Monthly Archives: February 2021

The Story of the Offensive Offering
The Lord is Slow to Anger

Two sons of Moses’s brother Aaron made an offering of incense to the Lord. But they did it wrong, so God killed them with fire. Moses explained that this was how God proved that he was holy and honorable. Aaron said nothing.

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The Lord is Slow to Anger
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Did Saul already know that God was with David and that Michal loved David?

In 1 Samuel 18, shortly after David kills Goliath, King Saul has started feeling envious and afraid of David. It says the reason he was afraid of him was that God had abandoned Saul and was now with David instead. Then Saul hears that his daughter Michal is in love with David. This pleases him, because he can use it as an opportunity to try to get David killed. So Saul sends David off to fight the Philistines, to prove that he’s worthy to marry the princess.

It doesn’t go as Saul planned. Instead of getting killed, David succeeds in killing twice as many Philistines as Saul had challenged him to kill, so Saul has to let him marry his daughter. Then Saul suddenly realizes that God is with David and that Michal is in love with David… again? And that makes him even more afraid of him. But how can Saul be realizing those things just now, if he already knew them?

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Everything wrong with heaven and hell

Perverse incentives

  • The expectation of being rewarded or punished in the afterlife is supposed to be a reason to be good in this life. But rewards and punishments are not good reasons to be good. Focusing on personal repayment distracts from the real reasons to be good, which leads to selfishness and moral apathy.1
  • Expecting to be infinitely rewarded or punished depending on what you believe is arguably the worst possible obstacle to true belief.
  • A lot of religious people say it’s very important to God that we have free will. And they say it’s particularly important for us to be able to freely choose whether to accept him. So what’s up with all the threats and coercion? It’s hardly a free choice if you’re threatening to torture people forever if they don’t make the choice you wanted them to make.
  • The knowledge that life is short is an incentive to stop wasting time, focus on the things that matter most, and enjoy your life as much as you can while it lasts. If you think you’re going to live forever, you have no reason to do any of that. Scarcity makes things more valuable, including life. The belief in an everlasting afterlife devalues this life.
  • If you were really going to go to heaven when you died, the logical thing to do would be to kill yourself as soon as possible, after encouraging everyone you care about to do the same. Or maybe you wouldn’t do that, since having all those deaths on your hands might prevent you from going to the right place. But still, it wouldn’t make any sense to fear death, to try to avoid it, and to be sad when people die. A rational believer in heaven would live recklessly. Who cares if you die if you’re just going to keep living? Death would be a good thing if it meant you were going to a better world. And you would be anxious for it to happen as soon as possible, before you had a chance to do anything that might prevent you from getting there. (Of course, death is not actually a good thing, and not caring about death is a terrible idea, since heaven isn’t real. But many people think it is real, which is quite a dangerous belief.)
  • Having children is a terrible idea if it means there will be more people who have a good chance of ending up in hell. The existence of hell would mean that by reproducing, you risk causing infinitely more suffering than you would cause by doing any other bad thing you can imagine. Even if most people weren’t going to hell, as the Bible says they are, allowing any risk of even one person going to hell when you could have avoided it is unacceptable, and makes you an infinitely worse person than every childless criminal in history combined. The risk of causing your children to suffer forever is especially bad if people who die very young go to hell by default.
  • On the other hand, if you believe that people who die very young go to heaven by default, the logical thing to do would be to reproduce as often as possible and then kill all your children as soon as possible, to maximize the number of people who go to heaven. There certainly wouldn’t be any reason to oppose abortion if you believed that. In any case, if people believed in heaven and hell and acted logically on their misguided beliefs, believers would be extinct by now.
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Are there Jews and Gentiles?

In his letter to the Galatians (who were Gentiles), Paul (who was a Jew) states that there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Huh? Of course there are Jews and Gentiles. The Bible talks about them all the time:

It says there were Jews who were slaves to Gentiles, and that their city will be trampled by the Gentiles. Jesus became a servant of the Jews so the Gentiles would praise God with them. The Jews and the Gentiles both conspired against Jesus, who was said to be the glory of the Jews and a light for the Gentiles. The Jews and the Gentiles also both conspired against the followers of Jesus, because Jews and Gentiles alike are under the power of sin.

It says God chose Paul to preach to both Jews and Gentiles, and he will save both Jews and Gentiles. Paul taught that Jews and Gentiles should all live like Gentiles. A lot of the Jews and Gentiles thought Paul’s message was stupid and rejected it. But Paul said all the Jews and Gentiles who believed would be saved. God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles, and he will judge both Jews and Gentiles according to what they do.

So clearly it’s absurd to say Jews and Gentiles don’t exist. Or even that there are no Jews and Gentiles among the Christians. Maybe what Paul meant to say was just that there’s no significant difference between Jews and Gentiles? That’s not what he said in the first verse referenced in this post (though he does say that elsewhere). But even if that’s what he meant, he’s still wrong, according to the Bible.

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