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Thanks for Good Articles

By David L Brancecum Jr.
Posted on: 4/1/2004

All correspondence received by Skeptic Friends Network or its staff becomes the property of Skeptic Friends Network, and may be printed without the consent of the author.

"I already have gone through the critical assertions you have made, and when looked at honestly, you'll eventually arrive at the conclusion that God is real, just like I have."

Re: SFN Article “The Bible’s Bad Fruits

To:   Dawn and Tommy Huxley
From: David L. Brancecum, Jr.
Date: February 21, 2004

I wanted to thank you for your well-reasoned articles.  They do a
clear job of presenting your viewpoints, and you use examples, not
emotion, to make your readers think.
I thought you would appreciate the words of encouragement!!

At the same time, I just got through reading the article on how the
Bible promotes pornography, communism, etc., you know the list, and I
will be using it as a future Bible study in my church.  See, your
article got me to think about how right you are, the Bible is not
looked at critically.  I already have gone through the critical
assertions you have made, and when looked at honestly, you'll
eventually arrive at the conclusion that God is real, just like I
I used to think like you.  That is why I am not afraid to present your
arguments in a new church class, because, I still agree with you, our
churches don't have the intestinal fortitude to answer these tough
questions.  Christians need to be certain of their beliefs, and not be
afraid of the hard passages.  Many people over time, who have truly
researched the Bible to dismiss it have come away giving their hearts
to the Lord.
I looked at some of your scripture references in context, and they
were taken out of context.  You have to understand the entire context
of a line by the surrounding sentences, anyone who studies documents
knows that.  Also, the Old Testament is partly recorded events. If the
Bible recorded Hitler's actions (and Hitler believed God told him to
kill Jews), you would be arguing that the Bible teaches to kill Jews.
Not everything recorded as fact in scripture is a rule of living.  

Another example, I read about Lot's daughters sleeping with him.
While a sin by itself, you have to read the entire context, the girls
clearly claimed that after God destroyed the cities, there was clearly
no way to continue their family line.  This is common for families to
guarantee lineage back then, and not a problem for me.  God allowed
brothers to take their siblings' widow if their sibling gave her no
children.  This was clearly not about promiscuity but about continuing
the human race.  If your mom was the last woman alive on Earth, God
would not consider it a sin if you chose to help build the human race
Bestiality is addressed in the Bible

"Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death."
- Ex 22:19 (NKJV)

"If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and
you shall kill the animal."
- (16)

"If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill
the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their
blood is upon them."
- Lev 20:15-16 (NKJV)  

Although this law was put in place, it does not mean we should show no
mercy, even Jesus forgave the adulterous woman, and also told her to
sin no more.  Ultimately, God wants repentance not death.  It is very
possible that this was a manmade law not necessarily God's will.  The
passage does not say "GOD said" so you can't say it was absolute.
Last examples, (since this is long, I could go on to all points)

Three points quickly: Child abuse - not being promoted (I am
countering your view on Deut 21). The person was someone's son, but
says he is a drunkard.  Clearly a drunkard would have been an adult,
not a child, in those days.  Also, stoning was a law in that culture,
you're assuming that God commands us to do this.  This was a record of
an event, remember.

Drug Culture - Not being promoted in Jeremiah 25.  If you read it
in context, it is not a physical cup of wine. Wine is a metaphor for
what God was delivering which was a sobering message of his wrath
against an evil nation.  He said they MUST drink the cup, meant that
the message was true and it will come to pass, whether they accept the
message or not.

Infanticide (Psalm 137) - the author is clearly looking back to what
the Edomites did after they took on Jerusalem.  The Psalmist is not
encouraging or suggesting we do this in this passage.  The Edomites
ripped open the wombs of the women of Jerusalem.  And yes, God has
allowed Jerusalem to pay back those countries after they showed their
faithfulness.  Remember now, we are God's creation, He can do what He
wants BUT, if any innocent people were destroyed by God in the Bible,
I can assure you, they are with God in Heaven.  We think it's tragic
when God allows the death of women and children in the Bible, but He
has a purpose for everything.  You can be assured that innocent life
is given a place in Heaven.  They are in a better place, so it is
really not tragic at all.  It is clear that death is not as important
as Salvation. I am more concerned if the person who died was right
with God.  Consider these passages (in context):

"And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the
body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show
you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power
to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!"
- Luke 12:4-5 (NKJV)
Jesus' Death had a purpose: "Then He said to them, 'Thus it is
written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to
rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of
sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at
Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the
Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem
until you are endued with power from on high.'"
- Luke 24:46-49 (Death is not always a bad thing)

Which comes to this last point, we have to accept on faith the message
of Jesus whether we believe it or not.  We can put off believing the
truth, but it will not stop you from reaping the consequences. You can
disprove God all day, but that will not change the choice you have to
make. Believing in God will not make you more miserable, It doesn't
kill you to live right.  If in the end God is not on the other side,
then you can rest knowing you lived a good life, If He does exist,
then it was worth it.  Either way, accepting God into your life, and
accepting Jesus' death for your sins, is a win-win situation.  It takes
guts to admit you're a sinner, it takes guts to accept God.  Only
people who don't want to give up sin don't want God, only people who
don't want God will try to disprove Him.

I have a real good suggestion: be honest with yourself. You don't have
to disprove God to do what you want!!  Why is it so important to
eliminate God to live in sin?  You can still live in sin and believe
there is a God!!  Even Satan knows there is a God.  People who live in
sin don't like the label 'SIN'.  The only reason why you want to
disprove God is to be able to do what you want without the label of
sin. This proves you do care about God and eternity more than you
think. If you really believed God did not exist, you would not care an
inch about what is sin, and what isn't sin.

If you got to the end of this, bravo!! Thanks for listening. I am glad
I stopped by.  Check out Lee Strobel's The Case for Faith.  His
journey to disprove the Bible is incredible.  He does a really good
job of trying to disprove the Bible.

Keep writing, you'll eventually get the answers. " and ye shall
find... knock and the door will be opened unto you..." -JESUS

To:   David L. Brancecum, Jr.
From: Dave W.
Date: April 1, 2004
Thank you for writing to the Skeptic Friends Network, regarding Dawn and Tommy Huxley’s article, “The Bible’s Bad Fruits.” As the authors are not available for comment, as of this writing, it falls to me to reply. I apologize for taking so long to get back to you.

I would indeed like to thank you for the words of encouragement. Clearly, as you will see, they did encourage me to respond.

Clearly, you are correct in some of the counter-arguments you provide. Simple recorded histories are not necessarily indications that God would condone particular behaviours. However, it seems equally as clear that the Bible records God commanding behaviour, in certain instances, which people today would (and do) find immoral. Whether or not it is a part of God’s ineffable plan is of little consequence, since there is nothing stopping today’s pedophiles, racists, sexists, and child abusers from claiming that their own actions are also a part of God’s plan, and should thus be excused. Given a God whose goals and actions are unknowable to us (and attempts to know them would smack of hubris), who is to judge that such people would be wrong? If, as you say, God “has a purpose for everything,” how can any person — mere mortals all — tell the difference between a supposed sin and God’s Divine Will?

You also attempt, saying that it “was a record of an event remember,” to excuse an instance of stoning as punishment in Deuteronomy. Unfortunately, this won’t fly at all. Deuteronomy is a book of laws. God’s laws, given the entire Bible is supposed to be Divinely inspired. In Deuteronomy 5, we even find the Ten Commandments. The passage which related to stoning, Deuteronomy 21:18-21, is clearly a rule to be applied by anyone who has “a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them.” The law says that if you have such a son, you are to tell the elders in what way he is rebellious, and then all the men of the city will kill him.

You are right, context is important. In context, this is not at all a simple recitation of history, but a law handed down from God to the Israelites. Drunkenness and gluttony read to me simply as examples of bad behaviour to be rebuked. The passages say that stubbornness and rebelliousness toward one’s parents is something which is to be driven from the community with all haste. God commands people to act in this fashion. And Jesus taught that until “heaven and earth pass away,” the old laws still stand (Matthew 5:18).

Likewise with your apology for Exodus 22:19. You claim, that since that particular passage does not say “God said” in it, it may not have been a command from God. Context, again, is vital. The entire chapter, Exodus 22, is in quotes, so someone is saying it. Passages within the same chapter talk about “Me” and “My,” always with capitalization. One needs to go back to Exodus 20, in which one finds the Ten Commandments (surprise), to find the beginning of the quoted section. It begins in Exodus 20:22, and doesn’t reach an end-quote until Exodus 23:33. Over three chapters of Exodus is one giant “God said,” again laying down the laws by which the Israelites should live.

Also, did Lot’s daughters find Grace with God by dishonoring and drugging their father in order to selfishly preserve their family line? One Moabite, in particular, stands out as having done well, as Ruth was great-grandmother of David the King. Yes, that David, the one who eventually killed and subjugated the Moabites:
Then he defeated Moab. Forcing them down to the ground, he measured them off with a line. With two lines he measured off those to be put to death, and with one full line those to be kept alive. So the Moabites became David’s servants, and brought tribute.

- 2 Samuel 8:2
The Ammonites appear to fare less well:
Against the Ammonites.
Thus says the LORD:
“Has Israel no sons?
Has he no heir?
Why then does Milcom inherit Gad,
And his people dwell in its cities?
Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,
“That I will cause to be heard an alarm of war
In Rabbah of the Ammonites;
It shall be a desolate mound,
And her villages shall be burned with fire.
Then Israel shall take possession of his inheritance,” says the LORD.
Of course, Ezra considers all of the descendants of Lot to be “abominations” (among others):
When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.”

- Ezra 9:1
Bolding mine, of course.

So, were the sins of the daughters excused in the face of their “need” to continue their father’s bloodline? Did they even really have a need, as many versions of the Bible (the above quotes are New King James, as you used) have them lamenting that there weren’t any men nearby (as opposed to “on the Earth”), which just makes them appear lazy. And after all, God let Lot flee to Zoar, a city which was not destroyed. You excuse their behaviour as if Lot was the only male alive at the time. He surely was not.

And the fact that Jews, in Deuteronomy 25:5, felt it a duty to take their widowed sisters-in-law as wives is irrelevant, as they aren’t necessarily blood relatives. Lot’s daughters raped their own father. And of all the fruit of those couplings, I can find only a single individual who had a halfway-decent story in the Bible. This context is, indeed, important.

Which brings me to your last points, which I find to be far off-base and also tremendouly presumptive. The thrust of “The Bible’s Bad Fruits” was certainly not to “disprove God” (as if such a thing could be done). The thrust of the article was that it is possible, using the Bible, to find instances of horrendous acts committed either under command from God or without His explicit condemnation. The reasons for going through such an exercise are to demonstrate that the stance taken by some Creationists with respect to the Theory of Evolution is simply hypocritical. They claim that evolution encourages racism (for one example), based upon quotes from evolutionists (often taken out of context). The Bible does, also, and there are plenty of verses for evidence. And so, that article in no way attempts to “disprove God.”

Secondly, you offer up Pascal’s Wager. In the words of Rick Wade:
Simply put, the wager says we should bet on Christianity because the rewards are infinite if it’s true, while the losses will be insignificant if it’s false. If it’s true and you have rejected it, you’ve lost everything. However, if it’s false but you have believed it, at least you’ve led a good life and you haven’t lost anything. Of course, the best outcome is if one believes Christianity to be true and it turns out that it is!
Personally, I reject the wager, as I don’t believe that people (any of us) have the ability determine which of the many gods which might possibly exist does (or do) exist. If choose Protestantism, I lose the wager if there is a Catholic God. If I choose Mormonism, I lose the wager if the Muslim god is real. There are over 4,000 different religious sects in the world, not counting those which have died out, or are yet to exist, and so it appears that picking just one is a losing bet.

Instead, my personal wager is that if there is a god (or gods), they are not so petty as to require worship from me. Any god that demands worship from me, an imperfect being, is far from perfect itself. And so, my bet is that if there is an afterlife and judgement, I won’t be faulted for not believing in a deity which leaves no trace of itself, but instead I will be judged upon how I lived my life.

And that brings us to your general assertions about what people who “don’t want God” want to do. Your statements about “people who don’t want to give up sin” being the only ones who “don’t want God” are simply untrue. I don’t, for the most part, even think about sin, but when I do, I realize that I don’t commit many of them. The worst, of course, would be my failure to love God, but as I’ve implied above, any god which would punish me for my distaste for what mortals have written about him is very much a schoolyard bully kind of god, and that kind of vindictive nastiness doesn’t deserve my respect.

You’re absolutely right in one respect: I care very little about what acts (or failures to act) Christians label a ’sin’. If the Pope were to decide tonight that driving cars is a sin, I will be happy only because there will be less traffic on my morning commute. I don’t murder people not because I’m afraid of not getting into Heaven, but because I’ve got empathy for my fellow humans, and wouldn’t want to be murdered. I very much believe that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” are wise words to live by, no matter their source. Plus, prison time is something I wish to avoid, and that has nothing to do with God, either.

Finally, I don’t see it taking much courage to “accept God” or to admit one is a “sinner” if the only alternative that’s offered is burning in a lake of fire. Given only those two options, the choice is simple, and pretending that it’s difficult or “takes guts” is simply that: a pretense designed to draw in more followers by allowing them to think that they’re doing something really tough. I can see such make-believe being good for people’s self-esteem, but it’s an illusion.

And today, a little less than 2,000 years after it really was difficult to proclaim oneself a Christian, there is nobody feeding you to lions. There are very few incidents these days in which Christians are persecuted or otherwise harmed by non-Christians just for their Christianity. To combine metaphors, you’re running with the pack, and not making waves. While it’s true that things were very difficult for Christians back in the first century, that’s no longer so.

Despite what Matthew says about “the path,” Christians are the ones walking the wide and well-worn road, now. Way back when, Christians were truly the non-conformists, but today, one out of every three people on the planet believes — to some extent or other — as you do. Worldwide, Christians outnumber every other belief, and outnumber the “nonreligious” by more than a two-to-one margin. In the United States of America, the margin is well over eight-to-one. And given the number of attempts that Christians have made over the years to legislate their religion into our lives (even today), I think that avoiding the traps these superstitions present is, indeed, the more difficult choice.

To:   Dave W.
From: David L. Branceum, Jr.
Date: April 19, 2004

I just wanted to say thanks for your reply on the website. I am not
going to go over my points and be redundant, but just wanted to say
thanks for taking the time to answer my points. I stated my case and
you stated yours. If more people just accepted each other and stopped
shoving each others' ideas into each others' throats, we'd have less
people bombing and killing in God's name.

I hope you are doing well, enjoying the weather... and stay safe!!

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