Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Skeptoid #168

Decrypting the Book of Abraham

I'm so dense. When I first saw this title to the show, I thought Mr. Dunning would be taking on the actual good book, the bible, itself.

Then ah-h-h yeah there is no "Book of Abraham" in the Catholic Study Bible I keep on my shelf. So hum-m-m what's he going to discuss?

The Mormons! Not quite as cool as taking on Scientology, but I'll take it.

The show points out the big achilles heel to the Mormon faith, it is too new to hide that some of the basic documents of faith are rather dubious. The religion's founding all occurred in 1820's to 1840's or so. You can still track down some of the original papyrus scrolls that the "Book of Abraham" is reported to have been written down upon, and have them translated. Unfortunately, for the Mormons Mr. Joseph Smith was completely off on his translation. In theory since Egyptian hieroglyphs had been translated by Champollion* a decade or so earlier, Smith could have taken some correspondence courses and with actual knowledge amazed his followers with a real translation. (Ok. It doubtful such knowledge would have been easy to access. The internet let alone the University of Phoenix had yet to be founded.) Instead, Smith either made stuff up, or convinced himself he knew what it said. Either way, God apparently did not give him special powers to translate on the spot --a black eye for the Mormon faith.

In most religions you have the luxury of a few thousand years elapsing between now and when the founding documents turn up, so all that nitty gritty investigation stuff gets real messy. In Christianity maybe Paul saw Jesus on the Road to Damascus, or maybe he didn't? It's so long ago who can tell. Therefore, instead of trying to figure out such old stuff, let's stop discussing it and eat some ham on Easter Sunday, and then drink all the wine in the house. In Mormonism you cannot even drink any wine, so I'll take Christianity any day.

Back to the show, as always Mr. Dunning does an admiral job succinctly laying out his case on why the Book of Abraham is crap. He then does a quick counter punch to some of the apologetic arguments for the validity of the "Book of Abrham." Then he points out that Mormon Church would be wise to distance themselves from it. (Instead perhaps the elders could point out that Amy Adams was born a Mormon, and she's pretty cute, and for you ladies out there, Aaron Eckhart is Mormon. He's the only other guy on the Planet that could pull off being Don Draper/Dick Whitman. Now, let's have ham and all the sunny delight in the house.)

As an aside and a service to Mr. Dunning, he is having a contest for people to help design new swag for people buy to support the show. If in the end it looks appealing, I believe I might be persuaded to procure some items and to look rather dapper. If he picks your design, a free shirt for you. How can any budding designer resist such a reward? (For full disclosure, if the SGU had a similar contest, and all I got was a shirt I'd never wear it. Instead, I would show it to everyone who ever showed up at the house, and gloat.)

At the moment I'm listening to "Reasonable Doubts" Bonus Episode. I'll post on it in the next few days.

You are reading The Skeptical Review. I'm Nigel St. Whilehall of Skepreview.com.

* Hats off to Carl Sagan for his vignette on the Rosetta Stone in "Cosmos" for giving me such useless knowledge.

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