Sourcecode

Herbert Armstrong can be seen as bad source code of particularly malicious aggressive religious malware, difficult to detect and even more difficult to remove.

 On the False Prophet Ronald Weinland blog, an anonymous contributor commented:

I am ashamed for becoming caught up in this. I am very naive and trusting, and was really hoping for a better more just world, and excited to have a sound framework to live by. But that leaves people open for being taken advantage of. I have learned now to be yourself and trust your instincts no matter what anyone says, I just hope it is not too late to rebuild a life.

 Those of us who have been infected with the Armstrongism malware understand and empathize with this perspective. We can heartily recommend Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias from Bay Tree Publishing as a recovery and guard against cult malware. It has the best in-depth coverage of the religious cult malware of any resource and can serve to inoculate unwary users from the nasty effects of religious malpractice hackers, such as Roderick Meredith, Dennis Luker, Jim Franks and others dedicated to spreading debilitating religious viruses and worms to the public.

The original source code for this religious malware stems from Herbert Armstrong, who used snippets of script from various religious hackers of previous decades and centuries. He was no Biblical coding expert, but he was able to cut and paste from various illicit sources like some novice teenager unqualified to produce viable products but plagiarized source in order to create havoc and chaos. Although, at first, he set upon his discoveries in the Portland Public Library, his repertoire, as we will see later, was built upon a foundation of another whose influence can be seen in his works and was expanded by the pseudo-intellectual, Dr. Herman Hoeh.

Some may wonder how the Source Code is built. It’s not that difficult to understand, even for the naive novice unfamiliar with the processes to create illegitimate applications destructive to their users. The basic process is to build on snippets that are created out of the imagination. Once someone creates the snippet, another comes along and quotes the first “creator”. Then the first creator quotes the second source, forming a double-bond of self-referential substantiation with no substance at all. This is scalable to a much larger community of sources.

John D. Keyser at Mysteries of the Bible website, in the article The Coronation Stone — Jeremiah in Ireland, debunks the whole idea of Jeremiah being in Ireland, ably assisted by Dr. Greg Doudna’s Showdown at Big Sandy: Youthful Creativity Confronts Bureaucratic Inertia At An Unconventional Bible College in East Texas. John Keyser debunks the myth that Jeremiah was in Ireland, establishing that the premise that he  (in the company of his scribe Baruch) took King Zedekiah’s daughter to Ireland where she founded a line of Davidic kings that has continued on down to this day. It never happened. Herbert Armstrong wrote in The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy wrote:

Then, in 569 B.C. (date of Jeremiah’s transplanting), an elderly, white-haired patriarch, sometimes referred to as a “saint,” came to Ireland. With him was the princess daughter of an eastern king and a companion called “Simon Brach,” spelled in different histories as Breck, Berech, Brach, or Berach. The princess had a Hebrew name Tephi — a pet name — her full name being TEA-TEPHI.

Modern literature of those who recognize our national identity has confused this Tea-Tephi, a daughter of Zedekiah, with an earlier Tea, a daughter of Ith, who lived in the days of David.

This royal party included the son of the king of Ireland who had been in Jerusalem at the time of the siege. There he had become acquainted with Tea-Tephi. He married her shortly after 585 — when the city fell. Their young son, now about 12 years of age, accompanied them to Ireland. Besides the royal family, Jeremiah brought with them some remarkable things, including a harp, AN ARK, and a wonderful STONE CALLED “LIA-FAIL,” or “STONE OF DESTINY.”

….many kings in the history of Ireland, Scotland, and England have been coronated over this stone — including the present queen. The stone rests today in Westminster Abbey in London, and the coronation chair is built over and around it. A sign beside it labels it “Jacob’s pillar-stone” (Gen. 28:18).

The royal husband of the Hebrew princess Tea was given the TITLE HERREMON upon ascending the throne of his father. This Herremon has usually been confused with a much earlier Gede the Herremon in David’s day — who married his uncle Ith’s daughter Tea. The son of this later king Herremon and Hebrew princess continued on the throne of Ireland and THIS SAME DYNASTY CONTINUED UNBROKEN through all the kings of Ireland; was OVERTURNED and transplanted again in Scotland; again OVERTURNED and moved to London, England, where this same dynasty continues today in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II….

In view of the linking together of biblical history, prophecy, and Irish history, can anyone deny that this Hebrew princess was the daughter of King Zedekiah of Judah and therefore heir to the throne of David? 

Well, yes we can!

It’s all nonsense.

Here’s the answer from John D. Keyser:

No References! In preparation for the writing of this article, and several others on the royal house of Britain, I searched out and read literally DOZENS of books written by British-Israelites in order to more accurately understand the BASIS for the Jeremiah/Tea-Tephi legend so eloquently penned by Herbert Armstrong. I also consulted primary and secondary sources on the Irish and Scottish annals.

To my surprise, I found that the British-Israelite books all REPEAT the same Tea-Tephi story (with slight variations), each aggressively claiming that the story is found in the ancient annals. In my research I have NOT FOUND a single British-Israelite book that actually gives a REFERENCE to WHERE in the Irish and Scottish annals the supporting material may be found! Armstrong’s booklet does not — nor does Joseph Allen’s earlier book on the subject.

As also discovered by Greg Doudna (former Ambassador College student, now with the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University), “they all seem to draw from previous British-Israel writings. They speak so confidently it sounds like there must be something in the annals to which they refer. The NAMES mentioned in the Tea-Tephi legend appear in the annals, true enough, but I have discovered they are TOTALLY DIFFERENT PERSONS IN THE ANNALS than the British-Israel legend makes them out to be. The annals simply don’t say what the British-Israel literature, or the Worldwide Church of God, SAY they say. It is a LEGEND that someone somewhere within British-Israel circles began, stated it as fact, and it has been repeated as fact within British-Israel circles ever since, down to the present day in which the Worldwide Church of God repeats it to millions. It may make an interesting story, but IT IS COMPLETELY FABRICATED.” (“Afterword on British-Israelism”, p. 121).

 The bottom line here is that one “expert” historian quotes another and that one quotes the first and a third one quotes the previous two and so on and so forth. It’s like an urban legend where you can never find the original source. Scratch that — it’s not like an urban legendit is an urban legend. This is a #1 law for religious malware: If you don’t have the source, just make something up, then find someone else to quote you and then quote that as a legitimate source to make the whole thing legitimate. No dishonesty has been harmed in the making of the myth.

British Israelism is another example of this phenomenon. As nearly all Armstrongists know by this time, originally — and though there may have been a few others who threw around the idea previously — Richard Brothers was the primary source of British Israelism. Oh sure, there were predecessors as is told by The True and Noble Origins of the Anglo-Israel Message, but Richard Brothers was a focal point, with his first publication, released in 1794, The Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies & Times. The prologue had this to say:

First wrote under the direction of the LORD GOD & published by His Sacred Command, it being the first sign of Warning for the Benefit of all Nations; Containing with other great and remarkable things not revealed to any other Person on Earth, the Restoration of the Hebrews to Jerusalem by the year 1798 under their revealed Prince and Prophet. London, Printed in the year of Christ, 1794.

He only had 4 years to wait before his prophecy failed. The rest of us have had to wait a lot longer.

It should be noted that Richard Brothers, in connection with his odd ideas of British Israelism, was committed to an insane asylum as being a danger to himself and others. Thus it is that British Israelism was popularized by a kook madman.

It took John Harden Allen with his Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright published in 1902 to truly give Herbert Armstrong the fodder he needed as he preached the True Gospel as The End Time Apostle and Great False Prophet, the source code basis for the Key to Prophecy. Low and behold, major portions of it were plagiarized for The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, all of which has the curious propensity to prompt us to recall the riddle posed by Professor Maximillian Arturo, played by John Rhys-Davies, in the science fiction television show, Sliders:

Why doesn’t the sun set on the British Empire?

Because God can’t trust the British in the dark!

British Israelism was the source code to set the stage for the angst ridden prophecies of hyperbole, aptly described in the November-December 2012 Church of God Seventh Day Bible Advocate article, It’s Doomsday Again!

Written into the folk memory of all peoples is the concept of an “end”. It may be a subconscious memory of the worldwide destruction of the great Flood. But disasters do happen and failed predictions of such an end abound.

The article notes:

Such fearsome factors can be found in Scripture and are highlighted by most who write about prophecy, often with a barely suppressed sense of glee!

As it turns out, fear of gloom and doom are big business:

Many prophecy buffs are excited by the thought of the end.

If you are still wondering about the source code which produced Herbert Armstrong, one might consider “Questions and Answers” in the latest Bible Advocate:

Andrew N. Dugger became editor of the Bible Advocate magazine in 1914 and a popular president of the General Conference (1921-27; 29-30). He injected futurism into the Church’s prophetic interpretation, and championed futurist doctrine amid the controversy that led to the 1933 division between Stanberry and Salem.

In Summary, Elder Dugger believed 1) the two-horned beast would be a revival Roman Church, enforcing its mark of Sunday keeping on Sabbath observers; 2) the Church of God’s main task was to give the third angel’s message, warning believers against the mark of the beast; 3) the seven plagues were literal and future judgments upon those who received the mark; 4) the giving of the third angel’s message and the outpouring of the plagues would lead to Christ’s return; and 5) Christ’s descent from heaven to receive His kingdom would occur in the midst of Armageddon.

Elder Dugger’s argument for the imminent fulfillment of his end-time prophecies in the 1920s, 30s and 40s led the Church to become disinterested in his failed version of them. For more than a generation, the Church struggled to recapture its true mission to preach salvation in Christ and His grace alone, rather than serve as a prognosticator of events.

The Church’s return to its heritage of preaching Christ and His advent without enigmatic add-ons was reflected in its doctrinal revisions of 1994 and 2006, which dropped the futurist predictions and suppositions that prevailed for much of the past century.

Elder Robert Coulter

It is difficult to imagine that the fiery preachments of Andrew N. Dugger did not impress the impressionable Herbert Armstrong as he began on his quest for ministerial truth. The extremism of futurist ideas of Andrew Dugger impressed on Armstrong’s impressionable young mind was enough to provide the source code upon which to build the religious malware foundation of the heretical extreme cult religion. Apparently, the Church of God Seventh Day eventually outgrew it, while Armstrongists remained trapped in the eternal childishness of seeking the thrills of thinking they have special knowledge of what comes next. This foolishness has spun off over 700 versions of the original malware, just waiting to infect the uninoculated unsuspecting innocent.

Protect yourself: Prevent damage by avoiding downloading any more malware from the Internet pages of the UCG, LCG, CoGWA and the whole host of religious malware servers.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t allow them to charge for the service.

Daniel 9

Herbert W(olf) Armstrong is proved wrong again by Daniel 9 and the inconvenient proof cannot be ignored. Herbert Armstrong lied to all of us, claiming that Matthew 24 and Revelation is needed to understand the passage, but the text itself disproves this in Daniel 9:21-23 —

Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.

 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.

At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.

Unless an angel of God lied, by the time he was finished, Daniel was going to understand the vision / prophecy.

Now, of course, skeptics can claim that the Scripture was written after the fact, but that still works for this passage — it is fulfilled long ago and there is no future fulfilment for our time.

There’s no reason to make it harder than it is (except for psychopathic scoundrels using it to make money and increase their swelling egos by getting away with yet another con game).

First of all, the timeline seems to be Daniel 9 was written some time around 539 B.C. or so, in the first year of Darius — a full 12 years after Daniel 8: There is no connection to the events described in Daniel 8 and it stands on its own with no connection to Daniel 9. Historians seem to agree that the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 begin around 457 B.C., the date of the edict of Artaxerxes to Ezra for the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Ezra 7:11-26; 9:9). This begins the 7 weeks of years (a day for a year) for the 49 years rebuilding of Jerusalem. The 62 weeks of years equal to 434 years from the time of the rebuilding of Jerusalem to the baptism of Jesus: The period of time leading up to “Messiah the Prince” (Daniel 9:26). This leaves one week (7 years). Every one agrees on the three and a half years of the ministry of Jesus Christ up to the time he was “cut off in the midst of the week”. This leaves the other half week of a day for a year of another three and a half years. This leaves a gap for those who want to play with numbers for the sake of their own false prophecies.

Herbert Armstrong, assisted by Herman L. Hoeh, devised a silly idea: There was a huge prophetic gap of nearly 2,000 years for that last three and a half years to create a vacuum into which the Great Tribulation is sucked to fill in the last of the 70 weeks prophecy. This, of course, is utter nonsense. The explanation is Occam Razor’s simple.

The last three and a half years of the prophetic week of seven years to confirm the covenant between Israel and “the one who is to come” is the time from the death of Jesus Christ to the death of Stephan (Acts 7). This completes the 70 weeks prophecy. At this point, the New Covenant is confirmed with Israel and the gospel is begun to the Gentiles to go forth to the whole world.

No other explanation is needed.

No other explanation should be applied.

This also fits in with the 40 years of trial of the Jews from 30 A.D. to 70 A.D. when the Temple was destroyed once and for all.

This is yet another nail in the coffin of Armstrongism which should remain dead and buried as we go forth and expose the fraud for what it is.

The prophecy of Daniel 9 is irrelevant for Armstrongism because it does not support their manic doomsday prophetic scenarios. It is about confirming the (New) Covenant with the House of Israel. That was fulfilled in the First Century A.D. and is not a part and cannot be a part of the so-called end days prophecies.

There is a prophecy in Daniel which may very well be relevant to Herbert Armstrong and his kook cult ideas — Daniel 5:

:23 …the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:
:24 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written.
:25 And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
:26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
:27 TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
:28 PERES; Thy kingdom is divided

While the prophecy was not written directly to Herbert Armstrong and his followers, it has significance for today:

  1. For all the talk, God has not been glorified;
  2. The Armstrongist kingdom has been numbered — as in its days are numbered — and it is finished;
  3. Armstrongism has been weighed in the balance and found wanting;
  4. The Armstrongist kingdom is divided into about 700 pieces.

As Dennis Diehl pointed out recently, Armstrongism is just plain tired: The life, energy and joy has gone out of it. It’s like a very old diseased decrepit man on his death bed, cold and alone, without any real hope or support — a predatory criminal hated for his abusive crimes against his own “family” — using blood money his whole life to run with the rich and famous, looking to be intelligent, but having little more insight than a cobra — a predator with no empathy or conscience. It is barely hanging on, living off the remnants of past glory days filled with wine and roses, now in the dead of winter with little hope for the future except for the depressing end of it all.

No, Daniel 9 has no relevance to Armstrongism and Armstrongism is looking for the long slow death of entropy whose end is not far away.

Daniel Praying

Lost Prophecy

Churches of God and Their Lost Prophecies. Click to enlarge.

Here we are 7 years later at the anniversary of the first one and a second hurricane has been battering New Orleans. The Armstrongists are delighted at the death, destruction, devastation of the “sinners” being punished as being the descendants of a Lost Tribe of Israel who are not obeying God. It would seem like a fulfilled prophecy of some sort, but it just isn’t. In fact, it’s worse than a false prophecy from false prophets — it’s lost prophecy.

 Amos 3:7

Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

God did nothing to reveal much of anything to the Armstrongists claiming to be His servants — whether they claimed to be prophets, End Time Apostles or mere Evangelists and bungled future news entirely, signing the prognostications “In Jesus’ Name”. One would think that Christ would be mighty irritated with those who claimed to speak in his name and gave false prophecies.

But it’s worse than just being a false prophet with these bottom feeding losers: They lost the prophecies they should have made.

Sure, it’s bad enough to claimed that the United States and British Commonwealth would lose World War II and be taken off radio by the United States Government until things were sort of sorted out. It’s really bad to come out with a booklet in 1956 called, 1975 in Prophecy, claiming that end time events would lead to the return of Jesus Christ by the mid 1970s. It’s terrible for Roderick Meredith to be a false prophet for over half a century and predict the horrible events to happen in the next decade in 1962 of famine, floods, drought and be completely wrong about it. Yes, Ronald Weinland is not called Rotten Ronnie without reason with his spectacular failed prophecies, written in a book and quite specific, all to fail. It was a terrible mistake to predict for Herbert Armstrong to predict that Mussolini was going to be the Beast Dictator of Revelation fame, but when Mussolini died, Herbert had to move on to Hitler. World War II came and went and so did the Beasts of that era. The next biggie became Franz Josef Strauss (embarrassing because he paid Ambassador College Pasadena a visit and certain materials had to be hidden from view). Then Otto von Hapsburg became the next favorite, but, alas, he seems to have died too. Gerald Flurry has favored Edmund Stoiber, but that seems to have also gone the way of all flesh — at least as far as prophecy has gone. There was even a second Italian candidate in the past Millennium, whose name is lost. The latest incarnation of the Beast of Revelation before the third coming of Christ is Baron Karl zu Guttenberg proclaimed by Robert Thiel of the Living Church of God.

Some of these gems get lost. For example, in the Plain Truth, February 1965 on Page 48, in the article, Religious Martyrs, Roderick Meredith confidently proclaims:

Frankly, literally dozens of prophesied events indicate that this final revival of the Roman Empire in Europe–and its bestial PERSECUTION of Bible-believing Christians–will take place in the next seven to ten years of YOUR LIFE!

He also prophesied that the Pope would resurrect Hitler.

Now there’s something we bet that he’d like to take off his resume!

There are dozens of false prophecies which have fallen flat.

Herbert Armstrong said, “Prove us wrong and we will change!”. He was proved wrong. He never changed: Yet another false prophecy, indicative of the level of integrity of the ravenous wolf parading in sheep’s clothing (in this case, a carefully tailored $1,200+ Armani Suit). I have more confidence in chicken entrails and casting runes.

But what of the lost prophecy of significant world events which actually happened which were never prophesied by the Armstrongists?

There was that Six Day War of June 1967: The Jews claimed some important real estate. Certainly, God would have been interested in that and told his prophets, the Armstrongists. But no, alas, God had to keep it a secret so it would succeed, not that anyone would have believed Herbert Armstrong and his pathetic Myrmidons, mind you. They just didn’t get it! In a hilarious irony, Herbert Armstrong had negotiated an exclusive contract with the Jordanian Government for the broadcast of The World Tomorrow from Jerusalem, but the Six-Day War aborted the contract when Israel seized both sectors of the city. I guess God just didn’t have the time to warn Herbert after all that negotiation with Jordan would be completely pointless and his crowing about being to go forth from Jerusalem went up in so much smoke. No really — smoke! There didn’t seem to be a way to slip a semi-Christian Yahweh past the Israelis. Perhaps, God was protecting them from yet another false prophet. It’s understandable, though, that Herbert Armstrong would miss out on prophesying this, since the Plain Truth Magazine in 1965 said that east Jerusalem would remain in Gentile hands until Christ’s coming.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was sorely missed by the Armstrongists. Assuredly, after predicting that Germany would rise again and be reunited, one would think that God would have revealed the obvious, but, again, alas, no.

Long before the Soviet Union fell and the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) dissolution on December 25th, 1991, one would have thought that the WCG would have been able to predict the event. In fact, so pathetic is Armstrongism, that it failed to predict the dissolution of the WCG itself less than a decade later. One would have thought that the WCG would have been able to foresee that, but sadly not. Maybe it’s a Mayan Calendar thing — the Mayans weren’t able to see their disappearance either, apparently, but here the whole world seems intent in believing that they could predict the end of the world in December 2012. What’s with that? Even Bob Thiel knows better, and that’s saying a lot, what with the rise of his secret sect and all. Herbert Armstrong said shortly before his death that “If this church is God’s only true church on earth today the gates of hell can not prevail against it!” We’re not sure about hell, but the WCG didn’t survive the Tkaches.

For an ever amusing look at failed prophecy, one should not miss Garner Ted Armstrong’s “Fifty Years of Warning”. Someone should have warned GTA that he would be on television and not in a good way. Not to put too fine a point on it, the legacy has pretty much ended, except it still lurches along like a zombie under the care of his son. Some warning: None of it is true and nothing like that is going to happen… ever.

The fave of all time is September 11, 2001. Just before this day, the United Church of God, an International Association minister, flew out to Tacoma to give a sermon about “Tipping over the Barrel” to chastise the couple who was suffering from a stalker in the UCG for considering getting a restraining order in court. He thundered on (or is that droned) in that church daylight basement about how the United States was going to have its “barrel tipped over” and so would any rebellious recalcitrant church members who did not fall in line with the Home Office. He shook my hand after services and pretended he didn’t know who I was, when we both knew perfectly well, he did. Again — and this is probably the biggest example of Lost Prophecy ever — the Armstrongists missed what came just 4 days later. They didn’t hint at it and they didn’t have a clue. [He went on to be a part of the formation of the CoGWA.] In the interest of full disclosure, and considering the dictum to mark those who cause division, although his immediately preceding paternal ancestry cannot be verified confidently, he is of Italian extraction, but the specifics of the kennel in which he originated is beyond our ken.

My friend from IBM helping to install LINUX on the IBM Mainframe at Pierce County and I were up late Sunday night into the wee hours of Monday Morning and came in late to the County-City Building to continue the install. We were puzzled by the long lines by the door going through security. I had identification which should normally allow me into the premises, but this particular day, I had to go through the metal detector and my stuff was xrayed. It took awhile. We found out what all the fuss was when we entered the computer center where my colleagues were watching the news live on television. We were all in shock. Flights were cancelled and grounded for several days (except for 400 flights for the children of Arab leaders of oil countries). The atmosphere had significantly less pollution in that short week as a result of a reduction of jet exhaust reaching the ozone layer.

We also remember the transformation of the assault upon the United States and the rest of the world: The economy took a really big hit; bigger though, was the impact that American citizens could no longer feel safe in a way never anticipated.

Security in airports made flying a drudge rather than a joy. We have never been the same or even close to it.

And the Armstrongists predicted none of it: They aren’t just late to the party, they missed the boat entirely!

So here we are: Hurricane Isaac hits New Orleans exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina. I remember the Feast that year, especially since the hotel where I was staying, had a family who had fled Katrina and stayed there in the hotel. They were checking out: It was a husband and a wife with their son in his twenties. I overheard them and their angst. They were not certain whether or not any of their home had survived and looked forward to rebuilding it and their lives. They were some of those fortunate enough to get away and have enough resources to stay in a nice hotel while the hurricane passed. As a side comment, they did not look or sound particularly evil to me and did not seem to have merited God’s punishment. I was happy that they had as much as they did at the time. Maybe my justice meter is off or something. The Armstrongist god is terribly vengeful. I would not particularly like to get to know him. He seems rather merciless and strict — sort of like Roderick Meredith.

So there you have it. Certainly, there are far more examples of Lost Prophecy on the books. Feel free to add your own. It will be amusing.

We all wonder if Jesus Christ would say to the Armstrongists on his return: “I never knew you”.

Would he be wrong?

Why I Hate Religion.

“Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” by spoken-word artist Jefferson Bethke has received more than 10.2 million YouTube views as of Saturday night since it was posted just four days ago, eliciting more than 100,000 YouTube comments and plenty of debate elsewhere on the Internet.


From his YouTube page we read: “In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it‘s core Jesus’ gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can’t do your own list of rules and feel “not good enough” for God. With Jesus though you have humble confident joy because He represents you, you don’t represent yourself and His sacrifice is perfect putting us in perfect standing with God!”

Your thoughts?

What do I know, and how do I know it?

A couple weeks ago I noticed an announcement in the local weekly newspaper about an upcoming lecture that had the provocative title, God on Trial, which was scheduled for the following Sunday morning, a time when the majority of Americans would be attending services at one church or another. I was intrigued and made a note to attend.

When I arrived at the lobby of the auditorium, I found myself amongst a throng of people who were engaged in lively conversation. It turned out they were members of the sponsoring organization that calls itself the Center for Inquiry (http://www.centerforinquiry.net/ ), which I had not heard of before. Rather than try to butt into the conversations, I proceeded on into the auditorium and found myself an aisle seat with a good view of the lectern.

What followed was a thoroughly fascinating presentation by a man named Richard W. Morris, who went on at length about his experiences as a lawyer, prosecutor, professor, aviator, skeptic, and, as he eventually revealed, novelist. His lecture was largely based on his latest novel by the same title. As I told him during the Q&A session, what he had said was quite enough to convince me to buy his book.

I left with an autographed copy of God on Trial, (http://www.godontrial.ws/) which I found to be thoroughly engaging, and finished reading within a few days. Like most popular novels these days, it is filled with plenty of juicy sex, intrigue, deception and murder, but a great deal of history, philosophy, and logic besides. That’s the kind of story I like, one that is not only suspenseful and entertaining, but one that I can learn something from. The novel recounts many of the atrocities that have been perpetrated down through the ages in the name of one religion or another, particularly those of Christianity, like the “Holy Inquisition” and the various “witch trials,” and it highlights many of the discrepancies and contradictions that exist within the Bible.

The plot line centers on a blasphemy trial in which “the State must first prove the existence of God in court, using the standard Rules of Evidence.” A major sub-plot describes the corruption, debauchery and financial shenanigans that go on within a major religious organization that bears a striking resemblance to several well-know groups.

Throughout the book, David, the protagonist and the defendant in the trial, who also happens to be a Ph.D. candidate and teacher of philosophy at the local university, keeps repeating the question to his students: “What do I know, and how do I know it?” Quite a legitimate question, I think, and one that I have given much consideration over the years. In my youth I was taught that we can come to knowledge either (1) through our senses and rational processes, or (2) through “Divine revelation.”

Philosophers get into some pretty deep debates about the nature of “reality” and “consciousness,” but I won’t even try to go there. It seems quite evident that what we experience through our senses leads us to learn, to know, and to understand as we process information through our rational mind. It’s this “Divine revelation” that causes so much controversy and strife. Is it truly a way of knowing? If so, where does it come from? Is that what we call “God?”

At a practical level, I concluded long ago that most (if not ALL) religion is a racket. There has never been any shortage of people—priests, rabbis, ministers, imams, etc.—who claim to have had a Divine revelation, and/or who claim to speak for God – “Thus saith the LORD….,” etc. Some of these, no doubt, believe what they preach, but what is the foundation for their beliefs? What we “think” we know about these things is largely determined by an accident of birth. If I had been born into a Muslim or Jewish family I would have been instilled with a different set of beliefs. As it happened, it’s been my Roman Catholic indoctrination I’ve had to overcome. Having been the product of 17 years of Catholic schools, it’s something close to “miraculous” that I ever succeeded. Maybe it was my personal “Divine revelation” that did it. — Santos

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