Thursday, June 29, 2006

Child Sacrifice, Abortion and Morality

The post I did a while back on “Human Sacrifice in Ancient Canaan,” which focused primarily upon the theory that child sacrifice was practiced, resulted in a number of reactions. Allow me to describe the two most prevalent.

The first was simply folks pointing out that while most scholars accept evidence of child sacrifice in Carthage and other Phoenician settlements, a strong minority debate those conclusions. The alternative hypothesis is that the consecrated child remains in areas dedicated to Tanite and Baal-Hammon actually represent cemeteries reserved for miscarriages and young children that died of natural causes.

After reading the arguments of both sides, I’d say that the minority position has significant merit. Unfortunately the biblical passages, which I am treating as history and not scripture, aren’t completely explained away. The most the minority position can say is that they are misinterpretations of biblical text. Perhaps, but there are a fairly large number of passages, expressed a number of different ways, that would have to be misinterpreted. I guess the primary question is whether the phrase “pass through the fire” should be consider equivalent to “sacrifice” or whether it refers to some sort of non-fatal religious right of passage.

The primary reason I am hesitant to accept that this phrase describes some sort of religious rite of passage, is that it appears to be applied equally to sons and daughters. Given the culture of the time, I find it hard to believe that anyone would bother with a rite of passage for females.

I never actually accused the Carthaginians in my previous post of child sacrifice, but I will admit that scholarly conclusions about the “Tophet” discovered in North Africa did influence me to more readily accept the conclusion that child sacrifice was prevalent in Canaan. While I find the arguments against Carthaginian child sacrifice rather compelling, it’s unclear to me that if the practice didn’t exist in Carthage, or if it died out as Carthage rose to prominence, then the practice didn’t exist among the Canaanite civilizations. However I have to admit that I’ve been shifted toward “uncertain.”

The second reaction equated child sacrifice to abortion and went through, often lengthy and lurid, explanations related to the parallels between the two practices. The implication of course being that if I condemned one, as I was clearly doing in the Canaan post, then I was being at least inconsistent, and more likely hypocritical, by not also condemning the other.

There’s only one problem, I don’t ever recall actually saying that I didn’t condemn abortion. I consider the practice detestable. However, and this is the big however, I recognize that placing the mother’s physical or mental health in jeopardy is equally detestable. How then does one balance two detestable choices? I have no right to do that for someone else nor do I have the right to decide when in fact those ARE the choices. Neither does anyone else, other than the woman, her family and her advisors, have that right.

The issue is not whether abortion is a good thing, its not, it’s a very bad thing. The issue is whether anyone has the right to enforce an abstract moral theory upon everyone else, especially when all the specific detailed variations of future situations cannot possibly be known.

I believe that the answer to that question has got to be no.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Landover Fan Mail

The Landover Baptist Church is a satirical site that pokes fun at Christianity. Actually, it ridicules right wing Christianity and right wing Christians. To be honest, it’s not one of my favorite sites because I find its humor a little coarse but I check back from time to time to see what’s new.

On my last visit I took a quick look at the latest collection of e-mails arriving at the site. Ouch, these people actually figured out how to use a computer? The e-mails are posted with errors in spelling and grammar intact. The result is really scary especially when one considers that most of these folks are part of the electorate. I guarantee that they all vote Republican and that they all voted for Bush the Unhinged.

…Ya'll are bat-shit crazy…I read your beliefs and you guys are freaks!!!! I am a Christian woman and love our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…People like you should be sterilized and not able to reproduce.


Ashley obviously thinks that opinions and belief are genetic. Of course if that’s so, then one can only blame God for creating lousy opinions or the parents for choosing the wrong mates.

Do you really think this site is in any way is pleasing to god? I am very sadenned that you chose to put such blasphemy out there.


At least Dianne is smart enough to figure out that this is a spoof. But it's unclear to me why Dianne considers the site blasphemy. Perhaps Dianne, like many Christians, thinks blasphemy is anything that disagrees with Christian dogma.

You are the devil itself and i hope you have a eternity in hell. you dont deserve to call your self a baptist church.your rules and regulations are bull crap… It doesnt matter what you look like it matters how you serve god, wich you have failed to do. I want you to read this email to your entire congregation so they can see how stupid you all realy are.


Ian, on the other hand, is not smart enough to figure out that the site is a spoof. Ian probably doesn’t even know what satire is. I do agree with Ian that what you look like, or how you dress, isn’t important, its how you act that’s important. I guess Ian isn’t old enough to remember the denunciations from the pulpit during the 1960’s about how the emerging generation’s hair length and mode of dressing was disgraceful and an affront to God. Ian, the fact that you can dress as you like today is thanks to the Godless Liberals of the 60’s who told the preachers to go pound salt.

You might also want to give some consideration to the doctrine of "Grace" which kind of implies that how you act isn't nearly as important as what you believe. An axe murderer that accepts Jesus will be saved but a righteous and gentle Buddhist Monk is going straight to hell. This is what Christianity calls "justice."

…although i am a christian, i can definatly say with all clarity that you certainly are not christians, just american self-glorified, racist idiots. Who obviously misunderstood what the bible says and the historical significance of having an old and new testament… However based upon your own teaching i would like to say, enjoy the barbecue cos you'll be the ones cooking, and we'll try and enjoy the show from above.


Racist idiots? Now what do you suppose Steve is thinking? I always love the picture a lot of Christians paint of sitting up in Heaven watching the damned burn in hell as a sort of entertainment. By the way Steve, it’s only an “old” and a “new” testament to Christians. Jews don’t consider the Hebrew Bible an “old testament.”

…you don't even open your bibles to read what the word of God actually says…You hate gays, you objectify and discriminate women… you falsify Jesus' teachings, and you disgrace the name Christian…And having a clothing line of thongs doesn't help your case at all.


Another bright light that hasn’t figured out that the site is a spoof. Alas poor Jordan, do you think Christianity loves gays and treats woman equally? Perhaps you need to look around at how some lovable Christians, all of whom claim they’re following the bible, react to gays with signs like “aids cures homosexuality” and “kill all fags” just to name a few. Then you might want to bone up on how Paul says women should keep their mouths shut in church and learn from their husbands at home (1 Corinthians 14:34-35). How’s that for equality?

At far as the thongs are concerned, hey, they need some way to make money to support the site since they don't actually have a congregation to fleece every Sunday.

Your web-site Is the sickest thing I've ever seen. You call yourself good christians and promote the ruthless beating of children in the name of 'GOD'… How dare you post publically how to abuse children and HATE people who don't follow your doctrines! It's organizations like yours that give organized religion a bad name. May YOU burn in hell for YOUR sins against children and the human race.


Jacqueline hasn’t caught on that the site is a spoof either nor has she figured out the implications of the exclusivity that most Christian denominations teach. If you follow those teachings to their logical conclusion, they demand that you “HATE people who don’t follow your doctrines” which is of course precisely what Landover is satirizing.

Landover is also satirizing the idiotic notion held by some Conservative Christians that Proverbs 23 calls for the corporal punishment of children. It doesn't, the "rod" that Proverbs 23 says to apply is the rounded end of a shepard's staff that is used to gently prod sheep into not wandering. You don't literally beat the sheep with a rod and you certainly don't literally beat a child. The analogy is obvious, in the same way the shepard uses his rod to guide the sheep, a parent should use discipline to guide a child.

As for the site giving organized religion a bad name, it would be impossible for a silly satirical web site to paint organized religion any blacker than it already is.

And these are some of the more polite e-mails. These are the people that want to dictate “moral values” to me? Excuse me while I run over to a Red State and buy some more 7.62 mm ammo.

Monday, June 26, 2006

First Alitoism to Groan About

The Alito broke a tie in the wrong direction in Kansas vs. Marsh overruling the Kansas Supreme Court which had declared the state's death penalty statute unconstitutional.

Blah, I knew Sir Russell of Feingold should have pressed his attack and skewered the Alito to the heart! Alas that Sir Russell cares even for those that spurn his goodly nature.

Ok, enough of that. The bottom line is that the death penalty has now been re-activated in Kansas. There are 8 men currently on death row in the state and there are a number of pending cases in which the death penalty can now be pursued.

Based upon the law, the ruling was perhaps correct, I don’t know anything about the law, but based upon what is justice, it was wrong.

The Kansas statute instructs that if mitigating circumstances and aggregating factors are balanced, the tie goes to the death penalty. Whatever happened to the death penalty being reserved for the most heinous offenders? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say that the aggregating factors should have to clearly outweigh the mitigating factors? The last time I looked the burden of proof was still on the prosecution, a tie went to the runner, a double catch went to the receiver and life was preferred over death.

I had the same problem with Alito in his Casey decision, there, as here, he ruled with his head and not with his heart. I don’t expect Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy or Roberts to understand the difference but a Jersey boy should know better.

Shame on you Sammy.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lord, Give me a Sign

Yup, that’s what I said. Allow me to paint the picture. The air conditioning in the gym appeared a little weak. It was hot, I had just finished working out and I was wiping the considerable perspiration from my face. I was also twirling my car keys.

One of the guys looked up at the air conditioning vent and spread his hands about shoulder high to check if the recent call to maintenance was having any effect. He looked so much like a supplicant that I quipped “Lord, give me a sign.” At that instant the RF key went flying off my key chain.

We all looked at the RF key that had just gone flying across the gym floor. Then we looked at each other. Then I walked over, picked up the key, and checked the hoop that secured it to the main hoop of my car keys. Both it and the main hoop looked just fine. I then put the RF key back on the main hoop, which took some effort, and shrugged.

I twirl my car keys all the time and the RF key had never come off before. Given the tightness of the two interconnecting hoops, I doubt it will happen again anytime soon. It was a fluke. Flukes happen, but imagine if I was given to supernatural thinking? I imagine that I might be wondering if I had just gotten what I asked for.

Coincidences, flukes and other strange stuff happen from time to time. Of course far more often they don’t happen. We tend to remember the odd stuff, for the very reason that it is odd, and forget about all the times nothing happened. This has a name. It’s called “Confirmation Bias.” So-called psychics and clairvoyants build their reputation on confirmation bias, on the fact that people, especially people that have a need to believe, will remember the hits and forget the misses.

There’s a story on about lightening hitting a church just after the preacher asked God for a sign. Needless to say the faithful went all giddy over this despite the fact that the bolt caused a fire which required a quick evacuation and $20,000 in repairs. Sounds to me that if it was a sign, it was a sign from the Deity to shut up already and leave him (her? it?) alone. A beam of light with accompanying angelic music would have been much more convincing and done much less damage.

Like my RF key coming off, the lightening was simply coincidence. A long shot perhaps, but long shots do happen. If you throw 100 die, some pattern has to come out on the first set of throws. Yet the probability of that pattern appearing is the same as for any other pattern, 1 chance in 6.5x10 raised to the 77th power.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

New York the Most Courteous City?

That’s what Reader’s Digest is saying after conducting, an admittedly unscientific but a practical, test of politeness in 35 cities around the world. Basically a couple of reporters checked whether (1) people would hold the door for you, (2) clerks would say thank you and (3) people would help pick up papers dropped from a folder.

What was the result you ask? New York came out on top with a rating of 80% followed by Zurich at 77% and Toronto at 70%. You can see the whole list at the Reader’s Digest web site.

Does that surprise me? No, not really. People in the Northeast in general and New York in particular are a fairly polite bunch but, and here’s the big but, they don’t suffer fools gladly either. If you do something out of line, they’ll let you know about it. That perhaps accounts for the “in your face” reputation of New Yorkers. More often than not they will let you have it if you do something stupid or inconsiderate. So be on your best behavior in the Big Apple. After all, it’s the most courteous city in the world.

Death Penalty Update

Based upon reports from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), there’s been some good news, some bad news and, unfortunately, a lot more of the usual.

On the plus side of the ledger, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia stayed the execution of a man whose mental competence is suspect. Predictably this brought outraged howls of “I told you so” from Death Penalty advocates and Republicans because Kaine is a Catholic that personally opposes Capital Punishment and opponents predicted during the election that he wouldn’t enforce the state’s death penalty statute.

The Roanoke Times put it best when it said the “…stay leaves Kaine vulnerable to ‘we told you so’ rants. Those should be ignored by reasonable people who expect Virginia to exhibit competence in lawfully applying the death penalty.”

In other good news, the League of Women voters adopted a resolution calling for the abolishment of the Death Penalty at their 47th biennial conference. Only one question ladies, what took you so long?

On the down side the governors of both South Carolina (35 executions total, none this year so far) and Oklahoma (81 executions total, 2 so far this year) signed bills expanding for what offenses prosecutors could seek the death penalty. Both states will now allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for repeat child molesters. I think that’s letting them off too easy. A nice long prison term sharing a cell with Bubba is what those guys should get.

In the more of the same category, there have been 23 executions this year, 12 of which have been in the state of Texas. That’s slightly behind the pace of 2005 in which there were 28 executions by the end of June. Unfortunately July could be a bad month with 11 executions scheduled.

A Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game

Also known as an MMORPG to us techie types. Go ahead and try to pronounce that fast three times, I dare you. I finally splurged when I saw World of Warcraft (WoW) on sale for $29 and decided to try one of these out.

I’ve been playing it for a week or so and I have to say it has its attractions. First of all it looks absolutely gorgeous and the music is pretty good too. You can get goose bumps when you first enter the city of Stormwind, the music flares up to a crescendo and the bold green words “Stormwind, Alliance Territory” come up on the screen as you’re running across the bridge and passing mammoth statues of the heroes of legend. Peter Jackson would be proud.

There are two sides, the Alliance and the Horde, eight races and a dozen or so classes to pick from so there’s quite a bit of variation and replay ability.

The game is heavily quest oriented so it’s not entirely running around and mindlessly killing stuff although there is plenty of that. So far there’s enough quirkiness and variation to hold my interest but we’ll see how it goes from here. With literally hundreds of players running around it doesn’t have the cozy, close knit community feeling of a Neverwinter Nights server, but it’s ok.

I don’t see the kind of character variation you have in the D&D oriented games, like Neverwinter Nights (maybe I should have waited for D&D Online to go on sale), but it’s passable enough. I started with a Warrior, figuring that would be the easiest to play until I caught on to the controls, but I didn’t really care for it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were lots of controls and options you could exercise during a fight, rather than just watching and praying, but somehow the Warrior character seemed limited. After bringing him up to level 17 I parked him in the inn in Stormwind and generated a Paladin.

Oh that was much better. The Paladin, closer to a D&D Cleric than a D&D Paladin, had lots of fun options you could exercise and I’ve managed to get him up to level 18. I don’t know if it was simply that I knew the game a little better, but the Paladin seemed much more powerful than the Warrior.

The game has the standard Bank but also an Auction House, where you can post equipment for others to bid on, and a Postal Service that you can use to send notes or even articles of equipment to other characters (including other characters of your own). I sent three care packages to a mage character I fired up just to try out the postal service. The only restriction I’ve found is you can’t send stuff to characters on the other side.

The thing appears HUGE and I suspect that I’ve only seen a tiny part of the game world. You just CANNOT run between places all the time, it’s way too far, so they have a griffin riding service that provides some spectacular views as, for a small fee, you wing your way from place to place.

To be honest my computer is a bit outdated and underpowered for this game. I could use more memory, a better graphics accelerator and maybe a faster main CPU but this only becomes apparent occasionally; 99% of the time the game runs fine and I can pretty much predict when it’s going to start stuttering and even then it’s usually only temporary.

I haven’t really done any partying but there appear to be a number of areas that are almost dedicated to cooperative activity. I have died a few times. Actually, a lot more than a few, the game is pretty tough for a solo player.

The way the XP and quests are set up, you are almost always pushing the edge in the creatures you’re fighting. For example, you get zero XP for monsters more than five levels below you so you can’t level up by killing wimps. I’ve found that I can usually take the current quest monsters one on one, and often even two on one, but if they gang up on you, you’re toast. The way you typically die is you’re fighting one gnoll and two more jump you from behind. Luckily, if you trudge back, as a ghost, from the nearest cemetery, where you’re placed when you have an unfortunate event, to retrieve your body, there’s no penalty (other than the time lost) for doing something fatal.

My one complaint is they just released an upgrade and I had a hell of a time downloading it. Usually this is pretty painless, but for some bizarre reason Blizzard chose a method which required me to modify my firewall settings before it would work.

I find the economics of this whole phenomena interesting as well. It was an EBGames advertisement, offering WoW for $29 that made me decide to try it out but I happened to be in Best Buy first and the game was $49. Now they claim to have sold over 5 million copies of this thing. Yes Virginia, 5 million. Assuming an average retail price of $40, that would be something like $200 million split between the developer/publisher and the retailer. You get one month of play with the purchase and after that it’s $15 a month. It’s unlikely that all 5 million are still subscribing, but there seem to be quite a few servers available so let’s say that one in ten purchasers are still subscribing, that would be 500,000 times $15 = $7.5 million a month or $90 million a year. Not a bad chunk of change and to further milk it, there’s a major expansion planned for sometime later this year which I think is going to sell for $39.

But then again Neverwinter Nights 2 is supposed to be available in September and I sort of promised I would help develop a module for it and host it on my server in place of the current NWN module. Oh well, we’ll see what happens. My scripting and area design skills are rusty anyway.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Gays and the Episcopal Church

If for some bizarre, unfathomable reason I ever decided to return to Church, it would probably be to an Episcopal congregation.

I see the Episcopals have elected their first female leader, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. While I still find the idea of female clergy a little strange, this particular bishop appears to have her head screwed on straight about a thing or two.

She doesn’t consider homosexuality a sin and supported the ordination of a gay bishop in New Hampshire, a move that got a considerable negative reaction from other, more conservative, branches of the Episcopal Church.

As a matter of fact the homosexuality issue appears to be causing some significant fractures in the church organization. While I wouldn’t shed a tear if all religion disappeared from the face of the earth, the Episcopals, more often than not, tend to be a voice of reason and when they're weakened other more conservative, and therefore more dangerous, elements benefit and that's not a good thing.

For instance, consider Schori’s attitude toward the bible. "The Bible has a great deal to teach us about how to live as human beings. The Bible does not have so much to teach us about what sorts of food to eat, what sorts of clothes to wear -- there are rules in the Bible about those that we don't observe today.”

I only have one question for the bishop based upon that quote. Do you really believe that the bible has anything to “teach us about how to live as human beings” that’s unique, that wasn’t said earlier, and perhaps better, by some pagan or secular source?

For instance, many people believe that the moral teachings of Jesus are unique, but that’s not really true.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Jesus of Nazareth (c. 30 CE)

“What you do not want others to do to you, do not do to others." -Confucius (c. 520 BCE)

This is the famous “Golden Rule” which has been expressed by religions and secular philosophers since the dawn of time. You can even get a “Golden Rule” Poster with 13 expressions of the rule from around the world.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." – Jesus of Nazareth (c. 30 CE)

“It is impossible for an exceptionally good man to be exceptionally rich.” – Plato (c. 370 BCE)

“Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” – Jesus of Nazareth (c. 30 CE)

“It’s never right to do wrong and never right to take revenge; nor is it right to give evil for evil, or in the case of one who has suffered some injury, to attempt to get even." – Socrates (c. 400 BCE)

So while I accept the idea that the bible is AN ethical source, when people start claiming that it is THE ethical source and the only one ratified and approved by the almighty "I'll send you to hell for all eternity if you don't listen to me" Sky Daddy, I start reaching for my AKM.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Little Time out for Ecclesiastes

Regardless of your opinion of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, one ignores the wisdom of the bible at one’s peril. The peril not being some fictitious lake of fire, but simply missing out on something to make you think.

I offer the following quotes from Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 7:5 It is better to heed a wise man's rebuke than to listen to the song of fools.

This sort of makes Paul’s advice to ignore the wisdom of the world suspect doesn’t it? Then again, I find ALL of Paul’s advice suspect. It was being introduced to the writings of Paul that convinced me Christianity was false.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.

This is a recognition that we’re all human and that we will all screw up from time to time. If this was coming direct from God, this would have been a good place to advertise the eventual arrival of salvation through grace wouldn’t it?

Ecclesiastes 7:28 I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them all.

Sort of a standard male lament, you think God doesn’t believe there are any upright women?

Ecclesiastes 8:7 Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?

Oh well, so much for the occasional prophet and the occasional prophecy not to mention any and all psychics.

Ecclesiastes 8:15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.

Get it? Enjoy life as much as you can while you can because tomorrow…

Ecclesiastes 9:4 Anyone who is among the living has hope —even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!

A classic quote from someone who supposedly knows.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten.

So where’s the promise of heaven? You figure God only decided to establish the place so his son would have somewhere to hang out with his friends?

Ecclesiastes 10:19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything.

In 1 Timothy 6:10 we’re told that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” but in Ecclesiastes "money is the answer for everything” so a love of money would be understandable.

The funny thing is, they’re both right (and no I'm not contradicting myself since most scholars doubt that the pastorals were actually written by Paul).

Monday, June 12, 2006

Court Allows Last Minute Lethal Injection Claims

In what I think is going to have a major impact on the death penalty, the Supreme Court has upheld allowing condemned prisoners to make last minute claims that the chemicals to be used in lethal injection are painful and therefore violate the Eight Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

The decision came in a case from Florida called Hill v. McDonough. The decision is the follow-up to the court staying Hill’s execution in January.

Why do I think it’s going to have a major impact? I think it will because it adds one more hurdle that needs to be cleared. California, Maryland and Missouri have executions suspended due to similar issues surrounding lethal injection and now Florida can be added to that list with undoubtedly more states to follow. If the New Jersey commission studying the death penalty needed any additional ammunition, besides the state’s Attorney General saying the death penalty is unnecessary, to push it toward recommending abolition, it just got it. If New York and Kansas needed any additional incentive to not bother resurrecting their statutes which were declared unconstitutional, they just got it also and Illinois has one more reason to leave its executive moratorium in place.

Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but that’s seven of the thirty-eight states with the death penalty sort of in limbo.

There may be hope for us yet.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Nominee for Jackass of the Year

Ann Coulter, who else? Her latest Ad Hominid attack was to dub four women from East Brunswick whose husbands were killed in the 9/11 attacks the “Witches of East Brunswick” saying "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much." Coulter was upset because the four (a) headed a campaign that resulted in the creation of the September 11 Commission and (b) took out an advertisement in favor of John Kerry.

Coulter accuses the women of reveling in their “celebrity status” since becoming “millionaires” due to 9/11 settlements and claims they wanted to blame President Bush for not preventing the attacks. Adding insult to insult Coulter added "By the way, how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they'd better hurry up and appear in Playboy."

All of this appears in her new book "Godless: The Church of Liberalism.” Please, we could REALLY use a libel lawsuit here. Somebody find the ladies a good lawyer! I would like nothing better than to see Coulter and her publisher reduced to begging on street corners.

Coulter is also the one that after the 9/11 attacks suggested, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity" and in another book wrote “Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do."

No Ann you’ve got it wrong, its irresponsible conservative commentators that we hate. Allow me to remind you that your opinions aren’t synonymous with America. Actually, hate is too strong a word, usually we find what you say a priceless source of merriment. However, your tasteless attack on these ladies is beneath contempt.

Keep in mind that these are tirades coming from someone that demonstrates every time she opens her mouth that she doesn’t have the faintest idea what the underlying principles of America are or what the Constitution means.

When asked why she made such nasty personal attacks Coulter replied "I am tired of victims being used as billboards for untenable liberal political beliefs."

In other words, they dared to disagree with her. More than a few folks criticized Coulter for the statements including the two conservative New York papers the Post and the Daily News. I think Frank Lautenberg, Senator from New Jersey, said it best when he described Coulter’s unjustified attack as sparking disgust and saying "Her bookselling antics and accompanying vulgarity deserve our deepest contempt."

So why are people still buying her book and why is she still being paid to dispense her swill on national television? I’m not proposing censorship of her ideas but the manner in which she expresses them. Hey, I admit I’m a godless liberal and proud of it. She can knock me all she wants for my liberal attitude and I’ll gladly return the favor expressing my opinion of her beliefs, including her religious beliefs if she wants to put them on the table as well.

The question however, is whether or not after slamming and ridiculing each others opinions, can we then still have a dialogue to see if there is a middle ground? You attack my opinions and sure, why not? You attack me personally and I’m not so sure. So are we going to have a civil dialogue or should I just go get my AKM now? Its bad enough we have to put up with the likes of Falwell, Perkins, Robertson and Dobson throwing barbs at people who disagree with them, do we have to listen to this bitch as well? A journalist should know better. I’d say she needs to get soundly laid except that would be terribly sexist. Besides, I can’t find anyone who would consider doing it even if they could use Pat Robertson’s amputated pinky sized member.

Oh, those last two sentences were terrible things to say. I’m so ashamed. I think I’ll go back and contemplate the story of Balaam’s Donkey (see Numbers 22:20-35).

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Primary Day Thought or Two

Kind of a mixed bag on 666, ex-judge Roy Moore took a pounding in the Alabama gubernatorial primary but not by as large a margin as it appeared he would. When last I looked the numbers were 64%-36% in favor of Governor Riley. That 36% of the Alabama electorate could vote for Moore is really scary. Even scarier is that a ban on Gay Marriage passed in the state by a 4-1 margin. I’d really like to have a conversation with people that vote for things like that and ask them what their concern is.

Elsewhere, Democrats narrowly missed taking away a House seat in a traditionally strong Republican district in California. I’m not sure what to make of that one. In New Jersey it looks like a horse race between acting Senator Robert Menendez and Tom Keane Jr. the son of the popular ex-governor of New Jersey Thomas Keane.

Tom Keane is republican by traditional and liberal by the grace of God. Calling himself a Republican is virtually meaningless so he has a reasonable shot at election. Keane would be a moderate voice in a Republican party that is increasingly extreme in its views. It’s Republicans like Keane that need to rally together and figure out how to take back the GOP from the radical right wing elements that have it captured.

Nevertheless, I’m still voting for Menendez unless something changes significantly between now and November.

Keane broke with conservatives of the Bergen County Republican Organization over Gay Marriage and Abortion pointing out that it is virtually impossible for a candidate who is anti-choice and anti-gay marriage to win a statewide election in New Jersey. Unfortunately, as shown by Representative Scott Garret, it is possible for an anti-choice, anti-gay marriage candidate to win a local election in Bergen County where I have the misfortune of living, and in Garret’s district no less. Oh the injustice of it all!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Spike in Gay Marriage Opposition Disappears

In what was a classic political hornswaggle the Republican Party managed to leverage the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision legalizing Gay Marriage in that state into a burning national issue in 2004. It’s quite possible that this is what cost John Kerry the election and it has certainly led to the current misery under Bush the Unhinged.

Now of course, under the influence of Right Wing Christian Conservatives, the Republicans are trying it again. But perhaps things are a little different in 2006. We’ve had three years of an unjustified war in Iraq. We’ve had an unbroken stream of lies and deception from the administration on issues as diverse as weapons of mass destruction and the NSA eves dropping on American’s telephone calls. Finally, last, but certainly not least, Gay Marriage has been legal in Massachusetts for two years and the state has managed to survive pretty much intact. Lightening bolts from Sky Daddy haven’t incinerated anyone and there’s no noticeable indication that group marriage or polygamy (despite HBO's series Big Love) are on the horizon.

A March poll, by the Pew Research Group, indicates that the spike of opposition to Gay Marriage the Republicans and conservative organizations managed to whip up in 2004 has disappeared and attitudes appear to be more in line with the trend since the early 1990s of a slow, but steady, acceptance of homosexuality.

In February of 2004 fully 63% of Americans opposed Gay Marriage. This number in March of 2006 was 51% which is much more in line with the July of 2003 and July of 2005 numbers of 53%. The number of Americans in favor of Gay Marriage has increased from 30% in 2004, to 36% in 2005, and now stands at 39% in 2006.

Gay Adoption, another issue the Republicans were hoping to stir up some fuss on, came out almost a dead heat with 48% opposing and 46% in favor. You can adopt kids you just can’t get married? That makes a whole lot of sense doesn’t it?

In other issues addressed in the poll Americans oppose a national version of the South Dakota abortion ban by a whopping 58%-34% so don’t expect the Republicans to start pushing on the Abortion Amendment again anytime soon.

Some details from the Pew Report just sort of enforce the feeling that there are two different countries here. The Northeast and West form one country and the South and Midwest form the other (although the Midwest kind of leans toward neutral). Similarly we have the educated and the less educated.

Opinion on Gay Adoption broke down as follows by region.

Northeast - Favor = 57%, Opposed = 35%
West - Favor = 53%, Opposed = 38%
Midwest - Favor = 44%, Opposed = 51%
South - Favor = 35%, Opposed = 60%

Opinion on Gay Adoption broke down as follows by education.

College Degree – Favor = 55%, Opposed = 37%
Some College – Favor = 49%, Opposed = 45%
HS Grad or Less – Favor = 38%, Opposed = 56%

Then again, perhaps we are all pulling in the same direction but some of us get there first is all. Opinion on the South Dakota Abortion Ban as a national law broke down as follows by region.

Northeast – Favor = 29%, Opposed = 63%
West – Favor = 30%, Opposed = 60%
Midwest - Favor = 40%, Opposed = 54%
South - Favor = 37%, Opposed = 56%

Opinion on the South Dakota Abortion Ban as a national law broke down as follows by education.

College Degree - Favor = 24%, Opposed = 70%
Some College - Favor = 35%, Opposed = 57%
HS Grad or Less - Favor = 40%, Opposed = 51%

Isn’t it interesting that the Northeast and West tend to line up more with the educated segments of the population? The same thing was true in a poll about evolution vs. creationism. I wonder why that is? Trust me on this one, people are no smarter nor much better educated in the Northeast and West than in the Midwest. The South of course consists solely of uneducated rednecks that sleep with their sisters.

Nah, only kidding. I wonder if there is such an organization as "South Bashers Anonymous" to cure me of this tendency to constantly identify the shortcomings of the southern region of this country?

Actually, it's more likely the difference is because Evangelical Christianity is weakest in the Northeast and West. In this survey Evangelical Christians opposed Gay adoption by a margin of 75%-22% and favored the South Dakota Abortion Ban by a margin of 59%-36% demonstrating again how they are out of tune with American Democracy yet they want to enforce their “moral values” on the rest of us. It is times like this that make me sorry I decided to never use a certain word in this blog since I’d really like to tell them what to do to themselves.

In contrast, folks who described themselves as "Secular" favored Gay Adoption by a margin of 66%-28% and opposed the South Dakota Abortion Ban by an incredible 82%-16%. Yes my children the Culture War is alive and well.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Never Test God

It’s really bad idea. In Deuteronomy 6:16 Moses warns against testing God and Jesus points this out to Satan in Matthew 4:7. That being the case, one has to wonder what the idiot in Kiev that Reuters reports entered a lion enclosure shouting “God will save me, if he exists” was thinking?

Was this an attempt to get God to prove he exists and did the guy want the question answered for himself or was he looking to demonstrate to the world what he was already certain of?

We’ll never know because a lioness improved the human gene pool by whacking him with her claw and severing his carotid artery. This is definitely a candidate for a Darwin Award.

The Gay Marriage Amendment

It’s June, right about time for the Republicans to start squawking about garbage “moral values” issues in order to stir up the religious fruitcakes of the Christian Right.

Bush the Unhinged, may fleas nest in his private parts, is again pushing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Why he’s not embarrassed about supporting the codification of bigotry and intolerance into the constitution is beyond me. I won’t even mention the hypocrisy of spinning 180 degrees from the usual conservative chant about the federal government dictating on questions that should be left to the states.

The amendment has about zero chance of even getting through congress never mind being ratified by the states so this is simply an attempt to gets folks out for the primaries tomorrow and, more importantly, we’re seeing the opening salvos for November.

There’s nothing like homosexuality to get the Christian Right all stirred up and marching to the polls to vote Republican. One wonders if these people ever really think about what they do. I’m still waiting for someone to give me a rational reason why gay marriage is a bad idea.

To even consider putting an amendment into the constitution which says its ok to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation is absolutely disgraceful. This is just more evidence that religion is incompatible with western democratic principles.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Human Sacrifice in Ancient Canaan

There is little doubt that many ancient Canaanite religions called for child sacrifice. The rites of both Chemosh of the Moabites and Molech of the Ammonites appear to have called for sacrifices by “passing through the fire.” This is generally understood to mean sacrifice by burning the victim to death.

Pretty gruesome and often offered by Apologists as a justification for the genocide the early Israelites were instructed by God to carry out on the Canaanite tribes. The more secular idea of refugees from civilized Egypt entering Canaan and being horrified by the practice works as an explanation too.

There’s only one problem. If the kingdoms of Israel and Judah actually emerged from the indigenous nomads of the highlands as Finkelstein and others propose, then there was no exodus from Egypt and there is no reason to assume the early Hebrew religious practices would be all that distinct from the surrounding cultures. One would expect to find that the early Israelites practiced child sacrifice as well as their neighbors. The question is whether, as we are led to believe by most interpretations, this was the result of the Israelites becoming enamored of foreign gods and adopting their rites or it was the result of internal priestly disagreements related to the proper worship of the Hebrew God himself. In other words, did early Israelites perform child sacrifices to YHWH as their neighbors did to Chemosh and Molech?

Exodus hints at the practice by talking about “redeeming” each first born male. In Kings, the Kings of Israel are repeatedly condemned for performing child sacrifice.

Exodus 13:2 Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal.

Rather a suggestive paragraph wouldn’t you say?

Exodus 13:13 Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons.

I guess one could “redeem” a child the same way a donkey is redeemed, with a substitute lamb, but it’s interesting that it doesn’t specifically say that isn’t it? Then again, according to Numbers, it simply costs 5 shekels to redeem each firstborn son.

Exodus 13:14 In days to come, when your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' say to him, 'With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.'

Most Apologists would point out that either these paragraphs simply refer to dedicating the first born male to the service of God or that they refer to redeeming the first born with lamb’s blood as was done on the first Passover.

I don’t find the first explanation terribly compelling. Dedicated to God’s service in order to do what? The Levites were the priestly class weren’t they? If this was simply a call to dedicate the first born male to the service of God, then how come the practice isn’t referred to and expanded upon elsewhere?

The second explanation sounds much more likely and first born children would be redeemed with a substitute animal sacrifice. I wonder what happened if the family didn’t have an animal to substitute?

2 Kings 16:3 He (Ahaz) walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.

2 Kings 17:17 They (the Israelites) sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire.

The kings of Judah come in for similar criticism in this regard including Solomon.

1 Kings 11: 7 On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.

King Hezekiah and then Josiah, the guy with the white hat according to the Deuteronomistic History, take serious steps to put a stop to this practice. Unfortunately, their actions appear to get undone by the kings that follow them.

2 Kings 23:10 He (King Josiah) desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice his son or daughter in the fire to Molech.

Josiah was not a man to trifle with. Undoubtedly cheered on by Jeremiah, he ripped down all the altars dedicated by past kings to foreign gods.

2 Kings 23:12 He pulled down the altars the kings of Judah had erected on the roof near the upper room of Ahaz, and the altars Manasseh had built in the two courts of the temple of the LORD. He removed them from there, smashed them to pieces and threw the rubble into the Kidron Valley. 13 The king also desecrated the high places that were east of Jerusalem on the south of the Hill of Corruption—the ones Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the vile goddess of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the vile god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the people of Ammon.

It sounds like the priests came off even worse than the altars.

2 Kings 23:20 Josiah slaughtered all the priests of those high places.

Josiah re-organizes how the Passover is celebrated.

2 Kings 23:21 The king gave this order to all the people: "Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant."

And what is this “Book of the Covenant?” Why it’s the book of laws fortuitously located by the High Priest Hilkiah in the Temple at Jerusalem. I say fortuitously because the book:

- Explained what the Israelites had been doing wrong and that got God all ticked off at them.
- Explained how to improve the situation.
- Established Judah’s ancient claim to the lands of the defunct northern kingdom of Israel

The book is of course Deuteronomy and the following historical books or at least the initial version of the histories. I find it a little strange that Josiah and company felt compelled to specify the Passover celebration.

Deuteronomy 16:2 Sacrifice as the Passover to the LORD your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name.

The place is Jerusalem which pretty much puts the Kingdom of Judah, and Josiah himself, in the driver’s seat. It also guarantees that the Levite priests of Jerusalem would be the beneficiaries of the sacrifices.

Deuteronomy 6:20 In the future, when your son asks you, "What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?" 21 tell him: "We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.”

Note the absence of any references to sacrificing the first male offspring, redeeming the first male or any references to the death of the first born of Egypt here as opposed to Exodus 13.

Josiah, Deuteronomy and the supporting histories make it pretty darn clear that human sacrifice will not be tolerated nor will any other rites associated with foreign gods. If Josiah was the driving force behind Deuteronomy, or even if he simply acquiesced to something being touted by Hilkiah and his son Jeremiah, the legal and religious reform that he brought about deserves to be considered one of the greatest influences on the western world and King Josiah deserves to be considered one of history’s greatest law givers up there with Hammurabi, Moses, and Solon.

Unfortunately, Josiah makes the mistake of stepping in front of an Egyptian arrow and it’s unlikely that he managed to fully root out the practice since both Jeremiah and Ezekiel have a few words to say about the topic as well.

Jeremiah 7:31 They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind.

I find it interesting that God has to specifically state that child sacrifice was “something I did not command” as late as the time of Jeremiah in the 7th century BCE.

Ezekiel 20:25 I also gave them (the Israelites) over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by; 26 I let them become defiled through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn —that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD.'

This is another one of those “suggestive passages.” One can spin it a number of ways but one has to wonder about paragraph 26 and exactly what is implied by God letting them become defiled through the sacrifice of every firstborn and why this would fill them with horror?

Ezekiel 20:31 When you offer your gifts—the sacrifice of your sons in the fire—you continue to defile yourselves with all your idols to this day.

This sort of implies that the practice was still going on around the time of the exile.

What I have never been able to understand is why so many of the kings of ancient Israel and Judah, at least according to the prevailing Biblical interpretation, fell into the habit of worshipping foreign gods. It seems like a pretty dumb thing to do. The cycle is obvious. The people fall into idolatry, God beats them over the head because of it, the people repent, God forgives them and restores their blessings and then the idiots immediately fall back into idolatry.

One has to suspect that this is the result of the cycle of success and failure that all nations and cultures experience. However, it usually takes something pretty major to turn a people away from their god. The first reaction is usually that the god is angry for some reason and needs to be appeased. This leads either directly to increased sacrifices or, if there is an ongoing debate between factions of the priesthood, a swing in which faction has the upper hand.

There certainly appears to have historically been some friction between the northern priesthood centered at Shiloh and the southern priesthood centered at Jerusalem. Allow me to speculate that the northern faction, in a more hospitable and more densely populated environment with more aggressive local neighbors, held to what they believed were the “old ways” which included the same child sacrifice as the other tribal religions, while the southern faction, in a much more sparsely populated environment, held the opinion that such rites were a perversion of the true worship of YHWH.

Since the north was the more powerful of the two kingdoms, its influence would tend to prevail and its theology would tend to dominate. After the fall of the northern kingdom, that influence would begin to wane but it would take a good while for it to disappear completely. If for no other reason than the strength of tradition, it might still hold sway unless strong liberal kings, like Hezekiah and Josiah, were on the throne of Judah.

I find it suggestive that the first great reform, that of Hezekiah, occurs right about the time of the fall of the northern kingdom. I also find it interesting that both reforms occurred during the period of influence of a great prophet. Isaiah was a contemporary of Hezekiah and Jeremiah was a contemporary of Josiah.

Upon the death of Hezekiah, Manasseh ascends to the throne of Judah. It’s a dangerous time. The northern kingdom has fallen and the king of Assyria is applying considerable pressure on Judah having even besieged Jerusalem during Hezekiah’s reign. Perhaps looking for a reversal of fortune, Manasseh undoes the reforms of Hezekiah.

2 Chronicle 33:2 He (Manasseh) did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished.

2 Chronicles 33:6 He (Manasseh) sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.

As noted above, rather than appease God, Manasseh ticked him off to no end. To teach Manasseh a lesson, God let the Assyrians clean his clock.

2 Chronicles 33:11 So the LORD brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.

Not exactly what the Prophet Isaiah had in mind when he prophesized:

Isaiah 30:31 The voice of the LORD will shatter Assyria; with his scepter he will strike them down. 32 Every stroke the LORD lays on them with his punishing rod will be to the music of tambourines and harps, as he fights them in battle with the blows of his arm. 33 Topheth has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the king. Its fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze.

So Isaiah envisions that the King of Assyria will be burned in the pit of Topheth just as all the child sacrifices to false gods? Then why is the fire in the pit started by “the breath of the LORD?”

At least according to Chronicles, Manasseh sees the light and turns back to God. Strangely, Kings is silent about this change of heart.

2 Chronicles 33:15 He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the LORD, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. 16 Then he restored the altar of the LORD and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the LORD, the God of Israel. 17 The people, however, continued to sacrifice at the high places, but only to the LORD their God.

Let’s consider paragraph 17. “The people, however, continued to sacrifice at the high places, but only to the LORD their God.”

What the hell does this mean? The “high places” were the places where child sacrifice to the foreign gods took place. This passage can easily be interpreted to mean that while the sacrifices remained the same, they were now only directed toward the god of Israel while in the past they had been directed toward multiple deities including the god of Israel (note that I use a small “g” because I can’t possibly be talking about God here).

I might even argue that is the simplest interpretation. Any other interpretation requires reading into the passage a change in the manner of sacrifice as well.

As for Isaiah, Jewish tradition has it that he was executed by Manasseh by being cut in half with a wooden saw. I guess Manasseh was unamused that he got a hook through his nose rather than the Assyrian monarch getting fried in a fiery pit. Manasseh reigned for fifty-five years! His successor, Amon, was assassinated after only two years.

2 Chronicles 33:22 He (Amon) did what was evil in the LORD's sight, just as his father Manasseh had done. He worshiped and sacrificed to all the idols his father had made. 23 But unlike his father, he did not humble himself before the LORD. Instead, Amon sinned even more.

Very strange isn’t it? Manasseh sees the light after getting a hook shoved into his nose but Amon doesn’t learn anything from that. I might also point out that the passage sort of implies that sacrificing to idols is ok as long as you humble yourself before the LORD.

2 Chronicle 33:24 At last Amon's own officials plotted against him and assassinated him in his palace. 25 But the people of the land killed all those who had conspired against King Amon, and they made his son Josiah the next king.

This sure sounds like another event in an ongoing internecine struggle. This time it’s a failed palace coup.

Josiah ascends the throne next at the tender age of eight and doesn’t begin his reforms until twelve years later. Coincidentally, Jeremiah gets his first person to person call from God in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign.

The untimely death of Josiah and Judah getting caught between the millstones of Egypt and Babylon sort of pushes the theological struggle into the background but it’s the Babylonian exile which finally appears to settle the question.

Historically child sacrifice in Canaan seems to have continued in some places until the Romans took measures to stamp it out once and for all in the 1st century CE! It took the empire to succeed despite the fact that both the Greeks and the Jews, after the Babylonian exile, abhorred the practice.

The traditional understanding is that the people were constantly being seduced into worshipping false gods and performing their abominable acts. I suspect that it was a little more complicated than that. I suspect that early on there was some disagreement over whether the God of Israel required such sacrifices as well.

I suspect that the priestly faction of the northern kingdom insisted that such sacrifices were right and proper and based this argument upon a distorted interpretation of the book of Exodus. If you learn nothing else young Padawan learn this, NEVER entrust a priest, or anyone else that calls himself a “man of God,” with the authority to make decisions related to law or justice. Feel free to use them as moral advisors if you must, but leave the authority, in the hands of secular leaders.

Not until the fall of the northern kingdom does a minority southern viewpoint, which holds child sacrifice an abomination of false gods, begin to replace the distorted northern view. Not until Josiah produces the Book of Deuteronomy, which clearly refutes child sacrifice by providing an alternate set of rules, is there a book of Moses that supports the southern viewpoint, but, as indicated by Ezekiel, it still takes a hundred years or so for the conflict to finally be resolved. Perhaps the practice was finally abandoned at the insistence of the Babylonians who, despite the sexual myths recorded by Herodotus, seem to have practiced a reasonably high morality as free of human sacrifice as the Egyptians.

Yes, yes, it’s all speculation and undoubtedly being driven by my ignorance and lack of understanding. Actually it’s being driven by my philosophy of “accept nothing without questioning everything.”

Clearly my suspicions and ramblings are totally meaningless since there is no way to verify them one way or the other. This is merely an exercise in cherry picking passages and twisting the interpretation to fit some pre-defined conclusion. But isn’t this basically what all biblical interpretation consists of?

I find amusing the position that the Bible is simple to understand except when it appears to say something uncomfortable. Then one needs years of training in biblical interpretation and exegesis in order to understand what it REALLY means.

I’m certainly not saying that I believe child sacrifice was a part of the early worship of the Israelite God. I’m well enough trained to be able to consider an idea that I don’t accept. There are a few that do accept it however starting with the anthropologist Patrick Tierney.

I find it interesting that I only encountered Tierney AFTER I wrote the first drafts of the above speculation. While I thought Isaiah would have been supporting Hezekiah’s initial attempt at reform, Tierney believes the passages from Isaiah 30:31-33 are an acceptance of the sacrificial practices. I’m not so sure. I think Isaiah was speaking metaphorically and cheered on Hezekiah all the way. Perhaps that was another reason Manasseh decided to shorten his existence.

I’ve found some Apologetics on this topic but not much. No one tries to refute the idea since the overwhelmingly majority interpretation of the scriptures is that they are referring to the repeated descent into idolatry and the worship of false gods. Doesn’t God, when he stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, make it clear that he abhors human sacrifice?

Well, not really. You could interpret it that way, and lots of folks do, but God never actually says that. Well then surely when God stopped Jephthah from sacrificing his daughter he makes it clear then. Oh wait, God didn’t stop Jephthah did he? Nope, not one word of protest. As a matter of fact, if you think about it, Jephthah’s oath in Judges 11:31 “whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering” sort of has built into it the possibility that it could be a person. Jephthah couldn’t have been so stupid that he didn’t realize that could he?

Christianity has the problem that Jesus is fundamentally being pushed as a human sacrifice for the atonement of man’s sins. Most folks don’t raise this point since it tends to be viewed as a terribly offensive suggestion. I did find one Apologetic refutation of the idea though, which went through great pains, primarily by playing fast and loose with some Hebrew bible translations, to establish that it’s only child sacrifice that the bible condemns! And he was quite content that he had addressed the issue. What an idiot.

Josiah’s Deuteronomy clearly declares human sacrifice an absolute no-no along with a number of other abhorrent practices.

Deuteronomy 18:9 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you.

This means that all the phony mediums and psychics fleecing people by claiming to speak to the dead are performing actions that are “detestable to the LORD.”

As for Jesus as human sacrifice, these laws are given to men. It’s God’s sandbox so I guess he’s not necessarily bound by them. Besides, dying is only a temporary, although awfully painful, inconvenience for a god-man isn’t it?

The National Spelling Bee

ABC televised the final round last night as a 13 year old girl from New Jersey took home the top prize. I didn’t watch it. I couldn’t care less and besides, I’m a lousy speller. If it weren’t for Spell Check features I’d appear even more illiterate than I do from my rotten grammar and inability to write a coherent sentence.

This is the whole point behind this blog. Aside from the fact that it’s kind of fun, it’s practice. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? You practice, my friend, you practice.

So, should I be impressed? Yeah, I should be impressed. While I don’t consider spelling much of a of intellectual indicator, putting in what I’m sure was hundreds of hours practicing and learning how to spell obscure words and then managing the pressure of the finals took a lot of dedication and guts. That kind of perseverance and courage deserves recognition and praise especially in a world where simple competence seems to be in short supply. So hats off to Katharine Close, the Jersey Girl and top speller for 2006.