About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Christian intolerance, Wal-Mart and the anti-Christ

How's that for an attention-grabbing title? Well, the main piece of news is actually old (as in last December), but I've had some additional thoughts about the topic since starting to read Dawkins' “The God Delusion,” so here we go.

The controversial news item is that Wal-Mart and several other retailers have been selling a video game called “Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” based on the apparently popular series of novels by the same title authored by nutcases Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The goal of the game is, of course, to not be left behind, but ascend instead to Heaven and be reunited with Jesus (this all happens in an apocalyptic, after-the-Rapture, New York City – where else?).

In order to win, the “good guys” need to either convert or kill (yes, you read correctly, kill) their opponents, many of whom have Muslim-sounding names. When asked about the latter detail, Jeffrey Frichner, the President of “Left Behind Games” said that the game doesn't endorse prejudice, but, you know, “Muslims are not believers in Jesus Christ. That is so obvious.” Indeed. He added that players who battle the anti-Christ (whose character is also, interestingly, the fictional Secretary General of the United Nations) are “freedom fighters” (I wonder were he got that catchy phrase...).

Wal-Mart, meanwhile, defended its decision to stock the video games on its shelves because there is a market for them, and they are in the business of selling. Never mind that this is the same company that refused to sell Jon Stewart's “America (The Book)” (despite a huge market for it) because it may have been “offensive” to some customers. Not to mention that if economic considerations were truly the only guiding principle, Wal-Mart should be selling crack cocaine.

But what makes all of this fascinating, as I mentioned, is some reading from Dawkins' book, in particular the chapter on the so-called moral foundations of the badly mislabeled “good book.” It turns out that, if one reads the Bible carefully, not only are LaHaye and Jenkins right, but in fact they really don't go far enough! The book of Revelation in fact mentions only 144,000 slots for people to go to Heaven, as the Jehovah' Witnesses claim, and – moreover – it's clear that those slots are for Jews only (12,000 for each of the 12 original tribes), not for American Christians (or, a fortiori, Muslims). Not only that, but since Revelation specifically states that the lucky ones will be those who “did not defile themselves with women,” only virgin men (and, obviously, no women) will be let in. I wonder if this sort of information is to be found in the instructions on how to play Left Behind.

A review of the game appeared – not surprisingly – in “Plugged In,” published by that insane group known as “Focus on the Family” (as a bumper sticker popular in Colorado, where the group is headquartered, says: “Focus on your own fucking family”). The reviewer comments that this is “the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior – and use to raise some interesting questions along the way.” Yes, questions like: how will Junior feel when neither Mom (because she is a woman) nor Dad (because he defiled himself with at least one woman, namely, Mom) will join Junior in Heaven? Assuming, of course, that Junior belongs to one of the 12 tribes, and that the corresponding 12,000 slots are not already sold out.


  1. Convert or kill, huh? That sounds about right. That seems to be a common theme with fundamentalists: Believe like we do, or die so you don't poison others with your lies. This reminds me of something that H.L. Mencken once said, "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." Sometimes I think they miss the good old days of the crusades.

  2. Heaven doesnt sound that great actually.. All virgins and jews.. just kidding. Not about the virgins though..

  3. What would Wal-Mart think about a pro-atheist assault game called "Freethinker"? Kill all the drones. Destroy all the religious robots. Only individuals may survive in the real world. Now I'm going to dust off my programming manuals. C++ Baby!

  4. "In order to win, the “good guys” need to either convert or kill (yes, you read correctly, kill) their opponents, many of whom have Muslim-sounding names."

    I think most people, Christian and non, recognize that is not What Jesus Would Do.

    The Bible predicts that in the "end of the age", times will be dark and even people who are considered "the elect" will be able to be deceived. This sort of game, I think, is one example of that. Those people might being deceived, but you don't need to be. :)

    Let's see what the reading about the 144 k really says.

    Hebrew Names Version
    Revelation 14

    Rev 14:1 I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on Mount Tziyon, and with him a number, one hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.
    Rev 14:2 I heard a sound from heaven, like the sound of many waters, and like the sound of a great thunder. The sound which I heard was like that of harpists playing on their harps.
    Rev 14:3 They sing a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the Zakenim. No one could learn the song except the one hundred forty-four thousand, those who had been redeemed out of the eretz.
    Rev 14:4 These are those who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed by Yeshua from among men, the first fruits to God and to the Lamb.
    Rev 14:5 In their mouth was found no lie, for they are blameless.
    Rev 14:6 I saw an angel flying in mid heaven, having an eternal Good News to proclaim to those who dwell on the eretz, and to every nation, tribe, language, and people.
    Rev 14:7 He said with a loud voice, "Fear the Lord, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heaven, the eretz, the sea, and the springs of waters!"


    The "Hebrew version", the "New King James" and the "King James" are almost identical in content. I just like the use in the Hebrew version of some of the more accurate historical names for certain things.


  5. hahaha massimo, all of your posts are informative and entertaining but this one is especially entertaining! fyi theres a free downloaded demo version on the internet! its SO nuts. every stranger you run into has his own unique biography that you can read if you click on him. They are HILARIOUS. I remember one was something like "john was an atheist for 20 years until his girlfriend introduced to christ"

  6. Your post implys that according to Revelations only 144,000 people (that are male virgins)are going to heaven. Although these 144,000 will be chosen and marked for a reason, it is very clear that these are not the only people going to heaven

    Rev 14:3

    And they made as it seemed a new song before the high seat, and before the four beasts and the rulers: and no man might have knowledge of the song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, even those from the earth whom God has made his for a price.

    Although these 144,000 are special for reasons, the last sentence tells you they are not the only ones going to heaven.

    Not that this change anyones view, but your post will prompt people to say that the bible says only 144,000 people are going to heaven. Thats not true.

  7. I am being up-to-date with the events. It is surprising how the U.S. equate christianity with the way of the war. And to think there is even a video game, sold to the masses, with such a skewed religious backing, just makes it even more interesting the way the nation portrays itself. Convert them and then make them your lamb, I once wrote. I should patent that phrase. Greetings.

    The skeptic from a third world country.

  8. Jim,

    tell it to the Jehova's Witnesses. For me it's all hogwash, 144,000 or 144 millions...

  9. Umm... Max, that number of saved, "144,000", isn't meant to be taken literally. It was just the Aramaic way of saying "gazillions and bajillions", or "lots and lots and lots". IOW, "Many people are goign to be raptured".
    That still doesn't let the "defiled" in, though...

  10. Cal, WTF do you mean, "not what Jesus would do"? Haven't you read Luke 19:27: "But those my enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me."
    Where's the pacifism or reconciliatory approach in that? You only cherry-pick the parts of the Bible that support your preceonceptions; I've read the whole thing, and it is awash in contradictions. The one claim that cannot be made, however, is that Jesus was an outright pacifist. (Of course, he's really a Greco-Roman demigod who never really existed, but that's a topic for another day.)
    Speaking of Roman demigods, Hello, Max...

  11. Kimpatsu,

    I don't know, man, 144,000 sounds pretty specific to me. And 12,000 for each of the 12 tribes doesn't seem a random choice either...

  12. Tony,

    I don't see a single thing in the text that suggests that these men were something other than unusually righteous individuals. That's about it. Reading something else into the text is totally nonconstructive. If you have further need to pick it apart, please go here:


    The passage in Luke that you were referring to, is, without a doubt, in the context of a parable. The words used in that verse are those of a king whose story is told in the parable.

    Here's the parable. Read it carefully.

    Luk 19:11

    While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.
    Luk 19:12

    He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.
    Luk 19:13

    So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.*‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
    Luk 19:14

    “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don't want this man to be our king.’
    Luk 19:15

    “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
    Luk 19:16

    “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
    Luk 19:17

    ” ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
    Luk 19:18

    “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
    Luk 19:19

    “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
    Luk 19:20

    “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth.
    Luk 19:21

    I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
    Luk 19:22

    “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?
    Luk 19:23

    Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
    Luk 19:24

    “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
    Luk 19:25

    ” ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
    Luk 19:26

    “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.
    Luk 19:27

    But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me.’ ”



  13. I am startled by the number of comments that slide over the issue of slaughtering people en masse to compete (in vain, it seems, at least for us defiled non-Jews) for a seat in the golden stadium in the sky. I'm even more startled at the comment suggesting that we atheists ought to play a game killing irrational people. How about a game where we are thrown in the middle of a conflict situation and our mission is to draw the combattants to a negotiation table and resolve the conflict?

  14. haha just got this link from a friend, real good stuff!
    And then we wonder why these kids are the way they are sometimes. All the wrong information being spoon fed to them is just scary. And talk about being racists. Now that is really going to help future generations. What's weird is that Muslims believe in Jesus, just not as a God but a prophet. To my understanding it's Jews that do not believe in Jesus, or am I wrong??

  15. Arguing over Bible verse is pointless. Theology is like comic book collecting. Fiction!

    "tell it to the Jehova's Witnesses. For me it's all hogwash, 144,000 or 144 millions..."

    Thanks for cutting thru to the heart of the matter, Massimo.

    On Saturday, while reading Massimo's original post, two Jehova's Witnesses actually knocked on my door. Funny!

    A funny anecdote - my sister, who loves rational argument, once invited two Jehova's Witnesses in for a discussion. They practically ran away when she was done with them.

  16. FYI on what the JWs believe. It is 144,000 that will go to heaven, and the rest of the faithful are either resurrected or live through armageddon to live in paradise on earth.

    I believe "The Resurrection" used to be a much more common Christian belief but fell out of favor for just heaven I guess.

    This part about having to be a male virgin to be one of the 144,000 is news to me. I was actually raised a JW, (now I am an atheist). In the last year of my father's life as he was dying of cancer he thought he claimed to receive revelation that he was one of the 144,000.
    Strange but true!

  17. Miriam said...
    " What's weird is that Muslims believe in Jesus, just not as a God but a prophet. To my understanding it's Jews that do not believe in Jesus, or am I wrong?? "

    All kinds of of religions have a belief that Jesus existed but that he was not really any kind of deity. Jews and Muslims are about par on that count also.

    Evidence from archeology is the best defense on such matters. So to me, the coolest thing in the world is the Archaeological study Bible that my hub and I have. On the basis of archeology alone, better than 9/10ths of the Biblical claims about locations and time frames can be examined and confirmed for their credibility.

    Fortunately have also been to many of the places that are examined in this Bible (between chapters, of course) and so I know how the beliefs about the locations were developed. The more I study it, the more sound I think the whole range of stories in the Bible actually are.

    However, if an individual does not wish to believe that Christ existed and that he was "God", they will not do so no matter what level of evidence is presented to them.

    That is the nature of the reality of freewill.


  18. Anonymous,

    Does archaeological evidence of Troy prove that Zeus and Hera existed? After all, they're important players in The Iliad.

    Neither does archaeological evidence that some city existed and some historical events involving Hebrews took place prove anything about the reality of a Hebrew or Christian god.

  19. The last time I had a couple of JW's on my front door, I engaged them in a discussion on the morality of Yahweh's mass child murdering at Passover and after a little while, they started looking at their watches and made excuses and departed.

    I then used this on a couple of other evangelists who engaged me as I was working on the car by the footpath and they turned really nasty and said the Egyptian kiddies deserved to die, before stomping off.

    Can't wait for the next lot to appear on the doorstep so I can try it again.

  20. I always look for a little humor in my day. Today's laugh came from reading the following statement in a comment above: "...the bible says only 144,000 people are going to heaven. Thats not true."

    Of course it's not true. LOL
    Nobody is going to heaven, it's an imaginary place. MP got it right, 144 or 144 million, it's all so silly.

  21. Cal, if you really want to understand the Bible, go here:


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