Old Testament and New Testament history

I’d previously posted a link to the wonderful online video lectures from Yale University, in particular the course on “Introduction to the Old Testament” by Christine Hayes. I’m now about half-way through the course on “New Testament History and Literature” by Dale B. Martin. This makes a good companion to the Christine Hayes videos. I’ve posted both videos below for your convenience :)

Do note that a significant time-commitment is required to go through all these videos, but the rewards are many. Go for it!

Introduction to the Old Testament With Christine Hayes:

New Testament History and Literature:

The origin and development of the Old Testament

I love how certain universities make available a number of free resources such as lectures. One resource, in particular, that I’ve really enjoyed has been Yale University’s “Introduction to the Old Testament” by Christine Hayes. There are many hours of video material from this introductory course, and I would recommend that these are augmented through further personal research.

The course description:

This course examines the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) as an expression of the religious life and thought of ancient Israel, and a foundational document of Western civilization. A wide range of methodologies, including source criticism and the historical-critical school, tradition criticism, redaction criticism, and literary and canonical approaches are applied to the study and interpretation of the Bible. Special emphasis is placed on the Bible against the backdrop of its historical and cultural setting in the Ancient Near East.

Fascinating stuff!

According to Wikipedia:

Christine Hayes is the Robert F. and Patricia Ross Weis Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, and one of the foremost American academics focusing on talmudic-midrashic studies and Classical Judaica. She is also a specialist in the History and Literature of Judaism in Late Antiquity. Before her appointment at Yale, she served as the Assistant Professor of Hebrew Studies, Department of Near Eastern Studies, at Princeton University from 1993 to 1996. She has published several books and numerous articles in American and international academic journals, and has received academic accolades. Her class on the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was selected for the pilot program of “Yale University Open Courses,”  and has subsequently been one of the most watched online courses about Classical Judaica.

Richard Dawkins attacked from all sides

There are too many people who deliberately misrepresent Dawkins, be they right wing, left or anything in between. Or if it’s not deliberate then at least indicators of biases, laziness and shallow depth of intellect. Nick Cohen as a good piece in The Spectator regarding these folks: 

To me, reason and logic are clear, and for anyone to disregard these, despite gentle persuasion, is enough for me to lose patience with them. They are beyond reason.

Jeff Coyne has a pretty good follow-up to Cohen’s article:

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2013

An Atheist Muslim’s Perspective on the ‘Root Causes’ of Islamist Jihadism and the Politics of Islamophobia

This is a link to a blog article from Ali A. Rizvi, an ex-Muslim, who clearly explains the fundamental weaknesses of Islam, and highlights the misinterpretation, perhaps misdirection, by those that defend Islam.

This quote from the article is important as it demonstrates the misnomer that is “the religion of peace”:

I also understand that extremism in any ideology isn’t a distortion of that ideology. It is an informed, steadfast adherence to its fundamentals, hence the term “fundamentalism.” When you think of a left-wing extremist, do you think of a greedy capitalist? Would you imagine a right-wing extremist to be dedicated to government-funded social welfare programs? The “extremists” and strict followers of the Jain faith, which values the life of every being, including insects, don’t kill more than their average co-religionists. Instead, they avoid eating foods stored overnight so as not to kill even the microorganisms that may have collected in the meantime. In a true religion of peace, the “extremists” would be nonviolent pacifists to an extreme (and perhaps annoying) degree, not the opposite.

Kulvinder Matharu - coprightExposing the adherents of Islam to critical thinking, to reasoned thinking, to rationality, will help to expose the evils, brutality and irrationality inherent in Islam. It isn’t going to be easy as most who defend or apologise for Islam are probably not aware of Islam’s DNA and may not be interested in exploring further after having bought into the “religion of peace” lie.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2013

Tracie Harris

Over the last few years I’d been watching video clips of Matt Dillahunty, mostly of him hosting The Atheist Experience. However, it’s to my shame that, until very recently, I hadn’t really paid much attention to Tracie Harris who is one of the co-hosts of The Atheist Experience.

My only excuse is that the video clips I had previously searched for were focused around Matt, and it was only when I started watching the full length episodes of The Atheist Experience that I appreciated the clarity, precision and coherence of Tracie’s arguments. She goes the extra mile to fully understand what the guests are trying to say but, being no fool, will quickly challenge the guests if they cannot construct a reasonable argument.

Do check out her work. Brilliant stuff. Here are her “dice in jars” videos demonstrating various fallacies:

Excerpts from The Atheist Experience #602

If you have time, say 2 hours, here’s a discussion panel and an interview with special guest Tracie Harris:

TWL LIVE! – Special Guest Tracie Harris

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2013

Is Nick Clegg a hypocrite, a liar, and a coward?

The BBC reports that Nick Clegg, an atheist, raises his children as Catholics:

At face value, this means that Clegg is knowingly lying to his children. Instead, Clegg should be raising his children to think critically so that his children can make up their own minds and be armed to tackle the nonsense in this world.

Let’s be clear about this; I’m not condemning Clegg for sending his children to a Catholic school. I’m condemning him for raising his children as Catholics when he, himself, is a declared atheist. In particular, if the BBC report is true, what does this tell you of Clegg? That he is a hypocrite, a liar, and a coward, running away from making the hard choices.

Having just checked more online, it appears that Clegg’s hypocrisy and dishonesty on this subject is common knowledge. Not sure how I missed it all before. Perhaps Clegg misspoke or was misinterpreted about raising his children as Catholics?

Regardless, the injustices, brutality and immorality of religion are well known; Christianity/Catholicism, along with Islam, being particularly infamous:

Perhaps by exposure to these evils Clegg’s children will realise the true nature of religion. After all, his children will learn that the bible calls their father a liar, an antichrist, and that he will be damned to hell forever.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2013

What is atheism?

Someone asked me what values “atheism” had, what philosophies it had. That’s an interesting question but the answer is rather simple.

I am an atheist; simply a person who is convinced that there is no god. What makes me so sure that there is no god? Well, I certainly have no method to prove the non-existence of a god, and I do allow for the possibly that a god may exist, but I’ve not found any credible evidence for the existence of a god, and the world looks exactly how it should if there was no god. I therefore conclude that the existence of a god is unlikely. This just happens to align quite closely with Richard Dawkins’s own position of “6” along the spectrum of theistic probability.

To elaborate, I claim the non-existence of a god with the same confidence that I claim that there are no fairies living at the bottom of the garden and that there are no invisible dragons living in my garage. An atheistic viewpoint should be the default position, and other viewpoints taken when evidence allows.

There is no need to add any other philosophies or viewpoints to the word “atheism”; atheism does not dictate or imply a way of life. Recent attempts to redefine and expand what atheism means, well-meaning though they are, cause confusion and create division. Whilst it is a good idea for atheist communities to exchange thoughts, re-branding atheism into a set of philosophies is not the way forward and I distance myself from such re-branding exercises.

For myself, I recognise the special time that I am alive, and I intend to make the most of what little time I have. I empathise with those who suffer and I do what I can to alleviate suffering. I seek joy in myself and in others. But these traits are not unique to any single philosophy; the religious experience these as well. But I am also rather interested in explaining to others why belief in the existence of a god is not rational, and why religions with their unjust teachings should be abandoned; such debates can be rather interesting but mostly unsatisfactory as not many people are able to abandon a framework that has been indoctrinated into them since childhood. But again, none of this is required to be an atheist.

So, the answer is rather simple. Atheism is simply the position that there is no god. That’s all.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2013

States that discriminate against non-believers

There’s a Washington Post article that has also been reprinted in part at richarddawkins.net. Both are shown below.

The seven countries where the state can execute you for being atheist:

  1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/10/the-seven-countries-where-the-state-can-execute-you-for-being-atheist/
  2. http://richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2012/12/12/the-seven-countries-where-the-state-can-execute-you-for-being-atheist

Whilst the map in the Washington Post article certainly shows that the more extreme forms of discrimination and persecution against non-believers are in Islamic states, it fails to show the subtle undercurrent of discrimination found in other states such as the Republic of Ireland and the US state of Arkansas, for example, where laws may preclude you from taking part in the democratic process or be refused proper medical care. Additionally, other forms of indirect discrimination arise where special concessions and privileges are granted to religious groups thereby unfairly disadvantaging non-believers. The referenced International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) report “Freedom of Thought 2012 Global Report on Discrimination Atheists and the Nonreligious” provides a far more detailed and balanced picture of the extent of discrimination and persecution against non-believers. The list of guilty states may surprise you.

Further details on the IHEU report can be found at their website:

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2012

Saudi Arabia, where scum rule

There is much junk, much nonsense and much evil within Saudi Arabia. Here’s one example:

Of course there are other countries and organisations that align themselves with Saudi Arabia’s policies and my initial feeling is one of detest. The article does mention some signs of hope and I am fully supportive of any initiatives that can bring in justice and expel evils.

There are non-believers in Saudi Arabia, but it isn’t easy:

Religion has abused and will continue to abuse whenever it is in a position to influence and weld power.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2012