The Blaze Warns of New Threat to Christian Televangelists From Atheist Roku Channel

Over at Glenn Beck’s The Blaze (so you know it’s sane and rational), Billy Hallowell warns, “Do Christian Televangelists Have Something to Fear? Atheists Reveal New Effort to Impact Culture”.

By this he means that American Atheists have announced that they’ll be launching an atheist TV channel for the Roku set-top video-streaming box. So yeah. I have a Roku, I’m happy with it, and I expect it’ll be something like The Young Turks or one of the more popular cable-access-ey YouTube channels.

But the headline asks whether Christian televangelists have anything to fear. From what? From one Internet streaming channel on one device, somehow sneaking past your kids’ defenses and indoctrinating them into godless atheimism and satanic debauchery or anything? Well, I suppose that’s something to worry about. I mean, it’s not as if there are any religous channels on Roku already, is it?

Unless you count

Those are just the religious channels that were added in May and June 2014 (Sources:1 2 3 4 5 6)

Yes, how can Christians possibly compete with one atheist channel? They’re obviously doomed. Doooooooomed.

The Blaze: Does the Bible Really Condone Stoning?

A while back, but you’ll forgive me for not posting this earlier because I’m lazy, the Glennbeckistan Times posted an article with the provocative title, Fact Check: Does the Bible Really Condone Stoning?.

Spoiler alert:

Theologian R.P. Nettelhorst added that capital punishment is seen in the Bible for a variety of offenses: Murder, adultery, rape, Sabbath breaking, disobedience to parents, witchcraft, and idolatry.

That answers the question posed in the title: yes, the Bible does condone stoning. Glad we’ve cleared that up. Oh, wait, did someone have any excuses theology to offer? (Emphasis added)

Rabbi Aryeh Spero, author of “Push Back: Reclaiming Our American Judeo-Christian Spirit,” told TheBlaze that the Bible speaks openly about stoning, however he said that the Judeo-Christian texts differ greatly from “the procedures we see today in Islamic countries.”[…]

“Any Biblical death penalty procedure had to be accomplished in one instantaneous stroke,” he explained. “For while the death penalty may have been administered, it was not done in a way to prolong agony or suffering, nor in a manner of public humiliation that degraded the human being created in the image of God.”

Okay, so the Bible condones stoning for a number of offenses, but not the way the Taliban does it, so that’s okay.

Back to Nettelhorst:

“The laws are applied equally to all members of society.  There are not different laws for different classes,” he told TheBlaze. “Second, the laws were intended to be proportional. The lex talionis ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ was designed to limit punishments to being no worse than the offense.”

Proportional? Really? This is the guy who said that the Bible prescribes the death penalty for things like adultery, Sabbath breaking, and disobedience to parents.

Which of these merits the death penalty? Show me the kind of aggravated premeditated first-degree Sabbath-breaking that warrants death. Here’s what Nettelhorst gives us:

“An individual who breaks the Sabbath (by gathering firewood on Saturday) shortly after the Sabbath was instituted by the Ten Commandments, is soon dispatched after a brief consultation with God.  It is the only instance in the Bible of someone being executed for violating the Sabbath.

The article provides several more instances of this: cases in the Bible where people weren’t execute for trivial crimes. So the argument seems to be “the law is rarely enforced, so it’s not a bad law.”

What else?

He also detailed 2 Kings 10:18-28, noting that, while it appears that God’s blessing is upon Jehu, who gathers servants, priests and prophets of Baal and executes them for worshipping other gods, this may not actually be the case. After these deaths — and a coup against the former king and royal family — God seemed anything but pleased.

So Jehu does what God wants, as far as he can tell, and then it turns out that’t not what God wanted after all. I’m not sure what the lesson is, here: that God sucks at communicating his desires, maybe? At any rate, if this explanation is correct, then how can you be sure that anything you do has God’s blessing? With your finite human brain, you might be misreading things entirely.

Anything else?

For those who struggle with the notion that everything in the Bible is God’s word and should be taken literally, Spero explained that the Old Testament includes certain societal practices and occurrences that were meant to — and have — changed as mankind has matured and evolved.

Ah. This is a Jewish variant of “oh, but that’s the Old Testament!” Spero probably goes into more length in his book, but in this article, he gives no reason to think that he hasn’t just pulled this excuse out of thin air. Especially since the problem with divine law seems to be that it can’t be changed.

Just recently, for instance, we’ve learned about a ring of Jewish kidnappers: under Jewish law, a couple can only get divorced if the husband okays it. So a woman could give these guys $70,000-$80,000 and they’d kidnap her husband and beat him up or torture him until he agreed to the divorce. It would be far better for everyone to just change the law so that the husband’s consent isn’t mandatory. Except that if it’s God’s law — or perceived to be God’s law — then the law is very hard to change. (And if you can’t even repeal stoning, then what chance is there of repealing God’s no-cheeseburgers rule?)

Finally:

The contradiction, the theologian [Nettelhorst] says, might be rooted in the notion that there was a disconnect between what ancient Israelites thought God wanted verses what the Lord really requested of them.

So to sum up, yes, the Bible condones stoning people to death for minor offenses, but it’s okay because:

  • It wasn’t done for fun.
  • It was intended to be a quick death.
  • It usually wasn’t enforced.
  • It’s the Old Testament. Nobody does that anymore.
  • It may not have been God’s law to begin with.

Have I missed anything? Because it looks to me as though pile of apologetics doesn’t address the central problem, which is that THE BIBLE CONDONES AND EVEN COMMANDS STONING FOR TRIVIAL OFFENSES.

Did it used to be okay to stone people for breaking the Sabbath, but now it isn’t? Then God’s moral law isn’t absolute, but changes over time.

Did God’s law change, but God forgot to edit his rulebook to reflect this fact? Then he sucks at communicating his wishes.

Was that not God’s law to begin with, but mere humans’? Then there are probably other mere-human laws in the Bible as well. How do you know which is which? (And if we can’t tell them apart, why bother consulting the Bible to begin with?) And why didn’t God make it clearer that he’s opposed to killing people who break the sabbath?

This reminds me of Bryan Fischer’s commentary on slavery in the Bible. He uses a lot of words, but it basically boils down to “the US did slavery wrong”, the obvious implication being that there’s a right way to do slavery: by following God’s rules and regulations for how to correctly own another human being.

One irony here is that I think this sort of thing is more of a problem for liberal, enlightened theists than for knuckle-draggers. The crazy Taliban types will just accept that God condones stoning, or slavery, or whatever. They’ll nod and do these horrible things.

A Christian can look at the Koran — or a Muslim can look at the Bible — and say “Meh. That’s clearly not a consistently-good set of moral rules. I’ll just ignore it and seek enlightenment elsewhere”.

But it’s the liberal Christian who looks at the Bible, sees that it condones things that are clearly immoral; but it’s supposed to be God’s word, so you can’t just ignore it; who then has to spend time and mental effort trying to reconcile what’s right with what’s in the Bible.

Congratulations, Matt and Tracie

Matt Dillahunty and Tracie Harris hosted the last episode of The Atheist Experience. Most of the show was taken up by a caller named Shane, arguing about morality.

Shane claimed that since he’s a human sinner, his moral sense is unreliable, which is why he follows God and God’s perfect morality. Tracie asked how Shane came to the conclusion that God is good, if Shane’s moral sense is unreliable. This led to the following exchange:

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/WrfWs52Kjk0

As Tracie correctly points out, if there is an omniscient, omnipotent, omni(or even just reasonably-)benevolent god out there, then every time there’s a rape, that god either causes that to happen, or stands by and allows it to happen. Shane starts saying that the victim in this case is as evil as the rapist (I’m pretty sure this is an instance of the “all have fallen short of the glory of God” doctrine, by which it doesn’t matter whether you’re Albert Schweitzer or Adolf Hitler: both are scum in God’s eyes), and Matt hangs up on him, calling him a “piece of shit”.

Anyway, congratulations to Matt, Tracie, and the whole Atheist Experience team, since this got picked up by Raw Story, AlterNet, and even Glenn Beck’s The Blaze.

I thought the exchange was pretty much par for the course: they’ve had lots of theist callers who make despicable claims like this. So I’m not sure what happend this time, but hey, the show deserves all this attention and more.

At any rate, I went looking through the comments to see what the Beck fans (is there a name for people who read The Blaze? Surely not Blazemongers) had to say.

Witness1974
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 2:55am

The first thing a Christian has to come to terms with is the fact that he or she needs to be saved from the wrath of a Holy God. People who merit God’s mercy, of which there are none, do not need to be saved.

tonykeywest17
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 2:28am

No son of adam is innocent . ALL deserve death and HELL. If God in his justice leaves men to what the deserve – who are you to question him.

sisserydoo
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 7:45am

Human beings make distinctions between sin, God does not. In God’s eyes, all sin is sin.

This seems to repeat Shane’s point: that the rape victim is evil, and deserve’s God’s wrath. I rebut it thus:
Flipping the bird

john vincent
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 12:26am

God did not direct a plane into the twin towers; He did not light the match which caused a house to burn down, killing all inside; He did not order young Adam to kill children in a Conn. school; […] He certainly did not order a raping.

Commander8080
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 11:24am

The caller got it wrong. God does not interfere with mans free will. Therefore, if a person rape or does evil to another, God will not stop the act because he loves us so much not to interfere with our free will.

God may not have directed the 9/11 attacks, or the rape in question here. But if he exists, he did sit by and allow them to happen. This is Tracie’s point.

DogTags
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 8:22am

The hosts presented a false choice: God either sends rapist or stands back and does nothing. Implying that God is not good who would do either. What they ignore is that God didn’t create robots but moral agents who he gave the choice to obey or to do evil.

This is the old “God won’t interfere with free will” apologetic. The problem is, if you see a rape being committed, the rapist wants to exercise his free will to rape the victim, while the victim wants to exercise her free will to just go about her day. Whether you interfere or not, someone’s free will is being violated.

Big_John
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 9:54am

all the evil actions of men, as well as every good action, was foreordained by God so that everything that happens on this earth has a good purpose behind it.

So child rape serves a greater good, so God sitting back and watching it happen is somehow the right thing to do. But neither God, nor this commenter, can be bothered to explain what this greater good is.

AntBrain
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 1:09am

I think it’s laughable that an atheist promotes the idea of child rape as being evil. It just so happens that social evolution has engineered a construct that pretends child rape is immoral … but if child rape could be shown to improve human survival, the atheist is stuck.

azitdad
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 10:42am

Whoever ‘Shane’ was, he was no Christian. Christians don’t think like that.

Ah, good old No True Scotsman. I’ve missed him.

sdd757
Posted on January 10, 2013 at 7:53am

I’m really getting sick of this whole argument. God does not just break in and stop crime and evil. If miracles happened everyday then they would not be miracles.

I wonder if we should apply the same principle to the police: “You can’t expect the cops to try to solve every crime they hear about, because then law enforcement wouldn’t be, you know, special.”

I’m not saying that all of these comments are representatives of all theists. But Tracie is right: either God causes bad things to happen, or stands by and allows bad things to happen, despite both knowing about them and being able to prevent them. If anyone else did that, they’d be acting immorally. But the running theme in these comments is that God has to be good, so they come up with excuses for why our usual moral reasoning or standards of civilized behavior don’t apply in this case.

And once again, congratulations to The Atheist Experience. I have no idea why this particular segment was picked up by so many sources all of a sudden, but I hope it helps spread the word about a good show.