Uncommon Sense

April 10, 2017

Running on Fumes

If you were expecting another Finding Jesus review this morning, I confess to running out of gas … but don’t worry, I recorded last night’s episode. The reason I ran out of gas is I binged on two History Channel programs, one called “God vs. Satan” and the other “Jesus: The Last 40 Days.” Apparently CNN and the History Channel are in a competition as to which channel can make Christians feel the best about their religious choice. This seems to be the early rounds of the world championships of religious pandering. (The History Channel has long since transformed itself into The Fake History Channel, so its place in this contest is earned.)

In “God vs. Satan” we are treated to a long, very long actually, diatribe on the epic battle that is shaping up between God and Satan. WTF? I must say straight off, that there are more than a few problems involved here … and they, of course, add many more. God is described as “all-powerful” or “omnipotent,” no? Can two supernatural entities share this title? Could there be another entity that was also all-powerful? In a word, no. If there is a tie in the World’s Strongest Man contest, then each is one of the world’s strongest men, but not the WSM. To be the WSM you must be stronger than all of the other competitors. To be all-powerful, you must be Number 1, not Number 1A. If there were another all-powerful entity, then there would be more than one god and there would be no monotheism, so this is not a trivial point.

So, how does one then handicap a contest between God and Satan. This one is simple, this is a little like predicting the outcome of a boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Rodney Allen Rippy. We are talking no contest here. Let me take just one instance: the “serpent” in the Garden of Eden is identified in this show and by others as being Satan. There is, of course, no evidence for this; it is just wishful thinking, not at all unusual for these shows. Now in the Genesis story the “serpent” royally screws up God’s plans (we are guessing here, the serpent could have been doing exactly what God wanted, we do not know) and because of that God strips his legs off, with a thought, and requires him to slither along the ground for the rest of all time. So, if this is Satan, he seems not to be able to lay a glove on God.

Also, uh, who created Satan? God did. Could God uncreate Satan? Yes, he is “all-powerful” which means there is nothing He cannot do. Then why will there be a final battle on a field outside Jerusalem between armies to determine the who will rule going forward God or Satan? If I were God, I would wait for Satan and his army to show up and detonate a thermonuclear device on his head, end of war.

Here are some of the breathless comments made during this “show:”
“The battle between good and evil has long intrigued scholars.”
“The epic battle between light and dark is upon us.”
“The cataclysmic end of the battle is just over the horizon.”
“Who will emerge the winner and what will it mean for the world?”
There’s more but, sheesh, these guys could give lessons in fear mongering to Republicans. Of course, they hired an narrator who has a voice of god in his repertoire, Avery Brooks (from Deep Space 9 to Armageddon!).

To their credit, they spilled the beans fairly early (they didn’t want a contradiction late in the program that could cancel out all of that expensive fear mongering). They pointed out what few people know, that the Hebrews were not monotheists at the beginning of the Bible accounts. The establishment of Yahweh as the sole and only God takes some time and quite a few books. (If this is news to you, go read the First Commandment. That commandment would be entirely unnecessary were there no other gods being worshiped. And to list something first is kind of a statement as to its importance, no?) But, as the show points out, if there is only One God, then He is responsible for all of the good in world and all of the bad. They state that “most people were a little uncomfortable with that.” God is supposed to be “all good,” so how can He even imagine something bad or … <drum roll> evil. So, Satan was invented and because any angel, fallen or otherwise, would be squashed like a bug in a confrontation with God, they had to pump up his resume. Over time, he just gets more and more powerful, until they reach a point that there will be a final battle between the two gods and the outcome is in doubt! (Pant, pant, pant….)

Now, if you, like me, find this quite silly, please realize that there are people taking political actions today that are based on this scenario being true. Much of the interest of American Protestants, say, in Jerusalem has less to do with the past than with what its role in the future will be. These people are investing time, effort, and a great deal of money trying to make this battle happen.

Of course, they also bring up the Book of Job, the book in which God and Satan are co-conspirators to ruin Job’s life. According to this show, “Satan is portrayed as an increasingly bold player in human affairs.” Right. Hello? Satan is a messenger boy, coming and going at God’s will in this book. Satan has to get God’s permission to do anything to Job and God proves himself a total asshat for not simply stating “I am all-knowing and I know Job’s heart and there is no doubt in Job, so Satan, go and take out the garbage, do something useful.”

They also do not point out that The Book of Job is last book in the Hebrew Bible (the OT books are re-ordered in Christian Bibles to create the illusion that the OT leads to the NT). The Book of Job being the last book of the Hebrew Bible basically tells Jews, they are on their own now, don’t expect any “hands on” help from God any more. Not a message that Christians want to hear.

Of course, they couldn’t address the End of Days without bringing in the Book of Revelations. This is the book written by John the Divine, consumer of hallucinogens/magic mushrooms/ergotamine, whatever. They get comments from: a Professor of Christian Bible, an Associate Professor of Religious Studies, the author of “Antichrist Rising,” a Professor of Religion, and an Imam from the Islamic Center of America along the way. These learned people talk about how the forty days in the wilderness so weakened Jesus that Satan could tempt him. So, Jesus was weakened by hunger? Not much of a god, being apparently the only one who needs to eat. And all Satan could do was “tempt” him? (Want some candy, little girl?) How about sticking a knife between his ribs, Satan? Be a mensch. But according to the narrative of this show “By taking on Jesus and therefore God, Satan had intensified their fight.” Really, Satan “took on” Jesus? with some high school taunting? And Jesus and God are not one? They are separate entities, is that what their narrative preaches? I think they had better watch out.

They wrap up this diatribe with comments like “Humanity prays for an end to evil.” Of course, believing in “good and evil” in the first place leads down silly paths like this, futile ones. But they end on a hopeful note with “For the true believer, there is comfort that it is all God’s plan.” WTF? Jesus riding a horse to battle at Har-Mageddon (aka Armageddon, yes, it is a place not an event), a battle with an uncertain outcome between good and evil, light and dark? One in which if Satan wins may result in demons eating the flesh off of our bones while we are still alive?  Sounds like the authors of the Bible got a little too close to Zoroastrianism and the mystery religions before they picked up their pens. If I were Jesus, I would ask for an F-16 at least.

The Pentagon has better plans than this one. And if these shows prove anything is that all of these “stories” including all of the “characters” in them, are creations of men. Any modern person expecting a final battle to involve gods riding horses … on the ground, for Pete’s sake, is more than a little deluded.

Oh, the show “Jesus: The Last 40 Days” was worse, far worse.

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.

 

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