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From the Mailbag

1999 / January-February



More Fundamentalist Flapdoodle..

In the November/December issue of TSR, you gave some guidelines for submitting articles for publication. You said, "We are looking for materials that relate to the subject of biblical inerrancy." In "From the Mailbag," the guidelines are not as narrow; the letters deal with a variety of issues under the subject of religion. This provides a good balance to TSR. I find the letters and your replies very interesting and very informative. The best improvement to "From the Mailbag" section would be this: add another page or two.

(Don Robertson, 644 Walnut Street, Rock Hill, SC 29730)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Although I do try (not always successfully) to restrict articles to the subject of biblical inerrancy, I have allowed letters to discuss a variety of subjects. Since readers seem to like this policy, I will continue it.

Mr. Robertson included with his letter some photocopied pages with this note attached: "This should refresh your memory of Harry Rimmer's book and give you more fundamentalist flapdoodle." The pages were from Rimmer's book The Harmony of Science and Scripture, which I was sure was the source of my first exposure to the urban legend about the long-day of Joshua. It turned out that my memory of something I had read over 40 years ago was accurate. I recall Rimmer's book so well because he was the Josh McDowell of his day, and nearly all Bible college student had copies of his books in their personal libraries. Mr. Robertson sent only the pages from Rimmer's book (copyrighted in 1936) that dealt with the long-day of Joshua, he did include a copy of the table of contents, which show that Rimmer also included chapters that proved the scientific accuracy of the stories of Jonah, Noah's ark, and other fabulous events. This goes to show that the fundamentalist flapdoodle going around today as scientific proof of the Bible's divine origin is just the recycling of tales that were answered and discredited long ago. On pages 2-5 of this issue, I discuss more in detail the version of the long-day legend as Rimmer told it six decades ago.

More Nonsense Than Legend...

Regarding the November/December 1998 issue's articles on the infamous "Missing Day/NASA" nonsense, I was introduced to this silliness in junior high school (Indian Springs, Nevada) by a fundamentalist science teacher (a Mormon bishop) named "Bud" Hopkins (circa 1974). Mister Hopkins brought up the "missing day" prank as "proof" of the Bible in science class, in a public school (and thus US citizens were paying him to do so). He also showed the class a reel-to-reel video tape produced by creationists that purported to "prove" via computer simulation (albeit very crude, in those days) that the human red blood cell was "designed." This religious indoctrination he called "science education." Since the room was full of 12 and 13 year olds, I do not recall even a single objection being raised at the time.

I say "prank" because that's what the "missing day" nonsense is. It doesn't even qualify as a hoax because it's blatantly false (like the "alien autopsy" prank), or an urban legend since it isn't even remotely plausible. With no starting reference, there cannot be a method by which a "missing day" can be calculated. If the prank were true, what is meant by a "day," anyhow? A "day" can mean a roughly 24-hour rotational period of Earth, and it can mean 1/365.25 of an orbit of Earth around Sol---the latter, given a reference point to start with, could show a "missing day," but not the former: and the Hebrew Testament says Sol and Luna "stood still," not Earth.

And yet people still believe the "missing day" prank is true, which amazes me. Such a belief would earn the holder a strait-jacket and medication if it had not been coupled with the Christian religion, and astonished derisive laughter by fundamentalist, inerrantist Christians if it had been coupled to a non-Christian religion.

(Rev. David Michael Rice, 723 Casita, San Clemente, CA 92673-2708; e-mail, shydavid@net999.com)

A Letter to Brennecke...

My sons are big fans of your new governor. I guess that might not impress you that I let my children watch wrestling; however, I wanted to praise your article "Twenty-Four Hours in Time: A Rebuttal." I wrote Harold Hill last year, but I received no reply. He may have passed away. I am enclosing two items that may interest you. When I was growing up my pastor told both the story concerning Joshua and NASA and this crazy story about the modern day Jonah (James Bartley).

(Everette Hatcher III, Box 23416, Little Rock, AR 72221)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The enclosures that Mr. Hatcher referred to above were copies of a letter to Harold Hill (the source of the NASA version of the urban legend about Joshua's long day) and a 14-page article from Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith that was written by Dr. Edward B. Davis of Messiah College to debunk Harry Rimmer's claim in Harmony of Science and Scripture that a modern-day Jonah named James Bartley was swallowed by a "whale shark" in 1891 and survived the ordeal. The research that Davis put into tracking down the source of this yarn and completely discrediting it was so impressive that I used it as a basis for the article on pages 2-5 of this issue, which shows how would-be apologists are quick to grab just any tale that they think vindicates the Bible and circulate it as proven fact.

The Jayton Chronicle...

Regarding the Jayton Chronicle newspaper referred to in "Twenty-Four Hours in Time" in the November/December 1998 issue of TSR, former editors of the Texas Almanac list a newspaper called the chronicle in Jayton through the 1986/1987 edition, after which there is no listing for a newspaper in Jayton.

There is a small public library in Jayton, the Kent Country Library (2000 volumes), which would most likely have back issues of the Chronicle, but any research would probably have to be done in person.

Given that there was at some point in the past a Jayton Chronicle and that the population of Jayton is 600, I don't find it beyond the realm of possibility that "Twenty-Four Hours in Time" was indeed printed in that periodical. Having lived in several small Texas towns with weekly newspapers, I know that most of them will print almost anything in order to fill space.

Of course, if "Twenty-Four Hours" was printed in the Jayton Chronicle, that doesn't make it true; it means only that the editor was a very gullible fundamentalist Christian or desperate to fill space. Also note that "Twenty-Four Hours" says the story was "retold" in the Jayton Chronicle, indicating that the newspaper was not the original source.

(3625 South Hills Avenue, Fort Worth, TX 76109)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This letter indicated only the address of the writer. Since the subscription files listed no one at this address, I could not identify the writer. I published the letter anyway because the information in it relates directly to the "Twenty-Four Hours in Time" article that Charles Brennecke responded to in the November/December issue. If the writer of this letter will identify him-/herself, I will publish the name in a later issue.

Letters, by the way, should always show both the names and addresses of the writers somewhere on the letters and not just on the envelopes. This can save me time looking for the writers' names or addresses if the envelopes and letters become separated.

The Denial of Apologetics Press...

I received the most recent TSR issue yesterday, and saw the article alleging that NASA (or whoever--I don't have the article at hand right now) had found a missing day and thus verified the miraculous stories in Joshua and Isaiah. This is an urban legend, and it's so dumb that even evangelical apologists have a hard time believing it. As proof of this, check out http://www.apologeticspress.org/rr/rr1991/r&r9105a.htm.

The article at this URL is an online version of an article that originally appeared in the May '91 edition of Reason and Revelation: A Monthly Journal on Christian Evidence. The article thoroughly debunks the urban legend. You might want to use this article as a starting point in writing a rebuttal to the legend. (I'd write one myself, but between my job and my family, I simply don't have the time.)

(Rob Berry, 2344 Brisum Way, Hillard, OH 43026; e-mail, berry@coil.com)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The article that Rob Berry mentioned was the one that I referred to in my response to this urban legend (November/December 1998, pp. 7-8). Apologetics Press is not the only fundamentalist organization warning biblicists not to use this myth. Besides the article in Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith that was my primary source of information for the article on pages 2-5 of this issue, Everette Hatcher sent me copies of two other articles from religious papers that debunked this myth about a missing day in time.

Fear and Some Trepidation...

It is with fear and some trepidation that I enclose my check to renew my subscription to The Skeptical Review. I made the mistake, during a visit with my wife to her folks, of leaving the November/December issue on the dining room table while I went to the bathroom. Upon my return, I found my mother-in-law, of Southern Baptist extraction, waving the issue around in the air and screaming about the blasphemy of your cover article on the book of Daniel, and assuring me in no uncertain terms that this guy Till is going to join me in burning in hell and "you can be sure of that," do you understand?

Now I realize the error of my ways in leaving such godawful materials carelessly exposed to view, but I must also suggest that you be careful of what you write lest you cause undue upset to true believers and get them agitated. Nonetheless, I am pleased to renew, and rest assured that your insightful publication is much welcome every two months in my private little world.

Finally, may I apologize for our misbehavior here in the 6th district of Illinois in reelecting my congressman, Henry "Homewrecker" Hyde, back to his post by a 2 to 1 margin. He enjoys a "safe seat" here in the Vatican of Evangelism, and there is not much we can do about it. As it is, I must keep my drapes drawn at all times.

You all carry on, and keep the faith!

(Theodore M. Utchen, P. O. Box 1140, Wheaton, IL 60189-0140; e-mail TMUtchen@compuServe.com)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ah, yes, Henry Hyde, another contribution from Illinois to the Christian right agenda. The state also added a senator to the cause in the last election. The reaction of Mr. Utchen's mother-in-law is typical of what most of us who came from fundamentalist backgrounds have to tolerate in our extended families. In fundamentalist families, it seems that independent thinking is a definite no-no.

Like a Lamp unto My Feet...

A few years ago, the local Jehovah's Witnesses gave me a Bible. Although I had been raised in the one true religion (First Congregationalist), I had never actually read the good book. Now I must admit that before I began to read, I was skeptical; however, after reading only Genesis, my skepticism proved to be grossly inadequate. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

As I read, I couldn't help wondering how anyone who has graduated sixth grade could believe this crap. After many conversations with believers, I began to realize that most of them don't have the slightest idea what the book contains. For instance, one woman I talked to had attended Jerry Falwell's Liberty College, but she was not aware of the story about Jephthah and his unfortunate daughter.

Anyway, the reason I am writing is to thank you for your excellent publication. It is greatly appreciated. It is most difficult to obtain "ungodly" literature, in our superstitious society. The Skeptical Review is like "a lamp unto my feet." The simple man believeth every word, but the prudent man subscribes to TSR. Each issue makes me feel "born again."

I would like to purchase all the back issues to 2-98. A check is enclosed.

(Gary Walker, P. O. Box 3, Compton, NH 03233)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Who hasn't disentangled himself from biblical fundamentalism and then wondered, "How could I have ever believed this nonsense?" Once a person steps away from it, the absurdity of it is as clear as daylight, but getting people to take the first steps away is hard to do. Actually reading the Bible would probably be the easiest way for a Christian to realize that he/she has been duped. Too many Christians believe the Bible because... well, just because they believe it.

Another Familiar Story...

Today, I received my first issue of The Skeptical Review, and found it to be fair and helpful. Until last December, I was the leader of a university student organization for 12 years until I hit the wall and left the ministry. My reasons for leaving began at the heart of my emotions. After spending several summers ministering to Catholic Christians, Muslims, and atheists in Europe and South America, I began to doubt seriously that such people were going to hell. That led to a period of deep depression and questioning, followed by months of study, which led to my rejection of Christianity for moral and rational reasons. Having built my life on Christian beliefs, I now find myself alone in the world. I have lost my closest friends (who feel sorry for me), and the tension this has brought to my family relationships is enormous. I do not want to acknowledge Christmas, and I am finding it difficult to figure out which hills I should die on. They are right in saying that my doubting came as a result of "battle fatigue," but I also believe that suffering is many times the exact agent we need to face reality. It has been only 6 months or so since I gave up trying to reconcile Christianity and all its problems and inconsistencies, but I am still battling depression and I would like to know if you have some suggestions that might be helpful as I try to move on with my life. Thank you very much.

(Craig Cunningham, Craig Cunningham, 6502 East Golf Links, Apt. R262, Tucson, AZ 85730; e-mail CCunn63@aol.com)

EDITOR'S NOTE: I may overdo the publication of letters like this one, but I like to run them so that those who are in the initial stages of taking a rational look at the Bible can see that what they experience when former "Christian" friends turn against them is usually the rule rather than the exception. What has happened to Mr. Cunningham happened to me, and as past letters to this column have shown, it happens to almost everyone who examines the claims of Christianity and rejects them. For some reason, Christians see the Craig Cunninghams of the world as threats, and in a sense I think they are right. In an age of rapidly increasing knowledge and the technology to transmit it quickly, religion can no longer keep people shackled in ignorance as it could it in the past. Every Craig Cunningham that comes along must make Christians who don't want to think about their beliefs feel insecure. At least something happens to make them angry at those who dare to renounce Christianity.

Reasons for Not Believing the Bible...

In a previous issue of The Skeptical Review, a letter from E. E. Brennaman asked, "Do inerrantists really believe the Bible is inerrant, or do they just maintain it for the sake of appearance?" This has been a question on my mind for years.

If someone asks me why I do not believe the Bible is inerrant (or infallible, which means the same), my short answer is two examples. First, compare the two creation stories in Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Genesis 2:4b-25. The times of creation are 6 days (Gen. 1:31) vs. 1 day (Gen. 2:4b), the order of creation is different; male and female created last, both in the image of God (Gen 1:26:31) vs. man created first (Gen. 2:4b-7), then all the plants (Gen. 2:8-17), then all the animals (Gen 2:18-20)--in an effort to find a partner for the man!--then woman last (Gen. 2:21-22). Note that Genesis 2 clearly states that God's first idea for a partner for man was not a woman but an animal!

Second, compare the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38. Note that both Matthew and Luke listed the ancestors of Jesus only on his father's side. In Matthew, the father of Joseph, the father of Jesus, is Jacob (v: 16), but in Luke he is Heli (v:23). In Matthew, Jesus is descended from David's son Solomon (v. 6), but in Luke he is descended from David's son Nathan (v. 31). Obvious errors.

Recently, I have heard fundamentalists on the radio, and read parts of books by "Evangelical Apologists" trying to justify the belief in Bible inerrancy. They all seem to start with the assumption that the Bible is inerrant and tell their patients(?) that even if they can't understand why some "apparent error" is not an error, they must believe that there is some unknown explanation. This is nothing more than self-delusion, or, as some have said, "parking your brain at the church door."

Why would people believe this? The question in The Skeptical Review recalled a time when I was a freshman in college (about 1941). This was long before TV Preachers or even TV. A guest preacher at our Presbyterian Church said he believed (the creeds, I think) and that he always would. I could not understand how any intelligent person could say such a thing. (I knew about the change in belief in the churches; since the time of Galileo, they no longer claim that the earth is the fixed center of the universe.) The Presbyterian creeds also state that the earth, sun, stars, etc. were all created in 6 days, 6000 years ago. In my youthful way, assuming then (but not now) that anyone who invoked the name of God must be a person of integrity, I could see only one possible explanation for the preacher's statement: he considered himself a member of the acting profession, and whereas, some actors played the roles in Shakespearean plays, which people like to hear, he would play the role of a preacher saying what people wanted to hear.

Now, however, I would give other reasons for some preachers claiming to believe in an inerrant Bible: (1) They have been brainwashed or are under posthypnotic suggestion to believe that if they don't affirm the inerrancy of the Bible they will go to a literal hell and suffer through all eternity. (This from a God of love?) (2) It is a technique learned from Madison Avenue advertising. The ad always says its product is perfect, never that it has an error, and its main goal is to sell the product. (3) It aids in false advertising. First, they define their theology, and then they find verses that support it. They ignore all verses that might refute their theology. (4) Laziness: by claiming any verse they quote is from an inerrant Bible, they imply that there can be no other verse that might refute it, thus making their job easy, if they can find gullible people who will accept their assumptions. (5) It helps to select the least intelligent and undiscerning as their followers, thus increasing their financial take. (6) They, as I heard a radio fundamentalist telling a caller who couldn't understand why the two conflicting stories of David or Elhanan killing Goliath were not an error, are the ones who "are not playing with a full deck." (7) "Those people don't really believe anything, they just like to say that they do," which was the remark of one person, after seeing the actions of one preacher, and then hearing him say in a sermon that Christians should do just the opposite.

These inerrantists may think that they are defending Christianity, but they are in the same class as those who centuries ago condemned Copernicus and Galileo for opposing the then orthodoxy of the churches that the earth was fixed at the center of the universe and did not move. They harm Christianity rather than help it.

(Harold Curtis, P.O. Box 15626, Long Beach, CA 90815; HCurtis266@aol.com)

The Survival and Destruction of Books...

Certainly I have no biblical scholar credentials, but one really doesn't need them to see the lack of credibility in one of Dr. Price's arguments. I get really tired of hearing this same argument that many fundamentalists also use as a reason to consider the Bible to be correct and the "word of God." They argue that the Bible is valid because there are "many more extant ancient manuscripts of the biblical books than there are of secular documents."

They either don't know or ignore the historical reason that there are indeed fewer secular ancient manuscripts. The reason is that early Christians destroyed as many secular books as they could lay their hands on, including the large library at Alexandria. Knowing what a strangle hold Christianity has had on the world, I find it a small wonder that any ancient nonbiblical manuscripts survived.

Not satisfied, of course, with destroying what they considered pagan literature, the early Christian church also began to destroy any early Christian literature that they didn't find orthodox enough to suit them.

You can hear an echo of this same kind of "reasoning" down through the ages. Servetus was burned at the stake with his "heretical" books neatly tucked into the chains that bound him to the stake. Hear an echo also when Hitler burned books during the reign of the Third Reich. Then how about even today when fundamentalist Christians have a book and record burning of "satanist" materials?

(Marie Micheletti, 209 West Tazwell, Tremont, IL 61568)

Another Answer to Gleason Archer...

Gleason Archer claims that life is meaningless without god. If so, then god's existence would be meaningless, since god has no god to give meaning to his existence. If god doesn't need a god to validate his existence, then we don't either. It's just arbitrary, not logically necessary, to say that an all powerful being doesn't need a god but we do. God is no better off, by Archer's standards, than an atheist hermit (god has no god above him, remember) with an animal collection.

Human lives aren't meaningless without god. We can lead ethical, excellent lives for their own sake (see Exuberance and Eupraxophy by Dr. Paul Kurtz). It's own sake is its own justification. Those who need a god to validate themselves have really insignificant lives.

A god isn't needed for moral values, because godless people have formulated and practiced good moral values, and a god's moral values are arbitrary and amoral ones--obeyed by command and not due to effect. If they are good and practical, they don't need a god to validate them. A god could command evil and contradictory things, and say they aren't evil and contradictory, because he is a god.

I am without belief in an afterlife or consciousness after death, and I am quite comfortable and not even the least uncomfortable with it. I live for those now living and the society that will live after me. The good feeling I have now in knowing that the good I'm doing will live on after I am no long conscious is justification enough for me. I'm part of something bigger than myself, the line of human beings, Ingersoll included, who made things better for humanity and expected no heavenly reward for it. This life was and is enough.

(Andrew Lutes, 658 Mans Lucas Road, Mansfield, OH 44907)

A Correction...

In my November/December 1998 letter, I erroneously reported that Nabonidus died before Cyrus reached Babylon, so let me review the facts I have regarding the fall of Babylon. In 540 BCE Nabonidus returned from Tema to organize the defense of his kingdom. On April 4, 539 BCE, the New Year's Day Festival was properly celebrated once again. In that festival, the king put his hands in the hands of the god Marduk as a symbol of renewal. Only the king could perform this ceremony, which had been simply omitted during Nabonidus's 10-year absence. A clay tablet (ANET 306-307) tells of the cancellation of that important ceremony when Nabonidus was away.

While Nabonidus was living in Tema, in Northwestern Arabia, Belshazzar served as a co-regent (crown prince), not as a king. Up until his death, inscriptions referred to Belshazzar as "the king's Son." Needless to say, this 10-year neglect of the god Marduk did not make Nabonidus popular with his priests. Some writers speculate that Nabonidus was supporting a rival Moon cult in Tema.

Belshazzar was put in charge of troops guarding a defense rectangle including the cities of Opis, Sippar, Cutha, and Borsippa, which were considered vital to the defense of Babylon. Early in October 539 BCE, Cyrus attacked the city of Opis, aided by a turncoat Babylonian governor. There was rioting within the defensive perimeter, and a battle was fought in which Belshazzar was killed by Gubaru. Gubaru was one of Cyrus' commanders/governors. Within a few more days, the remaining key cities were seized or else they surrendered forthwith, and Nabonidus fled from Babylon. Perhaps, there was nowhere for him to go. Another source speaks of his return to Babylon, where he was arrested. Beyond that, I have no further information on him.

Herodotus enlivens his account of Babylon's capture with a story that Cyrus diverted the Euphrates river into an old floodway, allowing his army to enter the city through a nearly dry river bed. The older cuneiform record simply states that the army of Cyrus entered Babylon without a battle to receive the acclaim of many citizens.

Thus, the Bible is in gross error on almost every point! Belshazzar was never a king as the Bible clearly claims that he was. Belshazzar was not in command when Babylon fell, let alone surprised while feasting at night. He did not die by assassination but rather on the field of battle. Babylon, itself, peacefully surrendered, contrary to numerous horrid prophecies in the Bible. The kingdom of Babylon was not succeeded by a kingdom ruled by "Darius the Mede," about whom history knows nothing.

The sources of the information above were Great Events From History, Frank Magill (editor), "Fall of Babylon," Ancient and Medieval Series, Vol. I, 1972, pp.179-183; History of the Persian Empire, A. T. Olmstead, 1948; An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, Samuel R. Driver, 1957; and Anchor Bible, Book of Daniel.

(Dave Matson, editor, The Oak Hill Free Press, P.O. 61274, Pasadena, CA 91116; e-mail, 103514.3640@Compuserve.com)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second time that I have encountered the claim that Belshazzar was killed at the battle of Opis. The first reference was in Ancient Iraq by George Roux (mentioned in my editorial note at the end of William Sierichs' article in the November/December 1998 issue of TSR. Sierichs was reluctant to include it in his article, because Roux did not explain how he had come by this information, so I cited it in my note as an unverified claim. I have asked Dave Matson to identify which of his sources listed above contained the reference to Belshazzar's death at Opis. If anyone else has information about this, please contact me.

A Stereotypical Impression...

Now that I am corresponding with some prisoners, I've noticed that you are quite disingenuous when it comes to publishing letters.

Some (and one in particular) of these prisoners are not very literate. Their spelling is not the greatest, they confuse homonyms and also show distinct signs of learning disabilities. However, when you print their letters in TSR, they read polished to spit-shined elegance. On the other hand, when inerrants write in, every mistake they make is left in. This gives the impression that the Free Thinker who writes in, just about always, has near-perfect literacy while the inerrants all to often do not. I also get the impression that this practice might be spilling over into the articles, too. Indeed, in the September/October TSR a letter from Rev. David Michael Rice directed at Gleason Archer included these criticisms: (1) Get a spelling checker. (2) Take a refresher course in grammar at a local community college. Somehow I get the feeling that this would never be directed at anybody who is on your side of the argument.

While I realize that TSR is your magazine in every sense of the word, it is belief that this practice should stop now.

(M. Paul Goldberg, 67-35 Yellowstone Boulevard, Apt 6T, Forest Hills, NY 11375-2610)

EDITOR'S NOTE: I didn't dare edit Mr. Goldberg's letter, so the errors in it are not typographical. The letter was set up just as he submitted it, so he is the one who used to for too and omitted the word my in the last sentence. The punctuation and capitalization mistakes are also his. If Mr. Goldberg disputes this, I will gladly send him a photocopy of his original.

I don't know what prison inmates Mr. Goldberg is corresponding with, but he seems to have formed the stereotypical impression that prison inmates are semiliterate. While I was still teaching college English, one of my duties was to evaluate the writing tests of inmates at a local prison where the college provided educational services, and I learned from that experience that the writing abilities of inmates were generally no better and no worse than the students who attended the college on the outside. I can, in fact, recall some very well written essays that came from prisoners applying for admittance to the college program. I can recall some bad ones too, but I encountered both good and bad essays at the college campus too.

Do I edit letters and articles before I publish them? You bet I do, because I prefer that TSR reflect a better quality of writing than that which is generally found in other publications. What Mr. Goldberg doesn't realize, however, is that I correct on both sides. I have corrected the articles of Dr. James Price, Roger Hutchinson, Everette Hatcher, Matt Perman, Dr. Hugh Ross, and many other inerrantists whose works have been published in TSR. There has probably not been a single article published in TSR by anyone that I did not correct for grammar, spelling, or punctuation. This includes my own articles, because sometimes in final proofreadings, I spot mistakes that escaped my notice in earlier editings. The same is true of letters in the mailbag column. I correct them on both sides, so why should I treat prison inmates any differently?

There are times, of course, when I leave the mistakes in the articles or letters and mark them with [sic], but I do this only when I think that showing the mistake will make a relevant point. If I publish an arrogant or spiteful letter, I will leave the mistakes in the text and mark them with [sic] to call attention to the probable level of education in the writer. If an inerrantist shows a tendency to boast of personal scholarship or linguistic skills, I allow his mistakes in English to reflect doubt on his claim. In the case of Dr. Archer, he is considered one of the foremost biblical apologists of our generation, and many of his explanations of biblical discrepancies are based on linguistics. I considered it appropriate to allow the mistakes in his letter to give readers pause to wonder about his linguistic abilities.

Finally, I would like to suggest that Mr. Goldberg go to the back issues of TSR and read the articles of Robert Dornbusch (July/August 1998, pp. 9-10) and Wilhelm Schmitt (May/June 1996, pp. 7-8 and September/October 1996, pp. 2-3). These were all written by prison inmates, and I had to make very few corrections in them, far fewer than I had to make in the articles of the inerrantists listed above. For Mr. Goldberg's benefit, I am publishing immediately below a completely unedited letter that coincidentally arrived in the same mail delivery with his. The author is an inmate, so I'll let Mr. Goldberg decide if his correspondence with inmates has given him an accurate opinion about their writing abilities.

An Example of Inmate Literacy...

Although I have only read a few issues of The Skeptical Review, I have found it to be an invaluable resource. It's well researched and thought out, which is something that I'm not wholly used to.

I often have read complaints from Christians who insist that your newsletter is "satanic" or whatever in your "From the Mailbag" column. Your responses to these letters give me the impression that you are getting increasingly agitated at dealing with such arrogance. I, therefore, thought that I could share some news with you to lighten your spirits, so to speak.

Having dealt with many of these same kind of arrogant people, I have noticed that many of them do not even read the bible that they proclaim so avidly as "the word of god!" Oft times, the most obsessive and demanding of arguments against anything that could even remotely be identified as destructive to their theology comes from people who don't fully understand what they believe to begin with. They are generally just sitting around, waiting for some preacher to explain to them what they believe.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that "God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take what you please, you cannot have both." Unfortunately, most people tend to choose the latter, because there is less work involved. There is only a brief few who are willing to work towards increasing our knowledge and discover the thrill of uncovering truth.

Of course, this is nothing new. There are still those who cannot believe that the universe does not revolve around us. However, there are always those who are willing to point the way towards a new horizon.

(Christopher Westervelt, 94107/2501, Prairie Correction Facility, P. O. Box 500, Appleton, MN 56208)
 



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