Class Warfare Blog

March 23, 2017

Finding Jesus … Holy Shit

I just finished watching a recorded episode of a CNN series called “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery.” In this episode (S1, E9) the title of which is “The Childhood Home of Jesus” we are led to consider whether said home has actually been found. The sole line of evidence for this “discovery” was a reference in a 7th C. document about Nazareth which referred to two churches, one of which was still in existence, the other was lost. The other was reputedly built upon the ruins of Jesus’ family home!

An archeologist had been invited to view the ruins beneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent which was in a building “said to be built upon the ruins of a church.” The examination of the caves under that building did indicate a former church being there but also there were “walls” within the walls indicating that the church might have been built upon the ruins of a house! Artifacts were found that date to the first century and we are off and running.

The question gets asked, “Could this be the childhood home of Jesus?” We are then treated with breathless commentary along the lines of “the house seems exactly to be the sort that Jesus would have grown up in,” and “this was clearly a home inhabited by a pious Jewish family.” Imagine that. A home in first century Nazareth inhabited by a pious Jewish family, how rare!

They have trouble steering a course through the lack of evidence, of course. They keep asking the question, “Could this be the childhood home of Jesus?” but in a one hour show it takes them to the 59th minute to finally utter “… it is possible, but can’t be demonstrated.”

Really? Then what was used to fill the time between the asking of the question and the answering?

Well, we got all kinds of comments indicating that understanding how Jesus was raised would tell us a great deal about who Jesus was as a man. Really, a god incarnate was going to be shaped by his upbringing and the teaching of his parents? Must be a particularly feeble god.

Part of the filler was descriptions of Joseph and Mary. (I wonder where they got the information?) It was carefully explained that Joseph wasn’t a carpenter but an artisan, a class of people who were consider lower than peasants who worked the land, yet later we were lead to believe that Jesus must have been part of an upper middle class household. (I would guess this was to not offend the upper middle class target audience for this diatribe.) Later we are told that Jesus worked for many years as a carpenter, which is rigorous work, making Jesus into a manly man. Apparently he worked his way up from artisan, making his father proud.

They found artifacts, such as wool spinning tools, which a “woman of the time” would use to spin wool (I’m shocked, I tell you, shocked!) … but immediately thereafter that woman had a name … Mary. Sentences began Mary this, Mary that, etc. They found glass beads that were typical of women’s dresses across the Roman empire for centuries, which would, of course, been part of Mary’s dresses.

Interestingly, Mary was responsible for teaching the boy Jesus how to be a Jew and be part of God’s plan. How a god incarnate would have gotten along without that instruction, is horrifying to consider.

Then there was a longish aside involving a revolt in 4 BCE involving rebels capturing the city of Sepphoris. This city was four miles from Nazareth but 15,000 Roman troops took the city back, crucified 2000 rebels and sold the rest of the inhabitants into slavery. Four miles is a brisk walk of an hour for a mature adult but Jesus was about two years old at the time (having been born in 6 BCE) and could never have made the trip, nor would a two-year old remember anything as an adult from when he was two.* But we were told that “even if Jesus didn’t see the events himself, he would have heard stories from that point onward.” Possibly this shaped his nonviolent mission, it was claimed. Apparently they hadn’t heard about Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. And, the god of all creation fear the Romans? Really? I thought he made the Romans.

Then they segue to a Bible story from Luke about how Jesus went into the synagogue in Nazareth to preach and was rejected to the point of being dragged to a cliff with the intention of being thrown him off of it. But Jesus walked away … mysteriously … never to return to his boyhood home village. How this added to their case for the discovery of Jesus’ childhood home was not made clear.

I think they should have titled this series “Finding Jesus: Fantasy, Fiction, Fable.”

The only “evidence” they have is a mention in a 7th C. text regarding a church reputed to have been built upon the ruins of Jesus’ childhood home. At that time, I am sure there were no false claims of artifacts from that time being holy. The fact that an entire village of houses could have been built from the then known fragments of the cross was just another miracle. So, if that document said it, it is probably true.

They then took the ball and ran with it, using their imaginations and little else, they entertained the fantasy that they had found the childhood home of Jesus and, amazingly, that if that were able to be confirmed that it would tell them something. To most Christians, Jesus is the Creator God of their religion. He is the Father and Holy Spirit as there is only one god. That he was capable of creating the entire universe, the Earth, all of the plants and animals, and the first human beings and still needed his mother to teach him what “God’s plan” was is preposterous. That he would need any help at all is preposterous. That his mission was ever in doubt or in danger is preposterous. Everything must have happened as he planned it to happen. Period.

What were these people thinking?

And if that place really was Jesus’ childhood home, how could it have been forgotten? Oh, yeah, God lived around her a long time ago but we forgot where. Really?

What were these people thinking?

Oh, I forgot, thinking is not encouraged. It is entirely okay to get some press for your believers and provide them with some support for their beliefs even if it is entirely patent nonsense.

Just listen to the pretty stories and, above all, do not ask any questions.

* * *

* According to BibleWalks.com “The city (Sepphoris) is not mentioned in the acts and events of Jesus, but he probably has (sic) visited the city, which is in the near proximity of his childhood village of Nazareth. The city was a commercial center for the whole area and he may have received work as a carpenter.” And the beat goes on … they have no evidence but “he probably has visited the city,” looking for work … in the site of the horror that lead him to fear the Romans so very, very much.

 

March 20, 2017

I Just Don’t Understand

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 7:29 am
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There is a continuing debate over what an atheist is. That this debate continues is baffling. I read about agnostics, hard atheists, soft atheists, militant atheists (Oh, my!), etc. The only reason I can imagine for carrying on these conversations (they are not debates) is they provide opportunities to disparage atheists. I will make this simple: there is a one question test to determine your status as an atheist. Here it is:

Question: Do you believe in the existence of a god or gods?

If you answer “no” then you are an atheist. If you answer “yes” then you are a theist of some stripe (there are literally thousands of variations).

If you answer “I do not know,” then you are an idiot. The answer “I do not know” applies to questions that one hasn’t considered in full or at all or cannot come to a conclusion based upon the evidence offered. This “question” is at the center of all organized religions and if you have had any contact with a religion at all, then you have considered this question. The few of us who have not had any contact with a religion are usual those raised by staunch atheists who deliberately didn’t teach their children about other people’s beliefs in their gods.

If you have addressed this question but decided that you will believe what everybody else believes, for whatever reasons, then you are an idiot.

If you have considered this question at length and still haven’t come to a conclusion, then you are also an idiot. Gods are supernatural beings, like fairies, unicorns, ghosts, zombies, etc. Do you have any evidence for the existence of any supernatural entity, any at all? If you do, please rush that information to researchers who have been looking for centuries for such evidence and found exactly zero.

If you are one of those who accepts the beauties of nature as evidence for the existence of your god, then you must accept that it is also evidence for the existence of all supernatural beings: unicorns, pixies, necromancers, and the rest, which puts you in a distinct minority … of idiots.

So, now that you know what characterizes atheists, can you tell me what they have in common?

If not, you have not been comprehending this as you have read it. Atheists do not believe in a god or gods. Other than that they have … nothing … else … in … common … except maybe exasperation with the people who deliberately do not understand that.

March 14, 2017

Betsy DeVos and The Christian Right’s “Big Ideas”

In Rolling Stone there is a big article on our new U.S. Education Secretary (Betsy DeVos’ Holy War by Janet Reitman). (How did Rolling Stone get from being an “entertainment” magazine to the only U.S. magazine with the balls to publish the truth?”)

Here is a condensation of one part of that article:
A staple in modern evangelical teachings is the concept of Christian spheres of influence – or what the evangelical business guru Lance Wallnau dubbed the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society: business, media, religion, arts and entertainment, family, government, and education – all of which urge the faithful to engage in secular culture in order to ‘transform’ it. The goal is a sweeping overhaul of society and a merging of church and state: elevating private charity over state-run social services, returning prayer to school and turning the clock back on women’s and LGBTQ rights. It would also be a system without a progressive income tax, collective bargaining, environmental regulation, publicly funded health care, welfare, a minimum wage – a United States guided by a rigorously laissez-faire system of ‘values’ rather than laws….

More than a few people have questioned my writing about religion in a Class Warfare blog. I tend to write mostly about fundamentalist religions, such as the DeVos family beliefs, because they are seriously at odds with reality. Tell me if you don’t think these people have a political agenda.

For example, look at the list of “features” of our society the DeVos family would rather we did without: a progressive income tax, collective bargaining, environmental regulation, publicly funded health care, welfare, a minimum wage, etc. Notice how these are all ideas that conflict with basic Christian ideology. These are very rich people, Ms. DeVos’ father created Amway, but I don’t expect them to sell all of their worldly goods and go follow Jesus any time soon. The Bible is full of regulations, pages and pages of regulations, including one to be a good steward of the land, hardly in line with the elimination of environmental regulations. Did not Jesus tell his followers to go forth and heal the sick and did he not complain when someone else did likewise (as long as it was in his name)? This is hardly compatible with the elimination of publicly funded health care. People don’t realize how much poverty and ill health there were in our senior citizens before Social Security and Medicare were implemented. These two government programs alone are responsible for pulling massive numbers of old folks out of poverty and desperation.

What the DeVos family and their ilk have done is made a new religion
out of being  politically conservative and rich.

What the DeVos family and their ilk have done is made a religion out of being politically conservative and rich. They are dead set against progressive income taxes and estate taxes as a form of “rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” Again, this is hardly Christian, but it is right out of the rich man’s plutocratic playbook.

And we now have that new time religion at the highest levels of the US federal government with an attitude of “Well I’m rich and if you aren’t, you can go suck eggs,” the embodiment of Christian charity.

February 20, 2017

Why, Oh, Why?

I read way too often, that there is an anti-science attitude coming from Christians and other highly religious fellows (Islamists, etc.) because <fill in the blank here>. Most of the reasons sound reasonable but they all miss the mark.

The anti-science attitude stems from this itsy-bitsy problem. If science contradicts the Bible or other religious scripture in the least little bit, then those scriptures become untrustworthy. Each religious pronouncement would then have to be evaluated and interpreted and, well, there goes the baby out with the bathwater.

This is obvious in the statements of Christian fundamental literalists; they are against the teaching of “god-less” evolution; they are against science that shows that the Earth is way older (actually 766 thousand times older) than can be deduced from the Bible; they are against the Big Bang Theory because it isn’t mentioned in the Book of Genesis. For those religionists who are not fundamentalists, the threat is the same but more subtle. They think that morals, for example, come from their god (all evidence to the contrary), and so when science contradicts religion, it is a slippery slope leading directly to science refutes religion. And then there goes morality and all human beings become ravening beasts, just like we see in the movies (a well-known scriptural source for the White House apparently).

The fascinating thing is that the religionists insist their religion is based upon faith, yet they spend time and massive amounts of money trying to prove their view of the world is true. Biblical archeologists prowled the Near East looking to prove the events of the Old Testament happened, only to prove the exact opposite. Adventurers have gone looking, even to the point of scouring satellite images looking for the remains of Noah’s ark, even though the same story was told many centuries before the Noah story was told (and “borrowed” several times prior also) and is probably just a convenient vehicle used to take over another religion’s turf. (Rome did this by equating conquered people’s gods to their own, thus bringing the “new believers” into their fold.) Jerusalem is the most excavated city on the planet, with many people looking for confirmation of David’s and Solomon’s kingdoms, only to end up with vague bits that mighta coulda come from then.

So, faith apparently is not good enough, conformation is desired, but when confirmation doesn’t come, when contradiction comes instead, the science then must be wrong.

This, of course, is wrapped in a culture in which “having faith” is considered a “good thing” but being gullible is not. Poker players will do very strange things and actually lose money rather than to allow themselves to be “bluffed” by another player. No one wants to know they could have gotten an article they just bought at a better price. So, what better example of being gulled is believing in a false religion? Denying that falsity is far easier than admitting one was taken in by fancy words. It is even easier to deny science than to admit being taken for a ride.

February 12, 2017

Why Are We Still Legislating Religion?

The talking heads crowd is predicting that we will shortly see new legislation that will expand “religious freedom” in the U.S. This is shocking to say the least since we have had religious freedom for quite some time. Apparently “religious freedom” doesn’t mean what the words say. (Not quite equally shocking is that there will be legislation and not just executive orders.)

My guess is that the “new” legislation will expand the “right” of religious people to discriminate against people who they are doing business with. The highlighted case so far that has become an iconic example is the poor baker who didn’t want to make wedding cakes for gay couples getting married.

I can understand churches refusing to host gay marriages and I respect their right to do that, but a bakery? It seems now that many “Christians” are claiming that they are running “Christian businesses.” This is a smokescreen at best. I suggest to you that all businesses are secular in nature, that they have nothing to do with religion. And in this I include stores that sell religious artifacts and books, e.g. Christian bookstores, etc. They are not religious activities, they are commercial activities. They offer goods and services for sale in simple commercial exchanges. I have gone into religious bookstores and purchased items. As an avowed atheist, shouldn’t they have refused me service? Actually, the law prevents them from even asking me if I am an atheist, ironically under the religious freedom provisions of our laws, so I suspect they are ignorant to this day that they served a raving atheist. (It is hard to tell us apart from “true Christians,” is it not? They even elected one of us President.)

Any business claiming to be a Christian business had better show me they really mean it. In their incorporation by-laws I expect to see policies like “all debts will be forgiven on New year’s day” and “if we are robbed, we will turn the other cheek,” and “when it comes to paying our business taxes, we will render unto Caesar, that which is Caesars.”

If they can show that their business is truly linked to their religion, then the laws protecting religious activities should be triggered. Otherwise they are just selling cupcakes like every other baker.

It looks, though, that the current administration is seeking to sell indulgences, in this case a get out of jail free card for denying service to customers you do not approve of religiously. This is fascinating in that one of the core causes that resulted in the Protestant Reformation (which was a precursor to the formation of Evangelical Christianity) was the abhorrence for the corruption in the Catholic Church, including the selling of indulgences. The Catholics were selling “get out of purgatory” cards and “get into heaven” cards, which makes the current suggested sale of indulgences seem almost trivial, but it does seem as if we have come full circle.

 

January 12, 2017

Having a Reason to Live, But Wait There’s More!

Filed under: Philosophy,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:26 pm
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In my last post (Having a Reason to Live, January 12, 2017) I focused on what having a “meaning” for one’s life means. But one sentence in the letter to the editor of that Canadian newspaper from a theist subscriber has continued to have reverberations in my mind. It was the claim that if the letter writer were to subscribe to a secular worldview he would conclude that “I exist on a tiny planet in a minor solar system in an empty corner of a meaningless universe.”

Let me ask a rhetorical question at this point (of you): what do you think would happen to us if all of the other galaxies (200-300 billion by count at this point) were to disappear in an instant? Poof, they are gone and what happens next … to us?

Got an answer? I do.

Basically noting that happens in those other galaxies affects what happens here on Earth. Life would go on quite as it has.

So, why was all of “that” necessary to be created? Why create 200-300 billion galaxies when only one was needed to support life on Earth? It certainly wasn’t to create the conditions to support life here on Earth. In fact, other than the solar system, we could do without the rest of our own galaxy about as well as we are doing with it in existence. Those other 100 billion stars and their planets? Poof, they are gone. Well, that would cause some effect. Other than the Moon and the other planets, the night sky would be black which would be kind of boring, but unless you believe in astrology, those other stars in the sky have no effect on us here, so we can live without them. (Actually the Bible tells us this!)

This Hubble Telescope image shows spiral galaxy ESO 137-001.

This Hubble Telescope image shows spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 plus a lot of meaningless extra stuff.

So, whether or not you live in a created world, the rest of most of the universe is meaningless: meaningless for theists; meaningless for secularists.

Unless . . .

. . . unless, there are “people” on those other planets circling those other stars, in our galaxy and all of the other galaxies, and those people are creating meaning for their own lives. Then … then, the rest of our universe has meaning … just not for us.

 

 

Having a Reason to Live

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:57 am
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It is illuminating to hear from theists what they think “the meaning of life” is. A letter to an editor of a Canadian newspaper from a theist subscriber gives a typical glimpse:
The secular view, which leaves God out of the process, reveals that I am the descendant of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm—the arbitrary product of time, chance and natural forces. … I exist on a tiny planet in a minor solar system in an empty corner of a meaningless universe. I have no intrinsic value beyond my body, and at death I will cease to exist.

“Therefore, I conclude that I came from essentially nothing and I am going nowhere. But, if I am only a dash between the womb and the tomb and I don’t know why, then I must ask if there is any real purpose for my life either now or in the future?

“In contrast, the Christian story offers me tremendous hope. I discover that I am not the result of some cosmic accident but the special creation of a good and all powerful God — His crown of creation. I am created in His image, with capacities to think, love, worship and make moral choices that set me above all other life forms.

“My creator loves me and gave His son to pay the supreme sacrifice for my salvation. I am completely unworthy and undeserving of such love. My salvation is entirely by grace through faith and not of myself.

“Best of all, the fact that Christ died for each one of us and wants to live within us by His spirit in a meaningful relationship makes us incredibly valuable. And when we are willing to accept His gift of salvation, through repentance and faith, we can become children of God and spend eternity with Him.

Okay, so setting aside whether or not this theist’s soul preexisted his life here on Earth, presumably his existence will be spent 99.9% of his time in Heaven where he will … “spend eternity with Him.” Uh, doing what? In order for this person’s life to have meaning it has to be in some sort of context, no? Certainly it cannot have anything to do with “helping other people” as all of the other people in Heaven don’t need help and the people in Hell, well they need help, but … what that’s not allowed?

Apparently the definition of “meaning” being employed here is “something meant or intended.” What is meant here as a “meaning for this person’s life” is that he was created for a purpose and that purpose is to spend the vast bulk of his existence in the presence of his god. Hmm, if I were there, in his god’s presence, I would expect some sort of euphoria, an understanding of all things and why they are the way they are, but then what? Do I just exist with a god buzz for millennia? What good am I at that point? I am not even an example to others because they have no idea as to which “place” I ended up in.

Am I a marker in God’s game? Do He and Satan have a big scoreboard up showing how many souls they have collected? What was God’s purpose in going through this whole thing, and putting us through this whole thing; was it just to have one more “presence” in Heaven? What is life on Earth if it constitutes just a tiny, tiny slice of time in a soul’s existence but determines where the 99.9+% of eternity each of us will spend, either in Heaven or a Lake of Fire? Since wisdom seems to come with age, why are our lives cut off after a measly 100 years or so? What not give us two or three hundred years to figure it out?

“One does not have to be a member of a church to donate time at a food bank
(or even a church, which I have done) or to do other charitable works.”

I am impressed with this theist and the many others who have backed a scheme they know so little about. They make Pascal seem a piker with his puny wager. They have gone all in.

What I find appalling however is the lack of appreciation for the opportunities of life, life on Earth. Unlike rocks, we can do things. Where do the attitudes that generate sentences like “I have no intrinsic value beyond my body, and at death I will cease to exist.” and “I must ask if there is any real purpose for my life.” and “My salvation is entirely by grace through faith and not of myself.” come from? Possibly from theists painting the most dismal picture of secular lives as they possibly can. On the other hand, as a real secularist, unlike the one’s existing in this writer’s imagination, I am grateful for my life. I don’t particularly attribute my life to my parents because I don’t really think they knew what they were getting into. They were responding to the rhythms of life: to live, to cherish, to propagate, etc. I am grateful to my parents for all of the loving care they lavished on me growing up and later in life. I am grateful that I was provided a good education (at least the opportunity for one) and a great deal more. I am grateful to have opportunities to help people, which I do in small ways all over the world. I feel that if my life is to have meaning, then I have to get cracking and make that meaning. If one’s life has a great deal of meaning, then a goodly number of people will remember you positively, so there is a measure of whether or not a good life was lived. People will also tell you whether or not you have helped them, which is very nice direct feedback. Facebook “Likes” and other phony connections do not count and, of course, being remembered for bad actions is not a good thing at all.

One does not have to be a member of a church to donate time at a food bank (or even a church, which I have done) or to do other charitable works. Secularists are not trying to get good grades to get into Heaven, and neither are theists, certainly not the ones who say things like “My salvation is entirely by grace through faith and not of myself.” If salvation comes only by the grace of God, where does the urge to help others come from? Why are theists not participating in an “I am in this for myself” contest with Heaven as the prize? (Maybe they are.) If God really wanted us to be good to one another, why did He not make it clear that we are to do “good works” as a qualification for graduation? Why is the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Why is it not simply “Do good for others, no matter what they do to you”? Now that would be clear, instead of telling us to “turn the other cheek” inviting further abuse, why not do some good for the person who struck you?

December 26, 2016

Holiday BS

At one time there were but three professions: medicine, the law, and the clergy, that is, to be called a professional one had to be a medical doctor, a lawyer/jurist, or a priest/minister/etc. Apparently the expansion of the ranks of professionals has diluted the ranks of these worthy occupations, especially the clergy.

In a N.Y. Times column (Humanizing Jesus, 12-23-2016) by Peter Wehner, the author makes the somewhat offhand remark, quoting a clergyman:
The Incarnation also underscores the importance of relationships, and particularly friendships. The Rev. James Forsyth, the winsome and gifted pastor of McLean Presbyterian Church in Virginia, which my family attends, says friendship is not a luxury; it is at the very essence of who we are. The three persons of the Christian Godhead — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — speak to the centrality of community. When we are in a friendship, according to Mr. Forsyth, we are ‘participating in something divine.’

Now, conflating the Incarnation and the Trinity aside, friendship is not something I would ever denigrate, but “The three persons of the Christian Godhead — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — speak to the centrality of community”? WTF? This is another instance of Christians seeing a parade going by, rushing to the fore, and then claiming they are leading the parade.

The Trinity are not a community. This is not three separate individuals that form a committee/group/barbershop quartet (–1)/etc. This is a little like claiming Batman and Bruce Wayne or Superman and Clark Kent are having a meeting. Is this … clergyperson …. claiming that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are friends? OMG!

This does not speak well of the scriptural erudition of the “winsome and gifted pastor of McLean Presbyterian Church in Virginia.” It also doesn’t speak well for Christianity, peddling such obvious BS. Christianity’s messages are not at all warm and fuzzy. They are not reassuring. They are threatening. We are told to abandon our parents and siblings and to follow Jesus instead. We are told that many priests don’t belong in Heaven (“I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”) We are told that murderers and rapists do belong in Heaven, etc.

And, instead of delivering this core message, clergymen focus on questionable warm and fuzzy occurrences, like the miracle at the wedding in Cana (also mentioned offhand in this piece), at which Jesus is supposed to have transformed water into wine. If you can recall the circumstances, Jesus and his mother were at a wedding and disaster struck, the hosts ran out of wine! The wedding traditions of the time called for a wedding feast for all of the guests, including unlimited food and wine. To run out was very embarrassing. (Why embarrassment was a valid reason to perform a miracle and many other more important events were not, is puzzling.) In any case, Jesus goes around pouring water into the guests drinking vessels and when they taste it they are at the minimum wondering what the heck was going on. Jesus simply looks them in the eye and asks “It is good wine, no?” (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean). All of the guests would quickly figure out what he was doing and go along to prevent embarrassment to the hosts. Any charismatic person could pull this off. Heck, I could pull this off. Yet, a miracle has occurred! (I imagine this started off as a very good story, told sotto voce to one’s intimate friends, but that story had legs and, of course, got embellished. A good story should never be hindered by details.) In any case, this “miracle” was used as an example in this article of “There was joy and purpose to be found in the commonplace.” And, I suppose, great fun in casting demons into a herd of wild pigs, and … oh, well.

I remember at the funeral of an uncle of mine, an avid golfer, that the presiding clergyman claimed that my Uncle Bob was up in Heaven playing golf at that very moment. And, I thought “Wouldn’t the sand traps fall through the clouds?” and other uncharitable thoughts. I understand being a BS artist (I am a bit of one myself) but to do so as a official representative of a very large organization is appalling to say the least. (Are you listening Donald Trump?)

December 25, 2016

… Because the Bible Tells Me So … ♫

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:00 am
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The United Nations Security Council has condemned the building of Israeli settlements on territory captured by Israel in its 1967 war with its Arab neighbors (including the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem). This is quite an unusual occurrence because the U.S., a permanent member of that Council, has traditionally vetoed any such criticisms of Israel but did not this time. Israel, in response, is “re-evaluating its relationship to the U.N.” including a few million dollars it pays to support U.N. activities. That support made possible, we presume, by the hundreds of millions of dollars given to Israeli annually by the U.S.

One news report stated “Most countries view Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees, citing a biblical connection to the land.

WTF? “… a biblical connection to the land”?

The Israelis are still playing the Bible card? After all Jewish scholars have basically conceded that the Pentateuch and other early “history” books of the Bible are basically fiction and “biblical archaeologists” have found no evidence for the conquest of the “Holy Land” described therein. Without that “conquest” then Israelis have an argument that they have been inhabitants of that region for a long time, but not an argument for being the sole inhabitant or ruling faction in order to support a sole right to possession of that land.

My guess is that the “Bible card,” like the “race card” in this country, will continue to be played as long as it has the desired affect, regardless of whether there is any merit to it. For those who ask “What’s the harm in believing the Bible?” you can add Israel’s intransigence in making peace with their fellow men because they are “special.” Hmm, I wonder if Israelis describe themselves using the term “Israeli exceptionalism?”

December 24, 2016

Yes and No?

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:59 am
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A N.Y. Times columnist had a column with the provocative title “Pastor, am I a Christian?” in which the author expressed some doubts about the standard theology of Christianity. The theologian he interviewed on these doubts gave him pretty much the party line so there was little of interest there, but the comments … the comments, now they were interesting.

One such comment said the core of Christianity was Jesus’ mission, basically to sacrifice himself to save all of us from Original Sin. (Basically, He sacrificed Himself, to Himself, to save us all from Himself—Thank you, John Zande!) The very next comment said “Wrong.” Another comment said that the important part of Christianity was not the superstitious mumbo-jumbo but “Jesus’ teachings.”

I have already posted ad nauseum about the “mission” aspect of  Christianity but I have said little of Jesus’ teachings, that is his philosophy. What about that?

It seems that most Christians honor the teachings of Jesus by ignoring them. These “teachings” are relatively sparse, being mostly repetitions of prior scripture, hence not original to Jesus. So, there is little to discuss, as most of that was already in evidence before the Jesus story was written.

Of the new stuff, Jesus told a fellow to sell all of his worldly goods and give what he made from that sale to the poor. I do not see this advice being followed all that much. Most apologists indicate that this advice was only for that man alone and was not meant to apply to every one. I guess they didn’t think he was serious when Jesus said that a rich man had as little chance of getting into Heaven as a camel to go through the eye of the needle. (This term may have been in common use, the “Eye of the Needle” being claimed to be a gate in Jerusalem, which opened after the main gate was closed at night. A camel could only pass through this smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed. So, it wasn’t impossible, just quite unlikely.) Since, in this country, the goal of every rich person seems to be getting richer, my guess is none of them are Christians.

Jesus also told people to disavow their families and to follow him, presumably not to the point of becoming human sacrifices, but in this context to follow his teachings, I guess.

He also said that Jewish laws were all intact and were to be followed to the letter. I don’t see any Christians doing this, either.

So, “following the teachings of Jesus” is something almost no one is doing even given the fact that Jesus said almost nothing new or novel. (I say “almost” because right now it is truly nothing new or novel, but you never know when some new document might be discovered.) Basically, Jesus said “Be a Jew and meet me in Heaven.” The rest is quite debatable.

In another piece in the Times a day later (today) quotations and photos of many artists who died in 2016 were offered. One that struck a chord was from Umberto Eco:
I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.
This kind of explains everything. Our brains are pattern recognition engines. We see patterns everywhere and when we do not see patterns, we make them up. So, we are constantly trying to see patterns as they allow us to predict future events and, hence, be safer. If we notice that when a tiger is sneaking up on us through the grass, there is a certain movement in the grass, then we equate “specific grass movement = tiger” and get the heck out of there. There is no penalty if we are wrong, such as when the grass was moved by the wind instead of a tiger, but a severe penalty is possible if we ignore or do not see the pattern and heed it.

So, we run willy-nilly asking “God” (a pattern) to show us a “sign” (also a pattern). And, lo and behold we see them! (Surprise, surprise.) If you combine this very understandable aspect of human brains with a penchant for making shit up, religion is explained quite well, including beliefs in the teachings/philosophy of Jesus when there is really no “there” there.

PS For those of you who wonder why I write about religion in a class warfare blog, religion has been and is being used to oppress those who would oppose the oligarch’s plans for our future. We are told to be meek and mild and that our reward will come after we die. This is so the rich people can have their reward while they are still alive.

 

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