Friday, May 29, 2015

My Exodus in Genesis: The Beginning of a Dogma-Free Life

Note: This was first posted on my "Growing in Grace and Knowledge" blog on July 19, 2014 as my public coming-out that I was an apostate and no longer believed the bible to be the word of God.  For a very short time, I still believed there probably was a god, but I am now a practicing atheist, who like most atheists, claims to be agnostic as to whether there is a god or not but figures there is probably not.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. ~Arthur Schopenhauer~

I'm learning and realizing so much that it's hard to know where to begin in my writing, but I think a good place to start is with the mention of something quoted in a sermon given by a friend of mine, over a year and a half ago, entitled, "What is Truth?" 

He quoted someone, though I forget whom, saying something like, "Do we value truth above all? Above Christianity, above the bible?"  Of course, my immediate in-though response was, "Absolutely!"  Because that's true.  I do desire truth above all things, even love (which comes second), because there can be "love" in the absence of truth. 

At that time, however, I still believed the bible was true.  I knew it had some contradictions and some translational errors, but whereas I use my reason and logic pretty well in most areas of my life, I was letting some sort of attachment squash reason in regards to many things within the bible.  I do think that there are good lessons and some wise sayings in the bible, but I think the stories therein and of "Jesus" being the saving son of God, etc. are a big lie.  There are lots of other books with some good teachings, too, also with some lies.  I've read other books, though, that are overall much better than the bible when it comes to teaching morals.

There are so many places I can start with this continuance, which will begin to explain how I arrived at this, but I will start with an an incident that occurred just a few weeks prior to this writing. 

One to three nights prior to the day, my Love and I were once again discussing things with one another, when he questioned what it says in the book of Matthew about Jesus being named so and then claiming it was because it was prophesied he was to be named Immanuel.  I replied that I'd always thought it was just another name for him, like a middle name.  He kept objecting, saying that the text said he was to be called Jesus based on the prophecy that said he was to be called Immanuel.

Now to the day soon following that night:  The kids and I went outside, while my Love was away at a job.  I had the whole Jesus-Immanuel thing on my mind, so I grabbed a bible on my way out and proceeded to read the part in Matthew, then flipped back to Isaiah 7 to read.  I frowned.  Not only are the names Jesus and Immanuel different, with different meanings, but Isaiah was talking about someone entirely different!  He wasn't prophesying about any future-coming Messiah at all!  (And how did that escape my notice before?? Blindness…)

I thought maybe if I ran back inside and grabbed the book a friend of mine wrote on the prophets, I'd come to an understanding.  So I did just that.  I got back to my chair outside and flipped through the pages until I got to the commentary on Isaiah 7.  He said verse 14, the "Immanuel" verse was prophesying the Messiah.  Then I read on, and he started talking about about a prophetess' son.    What?!

So I read the whole thing before that, in my bible, and after it again, on into Isaiah 8.  The whole thing is talking about a sign to Ahaz concerning Syria, Ephraim, and Samaria and what would happen within an allotted time.  The sign was the maiden conceiving and bearing a son, and all that Isaiah said would happen would do so before the child was old enough to know good from evil.  So it has nothing to do with an anointed one to come hundreds of years afterward.  Not a very good sign to Ahaz that would be.  (Oh, and by the way, that child's name turned out not to be Immanuel, either.)  How in the world can a person take a snippet of a verse out of context and apply it to be a foretelling of a son of a god?  It's the same way that some people, after the twin towers of the World Trade Center came down in 2001, took a snippet from Nostradamus' prophecy about twins being destroyed in York.  And that's how all such "prophecy" works.  People make things to happen, just as it says in the gospels even, "So that this may be fulfilled…," and people take snippets of whatever to make them fit. 

My face must have been contorted in confusion and disgust.  I thought, "How do you get that from this???"  I slammed the book closed, closed the bible, and leaned back in my chair with a sigh, staring across the yard into nothing.  I'd had quite a bit of that for one day.  Some day, I thought, I'd like to finally look up all the supposed prophecies to compare them all…

Before fast-forwarding a few weeks, I'd like to go back up in the past a bit.  My Love, who, for those wondering, had been heavily researching on his own, especially video debates (so that he can hear different sides for things) for the last year.  Over a decade ago, when we were active in the Southern Baptist churches, he kept telling me there was more to just believing in Jesus to be saved.  I kept telling him it was that simple, we weren't saved by works (even though I personally had prayed the so-called "sinner's prayer" numerous times throughout my childhood, because it just didn't seem to work any magic for me).  He kept saying there had to be more to it.  It was during his persistence of that period when we both started getting serious about reading the bible.  I did so at home, while he did so in hotel rooms, as he worked out of state during the week.  Separately reading, we both came simultaneously to the same conclusions, that what we were reading was vastly different than what we'd been taught in the Protestant churches.  Then, long story short, we arrived at what I've lived out (and somewhat off and on so for my husband) for the last decade, rejecting the pagan Christianity doctrines of the trinity, ever-burning hell, heaven upon death, Christmas, Easter, Sunday, etc.  Now we both look back and wonder why we foolishly thought that since people didn't follow the book exactly, that still made the book the word of God.  But we both agree that it was still a stepping stone in our life's journey of learning, and I'm just so thankful I'm still young and have mostly young children.  I haven't invested my entire life in a lie as some have.  I always try to look on the positive side of things, so I am mostly feeling thankful, rather than feeling enraged at myself.

Now back to recently, fast-forwarding a few weeks from my little Jesus-Immanuel examination.  It was our rest day, and my Love texted me a link to an essay written by Thomas Paine (one of America's "Founding Fathers") on the prophecies of Jesus Christ (which I know now is actually part 3 of his Age of Reason). 

So outside I went, with him following to sit beside me to read his own thing, while our beloved children jumped in a water sprinkler that our eleven-year old son constructed himself.

Thomas Paine had gone through all the places in the gospels where there were claimed fulfilled prophecies that were to be fulfilled during Jesus' life, and he went back to where the supposed prophecies were, and he crushed each and every one in succession (I've since flipped through them all on my own, too), beginning with the one I'd seen on my own just weeks ago to be a farce.

I immediately fell in love with Paine's writing style and thought process, which reminded me of my own.  I kept laughing aloud, and my Love said he was surprised to hear me laughing, that he hadn't expected that response (though he had hoped that that would be the thing that opened my eyes).  Ah, but what he did not know was that had been exactly what I had been wanting to see myself, and here someone else had done this already, and it just so happened that my Love had sent it to me.

It was a job well done, with perfectly appropriate comments throughout, proper for exposing such deception and expressing anger at such folly (and since then, I've started going through other books of the "new testament" and writing down how insane and dishonest other claims of fulfilled prophecy are).

I've since read a lot more of Thomas Paine's writings and other things written by a Deist point-of-view, which fits me so well, as nature has always spoken the loudest to me, over the bible or anything else.  It is the natural religion, opposed to "revealed religion," all coming from various men that we must trust rather than our Creator (if there is one) directly.

I've read many things over the years, including New Age and Greek myths in my teens, the book of Jasher (mentioned twice as a reference in the bible), some of Enoch, and many others.  Over the past two years I've read the Holy Vedas, the Buddhist Dhammapada, as well as others.  I still am reading a volume of collected "Buddhist Scriptures" (which I am mostly disliking quite a bit, though I liked the Dhammapada).

It was through my reading of the Muslim Qur'an, the Hindu Vedas, and the Buddhist Dhammapada over the past two years that I came to realize that men twist everything and add to everything.  The vast majority of content in those books was all very good and agreeable with the good parts of the bible.  The Qur'an claims it confirms Torah and gospels, though it doesn't fully, so it begs the question why Muslims aren't checking out the Torah and gospels to see what they say.  It also teaches some of the same pagan Christianity beliefs, like an ever-burning hell, except it at least explains how it's possible, namely that the wicked will constantly receive new skins as they burn off. 

I love the Vedas.  There's hardly anything in there that warrants flagging.  It's full of wonderful wisdom and sensible teaching and mostly refers to one Creator.  I realize there are other Hindu books that I haven't yet read in full, but there was nothing, really, in the Vedas that looked like the Hinduism religion.  The same can be said of the Qur'an and Islam.  Men add ideas to people's books and make religions.  Judaism was created with more than the bible's old testament.  Christianity was created with more than just the bible.

Now when I had revealed all this to my Love months ago, it had apparently sealed the deal for him (unbeknownst to me until much more recently).  He recently confided in me that the strength with which I argued things had kept him just unsure enough to keep fighting against his reasoning, which eventually prevailed with the accumulation of information and evidence.

I'd read about an alternative creation story eight years or so ago, which still contained Adam and Eve.  Then my Love and I listened to an audio version of the Epic of Gilgamesh three or four years ago.  Until a few weeks ago those were the only alternative or parallel creation and/or flood accounts I'd explored.  This was before the prophecy incident.  One of the biggest things my Love has talked about the past year is the biblical flood story, and so I just decided to read other accounts several weeks ago.  I guess I thought maybe by doing so I was going to give more credence to the bible story, but the opposite happened, in fact, as I meditated on it all for the days and weeks following my reading of them.  For the last few years I have believed in the not-so-popular belief that the flood was regional, because I am a reasoning, logical, scientific person, and scientifically the regional flood is the only one that even had a chance of passing the possibility test.  After reading the flood accounts, though, and reading the biblical text over and over again, there's no denying that it's meant to be believed as a planet-wide flood that covered all the mountains, which most certainly did not take place.

Among the many flood accounts that have survived there are a few parallel to the bible.  They are obviously about the same main character, because the names are all similar or the same to Noah.  He built a boat, various birds are let loose, and the boat lands on a mountain.  But in the Near East versions the boat lands there, in the Australian version, the boat lands on a mountain in Australia, and in the Hawaii version the boat lands in Hawaii.  Birds differ a bit, and the sacrifices differ.  In Hawaii, for example, "Nua" offered coconuts and such.

There were also a few flood accounts that talked more of a log or bottle or barrel-type vessel that kids were sealed up in, with a sooty plug in a hole.  The one who unplugged it became black from the soot, and so he became the father of the black peoples (yeah, go figure).  Remind you of an alternative story in the bible about Noah's son Ham?  It at least didn't involve soot, but…

I soon thereafter read more creation accounts.  There had been a flood story that interlaced a creation account, because it was clearly an alternative to the two trees story.  It didn't involve trees but rather a fish that wasn't supposed to be eaten.

As I said already, I'd read all those things before the prophecies incident, and I reasoned initially that the numerous tales gave more credit, perhaps, to the bible.

But then even more recently I let my children watch a movie called Tangled (Disney).  It's based on the Rapunzel tale.  A wicked woman stole a princess baby, because the child had magic hair that would glow when she sang.  It kept the wicked woman young and supposedly beautiful, because the hair contained healing properties.  The catch, though, was that if her long golden hair was cut, it would turn brown and lose its power.

Hmmm…that reminded me of the Samson and Delilah story and so inspired me to see whether there were other parallel stories. 

I can't say I was really surprised to find that there were.  Hercules/Apollo apparently would lose his power if his hair was cut, and he also killed a lion with his hands (or with a club and finished it with his hands, depending on which version) and ate honey from it.  It predates Samson by at least several decades to a century.  I looked up the dates for both. 

So then I started searching other fanciful tales from bible lore, and sure enough, all of them are found in other nations' mythology, predating the biblical accounts, some by many centuries. 

Cain and Abel, Jonah and the fish, Samson and Delilah, talking animals, killing a giant…it all can be found predating when the bible events supposedly took place.  The Jews copied things from from other cultures and wrote out a fancy-sounding history for themselves. 

None of the bible (saving for Job, perhaps, which is likely the story of a "gentile") was even written until the time of Israelite and Judahite monarchies, and a great deal wasn't made up and written until the Babylonian captivity of the Jews.  Initially I was skeptical of this when my Love and I watched a bible archaeology documentary.   Israel Finkelstein is a Jew himself, and he's one of the ones who worked on the project.  I think the documentary is The Bible Unearthed.  The men were honestly trying to see whether the bible was historically accurate. They explored both archaeological and historical evidence.  Both types of evidence testified against the bible.  When I watched, though, I wasn't very convinced about their claim that Deueteronomy wasn't written until the reign of Josiah and that most things weren't written until during the Jews' Babylonian captivity.  I didn't see how they were coming up with that.  Either it wasn't detailed enough to satisfy me, or I missed something.

A short time later, all this still before being introduced to Thomas Paine's shattering of the Messianic prophecies, I read that the two creation accounts in the opening chapters of Genesis were written by two different authors and at two different times (the latter of the the two during the Babylonian captivity but which appears first in Genesis).  Well, that certainly explains why there are contradictions in the two accounts.

I guess I still wasn't fully convinced.  However, when I more recently read Paine's Age of Reason (it's addressed in part 2), he used only the bible to prove the books weren't written until the captivity, or at the very least, until after there were ruling monarchies in Judah.  He pointed at numerous proofs in the bible itself.  I could no longer ignore the facts at that point.  Outside historical evidence, archaeological evidence, and the bible's own revelations within all prove, without a doubt, that the so-called "books of Moses" weren't written until several hundred years after Moses supposedly lived.

Then there are prophecies that were made and recorded to have failed, and a busting-at-the-seams plethora of contradictions throughout both the "old testament" and "new testament."

Perhaps most importantly there are the numerous evidences that the Israelite tribal god Yahweh is evil when we use our God-given reason and built-in morality, but those of us brought up to believe in the bible push our reason away and instead justify (or ignore as some people do) it all for Yahweh/Jehovah. 

Still, there were two things that I still wanted to check into, namely the biblical feasts/holidays and the validity of the book of Revelation. 

I didn't look into the weekly sabbath, because during my recent search into the origin of the 7-day week—an unrelated search—I found information on the Babylonian lunar sabbath, of which there are four a month, and that also explained to me why there are some Christians who teach the lunar sabbath doctrine (which someone asked me about a few years ago, and I'd said the sabbath was a weekly ordinance, not an ordinance related to the lunar cycle). 

Passover, I figured was easy, because it deals with firstborn human sacrifice and/or animal sacrifice.  I researched it, anyway, and found evidence that such a practice by the polytheistic cultures (Canaanite and Amorite) before the supposed (but likely made-up, at least the way it is written in the bible) biblical exodus from Egypt.  The Zukru festival was very much like Passover and Unleavened Bread.  Instead of brushing a doorpost with blood to protect the inside inhabitants, the lamb sacrifices were done outside, and blood was brushed on everyone's foreheads.  Two kinds of bread were made to eat by the people and the gods, barley bread and mashed bread, and they ate them with wine.

Rosh Hashanah (Trumpets) is rooted in the Babylonian Akitu harvest festival, which like the Jews' holiday, is also a new year's celebration, as the Babylonians also had their year divided into two parts with two new years. 

Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur has its origins in the Babylonian and Assyrian Kuppuru atoning ceremony.  

The Feast of Booths or Feast of Ingathering (Sukkot) came from the Canaanites' autumn harvest festival, during which they'd stay in temporary shelters in the fields until they harvested their crops. 

The final editors of the bible, the priests, while in Babylon, added in the new themes they wanted these feasts to apply to, like staying in booths to remember the wilderness exodus, for example.  It's no different than what the Roman Catholic Church has done with other pagan holidays and the traditions and symbols that go along with them, applying them to Jesus (like saying Christmas is his birthday, that Easter celebrates the resurrection and that the eggs symbolize new life in him, etc.).

El was a Canaanite god, his consort being Asherah, their children including Baal and Anat (Astarte/Ashtoreth).  El was the head of a pantheon of gods and was a creator god with a loving nature.  Yahweh was a god of war and storms and such.  P's manuscripts (the ones written by the priests in Babylon) and J's manuscripts ("Jah," for Yahweh, which refers to another author who only wrote about Yahweh) contradict each other so that it's unclear whether Abraham knew El as Yahweh, too, or not, as it is later said to Moses that his fathers did not know him as Yahweh but only El.  Either way, the gods are blended by the time of the final editing of the books. 

It may be that the book of Revelation was written with ideas borrowed from the Sibylline books (not to be confused with the Sibylline chronicles) which were written BCE by an oracle.  Other books have borrowed from these, too.  We cannot know for sure, because there are no known copies of the Sibylline books now in existence.  The Kalki Purana, which wasn't written until probably the third or fourth century CE, may have been written after Revelation (if Revelation was indeed written in the first century) but probably borrowed from the Sibylline books, since there is evidence so many prophets from various cultures borrowed from those books.  In the Kalki Purana a future avatar of Vishnu, known as Kalki, is prophesied to come on a white horse, flashing his scimitar and to conquer the wicked, before setting up the peaceful paradise Shambala. 

You know, I've walked around for a few years now, feeling guilt about a couple different things I wrote about in my Ten Commandments book, because as a moral person, I felt they were wrong, but I stayed true to the bible teaching and defended Yahweh, justifying for this non-existent war god his horribly wicked commands. 

I also have planned on writing another book, which has been in the works for a few years now, and one of the topics was going to be about the technology of God, man, and animals.  I was going to systematically show how modern-day scientific knowledge and technology proves how all those far-out stories in the bible can be true and scientifically explained.  Now I know that all those stories originated with older cultures, and the Jews just copied and then made themselves out to be better than everyone else, a special race.  I will still write a book, and a lot of the information that I've obtained from sources over the last few years, as well as my exhaustive notes, will still be used.  It was not all for naught.  I just certainly will not be praising the bible as the "word of God."  

There's so much more I'd love to write about and will, in time, but this will suffice for now.

I'm free from the lies.  I no longer have to defend an evil god that doesn't even exist.  I can trust my  reason and stop defending the bible as the word of God when it doesn't deserve it and is a disgrace to the real God, if there is one.  I can all the more easily reject any "revealed religion" that comes from men.  If it's not revealed to me, I shouldn't have to believe it, because to do so isn't trusting God, but rather the man/men who claimed it was revealed to him/them. 

I still haven't come down completely from the outrage that so many, even the UCG that I thought was so mild, cling to Herbert Armstrong.  I just never knew it, because I stayed away from the churches until toward the end, and when I did go, my own beliefs clashed with the beliefs the people collectively held.

But it just goes to show that when we're guilty of not doing our research, we enslave ourselves to men.  That's what those people choose to do when they honor that man (which is unbelievable to those of us who have done our research on him).  But I have been guilty of following the bible, which is following many lying men and men of wicked imaginations.  I now renounce it,  and I encourage you to do your own research and see what conclusions you draw.