Archive for Holy Land

Assembling Bible Style History

Posted in agnoticism, Astronomy, Atheism, Atheist, belief, Bible, culture, faith, freethought, history, life, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , on October 3, 2010 by chouck017894

The extraordinary “history” of ancient Israel and Judah that make up the early parts of Hebrew Scriptures was composed by Yahweh priest-authors in the small village of Jerusalem in the 7th century BCE.  The alleged historical saga that recounted Moses and the deliverance from Egyptian slavery up to and through the episodic accounts of the rise and fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah cannot be supported by either genuine historical documents from the times or by archeological science.  Indeed, the alleged history  is a product of propaganda that implied godly protection of a small segment of the world population and was intended to inspire caution among the heavily armed neighboring countries of Assyria and Egypt from mounting attacks against Judah.  The composed history also served to inspire a unity among the widely varied people around Jerusalem through the implication that they all shared a common ancestry, the Israelites, whom Moses had allegedly led to the borders of Canaan. 

At the time of the feverish assembling of the early books of scriptural history, the kingdom of Israel to the north of Jerusalem had recently fallen to the Assyrians, and the alarmed priests of Yahweh, the scribes, elders, king and members of his court sought any means to protect their independence.  At their disposal was a rich collection of literary works, considered ancient even then—some of which contained remarkable cosmological and astronomical knowledge that were not completely understood by them, but which were highly admired.  The importance of ancient cosmological and astronomical lore in the 7th century BCE should not be underestimated, because for many generations the heavens had not alway presented a peaceful appearance. (See related post, Threats From Heaven, Sept. 2010.)

Jerusalem, in this 7th century BCE timeframe, was not a bustling city as many imagine: the village sat perched on a narrow ridge that bordered along a steep, rocky ravine.  The hill country around the region was sparsely settled, populated mainly by shepherds and cultivators of small, cleared plots of land.  And add to this scene the pugnacious priests of Yahweh who adamantly insisted that their Temple must remain untarnished from any association with any of the numerous sanctuaries throughout the Near East.  The priests of Yahweh, who controlled more social and judicial power over the people than even the king, would resist any ecumenical willingness to conduct relations with others if it required honoring any potential allies who believed in false deities.  As priestly power became stronger, the numerous rural shrines that had been set up through the region were systematically destroyed under the propaganda that they were the same sources of evil that had caused the fall of the  kingdom of Israel.  This purification of the countryside left only the Jerusalem Temple—which the priests declared was imbued with special holiness—upon which the populace could focus their desire for heavenly attention.

Jerusalem grew with refugees arriving from the occupied kingdom of Israel, and the village in this timeframe expanded to cover approximately 150 acres.  And the political ambitions of the priests and the king flared accordingly.  Their city had become the center of Israelite consciousness.  Through the program of inventing a history of the Israelites, the sudden collapse of the kingdom of Israel was widely seen even by the new citizens to be the result of some direct and purer relationship of Jerusalem with God.  Then and only then did the region take on the mantle of “Holy Land,” and so impressive was the sales pitch that the whole world has been willing to accept the assertion for around three thousand years.  But archeological science has shown that there really were no divine circumstances that led to ancient Jerusalem attaining such star quality.  It simply involved a bit of calculated hype, a bit of rigorous purging of competing faiths, and taking advantage of the insecurity of the refugees and displaced peasants.  This is not said in the spirit of deconstruction, but to point out that claims of supernatural nonsense are not really necessary for acknowledging that something greater than ourselves energizes all that exists.  Like Nature, which is the bearing principle of that power, it is indifferent to what it creates or how it is used.  That is not saleable merchandise for the faith system merchants, and so the farce continues.

Belief in Fiction

Posted in Atheist, Bible, random, religion, writing with tags , , , , , on June 3, 2009 by chouck017894

Any successful author of fiction knows that in order to make their stories believable the story must incorporate some selected facts.  These may include verifiable locations, historical persons, proven scientific principles, and the like.  Then, once the main character has been fleshed out with distinguishing traits and endowed with some burning aspriation, he ventures forth through the selected facts and his adventures illustrate some  purpose.  And with this formula we have just described the basis of all the “revealed” and “holy” stories that millions of persons subscribe to.

Any successful author of fiction knows also that deep within every person there is a hungry need for escapism, and concepts of awesome circumstances provide this.  The stumbling block for those dedicated to “holy” stories was that necessity to incorporate a certain amount of verifiable facts as substructure upon which or around which assertions of miraculous events could be presented and pointed to as “proof” of the legitimacy of the supernatural claims in the story.  But inclusion of a few select facts and use of half-truths do not legitimatize supernatural fantasies.

In Old Testament literature the low percentage of truths that have been incorporated as points of reality are blunted by the fact that characters such as Abraham, Moses, Jacob, David, Solomon, et al  have never been confirmed–not even after over one hundred years of archaeological digs.  On the other hand, some obscure political persons and even some  priest-class persons from the alleged times of the story-characters have been verified.  That peculiarity may be traceable to the priest-authors who composed them for political purpose around the 8th century BCE.

Likewise, the only verifiable characters mentioned in New  Testament tales are to be found only in peripheral roles.  This fact so bothered one of the earliest of the Christian apologists, Origen (185? – 254?), that he laboriously sifted through the then-existing records in Jerusalem, Capernaum and Rome seeking some verifying record:  he found nothing that ever verified activities of a divine mortal named Jesus, let alone any mention of the twelve apostles said to be devoted to him.  Nor could Origen find any record of the “apostle” Paul anywhere except in later revised Christian writings.

It is certain that if even one of the many miraculous events claimed to have happened in the “holy” accounts had actually transpired there would be mention of them in writings of neighboring cultures.  The favored pretext used to sidestep this curious non-awareness of neighboring people is that god kept it all hush-hush just for the benefit of a select few.  The inference in that seems to be that god did not much care for the rest of his diverse creation, which sounds a bit neurotic.  Still he must have changed his mind because he suddenly became willing to sacrifice his “only begotten son” to revitalize attention to himself in that same little region of planet Earth known as Palestine.

Apparently this god-favored planetary region still needed a bit  more attention-grabbing excitement to brighten his boredom so he later contacted a traveling desert merchant named Mohammed for additional promotional work.  It seemed reasonable that some lively dialog would thus be generated which would prove conclusively that the Palestine region was indeed holy land.  As for the care and enlightenment of the rest of the planet or even the universe, apparently they could just go hang.

When story points don’t quite add up, isn’t it prudent to maintain caution in accepting unsubstantiated claims written down by priestly storytellers as truth?

Where’s the Proof?

Posted in Atheist, freethought, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2009 by chouck017894

Intensive modern archaeological research of the “Holy Land” conducted on up-to-date stratigraphic principles has been going on for well over a century. The century-plus search to confirm the claimed biblical past has unearthed absolutely nothing to verify the existence of any of the legendary persons such as Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Saul, David, Solomon, John the Baptist, Jesus or the alleged twelve apostles.

There have been hundreds of excavations conducted through the Near East region, especially modern Israel and Palestine, that did indeed serve to identify numerous sites used as the setting for biblical stories. From those careful digs there have been amassed detailed chronologies that range from the earliest permanent settlements of the Paleolithic Age up to the Late Bronze Age city-states. Atop these there has been unearthed an impressive hoard of material evidence of later Judean kingdoms on through the Roman and Byzantine periods. Even so, there is yet to be found any archeological find that provides evidence that any of the starring characters of the biblical tales were real persons. The names of minor biblical characters have been found, however, on inscriptions, seals and seal impressions. But inclusion of precise atmospheric details such as political names do not attest that the stars of biblical lore were real any more than using world-known personalities of today in some fictional story mean the main characters are real.

Surveys and excavations of early settlement sites on the West Bank which have long been claimed to be of Israelite origin have brought into doubt the scriptural accounts of the ancient “conquest” of Canaan. Territories traditionally claimed as “god given” to the Israelites have yielded nothing to lend verification that the claim carries historical truth. This presents an ominous threat to the traditions of the three major religions of the western world. As another example, there has been nothing unearthed that could support the traditional accounts of the Islamic Conquest; rather the carefully sifted evidence shows that Islamic domination over the region was not the result of a swift military campaign but resulted as a gradual shift in social structure.

What has to be acknowledged is that religious and political “traditions” most commonly arise from storyline manipulation of various events for the purpose of mass control. This in turn demonstrates that religious belief systems are history’s most powerful form of brainwashing.