Death is Nothing to Us

“Accustom yourself to believing that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply the capacity for sensation, and death is the privation of all sentience; therefore a correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life a limitless time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. For life has no terrors for him who has thoroughly understood that there are no terrors for him in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer.” – Epicurus

Hell: Established 500 A.D.

I found this information on a now defunct website about ten years ago.

The earliest records of ancient religions in Israel, Babylon (now Iraq), and Greece all refer to a place where the souls or “shades” of people who have died go to stay. This was often depicted as somewhere deep underground. But the idea that this land of the dead was reserved to punish wrongdoers didn’t arise until some time in the first millennium BC, in tandem with the belief that this subterranean world housed an infernal (lower, inferior) god.

Initially, this underground world was sometimes a place where greater gods banished lesser gods. The anti-god Ahriman, for example, of the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism (7th-6th century BC), took up residence beneath the Earth in the House of the Lie, amid every sort of filth and stench, after being defeated by the supreme god, Ahura Mazda. Ancient Israelite religions depicted Belial, a demon god, as Lord of the Abyss, an undersea pit. Likewise, Moloch, a god to whom child sacrifices were made throughout the ancient Middle East, was Lord of a subterranean kingdom of flaming lava.

Eventually most of these devil-realms were combined with Sheol (the “Grave”), making this Near East concept of a depository of ghosts a place of torment. The Old Testament describes Sheol as a dark and dusty city with high, impregnable walls and barred gates–a place of no return for both good and bad souls. Not until the 6th century AD did Catholic Christianity modify the Sheol concept, articulating a vision of Hell (an Old English word meaning “covered place”) that has endured to modern times: A place where the sinful are sent to burn in eternal fire.

The Bible lacks any explicit statement about Satan ruling Hell, however. It was other early Christian writings that assigned him the role of Hell’s warden.

Why Jesus Was Not the Messiah – The Jewish Perspective

I always find the Jewish perspective on Christianity and Christian beliefs interesting and informative. I found a great site recently on what Jews believe. On that site, there is a discussion of why Jesus was not the Messiah and what the role of the Messiah will be according to the Jewish scriptures. This is the role of the Messiah according to Judaism:

1. The Messiah is born of two human parents, as we said. But Jesus, according to Christian theology, was born of the union between a human woman and Gd (as were many other pagan deities, see above) rather than two human parents.

2. The Messiah can trace his lineage through his human biological father, back to King David (Isaiah 11:1,10; Jeremiah 23:5; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:21-28; Jeremiah 30:7-10; 33:14-16; Hosea 3:4-5). According to Christian theology, Jesus’s father was Gd. Therefore, Jesus’ lineage does not go through his human ‘father’ — Joseph, the husband of Mary.

3. The Messiah traces his lineage only through King Solomon (II Samuel 7:12-17; I Chronicles 22:9-10). But according to Luke 3:31, Jesus was not a descendant of Solomon, but of Solomon’s half-brother Nathan. Therefore Jesus was not a descendant of King David through King Solomon, and fails this test as well.

4. The Messiah may not be a descendant of Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, or Shealtiel, because this royal line was cursed. (I Chronicles 3:15-17; Jeremiah 22:18,30). But according to Matthew 1:11-12 and Luke 3:27, Jesus was a descendant of Shealtiel.

5. The Messiah is preceded by Elijah the prophet who, together with the Messiah, unifies the family (Malachi 4:5-6). This is contradicted by Jesus himself (Matthew 10:34-37).

According to the traditional Jewish definition of the term, the Messiah will make changes in the real world, changes that one can see and perceive and be able to prove, precisely because they take place in the real world. It is for this task that the Messiah has been anointed in the first place, hence the term, messiah — one who is anointed. These perceptible changes include: 6. The Messiah reestablishes the Davidic dynasty through his own children (Daniel 7:13-14).
But Jesus had no children.

7. The Messiah brings an eternal peace between all nations, all peoples, and all people (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-4; Ezekiel 39:9). Obviously there is no peace. Furthermore, Jesus said that his purpose in coming was to bring a sword, and not peace (see Matthew 10:34, as referenced above).

8. The Messiah brings about the world-wide conversion of all peoples to Ethical Monotheism (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Zechariah 8:23; Isaiah 11:9; Zechariah 14:9,16).
But the world remains steeped in idolatry.

9. The Messiah brings about an end to all forms of idolatry (Zechariah 13:2).
But the world remains steeped in idolatry.

10. The Messiah brings about a universal recognition that the Jewish idea of Gd is Gd (Isaiah 11:9).
But the world remains steeped in idolatry.

11. The Messiah leads the world to become vegetarian (Isaiah 11:6-9).

12. The Messiah gathers to Israel all of the twelve tribes (Ezekiel 36:24).

13. The Messiah rebuilds the Temple (Isaiah 2:2; Ezekiel 37:26-28).

14. After the Messiah comes, there will be no more famine (Ezekiel 36:29-30).

15. After the Messiah comes, death will eventually cease (Isaiah 25:8).

16. Eventually the dead will be resurrected (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; Ezekiel 37:12-13; Isaiah 43:5-6).

17. The nations of the earth will help the Jews materially (Isaiah 60:5-6; 60:10-12).

18. The Jews will be sought out for spiritual guidance (Zechariah 8:23).

19. All weapons will be destroyed (Ezekiel 39:9,12).

20. The Nile will run dry (Isaiah 11:15).

21. Monthly, the trees of Israel will yield their fruit (Ezekiel 47:12).

22. Each tribe of Israel will receive and settle their inherited land (Ezekiel 47:13-13).

23. The nations of the earth will recognize that they have been in error, that the Jews had it right all along, and that the sins of the Gentile nations – their persecutions and the murders they committed – have been borne by the Jewish people (Isaiah 53).

Doesn’t sound much like Jesus qualifies as the Messiah, does it? And, of course, I don’t think Jesus ever actually existed.

Cosmology and Genesis 1:1 – Part 2

Ok then… the expanding universe.

Back in the late 1920’s and early 30’s astronomers began to find that other galaxies were moving away from our own galaxy, the Milky Way. As telescopes improved and deeper surveys of inter-galactic space accumulated more data, it was also found that whole clusters and superclusters of galaxies were all streaming away from us. No matter where they looked and no matter in what direction, the situation was always the same. Everything in deep space appeared to be receding from us.

It was quickly realized that if all the other galaxies were moving away from us today, then they’ll be further away tomorrow and must have been closer to us yesterday. Extrapolating backwards thru time the scientists concluded that billions of years ago all of the galaxies in the universe must have been crowded into a very small volume of space indeed. Running the clock back further and further meant that density of stars and galaxies must have increased exponentially!

Compressing the mass of trillions of stars into a smaller and smaller volume like this increased the temperature too. Can you see where this is going, men? Eventually the heat and density become so great that all matter dissolves, atoms break down into protons, neutrons and electrons and then even these get split up into quarks and gluons. The details can be found here… http://en.wikipedia….rk–gluon_plasma Anyway, eventually the heat and density become infinitely high.

Whammo!!! We’ve just arrived at the Big Bang!

Yep! We’ve just run the film of the universe’s history backwards – to Time Zero / Space Zero.

This is what mega-brains like Stephen Hawking mean when they say that there was no time or space before the Big Bang. There is no “before”. All of space and time are theorized to have burst out of “nothing”, about 13.8 billion years ago.

Now let’s jump forward to today.

It’s 2013 and astronomers have umpteen terabytes of data about the expanding universe. The galaxies, galactic clusters and superclusters all seem to be racing away from us. But is that really so… or is it just another visual effect, much like Bob and Jim’s horizon not being a real edge of anything? Or our galaxy, the Milky Way, not really being at the center of everything? Could it be that it just looks as if all the galaxies are rushing way from us, when something else is happening?

The answers are… Yes, this is just a visual effect.

All those galaxies aren’t just moving away from us – they’re also moving away from each other too. So it only looks as if we’re in the plumb center. To explain I’ll use three things. The Milky Way (our home galaxy), the Andromeda galaxy (our closest neighbor) and the Virgo Supercluster (the nearest mega-group of galaxies).

Most people think that an expanding universe means this. (Btw, the colors don’t mean anything.)

Ten million years ago.

<------ Virgo <------ Milky Way ------> Andromeda ——>

Today.

<---------- Virgo <---------- Milky Way ----------> Andromeda ———->

Ten million years in the future.

<--------------- Virgo <--------------- Milky Way ---------------> Andromeda —————>

We stay fixed and unmoving in the center of everything, while everything else expands away from us. Wrong!

This is what’s actually happening.

Ten million years ago.

<------> Virgo <------> Milky Way <------> Andromeda <------>

Today.

<----------> Virgo <----------> Milky Way <----------> Andromeda <---------->

Ten million years in the future.

<---------------> Virgo <---------------> Milky Way <---------------> Andromeda <--------------->

Everything is moving away from everything else.

It’s the the space between galaxies that’s expanding, carrying along each galaxy with it. Even though it looks like it’s all expanding from us outward, that’s not so. I’ve placed us into center, but there’s no real need for me to do that. Why? Because as I wrote in my earlier message, the universe has no center and no edge. Therefore, I could just as easily do this…

Ten million years ago.

<------> Milky Way <------> Virgo <------> Andromeda <------>

Today.

<----------> Milky Way <----------> Virgo <----------> Andromeda <---------->

Ten million years in the future.

<---------------> Milky Way<---------------> Virgo <---------------> Andromeda <--------------->

…and still be correct.

We are moving away from the Virgo supercluster, just as much as it is moving away from us and from Andromeda. Nothing is fixed and nothing is absolute. Everything is relative. There is no ultimate frame of reference which all things can be mapped out against. This explains why astronomers have no choice but to map out the universe from our p.o.v. The Earth is the only place we can observe from, so every other galaxy just seems to be moving away from where we’re looking from.

In reality, every square inch and square light-year of the universe is expanding.

We are NOT in the center. That’s just a trick of perspective.


Btw, here’s a nice pic for you.

It’s from that atom-smasher over in Europe, the Large Hadron Collider. They’ve succeeded in re-create the heat and density of the Big Bang – this being a mini-version of the Quark-Gluon plasma (fireball) that theory says should have existed when everything burst into existence out of nothing.

So, theory and experiment seem to agree!

quark-gluon-plasma2

Part 3 is coming soon! Glory!

Cosmology and Genesis 1:1 – Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts exploring the effects of modern cosmological knowledge on the validity of the Bible. It is an ongoing discussion between me and two other people (BAA & WP) at the ex-Christian.net forums. BAA is an amateur astronomer, and he has done his best to simplify a very complex subject. Some of the technical details in this discussion have necessarily been glossed over. BAA started the discussion off by asking us to consider this question:

Two sailors, Bob and Jim, are on their yachts – one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

They are hundreds and hundreds of miles from the nearest land or island. All they can see is the sky above them and water, extending to their respective horizons. Now, please consider these questions:

1. Is Bob’s horizon literally the edge of his world, which he could sail right off or is it just a visual effect of the curvature of the Earth, with the Atlantic carrying on beyond the limits he can see?

2. Same question, but applied to Jim, in the Pacific.

3. Allowing for time zone differences and the weather, if Bob and Jim could instantly swap places, would they notice anything significantly different in their ‘new’ locations?

BAA then followed up by giving us these links, which discuss the Copernican and Cosmological principles, for consideration:

http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Copernican_principle.html

http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/glossary/copernican_principle.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_principle

My answer to BAA after reading the information at the above links was this:

Thanks, but that is some really deep stuff. I like science and cosmology but have a hard time comprehending it all. I do better with liberal arts subjects. lol… I will read over it a few more times.

BAA’s answer to me was as follows:

Don’t fret Jeff!

I’ve cited this technical stuff so that you can see that what I’m planning to explain here is kosher, supported by by hard science and reliable… that’s all! I never got as far as college and I don’t get the math behind it all, either. Anyway, let’s start off with Bob and Jim.

The answer to question #1 is obviously, No.

Bob’s horizon is just a visual limit to how far he can see. There’s no actual edge or end of the world for him to sail his boat off. Ditto for #2 and Jim. They both have their own horizon’s and neither of these is where their world comes to and abrupt edge or end. So, the obvious answer to #3 is that they’d notice no real difference, if they swapped places instantly.

Now, this is more or less the same kind of answers we get if we apply the Copernican and Cosmological Principles, when we look out into space. Just as Bob and Jim see themselves as the center of their reality, so we on Earth see something similar. Let’s ask ourselves another question. If we could instantly teleport ourselves a trillion light-years in any direction to another Earth-like planet, what would we see when we looked up at the sky?

Pretty much the same as we see from Earth.

That’s because the universe looks generally the same wherever you go and whatever direction you look in. The big words scientists use are homogeneity and isotropy, but in a nutshell, these mean that everything is more or less the same, everywhere. There’s no definable center to the universe. It just looks as if we’re at the center.

But don’t be fooled by appearances!

We know that Bob and Jim see themselves as being at the center of everything, when of course, they aren’t. It just looks that way to them. This is a visual effect of their fixed p.o.v. from onboard their yachts. Even if they swap places they still see themselves as being in the center of their reality. Wherever they go, they’ll always see things that way. And this explains why, if we instantly jumped a trillion light-years to another planet, this new p.o.v. would still seem to us to be the center of everything.

Another way of visualizing this is to think of yourself in a vast forest.

Wherever you look there’s nothing but trees to be seen. Walk ten miles in any direction and you see the same thing. Take a right-angle turn and go another ten miles… same result. Double back or choose a random direction. Go ten miles or a thousand, it makes no difference. Same result. If this forest isn’t just vast, but covers the e-n-t-i-r-e surface of the Earth (no seas’ lakes or rivers) all you will ever see is the same thing, no matter where you go and no matter what your viewpoint is. There will be no end and you can walk forever around the world, always seeing nothing but trees, trees and more trees.

This is, roughly speaking, what we see in space.

Anywhere you go, it looks generally the same. The universe has no definable center. What we see as the edge of the universe isn’t a physical edge – just as Bob and Jim’s horizons aren’t physical edges. The edge of the observable universe is just the limit of how far we can see. In their case, it was the curvature of the Earth that limited how far they could see. In our case, what’s limiting us is the finite speed of light.

I’m (just) old enough to remember Nixon’s call to Aldrin and Armstrong on the Moon, back in ’69.

The was a 1.25 second delay between them that made their conversation weirdly drawn out. Why? Because radio signals, like light, take a finite time to go anywhere. We see the Moon as it was 1.25 seconds ago – not as it is right NOW! We see the Sun as it was about 8 minutes ago. The signals from our Mars rovers can take up to 20 minutes to reach us. Voyager’s transmissions take hours to get here. The nearest bright star, Alpha Centauri, appears to us as it was in the middle of 2009. Why? Because it’s light takes 4.3 years to reach us – that’s why.

The Andromeda galaxy? It’s 2.5 million light-years away and so we see it as it was …2.5 million years ago.

Looking out into space means looking back in time. There’s no way round this. Because light, radio, X-rays and every other type of radiation travels at a fixed and limited speed, we’ll always see the universe as it was – never as it is, right NOW! Therefore, since the universe is 13.8 billion years old, we can’t see any further than that. This is the limit of our observable universe. It’s our visual horizon, the cosmic equivalent of Bob and Jim’s resepctive horizons on Earth.

So, the edge of our universe is a purely visual edge, nothing more.

The universe doesn’t just stop existing beyond that point any more than the Atlantic or Pacific oceans stop existing beyond the limits of Bob and Jim’s vision.

The main point to understand today is this.

There’s no scientific basis for assuming that we live in the center of the universe. It just looks as if we do. But once we understand that the universe looks the same from anywhere and everywhere, we can appreciate that the Earth isn’t central and isn’t special. Once we see that viewpoints can be instantly swapped without moving us any nearer to or further from the center (because there is no center), we have to conclude that our position in the universe isn’t privileged or important at all.

Part 2 is coming soon! Glory!

Pray to Your Chair!

Prayer is, in reality, an absurd thing to do. It gets no discernible results because there is no god available to hear and answer prayer. But… try this experiment. Instead of praying to God, pray to your chair. I guarantee you’ll get the exact same results.

reclineryes

Just like with God, sometimes it will seem as if your chair has said, “Yes!” to your prayer request. Glory!

reclinermaybe

Just like with God, sometimes it will seem as if your chair has said, “Maybe!” to your prayer request. Your chair may need you to wait until the proper time for your request to be granted!

reclinerno

And sometimes, just like with God, it will seem as if your chair has said, “No!” to your prayer request. Damn!

So you see, praying to God and praying to your chair achieves the exact same results! Glory!

God is a Religious Illusion

rotsnake-scaled

The image posted above appears to be moving, but it’s not. It’s an optical illusion. In the same way, God is also an illusion — a religious illusion. To the believer, God appears to be moving in the world and doing and speaking and blessing, but it reality there is no God there. It’s just an illusion. The reality is that God never says, thinks, or does anything at all, except in the minds of believers. That’s because God isn’t really there. He doesn’t really exist. And once believers can see this, reality breaks through the religious illusion and they can be free! Glory!

My Thoughts on John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)

For many years of my life, this verse represented the happiest of all possible messages. But my opinion has changed. Let me explain why.

I no longer believe that God exists, but even if he did, is the Biblical God really a God of Love? How does the Bible portray him? Sure, the Bible does say that God is love (1 John 4:8), but the vast majority of scripture portrays him quite differently.

Exodus 22:24 – And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.

Numbers 31:17 – Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

Exodus 17:8-16 – The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up-one on one side, one on the other-so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord.”

Exodus 32:27 – Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord , the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’ ”

There are many more verses in the Bible that clearly portray God as evil rather than loving. In fact, the vast majority of the Bible portrays God as more evil than loving!

What about the world that God supposedly loves? What is its nature? According to the Bible, it is flat! The Bible is a flat earth book from cover to cover.

The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. (Daniel 4:11)

This would only be possible if the earth was flat.

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22)

This “circle” is a flat disc, which was a common cosmology for the time. If the earth was flat, the inhabitants would appear as grasshoppers from a great height. You spread out a tent on a flat surface, not a sphere!

So, God can’t even get the shape of the earth right!

…that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish…

The idea of substitutionary atonement is barbaric to me now. Couldn’t God come up with a better salvation plan that having to kill himself in order to save us from himself? I don’t believe in such a thing as sin, but even if I did, I would not believe that blood and violence would be required to atone for it. I’m better than that, and God certainly should be too!

Then we have the problem of the authorship of the book of John. We don’t even know who wrote it! John, like the other Gospels, was written anonymously. See:

http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/jesus.html#sources

So… that should explain why I no longer see John 3:16 as the “Good News” I once believed it to be.