the nearly infinite amount of other theories, which is impossible.

Back to God making the seasons change, I would suggest the speaker at that church to examine the plethora of scientific research that explains the tilting of the Earth, the specific orbit the Earth takes around the Sun, the climate patterns/weather systems in the hemispheres, etc.  The speaker would then probably assert that, "God is present in all things and He made the processes which change the seasons."  Well, show me that a God is necessary and sufficient in making the processes/constants in the universe.  We have knowledge of many observances that we have of our universe.  For every one we don't have, theists try to insert a god into those holes (i.e. the God of the Gaps fallacy).  The universe acts exactly as we would expect it to if there was no god pulling the strings.  When we couldn't explain thunder, we had Thor; when we couldn't explain lightning, we had Zeus; when we couldn't explain the rising and setting of the sun, we had Apollo.  So Mr. O'Reilly, to answer your question about the sun rising and setting, Apollo and his chariot pull the sun across the sky everyday without any miscommunications.  I will end the post with a quote: 
"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going." (Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design)
If you have any questions, concerns, or if you disagree with me e-mail me at or leave a comment below! 

I hope this was sufficient enough for my sister...

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Hermaneutical Research Paper

Good news everyone!  My Calculus II test I took today was relatively easy.  To post something a little more "out of the box", I have, included below, a final paper for my ENGL278M (Metaphors in the Bible) class.  I earned a perfect score on this paper and got an A+ in the class as a final grade.  Although this is not my finest work, please enjoy!  E-mail me at or leave a comment below for any reason; I'll be happy to talk to you!

Biblical metaphors, as used in this essay, are a collection of symbols or comparisons that correspond to underlying meanings found throughout the Christian Bible. These biblical metaphors can also be lingering in movies, whether the director, producer, or writer wanted it to be intentional or not. However, John R. May believes that the important aspect to realize is not “religion in film” but rather “religion and film”. May states that his interests are in “the way in which the scene symbolizes the ‘handing on’ of knowledge or insight: and in this sense it is a metaphor that speaks directly to our contemporary concern about the interrelationship of religion and film.” (May, 23) Following May’s belief in ‘the force of interdisciplinary tradition’, I am going to analyze a biblical passage and its role within a movie, not just where it is found in the movie (i.e. analyzing the “religion and film” not the “religion in film”). After the analysis of both the biblical passage and movie, a commentary on reader response theory will be supplemented. I will first begin with the biblical verse that presents the metaphors found in the movie I will analyze farther along in this essay.

A reoccurring metaphor found throughout the Bible is the metaphor involving a garden. This metaphor can be seen in the passage, “For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.” (Isaiah 1:30) First we will examine the latter half of the passage, “… and as a garden that hath no water.” In this instance, the Prophet Isaiah is comparing the decline of the Jewish nation to a dried garden. During the time of the prophet Isaiah, Israel is experiencing invasions from the Kingdom of Assyria. After Israel is invaded by the Assyrians, Syria and Israel ask Judah to join an alliance against Assyria. After Judah refuses, Syria and Israel besiege Jerusalem, (the capital of Judah). Twenty years later, Assyria also lays siege to Jerusalem. (Hiers, 94) These events (ca. 738-714 B.C.) are obviously threatening a Jewish nation. Based on the aforementioned events, the metaphor of a garden (which is usually depicted as prosperous, green, and lively) that has no water (can be seen as dry, solemn, brown or dark, and uninspiring), shows the pessimism and unlikelihood of a strong Jewish nation. Now we will examine the former half of the passage, “For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth...” To understand Isaiah 1:30 more thoroughly, we must examine Isaiah 1:29 which reads, “For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.” The phrase “oaks which ye have desired” refers to idolatry worship. During the time of Isaiah, groves were a popular place to practice idolatry. These groves were usually erected on hills and furnished with temples, alters, etc. Therefore, in Isaiah 1:30 where Isaiah says, “For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth…” Isaiah is referring to the stray of man from God. As man is removed from God (idolized by man practicing idolatry in this instance but could refer to other sins) his well-being will be diminished because God will not be with them. This lack of well-being is symbolized in the “…oak whose leaf fadeth…” (Nielsen, 26, 32) The metaphor of man being removed from God can be carried to the latter half of the passage as well, with the “…garden that hath no water” being man that has nothing without God.

This passage is found in the first chapter of the Book of Isaiah (hereinafter, “Isaiah”). It is important to note that only some of the authorship of Isaiah is contributed to Isaiah himself and there is strong reason to believe that there are multiple supplementary authors. The current or “our” version of the Book of Isaiah was compiled in 200 B.C. as a compellation of smaller texts. For example, chapters 1-39 of Isaiah existed as a group of separate, little books prior to 200 B.C. and circulated as a separate collection of oracles. Then these first 39 chapters were combined along with Isaiah chapters 40-66 to create the Book of Isaiah found in the canon. (Liebreich p.259-260) Scholars usually break up Isaiah into three distinct sections that have fundamentally different characteristics. These sections are, in chronological order: Proto-Isaiah (Chapters 1-39), Deutero-Isaiah (Chapters 40-55), and Trito-Isaiah (Chapters 56-66). The Prophet Isaiah is thought to have written most of the Proto-Isaiah section himself; however there are a few exceptions to this view. Chapters 7, 21, and 36-39 in Isaiah are also found in 2nd Kings. Isaiah could have written these chapters himself, but scholars are unclear on who borrowed the passage from whom. A second abnormality is located in chapters 24-27, commonly referred to as “Isaiah’s Apocalypse”. These chapters are thought to be written and added into Isaiah by an author that lived well after Isaiah’s time. A third abnormality is a psalm of lament that is included in Isaiah 38:10-20. This psalm is attributed to King Hezekiah. (Hiers, 94) The second section the Book of Isaiah is labeled as the “Deutero-Isaiah” section and spans from chapter 40 to chapter 55. The “Second” Prophet Isaiah is given credit for most of this section. According to the Deutero-Isaiah Hypothesis, there are at least two (two is the most common number given) authors under the alias of Isaiah. This “Second Isaiah” is also known as, “the Great Prophet of the Exile” (Maynard, 213) or “the Isaiah of Jerusalem”. (Hiers, 93) Also, the name “Isaiah” isn’t even mentioned after chapter 39. (Hiers, 93) As in the Proto-Isaiah section, even temporarily accepting the idea that there are two Isaiahs, there are a few abnormalities. Chapter 50 of Isaiah is thought to have been written by the prophet Ezekiel (however this claim is mostly speculative). The Deutero-Isaiah section has a few slight changes in word choice from the Proto-Isaiah passages. One small difference is in the description of God. In the Proto-Isaiah section, God is portrayed as majestic; however this changes in the Deutero-Isaiah section where God’s uniqueness and eternity is emphasized. The third section of Isaiah is the Trito-Isaiah group of passages that covers chapters 56 to 66 of Isaiah. The group responsible for writing this section is commonly attributed to the disciples of the “First Isaiah”. Or, if the word ‘disciples’ doesn’t accurate describe this group of people, this group of authors were at least part of Isaiah’s “school”. (Hiers, 93) Please note that the passage I have chosen is located in the Proto-Isaiah section.

To put the selected passage into context I feel it is important to, at the very least, outline the beginning of the Book of Isaiah and provide basic but essential information about its author. The “First Isaiah”, or the Isaiah the Book of Isaiah is supposedly named after, lived from about 742-690 B.C. Isaiah is the first known prophet to carry on his work to Judah. (Hiers 93-94) Isaiah is introduced as “Isaiah son of Amoz” in chapter 1 of Isaiah. His name, literally translated from Hebrew to English means, “The Lord saves”. Isaiah began his ministry in 740 B.C.; the year in which King Uzziah died. He was married and had two sons named Shear-Jashub (Isaiah 7:3) and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (Isaiah 8:3). Isaiah most likely spent his life in Jerusalem and was most influential under King Hezekiah. According to Jewish tradition, Isaiah was executed by being sawed in half. (Book of the Bible, Isaiah)

The selected passage (Isaiah 1:30) was extracted from the first chapter of the text. This chapter is written in an extremely harsh tone. Isaiah is angry at all of the people of Israel for abandoning God and committing sins. An example of Isaiah’s pity and anger can be shown through the passage:

“And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.” (Isaiah 1:15-23)
Chapters 1-5 and 28-29 of the Book of Isaiah are about prophecy and judgment against Judah. The people Judah believe they are safe from the wrath of God because of their covenant relationship with God; however God tells them this is not the case. Chapters 24-34 deal with the prophecy of a “Messiah”. Chapters 36-39 concern Hezekiah’s triumph over the Assyrians. At the end of the book, Isaiah prophesied the exile of Babylon.

Literary forms of the Proto-Isaiah section of the Book of Isaiah include prose, songs, poetry, and narration. Narration is found all throughout Isaiah as well as prose (although less common) as in the rest of the Bible. The two less common literary forms found in Isaiah are songs and poems. “A wisdom poem is found in Isaiah 28:23-29, along with poetic material in chapters 13-23. A taunting song against the King of Babylon is found in Isaiah 14:4-23 and the song of the vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7.” (Book of the Bible, Isaiah) Literary devices used in the Proto-Isaiah section of the Book of Isaiah include personification, imagery, allusion, and the type of skillful repetition that can be found throughout the Bible (and therefore unimportant to elaborate on here). Personification is used in Isaiah 24:23 when Isaiah uses the word “ashamed” to describe the sun and the moon. Isaiah’s forceful imagery can be seen in Isaiah 30:27-33 as Isaiah describes the face and facial functions of God. (Book of the Bible, Isaiah)

“Behold, the name of the LORD cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire: And his breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err. Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the mighty One of Israel. And the LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones. For through the voice of the LORD shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod. And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the LORD shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it. For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.” (Isaiah 27-33)

Allusion is used by Isaiah when he refers to the exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea found in Isaiah 11:15 and Isaiah 43:2,16-17. Another event Isaiah alludes to is the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah in 1:9. (Book of the Bible, Isaiah)

Now I will turn to the movie that the metaphors in Isaiah 1:30 are present in, “Avatar”.

The James Cameron movie “Avatar” (2009) may not be religious in nature, but certainly has religious metaphors and themes. . In “Avatar” the notion of a garden will be broadened to include the giant forest on the satellite Pandora (much like how the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1 doesn’t follow the modern concept of a garden).

Let me begin my discussion on the religious implications of the forests of Pandora by offering a brief plot summary to put the importance and relevance of the Pandoran forest into perspective. The main character, Corporal Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington) is flown, via spacecraft, to the distant moon of a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri System (which takes 5 years, 9 months, and 22 days to complete the journey) named Pandora. On Pandora there is a large RDA Corporation base (a mining company) complete with military personnel, bulldozers, military aircraft, military robots, living quarters, research labs, a mess hall, and an air traffic control tower; all surrounded by a large fence. Sully is to replace his twin brother in a scientific expedition to gain the trust of the Pandoran 10-feet tall, forest dwelling humanoid natives called “the Na’vi”. Sully’s twin brother had years of training in using an ‘avatar’ but after his death during a mugging; Sully was the program’s only replacement because an avatar was made specifically for Sully’s brother’s DNA. Since they are identical twins, Sully can operate the avatar during the expedition. An avatar is a hybrid combining Na’vi and human DNA to create a Na’vi looking creature that can be controlled via a mental link. These avatars can be controlled remotely and are originally supposed to be used to gain the trust of the Na’vi people. By talking to the Na’vi using similar bodies and speaking in the Na’vi’s tongue, the human hope the Na’vi to aid/make concessions to the humans trying to mine unobtanium. Although the purpose and nature of unobtanium is unmentioned in the movie, the movie does say that unobtanium is worth “$20 million a kilo” and the largest deposit of unobtanium is under the Na’vi “hometree” (their tribal stronghold). Sully has three months to learn the culture of the Na’vi, be accepted into their tribe, and convince the Na’vi to move as they will be killed if they do not. Sully gets separated from the researchers collecting biological samples from the forest, is saved by a female Na’vi named Neytiri (played by Zoe Saldana). Neytiri was planning on killing Sully (as the Na’vi can tell who is using a hybrid) but ends up helping him and brings him back to her tribe at hometree after she senses that the forest is drawn to him. Sully meets Neytiri’s father who is the tribal leader (Eytukan played by Wes Studi) and Mo’at, Neytiri’s mother and the tribe’s spiritual leader. The audience then learns that the forests and all of the organisms living in Pandora are linked by what can only be described as a bio-botanical neural network. Sully admits in one of his video logs that the Na’vi are never going to leave their beloved and sacred hometree. The administration of the RDA Corporation orders the hometree to be destroyed along with any Na’vi inside eliminating any diplomatic chance. The Na’vi are forced to migrate within the forest to their sacred site, “The Tree of Souls”. Sully and a few of the scientists attempt to stop the demolition process and are imprisoned. They escape and fly a movable lab deep into the forest in a radar ‘dead zone’. One of the scientists in seriously wounded in the escape attempt and Sully (in his avatar state) presents her dying body to the Na’vi. He begs them to try and, using a ritual dedicated to Eywa (the Na’vi deity that lives within the forest), attempts to transfer the scientist’s being from her human form to her avatar. The attempt fails and the wounded scientist dies. The climax of the movie is relatively unimportant for the purposes of this paper and just contains cinematic action as the Na’vi, led by Sully as his avatar, have a large battle with the humans. At the end of the battle, the Na’vi are losing due to inferior technology, when Eywa summons the (usually very hostile and aggressive) Pandoran wildlife to fight alongside the Na’vi and defeat the humans. The end of the movie shows Sully’s mind and essence in his injured human body being imported into his avatar body permanently, via the ritual dedicated to Eywa.

The religious parallels in “Avatar” to the Bible are numerous, even if James Cameron didn’t intentional mean for them to be there. However, keeping within the scope of this essay, I will focus on the relationship the Na’vi have with the forest and the connection the Jewish people and the kingdom of God have with the Biblical “garden”. In “Avatar” the Na’vi people have a deity named Eywa that is embodied in the forest who, although unseen, is not unheard. This is a strong parallel to the garden in the people. Referring to the Bible, the ‘garden’ in Isaiah 1:30 represents the Jewish nation (God’s Chosen People) and also represents the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is sometimes synonymous with heaven. According to most, if not all, Christian belief, the ‘good’ and ‘worthy’ Christians go to heaven (assuming you don’t believe in predestination) where they can live as they did in the real world alongside God. In “Avatar”, the forest on Pandora represents the Na’vi nation or people. They are a struggling race fighting to be accepted and survive; much like the Jewish people. In addition to the forest, there is a “Tree of Souls” that has the beings of the ancestors of the Na’vi. In the movie, the Na’vi practice prayer and even call it prayer when they speak to their deity or ancestors. Therefore, I conclude that the Tree of Souls is like heaven. When a Na’vi dies, their memories, voices, personality, etc. all get uploaded, via the bio-botanical neural network, to Eywa. This is much like Christians entering heaven as the same being they were on Earth. So, as the Biblical garden represents heaven, the Tree of Souls represents a type of heaven of the Na’vi, and the Biblical garden represents the struggling Jewish Nation, as the forests of Pandora represent the struggling Na’vi.

Another aspect of the latter half of Isaiah 1:30 that I have not mentioned is “…hath no water.” Even this concept has some parallels in “Avatar”. In the Biblical sense, “hath no water” refers to a failing, or straying from God. In “Avatar”, when the humans attack hometree, they attack first with smoke and then with incendiary after the Na’vi are too slow to evacuate. Sully’s link is broken for a while after he is forcefully disconnected, but when he returns in a subsequent scene, Sully is surrounded in ash. The landscape is dry, burnout, and somewhat barren due to the incendiary burning out the area. This can be seen as a failing on the morals of the humans; the remains of the forest being dry and “hath no water”. This scene represents the human failing of greed (for the unobtanium) and a stray from God.

An even looser metaphor used in “Avatar” can be found using the first half of Isaiah 1:30 when the author says, “An oak whose leaves fadeth”. In the Biblical context, as Kirsten Neilsen points out, the oak could refer to idolatry worship. (Nielsen, 26, 32) In a sense, this is what the Na’vi are doing when they sit around the Tree of Souls in circles of increasing circumference prayer to Eywa. Eywa isn’t a physical being that is there in front of them, Eywa is the bio-botanical neural network that encompasses the planet. Eywa is in everything, but the Na’vi chose to worship this one particular tree due to location or beauty. This is a form of idolatry and although God disobeys this form of worship, it seems to be alright with Eywa. Therefore, the oak in Isaiah 1:30 and the Tree of Souls in “Avatar” could be seen as a parallel.

I would now like to turn our attention to the author and director of the movie “Avatar” to examine if his background and experiences placed these metaphors in “Avatar” purposefully, or if their inclusion seems accidental. Conveniently, the author and director of Avatar happen to be the same person: James Cameron. I will only be examining the related aspects of James Cameron’s life (i.e. religious denomination, previous religious works, etc.). James Cameron happens to be an atheist. James Cameron himself stated, “"I've sworn off agnosticism, which I now call cowardly atheism. I've come to the position that in the complete absence of any supporting data whatsoever for the persistence of the individual in some spiritual form, it is necessary to operate under the provisional conclusion that there is no afterlife and then be ready to amend that if I find out otherwise." (Meegan, 8) Just because James Cameron is an atheist, does not mean he couldn’t have accidentally, or even purposefully for that matter, added religious metaphors to his films. Other films/media entertainment from James Cameron include Xenogenesis, Piranha Part Two: The Spawning, The Terminator, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien IV?, True Lies, Strange Days, T2 3-D: Battle Across Time, Titanic, Dark Angel, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Avatar most recently. (James Cameron – IMDb) Upon examination of these entertainment works, there seem to be nothing inherently Biblical or even religious for that matter. Perhaps, under meticulous observation of several or all of the movies, one may find something Biblical in nature. However, even this isn’t guaranteed. Cameron was born in Ontario in the 1950s which is historically not as religious as say, the American South. (James Cameron – IMDb) There is no evidence that Cameron even attended Church or joined any type of Sunday School or biblical study course. Based on these findings, I conclude that there isn’t any reason to believe that James Cameron even knew about religious symbolism, and that religious themes and metaphors found throughout Avatar were merely happenstance.

Reader Response Theory is the interpretation that the reader holds concerning a certain text. David J.A. Clines says, “More and more people are coming to see that texts themselves do not have meanings that readers then proceed to discover. The making of meaning occurs, in some way, in the interaction of text and reader, at the hinge between language and experience.” (Clines, 15) Yairah Amit, a renowned biblical scholar, makes a similar argument: “… The title of any biblical story is a product of a commentator, and the reader is free to disagree with it and to change it. That is to say, the reader may engage in the same work as the various commentators who gave different titles to the same story. What all this means is that the biblical stories call for dynamic reading, which must determine the boundaries of the stories and even their titles.” I would like to spend some time talking about my response and interpretation of Isaiah 1:30 and “Avatar” by James Cameron.

When reading Isaiah 1:30, I was approaching the passage as an Atheist first. Reading the bible from a critical and perhaps over-analytical viewpoint, I almost read over the metaphors in Isaiah 1:30 at first and had to go back and reread the passage. After rereading I was able to identify the metaphors the author was trying to portray. The notion of the garden representing a Jewish state was fascinating to me, as well as learning about the oak groves being the popular locale to practice idolatry in biblical times. Perhaps the reason this was so inspiring to me is the fact that I consider myself an Empiricist. I was so used to the moral lessons, philosophical answers, and religious worship that are found within the Bible, I was surprised that something so… tangible and simple (i.e. a garden and an oak tree) could be used to convey such a deep and complex message. In addition, the author could achieve this with just describing the natural processes of the subjects of the passage.

Even though I am not a “reader” of “Avatar”, rather an observer/listener, I believe that the Reader Response Theory can be used albeit slightly modified. I first watched “Avatar” before I even knew I would be taking this course. When I saw it I remember thinking about the ideas and rituals around the forest and Eywa as being extremely comparable with both modern and ancient religion. On the one hand, I felt that the culture felt very prehistoric with the way the Na’vi were living off the land and their tribal structure; very primitive. On the other hand, one can see the vast similarities between modern day religions and the “religion” of the Na’vi. Even so, the first time I watched “Avatar” I took a very literalist approach; taking the movie at face value. I focused mainly on the cinematic aspects of the movie; for example, animation, music/soundtracks, character development, basic aesthetics, etc. The second time I watched “Avatar”, I watched for the sole purpose of writing this essay. The movie impacted me more so on the second run-through because, having learned about biblical metaphors, the movie was more intriguing. Instead of taking a literalist interpretation (as the first time I watched it), I took a more allegorical interpretation; focusing in on the minute details of the beliefs of the Na’vi. Furthermore, I felt a shift from a Modernist view to a Post-Modernist view. I started to see how different characters felt about the forest and honed in on and tried to interpret their own epistemologies.


Amit, Yairah. “Reading Biblical Narratives – Literary Criticism and the Hebrew Bible” Fortress Press Minneapolis. 2001. pp. 14-21

"Book of the Bible, Isaiah :: Zondervan NIV Study Bible." Biblica
International Bible Society and Send The Light
IBS-STL Global. Web. 20 Oct. 2010.

Clines, David J.A. “The Bible and the Modern World” Sheffield Academic Press. 1997. pp. 15

Hiers, Richard H. “The Trinity Guide to the Bible” Trinity Press International. 2001. pp. 93-97

"James Cameron - IMDb." The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. 17 Nov. 2010.
Liebreich, Leon J. “The Compilation of the Book of Isaiah” The Jewish Quarterly Review. New Series, Vol. 46, No. 3 (Jan., 1956), pp. 259-277 Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press.

May, John R. “Religion in Film” The University of Tennessee Press. 1998. pp. 23
Maynard, John A. “The Home of Deutero-Isaiah” Journal of Biblical Literature. Vol. 36, No. 3/4 (1917), pp. 213-224. Published by: The Society of Biblical Literature.

Meegan, Rebecca. "Chapter 1". The Futurist (hardcover ed.). p. 8.

Nielsen, Kirsten. “From Oracles to Canon – And the Role of Metaphor” SJOT: Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament Jun2003, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p22-33.