Reviewing My Rants

What My Readers Have Said About My Rants

— with a few words in response —

by Ronald Bruce Meyer

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On Fri, 26 Sep 2003 I received the following e-mail:

If that picture on the internet is that of Ronald Bruce Meyer, he better stick to the radio!

Christianity will always win in the end, and I am ashamed of anyone who has such a grudge against any type of religion. I believe that we will go to a better place, upon our departure from this earth and I find it very sad that Ronald wouldn't want a chance to see this better place.

Good luck to you and God Bless You anyway!!!

— [Name withheld]

I replied as follows:

Dear Mr. —:

Thank you for your honest appraisal of my picture. Please tell me if insulting strangers is something Christians generally do, or if you did it on your own initiative. I'd really like to know.

As for your assertion that Christianity will always win, since Christianity hasn't always been around, I think you may be mistaken. Judaism has been around far longer, so I'd say it must carry the title of winner over Christianity — that is until you Christians realize your dream and eradicate and/or convert all the Jews. You made a good start in Nazi Germany. What happened? Did you lose faith?

As for carrying a grudge against religion, if you mean by that a long-standing resentment, you have characterized me correctly. I resent any form of slavery, physical or mental. I resent anyone who presumes to think for me or to make choices for me. I resent any religion that requires me to admire behavior in a God that I would despise in a man. And I despise any God who would kill his own son, torture his own followers, and inflict infinite punishment for finite offenses.

As for the "better" place you're going to, I urge you to go there without delay — I wouldn't dream of stopping you! But I suspect you are not quite so sure or you would be there already. Not only am I certain that a better place than life on earth does not exist, I think it is even suspect in theory. I have tried to imagine doing the things I love — for eternity, on and on, forever, over and over — and I start to wonder if that isn't the definition of hell, instead!

By the way, you need to improve your syntax and vocabulary a bit, if you're going to criticize me. You say you believe that we will go to a better place upon our departure from earth, but then you tell me I won't see it. Do you have the slightest notion of the meaning of the words you use?

I'm sure your wish for good luck is as sincere as the rest of your sarcastic message. But I'll take good friends and a good life over God's blessing any day!


-Ronald Bruce Meyer

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On Fri, 31 Oct 2003 I received the following e-mail:

You said animals don't have souls???? The Bible says they Eccles. 3:21 and the Bible says animals are no different from humans....both go down to the has NO advantage over Eccles. 3:19. And you say we should mistreat animals??? What Bible are you reading??

— [Name withheld]

I replied as follows:

Dear Mr. :—

I never endorsed mistreatment of animals: are you reading the same words I wrote?

I think I'm reading the same Bible you're reading. Doesn't this same Bible say (in Gen. 1:26),

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. [KJV]
Not being an expert exegete, I tend to look at supposedly holy texts with the same "show me" skepticism I use in reading secular texts, but it seems to me that God here is telling humanity that we can do with animals whatever we please. That is how the passage has been interpreted (especially by the Amish and other fundamentalist Christians) — ever since Genesis was forged out of conflicting documents (Jahvist and Elohist), of differing dates of composition, a couple of thousand years ago.

It is significant that you quote Ecclesiastes against me: you must know that Ecclesiastes is the most agnostic book in the Bible! The passages you cite demonstrate just that:

19- Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath [i.e., spirit]; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.
20- All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.
21- Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?
That sounds to me like skepticism about life after death. Ecclesiastes was written by an Alexandrian Jew about 200 B.C. or a little earlier. The original is even more irreligious, but it was later altered by orthodox Jews, as we deduce from internal evidence.

You might also know that, in the Genesis myth (2:7), not only did God (actually elohim, the gods) make Adam a living soul—

7- And the Lord God formed man (ha-adam) of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (nephesh hayyah).
—God also made the animals as living souls (Gen, 1:20)—
20- And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life (nephesh hayyah), and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
—yet the redactor(s) of Genesis made a false distinction, calling the animals merely living creatures, and bestowing a soul only on Adam!

I have to add that one of the Church Fathers, Origen (185-232), was far more generous in bestowing souls. He said all the stars and heavenly bodies are living, rational beings, having souls, and proves it with citations from Job and Isaiah (as well as from his own clerical reasoning), in his De Principiis:

Let us see what reason itself can discover respecting sun, moon, and stars. ... To arrive at a clearer understanding on these matters we ought first to inquire whether it is allowable to suppose that they are living and rational beings; then, whether their souls came into existence at the same time with their bodies, or seem to be anterior to them; and also whether, after the end of the world, .we are to understand that they are to be released from their bodies; and whether, as we cease to live, so they also will cease from illuminating the world. ... We think, then, that they may be designated as living beings, for this reason, that they are said to receive commandments from God, which is ordinarily the case only with rational beings: "I have given commandments to all the stars" (Isaiah 14:12), says the Lord." (De Principiis, Book I, 10; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1885, iv, 263.)
So it seems either every "living" thing has a soul, or nothing does.

The idea of the soul is problematical at best. What purpose does it serve? Where in the body is it located? We know that nothing in the human body exists without a purpose, even if a vestigial one (vestigial structures are a proof of evolution), but no one has been able to find where this soul thing is located. It was once believed that the os coccyx, the "nut" of the spinal column, was the soul or "resurrection bone," connected with Psalm 34:20.

The existence of this "resurrection bone" was accepted as an axiomatic truth by the early Christian and Islamic theologians and anatomists. In the Middle Ages the bone was called "Juden Knöchlein" (Jew-bone), but Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) — who lived one step ahead of the Inquisitors — failed to find the "resurrection bone" in his dissections, which caused a scandal.

You'll forgive me if I doubt that humans or animals have such a useless thing as a "soul" or "spirit" (in the theological sense of the words). But, soul or no soul, I never said mistreatment of animals was acceptable in any way. Christians do.

On Sun, 2 Nov 2003 I received this follow-up e-mail on my commentary:

OK....I am sorry for saying you said mistreating of animals in right. Seem to say it in your my opinion. Anyways do you know what dominion means? The English word of what dominion means is not the same as God's word, you know that right?? Maybe you should look in a Hewbrew dictionary and see what dominion means since the first Bible was written in Hebrew. Reading definitions for the Bible in English terms are incorrect, because the Bible wasn't intended to be English words. God has dominion and control over us...I don't see God mistreating or "eating" humans. How can you say the chapter of Ecclesiates in the Bible is agnostic??? God gave instructions to write that Bible. Everything in that Bible is correct. How can you listen to one part of the Bible and not another part. Such as God gave us "dominion" over animals and then ignore the part where He says man has no advantage over animals?

I dont understand. If Eccles 3:19 is correct (just image that it is) then dominion doesn't mean we have control to do whatever we want with animals. We are to protect and watch over them for God. Animals do have souls....there are ALOT of Bible verses that say animals are in Heaven. But I just dont get it. I'm sorry. But a loving, caring, compassionate God wants us to make an animal suffer just to eat an animal body when humans don't need to eat the animal. I would understand if we NEEDED to eat the animal, but we don't and you are saying God says kill animals to satisfy human greed. I'm sorry but that's what it is. Greed. In the Garden of Eden, we only ate fruits until Eve ate the bad apple. So really God wanted us to eat fruits, not meat. But im sorry, all humans want to live in the fall, right??? That's what we are living in....the FALL. The fall is something satan did and man wants to continue to let satan have his way.

But I understand you dont want to believe animals are the same as you. Who would? But it's the 21 century and man do "mistreat" animals and that is wrong. You know they do in factory farms. Don't go to one, but take a job at one and you will see they mistreat those animals. You eating meat is causing the "mistreatment" of animals. Do God approve of that? Does Heaven have factory farms? Does Heaven have butchers killing animals so we can eat them in Heaven. I would hope The Lord's Prayer says.....Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. But anyways I kinda get what you are you get any of what I am saying or trying to say??

If it wasn't for a Pig.....I wouldn't know the meaning of Love. My Grandmother died and I had a Pig who was nonjudgemental and who never critcized me actually helped me cope with my Grandmother's death. May sound wierd, but a Pig was the only being that saved my life from killing myself when my Grandmother died. My family never knew my hurt after my Grandmother died, but a Pig could tell I was hurting. My family could care less, all they thought about was my dead Grandmother's money. Animals may not be intelligent creatures or beings, but they are non-judgement and they will accept anybody regardless of race or disability. And you are telling me that dominion towards these loving creatures means "treat them anyway we want" WOW. Sorry but I could NEVER eat a Pig or even say they have no right to life. We didn't create animals.

— [Name withheld]

Dear Mr. :—

I'm guessing you don't "get" irony, so I won't belabor whether or not I said mistreating animals was right. I only said mistreating animals was "Christian" — that is, biblical — and supported by 2000 years of Christian exegesis and history.

[—name—] if you're going to argue with me, do you have to make my part so easy? Here's a hint: be careful not to say too much!

Referring to the Bible as one book tells me you have no idea what the word "bible" means. The word is a plural diminutive of biblos (book), and means "the little books," which is what the Bible is: a collection of books written at different times by different authors. But "Bible" is understood as a singular noun, and in this sense the "sacred books" of other peoples — Egyptians, Persians, Hindus, etc. — are "Bibles," too.

How can I listen to one part of the Bible and not the another? People do it all the time! When religious people want to condemn something they don't like, they find a passage they can put to the purpose; when they want to prove that God is Love, they find another passage. As Michael Scott Earl pointed out, let's say a politician gives a speech condemning his opponent and saying he would like to see his opponent killed. So the news media calls him on it and says that's a beastly thing to say. The candidate then says, "Oh, you took what I said out of context. I made that speech on Tuesday, but on Monday I gave a speech and said I really liked my opponent." The Bible is just like that.

Saying you "don't see God mistreating ... humans" tells me you haven't read your own "sacred book." Here are some examples:

* God condemning all humans for the "sin" of one (Original Sin)
* God kills all species because he made one of them imperfect (The Flood)
* God commanding human sacrifice
* God hardening Pharaoh's heart as an excuse for punishing the Egyptians with plagues, and murdering all the first-born in Egypt (what did they do to deserve that?)
* God massacring whole nations
* God sanctioning slavery and rape
* God commanding the killing of witches (FYI: there is no such thing as a witch)
* God decreeing death for idolatry, heresy and blasphemy (that is, for imaginary crimes)
* God decreeing death for breaking the Sabbath or for not keeping Passover
* God decreeing death for failing to be circumcised (ouch!)
* God decreeing death for sacrificing without a priest's help
* God decreeing death for touching a "holy" thing or for entering a holy place
* God decreeing death for sexual intercourse during a woman's period...
Should I go on?

Don't these qualify as mistreatment? I'm sure there's an explanation for them, but "God's ways are not man's ways" will not do. That's tantamount to giving yourself a moral lobotomy. How can you seriously admire in a God the same behavior you would despise in a man? Maybe we should look up the definition of "mistreating," too?

And that brings me to your challenge to look up the Hebrew (or Hewbrew) word for "dominion." I could, of course, but it really doesn't matter. I'll tell you why.

Whether God's Word was originally in Hebrew or in any other language, the fact that it had to be translated demonstrates a fatal weakness in the process of communication between God and humanity. "Human language," said Thomas Paine, "is local and changeable, and is therefore incapable of being used as the means of unchangeable and universal information [i.e., revelation]. ... Scarcely any two nations speak the same language, or understand each other; and as to translations, every man who knows anything of languages knows that it is impossible to translate from one language to another, not only without losing a great part of the original, but frequently of mistaking the sense...."

If "dominion" doesn't mean ruling power, authority, control, or somebody's area of influence, then the translators, under the guidance of God, used the wrong word. And that means 2000 years of Christian cruelty to animals were all a horrible mistake, which God did nothing to correct. The RSPCA was opposed by the churches precisely because it was contrary to scripture!

I'm not going to argue vegetarianism with you. The Old Testament is very particular about how to kill animals for food, but it does not condemn the killing of animals for food.

As for living in the "Fall," as you call it, let's hear it for degradation! By every measure imaginable, humanity is living a better and more moral life now than ever before in history. We have longer lives, better health and health care, better sanitation, more free time, more wealth, more rights, more equality, and more social progress (which means we're more moral now, as a species, than we ever were) — and on and on. If you disagree, please name a specific time and place in history when these conditions I've listed were better than they are now.

The very fact that women today live longer than men is a testament to godless scientific progress in virtually eliminating the chief killer of women: childbirth. That's not something any god gave to us — or, of he did, he took his sweet time about it! If this is the Fall — if the world we live in is Satan's work — so be it. That only proves which imaginary being is to be thanked!

You are correct about one thing: I don't believe animals are the same as humans. But neither do you, or you would put the lion on trial for eating the gazelle! I do think humans are more important than animals, but that doesn't give us the prerogative to mistreat them. On the contrary, we are obligated to protect them. I believe stewardship of the earth is a human obligation, but it seems somehow to be missing from God's Word. It's certainly missing from the great religious doctrines of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Leave it to us doubters of the Sky-God to come up with the first organizations for the protection of animals and the environment. But this was possible only after many people felt it safe to doubt the Bible!

As for the pig that saved your life, if you believe it's true, it probably was — for you. But I don't have to believe it because I didn't see it. And I never suggested that humans created animals. In fact, your statement begs the question: I don't believe anything "created" animals. Instead, animals evolved from ancestral forms. Creation implies the making of something out of nothing. That is not only a logical impossibility, but it is beyond human experience.

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On Sun, 30 Nov 2003 I received the following e-mail:

Mr. Meyer:

Looks like you have more faith in Evolution's god of chance than in Creation's God of Design. It takes much more faith to believe in the former than the latter. Even the evolutionists are now saying that things were started ex nihilo (out of nothing): exactly what the bible has been stating all along (in Genesis). You had better read The Book because it is a matter of life and death. It is a matter of your eternal destiny. Please don't play with fire, it will get you burned!

— [Name withheld]

Dear —:

You have me at a disadvantage: I don't know which essay you are criticizing. No matter. If you are not just preaching at me, but truly seek understanding, maybe I can help.

First, faith mean belief without evidence. I believe the theory of evolution because the evidence is compelling, not because evidence is lacking. There is no "god of chance" in evolution. There is no god in evolution whatsoever. I take it that frustrates you.

Second, evolution by natural selection and genetic mutation does indeed depend on chance, but only in a restricted sense: the alphabet of evolution has a limited number of letters. If a species can't be spelled with the letters in existence, it doesn't develop. If a species is spelled with letters that don't follow the grammar and syntax of life, it doesn't survive. Chance has parameters, you see — it isn't blind.

Third, for the sake of argument, let's assume the universe and everything in it, right down to the tiniest microbe on this tiny planet, was created by "Creation's God of Design." I'm eager to learn from you the scientific answers to the following 10 questions:

     1. Please state the Theory of Creation — without reference to evolution.
     2. How exactly is matter created out of nothing (ex nihilo)? (I'm looking for a scientific explanation here.)
     3. Please give some proofs of creation that can be observed and tested (again, without reference to evolution).
     4. Please describe how your Theory of Creation is scientifically superior to those of the Ancient Egyptians, the Indians of the Asian subcontinent, the Ancient Chinese, the Ancient Greeks, the Polynesians, the Druids of England, the Indians of the Americas and the Babylonians.
     5. In order to qualify as a bona fide theory, the Theory of Creation must be falsifiable. Please list for me some conditions under which, if demonstrated to be true, the Theory of Creation would fail. (Please answer without reference to evolution.)
     6. Please explain the diversity of species, and why some are so genetically similar, according to the Theory of Creation. If all species were specifically created, why are there so many of them? Couldn't we do with fewer? (I'm looking for a scientific explanation here, so, again, please answer without reference to evolution.)
     7. Please explain, according to the Theory of Creation, the coherence among many different dating methods pointing to an old earth and life on earth for a long time — for example: radioactivity, tree rings, ice cores, corals, supernovas — from astronomy, biology, physics, geology, chemistry and archeology (again, without reference to evolution).
     8. Please explain, according to the Theory of Creation, the chronological distribution of plant and animal fossils in the geologic strata (without reference to evolution).
     9. Please explain, according to the Theory of Creation, the present distribution of animals and plants in the world — not just how they could have arrived there, but why only there. (Examples: marsupials found only in Australia and nearby islands, tomatoes and potatoes native only to the Americas.)
     10. Please explain why a plain reading of the evidence in nature supports the theory of evolution, but the Judeo-Christian holy book (as some Christians interpret it) disagrees. If the Bible is God's word, why would He confuse us with a contrary revelation?

This reply is getting rather long, but I must briefly address your two other points:

Even the evolutionists are now saying
that things were started ex nihilo
(out of nothing): exactly what the
bible has been stating all along
(in Genesis).
Please tell me which evolutionists are saying this because no scientist in a relevant field would make such a statement. The Big Bang theory is generally accepted, but it is based on evidence: and it doesn't say matter was created out of nothing. Genesis is based on Babylonian legend and, although it does say the universe had a beginning, that's where the similarity ends. In science, the process is as important as the conclusion; in theology, only the conclusion matters, not how you reached it. The ancient Hebrews made a lucky guess, but that's all it was — a guess, not a science.
You had better read The Book because
it is a matter of life and death.
It is a matter of your eternal
destiny. Please don't play with
fire, it will get you burned!
We really must work on your social skills. I assume you are warning me to read the Judeo-Christian holy book and threatening me with eternal torment in hell if I don't. First, how do you know I haven't read it and simply not believed it? Second, if God really had something to tell me, couldn't the Almighty have done better than to use easily misinterpreted, easily mistranslated language to reveal himself to me?

Third, if God created everything, he created me: my body and my brain. He knows everything, so he knows what evidence it would take to make me believe. But, as Woody Allen quipped, he must be an underachiever because he just hasn't done enough, or cared enough, to make it so. A simple word from his eternal mouth would be sufficient. But I guess I wasn't worth the effort.

Maybe he's on holiday?

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On Tue, 27 Jan 2004 I received the following e-mail:

Mr. Meyer:

First of all you are very wrong!!! Calvin had nothing at all to do with the five points of Calvinism!!! T he five points were drawn up at the synod of Dort which was in response to the points drawn up by the Arminians at the Remonstrance. By the way, both were written long after both Calvin and Arminius were dead!!! Get your facts straight before you put them in print please. You have misled quite a few people already, so you should print a retraction.

— [Name withheld]

Dear —:

Thank you for commenting. Sorry to disappoint you, but I haven't misled anyone.

John Calvin worked out his Five Points in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536, 1559), but they were not so neatly formulated. The Synod of Dordrecht [Dort] (1618-19) was convened 54 years after Calvin's death to settle the Arminian controversy in the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands. It seems the Arminians had their own Five Points and both sets couldn't be right. Calvin's were accepted, along with 32 others, and the Synod detailed them in the "Canons of Dordrecht."

TULIP, or Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints, while not originated by Calvin, were taught by him during the Reformation and are therefore irrevocably associated with his name. Calvin saw the Bible as a code of law, and recognized no distinction between moral precepts and civil law — much like the Islamic sharia and hadith, supposedly based on the Quran, are used today as models of civil law based on religious doctrine.

Saying that Calvin "had nothing at all to do with the five points of Calvinism" is not only misleading, it is simply untrue.

Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance writer.