• Topic Suggestions

    What would you like to see me blog about?

    Here lately I’ve been somewhat off-topic — blogging about the Jesus Myth Wars, before that blogging on life / health advice, etc. which are somewhat off the usual topics of this blog, though they are interesting, I think. So leave a comment and tell me what types of posts you’re interested in seeing (whether it be those topics or new ones).

    Category: Uncategorized

    Article by: Nicholas Covington

    I used to blog at Answers in Genesis BUSTED! I took the creationist organization Answers in Genesis to pieces. I am the author of Atheism and Naturalism and Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence, and the Resurrection of Jesus. I am an armchair philosopher with interests in Ethics, Epistemology (that's philosophy of knowledge), Philosophy of Religion, and Skepticism in general.


    1. Cogliano, Francis D (2006). Thomas Jefferson. Edinburgh University Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-7486-3662-4.

      During his last years, [Thomas] Jefferson endeavored unsuccessfully to convince a publisher to bring out an American edition of Baxter’s Impartial History which he hoped would replace Hume’s work as the standard English history read by Americans. Jefferson’s attack on Hume epitomized his attitude toward history. He admired Hume’s history for its style but condemned its interpretations.

    2. Voltaire (1765), Questions sur les miracles :

      Once your faith, sir, persuades you to believe what your intelligence declares to be absurd, beware lest you likewise sacrifice your reason in the conduct of your life. In days gone by, there were people who said to us: “You believe in incomprehensible, contradictory and impossible things because we have commanded you to; now then, commit unjust acts because we likewise order you to do so.” Nothing could be more convincing. Certainly any one who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. If you do not use the intelligence with which God endowed your mind to resist believing impossibilities, you will not be able to use the sense of injustice which God planted in your heart to resist a command to do evil. Once a single faculty of your soul has been tyrannized, all the other faculties will submit to the same fate. This has been the cause of all the religious crimes that have flooded the earth. (Trans. Norman Lewis Torrey: Les Philosophes. The Philosophers of the Enlightenment and Modern Democracy. Capricorn Books, 1961, pp. 277f)

      The above Voltaire (1765) quote is the source of the widely used paraphrase (often misattributed as a direct quote): Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

      Per Brad Blakeley (24 September 2012). “If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities”. bradblakeleysblog. @ https://bradblakeleysblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/if-we-believe-absurdities-we-shall-commit-atrocities/

      [Per if we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities]

      First, this statement is actually a classic example of a non sequitur. It certainly does not follow that a person who believes something absurd will commit any atrocity, maybe so but maybe not. It all depends on the absurdity believed. If the absurdity somehow legitimatizes violence than belief may lead to an atrocity, but these two things are not logically entailed.

      Second, it’s difficult to see how belief in Christian theism would lead to any atrocities. Even if one believes Christian theism to be absurd, it’s surely a benign absurdity. The center of its ethic is: Love thy neighbor, including enemies…

      1. Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom by Norman Finkelstein – On the Many Lies Perpetuated About Gaza”. Democracy Now!. @ https://www.democracynow.org/2018/1/10/gaza_an_inquest_into_its_martyrdom

        Finkelstein, Norman G. (2018). “Conclusion”. Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom. Univ of California Press. p. 359. ISBN 978-0-520-29571-1.

        The proximate cause of Gaza’s desperate plight is the siege. The 2015 UNCTAD report observed that “the complete and immediate lifting of Israel’s blockade [is] more urgent than ever if Gaza is to have a chance to avoid further damage and develop into a liveable place.” In a follow-up report a year later, UNCTAD again sounded the alarm: “The population of Gaza is locked in, denied access to the West Bank and the rest of the world. Even people in need of medical treatment are not allowed to travel to obtain essential health care. . . . Full recovery of the Gaza Strip is challenging without a lifting of the blockade, which collectively negatively affects the entire 1.8 million population of Gaza and deprives them of their economic, civil, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to development.“ The siege, which constitutes a form of collective punishment, is a flagrant violation of international law.

        Cf. Finkelstein, Norman G. (2003) [1995]. Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. Verso. ISBN 978-1-85984-442-7. [revised edition offers an additional appendix devoted to criticism of Michael Oren (2002).]

    3. Are there alternatives to “Political Parties” ?

      Per the power structures of organizations such as political parties and trade unions. Robert Michels (1911) argued that all organizations, even those in theory most egalitarian and most committed to democracy are in fact oligarchical, and dominated by a small group of leadership.

      Cf. American Candidate – a political reality television show on Showtime in 2004. The final episode demonstrates how two candidates (with surface only similarities) split the vote and then both lose to the third candidate.

    4. McBee, Silas (1918). “The Logos in the Fourth Gospel”. The Constructive Quarterly: A Journal of the Faith, Work and Thought of Christendom. George H. Doran Company. p. 356. @ https://books.google.com/books/content?id=2obNAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA356&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U3VZhTmOAP9jbcEFr8iejcG9RRBAA&ci=150%2C260%2C770%2C267&edge=0

      [I]n Philo’s treatise on the Confusion of Tongues [is] as a comment on the passage Zechariah 6:12, which is translated, in our Authorized Version: “Behold the man whose name is The Branch”; the Hebrew word being tsemach, “a sprout.” But Philo, following the Septuagint, read anatolē onoma autou, “his name is the East.”

      Bock, Darrell L. (2015). A Theology of Luke and Acts: God’s Promised Program, Realized for All Nations. Zondervan. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-310-52320-8 :

      [Per ἀνατολή (anatolē)] It can also refer to the rising sun or star when the verbal form ἀνατέλλω (anatellō, “to rise up”) is used (Num 24:17; Mal 4:2 [3:20 MT/LXX]). At Qumran and in contemporary Judaism, the former sense of “branch” [OT Hebrew] was predominant and was understood messianically. Interestingly, both Philo (Confusion 14 §§60-63) and Justin Martyr (Dial. 100.4; 106.4; 121.2; 126.1) saw the term as messianic and tied it to the picture of a heavenly light [LXX Greek].

      Revelation 22:16,

      ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ῥίζα καὶ τὸ γένος Δαυίδ, ὁ ἀστὴρ ὁ λαμπρὸς ὁ πρωϊνός.
      I am the son of David, the star of the morning.

      1. Aune, David (12 December 2017). “Revelation 22:10-20”. Revelation 17-22, Volume 52C. Zondervan. p. 1226. ISBN 978-0-310-58827-6.

        [T]he would-be Messiah Shimon bar Kosiba’s nickname “Bar Kochba,” meaning “son of a star,” is also an allusion to Num 24:17; cf. Eusebius Hist. eccl. 4.6.2; see Vermes, “The Story of Balaam,” in Scripture and Tradition in Judaism: Haggadic Studies, 2nd ed. [Leiden: Brill, 1973] 165-66). Coins minted during the Bar Kochba revolt depict a star over the temple…

        Bar Kokhba Revolt coinage @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_Kokhba_Revolt_coinage

        Beginning in the second year of issue and continuing into the final year, a star appeared above the Temple on many coins, probably in reference to Bar Kochba’s nickname “Son of the Star”.

      2. Stephen L. Huebscher (28 July 2017). “Heavenly Worship in Second Temple Judaism, Early Christianity, and Gnostic Sects: Part 2”. Dr. Michael Heiser. @ http://drmsh.com/heavenly-worship-in-second-temple-judaism-early-christianity-and-gnostic-sects-part-2/

        The concept of the heavenly tabernacle/temple was very important and explicit in some of Philo’s writings. Philo’s view here, as with much of what he writes, reflects Platonic cosmology and philosophy
        There were several important doctrines during the Second Temple period, though whether they preceded the second temple or not depends in part on how one dates the texts.
        The accompanying belief was that the worshipers were in some way and some sense divinized (i.e., the human worshipers became divine, just like the heavenly beings on which they were modeled, variously called qodeshim (holy ones), beney ’elohim (sons of God), kokabim (stars), etc.).


        Avalos, Hector (2005). Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence. Prometheus Books, Publishers. p. 310. ISBN 978-1-61592-195-9.

        [Per the Jewish Talmud] In Sanhedrin 109b, we find the curious story of what happened to the folks God dispersed after the attempt to build the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). The groups building the tower were classified into three groups: (1) those who wanted to live in heaven, (2) those who wanted to worship stars (kokabim), [cited: The Soncino English edition translates the Hebrew term kokabim as “idols,” but I prefer “stars,” which is more literally accurate, for two other reasons: (1) Worshipping stars is most compatible with the idea of building a tower that reached heaven; and (2) building a tower was not otherwise necessary to worship idols.] and (3) those who wanted to wage war, presumably against God.

        1. עבודה זרה Avodah zarah (Idolatry) @ https://levi.life/GS4QR/mishnah/

          [Appellations are] ‘Abodath kokabim u-mazzaloth’ (worship of the stars and constellations) and ‘Obed k. u-m.’ (worshiper of stars etc.; idolater) or, as the abbreviation according to the initial letters runs, ‘Akkum’ עכו”ם —(Strack, p 262)

          Kalonymos ben Kalonymos (1317), Be-‘Inyane ha-Kokabim ha-Nebukim. —Hebrew translation, based on the Arabic version of Ptolemy’s Planetary Hypotheses. Of this treatise, only the first part survives in Greek; the whole text is extant in Arabic and Hebrew translation.

          Astrolatry is the worship of stars and other heavenly bodies as deities, or the association of deities with heavenly bodies, and which usually implies polytheism.

          Astrotheology is any religious system founded upon the observation of the heavens, and may be monotheistic.

          1. I suspect that the relationship between Christianity and astrotheology needs to be re examined. Enoch and Revelation both seem to have an eye on the heavens, Jesus is said to be the “morning and evening star” just as the dying and rising goddess Inanna was the planet Venus. As Plutarch notes, there were a few different theories about how the gods related to the stars and planets, besides the simple identification of the two.

            1. In ancient Greek cosmology Venus had two separate identities, i.e. it was two different stars.

              Per Venus_§Observation @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus#Observation :
              Venus “overtakes” Earth every 584 days as it orbits the Sun. As it does so, it changes from the “Evening Star”, visible after sunset, to the “Morning Star”.
              Cf. “Inferior and superior planets” @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inferior_and_superior_planets
              The periods of Venus as “Evening Star (hesperus)” and “Morning Star (phosphoros)” each average about 263 days. In between Venus disappears.
              Cf. Hesperus @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesperus
              Cf. Phosphorus (morning star) @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphorus_(morning_star%29

            2. As it does so, it changes from the “Evening Star”, visible after sunset, to the “Morning Star”.

              Does this have anything to do with Jesus replacing John the Baptist who died and who is apparently resurrected?

            3. I do not know if it has “anything to do with Jesus replacing John the Baptist”.

              Per Timaeus by Plato, “[38d] the Sun and the Star of Hermes and the Morning Star [Heosphoros, εωσφόρος] regularly overtake and are overtaken by one another.” This implies that Plato understood Heosphoros (Dawn/Eos bringer) and Hesperos (Evening/Vesper bringer) were the same planet i.e. Venus. @ https://archive.org/stream/b2900049x_0009#page/78/mode/2up

      3. Stephen L. Huebscher (21 August 2017). “Heavenly Worship in Second Temple Judaism, Early Christianity, and Gnostic Sects: Part 5”. Dr. Michael Heiser. @ http://drmsh.com/heavenly-worship-in-second-temple-judaism-early-christianity-and-gnostic-sects-part-5/

        [This is the 5th and final post in a series by guest blogger, Stephen Huebscher]
        The mystical belief of “worship=ascending to heaven,” which was first a part of Jewish and later Gnostic (and still later, Christian) mystical groups, seems to have built on the Platonic cosmology of various levels Plato described in Timaeus. Timaeus was the standard work for much of the ancient world about the cosmology of heaven and earth. In it, the astronomer/philosopher who sees the stars and understands the cosmology is the hero.

    5. Russell, Bertrand (2008) [1945]. History of Western Philosophy. Simon and Schuster. pp. 296–297. ISBN 978-1-4165-9915-9 :

      [T]he philosophy of Plotinus has the defect of encouraging men to look within rather than to look without: when we look within we see nous, which is divine, while when we look without we see the imperfections of the sensible world. This kind of subjectivity was a gradual growth; it is to be found in the doctrines of Protagoras, Socrates, and Plato, as well as in the Stoics and Epicureans. But at first it was only doctrinal, not temperamental; for a long time it failed to kill scientific curiosity. […] Plotinus is both an end and a beginning—an end as regards the Greeks, a beginning as regards Christendom.

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