So I mistook an unbelieving Jew for an Atheist (but I’m still not sure that I was wrong)!

Still shopping for a compact, large-print KJV bible on Amazon.com. I ran into this write-up and was intrigued by this reviewer’s naivety so I dared to respond. Below is our dialogue:

Flewellyn (wrote this Amazon.com review about the King James Bible):
The language is rather lovely, and poetic, although portions of the book do appear to resort to excessive synopsis. The third and fourth chapters, in particular, are guilty of this, with the third being a drab list of rules and regulations presented without elaboration, in a sort of authorial filibuster, and the fourth being a litany of tedious revenge fantasies. Some of the later chapters are quite interesting, and there’s a lovely romantic interlude, but the tendency towards authorial filibuster doesn’t completely disappear.

Also, the main character is a bit inconsistent, sometimes appearing kind and loving, while other times wrathful and vengeful. This dichotomy could be an interesting plot device, but alas the book never goes into detail about why the disparity exists. We are simply left to wonder at it, or just figure “that’s how it is”. Frustrating.

The book does suffer a bit from uneven editing, as well. For instance, there’s a fascinating tale about a golden bull statue, which is unaccountably buried in between two tedious and nearly identical descriptions of carpentry. What’s the deal? I admit that editing such a large work can be trying, but surely such duplication should be easy to avoid!

Overall, though, it’s not bad. I am rather disappointed that the publishers chose to bundle the inferior and hackneyed sequel with the groundbreaking and innovative original, however. Really, if the sequel can’t stand on its own merits, why include it at all?

James:
This review stinks of unoriginality. This reviewer borrows standards from the bible and then uses those standards to criticize it (i.e. only the biblical worldview can account for why kindness is to be admired and inconsistency shunned). Why doesn’t the reviewer use non-biblical standards? Isn’t it because all other standards are merely arbitrary in nature (especially in an atheistic worldview)? Why should one atheist care what another atheist thinks is right or wrong? How would the atheist reviewer go about defining what is meant by “inferior and hackneyed” without appealing to something that is not ultimately arbitrary? When the reviewer describes God as wrathful, to which standard is he/she appealing to? After all, in an atheistic worldview each person has a right to arbitrarily define their own standards especially if they think that the standard will enhance their survival, growth and reproduction. By borrowing from the biblical worldview and it’s standards, the reviewer betrays their dependency on the biblical God which makes this review all the more useless. Be original and come up with your own standards (i.e. why not give irrationality a try – admittedly you would first have to define it and then get a worldwide consensus, isn’t that how you atheist establish your mores). Why is consistency something to be admired in an atheistic worldview? What is wrong with being wrathful and vengeful in the atheistic worldview where there is no basis whatsoever for morality? A frustrated atheist is effectively an oxymoron since the word “frustrated” has no standard definition in the atheistic worldview. In fact, there is no word in the dictionary that has a basis outside of the biblical God. Like the famous atheist Richard Dawkins admits, there is no basis for an atheist’s best impulses outside of their biological framework; tragically, the material world cannot adequately account for themes like rationality and morality. If you are frustrated, it is because you are a closet theist shaking your fist at the Creator of the universe. Why does the reviewer yearn for a rational God when the atheistic worldview with its confinement to the corporeal world cannot account for the immaterial laws of logic that make rationality possible? I urge you to re-read the last book of the bible (Revelation). Your ending is already prophesied in it but it’s not too late for you to re-write it. I will pray for you Flewellyn.

Flewellyn:
You read all of that about my supposed atheism (which, by the way, isn’t; I’m Jewish) from the fact that I critiqued the bible as a work of literature?

James:
Perhaps I was presumptuous about your supposed atheism. Admittedly, unbelievers come in all sorts of flavors; perhaps you are not an atheist type of unbeliever but you are nevertheless an unbeliever (e.g. a “Jewish” unbeliever – and one who dares to judge God’s words) and so my reply is still deserved if not pertinent. A true believer would not criticize the bible; since the bible is the definitive axiom of the believer’s worldview; that is how I knew that you were an unbeliever. To do such would be crudely akin to a human criticizing the reality of air or a student trying to succeed in Euclidean Geometry by undermining Euclid’s axioms. Only an unbeliever or a fool masquerading as a believer would dare criticize the One that made him or her. Please keep in mind that these are God’s words paraphrased not mine (c.f. Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10, Isaiah 29:16, Isaiah 40:13, Isaiah 45:9-10, Romans 9:20).

When you decided to “mildly” criticize God’s word did you not expect that your words would also be open to “mild” criticism as well? If the words of the perfect and Almighty God are deemed subject-able to “mild” criticism then it follows that the words of one of His imperfect creatures (i.e. yourself) is all the more subject-able to “mild” criticism. As it turns out, God’s words aren’t subject to criticism at all but that is a another matter that I will address later on.

So you think that you are Jewish? Well you may be Jewish outwardly but your words betray an uncircumcised heart. How could a real Jewish person ever call God a liar?

Incidentally, I don’t need you to tell me who you think you are; who you may think you are culturally (i.e. Jewish) is ultimately irrelevant to who you are spiritually (i.e. an unbeliever). This is not my rule but God’s and I think you should heed it. I find it easy to figure you out by what you have written. After all, in the scriptures it is written that:
“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” (Matthew 7:16-18)

Perhaps you should heed the biblical definition of a real Jew:

“For circumcision (i.e. being Jewish) verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law (e.g. Flewellyn), thy circumcision (or Jewishness) is made uncircumcision (non-Jewishness). Therefore if the uncircumcision (Gentiles) keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision (Gentile-ness) be counted for circumcision (Jewishness)? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee (e.g. what I’m doing right now) , who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. “(Romans 2:25-29).

Now regarding your criticism of God, I must inform you that you are unqualified to criticize His writings. How can the infallible Creator of the medium that we call “words” be counseled about how to appropriately use “words” in constructing literature by the fallible recipient of the created “words”? God is perfect by definition which means that His words are also perfect; you on the other hand are imperfect so what you are attempting to accomplish (i.e. critiquing God’s words) is not only irrational and impossible, it is self-refuting. Logically speaking, your own words have demonstrated that you are a liar. Meaning, since God’s words are perfect (Proverbs 30:5-6) then God’s words cannot simultaneously be “inferior or hackneyed” so you must be a liar. Also, since God’s words are perfect (Psalms 12:6) God’s words cannot simultaneously be deemed unable to “stand on its own merits” so you must be a liar. Again, since God is perfect (Psalms 119:140) God cannot simultaneously be deemed “inconsistent” so you must be a liar. Incidentally, you shouldn’t be surprised; in the Tanakh, God said that this would happen if you tried to critique His words (see Proverbs 30:6).

Flewellyn:
You didn’t even read the review for understanding, did you? I’m guessing you saw that it was about the Bible, saw that it was mildly critical, and rather than attempt to parse the input for meaning, you just triggered a canned response from your mental pattern matcher: “criticizes Bible = angry atheist -> produce misguided and misdirected screed about atheism having no basis for morality or rationality”.

James:
What understanding or meaning did you expect me to parse from your “mild” criticism? You want me to understand that the Author “resort[s] to excessive synopsis”; OK, got it. Next, you want me parse that the Author presents “a drab list of rules and regulations…without elaboration”; check. Then I should parse that the Author overdoes it with “authorial filibuster” and a “litany of tedious revenge fantasies”; I think I’m with you so far. Also, I should parse that the main character (who also happens to be the author) “is a bit inconsistent”; I see a pattern of mediocrity, but OK. Now, I should continue by parsing that the Author is incompetent at editing since He can’t seem to steer clear of “tedious” “duplication” that “should be easy to avoid”; ok got it. It doesn’t end here because there is more parsing; for instance, I need to also understand that the Author’s latter part of the book is “inferior and hackneyed”; um, OK. Finally, I should parse that a significant part of the Author’s book is incapable of “stand[ing] on it’s own merit”; wow, such meaning, what understanding!

The meaning and understanding that I’ve parsed from your review is that there is no way that this literature could be of divine authorship, and if the author claims otherwise then He is a liar; but that’s just me.

You’ll have to excuse me if I chose not to use the white gloves when dealing with your “mild” criticism (as the graceful Bojo Payne did) but when you call my Father a liar then you have to deal with one of His kids. Now allow me to help you draw out some of the logical implications or your review:
If God’s words are as you state “inferior or hackneyed”, despite what He claims to the contrary (Psalm 199:140), then if follows that you must be calling Him a liar. Also, if you say that God’s word “can’t stand on its own merits” despite what He claims to the contrary (Proverbs 30:5-6), then it follows that you must be calling him a liar. Again, if God’s is found to be “inconsistent” when He states otherwise (Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6) then you are saying that He is a liar. This is the necessary consequence of what you have written. Can you not see that?

Flewellyn:
Please, I beg of you, actually THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE READING. Don’t just run your mental regular expression parser over it and run your canned reactions.

James:
Good, we are back to my original theme that you left untouched; I do not accept your evaluation that my response was canned, misguided and misdirected; but, for the sake of argument, what is “wrong” with replies that are: canned, misguided and misdirected? It is apparent that these are standards that you impose upon those that you communicate with. How did you arrive at these standards? I’m honestly curious. You “beg” me to “THINK” but you just assume that rational thought is a feature that all men are capable of turning on – why? The foundation for whatever wisdom you have is illegitimate – you should really relinquish God’s standards. You are like a grandchild who want’s to slap his/her grandfather but has to sit on His lap to accomplish the feat. The next time you want to take swats at God, try finding another lap to sit on – oh and good luck finding one.

Flewellyn:
As it so happens, the real world does not respond well to such superficial treatment.

James:
Why should I glean my understanding of the “real world” from a person who cannot account for things in the “real world” – things like logic, and morality? That doesn’t seem very rational; perhaps you have finally understood that it is OK for an unbeliever to assert irrationality as a refreshing change from the biblical worldview and to do so at no peril (since after all, you are an unbeliever – who would dare question your right to be arbitrary?).

P.S. After, all I have said, you still seem like a person who would be a valuable player on the opposing team. Why not just embrace the love of God’s truth and be transformed?

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