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James and the Jesus Family Tomb Ossuaries
Posted: 20 May 2007 09:23 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Forgive me for being new, and for starting a thread about a previously discussed subject, but I didn’t see any recent debate about the Jesus Family Tomb book and the Discovery Channel documentary. 

I came to the forums because I was so disturbed by the podcast interview with holy-relic-debunker Joe Nickell.  When it came time for them to discuss the James ossuary, he used conjecture, rumor, and guesses to debunk the ossuary.  His own personal observations were that the inscriptions were on the opposite side of the ossuary’s ornate carvings.  He used this as an example to show that the claim was dubious; however, he doesn’t give any comparisons to other ossuaries, and he fails to make any scientific effort into supporting his opinion.  Or at least, not in the podcast.

I’m not a scientist or researcher.  I only know what I’ve read in the books.  Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about any facts.  The James Ossuary was debunked by certain scientists, everyone sighed with relief (both skeptic and Christian), and then the scientific evidence turned out wrong, but everyone had been colored by the original faulty research, and the new evidence has been virtually ignored.  That’s really disappointing to me because the James ossuary leads us into the Jesus Family Tomb ossuaries, which deserve to be examined based solely on the scientific evidence.

The circumstantial evidence for this tomb looked at individually is kind of kooky, but all added up it becomes compelling and worthy of attention.  That being the case, I think I should start with what I think are incontrovertible facts.

-A tomb was uncovered in 1980 in Talpiot (between Nazareth and Jerusalem) Israel that contained several bone coffins called ossuaries.  Ossuaries are unique because they can easily be dated to the time of Jesus (with minor exceptions).
-This tomb was relatively untampered, and archaeologists quickly came in to catalog the find
-They found a cluster of unusual new-testament names including a “Jesus, son of Joseph” and a “Maria” found together.  As well as a “Jose’” (one of the brothers of Jesus according to gospel)
-They found an uncommon carving at the front of the tomb of a chevron with a circle under it.
-These ossuaries were safely stored by the Israeli Antiquities Authority for more than twenty years.

So, the first thing that I want to point out is that the tomb was catalogued by archaeologists.  These aren’t ossuaries that are floating around on the black market and can be tampered with (like the James ossuary and the only other Jesus, son of Joseph ossuary ever found).

Many people have been debunking the find because the names are common.  That isn’t really an argument that the biblical theory is bad, and it fails to acknowledge the uncommonness of the latinized form of Maria, the Greek form of Mariemne (which I will discuss later), and the uncommon nickname Jose’,  not to mention those names being found near a Jesus, son of Joseph. 

The book and the documentary go into statistics, but I don’t think those figures will satisfy either a christian or an atheist because it’s unfair to use number games as a method to prove a claim so controversial.  Many people have pointed to the statistician later backing away from the findings, but I think that what he was saying was that his statistics should not be used to qualitatively state “this is the tomb of The Bible’s Jesus”.  Totally fair, in my opinion.

The carving of the chevron and circle are part of the circumstantial evidence, but if you look at the actual picture of this symbol you can see how it can be compared to the image of the “All Seeing Eye”.  I won’t go into the details of the “All Seeing Eye”, but I think it’s common knowledge that The Templars and Masons have been using the symbol for centuries, that these secret societies formed from soldiers crusading in Jerusalem, and that they had power over the church until the church finally mass executed them, forcing them to go underground.  I think you can see where I’m going with this.  Please correct me if I’m venturing into historical fantasy.

Then we get to the sketchy claims about the remaining ossuaries.  The first being that there is possibly an ossuary for Mary Magdelene.  It would be nice if the inscription actually said Mary Magdala, but instead it says Mariemne (in Greek).  The reason the filmmakers made the documentary at all is because they discovered a connection between Mariemne and Magdelene, and it wasn’t a forced connection.  The lost Acts of Philip describe Magdelene’s journey to Greece to teach Christianity, but instead of calling her Magdelene, in this gospel they call her Mariemne.  OK, so the only original copy of this gospel is centuries after the time of Jesus, but that doesn’t disprove the connection.  They wrote her name as Mariemne for a reason.  Are debunkers claiming that someone in the fourth century changed Mary Magdelene’s name on purpose to alter the theories of a filmmaker in the 2000’s?  Others point to the absurdity of the details of this gospel such as talking donkeys (or something, I haven’t actually read the Lost Acts of Philip), but if we are to completely discredit a hisorical book because of miracles, we would have to do the same for every book in the bible.  And, of course, we can’t do that because the bible’s names match to historical record.

There is also DNA evidence presented, but I don’t think it either disproves or proves their theory.  There is obviously no DNA of Jesus that we can compare it to.

The most controversial find is a Judah, son of Jesus ossuary.  I find it plausible that Jesus would hide the existence of his offspring, considering that Jewish Royal descendants were being executed at the time, and we know Jesus had some royal genetics on both sides of his family tree.

Another sketchy claim is that the James ossuary is the missing ossuary (one turned up missing).  The proof against it is that the dude who owns the James ossuary claimed he got it before 1980.  However, this fact can easily argued- the guy is lying to save his ass from going to jail because pre-1980 it was perfectly legal to own archaeological finds, but then a law was passed in 1980 outlawing it.  This is my own idea, so someone please correct me if I’m wrong on those facts.

Anyway, I’m obviously a skeptic or I wouldn’t be on this site, but I find it weird that nobody will even consider what seems to me to be a great deal of evidence.  Sure, anyone can poke holes in the circumstantial evidence, but what about the actual evidence?  Why is it so easy to dismiss this find without giving it consideration and examining it for it’s merits?  Is this not what atheists have been saying for years- that resurrection is impossible, that there is no proof of any Jesus miracles, and that the gospels can be easily explained?  So why is this theory being dismissed?  Shouldn’t we expect to find Jesus in a tomb?  Where else would he be?

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Posted: 21 May 2007 06:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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My understanding is that this is a real ossuary from a loooong time ago.  That is true.  And, the beginning of the inscription “James, son of Joseph” is probably also real.  But the “brother of Jesus” part is fake.

Joe said that the additional inscription looked fake (something about patina).  And he wasn’t the only one.  Everything else you’ve read isn’t true.

You have to get off the DaVinci Code stuff.  It’s all made up.

Listen to Joe again. He goes into a lot of details.

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Posted: 21 May 2007 08:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I understand that the DaVinci Code is fiction, and that it was inspired by Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which was duped by fraudulent documents about the Priory.  Could you give me further evidence or a reference link that the theory of Jesus’ marriage to Magdelene is proven unfounded?  To my understanding, the lost gospels at least hint at a relationship between them.  I don’t think it can be ruled out, and it shouldn’t be dismissed so casually.

Does Joe know anything about patinas?  Or is he just guessing?

Everything else I’ve read isn’t true?  I’m really interested in how you can be so certain because that is a vague and sweeping comment that seems dismissive and inaccurate.

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Posted: 24 May 2007 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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ticktock - 21 May 2007 08:15 PM

I understand that the DaVinci Code is fiction, and that it was inspired by Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which was duped by fraudulent documents about the Priory.  Could you give me further evidence or a reference link that the theory of Jesus’ marriage to Magdelene is proven unfounded?  To my understanding, the lost gospels at least hint at a relationship between them.  I don’t think it can be ruled out, and it shouldn’t be dismissed so casually.

Does Joe know anything about patinas?  Or is he just guessing?

Everything else I’ve read isn’t true?  I’m really interested in how you can be so certain because that is a vague and sweeping comment that seems dismissive and inaccurate.

These so-called “lost gospels”, like all of the gospels, are just complete fiction. There is no reason to put any stock in what any of these writings say. The Jesus figure became a topic of popular fiction in the 2nd and 3rd century, with dozens of stories written about him, just as there were similar stories written about many different gods and hero figures, such as Hercules, Adonis, etc.

I have several blog posts on the subject of the supposed Jesus tomb:

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/blog/index.blog?entry_id=1651011

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/blog/index.blog?entry_id=1650704

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/blog/index.blog?entry_id=1647450

You may also want to read my article on Jesus historicity:

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/jesus_myth_history.htm

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Posted: 24 May 2007 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The Jesus figure became a topic of popular fiction in the 2nd and 3rd century, with dozens of stories written about him, just as there were similar stories written about many different gods and hero figures, such as Hercules, Adonis, etc.

You know, with how big Star Trek is, it’s going to look much the same way a few centuries from now.  Millions of books with and about the characters as well as the actors and the man behind it all (Gene Roddenberry), not to mention 10 movies and four series.  THe people of the future are going to wonder if we saw them like Hercules or Adonis (Who Mourns for Adonis (TOS)).  LOL

All joking aside, I can see that happening, because it happens now and Trek is a good example of that.

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 25 May 2007 01:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Thanks for your reply. 

I think that there is a little bit of bias in your blogs since you admit to not believing in Jesus’ existence.  It’s fair to say that you don’t believe in historical legends without verifiable proof, but I think you actually mean that you have a belief and that it’s Jesus didn’t exist.  Belief is taking for fact the unkown, right?  You take for fact that Jesus didn’t exist even though you don’t know for sure.

You essentially say that the gospels can’t be used as evidence for anything because they can’t be possible, and yet they use historical names, events, and places within the contexts of the miracles, and though they are inconsistent in details, they do tell the same story.  The religion was also quickly spread immediately after the supposed death of Jesus, which would indicate there was a person and that person had followers.  That doesn’t take away from the fact that there were obvious fictions and hoaxed miracles written into the text, but I still think it shows that a historical Jesus was likely.

The region and time-period are obscure.  Because of this, there can be any number of possible probablilities that happened to create this tomb.  I don’t think it can be categorically counted out that this is not the tomb of the Bible’s Jesus.  I really appreciate that your blogs still accept the possibility.  The timeline is as accurate as timelines go, the three most important names are there- Jesus, the mention of Joseph, and Maria, and the chevron is the puzzle piece that fits the timeline and the names to the history.  I don’t think the chevron can be ignored so candidly, nor the strategically placed skulls.

What truly bothers me is the effort of the Christians have taken to combat this book and TV special with arguments that don’t hold water.  Almost all their points are debatable or flat wrong.  And in the end, they have no right to point to this evidence or that evidence when they don’t take the same steps to prove even the most remote fact in their own holy book.  It’s all a bunch of hypocrisy.

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Posted: 25 May 2007 04:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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A quick google search yieded this from the National Geographic:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/06/0618_030618_jesusbox.html

The historiocity of Jesus is suspect.  The 4 gospels do not tell the same story.  I’m not a xian, nor was raised in that faith tradition.  But I’ve read a few articles and books that outline the differences.  And they aren’t historically accurate (see Dan Barker).  Plus, and to me this is the most damning evidence that Jesus, if he lived, was no concern to the Romans, no mention of Jesus, or anyone matching his description is ever mentioned in the copious records kept by the Romans.

there was a person and that person had followers

It is also my understanding that various sects were alive at this time (30-70 CE), especially the Essenes.  Probably, some charismatic teachers of the Essene philosophy inspired the drift towards xianity. 

So, even if a Jesus lived and then died on the cross, or didn’t die and lived on with Mary Magdelene and had kids, what difference would it make?  He was just another ranting faith-man, who had a bit of luck on his side.  Look at Joseph Smith.  Do you hold his offspring in holy regard? 

If you have enough doubt about an historical Jesus, then why care about the ossuary?  Or the myths of Mary Magdelene, etc.?  It’s all a story.

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Posted: 25 May 2007 06:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thanks for the link.  It seems there is still debate among the scientific community about it at least.  And I found it interesting that the inscription had been cleaned, and yet they were still chemically analyzing the patina.

The gospels do not exist in a vacuum.  They have historic names, places, and details.  I’m listening to Dan’s debate about biblical mistakes (thanks for the recommendation), and he is nitpicking about minor errors.  I will grant that minor errors do indicate that the book wasn’t written by God, but I don’t think they disprove Jesus was a living human.  When you refer to the Romans as having no record of Christ, are you referring to the same civilization that later adopted Christianity, founded the Catholic church, and spread the belief across the world?

I don’t hold Jesus in holy regard, nor do I hold his offspring or Joseph Smith’s.  What difference does it make how the pyramids were made?  What difference does it make if Shakespeare didn’t really write his own plays?  What difference does it make if King Arthur actually had a knight named Lancelot.  It’s all history; that’s the obvious answer.  More importantly, it’s all interesting.  We are talking about a human who has shaped thousands of years worth of history, politics, war, and basically nearly everything because people believe in his “miracles”.  We live in a world whose very system of time is connected to the birth of this man.  Would it not be an extremely important find if his family tomb was found? 

I care about the ossuary because it’s fascinating and interesting.  This seems like a forum where people would be willing to consider evidence, and all the christians I’ve debated with are putting up lousy arguments to the evidence.  Isn’t it enough to say that Jesus was a man?  Do we now have to say that he didn’t exist?  For one thing, you have NO proof that he didn’t exist, and I have four books to say that he did.  But, I’m the type of skeptic that doesn’t dismiss arguments based on my own non-beliefs.

Mary Magdelene has been slandered as a prostitute and a repentant sinner by thousands of years of Christians.  This girl who was important enough to be featured in the crucifixion story, and to be a disciple, and to be kissed by Jesus is turned into a whore by the people controlling Christianity.  Why?  I don’t believe that Mary Magdelene was the wife of Jesus, I’m considering the possibility.

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Posted: 25 May 2007 07:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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We are talking about a human who has shaped thousands of years worth of history, politics, war, and basically nearly everything because people believe in his “miracles”.  We live in a world whose very system of time is connected to the birth of this man.  Would it not be an extremely important find if his family tomb was found?

 

A fair point.  I agree that such a person deserves study.  What I’m saying is that there has been study, and many non-partisan scholars say there is not much of the real Jesus to study.  But, again, I am not nor ever have been a xian.  Perhaps the Jesus Seminar (which I know about through Robert Price’s salons back in Montclair) is a place for you to look.

When you refer to the Romans as having no record of Christ, are you referring to the same civilization that later adopted Christianity, founded the Catholic church, and spread the belief across the world?

Snarky little comment.  I happen to understand more than a bit about ancient Rome, and theirs was a fairly sophisticated and well-educated society.  We have excellent records of Roman history of this time period.  And there is no mention of Jesus, or Christ, or a large religious movement during the life of Jesus (~30 CE), nor the writing of the Gospels (~70 CE).  It wasn’t until its collapse many hundreds of years later that it fell under the spell of xianity.

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Posted: 25 May 2007 08:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Sorry to be snarky, Linda.  I can tell that you are a scholar on the subject; you don’t deserve condescension. 

Although I haven’t researched the topic thoroughly, I do feel like there is a flaw in your argument.  There is simply no way to prove the non-existence of a man by pointing to the non-existence of contextual history.  It isn’t fair to call them “stories” without evidence that they were fiction or any logical explanation for the deception.  What you are justifiably pointing out is that there is doubt that he existed, and I can accept that as a possibility.  I’m just not sure that such a grand conspiracy makes sense in the context of the times.  For this religion to have spread so virally, Jesus would have had to actually hoax the miracle with little to no conspirators (likely Judas).  What I’m trying to say is that hoaxing the messiah’s return would be easy enough and not unprecedented; all they would have to do is some magic tricks and create an appropriate backstory for this guy.  He was probably just a blip on the Roman’s radar, but I don’t honestly know about the Roman’s documentation to argue that point.

Back to the subject, the authors of Family Tomb point out other ossuaries that HAVE been identified as people from the bible.  Simon of Cyrene and Peter are the two that they specifically pointed out as being hard to discredit.  These are actual people featured as main “characters” in the bible.  At some point, a line must be drawn between calling the gospels stories and calling them absolute fact.

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Posted: 25 May 2007 10:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Mary Magdelene has been slandered as a prostitute and a repentant sinner by thousands of years of Christians.  This girl who was important enough to be featured in the crucifixion story, and to be a disciple, and to be kissed by Jesus is turned into a whore by the people controlling Christianity.  Why?  I don’t believe that Mary Magdelene was the wife of Jesus, I’m considering the possibility.

Supposedly she was a rich widow who supported JC’s ministry.  Why she was slandered, one can only guess- to oppress women?  To make the “virgin Mary” a “role model” for women and make sex such a stigma that they have to slander Magadeline?  I have no idea.

I do know I am with Robert Price when he said something like IF there ever was a historical Jesus, he is so buried in myth that we will never find the real man.  I do think that there is a possibility that he was written into the Joshua cult that was happening around that time, which Price mentioned.  Now why he n particular was written into it, I have no idea.  I do think he as a person was imbellished upon so that he would seem greater than life.  He might have just been a great man and people wanted him to be an attention getter so they mythocized him.  Who knows.

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 26 May 2007 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Thanks for the apology!

I’m with Mriana here.  All this happened so long ago, in a time when people believed in miracles and magic.  And, although Roman history is fairly intact, what happened in a Jewish neighborhood off the beaten path is probably lost forever.  So, we are left with the Gospels and other stories in the Old and New Testaments. 

I have been a teacher at a Humanist Jewish Sunday School, and one of the main reference texts I was given to craft a curriculum argues that even the big stories in the Old Testament didn’t happen.  This is _The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts_ by Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein.  It is tough slogging.  A book about new ideas in archeological research should be interesting, but this book is as dry as the desert!!  Still, it argues that there was no Abraham, Isaac, Moses, no Hebrew slaves in Egypt, no Exodus.  All stories were given the imprimatur of truth by King Josea, c 700 CE.

So, it’s fine to search for the real story.  But we need to keep in mind that facts are scarce.  Myths grow easily.

At some point, a line must be drawn between calling the gospels stories and calling them absolute fact.

I don’t quite know what you mean about this.  Stories can be true.  Stories aren’t necessarily fictitious.  Can we agree that parts of the Gospels can possibly be factual and parts simply can’t be?

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Posted: 26 May 2007 09:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Happy Humanist, you mentioned Isaac.  Supposedly his story with his son came from an older myth, like Hercules or something like that.  It was just rewritten for the Jews from what I understand.  Of course, all cultures have a creation and flood stories.  So basically, yes that book sounds a lot like the things I have read about the OT also.

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 18 June 2007 04:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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To me the whole story is a copy of the old persian myth of Mithra.  Although much older than the Jesus story, it contains almost all the same events and identical miracles.  At the time that christianity was growing, mithrism had a cult following in Rome too.  There was an unease about the persians and I guess they just took the story as their own as a way of converting people away from mithrism.

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Posted: 18 June 2007 08:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Yes, norwhol is the pretty much the same story.  The thing is, the Christians supposedly use force to make their myth the predominant one.  So, the Mithra myth sort of got buried and absorbed.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 19 June 2007 01:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Now that’s a little unfair.  Theological mugging or “jumping someone else’s God” has been going on for years and it gets more comical and outrageous each time.  The christians stole mithra, but they inadvertantly delivered a double whammy by telling people that they didn’t have to follow the Jewish laws any more.

On seeing this, the Muslims came up with the coup de gras (mischievous little devils). In effectively a ‘king of the rocket men’ anouncer’s “come back to your picture house next week to see what happens next” scenario: they wrote the sequel and relegated the main character from the second testament of the trilogy to a minor prophet. 

Now, some holy men wrote the first one (impressive in it’s day), the christians trumped that by having written with the authority of a friend of a friend who had met and known the head honcho’s son, and the muslim’s beat that into a cocked hat by having the whole thing written by God’s secretary under dictation.  And knowing this would wind the others up, they said no backsies by proclaiming their prophet as the last one ever.  And in a final touch of comic genius, they scream blue murder about blasphemy every time someone contradicts their faith. 

In later aeons (and you’ve got a love them for this one), the mormons came up with the idea that god-robbing was passe and it was time to move on to grave-robbing.  They issued an edict that if you convert to their faith, you have to trace your ancestors and convert them into mormons posthumously.  So even if you were a devout Jew, Christian, Muslim, Atheist or Agnostic all your life, it doesn’t matter because one of your descendents will come along in a few years time and you’ll have been a devout mormon instead.  So if prior to this you’d be right all along and the latter day saints were wrong, you suddenly get kicked out of heaven/purdah/oblivion/uncertainty and there isn’t a damned thing you can do about it because you’re dead. I love it!  Especially when you read the hate mail page of the holy church of the flying spaghetti monster online; it puts it all into context.

[ Edited: 19 June 2007 01:39 PM by narwhol ]
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