Reading the Bible, Part 6
Itís time to finish the Old Testament! Fortunately, Ezekiel was the last book with more than twenty chapters. Most of the rest of the books contain more prophets telling people that theyíre wicked and that God is going to hurt them if they donít act right. Iíve talked about that plenty so here is the new stuff:
Kings with Short Memories:
The book of Daniel is supposed to take place during the exile in Babylon. The introduction is that Jewish youths Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were assigned to the palace of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar as wise men in training. King Neb had a strange dream and wanted his magicians, astrologers, wise men, etc. to interpret it. To ensure that only REAL magically-knowledgeable people could answer, King Neb refused to say what the dream even was. With Godís help, Daniel was able to recount and interpret the dream. In doing so, King Neb recognized Danielís God as the real true god and made Daniel one of the highest-ranking people in the country. Then King Neb immediately forgot all of that and ordered everyone to worship a gold statue. Daniel's three cohorts refused to do that. So King Neb threw them into a furnace. However, God protected the three from the flames. In doing so, King Neb recognized Danielís God as the real true god and promoted the three. Then King Neb immediately forgot all of that and narrates a story about how he ignored God, so God kicked him out of the kingdom to live with animals for a long time and then he learned to respect God and was restored as king. So for the third time King Neb recognized Danielís God as the real true god.
Then everybody forgot about all that during the rule of Neb's son, King Belshazzar. A disembodied hand appeared at a dinner party and wrote something on the wall. Daniel showed up and said that it meant the king was going to die. Daniel was rewarded by being promoted to the third most powerful man in the country and King Belsh died that night. So everybody again saw the power of Daniel's God, which was quickly forgotten by new King Darius, who commanded that people could only pray to the king himself. Of course, Daniel violated this by praying to God. The punishment was for Daniel to be thrown to lions. However, God protected Daniel from the lions and King Darius recognized Danielís God as the real true god and commanded his kingdom to worship Daniel's God. As a bonus, he threw Daniel's enemies' to the lions along with their wives and children and they were all crushed instantly!
So that's five miracles where you would expect more people to remember and respect God. It never happens. What a ridiculous fiction. It's lunacy that people present these stories to their children as facts. I even had to perform a musical about the furnace story at my parent's church when I was a kid. I still remember the music!: ďShadrach! What kind of name is that? Meshach! Who has a name like that? Shadrach, Meshach! Abednego! Whoa! Oh, no!Ē ďIt isn't hot (Whew!) in the furnace, man. It isn't hot (Sss!) in the furnace, man. It isn't hot in the furnace, man, this furnace is cool. Yes, it's cool (Ah!) in the furnace, man. Yes, it's cool (Ooh!) in the furnace, man. Yes it's cool in the furnace, man this furnace is cool. It's cool.Ē
The story of Jonah is another Bible story frequently told to children. Itís about a prophet that tries to flee an assignment to heckle a city about how wicked it is and how God is going to destroy it. Jonahís boat gets caught in some rough ocean, he gets swallowed by a big fish, he is thrown up onto land, and he finally agrees to go tell the city that itís going to be destroyed in forty days. Remarkably, the people actually listen. Everyone from the king to the animals put on a sackcloth, refrained from food and water, and cried for mercy. And God saw their repentance and decided not to destroy them. Well thatís nice. But it makes me wonder, what if false prophets did that all over the region all of the time? Hey Nineveh, some guy said youíre wicked again. Bring out the sackcloth! Hey Samaria, you need to repent. You should stop eating! Hey Jerusalem, itís Tuesday. Letís spend a few hours begging God not to kill us! What a horrible waste of productivity and happiness.
As Iíve said before, the Bible makes a lot of sense when you think of its religion as a method to protect tribalism. Everything that God says or does is meant to promote social order, promote unit cohesion, glorify the leaders, glorify the tribe, remove people with undesired behavior, hurt the morale of enemies, etc. But it doesnít make a lot of sense to think that the creator of the universe chose a little group of desert people to favor and demanded that they perform certain rituals and murder their way into controlling a little piece of the Earth. Thatís retarded. I wonít apologize for being offensive because Iím not exaggerating. That belief is so completely stupid that anyone over twelve years old that believes it is retarded. But alas, most people donít even care. Religious people donít care about the truth; they care about the truthiness. They care about the camaraderie with their friends and neighbors. They care about the joy of people accepting them, agreeing with them, and validating them. They care about having a community that cares when they have trouble in their life. Itís possible to obtain all of that without religion, but it doesnít happen quickly or easily. Sometimes I donít even blame people for taking the easy route in life and finding peace and acceptance in religion. But if you want reality, pay attention to cause and effect.