Class Warfare Blog

August 28, 2017

Put a Fork in It … Forever and Ever, Amen

Just as I was falling asleep last night, my bedroom was brilliantly lit by an actinic flash of lightning which was followed closely by a titanic blast of thunder. I was instantly awake with my heart beating a tattoo in my chest. I do understand why primitive people created a thunder god (which they eventually lost, which makes them Thor losers … sorry, I’ll get back on point). I do understand why we created invisible creatures to take responsibility for the epic natural forces that seemed so vast compared to our puny existences.

I have a harder time understanding how we got to where we are now with an incomprehensible god explained through a series of incomprehensible narratives. At least I was until shortly ago. The book I put down just before being flashed awake last night was “Jesus: Mything in Action, Vol. III” by David Fitzgerald—the author of “Nailed: Ten Christian Myths that Show that Jesus Never Existed”) has worked a small miracle; it has shown fairly conclusively how Christianity came into being without the messy details of actually needing an historical character named Jesus. That’s right, the reason the search for “the historical Jesus” has come up with so many different results is that since there was no such person, the results simply reflect the needs and wants of the searchers.

Most people, including myself, assumed there was a real person at the core of all of the narratives, but these books, written for lay people, but referenced for those wanting to follow up on references, seal the deal, slam the door, close the book, end the discussion. It is finito; put a fork in it.

The primary source of the ammunition used to bring down the tottering edifice which is modern Christianity is NT scripture itself, with a bit of OT scripture thrown in.

Even after finishing the first two volumes, in which the case was made that the narratives in the NT cannot possibly support a real person at the core of the fairy tales, I was still wondering, well, how the heck did it come to be so widespread, then? Here is a sketch of what might have happened. I wish to point out here that in a court of law, if one prosecutes a legal case based upon a theory of how things must have happened, that a defense can be made that provides a competing theory that is at least equally probable, thus showing that it didn’t have to happen as the prosecution claims it did. Since the “traditional” narrative surrounding the creation of Christianity has no hard evidence to support it, one only needs to provide a counter narrative to, in effect, win the case. The author admits his counter narrative is fictional, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense out of what facts we do have than the traditional story.

This is just a quick sketch, mind you. The amount of data and arguing points are book-length worthy, so this is just a taste. (Do go read the books, highly recommended if you are into the topic.)

In Judaism, prophecies form a one of the three legs of its tradition. The fulfillment of prophecies is used as evidence for the existence of their god, for example, so they take them very seriously. So, one particular OT prophecy implied that a savior, a warrior messiah, would come and deliver the Jews from their oppressors. Unfortunately this prophecy fell flat and didn’t even come close to coming true. This was actually not a rare occurrence but having literally hundreds of spin doctors working, most of these failures were spun away. But this prophecy seemed so important than another prophecy was made in order to redeem the first. This prophecy, too, fell flat. Instead of a Messiah rising up and leading the Jews to throw off the yoke of Rome, with Yahweh’s help of course, the Romans once again crushed the revolting Jews. The spin doctors went to work immediately to try to salvage what they could. Allow me to quote Fitzgerald here so I do not screw this up.

So Daniel’s prophecy, originally created to 1) salvage Jeremiah’s botched prophecy, 2) explain why Onias III was killed and 3) encourage the Maccabees’ uprising, inadvertently allowed later generations of Jews to re-interpret it again (and again); including certain groups of first century Jews looking for reasons why God failed to send his messiah to save Jerusalem in the War with Rome. The idea that there could have been a secret, spiritual messiah caught on among these Jews. The evolution of this spiritually victorious-in-defeat Jewish messiah is only half the story, however.

The key phrase is, of course, “The idea that there could have been a secret, spiritual messiah caught on among these Jews” (my emphasis). Yeah, that’s the ticket! The Messiah did come and He did triumph, it was just in secret. That’s why we still have Romans climbing up our asses. Really this means that Christianity was a typical mystery religion (the other half referred to). Again, quoting Fitzgerald:

If you were to ask someone in the Hellenistic world, “What would a Jewish version of the mysteries look like?” They’d say something like: you’d have a religion whose savior was a son of Yahweh, whose passion and death atoned for sins, and who now lived in the hearts of his followers, celebrated with typical mystery rituals like baptism and a sacred meal, whose initiates regarded one another as brothers and sisters, born again into a new life here, and awaiting a blissful afterlife in heaven. In short, you’d have Christianity.

All of those aspects are typical of the myriad mystery religions in the surrounding regions, promoted first by the Greeks and later by the Romans.

All of the early literature of Christianity, the letters of Paul, etc. do not mention an earthly Jesus. They do not mention a “second coming” but a “first coming.” Paul does not name or mention any disciples. He refers only to apostles, who are people who have communicated with Jesus spiritually, have received guidance (actually quotations from the OT), and proven this by having performed miracles (healings, etc.). Paul does not mention any relatives of Jesus or quote Jesus, or refer to any of his teachings. For Paul, Jesus is a spiritual being who exists in Heaven and who is promised to make a first appearance on Earth.

No actual references to Jesus being on Earth are made until the first gospel, the Gospel of Mark, is written. The Gospel of Mark has the structure of a Greek play as well as all of the markings (no pun intended) of a mystery religion. The subsequent Gospels, written later, bring in additional narratives, and change the tone of Mark until there is enough variation that one can shape any interpretation one wishes.

The observation that Christianity has all the structures of other mystery religions was made long. long ago and immediately denied by church fathers, who were, and are still, selling a completely different narrative. But the denials are weak and tepid because there is no basis for them.

Mystery religions were really popular, for very good reasons; the primary one is they promised a happy afterlife to all believers, not just pharaohs/kings/heroes. And all you needed to get this was an indoctrination into the mysteries, which of course, brings a source of motivation for the spreaders of the doctrine. Just as primitive farmers spread manure on their fields so later they could eat and feed their families, the religious promoters spread a different king of bullshit to support themselves and their families. The support for this “new” narrative is huge. Details such as Mark’s clueless disciples (representing the nation of Jews) stand in for people who do not understand the mysteries. How could his disciples be so daft when they had Jesus right there to explain things (magically, if necessary); plus things in that other narrative are rather simple, are they not? Well, the disciples could be so daft because there was no Jesus and they are fictional characters, providing a Greek chorus of those who do not understand the mysteries.

It all holds together, it makes sense of most of the NT scriptures, and since Christianity has all of the trappings of a mystery religion and all Christians know that the “other mystery” religions were made up, fictional, foundationless, etc. each of those religions (The Mysteries of Isis, the …) is further proof you can make up a religion and promote it with no factual basis whatsoever.

Oh, and why did Christianity triumph over those other mystery religions? Irony of ironies, Christianity got fortuitously adopted by a Roman emperor who made it the state religion of Rome, by imperial order. As we all know, it isn’t what you know but who you know that determines whether you succeed or fail.

September 22, 2016

Early Christian History

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:46 am
Tags: , ,

I have been enjoying Tim Stepping Out’s posts on his theories regarding early Christian history. This lead me to the book “When Jesus Became God” by Richard E. Rubenstein. This book covers the tumultuous fourth century CE when Christianity made the transition from a back water religion, affecting just a few Roman citizens (including women and slaves, oh my!) to the state sanctioned religion which slowly morphed into the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church.

You remember the Romans, no? The people who so oppressed the Jews that they prayed to be delivered from them by a messiah, a warrior king who would overthrow the oppressing Romans and establish a kingdom that would be heaven on Earth? Yeah, those Romans. Christianity became Roman!

I am not finished with the book and I do recommend it to you if you find this topic interesting, but boy, oh boy, oh boy. Once the Roman emperor, Constantine, endorses Christianity, the rats came out of the woodwork. Every “bishop” (who was in effect just the head priest in any area big enough that the head priest would take on the title), every last one of them became an imperial politician. And the Ten Commandments? Apparently they no longer applied, especially when it came to bearing false witness.

To see what was really going on, you have to take into account what the Roman Emperor Constantine and his heirs wanted from Christianity; they wanted a force for cohesion in the empire, a religion that would help people stick together, and to be subservient to the demands of the emperor and his administration. To have Christianity play this role, though, there had to be cohesion within the ranks of the bishops and, well, getting there was to prove harder than Constantine thought.

Constantine started by gathering a large conclave of bishops together at one of his pleasure estates, housing and feeding them lavishly. The purpose of the conclave was to bring together dissenting theologians and bind them together on their common ground. This was largely to deal with what later became the Arian Heresy. Arias and his followers believed that Jesus was indeed God’s son, as scripture said, and that he wasn’t God Himself. Others thought differently, saying that Jesus was God. Even though Arias’ position is supported by scripture and is rational, it didn’t agree with the ideas of many of the others. Arias lost this debate, not based upon a contest of ideas. If that had been waged, Arias would have won and in fact Arias’ ideas did win out in the Eastern part of the Roman empire (making the Eastern Orthodox Church). Arias’ problem was that he was a mere priest and how could exalted Bishops follow his lead (Sniff, sniff!) and he quit the field early by, well, dying.

The other prelates spent enormous amounts of time and energy battling each other and this included forming bands of armed thugs to beat opponent’s parishioners, kidnapping important opposing players, murdering people, and lots and lots of bearing false witness.

Apparently Constantine offloaded all of the childrearing onto his spouses because he allowed endless end runs on processes he himself set up.

Constantine started the conclaves and called quite a number of them . He even attended the first in person and made a few “suggestions” that the bishops present fell all over themselves agreeing to, at least until the meeting was over. These conclaves were expressly to create structures and administration to make Christianity more orderly and supportive of the empire. If the Romans were good at anything, it was administration. But the Christians were not organized at all. Each Christian center was its own little fiefdom with its own standards, its own processes, its own rituals, and its own scripture. There was no administration that wasn’t local and this is what Constantine wanted to change. He thought a little attention and a little doled out authority and some basic administrative structure (he suggested having a pope!) would be all it took and, boy, was he wrong.

Every time a conclave condemned somebody or some theology, whoever’s ox was gored, sped off to Rome and got Constantine’s ear and got those decisions set aside. Heretics were recalled to the loving bosom of the church, murderers were absolved, and so forth.

And how was all of this managed? Well, in an era in which it took months for a letter to be delivered, it was normally done face-to-face and usually by massively bearing false witness.

Consider Athanasius, who was at one point Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, a major Christian community. He was aggressive, amoral, and ambitious and anti-Arian. At one point he was exiled for murder but eventually freed when Constantine died (banishments are like presidential executive orders, they only last the length of the presidency). But while he was away, the Arians took over in his absence, so he fomented up a great deal of violence and disorder and then hied off to Rome and circulated a letter blaming his opponents for the riots and mayhem. His letter described the violence against his supporters as unilateral, unmerited and dreadful beyond endurance. He charged his opponents for inciting pagans, Jews, and other disreputables to attack his faithful, set churches on fire, strip and rape holy virgins, murder monks, desecrate holy places, and plunder church treasures. Jews were claimed to be cavorting naked in the church’s baptismal waters. This was bearing false witness to new levels because Athanasius hadn’t been back to Alexandria to observe anything. These descriptions were quite easy for Athanasius to come up with because he had caused, at one time or another, all of these things to happen. (Well, maybe not the Jews bathing in the baptismal founts.)

The reason I mention all of this is most Christians have this Disneyfied version of Church history in which all Christians are displayed as being persecuted and suffering gladly for their religion and that the ideas of scripture were so powerful, that people were converted in droves when they heard those holy words.

Well, that is all stuff and nonsense. The fact that there were so many heresies is an indication that there were many, many disagreements as to how to interpret scripture (and as to what scripture was). The eventual winners of these religion wars wouldn’t bother claiming something to be heretical if it were not popular in the first place. So many “heresies” means many reasonable differences of opinion. But wasn’t there a war of ideas, with the true, Yahweh-inspired meanings triumphant? Uh, not even close. These disputes were bare-knuckled power contests that were won by the meanest, and most ruthless, masterful politicians involved. The ideas had almost nothing to do with the outcome. And the disputes involved lying, cheating, stealing, mayhem, murder, and much, much more in mass quantities.

The more Christian history one reads, the more one comes to the realization that what we have now, however it began, is the result of humans squabbling over power and authority and almost nothing to do with the truth, whatever that may be.

Addendum Most people have heard of the deathbed converstion of Constantine to Christianity and some even have speculated it was done when Constantine had not the strength to resist. The author, on the other hand, offers the opinion that Constantine himself held off of his baptism into the church because as Emperor he knew that he would have to “sin” as part of the job. So, the opt-into Heaven card being played on one’s deathbed, if this story is to be believed, by getting baptised and absolved of all sins while knocking on Heaven’s door got a very early start.

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