domingo, agosto 30, 2009
Olá gente boa, como estão?
Tenho tanto para vos agradecer...quando cheguei ao Gerês, não conhecia ninguém por aí. Pior, na maior parte do meu tempo tinha que lidar com patrões do calibre que vocês bem conhecem... não foi fácil. Mas vocês acolheram-me de forma inexcedivelmente simpática e generosa; e eu desfrutei muito da vossa companhia. Pessoas com as vossas qualidades são raras de encontrar. Bem hajam!
My approach will be first to question the historical accuracy of the gospels. Second, take a look at the alleged supernatural happenings surrounding Jesus and thirdly, highlight some of the emotions displayed by Jesus to show that he was just a man.
Almost everything known about the historical Jesus comes from reports of his followers years after his death so itâ€™s impossible to construct the life and times of Jesus in the conventional sense of a biography. Jesus wrote no books, no one has left us a physical description of what he looked like, nor do we possess any biographical information. We only have that weapon of mass deception â€“ the gospels â€“ a compilation of sayings and deeds attributed to Jesus, the myths surrounding him and the testimonials of those who came long after him.
Much that is attributed to Jesus has in fact been adopted from other religions. For example: A comparison between Jesus Christ and the Indian god Krishna reveals some 29 identical or similar incidents in their lives. There are also many similarities between Buddhist stories and those in the New Testament. Buddhaâ€™s mother was a virgin, he fasted for 49 days and was tempted by Satan. He performed healing miracles and fed 500 persons with one small cake. Yet these stories about Buddha preceded Jesus by over 5 centuries.
Many of the sayings attributed to Jesus can be found in the Buddhist scriptures. Even the well-known Sermon on the Mount for example has been shown to have been taken almost word for word from a manuscript written centuries before Jesus was born.
The ancient Babylonian sacred teaching said, 'Do not return evil to your adversary; Requite with kindness the one who does evil to you, Maintain Justice for your enemy, Be friendly to your enemy.' (The Akkadian Councils of Wisdom, cited in Pritchard's Ancient Near Eastern Text.)"
Other ideas preceding the Bible include the stories about the Garden of Eden, the birth of woman from man, Noahâ€™s flood, the Tower of Babel and the story of Moses and the bulrushes, All have been borrowed from Mesopotamian peoples. So there is no doubt that Christians plagiarised the ideas from the religious writings of others.
Now letâ€™s separate the myths from the facts. We are told that Jesus was born about year 4 of the Common Era and was executed about 30 years later. He was reputed to be the Son of God and a Messiah.
He was in fact only one of many who claimed to be Messiahs at that time and who were allegedly performing miracles. Many of these so-called healing miracles consisted of casting out demons. If you want to believe in demons, thatâ€™s your prerogative, but donâ€™t try to claim a refund from Medibank.
The story of the baby being born in a stable at Bethlehem is one of the most powerful myths ever given to the human race. For a myth it is.
According to the gospel of Luke, Jesus was born at the time when Caesar Augustus required everyone to take part in a census. This at the time when Quirinius was governor of Syria and Herod was king of Judea. However, the facts are: - First, no historian of the Roman Empire makes any mention of a universal census in the reign of Augustus. Second, King Herod died four years before the Common Era began and third, Quirinius was not the governor of Syria during the reign of Herod.
We also know that in the 2nd century, Christianity was in conflict with other religions and needed an official body of sacred texts. The books of the New Testament were canonised in 180 AD, and even today are still regarded by many believers as divinely inspired records written by the apostles. Yet neither they nor eyewitnesses in fact wrote any of them. They were all written between 65 AD and 95 AD.
From accounts written by Roman historians such as Tacitus and Pliny the Younger, the Greek theologian Origen, and the Jewish historian Josephus, we know that Jesus lived. But there is no mention by any of them of his birth, his ministry or miracles.
So much for the historical accuracy of the gospels.
Now letâ€™s take a closer look at the virgin birth, a myth that is generally accepted as being prime evidence that Jesus was not just a man.
Evidence for the â€œvirgin birthâ€ is very slim to say the least. The gospel according to John doesnâ€™t even mention it. The Epistles of St Paul doesnâ€™t mention it and neither does Mark. According to Matthew however, an angel of the Lord visits Mary and she is told that â€œthe Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and that the holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.â€
Now letâ€™s examine the principal characters in that story to see just how plausible it is.
First of all the angel. The traditional idea of an angel is a winged figure in human form. A simple anatomical analysis however will show just how absurd is such a conception. For a being in human form to fly using its own motive power, it would require wings ten times larger than its body. It would need chest muscles twice the size of a full-grown male gorilla, hollow bones and legs no thicker than a stork. Anything so physically disproportioned would also need to wear permanent leg irons or crutches to support it.
It also begs the question from whence came this monstrosity.
Next the Holy Ghost.
Christians believe that there are three personifications for their god. They are the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. God is said to be omnipresent, that is, he is everywhere at the same time. This being so he cannot contract himself as he would cease to be omnipresent. How then did the Holy Ghost part of God have relations with Mary? Furthermore, as Jesus, the only begotten son of the Father existed from all eternity being coeternal with his Father, He was begotten a second time when he was born of the Virgin Mary. This time of the Holy Ghost. The final blow to the story comes from Matthew when he discredits it by saying â€œJoseph begat Jesusâ€ which implies that Joseph was Jesusâ€™ biological father.
From what I have just said we can conclude that there was nothing untoward about the birth of Jesus. It was simply a fairy tale concocted to create the idea that Jesus was the Son of God and not just a man.
In passing, I should mention that Virgin births are not as rare or miraculous as one would first believe. They feature in many myths well before the birth of Jesus. Buddha was the son of the virgin Maya Devi. Devaki was the virgin mother of Krishna. Shin-mu was a Chinese virgin goddess and Princess Isis was the Egyptian daughter of the virgin queen Geb.
The so-called virgin birth then can be seen as being no more than a fantasy borrowed from other ancient myths. No credence can be given the idea that Jesus was anything other than a human being born of other human beings.
Now letâ€™s look at the claim that. Jesus had supernatural powers enabling him to perform miracles.
Many of the so-called miracles in the New Testament, such as turning water into wine and raising the dead are in fact not miracles at all but parables. Others can be dismissed as elaborations, fabrications, myths or embellishments and tend to get bigger and better as time goes by. Among the myths are the Resurrection and Ascension in which Jesus allegedly rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. According to Matthew 27:52, at the time of Jesusâ€™ death â€œthe tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised.â€
So we are treated to the spectacle of a dead Jesus and a squadron of zombies shooting off into space. A highly improbable scenario.
Think about it. It takes an enormous amount of power to overcome gravity. You canâ€™t do it on a can of baked beans. Furthermore, even when you escape the Earthâ€™s gravitational pull you remain forever in orbit. While all sorts of man made junk can be detected in space there has never been a report of dead bodies. In reality what probably happened after the crucifixion? Excavations have shown that when one is crucified a nail is driven through the heels and nails are driven through the wrists. Not the hands as is usually depicted because the weight of the body would simply pull it off the nails. It would appear that in order to stay alive on the cross the weight of the body had to be allowed to rest on the legs.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was alive until three oâ€™clock in the afternoon and states that from the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness fell upon the land. It has been assumed from that that Jesus only lasted three hours before dying. John 19:25-29.
According to Jewish ritual custom, it was contrary to their law for a body to be left dying on a cross after sundown. To hasten death before sundown soldiers would break the legs of the crucified. In the case of Jesusâ€™ crucifixion only the two crucified with him had their legs broken. Jesus was not touched and therefore was either already dead or appeared to be when taken off the cross. John 19: 30-38. That he was still alive when taken down was confirmed by his disciples and Mary Magdalene who reported seeing him walking around and talked to him at a later time. John 20; 2-18. To suggest that he then took off into outer space is sheer fantasy.
It should be noted that once again, no impartial historian of the time or after that time mentions anything about three hours darkness; saints coming out of their graves, the earth quaking or any other supernatural happenings. This would seem to confirm that the supernatural claims in the New Testament are fictitious, borrowed or contrived.
Now letâ€™s look at the emotions displayed by Jesus for this is the most compelling evidence of all that Jesus was just a man.
The recorded sayings of Jesus are unclear and set out in parables so that no consistent ethical doctrines can be extracted from them. By its emphasis on individual salvation it appeals essentially to selfish motives and has almost nothing to say about social and public duties. Jesus was therefore selfish and preached selfishness.
Jesus threatened his opponents with hellfire and instilled fear. He was therefore a bully. As a result of his teachings, in later centuries, the self-appointed fanatics who promulgated those teachings were ready to torture and burn those who didnâ€™t conform. Jesus therefore incited and condoned violence. Further examples of his violent and divisive nature can be read in Matthew 10:34, where he said, â€œDo not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother.â€
In Luke 13:32 we read that Jesus called Herod â€œAn old foxâ€. And when the Pharisees and Suducees came to be baptised Jesus called them â€œa brood of snakesâ€. So Jesus was guilty of name calling, prejudice and discrimination.
Jesus made a whip of knotted cords and drove the cattle and sheep from the temple overturning the money changersâ€™ tables. In so doing, Jesus demonstrated human emotions such as intolerance, a short temper, cruelty to animals and violence. Jesus was also boastful saying â€œDestroy this temple and Iâ€™ll rebuild in it three days.â€ John 2:12-22. At Lake Galilee Jesus said to his apostles â€œAll authority here and in heaven has been given to me.â€ And in Luke 11:23 we read, â€œHe who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.â€ Here Jesus demonstrates arrogance and self-aggrandisement.
Jesus was also an egomaniac, who demanded total subservience. In Luke 14:33 He says, â€œwhoever of you does not forsake all that he has, cannot be My disciple.â€
Jesus was petty, spiteful and irrational. He killed a fig tree that happened not to have figs on it when he was passing by. Matthew 21:19.
Jesus was also hung up on sex and was a sadist. In Matthew 19:12 He councils against marriage, and even promotes self-castration. Again in Matthew we have masochistic advice â€œIf your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it offâ€ and â€œit is best to pluck out your eye if itâ€™s causing sinâ€.
Jesus expressed self doubts. When challenged by the Devil to prove that he was the Son of God by changing a stone into a loaf of bread, Jesus refused. Luke 3: 21-23.
Jesus also made false promises. In Mark, Luke and Matthew we read of Jesus promising that the Son of God will return within the lifetime of the generation then living. Generation after generation has passed since that time and the prophecy remains unfulfilled.
Jesus therefore had, and displayed all the emotions and failings we attribute to mortal beings. He was just a man.
Finally, in the Acts of the Apostles, we read â€œThen as they watched, Jesus rose in the air, disappeared in a cloud and was lost to sight. One of them asked the Galileans â€œwhy do you stand gazing into the sky? They replied, â€œHeâ€™ll be back, and when he returns it will be very much as you have seen him leave.â€ That was over two thousand years ago.
In summary, I have shown that the gospels cannot be relied upon as accurate historical records as we have extensive documentation by Roman historians that show glaring inconsistencies between the facts and conditions prevailing at the time with those recorded in the gospels. In these records there is nothing to indicate that Jesus was the Son of God, could perform miracles or ascended into heaven.
Much of the material recorded in the Bible and the gospels has been plagiarised from other religious texts. They are therefore irrelevant and cannot be taken as evidence of the life and times of Jesus.
Many of the so-called miracles attributed to Jesus were in fact parables and others were simply myths or fabrications. Some of these I have discredited â€“ the Virgin birth and the ascension, and have demonstrated the improbability of angels and the Holy Ghost.
Passages quoted from the gospels that show overwhelmingly that Jesus possessed and displayed the same emotions as any other human being, and that Matthew himself implies that Jesus was only the human offspring of human parents.
Attention has been drawn to the fact that the disciples and Mary Magdalene saw and spoke to Jesus after he was taken off the cross, which proves conclusively that he was still alive after crucifixion.
Regardless of whether Jesus died on the cross or was still alive when taken down the simple fact remains that he has long been dead and buried. That fact cannot be disputed and should convince one beyond any reasonable doubt that Jesus was not the son of God but just a man.
quinta-feira, agosto 27, 2009
Dave's Favorite Biblical Inconsistencies
“Biblical logic” is one of the great oxymorons of our time, ranking right up there with "Jumbo Shrimp." However, There are theists out there who still attack atheists as being irrational, and look at the biblical inconsistencies we point out on the web as incomplete or "taken out of context." Many still blindly insist that the Bible is perfect, and it is this reasoning which makes it so hard for them to understand atheists.
There are also some atheists out there who need a little help in handling these attackers. They need powerful questions which cannot be taken out of context and which logically prove that giant holes exist in Biblical logic. Such questions can place doubt in the minds of the believers, reaffirm the skepticism in the mind of the atheist, and hopefully create a better understanding of the atheist in the mind of the believer.
Please note: I have been ridiculed by some for capitalizing God's name and the "He's" and "Him's" and told that this shows an undue respect for God. To the contrary, I do it because God is a proper name, as is Zeus, who I rank equal to God and is also capitalized. I capitalize Hims and He's to differentiate between other people in an example, and show respect to our believer readers. We can disagree without being insulting.
That being said, let me now present some of my all-time favorite Bible theory inconsistencies.
* If God is all-powerful, why did He take 6 days to create the universe, resting on the 7th? Why didn't He just snap his proverbial fingers and create everything all at once, and not need rest afterwards? Doesn't sound so all-powerful to me.
* The great flood: Why not just kill the people, and not all the animals? 40 days seems like overkill, doesn't it? Why torture the damned by drowning them slowly, instead of killing them in a blink with the all-powerful hand of God? After God killed all the people on the planet, why not make a better human, instead of allowing the species to continue after it had proven itself unworthy?
* Why do other planets and stars exist? Whole galaxies? Why did God go to such extents to make us disbelieve the Bible?
* Why are we here? If it is "to serve god", why does God need to be "served", and why can't we do it from heaven?
* We have free will, but God already knows who will sin, who will accept Him, etc, for all eternity (since he has perfect knowledge of the future). He has in effect known you would be reading this article since the beginning of time. Given that, why not just send our souls (and those of our descendants) to Heaven or Hell, depending on what He knows we'll do?
* Why does God care if he is praised? He is this all-knowing, super being, why does He care if we mere humans give him credit for creating all this?
* How can anyone justify the fact that this merciful, loving god is sending all non-Christians to Hell, no matter how good they are? However, terrible people, including Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer, could go to Heaven if they accepted God before death
* Why does this wonderful, forgiving God hold Adam's sin over all our heads? Why must we all pay for this by being permanent sinners? Again, God made the rules and this is God's choice, so you're going to have to explain why God CHOOSES to hold this incredible grudge.
* If God was so angry, why didn't he just kill Adam and Eve and start over? He killed a lot of other people in the Bible for less.
* Where did God come from? How did He get created? Why is it a valid argument to say that He "always existed", but an invalid argument to say the same thing about matter and energy?
* If God is trying so hard to be near us, why doesn't He show himself? I mean, really, show himself to all of us? Why have there been no miracles since the Bible (note, I mean REAL miracles like the spontaneous end of disease or hunger)? Why not show yourself by giving all humans perfect knowledge of your existence (like angels) if it's so important to be praised by us?
* Hell is used by many as a good reason in and of itself to practice religion. Hell, in theory, is so bad that the mere possibility of its existence - no matter how small - warrants prayer to God. This implies that religion is a self-serving decision, not an exercise in humility or praise. In other words, greed. Yes folks, one of the seven deadly sins. Furthermore, since God can apparently read minds, He will easily see through your futile attempt at deceiving Him and send you to Hell. Therefore, by this argument, prayer is useless; you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
* Why believe the Bible over other stories of gods, like the Greek gods, Roman gods, or Celtic gods? They also answer all the questions, just like the Bible, and they all have the same corroboration (none) so why believe one over the other?
But wait! There's more! Let's talk Jesus!
* What was Jesus' purpose? Common answer: "to save us from our sins." Why have a son (why not God himself), and why did he have to die for our sins? Why didn't God just "save us" himself? He is God, right? He can do whatever he wants, so why the whole Jesus thing?
* Another response is to say that Jesus gave God a sense of what it's like to be human. Jesus did not give God a sense of life as a human. First of all, since God is all-knowing, he already had such a sense. Second, you can't get a sense of being human by walking around being the son of God. In order to know what it's like to be a human you need to go completely through life as a human. You need to fall in love, get married, have kids, pay taxes, and, most importantly, fail at something (which theists maintain did not happen, see #3). This response leads us to believe that God has no idea of what these basic principles are like.
* Jesus was also supposed to be 100% perfect. Then why aren't we all Christian? He didn't do a perfect job of converting people (that was his purpose, right?), He didn't do a perfect job of spreading the message of peace (crusades, holy wars) despite a PERFECT knowledge of humans.
A perfect, all powerful being can only do something with perfect results. Ergo, either God did not intend to save all humans, rather a precious few, or he is imperfect. You choose.
* "Jesus was God's intermediary." Why does an all-powerful being need an intermediary? He could give us all perfect knowledge of His existence with a snap of the fingers. Surely he could just, I don't know, talk to us?
* "Jesus chose to die to take our place?" Nope. God made the rules, he can change them. He didn't need Jesus to save humans, all he needed to do was forgive sin. All God had to do was change his mind!
No, Jesus was neither useful nor needed. He did nothing God himself couldn't have done better, quicker, and easier.
Now, in synopsis, here are some interesting "facts" about God.
* He knows the future, so he has known forever that Humans would be created, that he would flood the Earth, that he would send Jesus, and that most would reject Him. In effect, he set up his "children", whom he supposedly "loves", for that eternity in Hell.
* He knows that, since Adam, billions of good, loving, hard-working people are spending an eternity in Hell because of ignorance and God's vanity, which He could reverse instantly but chooses not to.
* He created awful diseases by the score and unleashed them on "his children" without care (even those who love and obey Him). He could cure all (God-made) diseases by snapping his fingers, but he won't.
* He made the rules, and has the power to change them at will, but won't. In a snap, he could change everything, make all souls of good people go from Hell to Heaven, but refuses to do so.
What does this tell us about God? Well, there are only four options that are not contradictory to the above facts:
* He is not nearly as powerful as we think he is - unlikely, because if he exists, he is strong enough to create the universe (even if it did take him 6 days)
* He is stubborn to the point of malevolence - improbable, because he knows the future. Stubbornness implies unwillingness to change in light of new information, but an omniscient God would know all the information right from the start. Therefore, this option only holds water if God exists, but is not omniscient or all-powerful.
* He is inherently malevolent - Logically flawed, just as a benevolent god would not unleash disease, pain, hunger and torment on his people, so would a malevolent god be loath to give us children, sunsets, and chocolate.
* He is nonexistent, and the Bible is a work of fiction laden with massive flaws in logic, because it was made up by flawed humans over a period of time in an effort to subdue the masses. Any way you slice it, common sense and a little education always brings you here
quarta-feira, agosto 26, 2009
To Montgomery & Bill
I wish that all my clients could enjoy themselves in nature as you guys did over here.
And the amount of knowledge that you can sum up it’s mind boggling!
Maybe one day we`ll meet each other in California , but most likely I won’t be welcome at those Bohemian Grove meetings… ;-D
Forget exams and league tables, writes Richard Dawkins. Real education, exemplified by a maverick headmaster almost 100 years ago, is about the power of knowledge and the thrill of discovery
My month has been dominated by education. Home life overshadowed by A-level examination horrors, I escaped to London to address a conference of schoolteachers. On the train, in preparation for the inaugural Oundle Lecture, which I was nervously to give at my old school the following week, I read HG Wells's biography of our famous head: The Story of a Great Schoolmaster, a plain account of the life and ideas of Sanderson.
The book begins in terms which initially seemed a little over the top: "I think him beyond question the greatest man I have ever known with any degree of intimacy." But it led me on to read the official biography, Sanderson of Oundle, written by a large, anonymous syndicate of his former pupils (Sanderson believed in cooperation instead of striving for individual recognition).
I now see what Wells meant. And I am sure that Frederick William Sanderson (1857-1922) would have been horrified to learn what I learned from the teachers I met at the London conference: about the stifling effects of exams, and the government obsession with measuring a school's performance by them. He would have been aghast at the anti-educational hoops that young people now have to jump through in order to get into university. He would have been openly contemptuous of the pussyfooting, lawyer-driven fastidiousness of Health and Safety, and the accountant-driven league-tables that dominate modern education and actively encourage schools to put their own interests before those of their pupils. Quoting Bertrand Russell, he disliked competition and "possessiveness" as a motive for anything in education.
Sanderson of Oundle in Northamptonshire ended up second only to Arnold of Rugby in fame, but Sanderson was not born to the world of public schools. Today, he would, I dare say, have headed a large, mixed comprehensive. His humble origins - northern accent and lack of Holy Orders - gave him a rough ride with the Classical "dominies", whom he found on arrival at the small and run-down Oundle of 1892. So rebarbative were his first five years, Sanderson actually wrote out his letter of resignation. Fortunately, he never sent it. By the time of his death 30 years later, Oundle's numbers had increased from 100 to 500, it had become the foremost school for science and engineering in the country, and he was loved and respected by generations of grateful pupils and colleagues. More important, Sanderson developed a philosophy of education which we should urgently heed today.
He was said to lack fluency as a public speaker, but his sermons in the school chapel could achieve Churchillian heights: "Mighty men of science and mighty deeds. A Newton who binds the universe together in uniform law; Lagrange, Laplace, Leibnitz with their wondrous mathematical harmonies; Coulomb measuring out electricity... Faraday, Ohm, Ampère, Joule, Maxwell, Hertz, Röntgen; and in another branch of science, Cavendish, Davy, Dalton, Dewar; and in another, Darwin, Mendel, Pasteur, Lister, Sir Ronald Ross. All these and many others, and some whose names have no memorial, form a great host of heroes, an army of soldiers - fit companions of those of whom the poets have sung..."
How often did you hear that sort of thing in a religious service? Or this, his gentle indictment of mindless patriotism, delivered on Empire Day at the close of the first world war? He went right through the Sermon on the Mount, concluding each Beatitude with a mocking, Rule Britannia:
"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Rule Britannia!
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth. Rule Britannia!
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Rule Britannia!
"Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness sake. Rule Britannia!
"Dear souls! My dear souls! I wouldn't lead you astray for anything."
Sanderson's passionate desire to give the boys freedom to fulfil themselves would have thrown Health and Safety into a hissy fit, and set today's lawyers licking their chops with anticipation. He directed that the laboratories should be left unlocked at all times, so that boys could go in and work on their own research projects, even if unsupervised.
The more dangerous chemicals were locked up, "but enough was left about to disturb the equanimity of other masters who had less faith than the head in that providence which looks after the young". The same open door policy applied to the school workshops, the finest in the country, filled with advanced machine tools which were Sanderson's pride and joy. Under these conditions, one boy damaged a "surface plate" (a precisely machined plane surface, used for judging the flatness of objects) by using it as an anvil against which to hammer a rivet. The culprit tells the story in Sanderson of Oundle:
"That did disconcert the head for a little when it was discovered. But my punishment was quite Oundelian. I had to make a study of the manufacture and use of surface plates and bring a report and explain it all to him. And after that I found I had learnt to look twice at a fine piece of work before I used it ill."
Incidents like this led eventually, and not surprisingly, to the workshops and laboratories again being locked when there was no adult supervision. But some boys felt the deprivation keenly and, in true Sandersonian fashion, they set out, in the workshops and the library (another of Sanderson's personal prides) to make an intensive study of locks.
One wrote: "In our enthusiasm we made skeleton keys for all Oundle, not only for the laboratories but for private rooms as well. For weeks we used the laboratories and workshops as we had grown accustomed to use them, but now with a keen care of the expensive apparatus and with precautions to leave nothing disorderly to betray our visits. It seemed that the head saw nothing; he had a great gift for assuming blindness - until Speech Day came round, and then we were amazed to hear him, as he beamed upon the assembled parents, telling them the whole business, 'And what do you think my boys have been doing now?'"
Sanderson's hatred of any locked door which might stand between a boy and some worthwhile enthusiasm symbolised his whole attitude to education. A certain boy was so keen on a project he was working on that he used to steal out of the dormitory at 2am to read in the (unlocked, of course) library. The Headmaster caught him there, and roared his terrible wrath for this breach of discipline (he had a famous temper and one of his maxims was, "Never punish except in anger"). Again, the boy himself tells the story.
"The thunderstorm passed. 'And what are you reading, my boy, at this hour?' I told him of the work that had taken possession of me, work for which the daytime was all too full. Yes, yes, he understood that. He looked over the notes I had been taking and they set his mind going. He sat down beside me to read them. They dealt with the development of metallurgical processes, and he began to talk to me of discovery and the values of discovery, the incessant reaching out of men towards knowledge and power, the significance of this desire to know and make and what we in the school were doing in that process. We talked, he talked for nearly an hour in that still nocturnal room. It was one of the greatest, most formative hours in my life... 'Go back to bed, my boy. We must find some time for you in the day for this'."
That story brings me close to tears.
Far from coveting garlands in league tables by indulging the high flyers, Sanderson's most strenuous labours were on behalf of the average, and specially the "dull" boys. He would never admit the word: if a boy was dull it was because he was being forced in the wrong direction, and he would make endless experiments to find how to get his interest... he knew every boy by name and had a complete mental picture of his ability and character. It was not enough that the majority should do well. "I never like to fail with a boy," he once said.
In spite of - perhaps because of - Sanderson's contempt for public examinations, Oundle did well in them. A faded, yellowing newspaper cutting dropped out of my secondhand copy of Wells's book: "In the higher certificates of the Oxford and Cambridge School examinations Oundle once again leads, having 76 successes. Shrewsbury and Marlborough tie for second place at 49 each."
Sanderson died in 1922, after struggling to finish a lecture to a gathering of scientists, at University College, London. The chairman, HG Wells himself, had just invited the first question from the floor when Sanderson dropped dead on the platform. The lecture had not been intended as a valediction, but the eye of sentiment can read the published text as Sanderson's educational testament, a summation of all he had learned in 30 years as a supremely successful and deeply loved headmaster.
My head ringing with the last words of this remarkable man, I closed the book and travelled on to University College, London, site of his swansong and my own modest speech to the conference of science teachers. My subject, under the chairmanship of an enlightened clergyman, was evolution and the recent outbreak of American-style Young Earth Creationism in Emmanuel College, Gateshead. I offered an analogy which teachers might use to bring home to their pupils the true antiquity of the universe. If a history were written at a rate of one century per page, how thick would the book of the universe be? In the view of a Young Earth Creationist, the whole history of the universe, on this scale, would fit comfortably into a slender paperback. That would be the book of the head of science at Emmanuel, recently given a resounding vote of confidence by Ofsted, with the shameful connivance of the prime minister and the secretary of state for education. And the scientific answer to the question? To accommodate all the volumes of history on the same scale, you'd need a bookshelf 10-miles long. That gives the order of magnitude of the yawning gap between true science on the one hand, and the teaching of the infamous Gateshead school on the other. This is not some disagreement of detail. It is the difference between a cheap paperback and a library of a million books.
What would have offended Sanderson about the diet of falsehood now being fed to the unfortunate children of Gateshead is not just that it is false but that it is petty, small-minded, parochial, unimaginative, unpoetic and downright boring compared to the staggering, mind-expanding truth. Emmanuel College, Gateshead has been well named the Ultimate Faith School.
After lunching with the teachers, I was invited to join their afternoon deliberations. Almost all were deeply worried about the A-level syllabus and the destructive effects of exam pressure on true education. One after another, they came up to me and confided that, much as they would like to, they didn't dare to do justice to evolution in their classes. This was not because of intimidation by fundamentalist parents (which would have been the reason in parts of America) but simply because of the A-level syllabus. Evolution gets only a tiny mention, and then only at the end of the A-level course. This is preposterous for, as one of the teachers said to me, quoting the great Russian American biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky (a devout Christian, like Sanderson), "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
Without evolution, biology is a collection of miscellaneous facts. Before they learn to think in an evolutionary way, the facts that the children learn will just be facts, with no binding thread to hold them together, nothing to make them memorable or coherent. With evolution, a great light breaks through into the deepest recesses, into every corner, of the science of life. You understand not only what is, but why.
How can you possibly teach biology unless you begin with evolution? How, indeed, can you call yourself an educated person, if you know nothing of the Darwinian reason for your own existence? Yet, time and again, I heard the same story. Teachers had wanted to introduce their pupils to life's central theorem, only to be glottal-stopped dead in their tracks: "Is that on my syllabus? Will it come up in my exam?" Sadly, the teacher had to admit that the answer was no, and returned to the rote learning of disconnected facts as required for A-level success.
Sanderson would have hit the roof: "I agree with Nietzsche that 'The secret of a joyful life is to live dangerously.' A joyful life is an active life - it is not a dull, static state of so-called happiness. Full of the burning fire of enthusiasm, anarchic, revolutionary, energetic, daemonic, Dionysian, filled to overflowing with the terrific urge to create - such is the life of the man who risks safety and happiness for the sake of growth and happiness."
His spirit lived on at Oundle. His immediate successor, Kenneth Fisher, was chairing a staff meeting when there was a timid knock on the door and a small boy came in: "Please, sir, there are black terns down by the river." "This can wait," said Fisher decisively to the assembled committee. He rose from the chair, seized his binoculars from the door and cycled off in the company of the small ornithologist, and - one can't help imagining - with the benign, ruddy-faced ghost of Sanderson beaming in their wake. Now that's education - and to hell with your league table statistics, your fact-stuffed syllabuses and your endless roster of exams.
That story of Fisher was told by my own inspiring zoology teacher, Ioan Thomas, who had applied for the job at Oundle specifically because he admired the long-dead Sanderson and wanted to teach in his tradition. Some 35 years after Sanderson's death, I recall a lesson about Hydra, a small denizen of still fresh water. Mr Thomas asked one of us, "What animal eats Hydra?" The boy made a guess. Non-committally, Mr Thomas turned to the next boy, asking him the same question. He went right round the entire class, with increasing excitement asking each one of us by name, "What animal eats Hydra? What animal eats Hydra?" And one by one we guessed. By the time he had reached the last boy, we were agog for the true answer. "Sir, sir, what animal does eat Hydra?" Mr Thomas waited until there was a pin-dropping silence. Then he spoke, slowly and distinctly, pausing between each word.
"I don't know... (crescendo) I don't know... (molto crescendo). And I don't think Mr Coulson knows either. (Fortissimo) Mr Coulson! Mr Coulson!"
He flung open the door to the next classroom and dramatically interrupted his senior colleague's lesson, bringing him into our room. "Mr Coulson, do you know what animal eats Hydra?" Whether some wink passed between them I don't know, but Mr Coulson played his part well: he didn't know. Again, the fatherly shade of Sanderson chuckled in the corner, and none of us will have forgotten that lesson. What matters is not the facts but how you discover and think about them: education in the true sense, very different from today's assessment-mad exam culture.
Sanderson's tradition that the whole school, not just the choir, even the tone deaf, should rehearse and bellow a part in the annual oratorio, also survived him, and has been widely imitated by other schools. His most famous innovation, the Week in Workshops (a full week for every pupil in every term, with all other work suspended) has not survived, but it was still going during my time in the 50s. It was eventually killed by exam pressure - of course - but a wonderfully Sandersonian phoenix has risen from its ashes. The boys, and now girls I am delighted to say, work out of school hours to build sports cars (and off-road go-carts) to special Oundle designs. Each car is built by one pupil, with help of course, especially in advanced welding techniques. When I visited Oundle last week, I met two overalled young people, a boy and a girl, who had recently left the school but had been welcomed back from their separate universities to finish their cars. More than 15 cars have been driven home by their proud creators during the past three years.
So Mr Sanderson, dear soul, you have a stirring, a light breeze of immortality, in the only sense of immortality to which the man of reason can aspire. Now, let's whip up a gale of reform through the country, blow away the assessment-freaks with their never-ending cycle of demoralising, childhood-destroying examinations, and get back to true education.
terça-feira, agosto 25, 2009
Is the Bible Reliable?
There are many who make the claim that the bible is a very reliable source of history, and that archaeology confirms the truth of the bible. Another claim that is made is that the bible has not changed throughout history, and that the earliest manuscripts are the same as the ones we have now. I have written some about this throughout my many writings (and in my review of The Evidence Bible) but in this paper, I wish to tackle the bible in a more in-depth way.
I will try to show that all of these claims are false.
First off, I want to point out that there are some historical accuracies within the bible. I don't mean to imply that nothing in the bible can be taken as accurate, however, it is a fact that there are many problems, such as true events told of in the bible taking place at a different time in history, then what the bible says. Or details about one era which apply to another. For example, camels are mentioned in Genesis 24:10, yet they were not widely used until after 1000 B.C.E.
But the fact is that the bible will not conform to history because that was not the intent of the writers. The intent was the writing of gospels (the "good news") and mainly focused on the ways one should live, stories, and about the return of the savior (and they are still waiting!), etc.
When copies of a manuscript were to be copied, they obviously didn't have copy machines or a printing press at that time, in order to make perfect copies. They used scribes, and as Bart Ehrman shows, only until after the third century did professional scribes begin to make copies of the text, however they were still using the error ridden copies of the texts from the past. Before then, there are many scribes who either intentionally, or unintentionally, made changes to the text. For example, in dictating to a scribe what one wanted written, one would say word for word what one wanted put down, while other times one would just spell out the basic points and let the scribe fill in the rest. Both methods were commonly used, which makes you wonder if the scribe did 'fill in' parts of ones dictation, did the scribe get across what the author wanted, or did the scribe accidently change the whole meaning of the text? We cannot know.
Another aspect to this whole debate is that there were different sects of christianity who each had differing beliefs. For example, Paul wrote that one would only gain salvation though faith in jesus' death and resurrection, while others (who argued fiercely with him) claimed that by following the deeds in Jewish Law one would have salvation.
All these different groups fought fiercely with one another, each claiming to have the truth.
Another group, called the Ebionites, held differing beliefs such as, they believed that jesus was the jewish messiah sent from the jewish god in order to fulfill the scriptures. They believed that in order to belong to the people of god, one needed to be jewish, and so they observed sabbath, kept kosher, and circumcised all males. Though they also had different beliefs about jesus. They did not believe that jesus was born of a virgin, and that he was nothing but a flesh and blood person, and that he was simply adopted by god, in order to be his son.
Another major group, called the Marcionites, believed that a person gained salvation through faith in christ, not in following the jewish law, as did the Ebionites. This group also believed that there were two gods. Marcion, the founder of this group, thought that there could be no way that god could be both vengeful, and merciful, so there must be two distinct gods. He believed that the god of the old testament was the one who created this world (the vengeful one), while jesus (the merciful one) was never involved with the world, and only came into when jesus came from heaven. He also believed that jesus was not really ever born, nor was really a man at all. He only appeared to have an earthly, human body.
Yet another group called gnostics held that it was jesus' teachings alone that held the key to salvation, by receiving the correct knowledge of who they really were. After all, the word gnostic means "knowledge." When I was reading about this, it reminded me about buddhism's idea of salvation of a sorts. Until you gain enlightenment ("knowledge") you will continue to be reborn. At least from my readings about buddhism, I'm pretty sure that's correct. But anyhow, the point I'm trying to make is that I feel as if some of these teachings (or maybe these ideas came from tibet, or china) came from buddhism and they incorporated these ideas, since there are some parallels between the teachings of buddha and jesus.
The point I'm trying to make here is that all these different groups of christians were battling one another for the right to be the one truth. Anyone who didn't share their views were deemed to be heretics. These battles caused scribes to change texts in order to counter a claim by an opponent. Scripture was added to, and things changed around. For example, Mark 16:1-8 is the earliest version of the resurrection story, where women discover the empty tomb, and an angel tells them that the disappearance of the body means that jesus has risen. In the earliest and best manuscripts the gospel ends there, then later on a scribe adds Mark 16:9-20, which speaks of his disciples seeing jesus after he has risen. For whatever reason the scribe changed the story; perhaps to "prove" this event really happened to people who doubted the resurrection, or other theological reasons. This is one example that scripture was, in fact, changed for whatever the reasons.
What if the gnostics' scripture was the one which won the scripture wars? Christianity would be very different. Only learning of jesus' teachings will get you salvation. But the whole point is, what's the more accurate teaching? It's clear that all of these groups had scriptures to back up their beliefs, but which one was the correct one? We will never know, because we don't have the original scriptures. All we have are the altered, and sometimes badly copied texts that have been handed down. In fact, the King James Bible is one of the least authoritative writings because it's been shown to have been made with badly translated texts.
From Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus:
"The King James was not given by god but was a translation by a group of scholars in the early 17th century who based their rendition on a faulty Greek text. Later translators based their translations on Greek texts that were better, but not perfect. Even the translation you hold in your hands is affected by these textual problems...whether you are a reader of the New International Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, The New American Standard Version, the New King James, the Jerusalem Bible, the Good News Bible, or something else. They are all based on texts that have been changed in places (page 209)."
Even in the modern bible, this is apparent. In Mark 16:1-8, in the earliest version of the easter story, it includes the discovery of the empty tomb and the interpretive words of a young man, maybe an angel. He announces that the absence of the body means that jesus has risen. His words anticipate an appearance of jesus, but nothing further happens. In the oldest and best manuscripts, Mark's gospel ends right there. Later on, some scribe added Mark 16:9-20, which talks about jesus appearing to his disciples.
As far as archaeology confirming the bible, that is false (aside from what I mentioned at the beginning). There is no evidence that the kingdoms of David and Solomon were as powerful as is claimed in the bible. They may not have even existed in the first place. The exodus, a major event, does not appear in any Egyptian records. Further more, there are no traces in the Sinai from 40 years of a half million people wandering in the desert. Other archaeological evidence contradicts this anyway, showing that the Hebrews were a native people. Luke 2:4 talks about Nazareth as being Joseph's home but the archaeological evidence shows that the town did not exist at the time.
From http://salon.com/books/feature/2001/02/07/solomon/index.html and http://freethought.mbdojo.com/archeology.html :
The following are verbatim excerpts from news articles, which are linked below. This material is readily available to all for verification.
Exodus never happened and the walls of Jericho did not come a-tumbling down. How archaeologists are shaking Israel to its biblical foundations.
Israel Finkelstein, chairman of the Archaeology Department at Tel Aviv University, with archaeology historian Neil Asher Silberman, has just published a book called "The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Text."
"The Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land [of Canaan] in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the twelve tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is the fact that the united kingdom of David and Solomon, described in the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom."
Jerusalem was essentially a cow town, not the glorious capital of an empire. These findings have been accepted by the majority of biblical scholars and archaeologists for years and even decades.
The tales of the patriarchs -- Abraham, Isaac and Joseph among others -- were the first to go when biblical scholars found those passages rife with anachronisms and other inconsistencies. The story of Exodus, one of the most powerful epics of enslavement, courage and liberation in human history, also slipped from history to legend when archaeologists could no longer ignore the lack of corroborating contemporary Egyptian accounts and the absence of evidence of large encampments in the Sinai Peninsula ("the wilderness" where Moses brought the Israelites after leading them through the parted Red Sea).
Finkelstein is an iconoclast. He established his reputation in part by developing a theory about the settlement patterns of the nomadic shepherd tribes who would eventually become the Israelites, bolstering the growing consensus that they were originally indistinguishable from the rest of their neighbors, the Canaanites. This overturns a key element in the Bible: The Old Testament depicts the Israelites as superior outsiders -- descended from Abraham, a Mesopotamian immigrant -- entitled by divine order to invade Canaan and exterminate its unworthy, idolatrous inhabitants.
The famous battle of Jericho, with which the Israelites supposedly launched this campaign of conquest after wandering for decades in the desert, has been likewise debunked: The city of Jericho didn't exist at that time and had no walls to come tumbling down. These assertions are all pretty much accepted by mainstream archaeologists.
"Research is research, and strong societies can easily endure discoveries like this." By comparison with today's skeptical turmoil, the early years of the modern Israeli state were a honeymoon period for archaeology and the Bible, in which the science seemed to validate the historical passages of the Old Testament left and right. As Finkelstein and Silberman relate, midcentury archaeologists usually "took the historical narratives of the Bible at face value"; Israel's first archaeologists were often said to approach a dig with a spade in one hand and the Bible in the other. The Old Testament frequently served as the standard against which all other data were measured: If someone found majestic ruins, they dated them to Solomon's time; signs of a battle were quickly attributed to the conquest of Canaan. Eventually, though, as archaeological methods improved and biblical scholars analyzed the text itself for inconsistencies and anachronisms, the amount of the Bible regarded as historically verifiable eroded. The honeymoon was over.
Marcus says that Finkelstein is "difficult to dismiss because he's so much an insider in terms of his credentials and background. He's an archaeologist, not a theologian, and he is an Israeli. It's hard to say that someone who was born in Israel and intends to live the rest of his life there is anti-Israeli."
From http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH01xv0 :
The biblical account of the capture of the city is the only one we have, and in the opinion of most modern scholars, the Bible is not an entirely reliable historical document.
The Bible is not - and was never intended to be - a historical document. A work of theology, law, ethics and literature, it does contain historical information; but if we want to evaluate this information we should consider when, how and why the Bible was compiled.
Until comparatively recently, the Bible was accepted as the word of God by most Jews and Christians, and therefore scholarly works dealing with it concentrated on its interpretation. In the 19th century CE, the "Age of Reason," scholars began subjecting the biblical texts to linguistic, textual, and literary analysis, noting inconsistencies and interrupted rhythms, comparing styles, and placing the text within the archaeological, historical and geographical background.
There are still many differing opinions regarding the origin of the Bible, when it was written, and under what conditions; but it is fair to say that, outside fundamentalist circles, modern consensus suggests that the assembling and editing of the documents that were to constitute the Bible began in the seventh century BCE, some three centuries after David's time. (The earliest actual material in our possession, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dates to the second century BCE at the earliest).
In particular, the account of Joshua's conquest of Canaan is inconsistent with the archaeological evidence. Cities supposedly conquered by Joshua in the 14th century bce were destroyed long before he came on the scene. Some, such as Ai and Arad, had been ruins for a 1000 years.
The Book of Judges, which directly contradicts Joshua, and shows the Israelites settling the land over a prolonged period, is nearer historical reality; but even it cannot be taken at face value. The archaeological surveys conducted over the past two decades indicate that the origin and development of the Israelite entity was somewhat different from either of the rival accounts in the Bible. The survey was conducted by more than a dozen archaeologists, most of them from Tel Aviv University's Institute of Archaeology.
Around 1200 bce, semi-nomads from the desert fringes to the east and the south, possibly including Egypt, began to settle in the hill country of Canaan. A large proportion - probably a majority of this population - were refugees from the Canaanite city states, destroyed by the Egyptians in one of their periodic invasions. The conclusion is somewhat startling to Bible readers who know the Canaanites portrayed in the Bible as immoral idolaters: most of the Israelites were in fact formerly Canaanites. The story of Abraham's journey from Ur of the Chaldees, the Patriarchs, the Exodus, Sinai, and the conquest of Canaan, all these were apparently based on legends that the various elements brought with them from their countries of origin. The consolidation of the Israelites into a nation was not the result of wanderings in the desert and divine revelation, but came from the need to defend themselves against the Philistines, who settled in the Canaanite coastal plain more or less at the same time the Israelites were establishing themselves in the hills.
Thus the founders of Israel were not Abraham and Moses; but Saul and David. It was apparently Saul who consolidated the hill farmers under his rule and created fighting units capable of confronting the Philistines. It was David who defeated the Philistines and united the hill farmers with the people of the Canaanite plains, thus establishing the Kingdom of Israel and its capital city.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are often said to be important in claiming that the writings of christianity have not changed, but I don't see how that can be true at all. The Dead Sea Scrolls do not even mention jesus, or any of his followers in the new testament. But what it did show was that "these scrolls indicated that beliefs and practices of what we call early Christianity [the one supposedly founded by Jesus] had in fact existed long before him. What emerged from the scrolls was the picture of an early Christianity that was responsible for the original church of Jerusalem but that was an extremist Jewish movement violently opposed to the influence and dominance of the Graeco-Roman world ( http://www.burningcross.net/crusades/jesus-dead-sea-scrolls.html)."
I think I've shown that there are many problems with the bible being a reliable record of the past, let alone it being reliable period. I think this post should do well to refute manys' claims that the bible is the infallible word of god (it was written by men, and altered throughout history by men) or a reliable historical record.
Sources: Jesus is Dead, by Robert M, Price, American Atheist Press, 2007; The Counter-Creationism Handbook, by Mark Isaak, Greenwood Press, 2005; Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, by Bart D. Ehrman, Oxford University Press, 2003; Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, by Bart D. Ehrman, HarperCollins Publishers, 2005; The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, translated by Michael Wise, Martin Abegg Jr., and Edward Cook, HarperCollins Publishing, 2005
to Teri and Colin, a couple of great vets from Australia.
It was a lot of fun working with you two. what a privilege to hang around persons so devoted to the health of the animals. Lots of amusing and touching stories. And what luck you have! By the way, the day that you left, I saw two giant anteaters and a southern tamandua. ( No armadillos yet…) I`ll pay attention to the other signs that might announce the end of the world…
Thanks for everything.
Millions of people claim that they belong to the Christian religion, but few of them know anything about the alleged life of the founder of their religion, a mythological fellow named Jesus. Why is this so? Since secular history is silent on the historical actuality of the alleged life and teachings of Jesus, our only source of information on him is the Bible. The Bible is claimed to be the very word of god, but few Christians have ever read the Bible to see what it says. If they would read the Bible, most of them would probably be surprised and shocked as to what it says. With that in mind, let's examine the Bible to see what it says about this alleged Jesus and what he was supposed to have said and taught.
THE TRUTHFUL WITNESS
"If I [Jesus] bear witness of myself, my witness is not true." (John 5:31)
"I [Jesus] am one that bear witness of myself..." (John 8:18)
According to these scriptures, Jesus was a false witness.
THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS
"And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary...." (Matthew 1:16)
"And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being ... the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli..."(Luke 3:23)
WHO JESUS SAID WAS GOD
"Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?" (John 10:34)
According to this scripture, Jesus thought that the Jewish law (i.e., the Old Testament) reported that he said the Jews were gods.
THE VIRGIN BIRTH
"Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh...." (Romans 1:3)
THE SO-CALLED SON OF GOD'S COURAGE
"And I [Jesus] say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do." (Luke 12:4)
"Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple..." (John 8:59)
"After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because Jews sought to kill him." (John 7:1)
A case of do as I say, not as I do!
THE PRINCE OF PEACE
"Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I [Jesus] tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three." (Luke 12:51-2)
"Think not that I [Jesus] have come to send peace on earth: I come not to send peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)
"...for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." (Matthew 26:52)
"...and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one." (Luke 22:36)
And to think that these ravings are supposed to be the sayings of one some call the prince of peace.
WHOLESOME FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS
"For I [Jesus] am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." (Matthew 10:35-6)
"If any man come unto me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)
"Honour thy father and thy mother..." (Matthew 19:19)
"And call no man your father upon earth..." (Mathew 23:9)
"All that ever came before me [Jesus] are thieves and robbers..." (John 10:8)
GREAT WISDOM OF HIS TEACHINGS
"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I [Jesus] will liken him unto a wise man..." (Matthew 7:24)
"And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish..." (Matthew 5:29)
Who in their right mind would pluck out their eye and think that it was profitable?
THE HOUR OF THE CRUCIFIXION
"And it was the third hour, and they crucified him." (Mark 15:25)
(John 19:12-18) clearly shows that he was not crucified until after the sixth hour.
"Then was fulfilled [by Jesus] that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet..." (Matthew 27:9)
It was Zechariah, not Jeremy, who made that prophecy. See (Zechariah 11:12)
"...that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He [Jesus] shall be called a Nazarene." (Matthew 2:23)
There is no mention by the Old Testament prophets that this Jesus fellow would be called a Nazarene. God was often confused when writing the Bible.
"Verily I [Jesus] say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things [the end of the world] be fulfilled." (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32)
"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." (Matthew 21:22)
The early followers of Jesus died waiting for the end of the world, and even today, over 1900 years later, some Christians still believe that the world is to end in their generation, and that Jesus will give them anything that they ask for in prayer.
His friends come to Jesus' tomb, but the doorstone is rolled away and one angel sitting on the outside gives the news to them before they go in. (Matthew 28:1-8)
His friends come to the tomb, go inside, find nobody, are perplexed, and then two men give them the news. (Luke 24:1-4)
The other resurrection stories are different as well.
WHAT IS THE BIBLE?
The Bible is one of twenty-seven books for which divine origin is claimed. Christians deny the divinity of all Bibles but their own. We deny the divinity of only one more than they do.
Out of 250 Jewish-Christian writings, sixty-six have arbitrarily been declared canonical by Protestants. The rejected books are of the same general character as those now published together as the "Holy Bible." Circumstances rather than merit determined selection.
For 150 years the Christian Bible consisted of the sacred books of the Jews. The New Testament was not formed until the latter half of the second century when Irenaeus selected twenty books from among forty or more gospels, nearly as many acts of apostles, a score of revelations and a hundred epistles. Why were these particular books chosen? Why four gospels instead of one? Irenaeus: "There are four quarters of the earth in which we live and four universal winds." The gospels were unknown to Peter, Paul, and the early church fathers. They were forged later.
The Bible did not assume anything like its present form until the fourth century. The Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, and Protestant canons were not adopted until modern times. The Bible was recognized as a collection of independent writings. The Council of Trent (1563) determined the Roman Catholic, Protestants denounce the Catholic Bible as a "popish imposture." The Greek Catholics at the Council of Jerusalem in 1672 finally accepted the book of Revelation. Their Bible contains several books not in the Roman canon. The Westminster Assembly in 1647 approved the list of sixty-six books composing the authorized version, the one most used in America. Our Bible, therefore, is less than 300 years old.
The Christian faith is based on the belief that the Bible is indeed the word of god. If the Bible cannot be shown to be inspired, then the Christian faith could be said to be false and no more than a farce. If the Bible cannot be shown to be inspired, then Christianity can be said to be the same as any other religion that has been devised and practiced by man.
The Bible story of Jesus is a contradictory and confusing account. The Bible shows that this Jesus fellow spoke and taught many absurd and foolish things, and often believed he was having a conversation with devils. If one will read the entire Bible, one will find tales of ignorance, murder, sexual perversions, mass insanity, idiotic laws, and even cannibalism and human sacrifice. It staggers the imagination how anyone in his right mind could read the Bible and believe that it was written by a wise, just, and loving god. Christians have found biblical scriptures telling them to burn people at the stake, to justify slavery, to oppress and persecute others, and to kill and commit war in the name of their god. Unfortunately, there are some even today who would have us return to the teachings and laws found in the Bible.
We are taught in our culture that Jesus is the divine hero, but other cultures have different saviors. Religious beliefs are a function of the culture in which one lives. If we had been reared in a different culture, we would have heard the story of a different savior, instead of the Jesus story. Upon comparing the stories of the different saviors, one finds that the similarities are so striking, it is beyond a doubt that they are more than just a coincidence.
Jesus is a myth just like all the other saviors and gods of old. Atheism is the clear and rational alternative to the confusion, fear, and superstition that are offered by religion. Atheism encourages freedom of thought and inquiry, while religion by its very nature has to encourage unquestioning obedience and blind faith in doctrines. Belief in god myths has brought misery, suppression of thought and inquiry, fear, and has promoted ignorance. The human race no longer needs these myths of old. Just as little children grow up and learn the truth about the existence of the tooth fairy, the human race needs to mature and learn the truth about the existence of god.
For those interested, American Atheist Press publishes a magazine, books, and numerous articles that inquire into the god myths and offer clear alternatives to those offered by religion. Membership is offered in American Atheists, the organization that promotes Atheism, stands for complete separation of state and church, and opposes those who would take away our freedoms and place America under the laws of the Bible instead of the Constitution. The choice between religion and Atheism is yours.
All Bible quotes are from the Authorized King James Version of the Bible (Abradale Press, New York)..
domingo, agosto 16, 2009
The Deeply Green
A spectre is beginning to haunt the world. It is not some phantom menace. It is the all too real possibility of irreversible ecological and therefore social collapse. Modern society faces the ruination that once brought down seemingly invincible civilisations in the past. Then the collapse was comparatively local in scale; today it is global. From the melting icecaps and glaciers to the raging forest fires, devastating storms and equally destructive floods that have ravished many parts of the planet, there is evidence that humanity is facing an unprecedented crisis. Those apologists for the current social order who talked about the end of history -- might turn to be right after all, but in the completely opposite way to what they smugly envisaged.
The decisions humankind makes over the next two decades are likely to decide whether or not the Earth life-support systems are sustained or become irreversibly impoverished. Climate change seems to be proceeding faster and more damagingly than expected. But it only tops a long list of planetary ailments, some well known such as the tears in the atmosphere's protective ozone layer and the clear-cutting of whole forests, others less so such as salinisation and aquifer depletion. Some are dramatic like the collapse of many fisheries, others almost imperceptible but equally alarming, not least soil erosion and nutrient loss. Both new diseases and ones once thought conquered seem set to plague the world. Already it is too late for many other lifeforms as the holocaust of human-caused extinction rapidly mounts. Even previously common species are rapidly disappearing.
The crisis outside society is mirrored within it. Despite unprecedented levels of affluence and massive leaps in technological know-how, the fabric of society is, nevertheless, coming apart at the seams. Again, there are many symptoms, from the unraveling of community bonds and disintegration of family life to a general dumbing down in human culture. The intensification of work and uncertainties that plague many workplaces are further signs of a deep malaise, in which the possibility of severe economic crashes has reared its ugly head again after the long postwar boom.
One chink of light in the darkening shadows is the growth of what amounts to a global resistance movement. It takes many forms and fights on many front. One of its most obvious manifestations have been the street demonstrations that have confronted world leaders at international trade talks. Some critics have talked of the Seattle Spirit after one of those events. Then there are the various struggles waged against new motorways, airports, mines and other monstrous developments. The animal rights movement embodies similar energies as do those disrupting the planting of genetically modified crops.
Green political parties reflect the same general spirit. They have had a harder time establishing themselves, not least because of the corporate coffers that aid conventional parties. Yet they too have been making gains, especially at a local level. In the heart of the beast, the
Such is the urgency of that crisis that many people want to get involved in activity and correspondingly give little time to study and reflection on its nature. However, without careful thought, both about deeper values and goals as well as appropriate policies and strategy, the best endeavours are likely to go round in ever decreasing circles. Public campaigning, political activity, technological research and development as well as private lifestyle changes all will suffer from loss of direction and focus if they are not guided by deep reflection and theoretical development. There is also a danger in seeing individual issues in isolation rather than as aspects of one general systemic crisis, with related causes and linked solutions. Furthermore, in these discouraging times, it is hard to sustain individual involvement without the deep commitment that fuller understanding can bring. Last but not least, greater personal knowledge can help activists in the critical work of winning over non-converts to the cause.
This guide is not just about the Earth's multiplying ills. It is also about diagnosis and possible cures. The books it lists do contain their share of doom and gloom. That is a true part of the picture. But there is an alternative. There are insuperable technological barriers to the creation of what might best be called a conserver society. There are, however, deep institutional and social obstacles to be crossed. Indeed the power of multinational corporations is only one barrier ó there are deeper cultural ones. That too is part of reality.
It identifies twenty core books with suggestions for follow-up reading. It is not a pure top twenty per se since the list tries to provide coverage of a range of issues, rather than select books simply on intrinsic merits alone. Together, these works constitute a basic green libraryí. Together, they shed much light on what is wrong with the world and how we humans might learn to live in greater harmony with each other and with the rest of Nature. One problem facing anyone wanting to find out more about the global crisis is the sheer number of books available purporting to deal with it. Yet few of these works did more than scratch the surface. Often they treated ecological concerns as just one set of issues amongst many. Seldom did they recognise the need to put the Earth first. Furthermore, too many books treat social and environmental problems as simply a lack of managerial expertise and technical prowess. The crisis goes much deeper: saving the Earth meant root and branch changes across the whole of society. The driving forces in the planetary crisis are also often badly diagnosed. Too much heed is paid to badly designed technology. Conversely, too little attention is given to the menace of human population growth is ignored or even denied. Yet no problem can be solved on a lasting basis without, first, a stabilisation of human numbers and then their reduction, by just and socially acceptable means, to levels well within the safe carrying capacity of local environments.
The root causes of that crisis are also widely misunderstood. It is simply not good enough to blame a few rotten apples as if they are somehow atypical. Similarly, it is quite false to portray the crisis as the consequence of some great oversight, misunderstanding, inadequate information, failure to communicate or even a tragic accident, a product of fortuitous circumstances. In reality they are the inevitable consequence of identifiable actions, decision-making systems and values.
The ecological crunch takes the form largely of a slow but steady accumulation of problems, the necessary consequence of past choices, the cumulative effects of which are likely to drastic, long-lasting and all-pervading. It is possible to identify many of those decisions and the people behind them. Deliberate crimes such as the burning of food ësurplusesí and other forms of corporate plundering should not be covered up. The Earth's enemies need to be named. Yet it is naive to dump all the blame on particular organisations and individuals. The waste and destructiveness that has characterised much of human history, across many types of economic system, alone suggests that a politics of anti-globalisatio or anti-capitalism is not enough. In particular, we need to get away from simplistic images of progressive rank and file struggles betrayed by reactionary leaders. Ordinary people are not dupes or unwilling conscripts yoked to the treadmill of consumerism. It must be recognised that many ordinary citizens play an active, conscious, willing and indeed sometimes wilful part in the trashing of the planet. We must dump the naÔve notion that, to quote one permaculture book, that if we care for people, we will care for the planet. Socially worthy measures can be as ecological harmful and therefore unsustainable as socially unworthy ones. A more complex model of the roots of the crisis and of strategies to solve it is needed.
It is also vital to be careful in the forging of the broad alliances that will be necessary to save the earth. We should never forget that, as Gary Coates put it, "What appears at first to be merely two paths to shared goals turns out, on closer inspection, to be two separate paths to very different goals." Notions such as efficiency, sustained yield sustainable development, environmental impact analysis and risk assessment can turn out to be anything but means to moderate excess. Instead, they often represent new attempts to intensify manipulation and exploitation, albeit with less needless waste and perhaps some cosmetic touches.
For life on Earth
The following suggestions for a basic library concentrate on books which really do look at the big picture or put their particular subject into the ecological context. It is a guide to a literature not just about but also for ecosystems and all the life they sustain. Diversity, sufficiency and stability, not homogenisation, unlimited expectations and expansion, would become the critical yardsticks of progress in what the Australian physicist and leading ecoscience textbook writer, G. Tyler Miller, calls a Sustainable Earth Society. Concepts such as interdependence, reciprocity, balance and especially that little word limits would shape the way we think about, value and do things. Sustainability must be seen in holistic terms, spiritually, psychologically, culturally, economically and, of course, environmentally ó and must embrace all the Earth's stakeholders, humans and non-human nature. Some readers may find this Guide partial, one-sided, emotive, even prejudiced. At one level, we plead guilty. We do takes sidesówe are decidedly for the future well-being of the planet and against values, lifestyles and institutions that threaten it. Upon the integrity and health of the Earth's life-support systems, all worthwhile goals and expectations depend so we are indeed biased in favour of ideas and activities that are ecological sustainable, not just for the sake of humankind but all the Earth's dependants. The Guide's perspective is fundamentally at odds, therefore, with the statement in 1987 by the president of the National Wildlife Federation, an American "environmental" organisation, that he saw no fundamental difference between destroying a river and destroying a bulldozer. In reality, there is literally a whole world of difference. If it is sectarian to stand out from what the American activist Howie Wolke once called the "Vast sea of raging moderation, irresponsible compromise and unknowing (OK sometimes knowing) duplicity in the systematic destruction of the Earth" so be it.
The Guide concentrates on the core literature, material that really does address the key issues of the day. Because many people today are (or feel themselves to be) short of time are likely to read only a few books and articles, we have been really ruthless in pruning what is a voluminous literature. Hopefully, study of these works might encourage a deeper exploration of the nature of an ecologically sustainable society and the values, institutions and lifestyles appropriate to it.
This guide is primarily aimed at individuals already active on green issues. We assumed some basic familiarity with green thinking. However, we recognise that people new to the movement or who studying it perhaps for academic or journalistic reasons. We would recommend in such cases that it might be better to start with a general book like It's a Matter of Survival (no. 2 below) or Let the Mountains Talk, Let the Rivers Run (no. 13), followed by Green History of the World (no. 3) then a more positive book such as The Conserver Society (no. 16). Some of the suggested follow-up reading sometimes constitute more digestible snacks than the first courses some of which can be a bit heavy-going.
The Top Twenty
For those wanting a short indoctrination in green thinking we have shortlisted a set of really outstanding titles that could constitute a basic book collection for any green activist. We have noted as well possible follow-up reading, sometimes individual books and sometimes individual authors whose entire back catalogue will repay exploration. At the end, a number of authors are mentioned whose works deserve inclusion in what might best be called the Spiro Agnew Memorial Library of Human Wisdom. It pays to know the enemy.
1. State of the World by Lester Brown,. et al (Earthscan, annual)
This is a comprehensive and authoritative survey of many of the world's key trends, published each year. The press releases regularly put out by the Worldwatch Institute also provide a quick way of keeping on top of the mountain of data about the Earth's festering ills. Look them up on the Internet (www.worldwatch.org). The Institute also publishes a series of A5 booklets on specific issues in a series called the Worldwatch Papers, which by mid-2000 numbered more than a 150 volumes, with topics ranging from the disastrous depletion of underground water aquifers to the pestilential dangers of new (and old) diseases.
2. It's Matter of Survival by Anita Gordon & David Suzuki (Harper Collins, 1991).
It is difficult to pick out one book that captures the breadth and depth of today's environmental, economic and social crises, not least the way they interact. This one does convey the urgency of the situation and the dangers we face, even if global overwarming were to turn out to be an illusion cooked up by a few overheated imaginations. The book draws upon a more conventional humanist perspective rather than a deeper ecological sensibility. It is also a bit dated by now. That said, it remains a firm rebuttal of the phoney good news environmentalism being peddled by the likes of Gregg Easterbrook and organisations such as the British grouping Forum for the Future, let alone latter day Panglosses like Julian Simons and Wilfred Beckerman. It boldly underlines that most fundamental truth that, whatever the good cause, it will be a lost one unless we put the Earth first in both values, public policy and private lifestyles.
See also Beyond the Limits by Donella Meadows et al (Earthscan, 1992), an update of the classic Limits to Growth, the study originally commissioned by the Club of Rome. The Cassandra Conference edited by Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren (Texas A&M Univ. Pr., 1987), which brings together great analysts such as George Woodwell and Earl Cook, all of whom are prepared to ask that great green question: How much is enough? Statistics do date quickly, though it is possible to check for recent data from many good on-line sources not least the websites maintained by the Worldwatch Institute (see above) and that run by the David Suzuki Foundation, which also lists some follow-up studies to the above book.
Of course, it is hard to be precise about broad trends, not least their speed of development. It is easy to dismiss such warnings as crying wolf when predicted disasters do not happen in the immediate future. Yet, in broad historical terms, a few decades one way or the other is of minuscule significance. Even more important is the stark reality that the damage being done by human activities to the Earth's life-support systems is cumulative and can cross the point of no return without anything dramatic highlighting the fact.
Although arguments about resources running out miss the big picture about our sickening planet, it is important to consult the writings of the Australian writer Ted Trainer, some of the best pieces being in the form of magazine articles. He rigorously exposes the widespread complacency about long-term fossil fuel and mineral availability as well as unwarranted optimism about the potential of solar and other alternative resource supplies. A number of studies focus more on the political and economic aspects on the global crisis. In particular they debunk the widespread claims that a long boom lies ahead and that the combination of parliamentary democracy and free market economics has successfully brought history to a happy ending. Despite, in some cases, a lack of deep ecological understanding, there is much good material in books such as The Age of Insecurity by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson (Verso, 1998), The Case Against the Global Economy edited by Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith (Sierra Club Books, 1996), Economic Horror by Viviane Forrester (Blackwell, 1999), False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism by John Gray (Granta Books, 1999), and, with focus on a particular example of the whole monster of so-called development, the Narada Valley project in India, The Cost of Living by Arundhati Roy (Flamingo, 1999).
Light should be shed on those who benefit the most from the evils chronicled in such works and who actively block remedial action. Good sources include Green Backlash: Global Subversion of the Environmental Movement by Andrew Rowell (Routledge, 1996), Global Spin: The Corporate Assault on Environmentalism by Sharon Beder (Green books, 1997) and, with more humour though less environmental awareness, Downsize This! by Michael Moore, creator of the TV series TV Nation, (Boxtree, 1996).
This is a popular presentation of the ecological view of history, taking the people-environment interaction as the crucial characteristic of any society and the most decisive determinant of its future. In passing, it provides a healthy corrective to radical nostalgia which paints a romantic picture of indigenous societies and vernacular cultures. Sadly, environmental destruction and social oppression have long dogged human footsteps. For an analysis of the last hundred years in particular, see Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth Century by John McNeil (
Follow up by reading works by the growing number of academics who are building an ecological theory of history and historical change. See, for examples, books by writers such as Alfred Crosby, Jared Diamond, Stanley Diamond, Donald Hughes, Marshall Sahlins, Donald Worster, and in a perhaps more popular mode, Farley Mowat. One book stands out, however. It is Rogue Primate: an Exploration of Human Domestication by John Livingston (Key Porter Books, 1994), partly a history of human evolution ó how it has contributed to the present crisis - and partly the presentation of a non-human-centred philosophy. Amongst other things, it exposes the crude reductionism that blames contemporary woes solely upon capitalism or indeed any cause of a purely economic nature. The works of Paul Shepherd also shed a great deal of light on such matters.
Whilst on the subject of history, there is another area well worth further study. In the past, a small number of very prescient writers saw the destructive road society has long been travelling. They also proposed more ecologically sustainable and less exploitative ways forward. Their writings refute the frequently proffered excuse that past destruction was merely accidental, an excusable misunderstanding, since people didn't know then what they know now. These visionaries did recognise the follies of their times and courageously said so, often being pilloried for their efforts. Their ranks include Henry Thoreau, George Marsh, John Muir, Fairfield Osborn, William Vogt, Paul Sears, Baker Brownell, Aldo Leopold, Frank Fraser Darling and, last but not least, the great Rachel Carson, who was subject to a particularly vicious witch hunt. All their writings repay close study.
4. Betrayal of Science and Reason by Paul & Anne Ehrlich (Island Press, 1998)
A first-class response to the brown backlash. The latter argues that fears about global warming and other environmental problems are just empty hot air. However, the book also provides a solid guide to the scientific side to green thinking, not least on issues like overpopulation and biodiversity.
For a superb example of an academic textbook on environmental sciences, which also has a lot of good material about sustainable alternatives to despoliation-as-usual, look no further than Living in the Environment by G. Tyler Miller (
5. Elephant in the Volkswagen: Facing the Tough Questions About Our Crowded Country by Lindsey Grant et al (Freeman, 1992).
Too many people ignorantly believe that human numbers do not count. This collection of essays, focusing not on countries with exploding populations such as India but on the USA, demonstrates that human population growth is the biggest single source of the Earth's woe's and one which multiplies the effects of other malign pressures, not least those from overconsumption and inappropriate technology. In passing, it outlines the ecological approach to specific issues such as immigration and the rising percentage of elderly people.
Follow-up reading should include Paul and Anne Ehrlich's magisterial analysis The Population Explosion (Hutchinson, 1990) as well as the many magazine articles the two, sometimes in partnership with John Holdren, have written on the issue. See also World War 111: Population and the Biosphere at the End of the Millennium by Michael Tobias (Continuum, 1998). The personal dimensions to this issue and their links to the big picture are well explored in Bill McKibben's Maybe One: A Personal and Environmental Argument for Single-child Families (Simon & Shuster, 1998) Excellent material is published regularly in the journal Population and Environment, edited by Virginia Abernethy, herself the author of numerous good books on population growth. Other good sources of evidence and argument about the realities of overpopulation include the Bulletin of the Carrying Capacity Network (
6. Questioning Technology edited by John Zerzan & Alice Carnes (Freedom Press, 1988).
There are two particularly bad ideas about technology. One is the almost religious faith that technology is the answer, believers thinking that social and environmental problems can be made to disappear simply by waving the magic wand of applied science. The second is the belief that technology is simply a neutral tool, its impacts dependent upon the identity and purposes of its controllers. This anthology is a great introduction to a more critical view, one which pulls no punches when it comes to such false dawns as biotechnology and computerisationÅB Sadly, that great technological pie-in-the-sky, the so-called ëgreen carí, is overlooked.
Follow up by reading authors such as Jacques Ellul (The Technological Bluff, Erdman, 1990), Neil Postman (try his Technopoly, Vintage Books, 1993) and Jerry Mander (especially the first two parts on megatechnologyí in his In the Absence of the Sacred, Sierra Club Books, 1992). It is well worth searching out Eugene Schwartz's Overskill: The Decline of Technology in Modern Civilisation (Ballantine, 1971) a much needed antidote to today's high-tech euphoria. It also includes a careful dissection of the limits of logical empiricism. From an older generation, the writings of Lewis Mumford stand out. All these works demonstrate that alternative isn't necessarily appropriate and that, if a technology
7. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman (
Human culture is suffering from a process of degradation, dumbing down, that parallels the ruination of environmental systems. Indeed the former is a growing hindrance to any sensitivity towards and understanding of the latter. Postman is a sure-footed guide, focusing in this work on the impact of modern mass media.
For a more general overview see Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip-Mining of American Culture edited by K. Washburn & J. Thornton. (Norton, 1997), a collection which concentrates on
For more focus on the commercialisation of culture, a good starting point is Naomi Klein (No Logo: Taking Aim of the Brand Bullies, Flamingo, 2000). See also writers around the magazines Adbuster (Vancouver) and, from Chicago, The Baffler (there is a good collection of articles from the latter in Commodify Your Dissent: The Business of Culture in the New Gilded Age, edited by T. Frank and M. Weiland, Norton, 1997)
8. Deep Ecology For The 21st Century: Readings On The Philosophy And Practice Of The New Environmentalism edited by George Sessions ( Shambhala, 1995).
This is a weighty collection of essays from a variety of writers, with especially valuable introductions to each section by the American philosopher George Sessions. These writings demonstrate that there is a deep crisis in human character and culture, which a crude politics of anti-capitalism or indeed any programme based on economics fails to address and therefore can provide no lasting answers. However, the volume is correspondingly weaker on practical problems, not least the role of market economics and vested interests, and too focused on personal transformation. It is still worthwhile dipping into Deep Ecology: Living As If Mattered by Bill Devall and George Sessions (Gibbs M Smith, 1985). Particularly important is its critique of resource managerialism now often masquerading as environmentalism but, in actuality, but a front for a more sophisticated domination and manipulation of the Earth (as typified by the Brundtland Report, for example). The same applies to that new scam, ësustainable developmentí. Other chapters outline other sources of ecological thought, not least from the worldviews of primal peoples and non-western philosophies, something this brief guide has had to ignore. See also Ecology, Community and Lifestyle: Outline Of An Ecosophy by Norwegian Arne Naess, translated and edited by David Rothenberg, (Cambridge University Press, 1991). Naess drew the vital distinction between what he called ëshallow environmentalismí and ëdeep ecologyí, a much more consistent and meaningful sense of solidarity with the Earth. The Arrogance of Humanism by David Ehrenfeld (OUP, 1981) remains an essential read, not least for its dissection of the ideology of progress and its offspring, development. He is also good at showing how conservation programmes based on a utilitarian ethic are doomed to failure.
The best demolition job on the limits of reductionist and mechanistic thinking can be found in the first part of Where the Wasteland Ends by Theodore Roszak (Doubleday, 1973). For a more specific critique of the individualistic and materialistic values that underpin mainstream economic thinking as well as a critique of economic growth policies, try The Death of Industrial Civilisation by Joel Jay Kassiola (SUNY Pr., 1990). Modern thinking has also been polluted by much postmodernist rubbish. Its pretensions and foolishness are well and truly buried by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont in their best seller Intellectual Impostures (Profile Books, 1997). Sadly, some of their strictures can be applied to much material being produced by the green movement. Another powerful critique of the dominant worldview is The Way: An Ecological World-View by Edward Goldsmith (Green Books, 1996). Drawing upon anthropological evidence from past cultures, he also shows that there is another way of looking at the world, one which will cherish not destroy it. Don't be put off by the rather schematic form of presentation. A very valuable collection of past essays by Goldsmith can be found in The Great U-Turn: Deindustrialising Society (Green Books, 1988).
Much wisdom can be found in the pages of
Few writer's match Leopold's sensitivity to the meaning and importance of wilderness as well as his awareness of the need to go beyond a human-centered perspective of "resource management" (which has cloaked, indeed legitimised much environmental destruction). He was no armchair sentimentalist, having had extensive experience in forestry and game management. His basic ideas and metaphors, e.g. "thinking like a mountain", and "the Land Ethic", provide solid building blocks for a new worldview at one with the rest of Nature. He also had a way with words that captures the beauty and wonders of our world, though such sensibility can leave one even more in pain at its destruction. Another collection of his writings can be found in For the Health of the Land (Island Pr., 1999). See also The Essential Aldo Leopold edited by C. Meine and R. Knight (Univ. Wisconsin Pr., 2000)
10. Naked Emperors: Essays of a Taboo-Stalker by Garrett Hardin (Kaufmann, 1982)
Greens need both kind hearts and hard heads. The controversial American biologist Garrett Hardin cuts through a lot of the soft sentiment and piety about relationships between individuals and groups and between people and planet. His paper on the so-called tragedy of the commons remains one of the most cited articles of all time. Few theses contain the potential to upset so many different brands of politics. The disastrous dynamic spotlighted by Hardin undermines the case for, on the one hand, laissez-faire marketí economics, based on the individual consumer, and, on the other, anarchist and libertarian politics, based on individuals doing their own thingí. The tragedy model can be used to show how the former, economic libertarianism, and the latter, social libertarianism, are but different sides of the same bad coin. No wonder the theory has so many enemies. Hardin's critique of the ëcornucopianí vision of ever-expanding entitlements is particularly forceful. Some of his historical comparisons can be questioned (some traditional commons were actually quite well managed) while his concept of lifeboat ethics in relation to the problems of countries suffering from poverty and environmental decline is also flawed. Nevertheless, Hardin has been a crucial thinker on both environmental and social problems. See also his other collections, notably Living Within Limits: Ecology, Economics and Population Taboos (
11. Blueprint for Survival by Edward Goldsmith et al. (Penguin, 1972).
A true oldie but goldie. It still contains the best diagnosis of our mounting social and environmental ills and the best policy framework for curing them. It shows that a coherent green programme cannot be constructed on the basis of grievance politics, mixing together the demands from disaffected groups on the edges of society as some radicals have tried to do. Such recipes can only produce dogsí dinners. The Blueprint should be the starting point for all those seeking to flesh out the details of a manifesto for sustainability. Its main weakness was a naive faith in the willingness, indeed ability, of governments drawn from mainstream politics to listen to reason. They didn't and they won. Its other main failing ironically was too much moderation. Things are slip sliding away faster than even this forthright statement anticipated.
12. Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity by William Ophuls (Freeman, 1992)
This contains the best single presentation of the green critique of expansionism. Ophuls also provides a superb explanation of the dynamic of the "tragedy of the commons." In particular, it demonstrates how harmful consequences can flow from the cumulative effect of harmless and otherwise well-intentioned decisions. It knocks on the head the soft-headed sentiment that believes that, as one green book put it, "If you care for people, you care for the planet." Sadly, life is a bit more complex. Ophuls should be read by all those who simply blame everything on "them" be they crooked capitalists or bossy bureaucrats. He also shows how important it is to learn from conservative thinkers such as Edmund Burke, mindless written off as hopeless reactionaries by simple-minded radicals. Follow up with his Requiem for Modern Politics (Westview, 1997).
See also Biosphere Politics by Jeremy Rifkin (Harper, 1992), a wide-ranging work, with much insight into the downside of the worldview that emerged out of the Enlightenment as well as into specific issues such as genetic engineering. The writings of Christopher Lasch also shed much light both on modern society as a whole (e.g. his Culture of Narcissism, Abacus, 1980) and political movements, especially his Revolt of the Elite and The Betrayal of Democracy (Norton, 1995) and The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics (Norton, 1991)
13. Let the Mountains Talk, Let the Rivers Run by David Brower (Harper, 1996)
There are a number of personal statements by leading activists but few have been so active as Brower or write with such eloquence and force. A really lively and stimulating book, one that really does recharge the batteries of tired campaigners. Mention must be made of Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder all of whose writings exude wisdom combined with enthralling way with words.
Abbey wrote widely but the best starting point is Desert Solitaire (Peregrine Smith, 1981), partly based on his experiences as a National Park ranger. He also wrote some great novels, which manage to combine anger and humour, plus some good storylines.
The best place to start when exploring the many writings of Wendell Berry might be The Unsettling of America (Sierra Books, 1982), a demonstration of how to link a critique of a specific aspect of modern society (industrialised agriculture) with broader insights into the values and goals on which it is founded. A number of books have gathered together the many wonderful essays penned by
Gary Snyder: Dimensions of a Life edited by Jon Halper (Sierra Club Books, 1991) celebrates one of
14. Eco-socialism or eco-capitalism? A critical analysis of humanity's fundamental choices by Saral Sarkar (Zed Books, 1999).
Saral Sarkar was born in
15. Steady-State Economics by Herman Daly (Freeman, 1977).
The signals sent by conventional economics have been signposts to long-term ruin. For people have done more than Daly to mark out another road, both in theoretical and policy terms. The concept of the steady-state is much misunderstand yet it represents the essence of the green economic alternative. Daly explains why it is so vital and puts forward challenging ideas about how to institutionalise it. His focus on the throughput of energy and raw materials in the human economy dispels a lot of the fog generated by vague words like growth and development. There is, of course, much noise about "new economics" but most of it fails to go beyond a very pale green Keynesianism. Daly also anticipated reformist policies such as pollution levies and emissions trading, showing that they are the wrong tool applied to the wrong end of the economic process.
See also the works of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (especially his magnum opus The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, Harvard UP, 1971) and the various writings of E. J. Mishan. Arguments against Growthmania are also developed in The Growth Illusion by Richard Douthwaite (Green Books, 1992). For a compendium of examples of how Giantism (bigger-is-more-beautiful) becomes increasingly counter-productive and unsustainable in all its forms, social, economic and technological, look up Human Scale by Kirkpatrick Sale (Secker and Warburg, 1980). The name of Fritz Schumacher is often linked to the phrase ësmall is beautifulí but all his writings provide a rich treasure chest of wisdom. Leopold Kohr might be less well known but he too had many insights into the curse of bigness and the need to break up today's megastates.
16. The Conserver Society: Alternatives for Sustainability by Ted Trainer (Zed, 1995).
This is the best nuts-and-bolts vision of a sustainable society. It is firmly grounded in the theory of limits-to-growth and the fact that we must all learn to tread more lightly and to share smaller pies as the American writer tom Bender once put it. Trainer shows that a no-longer-affluent society (in conventional terms) could not only be much safer but also much richer in all kinds of other ways. The skills of living lightly will partly depend upon an awareness of how heavily we now stamp down on the planet. In this field pioneering work has been done by William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel. See in particular their study of the human footí, Our Ecological Footprint (New Society Publishers, 1996). A good companion is Sharing The World by Michael Carley and Philippe Spapens (Earthscan, 1998)
Case studies of people trying to build such alternatives can be found in a series of short books produced by New Society Publishers, particularly Turtle Talk: Voices for A Sustainable Future (edited by Christopher and Judith Plant, 1990), Putting Power in its Place: Create Community Control (edited by Christopher and Judith Plant, 1992), and Futures By Design: The Practice of Ecological Planning (edited by Doug Aberley, 1994). Richard Douthwaite's Short Circuit: Strengthening Local Economies for Security in an Unstable World (Green Books, 1996) and Sustainable Communities: The Potential for EcoNeighbourhoods, edited by Hugh Barton (Earthscan, 1999) provide many encouraging case studies and valuable proposals. A book that manages to make the link between core green values and questions of individual lifestyle and public policy is Simple in Means, Rich in Ends: Practising Deep Ecology (Green Print, 1990).
The search for a sustainable society will be aided by much more humility about contemporary technological prowess as well as more respect for the achievements of many traditional cultures. A good aid here is Helena Norberg-Hodge's Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh (Sierra Club Books, 1991).
17. Ecological Literacy by David Orr (SUNY Pr., 1992)
Any hopes of sustaining a "conserver society" will depend most of all upon the education of its future citizens. Contrary to the position of many radical critics of contemporary education systems, there will be much prescription in the curriculum we need. Its content is the key issue, with matters such as organisational form, funding and assessment methods significant but nonetheless secondary questions. There is no better guide than David Orr, whose study also has much light to shed on the meaning of ësustainabilityí. See also his Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect (Island Pr., 1994).
Critical Essays on Education and the Recovery of the Ecological Imperative by C. A Bowers (Teachers College, 1993) provides a first-rate critique of the ecological failure of modern educational theory and practice. It also dissects the fallacy of thinking that a computer on every school desk will improve matters. Another work by Bowers, Let Them Eat Data: How Computers Affect Education, Cultural Diversity and the Prospects of an Ecologically Sustainable Future (Univ. Georgia Pr., 2000), broadens and deepens that latter argument.
18. Green Architecture: Design for a Sustainable Future by Brenda and Robert Vale (Thames and Hudson, 1991)
More and more people live in urban environments but the modern megalopolis is as ugly and oppressive as it is unsustainably rapacious in the demands it places on both local and distant ecosystems. However, there is an alternative and this book provides examples as well as draws out the principles on which planning must be based. A number of leading thinkers and practitioners in this field as well as commentators on broader matters are united in Reshaping the Built Environment: Ecology, Ethics & Economics edited by C. Kilbert (Island Pr., 1999). See also David Pearson's Earth Spirit (Gaia books, 1994) and Living Spaces: Ecological Building and Design edited by Thomas Schitz-G¸nther (K¯neman, 1999, English edition). The Findhorn Community has produced some good technical material on such matters such as John Talbott's Simply Build Green. So has Ecover, the manufacturer of environmentally friendlier cleaners and detergents. See The Ecological Factory by Dick Develter (Ecover, 1992).
On broader matters of appropriate technological design, a number of names demand mention. They include John Lyle, Victor Papanek, John and Nancy Todd, David Wann and Sim Van Der Ryn. One of the best statements of why a greener design ethic is needed and of its principles is to be found in an essay "Sharing Smaller Pies" by Tome Bender, a version of which was included in a very useful volume Resettling America: Energy, Ecology and Community, edited by Gary Coates whose own contributions are excellent as well (Brick House, 1982). The Rocky Mountain Institute (
19. Ecoforestry: The Art and Science of Sustainable Forest Use edited by Alan Drengson and Duncan Taylor (New Society Publishers, 1997)
Farming and forestry have wrecked the Earth on a far, far greater scale than many traditional protest targets such as hunts, fur farms or new motorways. This book is a case study of how to put forestry on a more sustainable footing in an approach that firmly recognises the needs of non-human species. It also addresses the social and economic dimensions of the needed revolution in land use. (Drengson's own writings on both ecophilosophy and technology are well worth seeking out)
See also Forestopia: a Practical Guide to the New Forest Economy by Michael MíGonigle and Ben Parfitt (Harbour publishing, 1994). With regard to the production of food and other crops, there are several good books on organic farming and community-supported farms but particularly stimulating are Forest Farming by Robert Hart (Green books, 1991) and New Roots for Agriculture by Wes Jackson (Univ. Nebraska Pr., 1985) as well as the various writing of Bill Mollison.
20. Cascadia Wild edited by Mitch Friedman and Paul Lindholdt (Frontier Publishing, 1993)
Finally, since sustainability is not just about people, here is a book which points the way to protect remaining wildernesses and ensure habitats for the Earth's other dependants. Their biggest problem is simply that we humans leave less and less space for them. Apart from being an excellent case study (set in the mountains of the
Other case studies in repairing some of the appalling damage humankind has inflicted on Mother earth can be found in Helping Nature Heal: an Introduction to Environmental Restoration edited by Richard Nilsen (Ten Speed Press, 1991) and In the Service of the Wild: Restoring and Reinhabiting Damaged Land by Stephanie Mills (Beacon, 1995). See also Saving Nature's Legacy by Reed Noss and Allan Cooperrider (Island Press, 1994) and The Wildlands Project, a special issue of the excellent American magazine Wild Earth 1992.
Fairness demands mention of the other side. Out of this world they might be but sadly their words command more attention than the authors listed above. It might pay to hear what they have to say and mastering their arguments. The ranks of corporate apologists, economic boomsters, snake oil sellers, technofreaks and cornucopian fantasists are numerous but past and present prominent figures include Herman Kahn, Julian Simons, Wilfred Beckerman, Matt Ridley, Martin Lewis, Dixie Lee Ray, and Rush Limbaugh. Not surprisingly there is the odd environmental turncoat making a good career out of denunciations of his former beliefs. Richard North is but one example while the writings of Michael Allaby illustrate how fast some people can cover their previous tracks. For a sample of truly off-the-wall technophilia, try Donna Haraway or Sadie Plant, plus the magazine Wired.
The limited list of core reading above unfortunately means the omission of many good writers on green issues. Some of the best have focused on specific issues and therefore do not figure in a more broad-ranging bibliography like the one above. Others have tended to write shorter pieces that either appear in collections or journals. The same is true of pamphlets, some of which are classics in their own right.
One way to identify such works is to use the British Lending Library catalogue of books in print, on-line journal citation indexes, and a commercial websites like Amazon or Waterstones as well as publishersí catalogues. Often the entry of keywords and phrases like biodiversity, bioregionalism, and biotechnology will spotlight good material. It is important to use a variety of terms such as bioagriculture, ecoagriculture, organic farming and permaculturesince different ones tend to be used from one time or place to another.
Finally, do not keep these books to yourself. Lend them to others. Even better, persuade your local library to stock them. Encourage booksellers to include more green books on their shelves. Get academics to ecologise their reading lists. Spread the green word!
Please feel free to copy this guide and otherwise circulate it, though an acknowledgement would be appreciated.
Correspondence to: Sandy Irvine, 45,