Subject: Biblical Criticism

Slavery, The Bible, and Abolition

Slavery continues to exist in the present day.  Most societies agree that the practice of slavery was, and still is, a heinous, immoral, and unconscionable institution.  Institutional, state-sanctioned slavery has disappeared in most parts of the world, but many countries continue to impose labor on state prisoners. Some nations still force labor on their citizens for the purpose of providing aid to the state military. When I speak of the death of slavery during this lecture, I am speaking of the former practice of slavery. But it is important to keep in mind that global slave labor and the sexual slave trade continue to survive and thrive in the contemporary world.  The expression, human trafficking, is an umbrella term for the various types of forced labor and human bondage imposed on people around the world. Andrew Cockburn has written an excellent article for National Geographic Magazine. He has researched the

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Apostasy: An Atheist Perspective 

The topic of this lecture is apostasy and its definition by various religions. We shall scrutinize as well the religious reaction to being abandoned.  But I shall also a glance at the word’s secular meaning, and how it is used by contemporary sociologists. The talk will discuss the concept of apostasy in the present day and in contemporary and historical Christianity. I shall be reading from the Church Fathers’ works that discuss apostasy, including some that advocate death for the offense. The lecture will also look at apostasy in contemporary Islam, how it is defined and how it is punished. All of the countries in the contemporary world which have the death penalty in place for apostasy are Muslim majority nations.  I shall be discussing passages from the Koran and other Islamic writings that impart injunctions to kill people who leave Islam, as well as opinions from the major Islamic

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Heresy: An Atheist Perspective

I am gratefully dependent on the work of Bill Cooke, John D. Henderson, and Leonard George for the information I am providing in this lecture.  Their works are listed in the bibliography below. This lecture is devoted to the concept of heresy. In an earlier lecture I visited the topic of blasphemy, which is a different conception.  There is a definite distinction between blasphemy and heresy. (see Blasphemy) I have also spoken at some length about heresy in my lecture on the Inquisition (see The Inquisition)  But it is important to revisit heresy, to discuss it as a unique concept, and one that is not only constructed by orthodoxy but constructs orthodoxy as well. As I have said, the definition of heresy differs from that of blasphemy, so I would like to clarify both terms in order that we may all be clear about the two concepts. First, here is Bill

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Noah, Ark, and Water

There are about six hundred global flood myths from every continent in the world, according to the well-regarded website, talkorigins.org.  There are many more narratives concerning historical floods that were local.  Our concern in this lecture is with the Great Flood, or Noah’s Flood, described in the 6-8 sections of Genesis in the Old Testament Bible.  We shall be glancing at the probable forerunners to the Noah’s Flood myth, how they are both similar and different from the Biblical tale, what the flood story meant to the early Christian Church, and what happened when geology became a viable science. We shall turn our attention to the attempt to reconcile the Old Testament with science, leading to the so-called Mosaic geology, and to the contemporary scientific discoveries and the attacks on them from creationists.  We shall also glance at Grand Canyon geology in the United States because many creationists have taken

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Blasphemy: An Atheist Perspective

This lecture will discuss the concept of blasphemy, its definitions, and its relation to the concept of heresy. I shall ask your patience as we glance at a kaleidoscope of blasphemy’s history in ancient civilizations, classical Greece and Rome, early and later Christianity, Great Britain and the United States.  Then we shall focus on what some studies and agencies have to say about the contemporary situation concerning blasphemy prosecutions, punishments and executions. Blasphemy and other prosecutions involving religious issues are on the rise all over the world, particularly in the Middle East. Throughout the world, past and present, a pattern can be observed: when religion has had significant influence on government, there have been blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy charges brought against people, who have often been subjected to torture, imprisonment and/or death.  Such charges are based on people’s offenses against religion.  Secular governments have sometimes had blasphemy and heresy laws

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Introduction to Biblical Criticism

The Christian Bible is a failure on all the points that its proponents claim makes it relevant and necessary for our contemporary time.  It is touted as a moral and ethical guide, as well as a history of god and his special relationship with his chosen people, the Israelites. Fundamentalists maintain that it is an inerrant document written and interpreted by people with god’s inspiration. It is bewildering and egregious that an ancient document replete with violence, men and god’s pathologies, child sacrifice, genocide and assorted cruelty should have such an influence over the current political and cultural scene.  Biblical quotations and passages are used to excite prejudice and violence against gay people, women, doctors who perform abortions, disobedient children and more.  Politicians, media, educators and religious leaders make use of the Christian Bible for their own ends, which are most frequently based on expediency rather than problem solving to

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