on the big questions

What is life

Most religions claim to have an answer to the ‘big’ questions of life; is the universe finite or infinite, where did life originate, what happens after we die, do we have a soul separate from our physical bodies and many more questions people consider as ‘big’ or important. Whether this claim is true, I leave it to you to decide.

I think as Buddha many years ago observed, these questions are at best irrelevant. We need to concern ourselves with living this one life we have here and now. This by far I think is the most important thing. We must live a full life. Don’t misunderstand me, I love all the work scientists in different fields have put into answering these questions. Here, am addressing the man on the street who has no idea what the 1st Law of Thermodynamics is ( I also don’t know) and telling him/ her to live life fully.  Am imploring you to live a life of compassion, to value your life and the lives of those around you and most of all to accept the eventuality of death that awaits all of us. I am forever hopeful, that if not in our time then in my daughter’s and grand children’s time, the answers to these questions and others yet to be formulated will be found. There is every reason to believe this; Bruno, Galileo, Einstein, Darwin and others before and after them have provided us with answers that have challenged most of the old claims advanced by theists and as we acquire more knowledge of our universe and continue research into all this areas, answers will definitely be found.

To get back to where we started, I want to posit a question in an attempt to deal with the above questions. To this end, I will use an example to get to my point. My question then is; is it of importance to you go when you go to a restaurant/ cafe to want to know from which coffee plant, who harvested the coffee bean  and who roasted it or will just enjoy the coffee and its sweet aroma (that’s if you get good coffee) when served? If your answer to this question is similar to mine, then just enjoy the coffee. We can look at life in the same prism, and make each moment count.

The theists claim of having definite answers to these or any other question can’t be taken seriously until they adduce evidence to support their claims.

Genesis 32

Jacob’s Fear of Esau

In the complete Jewish Bible, this verse begins with Laban kissing his family by, while the NASB has it start with Jacob going his way, which is the right one I’ll let you to judge. In this chapter, we have a member of Abe’s family, Jacob, planning an elaborate deception scheme comparable to Abe’s pimping episodes except this time he is bribing his brother who cheated of his blessings and birthright. The scribes have also murdered one of Jake’s children because instead of counting twelve, they have eleven. Of note as well, is the circumstances under which Jake’s name changes to Israel of an episode of either WWE or kickboxing.

32 Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him. Jacob said when he saw them, “This is God’s camp.” So he named that place Mahanaim[this word translates to two camps. Why a person would name a place as such still passes me].

Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He also commanded them saying, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau [why would his brother be his master? If I remember correctly, he already purchased the birthright, supplanted the brother during the blessings. By any means, we can say he is legitimately the first born!]: ‘Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight [ is old Jake feeling remorse and at the same time apprehensive about meeting his brother whom, at their last encounter was overheard planning to kill him. It’s been 20years since he supplanted the brother, why would he think the brother has not forgiven him or is this an admission of guilt on his part but the scribe is intent on portraying Esau in bad light? ].”

The messengers returned[ how far is Esau from Jake’s location or are we being set up for something as I suspect?] to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him [are these his, Esau’s, slaves, friends, or soldiers? and why 400? Did the messengers of Jake have time to count or did Esau pass on this important information?].” Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; for he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape [given this family’s love with deception, you can guess where Jake would want to be if he stayed to wait for the 400 strange men and his brother!].”

Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the loving kindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies [the becoming two companies is deliberate on Jake’s part, why is he appealing to Abe’s god with it?]. 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him [you have every reason to fear], that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’

13 So he spent the night there. Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys[ by any standard, Jake was a wealthy man, he could easily have had a small retinue of guards]. 16 He delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on before me, and put a space between droves.” 17 He commanded the one in front, saying, “When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and to whom do these animals in front of you belong [just asking, was this the normative greeting of the time? Why would Esau be interested in knowing who they were?] ?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold, he also is behind us.’” 19 Then he commanded also the second and the third, and all those who followed the droves, saying, “After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; 20 and you shall say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.’” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” 21 So the present passed on before him, while he himself spent that night in the camp [let us pause for a second, in the introductory verses, he has divided his flock into two camps and given the reason for the division, they can’t be close to each other. At the time he is diving the flock into droves, has he dissolved the camps or are they still in place? What distance is he putting between each group of droves? And combined with this question how far was Esau and his entourage?]

22 Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children[allow me list the names of the children so you could count for yourself and tell me who among them is missing. I have not read any report of a missing person so far; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun and Dinah by Leah, Joseph by Rachel, Gad and Asher by Zilpah and finally Dan and Naphtali by Bilhah], and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.

Jacob Wrestles

24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak[ this I believe must be the longest wrestling match recorded or do the Judo wrestlers take longer? Anyone?] . 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him [since I have no experience of dislocating my thigh socket, can anyone share this experience and can it be just dislocated by touch? This information could be handy when am accosted by not very nice characters]. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me [ am honestly confused here, who is asking for blessings? Is it Jake or his wrestling opponent?].” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed [take time for a good laugh, Jake has wrestled with god(s) and prevailed? Tell me dear reader, if you have been reading since we started, is this god omni-anything?].” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved [keep this verse in memory, later we will be told by another scribe who I think is not aware of these verses that no one has seen god and lived. In yet another we shall be told no one has seen god! But don’t worry if you can’t remember, I will remind you when we get there.].” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh [I don’t know how extensive the dislocation was, but given the location, would someone share how long it would take to heal and what amount of pain he could have been in? I have had a sprain and I can tell you, it hurt badly]. 32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip [flimsy reasons, methinks, for prohibitions].

On the riots in the Arab world

Allow me, my friends to digress from our bible study and add my two cents to the tensions in the Arab world following the screening and distribution on YouTube of a low-budget, badly acted clip of a badly done movie that has resulted as of last count the death of the American ambassador to Libya,

A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is seen in flames. I need convincing that this in any way portrays peace!

embassy staff and at least 12 or more people from around the globe. In most places the embers have stopped but in others there are still war cries from all over the place. Most Muslims and non-Muslims have been quick to assert that these are actions of only a minority of the Muslims and thereby do not represent Islam, but other than the denouncing of these acts by the supreme leader from Saudi Arabia, most of the Muslim leaders have remained conspicuously quiet on the issue that can only be construed to mean one thing; they are complicit!

The verse below is an extract from the Qur’an, where the Muslim faithful is told explicitly that there is no greater sin than stopping people from believing in Allah, and there is no problem with doing anything abhorrent as long as it serves the course of Islam. It establishes here that if anything serves Islam it is good and if it doesn’t it is evil. This verse is written after the Muslims raiders had violated a sacred principle in the period of antagonism between idols in Ka’ba and Quraysh trading centres and the incessant raids muslims claim were led by their prophet and on being questioned about the violation of the sacred practice this is his response,

They ask you about the sacred month – about fighting therein. Say, “Fighting therein is great [sin], but averting [people] from the way of Allah and disbelief in Him and [preventing access to] al-Masjid al-Haram and the expulsion of its people therefrom are greater [evil] in the sight of Allah . And fitnah is greater than killing.” And they will continue to fight you until they turn you back from your religion if they are able. And whoever of you reverts from his religion [to disbelief] and dies while he is a disbeliever – for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire, they will abide therein eternally.

Surat Al Baqarah 2:217

no wonder the muslims in Egypt, Libya, Sudan and elsewhere find no qualms with taking lives. If this is what religion teaches, then by all means we must remove it from the public sphere!

Many more qualified commentators on the issue of the apparent propensity of Muslims to go on rampage whenever an image of the prophet they don’t like appears somewhere, have opined that we must continue to offend them till such a time that they will come to the realization that violence is not a solution. The muslim must realize, his faith prohibits him/her from depicting Mohammed in any form, but that prohibition does not apply to those who do not subscribe to their faith. When Dan Brown wrote the Da Vinci Code, which was later adapted to a movie, I have no recollection of anyone being killed for it except the book and movie being banned in several places [though am not sure it stopped anyone interested from watching or reading the book]. Am not giving anyone a license to go out of their way to look for disaster, but that Islam must be ridiculed and criticized just as other world religions are or else we suffer the risk of being gagged on what we can say, draw or think about their faith and this is fundamentally a suppression of freedom of speech which most of u cherish.

The Muslim has an option if faced with such depictions about Islam to walk away from it. Nobody forces them to watch the movie or see the cartoon, why can’t they just roll their eyes and move on? Is that too much to ask of them?

Am going to need a lot of convincing that Islam is a religion of peace!

The end of my rant!

 

 

 

Help support major secular organizations—just by voting

Kindly participate in this noble cause!

Why Evolution Is True

Over at The Friendly Atheist, Hemant notes that three secular organizations—Camp Quest, The Secular Student Alliance, and Foundation Beyond Belief—are in the running to get big bucks from the Chase Community Giving Program so long as they accrue enough votes. I’m just going to paste in what Hemant said about voting (the deadline is in three days):

As I write this, the Secular Student Alliance, Camp Quest, and Foundation Beyond Belief are all within striking distance of *major* money courtesy of the Chase Community Giving Program.

. . . Voting runs until September 19th.

The top 46 charities are assured $50,000 or more. (Foundation Beyond Belief is *so* close to that position…) [JAC: SSA is now #38, and if everyone here voted, we might push the other two past the critical #46 threshold!]

How can you help?

If you’re on Facebook, you get two…

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we all worship the same God

The chart is a dummy’s guide to knowing if you worship the one true god. I hope you find yours somewhere 🙂

Why Evolution Is True

On the advice of readers, Shuggy has updated his chart comparing the gods worshiped by differed faiths. There are new faiths! And new criteria, like bacon cheeseburgers!

I put a low-res version of the chart below, but click twice in succession to go to the third page, which is large and legible. But PLEASE leave any comments/suggestions below, not on the picture page!!!!!

Shuggy is soliciting feedback, and notes:

Here is the Mk II Guide to The One True God. When the WEITers have given their feedback I will make a higher-res  image for a poster. (I rather liked the simplicity of Mk I, but  things like bacon cheeseburger couldn’t be left out.)

One category might summarise several of the last few: “Strange things He demands:” for things lke Mormon baptising  of the dead, etc, but it’s funnier to spell them out and bring out their contradictions.

My own opinion…

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Genesis 31

Jacob Leaves Secretly for Canaan

This chapter is overtly long so I will not say much in the manner of introduction except to mention that it is full of deception; Jacob deceiving his uncle/ father-in-law, Rachel deceiving the father, god being an accomplice in all the deception and an unbecoming behaviour of Laban  of constantly reneging on their arrangements with the son in law in regards to wages.

31 Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what belonged to our father he has made all this wealth.” Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you[ god being complacent/ an accomplice in deception of Laban by Jake].” So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to his flock in the field, and said to them, “I see your father’s attitude, that it is not friendly toward me as formerly, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I have served your father with all my strength. Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times; however, God did not allow him to hurt me[why wouldn’t god just stop the cheating in the first place?]. If he spoke thus, ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flock brought forth speckled; and if he spoke thus, ‘The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock brought forth striped. Thus God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me. 10 And it came about at the time when the flock were mating that I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the male goats which were mating were striped, speckled, and mottled. 11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 He said, ‘Lift up now your eyes and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you[I want to wake from my dream and find I own a car]. 13 I am the God of  Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth.” 14 Rachel and Leah said to him, “Do we still have any portion or inheritance in our father’s house? 15 Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and has also entirely consumed our purchase price[Interesting the daughters feel their father sold them for silver and has squandered all the proceeds]. 16 Surely all the wealth which God has taken away from our father belongs to us and our children; now then, do whatever God has said to you[ And coupled with this feeling of being sold, they feel justified in following Jake and leaving with all the property].”

17 Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels[have told you already camels haven’t been domesticated yet. Where are the slave girls? Are they not worthy of mention?]; 18 and he drove away all his livestock and all his property which he had gathered, his acquired livestock which he had gathered in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. 19 When Laban had gone to shear his flock, then Rachel stole the household idols that were her father’s. 20 And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean[ in the Hebraic roots bible, Laban is a Syrian, what I want to know is when did members of Abe’s family become Syrians?] by not telling him that he was fleeing. 21 So he fled with all that he had; and he arose and crossed the Euphrates[in other versions, the scribes appear to not know the name of the river] River, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead.

Laban Pursues Jacob

22 When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, 23 then he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him a distance of seven days’ journey, and he overtook him in the hill country of Gilead [there are confusing accounts of this, ie CJB, states …….and spent the next seven days pursuing Ya‘akov, overtaking him in the hill-country of Gil‘ad. So has he covered a distance of seven days or has he been pursued for 7 days? And as a measure of distance, what is the equivalent of a day’s journey?]. 24 God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night and said to him, “Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad [ I think basically this means don’t talk to the dude! ].”

25 Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen camped in the hill country of Gilead. 26 Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done by deceiving me and carrying away my daughters like captives of the sword[ Laban, have you asked your daughters if they feel enslaved? Or as the adage goes, daughters were to be seen not heard?]? 27 Why did you flee secretly and deceive me, and did not tell me so that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with timbrel and with lyre; 28 and did not allow me to kiss my sons[ ok am confused, Jake has even taken Laban’s sons with him?] and my daughters ,your wives? Now you have done foolishly. 29 It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to speak either good or bad to Jacob [ Here Jake should heed the warning or he may get himself in trouble another time if god does not intervene, but am just asking is this not what Laban was prohibited to do or he doesn’t fear the god of Abe?].’ 30 Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house; but why did you steal my gods [ ah so Laban kept his god( other scribes, probably the P source calls them idols) in the house?]?” 31 Then Jacob replied to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force [ what I never seem to understand in Abe’s family is their baseless fears! Jake has had the pleasure of making Laban’s daughters pregnant several times over, why would he want to take them back? If he didn’t want Jake to have them don’t you think he would have raised objections from the start?] . 32 The one with whom you find your gods shall not live [will they kill the guilty party here or how will this happen?]; in the presence of our kinsmen point out what is yours among my belongings and take it for yourself.” For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them [If this is god inspired, how is it we don’t see him coming out to reveal to Laban who is the culprit or he doesn’t. care enough that he, Laban, gets his gods back?]

33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two maids [here we have a different scribe from the previous chapter, he forgets the maids had names and for all intents qualify as Jake’s wives!], but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household idols and put them in the camel’s saddle, and she sat on them. And Laban felt through all the tent but did not find them. 35 She said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is upon me.” So he searched but did not find the household idols [ cool liar we got here, how many times did she lie to Jake?].

36 Then Jacob became angry and contended with Laban; and he said Jacob said to Laban, “What is my transgression? What is my sin that you have hotly pursued me? 37 Though you have felt through all my goods [he has not felt Rachel’s camel, so this is false. He should have suspended judgement], what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two. 38 These twenty years[ Jake is a few years shy of 100, he was 77 when joined Laban’s family and has stayed 20 more. He outlived his welcome a long time ago. Now i need to know how their relationship was; was he head slave or was he supervisor] I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried [how did he stop this from happening?], nor have I eaten the rams of your flocks. 39 That which was torn of beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself. You required it of my hand whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 Thus I was: by day the heat consumed me and the frost by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes [ Those must have been 20 sleepless years, I thought architecture school was hard! This is definitely on another level. I wonder where did he get time for the action with the four wives he had if he had to be with the goats 24/7?]. 41 These twenty years I have been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flock, and you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac [In other versions, it’s said the one Isaac fears, going to the same conclusion had made before that this god is specifically Abe’s god and anyone with contradictory evidence should show it!], had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night [Translated; if you have a problem with my stock, raise it up with most high, am blameless in this matter!].”

The Covenant of Mizpah

43 Then Laban replied to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children[ am confused, whose children were they again?], and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne? 44 So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me[ what is the point of this covenant anyway plus it goes against what he was told in the dream. Jake is not about to return a single goat and is determined to go back from whence he had come].” 45 Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” So they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Now Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed [guys guys, something doesn’t add up. Both call it heap of witness albeit in different languages. Question here is, did they share a common language or is there a translator employed? One is speaking Aramaic– a language I don’t think was in use at the time, and another Hebrew? ]. 48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day [ help me understand something, can a witness be anything other than a sane adult human being? How do stones witness?].” Therefore it was named Galeed, 49 and Mizpah [they have totally lost me here! Where does Mizpah come from and what does it mean], for he said, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other. 50 If you mistreat my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters [I think had been overtaken by events unless the slave girls who are mothers to his sons are not counted as wives], although no man is with us, see, God[Laban’s god is Adonai] is witness between you and me.” 51 Laban said to Jacob, “Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. 53 The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” So Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac. 54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his kinsmen to the meal; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain. 55 Early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place [he left as he had come, with nothing except kisses].

Amazing aerials of Africa

Simply awesome! I saw this and felt I should share with you!

Why Evolution Is True

From the Telegraph‘s “travel” section, we have 26 gorgeous pictures of Africa from the air, taken by Martin Harvey.  I’ve chosen seven to show here, but go to the link to see them all. (Click those below to enlarge.)

Lake Turkana, shown below, was once the site of a paradigmatic example of “punctuated equilibrium” taken from data on fossil molluscs.  Those of a certain age may remember this assertion, but the “punctuated change” now appears to be an artifact of invasion from other places.

h/t: Matthew Cobb

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