Why I Can’t Agree With the Bible: Joshua: Part 1

I’m finally home after more than a week away. As such, I’m back to my Bible review. I’m now in Joshua.
It begins with Joshua sending spies into Jericho. They mustn’t have been very good spies. Seriously, how did the Israelite spies get caught so easily? Was God not protecting them?
Once the spies got back to camp, they reported what they found to Joshua. The Israelites then walked across the Jordan River to fight Jericho. They sure walk across a lot of dried up river beds. I wonder if there had been a lot of drought.
Again, God says that he wants the Israelites to fear him. Personally, I’d rather people respected me, and enjoyed my company. But to each their own I suppose. It just seems a bit like, well, bullying to me.
At one point it says that all the Israelites were to be circumcised again. It sounds like they’re to be circumcised twice, which makes no sense. But it’s really every bodies first time. Why hadn’t the Israelites born in the desert been circumcised? Wasn’t that part of the covenant with God? Weren’t they sinning by not circumcising all the boys at eight days old? And why would God have them circumcised right before battle? Why not before they crossed the river? Or after the battle? Right outside of the enemy’s door seems like a silly place to temporarily cripple all the men.
Later on, a man claims to be the head of the lords army. Joshua believes him without question. The man wasn’t obviously an angel, so why did Joshua believe him? A would have suspected a spy, afterall, that seems more likely than being visited by an angel.
The bit about marching around Jericho makes me think Veggietales. I wonder if there were any French peas…
At the beginning, a woman had helped the spies escape Jericho. She is told to put a scarf in her window and bring her family into her house. After Jericho is defeated, the woman and her family are found safe by the Israelites. How did God know to spare the woman and her family? Could he see the scarf? Was the scarf actually necessary? Then it claims that the woman is still alive (when the book was written, so hundreds of years after the event). Wait…the woman still lives with the Israelites? But…how old is she? When did she die? Or is she still alive? Is she immortal?
God really needs to stop it with the temper tantrums. Apparently there has been yet another sin against him. Why does he take everything so personally? I doubt it was meant as a personal attack. Joshua pours sand on his head when he realizes that God is angry. Sand? Why? God claims that somebody has stolen from him, then claims that they must destroy the destructible. Destroy whatever is devoted to destruction? That seems somewhat counter-intuitive…And what does that actually mean? Is the stolen thing destructible? Or is the thief destructible? How did God find out about the theft? This God is clearly not all-knowing. Did he see? Then why did he take so long to react? Was he told? Then by who? And how did they know? God decides that the thief and his family should be burned. Why are people being destroyed with fire? This seems like an unnecessarily painful punishment. The thief, it turns out stole a robe and some money. A robe? He stole a robe? Why does God need a robe? Did he want to wear it? Why were the thief’s children stoned and burned? What did they do? How is this moral? Why did God punish all of Israel (by making them lose a battle and 36 men) because one person stole? Where is the morality here?
I haven’t gotten very far into Joshua, but, as you can see, I already have a lot of questions. Sadly, I doubt I’ll get any answers.


Games Workshop, or how to run your monopoly into the ground.

When I was 11, I was introduced to the Grim Darkness of the 41st millennium by a friends, and, for the next 8 years, I’d be hooked playing when ever I could. I’d be building the models I could afford, and painting them when I built up the motivation.

For those of you unaware of miniature war games, the basic idea is this: you have a number of miniatures and these models you buy unassembled and unpainted. After assembling and painting an army you then pick up your rule book and equip your army before heading into battle. These games, Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, War Machine, the Reaper miniature lines, and the new Lords of War and War Path to name just a few, are both a form of entertainment and a proper hobby. They can open the worlds of painting, sculpting and complex miniature building, as well as offer the chance to learn about complex strategy.

I really loved the game Warhammer 40K, created and owned by Game Workshop (GW), and still love the lore. There really isn’t so expansive of a sci fi universe, except maybe Star Wars or Star Trek. Though I haven’t played for several years, and before that had been slowing down and limiting purchases. Why? Sadly, it isn’t because I found greener hobby pastures or because I had run out of steam. It’s because, in the short 8 years I played, the prices of the models and the associated media increased as much as 120%.

Now lets be clear this wasn’t do to the recession, or any such business trouble. No, hobbies like 40K are recession resistance, since gamers, who tend to be affluent, will keep sales going. And GW had a market share well over 60% allowing it to behave like a monopoly. You know what monopolies can do though? They can raise prices by 10-15% per year (some times more) while reducing services and silencing opposition.

Shorty after beginning to build and play 40K the price increases came about once year. This wasn’t noticeable to me as a young boy, but soon I was a teenager and the discussion of the hobby had gone online. GW had become an openly traded company. Big changes were coming to the game: the rule were significantly changed and newer, bigger, and, indeed, better miniatures were being produced. GW does make some of the very best plastic miniatures available, though, when you start selling what were 20 miniatures per box for twice the amount then drop the number per box to 10 but keep the new exorbitant price and do nothing to change the decade old models, failing to add even a little value to the product as compensation, then you are not only raising the assumed value of your product, you are also taking advantage of your consumer base. As a company, you cannot simply keep raising the prices of your product and hope that your customers won’t notice. You will anger a lot of people, and your sales will go down.  

The final straw for me, and many other people, was when GW created a new line of resin models to replace the pewter models they had been selling since the companies conceptions. There’s nothing wrong with resin, and I have no affinity for metal. In fact, I was happy to hear about the up coming change to resin. GW’s statement made it clear that the move was a cost one, given the high prices of pewter, and would save a great deal of money. Heck, they said they had really worked hard on the resin recipe so it would be light weight and durable. Awesome, right? This new line of resin miniature called finecast would be great.

So finecast came out and many hobbyists, myself included, began calling it fine cost. First and foremost, the product was crap out of the gate. GW prides itself of quality, but I personally saw walls of blister packs filled with resin models riddled with air holes that were horribly warped or broken. Sure, maybe half the models were more or less intact, but a company that prides itself on quality released a whole line of models that showed almost no quality control. And it turned out they would even melt in the sun!

Oh, now how could I forget to mention, they released the line with a 15% price increase compared to the pewter models, and they didn’t even bother to make new molds. This just a few months after the yearly hike in prices. Really passing those saving onto the costumers! Sure, boost the costs by about 20%, we won’t mind! That is, we won’t mind finding a new use for all that money we’re saving not buying GW.

As you might imagine, the player base of GW games has really shrunk. And, after nearly a solid decade of sales loses in a game that can only survive on it’s player base, you’d think the company would understand that such a move would be unsustainable.

Well, it’s been a couple of years since I even cared to think about GW, and it looks like they might be making some changes for the better. But they’ve still been raising prices every chance they’ve had. It isn’t hard to imagine why they’re not the monopolizing force they use to be, as other friendlier and much leaner companies undercut them at every turn.

Funny, you can’t force your monopoly on people when you’re not offering a necessity.

I might write some more on this issue, as a case example of the problems caused by monopolies, but, moral of the story, if you run into a Games Workshop, or a GW, game, spend your money elsewhere.


What Does it Mean to Be a Bigot?

I keep noticing posts where the author has used bigoted languages. When someone points out the bigotry the author often cries “you’re being to PC.” I hate to break it to those authors, but crying PC doesn’t make you less of a bigot.

So what does it mean to be a bigot? It means being discriminatory towards a given group. It means using bigoted language. Calling someone a “tranny” is bigoted, because “tranny” is a derogative slur. You can defend that language all you want, but if you call someone a “tranny,” you’re a bigot. Other slurs are the same. Whether they’re sexist, racist, or discriminatory towards LGBTQ people, or any other group. Using these slurs makes you a bigot.

What does it mean to be too PC? Political correctness is not in and of itself a bad thing. We live in societies with many different people with different backgrounds. We are all equal, we all have the same rights, and we all have to interact with one another. No, we can’t say whatever we want whenever we want. Is this a bad thing? Of course not. Over time we are becoming more tolerant and accepting of differences. We get along with others a lot better. There will always be bigots, but there are less today than there were. Being a bigot is becoming less acceptable. And the number of hate crimes are shrinking. There are still too many bigots for my taste, but that number is shrinking.

So is there such a thing as being too PC? Of course. Schools that try to hide their students from religion are being too PC. But calling someone out for bigotry is not being too PC. If you think it is, then you need to step back and take a look at your own beliefs. If you’re being called a bigot, it’s probably because you’re being a bigot. If you’re being called a bigot repeatedly, guess what, it’s not them, it’s you. So lets try to act like adults here and treat everybody with respect.


Growing Up

Today was my cousin’s 8th birthday. It’s hard to believe how old he is: I was a teenager when he was born, now I’m an adult and he’s going into 3rd grade. It’s been awhile since I was last here for his birthday. I live 9 hours away by car, so it’s hard to get down here.

The party was nerf themed. We ran around shooting each other with nerf guns for hours. And of course my cousin got many a nerf guns as presents. It reminded me of when I was a kid. I wasn’t allowed to play with weapons, and I was always jealous of those who were. My cousin also played COD while I was here, which I definitely wouldn’t have been allowed to play. I couldn’t help but wonder about children and violence. I don’t think that children should be sheltered from violence, but their parents should definitely talk about violence with them. Children should be told what is acceptable and what isn’t. I think nerf guns are fine for children. The violence isn’t realistic and neither is the way the guns operate. But I will not be allowing my 8 year olds to play COD. 14-16 year olds, fine, but not 8. That’s because I don’t want my children to become desensitized towards real violence.

This led me to think about different beliefs among parents. The different ways that people raise their children. When I have kids, I want to raise them to be secular critical thinkers. They will not be raised in a religion, but they will also not be hidden from religion. I intend to teach my children about different religions before they go to school. I want them to know that their classmates will have different beliefs from their own, and they should respect those differences and try to get to know their classmates as individuals. I will be allowing my children to attend different worship services that they are invited to, but only after I have researched where they will be going. And my partner and I will be telling our children what we believe and why. We will also tell our children that it is their job to decide what they believe, but not until they are old enough. We will also be teaching our children to appreciate science, history, and philosophy from a young age. We want our children to know how to think before they learn what to think. That way they will understand what they are told and they will be able to decide whether or not what they are told should be believed. These are the most important aspects of child-rearing to my partner and I (well, that and the health and happiness of our children).

What do you consider the most important aspects of child-rearing? What do you want to teach your children? Why?


What is Oppression?

How often do people claim to be oppressed when they clearly aren’t? It’s quite annoying when someone with more power than me in some way or another tries to tell me that they are oppressed. I can’t imagine how those with less privilege than myself  feel about it. Actually, I can. They’d likely share my feelings, but to a more extreme degree.

For those of you who like to cry “oppression,” I have some questions for you to ask yourselves. First, does the group you are claiming oppression from have more political power than you do? Second, are they trying to implement laws that harm you at some level? And, if so, are they successful? And third, is it socially acceptable to publicly insult the group that you are a part of? If you answered no to any of these questions, how exactly are you being discriminated against? Are you sure your not just seeing something that’s not there?

Straight people complain that they are being discriminated against because there is no straight pride parade. But what danger do straight people put themselves in by revealing their sexuality? White people complain that we are being oppressed because there is no white pride month. How many white people are attacked and killed for being white? Christians complain that they are being oppressed because they aren’t allowed to discriminate against others using their religion as an excuse. But aren’t all people expected to abide by the same laws? Last time I checked, it wasn’t the Christians who were considered as trust worthy as rapists, or were thought to all be terrorists. It’s not the Christians who have to worry about laws being past that discriminate against them based on their religion.

So please, stop telling me you are oppressed when you aren’t. If you’re going to cry discrimination, you better be able to tell me, and others, how you are being discriminated against. Because if you’re just mad that you’re not allowed to discriminate against others, or do what you want without consequence, then you have to legs to stand on. You’re just throwing a temper tantrum. Please think before you call yourself oppressed. Be happy that you have whatever privilege you do have, but don’t deny it to others.


A Look at My Epistemology.

I recently heard the claim that atheists are forced to establish themselves as the authority for their own arguments. Now, this can be fairly easily cast aside, since some people, including atheists, can take the position that you cannot have any real authority for knowledge whatsoever. You can then childishly call them their own authority still, but they are simply saying you cannot have “true” knowledge. That there is no way to be objective so, in fact, they are claiming they can never be authorities.

This form of philosophic skepticism, not to be confused with modern skepticism, which I will describe as “the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of skeptics.” This is a valid position to take logically, though not one I take myself, since, while valid, it is entirely useless since it makes all knowledge completely unattainable and all opinions about knowledge relative to one another. This is something I personally cannot believe for more than a moment. Now I’ll be going through my own views on how we have attained, and have, knowledge. For those who do not know this branch of philosophy is known as epistemology.

First I do not hold a belief in an objective source of knowledge. I do not rule it out, but I have no reason to think one exists. This means I have a subjective epistemology as opposed to an objective one. Though this is not the end: I don’t just need to say “well, now I’m the ultimate holder of knowledge” because that claim is in fact an objective epistemology in disguise. No, I don’t need to claim I am the ultimate authority of my argument. I only need to say that my argument ultimately rests on some number of assumptions, of which I may be able to support, but which I cannot prove unless we find that objective source, or way, to knowledge.

In fact, I would argue that, to be honest, every epistemology needs to be comfortable making the claim that they rest on some number of assumptions. Objective epistemologies may then claim that they have already found the ultimate source of knowledge (though they do not have to make that claim).

I think it is very important to able to outline what your base assumptions are. If you can’t, then how will you know if your arguments actually make sense? If your arguments even match your assumptions? Or perhaps are just circularly defined by them? What’s more, if you don’t outline them well enough, then you may just end up changing them from one argument to the next without realizing it.

I define my basic assumptions as follows

  1. Reality exists

  2. Reality is self-consistent

  3. I have some senses, while imperfect, which allow me to learn things about the reality I find myself in.

None of these things are a given, as we can’t be sure that we do exist in a sense that is meaningful to us, but, by granting them, we allow ourselves to do everything we need to to draw useful conclusions.

From these assumptions, I can come to the conclusion that, since reality is real and consistent, if I test my perceptions enough times against reality, I will be able to determine which arguments are consistent, and, therefore, which are likely to match reality and which ones fail to be consistent.

You can also determine that, since your perceptions indicate you are human, and other humans exist, the same rules of imperfect senses apply to them and you can work together to determine the limitations of each others senses. From there, you can determine other “laws” and theories about the nature of reality. Doing so becomes trivial so long as you can show that it is consistent with the perceptions that you trust.

This epistemology also contains all it needs to disprove it’s second assumption. If reality isn’t consistent, then you’ll quickly find that no test you do gives those consistent results you need to test your perceptions. This is a strength opposed to a weakness, since we’ll know if it doesn’t work, but fortunately for this epistemology we sure seem to live in a consistent reality.

Back to that original claim I took issue with: I do not need to be the ultimate source of authority. My authority comes from the cyclical nature of testing and re-testing to gain the knowledge that is closest to the truth. That truth is to be discovered from reality itself. Reality is my ultimate authority, since it is what I test my hypothesis and perceptions against, and what I form my future opinions against. Sure, I can get it wrong, but if I keep testing my perceptions and my theories I’ll find out, and then adjust to that fact.

For those interested my epistemology, it is a kind of Bayesian epistemology. I’d suggest looking into that if you want to learn more about this sort of epistemology.

Withteeth


Why I Can’t Agree With the Bible: Deuteronomy: Part 3

I found the last few chapters quite boring, so I don’t have a whole lot to say about them.
We have the first example of people saying “amen” in Deuteronomy. I found this more interesting than anything.
God threatens to punish men who do not serve God graciously and gladly by having the women they are pledged to marry taken and raped. WTF? Oh, and their children will be enslaved. Lovely. The suffering will be so bad that…people will eat their own children. What is wrong with Yahweh?
God claims that his words are in the mouths and hearts of the Israelites. So does this mean that we can go up to anybody of Israelite descent and they’ll be able to tell us all of God’s laws? Or did this wear off after a certain number of years?
“Their children, who do not know your God.” So know Israelites do not naturally know God? They have to be taught first?
Moses lives to be 120 years old.
God predicts that the Israelites will turn against God. I’ve heard this used as an excuse for past antisemitism and harm done to the Jews, but this seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy to me. Or like people looking for ways to explain past hardship. The Jewish people seem to have a history of following their religion closely. Why is there no history of people intermittently going against their religious doctrine and following it closely?
God keeps telling the Israelites that they are rebellious. I have yet to see any evidence of this rebellion.
I’ll be going out of town for a bit more than a week. I’ll try to post regularly, but Joshua will likely have to wait until I get back (I doubt my 4 and 8 year old cousins will allow me to spend hours reading the Bible).


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