Sunday, March 30, 2008

Who Said Muslims Don't Have A Sense of Humor?

Last year I joined a Yahoo group called American Muslims and get daily e-mails from them that I never bothered to read.

Well, today I actually read one of the e-mails instead of hastily deleting it and came across this little gem:

Question: I would like to know if we are able to take part in April Fool's Day jokes and if not, why not. Jazakallah.

Answer: You know better whether or not you are able to take part in any activity. We do not know your physical or social conditions.

Whether you should is another matter. There the question is why do you want to take part in it? Think about it, research it, ask those who do urge or encourage you to do so. Why? When you do, you will discover that real fools are the persons who foolishly follow this practice while they have no idea why they are doing it.

A Muslim does not follow the mob. He, or she, never does things simply because other people are doing it. He is thinking, reflecting, person who does not waste any of his time in doing things that will not bring him any benefit in the hereafter or in this world.

In contrast, in Jahiliyya society people do things simply because others are doing it. They blindly follow whatever the media or the mob tell them is the latest in thing or cool idea. That is why Qur'an says that they are deaf, dumb, and blind. They are like animals. Rather they are worse than animals.

Islam liberates you from the Jahiliyya society. Indeed it would be tragic if someone, instead of cherishing it, were to question this liberation.

Not knowing what "Jahiliyya society" was, I admit I had to look it up. The definition, which I got from Austin Cline's About: Atheism site, described "jahiliyya" as:

This can mean "ignorance" or even "barbarism" and refers to the state people lived in before Muhammad received his revelation from God and brought Islam to the world. This was a time of lawlessness and idolatry, as contrasted with the period of time under Islamic rule, characterized by morality, enlightenment and divine law.

I have therefore updated my masthead to proudly proclaim my membership in Jahiliyya Society!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why Is There No Book of Noah?

I have had that question on my mind ever since I did a series of posts on Noah and the flood way back when I first started this blog. After all, it seems like everyone who survives some tremendous ordeal nowadays writes a book about it, or has a book about it ghostwritten for them.

People who believe that everything in the Book of Genesis is literally true accept that there really was a man named Noah who lived to be nine hundred and fifty years old. At god's command, he built an ark to protect himself, his immediate family and pairs of every living thing from the world drowning flood that was on its way.

That got me to wondering. Noah is supposed to have lived through an event, that if true, was the most catastrophic event in human history. Why didn't he write a book about the ordeal and how he survived it? According to Genesis, he lived about three hundred and fifty years after the Flood, so he had plenty of time on his hands to write a book.

He could have provided valuable information as to how he and his immediate family managed to feed and clean the waste of countless animals without succumbing to disease, for example, thus anticipating the questions of future skeptics. Of course, one reason Noah did not write a book is because he was not a real person who lived to be nine hundred and fifty years old and survived the worst catastrophe in human history.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Introducing Youngsters to Critical Thinking

Since March is Women's History Month, my son's first grade class is learning about the contributions of famous women in history.

One of the projects the kids have to work on is to make a puppet of a famous woman. The project is due tomorrow.

Today I was thinking about which woman my son should make a puppet of. A bunch of names crossed my mind. Abigail Adams. Rosa Parks. Susan B. Anthony. But I wanted my son to do something more original. And then it occurred to me. I took my copy of Infidel off the book shelf, the cover of which features a photo of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, showed it to my son, and asked him, "Can you make a puppet of this woman? Her name is Ayaan Hirsi Ali."

"Yeah, sure!" my son replied enthusiastically. He asked if she was still alive, and I said that she was, but that there were some people who wanted to hurt her because they don't like the things she says. I thought it would be an interesting way to introduce kids to the idea that people can treat other people very badly because of religious beliefs. I will have to be careful though in how I explain it to my son, as he will have to say a few words to the class about her.

So, now I have to see what materials we have on hand or need to buy so that my son can make a good puppet of her. My son, by the way, loves to do arts and crafts. The walls of his room are plastered with drawings of Spider-Man and a lot of the villains and other superheroes. He is always drawing pictures or making things. After he saw the Star Wars movies, he started making light sabers, using up a lot of my computer paper in the process!

If the Ayaan Hirsi Ali puppet comes out good enough, maybe I will take a picture of it and post it here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

UPDATED: Isn't It Wonderful How All The Christians Love Each Other?

The title comes from one of my favorite lines from Christopher Hitchens whenever someone brings up to him how different Christian sects and churches quarrel with each other over whose is the true church.

Well, as this debate forum demonstrates, the argument between Catholics and Protestants goes on and on. If you scroll down a bit, you can see my post, where I try to stir things up by telling them all, Catholics and Protestants, that their god does not exist. Unfortunately, it appears that I have been ignored. But if you would like to throw in some irreverent contributions, feel free to do so. Or, just sit back and watch the silly back and forth exchange!

UPDATE: Oh, and as commenter Bullet pointed out, the forum has been ongoing since last July!

Sins of the Governor

Almost immediately upon taking the oath of office as governor of New York State, David Paterson admitted that he had an extramarital affair during a rough patch in his marriage.

Now, Governor Paterson has admitted to using illegal drugs. Adultery. Drug use. What's Paterson going to admit next, that he tortured cats when he was a teenager?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Updated: Surely This Be Blasphemy!

Due to objections raised, the video showing some crucifixion scenes from "The Passion" set to the Benny Hill theme has been removed.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Message For This Easter Weekend


Have a Happy Easter. :-)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Music Medley - Rockin' Ladies

While I am not done mining Eighties New Wave classics, I thought I would try a change of pace for the music medley and pay homage to some of my favorite songs with female lead singers. All but one of them is of rather recent vintage. Enjoy!

Evanescence - "Call Me When You're Sober". You can't go wrong with Amy Lee!

No Doubt - "Hella Good". My favorite song from No Doubt.

Dionne Farris - "I Know". This is the oldest song in the bunch, getting lots of airplay in the mid-Nineties before sinking into obscurity. It is still one of my favorites from that time period, cool guitars and great vocals.

Kelly Clarkson - "Walk Away". The first American Idol winner has some catchy pop rock tunes. I think this one is her best.

Marion Raven - "Heads Will Roll". This one is a revelation. I had never heard of Marion Raven until this song played on my Yahoo Launchcast station. I gave it several stars so that it gets frequent repeats.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Addressing Religious Figures

My friend Poodles has a post up on her blog here on a topic of interest to atheists.

While it may not happen often, it is inevitable for just about all of us that we are going to end up having to converse with a religious figure such as a priest or a rabbi.

As someone who was raised and was once a believing Catholic, the most uncomfortable for me is to have to speak with a Catholic priest, because they are generally addressed as "Father." As an atheist, I cringe at the thought of addressing a man as "Father", because to do so in my mind implies that I am acknowledging that he has some sort of spiritual overlordship over me. I generally tend to refer to priests as "Sir", which is what I did during my father's funeral a couple of years ago.

On the other hand, I don't think I would have a problem addressing a rabbi as "Rabbi", though I would probably say it in a rather matter-of-fact tone devoid of any reverence.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Life Imitates Art?

When I read the headline for this article about the drummer of ABBA being found dead in his garden, I couldn't help but think of this scene from This Is Spinal Tap, which I have posted on this blog before as a Friday Funnies segment:

Upon further reading though, it turned out that ABBA's drummer did not die from a bizarre gardening accident, he merely died in his garden after accidentally cutting his throat when his head banged against a glass door in his dining room. Still, it was close enough.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Man Who Had Serious Issues

The lighter side of my job as a trademark paralegal is that I often come across odd or amusing trademarks that people try to register. One of my all time favorites was an application for the mark Saving Ryan's Privates. The mark was to be the title for an adult film.

Today, while doing a trademark scan for one of our clients, one of the hits brought up by the search criteria I used was for an application filed by one Raymond D. Dufresne of Seekonk, Massachusetts for the acronym WHACKA and the words WOMAN HATERS CLUB OF AMERICA W.H.C.A., with the universal prohibition symbol of the circle with a diagonal line across the inside superimposed over the biological symbol for a woman. The application was for a collective mark"indicating membership in a social club of woman haters."

I tried to see if I could find any information on Mr. Dufresne on Google, but none of the Raymond Dufresnes turned up by the search appeared to be him, so I could not find anything that might shed a little light on this guy. The application itself was abandoned all the way back in 1991.

It just boggled my mind how someone not only found himself hating an entire gender, half the human race as it were, but that he actively sought to form an association of like-minded men. Maybe he is dead. Or perhaps he was committed to a psychiatric facility. Or, there might be the slim chance that he got over his hatred of women and found true love and happiness. Who knows? But I thought it was amusing enough to share with my readers.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Richard Dawkins in New York

To anyone in the NYC area who is interested, Richard Dawkins will be making an appearance in New York City this Saturday evening at the Center for Ethical Culture at 7 P.M. Click on the link for more information.

I was contemplating attending the event, but I suspect he is not going to say anything I haven't heard him say before. I had seen him in person last November at a conference put on by the Center for Inquiry. However, if you haven't seen Dawkins live or if you want to get him to autograph your copy of The God Delusion, then you will probably not want to miss his talk this Saturday night.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pet Peeve of the Day - March 13, 2008

After so many months without spotting a single mouse in my house, tonight I had my first sighting in a long time.

Field mice were a constant problem in my kitchen several years ago. The worst was when they would climb up the back of my gas stove and emerge onto the stove top, from where they could get access to the entire kitchen counter top.

At first, out of humane concern, I would try to capture them with live capture traps. I would put some peanut butter in them, and when the mouse would enter, I would yank the string I attached to the trap and the trap door would snap shut on them. After that, I would drive down the road and set them loose on the grounds of the Plainview Middle School. But just when I thought I had solved the problem, another mouse would take the place of the ones I got rid of.

Like the proverbial liberal who becomes a conservative after being mugged, I got sick of trying to capture them alive. I started setting out the box glue traps at various points on the kitchen floor or stove top after either a live sighting, or more commonly, seeing their droppings on the stove top, which bore a close resemblance to chocolate sprinkles. "Fuck em! Let them suffer!" I railed in frustration.

By far the most annoying moment was when I came upon a mouse trying to get at a covered bowl of trail mix on the kitchen counter. The stunned mouse froze for a moment and looked right at me. Unfortunately, a nearby drawer where we keep things like pens and other miscellaneous items was open, and the mouse ran in there. From there, it had access to the two drawers below, where we kept microwaveable contains and pots and pans. We had to throw away so many things and disinfect the drawers and the pots and pans after I saw how many mouse droppings were in there.

In order to keep any more mice from using the stove to get to the kitchen counter, I blocked up the back with blocks of wood. It appears to have worked, as I have not seen any evidence of mice on the stove top of counter. However, as tonight has made clear, they are still finding a way to get into the house. I do not know where the point of entry is, but I will have to continue trying to find possible ways of getting in and blocking them up. Meanwhile, I have set four glue traps in the kitchen and dining room area tonight. That mouse is dead meat!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Edited: The Eliot Spitzer Prostitution Scandal

(Since it appears that my post has come to the attention of The Erotic Review, owing to the spike in visitors who found this site from one of their bulleting boards, I am redacting the portions of the reviews from this post in order to avoid any potential problems.)

Even though he lives on the other side of the country in Oregon, my friend Gordo at Appletree was on this before I could get around to addressing the scandal that has befallen the governor of my state of New York.

As this Associated Press article on Yahoo reveals, Eliot Spitzer may have spent upwards of $80,000 on his extracurricular activities. According to the article, "Spitzer's vast personal wealth would have made it easy for him to spend thousands of dollars on prostitutes. The scion of a wealthy Manhattan real estate developer, Spitzer reported $1.9 million in income to the IRS in 2006."

The enemies that Spitzer made throughout his political career are certainly experiencing a sense of schadenfreude over his troubles. "On Wall Street, where Spitzer built his reputation as a crusader against shady practices and overly generous compensation, cheers and laughter erupted Monday from the trading floor when news broke of his potential ruin."

The Spitzer scandal has also shined a light on the prostitution business itself, as reported in this companion article. Indeed, the Internet has revolutionized the world's oldest profession. To give you an idea, here is a link to Eros New York, an escort advertising site. Interested persons can review a host of ads for women to find what they like, whether it be a blonde or redhead, or an Asian or Latina. Many of the ads even provide links to web sites for the particular escort of interest, where you can view additional photos, get detailed information on rates, as well as some biographical info. For example, here is the web site for Monica L., one of the escorts who advertises on Eros. Monica clearly aspires to be a more high class escort. If you click on her Rates page, you will see that she charges $600 per hour incall and $700 per hour outcall. It brings to mind an old joke by Chris Rock wherein he asks a prostitute how much she charges. When she quotes him a high rate, he asks her what will she do for him. "Whatever you want," she replies, to which Rock quips, "Paint my house, bitch!"

Not only can prospective customers troll escort directories like Eros to look for escorts that appeal to them, there are also web sites where they can read reviews of escorts written by their previous customers. One such site is The Erotic Review (subscription required to access the raunchy stuff). At such sites, one can find out whether the photos of the escort are accurate, what kind of services she provides, as well as her attitude and level of performance. For example, a customer (or "hobbyist" as they refer to themselves) who patronizes a new escort who turns out to be unattractive or a lousy performer writes it off as "taking one for the team."

With all the media attention being given to Governor Spitzer's peccadilloes, it seems inevitable that there will be discussions about the morality of prostitution and whether or not it should be legal. While he might be wishing he wrote this post this week rather than four months ago, Ebonmuse at Daylight Atheism did a good job weighing the pros and cons of legalization in this post that is highly worth reading. Then there is the simplistic view, as enunciated by George Carlin below in a little over half a minute.

Whether or not prostitution should be legal, Eliot Spitzer knowingly and repeatedly engaged in activity that was illegal. As Gordo wrote in the comments section to the post I linked to at the top, we cannot have elected officials breaking the law. I agree with Gordo that Spitzer should resign as governor of the state of New York.

As for whether prostitution should be legal or not, I will not get into my own opinion on the subject in this post, though I invite others to do so. I plan to do another post on this topic later this week where I will state my opinion, which has been shaped by my own personal experience.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Republicans In A Nutshell

Having once been a registered Republican, these two back to back posts by Pam Spaulding at Pandagon pretty much encapsulate what I find disgusting about the social conservative wing of the modern day Republican Party. They are all about appeals to bigotry and the demonization of "the other".

My First Video

Because the weather was so horrible today, my kids and I stayed in the house. The wife had to work today. My son wanted me to film him and his sister playing with some toys, so I thought I would test the movie mode on my digital camera.

Be forewarned that the video below contains scenes of extreme violence and may not be appropriate for viewers of all ages. And damn, it took forever to upload it to Youtube!

Pet Peeve of the Day - March 8, 2008

Wind. Really strong wind. A whole section of my vinyl siding on one side of my house has gotten ripped off by the high intensity winds we have been experiencing here on Long Island in the last several days. Last year the siding got torn off in the same section. I nailed it back on and it held up until a few days ago.

I am planning to have new siding put on my house this spring, along with some other exterior work, and possibly converting our garage into another room in our house. I have made appointments for several contractors to come over and provide us with cost estimates. So, even though a whole section of my vinyl siding has been ripped away by the wind, there is really nothing I will be able to do about it for the time being.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Friday Funnies - It's Just A Wafer Thin Mint

This week's Funnies clip is from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, featuring the morbidly obese serial vomiter Mr. Creosote dining in a French restaurant. After downing an entire menu's worth of food, it's the thin little wafer mint that does him in.

The Formal End of Mike Huckabee

Meant to post about this last night, but wasn't able to get around to it. With frontrunner John McCain having amassed enough delegates, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee officially ended his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. I guess a Huckabee presidency just wasn't part of God's plan after all.

The Times Square Bombing

I was very surprised this morning to read that a bomb was set off several hours before sunrise at the military recruitment center in Times Square.

Yesterday I went into work in the afternoon, as I had to take the morning off for a doctor appointment. Because the weather was decent, I decided to walk to my office from Penn Station. I remember very clearly walking past the recruitment center around 12:45 P.M. and looking at it. It is actually a rather small, metal box shaped building which occupies the median strip where Broadway and 7th Avenue cross over each other at the intersection with 42nd Street.

All that is known so far about the suspected bomber is that it is a male who rode a bicycle. On CNN's website, there is this article, which mentions that the person or persons responsible mailed letters to a number of Democratic congressional representatives, though the contents of the letter were not described, apart from the message "We Did It."

I am not going to speculate as to who was responsible for the bombing or what the motivation was. I just hope the idiot is caught.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Reason Number 812 Why Malaysia Sucks

As per this article on the BBC:

"When customers come to pay at the new Tesco supermarket in Kota Bharu they have to queue separately - one till for men, another for women.

It is one of the regulations to ensure the sexes are kept apart in Kelantan - the only state in Malaysia run by the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS)."

What century are we living in again?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Struggling With The Veil

Last week I put up a post linking to an article about Walmart's apology to a Muslim woman customer who was the target of a jest by a Walmart employee. It was not a post I had set out to do. But when I came across the article while reading the news online, I did a quick post about it in a rather hasty fashion.

I am sorry to say that my comments on the matter were rather visceral in nature, and, in retrospect, perhaps a bit harsh. I gave the impression that I believed that any Muslim woman in this country wearing a veil in public deserved whatever happened to her, which I really did not mean. I certainly did not mean to convey the impression that wearing a veil was a license to taunt or harass a Muslim woman. I have since taken the post down, as it was below my personal standards that I set for myself here.

This is a rather delicate issue for me. I consider myself to be a male feminist. I support reproductive rights for women, believe in equal pay for equal work, and reject patriarchal ways of thinking. So, on one level, I find the idea of Muslim women being forced or brainwashed into wearing veils as a public badge of inferiority. Even worse, as an atheist, I see the veil as an act of submission to an entity, Allah, that I know does not even exist. Like Hasidic males with their locks of hair dangling on each side of their head, or Catholics on Ash Wednesday walking around in public with dabs of soot on their foreheads, the veil represents to me a bold affirmation to society of one's belief in something that I find to be totally insane.

On another, seemingly contradictory level, I find the idea of Muslim women wearing veils in our society to be a provocative act. The veil serves not only as a physical barrier, but a psychological barrier as well. It is as if the Muslim woman views the rest of us as some kind of contamination to be kept at bay. The message I get from seeing a veiled Muslim woman is "I abhor the prospect of having to associate with you."

I understand that there is some validity to the argument that for a Muslim woman, wearing a veil from her perspective is in its own way a feminist act. It is an expression of her individuality and her right to deal with our society on her own terms. But given the fact that we find ourselves in a struggle with an ideology that mandates the wearing of the veil wherever it takes hold, I find it hard to be sympathetic to this point of view. Instead, I can't help but see a Muslim woman wearing a veil as being a public expression of solidarity with the very ideology with which we find ourselves at war.

In the last couple of years, I have noticed Muslim women here on Long Island in our shopping malls and even driving on our streets, garbed in the veil. So, for me, this is not just some academic exercise. It is something I encounter on an increasingly frequent basis, and I feel an extreme discomfort everytime I see it. I want to see an America that is increasingly more rational and secular, and seeing Muslim women openly wearing veils in this country is a sign to me that reason is in retreat.

I don't want Muslim women who wear the veil to be harmed in any way. But at the same time, I can't deny that I desire a climate that serves to discourage them from wearing it. I pride myself on not being a man who succumbs to prejudice and bigotry. I find myself struggling with this issue because it represents a clash of my own values, in this case my respect for religious freedom colliding with what I fear to be the very threat to freedom that the veil represents to me.

This post is a departure from much of my past writing here at Exercise in Futility. I am baring my inner most thoughts about a rather heated topic. I am revealing my fears and prejudices for all to see and to comment on. I would appreciate reading what others have to write about this subject and the publicization of my own thoughts on it. If by chance any Muslims come across this post and wish to add their own two cents, I certainly welcome them to do so. While the veil is not as big an issue as it is in places like the United Kingdom, which have larger and more traditional Muslim populations, I think it will become an increasingly important issue here in the United States in future years.

The Good News

A foreign army has withdrawn its troops from Iraq. The bad news, it's not our army that is withdrawing.

An Observation On The Gospels - Matthew

Last year, when I was perusing through the Gospels while doing research for a post, an interesting idea jumped out at me. The Gospels often read like novels written from the perspective of an omniscient third person narrative.

Take the first Gospel in the New Testament, the Book of Matthew. After spouting out the alleged genealogy of Jesus, Matthew gives us the conception of Jesus from the perspective of Joseph. And as an aside, wouldn't it have made life a lot easier for Mary and Joseph if she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit after they had gotten married?

After the appearance of the angel to Joseph, the story abruptly cuts to the Magi from the east asking where is the King of the Jews who was born? The tale then shifts to the perspective of King Herod and his court. Herod tells the Magi to report back to him the location of the child, whereupon the story segues to the point of view of the Magi. And in another aside, wouldn't someone as ruthless as King Herod have sent one of his own men to accompany or at the very least follow the Magi rather than relying on a bunch of strangers?

Getting to the point now, Biblical literalists believe that the Gospels are a reliable historical account of the events depicted therein, based on eyewitness testimony compiled shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus. But if one considers that the episode of Herod and the Magi took place shortly after the birth of Jesus, and that Jesus lived some thirty something years, who in the 4th decade C.E. was around to remember the Magi? Keep in mind that the years following the crucifixion were supposed to be a period in which the followers of Jesus were being actively persecuted. So, in such a climate, who would have been able go around trying to find, let alone interview, still living members of the court of Herod?

Furthermore, the Magi episode (and by the way, Matthew is incredibly vague about their origin) ends with the Magi being warned in a dream not "not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." Who did the Magi tell that they had this dream? It is not until after the Magi depart that an angel appears to Joseph and tells them to flee into Egypt. It is possible that the Magi could have told Joseph about their dream before leaving, but then why would it then be necessary for an angel to appear separately to Joseph?

Likewise, after Herod dies, an angel tells Joseph in a dream that it is now safe to return home. You would think that when someone as infamous as King Herod dies, the news would not take to long to travel to Egypt where Jesus and his family supposedly resided. One gets the sense that Joseph was incapable of doing anything without an angel telling him what to do! One hopes that the angel was at least able to give Joseph some decent investment tips.

Matthew then introduces the reader to John the Baptist. We get a vivid description of how he dressed and what he ate. Suffice it to say that his taste in clothing and diet left much to be desired. John is set up as preparing "the way for the Lord." John and Jesus have their bit meeting where John baptizes Jesus. There is a brief passage from the viewpoint of Jesus, where "he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him."

Then Matthew switches completely to Jesus as he is tempted by the devil for 40 days. The Temptation story describes the interactions between Jesus and the devil from a third party perspective. But unless we are to believe that Jesus had a companion with him, how could anyone know what happened? It is possible of course that the real Jesus could have been sitting around a campfire with some of his disciples one night and told them, "One time I was out in the desert being tempted by the devil, and it kinda went like this..." Even so, with many years passing between when the author of Matthew first heard the story either from Jesus or from a third party, much detail would likely be forgotten.

Skipping ahead a little, Jesus has begun his minstry. Matthew then devotes the next three chapters to the famous Sermon on the Mount. The fact that it is long and yet apparently remembered in such detail raises a question for me. Was the sermon transcribed by someone? That would seem to be the best way for the sermon to be reproduced so faithfully years later in Matthew. Perhaps it might even have been Jesus' standard stump speech at the time, one that he would tell other crowds in other locations. Maybe the primary draft of the sermon was written out before Jesus delivered it, and he would add embellishments to it depending on the audience he addressed.

On the other hand, if the sermon was not transcribed, then Matthew has some problems. If the Sermon on the Mount was delivered just once to one particular crowd of people and was not transcribed, then it would not be possible to faithfully reproduce it years later from memory. The author of Matthew would have had to track down people who heard the sermon, and try to hammer out a reproduction of it based on where various eyewitnesses were in agreement. Even so, it would still not be a 100% word for word transcript of the sermon.

After the Sermon on the Mount, the narration in Matthew continues almost seamlessly. It is almost as if the reader is following the activities of Jesus in real time; where he goes, who he interacts with, as if someone were trying his best to record the events as they happened. Miracles and casting out of demons aside, the middle section of Matthew rings most true to me as representing genuinely authentic eyewitness testimony. Again, if ministry of Jesus were a serious affair, it probably should be expected that Jesus would have a scribe amongst his entourage to record the preachings of Jesus and who he interacted with.

Then we get to the Transfiguration in Chapter 17. Elijah and Moses are described as appearing before Peter, James and John. The three even offer to build shelters for Moses and Elijah. But how could they know it was Moses and Elijah? There were no pictures back then to refer to. Elijah had been dead for centuries, and Moses, if he existed at all in history, had been dead for over a millennium. If my great-great grandfather were to suddenly appear before me, I would not have the slightest clue who he was. Matthew does not report that a voice thundered down from heaven informing the apostles that "here are Moses and Elijah!"

Matthew loses its Jesus perspective in Chapter 26. In lines 57 through 68, Matthew covers the trial of Jesus by the Sanhedrin. Now, with the disciples scattered, and Peter sitting outside in the courtyard, from whom did Matthew get his picture of what went on at the trial? Apologists assure us that the Gospels were written close to the events that they describe, while at the same time reminding us that the climate for the followers of Jesus in the wake of his crucifixion was dangerous. So where did Matthew get his information from? It is not like today where you can go to a courthouse and read the trial transcripts. Matthew would have had to rely on eyewitnesses to the trial. But how reliable were those witnesses and who would they have been?

After the trial, Matthew switches briefly to Peter, sitting out in the courtyard and getting challenged by others in the crowd accusing him of being a follower of Jesus. Interestingly, his accusers all appear to be women. That matters to me, because Apologists defend the account of the Resurrection by claiming that if the story were fake, the writer would not have had women find the Empty Tomb, because their testimony would not be believed. Yet, here, outside of where Jesus was on trial for his life, it was women who were publicly accusing Peter. So much for the testimony of women not being taken seriously!

After the Peter episode, Matthew then gives us the end of Judas. Matthew 27:3 describes Judas as being "seized with remorse" and describes how he tries to return the money to the chief priests. Again, who did Matthew get this information from?

After Jesus is condemned to death, Pilate's "soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. 'Hail, king of the Jews!' they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again." (Matthew 27:27-30). This scourging appears to have been done out of the sight of any Jewish people, so again we are left with the question of where Matthew gets his information from. Who told him what happened in the Praetorium?

After the Crucifixion, Matthew gives us a scene where the chief priests and Pharisees meet with Pilate to make arrangements to guard the tomb of Jesus. Here is another scene where neither Matthew nor anyone else in the inner circle of Jesus could possibly have been a witness. Same with the guards reporting to the chief priests the disappearance of Jesus. These are interactions that would have taken considerable effort to obtain from actual eyewitnesses in a climate of persecution during the years after the Crucifixion. It was common for the day for historians (look at the works of any major Roman historian) to invent scenes and dialogue. The author of Matthew could easily have contrived the scenes to faithfully represent what he imagined the Pharisees, Pilate and the temple guards might have said.

In conclusion, while the bulk of Matthew is written from the perspective of a possible eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, perhaps an itinerant scribe, there are significant portions at the beginning and the end of Matthew that are at least to me obviously contrived or fanciful additions to the story.