The cause of natural disasters? Acting “arrogantly against the Gospel”. This is the judgement of one man (see below) but one that chimes very much so it seems with many christians. It’s the age-old conservative control mechanism: the reason why things are going wrong is because we deviated from the path laid down by God. This is a recurrent theme in the Bible and is a powerful deterrent to sinning. It’s also a cunning implantation of guilt; for anytime something goes wrong it’s probably because one only prayed four times instead of five or because one masturbated last night or something equally silly.
Why is there so much crackpot thinking from religious adherents? One would think believing in God would make believers smarter (i.e. with God passing on his smarts to his children) but interestingly, belief in God frequently produces the opposite. Critical thinking goes to sleep and the plains are open for stupid and rash zealots to spread as much hatred and sloppy thinking around often with threats of violence against sinners or anyone who challenges their (i.e. God’s) authority. People are always quick to link outcomes to causes that suit their purposes whether in fact true or ridiculous (“The interview went well, It must be my lucky blue tie and red socks”).
The promotion of gay marriage is certainly providing traditionalists with explanations for the decline of mankind. Next year, no doubt, it will be something else. If floods are God’s way of showing his displeasure he is one grumpy old fart.
Around 21:30 mins in, Prof Krauss gives a superb lecture on why God is absurd, why the Bible and all religious texts are nonsense and why as humans we need to bury such dishonest belief systems. No doubt many believers will dig their heels in because, in their own minds, it is simply inconceivable that they could be wrong. If the prophet said so, it must be so. But we all can be wrong and that’s an indisputable and incontestable fact and the very reason why the scientific method (open questioning, honesty, reliance on evidence, peer review etc) is not just superior to ALL religious dogmas but it’s the only rational sensible path to truth and to knowledge. Some believers are probably open to re-evaluating what they believe and from my experience the one probable thing holding them back is fear: (i) of discovering that what they have believed all their lives is myth and (ii) of the reaction of family, friends and community. That’s understandable but it is by living in truth that we find freedom and our inner power.
The question ‘Who made me?’ cannot be answered, because we have no experience or authentic information from which to answer it; and that any answer only throws the difficulty a step further back, since the question immediately presents itself, Who made God?
– Autobiography, John Stuart Mill. First published 1873.
Oh, what a frightful embarrassment that moment you realise that the “Hello” you just hello-ed back wasn’t meant for you but for the person behind you. And there you were thinking Gosh such a good-looking person is accosting me on the street, Lord what a lucky so-and-so I am. Obviously you couldn’t see behind you the good-looking friend of the good-looking accoster since evolution hadn’t thought it necessary to put eyes in the backs of our heads. Two eyes in front are good but, at least, one more at the back could save us a lot of bright florid blushes.
I like to think of evolution as beyond God. You see, according to the Holy Books, God made us in His own image so I presume naturally that God has two eyes, both facing forward. I’m not exactly sure why God would need eyes at all since He knows everything everywhere at every instant and eyes are for those who need to see what’s going on in front and perhaps a bit to the sides. Perhaps a modern St Aquinas can help us here. But for humans, having only front facing eyes leaves us with a number of problems that we don’t need and that evolution could have helped with.
For instance without eyes at the back of our heads we can’t see if someone is approaching our head from behind with a machete in hand. It is a well known phenomenon that a head meeting a machete disadvantages only one of the combatants and it’s always the same one.
Another difficulty, though one less fatal, is that we can’t tell who’s sniggering behind our backs. We all know how it is with our fellow humans, some of us do it too, who hail Welcome to ‘friends’ and ‘comrades’ and can’t wait to plunge into an animated debate over the price of bread or oil or the cost of sending children to school or about the new war in the Middle East. But as soon as you turn your back the flock of previously rounded noses behind you assume the shapes of wrinkly mushrooms, eyes are rolling around like balls on lottery night and mouths start salivating with gossip. How many of our young people have been driven to suicide by not being able to see the sniggering rascals and at least have the opportunity to tell friends from frenemies?
The other vexing issue is that if you know that a really good looking woman (or man) is walking right behind you and they previously caught your eye (and not necessarily the other way round) you won’t know if they are admiring your ass or simply casting around for a good price in the sale windows or enjoying the flowers in someone’s front porch. You could spend a lot of wasted time and energy swaying your hips in the most embarrassing and suggestive fashion.
No, it can’t be … but it’s unnatural … so it says in the Bible … the (fucking) Pope objects …. it’s a disgusting Western practice … not part of our (choose one: Black, Russian) customs … children are at risk for christ’s sake … it’s the end of civilisation … but god hates fags.
No, He doesn’t. People do. It’s self-evident that some Thing that does not exist cannot hate. But people can. Hatred is where ignorance meets prejudice. There are a lot of people who while demanding “rights” for themselves are very quick to deny it to others on the most fickle and stupid grounds like those mentioned in the preceding paragraph. It’s especially frustrating when it comes from Black people. With all the discrimination we’ve suffered too many of “our people” have their heads buried in ignorance and prejudice and a stupendous inability to see beyond conservative narrow mindedness. We have gone straight from the embrace of voodoo into the bosoms of fanatical Christian and Islamic religious bigotry.
Freedom is not the right to govern one’s own country. Let’s be frank here, African and Black Caribbean nations have been independent for a long time and what a glorious record of self-governance they have. Freedom however is a mind thing: the unshackling of superstition and convention and the putting on of courage: the courage to question and to form one’s opinions and then conduct one’s affairs based on careful observation and contemplation rather than simply folding into the consensus. This doesn’t mean an end result where everybody is accepting of homosexuality. It’s impossible to create a world where we all think alike – evolution won’t allow it. But it will mean far fewer people keen to lynch others (or think it’s OK to do so); far more people empathetic with their neighbour and a world that is less stressful and certainly more enjoyable and productive.
So yes, there may be a black US president; and black slavery may be a distant memory; and black people might be able to sit on the bus when whites are around but “free, free at last” we certainly are not. At least not yet. And until we are free, in our minds and in our thinking, we are likely to remain at the bottom of the pile, where we have historically been found.
It never ceases to amaze me how quick religious people are to offend and how quickly they are offended. The first when they damn/stone/hang/fatwah unbelievers (“It’s God’s Word”, “It’s God’s will”) and the second when you call out the falsities of their faith. They tell you “It’s my faith” and they have a right to believe all they want to even if injurious to others. BUT when you as a non-believing truth seeker proclaim your own rights (pro-gay, pro-abortion, pro-tolerance etc) oooh they get all apoplectic. (“What about the foetus!”, “Don’t touch our traditional values!” etc etc). Has anyone told these people that Christianity and Islam were tyrannical impositions that usurped traditional pagan values?
“Oh, but that’s OK because our founders instituted God’s will”
“And how do you know that?”
“It say’s so in the Book”
“Maybe the book is wrong?”
“No way, it is God’s Book”
“But how do you know that?”
“It says so in the Book!”
Oh dear. Yes it’s all a matter of [misplaced] faith. There comes a time when one realises that arguing with religion is like playing with snakes. We, the ones with functioning brains, must act like Perseus against Medusa. Reason and the scientific method will be our adamantine sword to cut off the Gorgon’s head. In due course.
This post is in response to a comment on an earlier posting “On Renouncing Christianity”. Annie B asked me for my perspective on Jesus. In thinking about how best to answer it quickly became clear I was going to write a new (long) blog to set out my case. Here goes.
Arguably, the two most quoted sayings by Jesus are Luke 6:31 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, also known as the golden rule, and Mark 12:31 “Love thy neighbour as thyself”. These are, ironically, also the two gavels with which non-religious people indict Christians, who are often found wanting of Christ-like compassion and often found to be hypocritical poseurs, zealously vindictive in their pursuit of the punishment of sin in others. Christians forget or simply ignore Romans 12:9 “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
I like to think that both aforementioned Luke and Mark verses aver to an idealism held by all humanists: a world of peace and harmony; love and brotherhood; truth and justice; integrity and dignity for everyone born under the sun or stars. The problem is that in real life, in the real world out there, not everyone is inclined to do unto you as they would have you do unto them; and not everyone is sworn to love you as they love themselves. The wily Romans said “Caveat emptor” for a damn good reason. Beware! what is before you is not always what you see. And truly, since humans have been spotted running wild in the pursuit of pleasure and the fulfillment of ambition, we have exhibited an unruly propensity to lie, cheat, exaggerate and oftentimes hold mistaken beliefs with conviction. These propensities belong to all cultures as far as five thousand years of written history can tell us.
Nothing of what I’ve just said will be news to any reader who’s followed the news. Politicians, journalists, bankers, stock tipsters, lawyers, cops, big corporations and hoi polloi; in every walk of life we come across the worst (and best) in people. A few anecdotes to illustrate my extreme cynicism: I recall a story of a Pharaoh whose army fled when they saw the enemy, leaving the King to fight the war on his own. Think about it: one man against tens of thousands. What chance could he have? You got it. But that’s not what he had his scribes write down when his army returned victorious. On the walls of the temple this mighty Pharaoh faced down the enemy alone. If one reads Homer’s Iliad without a bucket of salt one would believe giants like Ajax and Hector could cut through armies almost single-handed and that goddesses can swoop down in the middle of a battle to pluck favourites out of harm’s way. Oh yes, that’s called a miracle.
Homer wrote conversations held in the midst of battle. Really? Who was there to record? But we all know it’s a fictionalised account of a probable historical event much like Shakespeare’s War of the Roses or Edward III. Reminds me of the story in the Bible (another fiction loosely based on a few historical events) when the Devil walks in on God to request permission to test Job. Which human was there to write that conversation down? Oh yes, it’s called divine inspiration. And God visited Abraham to let him know of the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – we have Abraham’s word on that. When the great historian Thucydides went researching for his book on the Peloponnesian War, he wisely discounted many things he heard people who were there said happened. Divine intervention?
So then what should we believe is acceptably true? For me the shrewdest thing Jesus said is in John 8:32 “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Without truth, all life is a lie. It can be a happy lie. It can even be a rich contented lie. But it’s a lie nevertheless and for all those who take to Socrates’ “The unexamined life is not worth living”, living a lie is like having scarred arteries; it blocks the oxygenated blood of life.
It, simply, is naive to believe a man, any man, without putting his claims to examination. I know my Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”. Blind faith? Too naive. In the olde days, an English man’s word may have been his bond but that didn’t stop English law developing into the juggernaut it is today and possibly the best legal system in the world (New Yorkers will have a different view). My point is that if you look at the ever increasing mountain of laws and regulations that exist today there is no doubt they are there because one simply cannot trust humans to not deal sharply; to always do what’s right and to tell the truth. We always find reasons to excuse our crimes and misdemeanors. That’s why we have law enforcement and why we have auditors.
Lenin used to say “Doveryai, no proveryai”; Reagan popularized this as “Trust but verify”. I would rephrase: “Verify then trust.” All “Holy” books were written by men and the occasional woman. They claim God spoke to them but all we have are their words. If we challenge those words, these people of God, condemn us by the same words they wrote. What a perverse recursion. It’s like Hotel California, you get in but can’t ever get out. There’s simply no external reference or corroboration.
The perambulation above sets the framework for how I look at Jesus as an historical figure. [I used to be a talking in tongues born again christian. I believed Jesus was the Son of God, was God Himself, died for my sins and rose again…. you know the script]. So let’s get back to Jesus. How I see him can be discerned in my comments on the following events of his life.
- Did he even exist?
Probably. There are accounts of someone who claimed to be who he was.
- The circumstances of his birth
Before the age of test tube babies and artificial insemination a baby was born to a woman and man who fucked each other. That tells you what I think of the virgin birth. In photographs of stars taken at night with long exposures we don’t see a star as a point but as a line as it makes its way across the night sky. That story in the Bible where three wise men follow a star which comes to a halt just above a manger? The earth is moving at something like 100,000km/hr around the sun; itself moving at 900,000 km/hr around the milky way. So a star going its own way suddenly slows down to track earth just above this manger in Jerusalem. C’mon!
- At age 12: He goes to the Temple and confounds the priests with his intelligence.
There are precocious kids around and maybe he was one.
- Baptism: dove appears and lands on his head
C’mon! When do doves alight on people’s heads? Even if one did it was quite normal for people in ancient times to see signs in everything that happened: eclipses, thunder, a wolf howling just at the right moment, the entrails of a sacrifice etc etc.
- Feeding the multitude: five thousand people on two fish and five loaves?
Not remotely possible.
- Fasting: 40 days in the desert after which the Devil appears to offer the riches of the world in return for Jesus bowing to him
Hallucination or a bare faced made up story. Who was there to witness?
- Walked on water
Right. Explain that scientifically.
- Hem of his cloth. Woman touches his cloth and is healed (or claimed to be). Various healings alleged
It’s called a placebo effect. Curiously despite Jesus saying what he did his followers would too and more, there has been no certified restoration of sight to a blind person or a raising from the dead or an amputee’s legs regrowing or mass healings from cancer etc. But headaches and flus and such like, yes some Christians claim to have been healed. Sometimes, as doctors have found, a sugar pill can heal too if the patient believes they are getting the real medicine.
- Crucifixion & Resurrection
Looks like he was crucified for sure. But resurrection without defibrillation and after three days? Is this like people saying Grandpa died and appeared to them afterwards? If you’re dead for three days you ain’t coming back.
- Ascension: He stood on a hill and the ascended into the heavens
We have been above the sky and there’s nothing there but space. There’s the moon close by but surely that can’t be heaven? In any case, no man can defy gravity without machines.
- He claims to be The Way and The The Truth and The Life and no man can get to God except through Him (John 14:16)
What delusion! Off the rails! Let him prove it. Oh yes, we are in the End Times and he’ll be back shortly as proof. Christians have been saying that for like forever and may still be saying it a thousand years from now. One day they will be right of course because we will either destroy ourselves, or another civilization will, or something will crash into us and wipe us out or the sun will consume us in its death throes. The end times will not be white-skinned beings with wings riding horses and blowing trumpets. Heck, if Jesus lived today he would be prophesying his return in rocket ships.
I stop there and so there it is. I have no suitable response to the Christian response that this and that are miracles. I believe in chance happenings. I believe in working for things. I believe in luck (ah, chance happenings again mixed with preparation). I don’t believe in miracles of the sort that comes with divine intervention. There has been no confirmed sighting of a deus ex machina. I don’t believe in divine inspiration because the only source of that averment comes from books by men who claim divine inspiration in writing said books and as I’ve said before men have a propensity to lie, cheat, exaggerate and hold mistaken beliefs. I’ll change my mind when the facts say otherwise; in the meantime I embrace the truth I see before me for it is that which has set me free. And that’s probably what Jesus would have wanted. I think.