Class Warfare Blog

May 19, 2019

Jesus, The Myth

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:05 pm
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I am fascinated by the debate over whether the character Jesus in the New Testament was an actual historical person. I have reported on having read the book Caesar’s Messiah, which now is available in a video documentary form (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmEScIUcvz0). I got a couple of new perspectives from the video that lead me to recommend it to you. (I am not normally a fan of videos as they consume great deals of time and are linear, that is you have to watch them in a single order at a single rate because hopping around or skimming is not possible.)

One of the strongest points made that I had not considered before is that before the Romans embraced Christianity, they rigidly controlled seditious literature. Josephus reports that after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem, they confiscated the Torah scrolls and other temple literature and set about to destroy any other copies that were available. This is supported by the fact that the earliest copies we have of OT and NT scriptures date from very late periods and are not original copies. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, gave us a look at the literature of the time (first century). The DSS are militant. There is even a scroll called the War Scroll. Couple this with the conception of a messiah being a war leader and the appearance of quite a few messiahs over the period in question, points to a period in which there was significant general opposition to the occupation of Israel by the Romans. This is punctuated by the uprising in the late 60’s, that the Israelites actually won. Think about that. How much effort and support are needed to field forces to overthrow a Roman occupation? Even though Rome ended up crushing the rebellion in 70-73 CE, it required a huge army to do so. (The motive for the Romans destroying all of the literature is that it supported messianic rebellions.)

And then we have the gospels, starting around 70 CE. The gospels are pacifistic, with the “messiah” teaching that the Jews need to “turn the other cheek” and “render unto Caesar what is Caesars.” When Romans are portrayed, they are portrayed sympathetically (e.g. the Roman Centurion, even Pontus Pilate who historically is characterized as a very bad man).

Why would a militant messiah, a war leader sent by God to overthrow the oppressors of the Jews, be characterized as a pacifist? Who does that serve? Who would want a kinder, gentler version of Judaism?

The basic argument of the book and documentary is that the gospels were written as a vehicle for Roman propaganda. Paul’s writings that predate the gospels only refer to Jesus as some sort of celestial being. Paul never quotes Jesus or mentions his mission or even presence on Earth. So, “Christianity” is around as an alternate form of Judaism, but there isn’t much there. (In 110 CE Pliny mentions that he has never seen a Christian in court so is perplexed as to how to try them.) So, why are the gospels as we know them produced ca. 70 CE and later? Why were they not being written forty years earlier by the followers of Jesus, while their memories were fresh (and they were alive). Why did Paul not seek them out for information to supplement his “revelations?”

These questions have answers provided in the documentary and there is much, much more, also.

I don’t find these arguments conclusive but I do find them compelling. It also seems that there may be a blend of more than one narrative possible. For example, the Romans may have produced the Gospel of Mark and left it to the normal forces at play for the others to be created. In support of my conjecture, there have been 5-10 times as many apocalypses, gospels, epistles, etc. discovered that were excluded from the Bible as not being authentic (aka forgeries, fictional, etc.) and that doesn’t even consider the number of “books” of the Bible that are now considered by NT scholars as being forgeries (2 Peter, a third of the Pauline epistles, etc.). In the Nag Hammadi library (aka the Gnostic Gospels) there is even a fictional story about Jesus that was in a state of mid-creation, including the document that it was being based upon! So, think of the Gospel of Mark as being a seed crystal, from which other crystals would grow naturally. The Romans, of course, could cull any such documents that lost the pro-Roman focus. Note, also, how the Roman Church developed an extensive program of document control.

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May 10, 2019

You Need to Respect Our Beliefs!

Part of the War on Christianity™ (Fox News) is the much reviled and disdained severe atheistic/humanistic disrespect for the beliefs of Christians! This is abominable! We are told that we should “respect their beliefs.”

Uh, no, just … no.

I accept their beliefs. I even acknowledge them. But respect them, no. Respect is something that is earned. How is it that just because they believe something, it automatically has to be respected? Especially when it comes to batshit crazy notions like the fundamentalists have that the End Times™ are just around the corner (time wise). Really? The forces of good and evil are going to duke it out? On the plain of Armageddon in the Holy Land? Really?

Entities with supernatural powers are going to a place to meet up, a flat place where they can deploy their forces? This is about as realistic as having modern jet fighters having firefights while confined to the ground. (Okay, you can taxi around all you want, but you can’t take off; got it? Go get ’em, tiger!)

And on one side is a god who is “beyond space and time,” which means he cannot be found by his enemies, who can create whole galaxies with mere thoughts, and already knows the plans of all of his enemies, who he can unmake with a mere thought. Uh, who wants to be on this guy’s side? (Me, me, me, me . . .) How can such a battle take place, except in the vivid imagination of an iron age drug addict?

Respect that belief? No, ridicule it, maybe, but not respect it. And please do not think that these are ideas that have been set aside. There are fundamentalist groups currently acting on a political agenda toward Israel, based upon this very scenario. Some Jewish groups are complaining about the activities of some of these fundamentalist Protestant groups, so apparently they are being taken seriously.

Social tools are tools we all use to moderate bad behavior in society. If a member of a social community acts poorly, people talk to him about his behavior. If he persists, then ridicule and public shaming take place. If he still persists, shunning and banning take place. We have talked to theists about their beliefs, but they persist in trying to force those beliefs on the rest of us (We Are A Christian Nation, War on Christmas, War on Christianity, Dominionism, Special privileges for the religious written into law, etc.), so ridicule is next up. Ridicule is appropriate as it is a gentle form of persuasion that no one is immune from. If that doesn’t work, well the tools at hand provide many opportunities to ratchet up the pressure. In more advanced countries, religion is a private matter that doesn’t intrude into the public sphere, happiness results. This state is a worthwhile goal.

 

April 24, 2019

Why . . . ?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:29 am
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Why is it that no enterprising evangelical or fundamentalist protestant has claimed that the fire that almost burned down the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France was “God punishing the Catholics for their failure to deal with the Church’s sex scandals (or fill in any other failing of the Catholic Church)?

These are people who have blamed natural disasters on gays, who have blamed political disasters on liberal Christians, etc. Why have all of the fundamentalists gone silent on this topic? Have they lost their cojones?

I did read that one such mouth breather didn’t realize that Notre Dame was a Catholic cathedral. He thought it was a museum or something. Of course, the stained glass and spires and the use of the word cathedral over and over were clues, as was the original build date for the “church” being 400 years before the Protestant Reformation. But I guess we shouldn’t expect people to put two and two together (or to get four when they do).

Come on evangelicals; there is still time! Don’t wimp out on us now!

And then there are the numbnuts who claim that the rain shower predicted the next day which held off until many of the art works that were exposed to the outdoors had been tarped or otherwise protected was an “act of God.” And the fire . . . it was what, you say? I’ll bet the insurance company will be arguing for “act of God” to avoid any payoff.

March 15, 2019

Blood Magic . . . I Wonder Where That Came From?

In the recent Christchurch, New Zealand, massacre of Muslims, one self-identified suspect posted a manifesto which stated, in part: “The origins of my language is European, my culture is European, my political beliefs are European, my philosophical beliefs are European, my identity is European and, most importantly, my blood is European.”

“My blood is European.”

Mate, your blood is red, just like the rest of us.

The role of blood in our cultural imaginings is deep and to its core bogus. For example, in this country’s history, we had laws establishing how African-American people were. We used terms like “octoroon” which now is defined as being “a person who is one-eighth black by descent” or basically having one Black grandparent. But the common people talked about one eighth of a person’s blood being Black. Others said that “one drop” of Black blood made one Black. (This was always puzzling to me because these same idiots claimed that white blood was stronger and better than black blood, so someone with a 50%-50% mix should be classified as white because the 50% white blood was stronger, no?)

Blood magic was borne of ignorance of all but a few basic facts (the primary one being if you lost enough blood, you died). It was promoted through superstition and bias and prejudice (your enemies had bad blood). But what keeps it going centuries after it has been debunked as nonsense?

Ah, culturally blood shows up as a mystical power in religions. Christians and Jews can read about blood magic in their Bibles. They can read about how menstrual blood makes women “unclean” for several days of the month. They can read about how we were all saved “by the blood of a lamb.” They can read about blood sacrifices. They can read about how being born carries sin which resides in the blood. They can read about dietary restrictions involving blood, such as the Torah forbids the consumption of the blood of an animal. (Imagine forbidding the glory which is blood sausage. Amazing.)

So, while us secularists are trying to reduce superstition and ignorance, the religionists are reinforcing it.

Oh, and the manifesto writer which claims “my identity is European” is apparently an Australian. His European language is rooted in the Near East. His DNA is roughly two thirds African in origin and one third Asian in origin. European political beliefs? Really? Is there any political belief you cannot find embedded in Europe? This poor sod is seriously confused . . . but he sure does know how to sling buzz words at a right-ring audience.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. (Anonymous—please do not comment that it was Mark Twain, it appears nowhere in his writings or reporting upon him.)

February 3, 2019

More on Stolen Gifts

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:10 am
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In my recent post, Stolen Gifts, I pointed out that religions have hijacked ordinary abilities and declared them to be gifts from their god, which has a number of consequences, one being we are expected to feel grateful for our “gifts.” Another is that we are to see their god at work in our lives and not as some distant, removed supernatural superhero.

Giving this psychological sleight of hand a bit more thought I realized that it is a double edged sword for the religions, cutting both ways, not just to their benefit.

As a child I was fairly successful in youth sports. Largely this was due to the fact that I was substantially taller and stronger than my educational classmates. As we grew up, these advantages diminished and almost disappeared. I was confronted by others whose athletic “gifts” were far greater than mine. I specifically remember turning up for the first day of basketball practice as a sophomore in college only to find roughly 60 guys in the gym, at least three quarters of whom were better players than me. On day two of practice, we were down to 30-35 guys left, again, most of whom were better players than I was. By day three we were down to about 18, the normal number of players who would practice and I was still there (hadn’t been cut or quit). Basically I was willing to pay the price (there were hours and hours of conditioning drills in those early practices) and was stubborn enough to not quit (I had been cut from teams before but had never quit). What I could have done had I more “talent” I can only dream of.

The same could be said for my intellectual gifts. I had a high IQ but either didn’t get the guidance I needed or I didn’t make the effort needed to expand upon that “gift.” I saw many, many other students who seemed far brighter than I was. I persevered by didn’t light any fires.

So, if these were my “gifts from God,” what should a child think who was born into a flawed body or was starved as a child until they were physical or intellectual derelicts? Why them? What should children think who were born infected by AIDS, or as a foster child of ours was, born with seven illicit drugs in her blood? The usual answer is “God works in mysterious ways” or “No one can know the mind of god.” These are spoken without irony by people who will turn around and tell you exactly what their god thinks and why it is clear as air what you should be doing.

But why indeed? Why are some showered with gifts and others starved of them. Why does god play favorites? Why would god “choose” a people to favor? Are we not all “God’s children”?

Obviously I tend to over think these things … but someone has to to point out the sheer mendacity and silliness of these concepts. The brilliance of Christianity is its design to have its practitioners take over the task of acquiring fresh, new believers, while reinforcing the beliefs of people already in the flock. If all of this required professional religionists, then we would be much less subjected to this religion. Small armies of ordinary people, often through unthinking meme transmission are doing much of this work. Having ordinary people going around saying things like “what extraordinary gifts your child has been given” makes parents glow, while lowering any suspicion they might have of vested interests in the comment. Thus these memes get passed around like a disease vector.

December 27, 2018

Fear Mongering for Fun and Profit

The Atlantic magazine published an article this last April with the intriguing title “The Last Temptation,” subtitled “How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory.”

I didn’t finish the article but it started in the same vein as so many others, with Donald Trump and his high percent of the evangelical vote. The article did suggest, though, that there had been some kind of sea change in evangelical attitudes over the past half century. One paragraph summed up their opinion:

“The moral convictions of many evangelical leaders have become a function of their partisan identification. This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption. Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can’t see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives. Little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness.”

Finally, we get to the crux of the matter. Things changed when some “elites” decided to convert Christian conservatives into a political force. Believe it or not, early on most American Christians thought that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling was a good thing, that such decisions should be left to families in consultation with clergy and health professionals, that government shouldn’t be involved. Abortion did not become a “wedge issue” until it was forged into one.

Similarly, as in all other political “mood shifts,” the usual motives involved were: money, power, and fear. In the case of mobilization of evangelicals as a political force, fear was the chosen tool. Evangelicals were and are taught that the world is becoming an ever more sinful place, when that conclusion is far from the truth. They are taught that there is a “war on Christianity,” that morals are sinking fast and that something must be done! Older citizens living in suburbs came to fear Black criminals over the much greater threats to their safety.

All of this was perpetrated, of course, by religious and secular elites, to serve their interests, not the interest of ordinary citizens, Christians or not. George W. Bush is famous (infamous?) for brushing off the Religious Right’s demands for “more” from him by saying “those people are never satisfied.” All they had gotten was a paltry office and a president-appointed officer.

The only resolution of this awful set of circumstances is for all of us to admit that we have been “played” by our political leaders. They all need to be replaced, based upon their records. While it may not be possible to expect complete honesty (within some limits) from our leaders, wouldn’t it be refreshing if we got some? Certainly fear mongering and lying continuously need to be shamed out of existence.

December 2, 2018

The Real War on Christmas

I play on the Quora website from time to time and the number of questions trolling atheists is truly astounding. Here is just one of them: “If atheists don’t believe in God or Jesus, why do they celebrate Christmas and Easter, the day Jesus Christ was born in the day he rose from the dead … ?” This brought to mind the War on Christmas promoted by Fox (sic) News and leads me to this post.

Which Christian saint is this?

Both the holidays mentioned in the Quora question were highjacked by Christians, that is they existed before and Christians took them over. This was a part of their strategy to obliterate other religions. Christian church buildings were constructed on the foundations of pagan temples, Christian calendar dates were moved to coincide with dates on pagan calendars, and pagan holidays were supplanted by Christian holidays by highjacking the festivals associated with them.

If you look at the iconic aspects of Christmas (feasting, decorated trees moved indoors, gift giving, Santa Claus, etc.) or Easter (egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, May pole dances (archaic), etc.) none of them are associated with Christian practices. Those two holidays were associated with the winter solstice and spring equinox festivals of antiquity. The eggs and rabbits of Easter were fertility symbols associated with the beginning of a new growing season. The word Easter is derived from the name of a fertility goddess (Eostre) and has no Christian roots.

Christmas is supposed by Christians to be a celebration of the birth of the Christ even though the dates do not match up nor do the celebrations. And think about it. If the creator of the Earth and the Heavens and Adam and Eve wanted to create a human representative to spread the good news, why would he impregnate a human girl and make his new “creation” go through diapers, puberty, school, deprivation, hunger, disease, and all of that for a mission that wouldn’t start until the guy was 30 years old? Is that how you would expect an all-powerful, all-knowing god to behave? Nothing that Jesus is claimed to have done prior to the age of thirty has anything to do with the so-called salvation plan. When Yahweh wanted humans in his garden, he made them post haste, as fully formed adults. So, the Christian claim that Christmas celebrates the birth of a god, it is celebrating a 30 year waste of time by a assumed to be perfect god.

So when Christians harp on “remembering the reason for the season,” please do. It had nothing to do with Christianity, so much so that the Pilgrims in America would have nothing to do with it. This should be meaningful to all of you original intent constitutionalists. And it takes a lot of chutzpah for those who highjacked such a celebration (not a holy day) to criticize those who celebrate it the way it was originally intended.

 

November 26, 2018

Meaning, Schmeaning

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:10 pm
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Atheists have to deal with a great many accusatory questions from Christians. One of my favorites is: how can there be morality without God? (Implication: I am an immoral asshole.) I always the questioner ask for a clear, definitive statement of Christian morality and I usually only get a “mumble, mumble, Golden Rule” response.

Another question is” How can there be meaning in life without God? (Implication: my existence is meaningless and, hence, worthless.) Well, we now have an answer! Pew Research has done a survey asking people where they derive “a great deal of meaning” and “the most important source of meaning” in their lives. So, our 70% Christian nation has spoken! Here are the top sources rated from most to least (with the percent responding “provides a great deal of meaning”):

Spending time with family … 69%
Being outdoors … 47%
Caring for pets … 45%
Listening to music … 44%
Reading … 37%
Your religious faith … 36%
Your job or career … 34%

So, what do you think? Is this just additional proof that Satan is in charge “down here?” Is the placement of people’s religion as a source of meaning in their lives right in being between “reading” and “your job or career,” and well behind caring for one’s pets? (Keep in mind Americans notoriously hate their jobs.)

Here’s the article I read (https://religionnews.com/2018/11/20/for-most-americans-new-research-says-family-comes-first/).

Addendum Before you write back to tell me that religion was ranked very high as the “most important source of meaning” in people’s lives religion still came in at 20% (one out of five), half of what “spending time with family” pulled down. And that survey asked about religion and not god. Since there are more than a few atheists who are members of churches (and churches which welcome atheists with open arms) and it is well noted that religion has a significant social component, I wonder where “god” would have ranked? (Basically, you cannot ask that question, because it will encourage people to lie. It would be like the “Does this dress make me look fat?” question.)

November 24, 2018

Was the Universe Created Recently?

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:52 pm
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There is a long standing disagreement between scientists and Christian literalists over the age of the Universe. Scientists say that the universe is some 13.8 billion years old while “Young Earth” Christian literalists, who take the Bible as being literally true, claim that it is roughly 6000 years old. (According to one Biblical accountant, the Earth and I share a birthday, but it is 6000 years older than I.)

So, the aspect of this debate I wish to address now is: is the Biblical “creation” event of the entire universe?

A close reading of the book of Genesis does not claim that the universe was created as described. What is described is that the “earth and heavens” were created in that story. In a later verse there is a reference to “the heavens, earth, and the seas” being created then. In order to have old Yahweh create the entire shebang in his act of creation, that is the entire universe, one has to interpret the term “the heavens” to be “the universe outside of the Earth.” Is such an interpretation possible or even reasonable?

Well, if you look at the description of “the heavens” elsewhere in the Bible, there are details as to its composition: there is a firmament, a great deal of water, fixed points of light in the firmament, and seven (count’em seven!) heavens. That is what is claimed for “The Creation™” but not the entire universe.

It has not been even 100 years since galaxies were discovered. (The anniversary of that discovery was yesterday in 1924, I believe. Public announcement came about a month later.) So, if the creation story was to include all of the hundreds of billions of other galaxies, it should have said so (an all-knowing god would know, no?). Actually, the creation stories all over the Middle East, in all of the religions came up with the same characteristics for the rest of the universe, that being what was believed to be true by the philosophers of the time (the Iron Age).

So, Genesis claims that the Earth and the atmosphere, and the seas were all that were created in The Creation™ (along with maybe the Sun and Moon) and that seems more sensible.

So, the actual debate is over the age of the Earth, not the universe. Scientists claim the Earth is 4.543 billion years old while “Young Earth” Christian literalists, who take the Bible as being literally true, claim that it is roughly 6000 years old.

Now, some apologists start their defense of their Young Earth position with “the Bible is not a science textbook” which is a red herring argument. The Bible makes claims about physical reality and it is the Biblical literalists that claim it is true in all aspects. So, it is irrelevant what classification one places the Bible into, it is the claim of inerrancy that is being discussed. The problem here is that the Christians in the debate don’t clarify what slice of the Christian pie they belong to. There are many Old Earth Creationists, and there are compatiblists (Science and Christianity are both right, study it and you will see.), and many, many Christians of other stripes. Then there is the human tendency we all have to support our position in inconsistent ways. There are those who claim the science in the Bible is not inerrant, but the history is. (None seem to be able to indicate where that fact is detailed in scripture.) This is because when it comes to the Bible, people feel free to make stuff up. Since there is no arbiter of what is right and wrong, as there is in science, any old body’s position seems valid enough.

Christians Wage War, Lose, Then Claim Discrimination

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:05 am
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The Great Christian Spin machine is working overtime. Yesterday I shared the story of a Christian missionary who broke the law in trying to sell Christ to the indigenous people on an island near India and got his ass killed for his effort. Now a Christian group claims that this is all part of the war on Christianity.

Christian Group Wants Native Tribe “Brought to Justice” for Death of Missionary

Has Fox (Sic) News infected everyone or is this another tail wags dog story that looks as if it were manufactured by Fox? Clearly the Christian Spin machine has been operating far longer than has Fox.

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