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Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

Ok, I swear I will stop with all of the religious posts. I get on a kick sometimes and can’t stop. I swear this this the last one.

Instead of reading something weighty like Dawkins or Hitchens, I decided to take something a little more light-hearted. I chose to finish by religion-binge with Christopher Moore’s hilarious book Lamb: The gospel according to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

Surprisingly my first impression of this book is that it is not nearly as sacreligious as it could have been. In fact, unless you consider someone telling a fictional tale of Jesus’ missing years (from birth to about 30) as sacreligious in and of itself, then I would dare say that Christopher keeps the Jesus of Christianity intact.

Let me start by giving a brief synapsis of the book. Levi bar Alpheas (aka Biff) is risen from the dead by an angel into modern times and ordered to write a new Gospel of Jesus (Joshua’s) life. Biff has a unique perspective since he was Joshua’s best friend and was by Joshua’s side from 5 years old until his death on the cross. Biff tells his story filling in a number of the “blanks” left in the Gospels since most of the disciples/apostles that wrote the Gospels and beyond only knew Jesus from the time he started his ministry at age 30.

This book is absolutely hilarious, these are just 2 examples that had me laughing out loud (I think I might have scared the guy next to me on the plane).

 This excerpt takes place when Joshua and Biff are traveling to the East in search of the three wise men so that Joshua can learn how to be the Messiah, they are about 15 years old and are just about to meet the first wise man, Balthasar,

“I’m Joshua of Nazareth, ” Joshua said, trying to be casual, but his voice broke on Nazareth. “And this is Biff, also of Nazareth. We’re looking  for Balthasar. …

“Balthasar is no more of this world.” The dark figure reached into his robe and pulled out a glowing dagger, which he held high, then plunged into his own chest. There was an explosion, a flash, and an anguished roar as if someone had killed a lion. Joshua and I turned and frantically scratched at the iron door, looking for a latch. We were both making an incoherent terrorized sound that I can only describe as the verbal version of running, sort of an extended rhythmic howl that paused only when the last of each lungful of air squeaked out of us.”

and then again, after leaving Balthasar they have just been accepted into the Buddhist monastery of Gaspar where they have been given a list of all the rules they must follow, stripped of their identity and been assigned numbers, Joshua is Monk Number 22 and Biff is Monk Number 21, they are being given their first assignments lessons,

“Monk Number Twenty-two,” Gaspar said to Joshua, “you shall begin by learning how to sit.”
“I can sit,” [Biff] said.
“And you, Number Twenty-one, will shave the yak.”
“That’s an expression, right?”
It wasnt

I don’t know how funny these passages translate when taken out of the book but I’m laughing just thinking about Biff shaving that yak. Ouch.

Anyway, I hope you get a chance to read the book, it delves into a lot of Eastern philosophies, like Buddhism and Yoga that you can find evidence of in the New Testament. This book actually makes Jesus seem a lot more human than many in Christianity ever get a sense of. He fears, he laughs, he get angry, he cusses (ok that one might bug people), he is curious about sex, he loves, he feels guilt, he’s human and in this book unlike in the real Gospels, you get the feeling that Jesus actually understands what it is like to be human, not some holier-than-thou God/Man that no one ever has the hope of ever of even coming close to. 

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Filed under: Religion, Reviews, , , , , , ,

Atheism: The Case Against God

I have FINALLY finished reading George Smith’s seminal work Atheism: The Case Against God. I say finally because this book is a very substantial work and I don’t recommend you read it while you are sleepy because I could barely get 3 pages into it before nodding off.

When you read this you will clearly see that a lot of the ideas captured in this book have found there way into the books of the “New Atheists”. What isn’t touched on in this book is fundamentalist Islam (I think that might be redundant). Clearly this book is a product of it’s time 1978 I believe. Christianity is clearly the default theistic religion that George Smith atheistic beliefs attempt to counter.

I have spent several weeks chewing through this book which is unusual for anyone who knows me since I am a very fast reader. It took so long becuase I had to reread several sections to really understand what he was trying to say or how he was attempting to connect several different concepts together. The book is clearly written by a philosopher and I think he does a good job of writing this to the lay person but there’s only so much you can do with the subject matter.

If you are looking for the philosophical underpinnings of Sam Harris’ book End of Faith or a more in-depth treatise on atheism that Dawkins or Hitchens’ books don’t go then this is your book.

Filed under: Atheism, Religion, Reviews, , , , , , ,

End of Faith & it’s little cousin

I completed reading Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation several weeks ago but found that it was very short (only about 100 pages) and that if I wanted to better understand Harris’ position I should read his longer and more in-depth book End of Faith.

End of Faith definitely has more meat than it’s little cousin. I especially enjoyed his discussions regarding the ethics of torture. Often when I read articles or interviews with Sam Harris he mentions yoga or meditation. He clearly finds value in this and mentions it regularly and End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation are no exception.

Both of these books have been on my list for quite some time and I have finally taken the time to read them. They are well worth a read if you enjoy Dawkins and Hitchens, his books have the same tone and essentially the same kind of content.

If you are looking for a Reader’s Digest version of End of Faith read Letter to a Christian Nation.

Filed under: Atheism, Religion, Reviews, , ,

Where have I been?

Long story short, it’s that time of year, plus work has been busy, very busy.

However, what little intertoob time I get for myself I’ve been spending over at FriendlyChristian.com. I find it very stimulating, why don’t you take a gander. hee hee gander. Anyway, the guy who runs it approaches his Christianity in a very open way. I think what he is doing by bringing atheists and christians together must be a challenge to him. I wish him the best of luck especially with my snarky comments.

I would also recommend you get involved with his forums especially if you are a Christian although I would be curious as to how you came across my blog.

Filed under: Atheism, Internet, Religion, ,

The US is not a Christian nation… amen

Ok I didn’t make it very far through this book (more Brain Food) before I felt compelled to post again…

Michael and Edward Buckner have an essay titled, The US Is a Free Country, Not a Christian Nation. Man… are they on it or what? The essay begins by putting forward the following structure for their argument,

…But anyone who wants to claim that our government should support Christianity (or any other religion) must explain away American history, contradict our decidedly unchristian form of government, and, finally and most crucially, demonstrate that separation of church and state is not in everyone’s best interest.

And they back it up. They put the Declaration of Independence in its proper context, expose a number of fallacious (at worst) or unsupported (at best) quotes from some of our Founding Fathers that seem to support a Christian origin to our government and show that the Constitution imposes rules and restraints that are decidedly unbiblical.

They finish up with a kind of, Ok, fine. You reject everything we say. Then what would a perfectly Christian US look like, of course, don’t base anything on the Trinity (because not all Christians accept that). When should everyone be baptised or should they? Good luck finding a happy compromise on that one.

You say, let’s just say Christianity in general and not anything specific. Fine, but as James Madison wrote (in a petition to stop legislation in Virginia that would have allowed using taxpayer’s money to support Christians of all denominations),

Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects? That same authority which can force a citizen to contribute threepence only of his property for the support of any one establishment may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

Oooh… pre-Victorian smackdown.

Filed under: Atheism, Law, Politics, Reviews, , , , ,

Half right

The Herald has a brief editorial, God and the cosmic Big Bang, that rightly criticizes some comments that Richard Dawkins has made against Stephen Jay Gould.  I have to agree with the author since nothing bothers me more than this kind of selective belief.  In question is the comment by Dawkins of Gould, “I simply do not believe that Gould could possibly have meant much of what he wrote in Rock of Ages.” This bothers me as much as Hitchens claiming that Martin Luther King, Jr. was some kind of secular humanist cloaked as a pastor. No Hitchens, MLK Jr. was a Christian pastor whose beliefs (while certainly humanist) were informed by his religion (at least his interpretation of his religion). Claiming MLK Jr. is a humanist first and second only consequentially Christian is a bit disingenious, IMO.

Of course, the author continues his critique by his complete lack of understanding of scientific method by stating that one of Thomas Aquinas’s proofs of God’s existence is proved by the theory of the Big Bang. Not only is this a logical fallacy, post hoc ergo proctor hoc, but makes a number of very basic non-scientific assumptions, specifically that time is a constant (or at least always present) .

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