To Tweak the Design

The below is a plea for help in understanding … something. I don’t even know what it is I could understand. I would like to understand your belief, theoretical Christian reader. It may help me return to the Church. I want to understand the mind of God, but I know all I generally get is platitudes about no one understanding His plan, so I guess that is off the table. I want to understand the Bible better, but my questions are difficult, they are hard, they are pointed, they are directed. Please help me answer them, if you can, it would help me return to the Church, if such a thing is even remotely possible any more…

“Everything according to His plan,” a refrain often stated when worst meets worse to comfort those affected. I don’t want to take away the comfort you feel, but I do want to know what it is about this that gives you comfort. What is God’s design?

I’ve written about my opinions on this several times in the past, but I thought I’d take another crack at it. I think my writing is getting better, that I am able to more clearly articulate what I want to say, and maybe I can pour something of my soul onto this page as a sort of continued self-therapy. And maybe you’ll enjoy it? I guess?

I have never understood the justice of God, I am comfortable saying that. He has always seemed to have a stunning parity with an abusive parent; giving commands He knows you won’t follow, and punishing you horribly when you do not. You don’t have to go very deeply into the Bible to see what I mean, this is exactly how He treated Adam and Eve.

Step back and think about the story; God put a tree that they were not allowed to eat from in the middle of their home, put a serpent in there that was obviously evil (if Sin didn’t exist before Eve ate the apple, I guess the serpent did nothing wrong), and then let everything play out. But it is worse than that, isn’t it? He made these humans, with all of the foresight available to a being who can apparently see the future as though it were this very moment.

So think about that; He made Adam and Eve knowing that they would almost immediately disobey him, and if the modern understanding is to be believed, every human ever born until Jesus died was sent to the pit, or purgatory, or hell, or some kind of stasis. But why? How is that justice? I need one of the faithful to explain it to me, because I (in my limited experience and understanding) cannot make sense of the story, and a huge portion of my peers seem to take it without a second glance that it was the human’s fault, not God’s. As though the humans had the tools to even properly follow the rules?

God did not write them down, did not tell Adam and Eve the details. He just said, in His infinite wisdom and ability to see the future, “Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Think about that, though; if they did not know good from evil, how would they even have known what they were doing was wrong? Like a child who is told not to stick a fork in the wall socket; a good parent will cover the wall sockets because they do not want the child to electrocute themselves to death. But God did not cover the tree of good and evil with a socket cover; he put it in the middle of the garden, apparently in plain sight, with nothing stopping the very young and inexperienced Adam and Eve from eating of it aside from telling them not to. You have to remember, given the Young Earth ages presented, Adam and Eve could not have been more than a few years old at the time, and whether they were given adult bodies or not, they likely didn’t have any real world experience built into them.

Regardless of what Adam and Eve did, even God shows some restraint in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in that He claims that He will only punish a child unto the fourth (maaaayyybbbeeee tenth) generation for the sins of his or her parents, and yet here we are (what is this, the 27th generation?) apparently being punished specifically for Adam’s sin. Apparently in the Bible writer’s mind, women were so inconsequential that we are not even punished for her sin, only all females for all time, what with the monthly bleeding and birthing pains (God’s justice is so level handed).

But we go even deeper, in that God created everything and (we are told) it was Good. But He could see the future. When He created humans, He knew (before ever saying a single word) that we would almost instantly break His commands, and the (again) very even handed punishment is an eternity of torment in hell for all humans save for a select few who number fewer than my available digits. Well, at least until Jesus, but again showing all that love and foresight God is known for, He decided to wait another 4000 years before sending His only begotten Son to redeem our sins. And He only sent this son after threatening to kill all of his chosen people several times.

Given that we disobeyed Him almost instantly (one source seems to think we did it within 45 minutes of creation, and at that point I can do nothing but respect the speed at which the Serpent operates), one would think that God (in His infinite wisdom) could have tweaked the design of free will just a hair? Maybe give us a few thousand years of paradise? The thing is, God gave only two humans paradise, and even then only for a very short amount of time (and given the staggering numbers of humans who have lived, one finds that God seems to have a very limited sense of fair play).

I’ve made numerous analogies and metaphors in regards to how I view God as operating towards His people, but I think some need to be restated for emphasis.

I stand by what I said; God is a worse parent than the mother who puts plug stops on the electrical outlets. I’d liken God’s sense of parenting to keeping the liquor under the sink, and not having any child locks. Probably keeps Drano under there, too–not even because He needs to use Drano, but because He wants to see if we’ll drink it. Given what I know about people (and the fact that I have a friend whose brother downed a bottle of isopropyl alcohol…), my own guess would be that yes, yes there are many who would drink that Drano.

Even worse, even before becoming a parent, God is a child who demands a puppy, gets it, and lets it run around the house — but when it pees on the carpet, the carpet He never trained it not to pee on, He beats it. Not just once, either. He ties it to a beating post for the rest of its life, for that single incident. Not only that, but He breeds it. He breeds it, then beats His dog’s puppies, because his dog peed on the carpet He never trained it not to pee on. 

I may sound angry and bitter, but really I am not. What I truly am is confused. I am confused how someone can believe there is a loving God at work. If you believe there is a loving God at work, I am confused as to how. I am confused as to how God’s justice is supposed to work, and I am confused as to how you call it justice. When I ask those faithful in my life this question, generally the response I receive is along the lines of “God makes the rules, therefore everything He does is just.”

That just raises the eternal question: Are moral actions moral because God said they are moral, or did God just tell us what was moral? If God told you to rape a small child, would that be considered moral because God said so? These are theoreticals, and often ignored by anyone who still has the patience to talk to me; “Well, obviously God wouldn’t tell me to do that.” That doesn’t answer the question.

How about God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? If Abraham had gone through with it, would that have been moral? Again, many who have spoken to me have raised the fact that God did not let Abraham do the killing, and while I am not angry at God, per se, I do get angry with the excuses. These are blind excuses, excuses designed to give God an out in whichever situation He finds Himself written into.

How about the tale of Jephthah? He said if he won the upcoming battle, he’d sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house. Now, barring the fact that this is possibly the most short sighted thing anyone could say (what was going to come out of his house to greet him upon his return? Not his wife or daughter, obviously!), God sits back and lets this all happen. And God does not stop Jephthah from sacrificing his daughter. Does God’s tacit approval make this sacrifice moral? God could have let that battle go the other way, or told Jephthah not to bother with the daughter sacrifice (He did intervene on Isaac’s behalf, one must remember).

All of this has just been a brain dump, because too few people will talk about this subject with me. They feel attacked, and I suppose it could come off that way (in fact, of course it would come across that way), but if you can’t answer the hard questions how can I find my way back to the fold? I have hard questions, questions I need answered before I could ever consider returning to the Church, and the best I seem to get is that I shouldn’t ask these questions.

Are the people I talk to afraid of them? Is Christianity built on the principles of “Don’t ask questions!”? Is God too fragile for my hard questions? No, I would never think that, but I am afraid that my questions are a plague in the mind of the believer; once they really start to consider the story, they have very few options. They can answer my questions, though no one has taken this option. They can ignore the questions (a perennial favorite). They can just say they trust in God (to my own mind, this adds up to the coward’s way out, for the person and for God). But if I am to return to the Church, I need these answers, and every day that passes, every person I ask who gives me uncomfortable shrugs or tells me that I am disrespecting them by even asking these questions, or ignores me, or gives me words that they use to comfort themselves, I drift further and further from God.

What advice is there for one like me? Go read the Bible? Oh, I have been reading the Bible, and all I can find is more questions and few answers. The Bible is great, if you are willing to believe the words “I love all my people!” But if you read the actions as much as the words (communication is 80% nonverbal, or whatever the number is), the actions that follow God’s professions of love are often “Man, I am going to kill like… a TON of people. Lots of them will be Israelites.” Those are the exact actions of a man who beats his wife under the umbrella of “I hit you because I love you, and you made me do this.”

What is it that humans have forced God to do? Is that what it is? We have forced God to hit us? Seems odd for us to force God to do anything.

Help me. I am asking for help here. Help me understand God’s… “love.” Help me understand God’s… “justice.” Help me understand how God is anything but the father with a belt, a strong strapping arm, a lot of time, and maybe some boredom. I really am asking for your help, as much as my words make that difficult to believe.

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There was an Audible Whoosh

I mentioned, cited, and wrote about this article in the blog post I threw up (pun intended) not even an hour ago… But the idea of it has actually wounded my head for the arrogance of it. The wound is festering, and I felt like I really, really needed to write more about it to relieve the pressure that was building behind my eyes. Oh, you think it can’t be that bad? If that thought passed through your brain, you obviously haven’t read it.

I have to commend the author for accidentally making one sentence ring true in that entire article, the idea that we assume the universe of tomorrow will function much as the universe today, which functions much like the universe of yesterday (unless you believe in young earth creationism, at which point the universe of yesterday doesn’t have to obey any rules except the ones that make your science convenient (I am sure the Hydrosphere sounds very plausible to you, in any case)). That being said, he states that the only reason we can assume that is because of Genesis 8:22. In that case, I am glad someone thought to write it down; why, if they didn’t, the universe would function much like the improbability drive in Hitchhiker’s Guide.

To even begin to accept this verse as binding, as laying the rules of the universe rather than following them, we have to presuppose that the Bible is true and correct. The Bible itself justifies this presupposition by telling the reader that it is true and inerrant, and obviously you can trust it because you presuppose it is true and correct because it tells you it is true and correct, which you believe because you presuppose it is true and correct. But science is not allowed to presuppose ANYTHING, only YECs are allowed to judge presuppositions. And don’t even get them started on the idea of no presuppositions, because even thinking about there being no presuppositions is an incorrect presupposition, and everything you say after they’ve decided that is totally incorrect.

I am sorry, but the author of the top linked article there is arrogant in a way that even many YECs would balk at. I mean, I understand that “I’m right and you’re wrong,” is the core doctrine they have in regards to science, but this guy… This guy. I haven’t been as frustrated at circular logic in a long time. I realize all logic is circular to a degree, but the wider your circle the less assumptions you have to make, and their … Well, I wish I could call it a circle, but since it only has two elements it is actually only a line. They don’t even get so far as to qualify as circular logic. Circular logic assumes much more thought than this idea that Genesis 8:22 laid out the rules of the universe, rather than just mentioned them.

Look, I understand that you feel persecuted, somehow, even though you are the majority religion of the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth. I just don’t understand how it is you can be so… Willfully blind towards the idea that you are allowed to presuppose, while any statement that a scientist makes that doesn’t come from the Bible counts as “out of bounds.” I don’t get it.

Do you know why science assumes that tomorrow will work like today? It isn’t just because it enables science to work, it is because without that science is pointless. The thing is, something akin to science predates your concept of your God. But here’s the other thing; if tomorrow the universe changes so that it functions on a new rule set, I can almost guarantee that we won’t survive to think about it. So here’s what we’re gonna do: we are gonna keep doing science as we have been, following the rules and laws we have been, until we either see this drastic change that you seem to think must happen without God, or until we get far enough that we can actually understand where the rules came from.

The problem is that so many YECs hate it when you call their God the “God of the Gaps,” then proudly say (as was said in this very article) that we don’t know where the rules came from, so obviously God did it. No, no, we shouldn’t search for where the rules came from, that is blasphemy; we should just trust an 8th century BC Jewish peasant to have gotten it right, because that is way more likely than science ever closing this gap. Way more likely indeed!

No, He isn’t a God of the Gaps, He just happens to fill this gap in our current science, and that is just the way we like it. No, stop looking for another explanation. STOP IT! STOPIT!STOPPPPPIIIITTTT! You are going to hell, science!

Augh, sorry, but this article drove me even crazier after I thought about it for a while than it did while I was reading it through. I just about exploded with all of these words inside of me. They would have come out of me somehow, no matter how badly I just wanted to stop thinking about how someone out there considers the logic presented in the linked article sound. That is not sound logic. That is not sound theory. That is probably not even a sound mind, or if it is a sound mind, it is at the very least a liar. No sound mind could think that up, then try to sell it to others as fact; that is the kind of thing someone hears, then passes off as fact so they can sound smart, so long as no one looks too closely.

Now give me a few minutes, I have to bleach that memory out of my brain. I am sure I can come up with some way to make that happen.

An Unjust and Unfair World

I happened to bump up against an article about psychological belief systems, varied between “the world is a just place” and “the world is an uncaring place.” I don’t think saying the world is uncaring is a pessimistic or nihilistic viewpoint, I would argue that it is just fact. Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, it is a refrain that echoes through all of history. The reason it has found a home on my blog is the way it echoes through religion, especially where certain factions are concerned.

I was actually looking for a specific reference for the belief in a just world when I came across a wikipedia page showing not just one reason that people believed Hurricane Katrina was divine retribution, but that there were so many reasons that it has its own page! It wasn’t a tragedy, some claimed; New Orleans deserved it. But it goes deeper than that, doesn’t it? If Sodom and Gomorrah were historical, I’d say we could call it some kind of syndrome named after them; bad news comes from that place, so only bad things must happen there.

For those who believe the world is an unjust place, Hurricane Katrina was simply an unfortunate tragedy. We offer our sympathy, we support however it is that we can, and we move on. But for some, that isn’t the case, and after 1800 died, and countless had their lives ruined, they went on the air to spew hateful rhetoric about how people in New Orleans deserved it. Victim blaming, it was, but not like someone who was raped being blamed for “asking for it,” it is worse. No one asks to be raped, but there is a motive; the rapist is a terrible person. Was New Orleans “asking for it?” If they were, does that make your God the rapist in your own analogy?

Pat Robertson (always a classy guy [that was sarcasm]) suggested that the hurricane was God’s punishment for America’s stance on abortion, and obviously God lets it rain on the just and unjust alike. Ignore the fact that your all powerful, all knowing God apparently can’t target his cataclysms any better than a 3 year old shooting a shotgun at a target a foot from the barrel. It’s ok, certainly of the thousands whose lives were ruined, of those killed, I am sure none were pious, God-fearing people. I am sure they all deserved it in some way. Right?

For a religion that preaches an eternally loving, endlessly forgiving God, it is amazing how quickly they resort to hateful rhetoric. The Westboro Baptist Church is low hanging fruit in this debate, but they aren’t the only ones who have found an angry, spiteful God in the pages of their book.

I am making a bit of an unfair argument against religion in this case, but I believe those who think the world is a just place have to believe in some outside force that keeps the justice in check. Perhaps it is Karma, that eternal force that balances the Hindu and Buddhist world, but I don’t think many of my readers subscribe to that view. Given the polling, I’d say most of my readers are atheist or Christian, and very few of my atheist friends believe in a just world. The Christian may believe in a just world, through the inscrutable hand of God, but I don’t understand how.

I think the world could be a better place, that is a theme that runs through all of my writing. The issue that I have is that for the world to be a better place, we would all have to rely on some level of sympathy or empathy, and if your first reaction to a horrible disaster is “they deserved it”, your empathy is effectively shut off.

If you believe your God enforces a just world, why can HIV pass from an infected mother to her child? What sin has the child committed, for God to put such a burden upon it? Why does the child of a cocaine addicted mother inherit that lovely addiction (and likely die from withdrawal as a consequence)? Where is the justice in that?

If you will quote Exodus 20:5 to me (the inequity of the father passes to the child unto the third and fourth generation), then are you saying our legal system these days is better than God’s? Worse? Should we be arresting the children of murderers? Would that be justice?

Step back, and don’t assume the world is a just place. Ironically, we have empirical evidence showing that the very belief in a just world reduces the justice in that world (as per top linked article). Instead, just be empathetic, and help those in need. If something terrible happens, give some sympathy to those affected. Spread some love. Be kind.

The Real Ten Commandments

This will be a short post, and I will have something of full length forthcoming for the day, but I just thought I would mention it. In Exodus chapter 34, God writes ten commandments on stone tablets. Hurray, right? There is something that popular culture got right!

NOPE!

According to Exodus 34 (and I will cite verse to make sure no one calls me dishonest), the below are the ten commandments. The punishment for breaking any one of the following commandments is that you, your kids, your grandkids, and your great grandkids go to hell (Exodus 34:7)

Commandment One: Thou shalt kill the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and do not forge any contracts or alliances with them. You will destroy their altars to their gods. Only worship me. (Exodus 34:10-14)

Alright, commandment one is somewhat familiar, if a little wordier. Since all of the peoples God commands killed are extinct, the only part left is “Thou shalt have no gods before me,” which is the familiar first commandment.

Commandment Two: Thou shalt not make any idols of worship. (Exodus 34:17)

Again, we are still on familiar ground.

Commandment Three: Celebrate the Passover feast, and make really sure the bread is unlevened. SERIOUSLY! NO YEAST! (Exodus 34:18)

Commandment Four: The first offspring of every womb belongs to me. For the firstborn of every donkey, sacrifice a lamb. If you don’t sacrifice a lamb, break the donkey’s neck (for some reason). For the firstborn son, sacrifice a lamb. (Exodus 34:19-20)

Don’t know why God hates donkeys, but there you go. There is no provision for what happens if you don’t sacrifice a lamb for your firstborn son, but if we use extrapolation…

Commandment Five: No one is to appear before God without a sacrifice prepared. (Exodus 34:20)

Well, that does seem consistent with the personality of the Old Testament God.

Commandment Six: Keep holy the Sabbath. Do no work, light no light, do not start any fires. (Exodus 34:21)

We’ve moved a commandment, but you might recognize this from the original ten you learned.

Commandment Seven: There is to be a festival of the harvest, and you are to sacrifice your first harvest of wheat to God.  (Exodus 34:22-25)

Commandment Eight: When you make a sacrifice to me, make REALLY SURE none of it has any yeast. Or looks at yeast. Or has been in the presence of yeast. Did I mention I hate yeast? Because yeah, I hate yeast. (Exodus 34:25)

Commandment Nine: Sacrifice the first fruits of any soil to God. (Exodus 34:26)

This one seems a duplicate, but it seems God really had a point to make here, and He was going to get it across.

Commandment Ten: Thou shalt not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk. (Exodus 34:26)

Yup, that is commandment ten.

Exodus 34:27:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.

So there you go. These are the Ten Commandments that were chiseled in stone.

These are the moral teachings of the covenant of God.

Just thought you should know.

Do as I… What Was I Talking About Again? Part 4

As we enter into the final chapters in the saga of the Ten Commandments, the Israelites have left the desert they were wandering around in for forty years. God is juuuust about ready to give them the land He promised them, but He needs to play one last joke.

The caravan of Israelites was attacked by the nation of Amalek (God didn’t let the Israelites take the shortcut because they might get into a fight with the Philistines, but after they’d been wandering for forty years and a few months, what were they gonna do? Go back to Egypt? Psh, no one would even have been alive there at this point except whatever it is that has a very strict diet of frog corpses.). Moses, caretaker of the Israelites, told Joshua to grab all the men in fighting shape he could find and take them to face the enemy army. God… God will help us defeat the Amalekites!

So Moses carried the staff that had worked the miracles of God to the top of a hill, and looked over the battle, and God said “Hey, Moses. I’ll help Joshua win the fight, but you gotta do something for me.”

“Ok,” Moses replied with a heavy tone of trepidation. “What can I do to earn your help?”

Moses thought he heard a chuckle. “You gotta… Here’s what you gotta do. You gotta hold that staff over your head! See? Not so bad!”

So Moses raised the Staff of God over his head, and the tides of the battle began to turn in the favor of the Israelites, but the battle was long and hard fought.

“Hey Moses… You’ve got to be… What? Almost 90 now? You gettin’ tired? Maybe you should ask for help holding that staff up! Better not let it drop! You’ll lose the fight if you drop your staff!” (Seriously. Exodus 17:11. I wanted to write God as a character who was a teenager, but I feel like the original author of the Bible wrote him as a child far better than I could. Again, what do I learn from this? That they win the fight as long as Moses holds the staff up? WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING? Why did anyone even want that in the Bible?)

Moses, elderly and worn down by the harsh years in the desert living only on rain-bread, felt his arms tire and the staff slipped below the crown of his head, and instantly the battle surged in favor of the Amalekites. Moses called for the help of Aaron and Hur, who held his arms up, knowing that if he dropped his arms too far they would all surely perish.

“Psh. That’s no fun. Since you are asking for help, I’ll make sure this battle lasts all the way until night. You’ll be stuck that way for hours.”  And so it was that the battle ran until sunset, Aaron and Hur holding the Staff of God, in Moses’ hands, over the head of Moses. When they had won, God said “Man, aren’t I awesome? I am so awesome, you have to write down how you won that fight, and make sure it is mostly just about how awesome I am. In fact, as soon as you write it down, go show it to Joshua, makes sure he knows he only won the fight because I helped.”

Before he even voiced the question, he began to regret it. “But God,” Moses intoned, “Joshua was out there fighting for at least 36 hours (Exodus 17:9, 12), thousands of our men are dead. Don’t you think they could have some credit?”

“Again with the whining! You know what? Fine. Mention his name. He can have some glory, but make sure everyone knows he only won because I was helping. MAKE SURE THEY KNOW THAT!” (Exodus 17:14. I don’t… I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I think it stands on its own. Hell, go read Exodus 17, SUPER short chapter, and tell me if I have in any way mistaken God’s personality in this summary.)

After the battle, Moses got to see his family. Jethro, his father in law, ran up to him, “Hey man! I heard about everything God did, with the plagues on Egypt, and rescuing you, and feeding you, and giving you water! Those are some amazing miracles, man! And then I heard you were going to get wiped out by the Amelekites, and God totally won that battle for you! Man, God is so amazing, hey! I’ve got a bunch of really young, unblemished lambs. Let’s go sacrifice some lambs and have a party in God’s honor, eh? Man, our God is an awesome God, isn’t He?!”

Moses stood staring, dumbstruck. “You know what? Sure. Sure, God is awesome. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go sit and judge some Israelites for being dicks. You go sacrifice some lambs. He’ll like that.” Moses turned and walked away, and returned to his duties of being caretaker for the Israelites. From dawn until dusk, people brought cases in front of him, and he sat in judgment, making sure to fill the role of caretaker so that God was happy.

After Jethro was done throwing a bitchin’ party for God, he came back to Moses. “Hey man, why are you sitting here alone, doing like ten people’s worth of work?”

Moses mumbled “S’long as I’m talking to people, God leaves me alone.”

“Hm? Sorry Moses, didn’t catch that…”

“Oh, sorry. God has appointed me as the agent of His will. All these people come to me asking what God wants. For some reason, God will talk to me whenever (and as soon as) I am alone, but He won’t share a single word with any of the rest of the Israelites.”

“Ah,” Jethro replied. “Look, I get that God has made you very important, but what about this. What say you teach the people what God wants, then appoint others to judge the simple cases?”

Then that happened, because it seemed like a smart thing to do.

Then God said to Moses, “Hey Moses. I know you’re having a tough time, and the people don’t like you, so here’s what I’mma do for you. I am going to come down to Earth and talk to you in front of everyone, then they’ll know that you’re my boi! So before they see me, here’s what you gotta tell them. First, tell them they are my chosen people, and because they are chosen I am going to put just a ridiculous amount of incredibly cumbersome rules on them that I don’t put on anyone else. I wanna see their face when you tell them that! Then, tell them they aren’t allowed to have sex or masturbate for three whole days before they see me talking to you. That part is important. Then bring them to Mount Sinai, but they aren’t allowed to come up the mountain. If they try to come up the mountain, kill them. Kill them so hard.”

Moses said nothing, but turned and gathered the people and delivered the message. When three days had passed, God came down in a cloud on the top of Mount Sinai, and called Moses to him.

“Heeeey buddy. Go back down and tell the people that they aren’t allowed to come up the mountain.”

“But I’ve already told them that.”

“What, you think I care? You’re 90, I’m like infinity years old. Get down that mountain and tell them they aren’t allowed on the mountain. Then come back up here. Oh, and bring Aaron. I wanna talk to him, too. But anyone else who comes up? I will smite them so hard.

(Now, I would like to think the above conversation was my idea, but it comes directly from Exodus 19 16-25. God tells Moses to come up, then go back down to deliver the same message, God tells Moses to do it anyway. In verse 25, you can almost hear the … Disappointment? Exasperation?… of the original writer. Verse 25, in its entirety, reads “So Moses went down and told them.”

I CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!)

And so God came down on the mountain to give Moses the Ten Commandments, with the people of Israel watching, and God looked like a giant storm. Everyone was like “Oh man, no wonder Moses is the only one who talks to God directly. Man, God is scary. Hey, Moses! We don’t want to talk to God directly any more. You can be the caretaker, you’ve got our vote now!”

So Moses walked up to God, and God said “Hah! I gave them a good show, didn’t I? I figure if they fear me, instead of love or respect me, that will definitely make them loyal. That’s how that works, right?! Anyway, now that they are good and afraid of me, make sure they never, ever stray from worshiping me or I’ll…”

“Smite the hell out of them,” Moses interrupted. “Yeah, got it.”

“Hey, no. No finishing my sentences for me!”

“Oh, so you weren’t going to say ‘smite the hell out of them’?”

“Well… I was… But just for that, I am going to increase the amount of sacrificing you have to do to me. So that I know you know how awesome I am. And when you build sacrificial altars, don’t use good supplies. If you use any materials that have been tooled, I’ll make sure you get… Tooled… I don’t really know where I was going with that, but just make sure you only use crappy, round rocks when building an altar. That is important to me for some reason. I don’t have to explain myself to you!” (Exodus 20:24-25)

“Also, make sure the altar is on a hill, but that there are no steps leading up to it. When you are walking up the steps, people could see up your robes, and nobody wants to see 90 year old junk.”

“Won’t they be able to see up my robe if I am walking up a hill anyway?”

“Shut up! No steps! Now get ready to write, I’ve got some of those onerous rules that I was talking about earlier all ready to go. And no complaining.”

Some parts of the Bible just stand on their own as … Weird? Without my even having to inject my own characterizations into it. I still have no idea what to make of Moses holding his hands over his head for the duration of a 36 hour battle. Seriously.

Do as I… What Was I Talking About Again? Part 3

The Israelites have been kicked out of Egypt because they have ensured Pharaoh has had a truly bad, truly awful day (largely due to his inability to play poker at even the most basic level). Now that they are free, what lies ’round the bend?

“Hey Moses. Hey. Hey. Hey Moses. Wasn’t that awesome?”

“Yes, God. That was awesome. We are free. And Egypt is in ruins, suffering, diseased, and starving. Thank you.”

“Yeah. Hey, remember. Every year, we are going to have a week long party because of how awesome I am. And you’ll tell your kids that the party is because I am so awesome. Also, this party is not optional. If you do not party, I am gonna be so pissed. And you know what? Maybe some sacrificing is in order. Yeah, for the firstborn, I am gonna need some sacrifices. For every donkey, sacrifice a lamb. If you don’t have a lamb? Break that donkey’s neck. I COMMAND IT! And when your kids are like ‘how come we sacrifice so many lambs,’ tell ’em. Tell ’em that it is because I told you so. Because I am so awesome.”

“Yes, God. We’ll… We’ll make that work. Somehow,” and Moses turned to walk towards the land of the Caananites.

“NO!” God said. “Don’t go the short way. The Phillistines are jerks. We’ll go the long way.”

Moses heaved a sigh. “Alright. We go the long way.”

“One last thing. Remember Joseph? I’m sure you heard of him. He was a cool guy; I liked him. Go get his bones.”

“What?”

“You heard me. Anyway, set up camp once you get to the Red Sea. I’m gonna have Pharaoh come to try and kill you, but wait ’till you see what I have planned. It’s gonna be awesome!”

After walking for some time, the Israelites arrived at the Red Sea, and Pharaoh came after them. When Pharaoh was close enough to be seen, the Israelites cried to Moses thus, “You led us out of slavery to die? The hell is wrong with you?”

Moses looked up at God, and said wearily “You know, God, it would be just… Just so much easier on me if you’d just tell everyone about your plans ahead of time.”

“Stop being a whiny bitch, it’s way more awesome when it’s a surprise! Anyway, tell the people, tell ’em I am gonna protect you. And make sure they are all watching.I want everyone to see this!”

Moses shook his head and shuffled over to a rock overlooking the people. Bracing his body, he threw out his arms and shouted “God is watching over us. Look, look, and watch at the might of God!”

“Hey, Moses. I just had a thought. I am gonna split the Red Sea so you can walk over it. So maybe I shouldn’t have had you set up camp. But still… Splitting the sea, right? That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? And I am going to make sure Pharaoh follows you, then BLOOOOOSH! Gonna drop a whole sea on him. I’ll bet they’ll talk about how awesome this is for like… 3,000 years!”

“But… But you just had us set up camp. Do you know how long it is going to take us to pack all this stuff up? Do you even care?”

“Hey, stop whining. I’ll buy you time in a way that is as awesome as it is effective. Take a look at the Egyptian army! There’s a pillar of flame all up in their face! BAM! How awesome is that?! Now pack up and get moving, I don’t care how hard you work.”

Moses and the Israelites gathered their belongings, protected by a giant pillar of flame that prevented the Egyptians and Pharaoh from following, and then the Red Sea was split in two. The Israelites crossed the sea on the land, and the flaming pillar died. The Egyptians surged forward, a mighty wave of gold and bronze, down into the chasm of the Red Sea.

Moses looked over his shoulder nervously as he walked towards the far bank. “Hey, God… I don’t mean to complain some more, but the Egyptians are moving pretty fast, hey? Like… Plenty fast enough to catch us.”

“Stop whining! All you do is whine! Fine, I’ll slow them down!” God did as God does, and the ground became wet, and the chariots and horses sank into the mud, slowing their progress. “Happy?”

The Israelites climbed onto the far bank of the Red Sea, looking back as the Egyptian army struggled after them.

“Hey, Moses, make sure everyone is watching! Are they watching, Moses?”

Moses sat down, weary, and replied “Yes, God, they are all watching. It would be hard not to, when an army is still slowly advancing on us. It would still just be fantastic if you would share your plans with everyone instead of just me.”

“Shut up! Watch this!” The waters fell in on the chariots of the Pharaoh, and the army of the Pharaoh, and they all drowned in a crushing torrent, and were never seen again. Some Israelites looked back, and realized that the Egyptians crushed to death by the sea were the lucky ones, as they had found the only possible escape from the starvation, disease, stench, and rot that was now the entire nation of Egypt–but the Israelites then turned and walked, following Moses ’round the bend.

“Hey Moses. Hey, I’m going to give you Canaan, a nation flowing with Milk and Honey. It is gonna be awesome. Hey, I heard milk and honey is actually just the best laxative. It’s gonna be hilari… I mean, you will have lots to eat and won’t suffer!”

Moses just shook his head and walked on. Sometimes, it was just better to let God have his way, and he wished he’d learned that lesson ages ago.

“Hey, don’t be a pouty face. You know what cheers me up when I’m feeling down? Songs. Songs cheer me up when I am feeling down. You should sing a song to me. Make it about how awesome I am. Sing a song about how I killed Pharaoh, I never get tired of that story!”

Moses took a deep, calming breath, and sang a song about how awesome it was that his people had just spent 430 years suffering before God decided to save them from bondage, and about how God left an entire nation in terrible, disease ridden straits, and made sure to mention how awesome God was in at least every verse so that he did not get smote.

Now, the long way to Canaan happened to run through a desert, and the 2 million Israelites could not find any water. They had forgotten that God was with them, and said to Moses “Seriously, it’s like you keep taking us from the edge of death to the next edge of death. At least under Egypt, we knew we’d have food and water, but we have been nearly dead at least once per day since we left. Get us some damn water, or we are going to turn this car around and sacrifice you to God.”

Moses replied “Give me a minute to talk to God. I am sure I can get another miracle out of him.” He walked around until he could find some privacy. “Hey, God? We need water. We need water right now; some of us are going to die of thirst, soon.”

“Oh damn! I forgot! People need to drink! Why didn’t you remind me before you spent three days in a desert? Bro, you are just the worst caretaker. Here, throw this stick in that awful, smelly spring over there. It’ll turn the water clean. Make sure to tell the people I did this for you, and remind them that I am awesome.”

Moses spluttered “But… But… Aren’t you the caretaker? Why am I the caretaker? I told you I didn’t want this job in the first place!”

“What’d I say about all that whining? Now go and give the people water, then get moving. There is lots of space left between you and Canaan, and I don’t see it getting covered. Oh, also tell the people that I am going to give you some laws, and if you break them I am gonna make them just as diseased as Egypt back there. Smelly frog corpses, Moses. So. Many. Frog Corpses.”

Moses shed a single tear, turned, and made the smelly spring run clear so that the Israelites could drink. After they had drank their fill, they moved on into an even larger desert, and wandered there for two months.

“Hey, Moses,” the Israelites said. “We’re out of food, again. And it has been a long time since we had any miracles from God. At least back in Egypt, we didn’t have to worry about whether we’d get a miracle on any given day. And hey, while we’re at it, this gold and silver we stole from Egypt is really heavy, and not very edible. What’s up with that?”

“I think God just likes shiny objects, honestly. But whatever, I’ll go and see if I can get God to miracle us up some food… But I’m going to warn you, he is probably going to put some silly restriction on the miracle for some reason.” So Moses turned, again, to find some privacy to talk with God.

“We need food, to live, and some water wouldn’t hurt. You have had us wandering around in a desert for 2 months, and there isn’t even two months worth of desert here. Have you had us walking around in circles?”

“Hey, hey, hey, what did I say about the whining? And about the food, here’s what I am gonna do. I am going to make it rain bread. Show me another god who can do that, right? There isn’t one! BAM! I’m so awesome. Oh hey, one thing though.” Moses closed his eyes, bracing himself for the conditions on this miracle. “You can only gather as much bread as you will eat. If you gather more bread, the miracles stop, capiche? If you can handle that for six days, then I’ll give you extra bread on the seventh day, because everything should be done in week long cycles, like my parties! And when you tell them about my condition, be sure to remind them how awesome I am, in case they forget.”

Moses opened his eyes and looked skyward. “Ok, I’ll give them the message… But why does it have to come from me? They hate me. They think I have killed them. And why didn’t you give us bread before we were starving to death? Why did you wait so long? Couldn’t you have miracled us up some bread thirty days ago?”

“What did I say about your incessant whining?!”

Moses turned and went to deliver the message. “Hey guys… God said he’d give us some food, just sit tight. And honestly? Please stop getting angry with me. God is the one who has the plan, and who has the power give us food. If you are going to lynch someone, try to lynch God, please? I am just… So tired of this. Anyway, God is going to give us food, but we aren’t allowed to pack extra. I don’t know why, so don’t go asking me. Just… Make sure you don’t store any in your packs, or else the food train stops.”

In the morning, when the bread rain came, many gathered, and some started to fill their packs. Shortly after, their packs were covered in maggots, and smelled of rot.

Moses followed his nose, and raged at those that had gathered too much. “What did I say about storing the food? Look, look at this plague! God said he’d do this, and hasn’t he proven he will follow through on every threat? Are you stupid? Did you forget already what God did to Egypt? HE WILL TOTALLY DO THAT TO US!

“Oh, as part of the condition of getting food from God, incidentally, we are not allowed to pick up food on the seventh day, even if it is right in front of us and prepared, for some reason. So on Friday, we collect double the food, and on Friday you are allowed to store some. But only enough for Saturday. Please, please, don’t be dense this time. God will seriously ruin us if you don’t follow his command. Remember what happened just a few days ago? With the maggots and rot? Seriously, I just don’t want to put up with Him once He gets in a bad mood.”

When Saturday came, a bunch of Israelites went out to gather food, because if there is one thing that is boundless, it is stupidity and short memory.

God went up to Moses, “Hey, hey, what did I say about Saturday? The hell is wrong with you? Why are you breaking my commandments?”

Moses didn’t know what to say. “But God, I didn’t break any, I told them what you said.”

“Moses, don’t be an idiot. You are the caretaker, you are responsible for everything they do. And, given the sin in your ranks that I am seeing right now, you are going to have just like… the worst afterlife at this rate.”

“What?” Moses was startled.

“Oh, nothing. Don’t worry about it. Hey, I am not going to be making bread rain forever, so you should put some in a jar and keep it. When you show it to people, be all like ‘Hey, this is bread rain. Not every god can make it rain bread. Isn’t God awesome?’ Then tell them how awesome I am for making it rain bread when you were hungry.”

Moses shoved some bread in a jar, and put it in the ark of the covenant, which they apparently have for some reason. (Exodus 16:34)

God fed them rain bread for forty years in the desert before they came to the borders of Canaan. The whole time they spent in the desert, they wandered as God bade them, which raises serious questions about God’s navigational skills. But soon, soon they would be in a land of milk and honey!

We have exited the desert of Sin and the forty years of wandering. This seems a good place to take a break, before we enter the next saga.

It turns out it is harder to make fun of the parts that are in the Ten Commandments movie than I thought it would be, but we are nearing the end of the Ten Commandments saga, and then we can spice it up a little. Just have to hold out for 3 more chapters of Exodus, then we are on the other side of the hump.

Do as I… What Was I Talking About Again? Part 2

This one is a little more boring than Part 1, as most are pretty well versed in the plagues, and Part 2 doesn’t go off the rails of the traditional script. But once we’re through Part 2, Part 3 is gonna be a ton of fun (for me).

When we left our intrepid protagonists, Moses and Aaron, Pharaoh had just betrayed them by going back on his word! The plague of flies drove Pharaoh to again promise to set the Israelites free (on the condition that they were only going to go worship their God for a while, then come back), but as soon as the plague was retracted decided that this was a silly thing to do. God had hardened Pharaoh’s heart against the plight of the Israelites, and so nothing could be done to persuade him to let them go. As we enter Exodus chapter 9, God is turning up the dial on plague-craft.

Moses went in front of Pharaoh and told him thus: “Alright, dick move, but you’ve still got a chance. Tomorrow, sometime, our God is going to kill literally all of your cattle, sheep, goats, oxen, camels, and he won’t touch even a single one of the Israelites’. If that doesn’t prove he means business, I don’t know what will.”

Pharaoh, who is probably history’s worst poker player (“He has told me what he has in his hand every time we bet, but this time I’ll be he’s bluffing for sure!”). Protip: God does not bluff. The very next day, the Egyptian food supply became the food supply of the plague of gnats that is probably still flying around there somewhere. And, just like God said, not one of the stock of Israel was killed by whatever unholy disease it is that swept the Egyptian countryside and presumably ruined the livelihood of the Egyptian peasants that had as much control over the Pharaoh as the Israelites did, because they are guilty of the sins of their ruler for some reason. Also, God did not provision for the removal of the frog corpses, so they are bloated and decomposing all over Egypt, as well. Yummy.

Pharaoh, as God knew beforehand, still wouldn’t back down. “OK, he is still playing a perfect game of poker. But he is probably out of cards at this point, and the cattle can’t get any more dead… So no, no the Israelites cannot go.”

Moses thus returns with a handful of soot, and warns them “It’s about to get real ugly. If I throw this soot into the air, you are going to get just… Just the worst boils imaginable, all up in your business, and in your animal’s business. I mean, I know your animals are already dead, but if you bought more they are going to get all full of boils, too.”

“Bullshit,” said Pharaoh, with all the poker sense of … Well, there is no one in the history of the planet that bad at poker.

And so, in a move that surprised no one, BOILS EVERYWHERE! The Egyptian sorcerers at this point could not even stand, as the boils on their feet were so bad that no pressure could be put on them, and obviously the sorcerers could not heal what God hath wrought.

“Alright, alright, alright. Whoever this ‘God’ fellow is, he must be out of cards this time! No dice, you’ve played the last ace up your sleeve. The slaves stay.”

Again, though, we are reminded in Exodus 9:12, “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron.” Why did the LORD keep Pharaoh’s heart hard? One presumes just because he still had more plagues. Again, following the chain of events, the plague killing the cattle and the massive outbreaks of horrible boils could have been a result of the massive hills of rotting frogs that had nowhere to go.

So God brings out the big guns. “Alright, it’s time to get serious. I could have killed you all already, but I kept you alive just to show you how far I can go. You wouldn’t let my people go, so I am going to have the greatest hailstorm EVER hit Egypt. I know my slaves will be outside when it comes, but the devastation you see will be all the greater for it! HAH!”

And the hail came, and it killed all the cattle outdoors, and all the slaves outdoors, and all the Egyptians outdoors. It didn’t hail on Goshen, where the slaves lived, but you have to remember that some slaves were still out in the thrall of their masters, and were struck down by a hail that “stripped all of the trees bare.” (Exodus 9:25)

Pharaoh was done with this horrible game of poker. “Alright, you win. I’m terrible at poker. Take your people and get out of here.”

Moses, having learned of Pharaoh’s trickery, said “Alright, once I am out of the city, I will make the hail stop.” He did not stop to think that he would be brutally struck down by this hail on his way out of the city, but apparently neither did the writer for Moses leaves and stops the hail. Then… SURPRISE! Pharaoh’s heart was still hardened by God, and he went back on his word. Again. Because he is very, very, very bad at poker. In fact, this is like Moses showing him a royal flush, and then having Pharaoh bet against him for… Reasons?

“Just so you know, Moses,” God says, “I hardened the heart of Pharaoh so I could smite the crap out of Egypt for one purpose; to give you an awesome story to tell your grandkids about how awesome I am. Remember to tell them about me. OR ELSE.” (Exodus 10:1-2)

So God had another plague ready to go. “Your livestock is dead, and your crops ruined. You are going to have an awful winter; I know it. But here’s the thing; I know you have grain stores. So if you don’t let my people go (and I know you won’t, because I commanded it of your heart), I will send locusts, and they will eat your entire grain store.

Perhaps better at poker than Pharaoh himself, his advisers said to him “DAMMIT, MAN! Let the damn slaves go! Seriously, we are already ruined. We can’t take another of these plagues!”

Pharaoh, again, says “Alright. You win. Go and worship God, as long as you come back when you are done with your sacrifices. Oh, also, only men can go. Everyone knows gods hate women and children anyway.”

“Hey, hey, hey, you think I am calling down these plagues for funsies? No, we all go, or you get the locusts!” And so it was that locusts came.

And Pharaoh said “Stop it! STOP IT! Ok, you can go. What is wrong with your God? Why does he love punishing us so?!” But as soon as Moses left, God reminds us that he had hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 10:20) so that MORE PLAGUES! Yay!

So then we get what is actually the most tame plague in days; the plague of darkness. Everything was so dark that no one could even move, except the Israelites because they get light. So Pharaoh, AGAIN, says “Take them away, and I am running out of even sort of funny ways to say this because I have said it so many times my face is stuck in a grimace of displeasure! Except leave your flocks and herds behind.”

“But Pharaoh, how can we sacrifice stunning amounts of cattle and sheep to God if we can’t bring our cattle and sheep? Seriously, you have no idea how bloody things are going to get once we start sacrificing.”

“What? No. I said no flocks!”

“It gives us the flocks or it gets the plagues again!”

And again, God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and Pharaoh said “No dice!!” (Exodus 10:27)

And God said “Ahahahahaha look how mad he is! Isn’t this hilarious?”

Moses replied “Umm… Not really. Millions are going to die of starvation and disease, and I’d like to remind you that it was you who forced Pharaoh to keep the Israelites in bondage.”

God replied “Pfft… You’re no fun. I can hardly get my smite on with you killing my buzz, Buzz Killington. Fine, just one more plague, and I am going to make it a doozy. In fact, I am going to make it so bad that Pharaoh will make you leave and so badass that you will have a feast to remember it by for the rest of eternity! How does that sound for a party?! So here’s the plan; I am going to kill all the firstborn sons of everyone in Egypt, except the Israelites, then you guys can leave Egypt. Also, remember that thing I said about taking everyone’s gold and silver. Don’t forget their gold and silver.” (Seriously, God reminds them to rob the Egyptians blind, and says he’ll make sure the Egyptians are totally ok with it; Exodus 11:2)

“And remember,” God reminds Moses, “I am doing this so that you have cool stories to tell your grandkids. I could have let the Israelites go before all of these plagues, but what fun would that be?” (Exodus 11:9-10)

“Now, it is difficult for me to tell the difference between my chosen people and the Egyptians, so here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna go to all of the Israelites (there’s only… What? A couple million of you? (Exodus 12:37)) and tell them each to prepare a lamb and put its blood on the doorframe. Also, you aren’t just going to cook a lamb, you are going to prepare that lamb, and here’s how you are going to do it: (The below is copied and pasted, because I actually can’t make it more ridiculous than it already is) (Exodus 12:6-11)

6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

“Anyway, once that lamb is properly prepared, and your door marked, that’s how I’ll know you are one of my chosen people! Simple, right?”

And in the back of Moses’ head, surely he must have thought “You know, I am starting to have a few reservations about this plan…”

God interrupted Moses’ thoughts, continuing, “You know, I don’t just want stories told to your grandkids. This is too awesome for stories. Every year, you are going to have a bitchin’ party, and you are going to use it to remind everyone how awesome I am! Also, my parties aren’t just for a day, Moses. My parties last a full week!” (Exodus 12:14-16)

God wanted to show he was serious, so he killed the firstborn even of those in prison, because they didn’t have the good sense to go kill a lamb and paint their prison cell with blood. The shame of it!

After every household in Egypt, save for those of the Israelites, had lost a loved one, Pharaoh summoned Moses. “You win! Get the hell out of Egypt! We never wanted you here anyway! Oh, and when you are praying to your God, put in a good word for me, eh? That’d be cool.” (Exodus 12:32)

So the Israelites packed up and left, but not before taking all of the silver, gold, and clothing from Egypt! (Exodus 12:36)

“Remember,” said God. “You were slaves of Egypt for 430 years. Remember to tell your kids that number when you tell them the story of how awesome I am. 430 years! To the day!” (Exodus 12:40) “Oh, also, when eating the lambs for my bitchin’ party? Make sure ONLY circumcised people eat it. Seriously, check their penises. If they aren’t circumcised, no lamb for them. Hey, hey, are you listening to me? I’m serious here.”

Aaaaand we’re done with the plagues, so here is a good time to conclude part 2. In part 3, we find out that the Israelites have really, really, really, really short memories. I would say goldfish short, but studies have shown that goldfishes can be trained to swim through hoops for food, and they remember that trick longer than the Israelites remember (spoilers).

Part 3 is going to be fun.