Sunday, December 21, 2008

The True Meanings of Christmas, Part I


Christmas used to mean something different to me than it does now.

You see, I once believed devoutly that for human beings to avoid eternal torment (just by virtue of having been born), we had to torture and murder God/God's son, and then in commemoration, had to symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood. Christmas was the day we celebrated the birth of our victim.

Of course, I didn't use this language. Like other believers, I employed a wide variety of self-deception techniques (like euphemisms) to shield my conscious mind from the grotesque, and I might say, truly profane, nature of the story I had based my life on. But at its core, the story is just as I have written it above.

Anyway, I now believe something different. It goes like this.

"Jesus Christ" is the anglicized version of the words "Iesous christos", Greek for "Joshua the Anointed" (the New Testament was written in Greek). "Joshua the Anointed"'s real name (in Aramaic, his first language) was Yeshua Bar-Yosef - Joshua Josephson, in plain English.

Josh Josephson grew up in the Galilee area, and was one of many Israelite reformers of his time. Like them, he performed miracles, attracted disciples, developed a set of teachings, and was viewed with suspicion by Roman authorities and Jewish elders.

Unlike his depiction by most modern (Protestant) Christian artists, who like to paint him as tall, blazingly handsome, with Nordic features, longish, golden hair, and disposed to gleaming, sparkling white robes, Josephson looked pretty much like his disciples - dark-skinned, short-ish, short-haired, and dressed in the same rough clothing (the painting included on this entry is an educated guess about what he would have looked like). At least, this is what the Bible (as opposed to our imaginations) indicates. After all, why else would Judas Iscariot have to identify his leader to the Roman authorities with a kiss, if he didn't look like everyone else? If he had long hair - which would have been extremely unusual anyway for that time and place - why would Paul [who claimed to have seen Josephson in person, and who knew many people who had known him in person] say in I Cor. 11 that long hair on a man was a disgrace? The modern Christian image not only has no warrant, but is actually contradicted by the text of the Bible, and by everything we know about the customs of the time.

Josephson's miracles? Devout Christians seem to forget that, historically speaking, miracles - or maybe better, "miracles" - are a dime a dozen. There are thousands of accounts from all over the world, from all different religious traditions, of people flying, or turning into wolves, or sprouting wings, or coming back from the dead, or seeing the future, or fighting devils, or talking to angels and fairies and ghosts, of healing and being healed, of visiting the underworld, of turning into different people for awhile...just last night I re-read the account of Athena turning into Menthes so as to infiltrate the dinner party at Odysseus's house in The Odyssey (Book One). Such accounts are not unusual; they are the way that our ancestors, living in a pre-scientific age, interpreted the world.

After all, they had no other explanation available to them, did they? When a man suddenly drops to the ground, wets himself, starts shaking violently and foaming at the mouth in an era when no even knows that the brain controls such things, let alone has ever conceived of such a thing as epilepsy, then "possession by evil spirits" makes a sort of sense, doesn't it? Especially when you already believe in spirits. At least it's something. And when the seizure stops, you want an explanation for that, too. And on it goes.

Besides this, the propensity to "improve" stories in the re-telling, especially when they involve a person we are precommitted to believing has extraordinary powers, is too widely acknowledged, even now, to warrant me defending. Everyone knows it. I myself have been the fortunate object of just such "improvement". When I was in Argentina years ago, I learned a number of phrases in the aboriginal language of Toba. Everytime I visited a settlement of Toba natives, I'd trot them out: "how are you?", "It's a nice day, isn't it?", etc.

A year after I returned home, I called back down to my old apartment to talk to the missionaries about how my old friends were doing. Upon hearing my name, the missionaries fairly freaked: "you - you're - you're THE Elder Bachman?! I - I - wow. We've - heard TONS OF STORIES ABOUT YOU, MAN! I mean, like, wow! Yeah, the aborigines down here have told us ALL ABOUT HOW YOU TOTALLY LEARNED THEIR LANGUAGE, and you were, like, RAPPIN' WITH THEM ALL THE TIME, just like you were a native Toba! Total gift of tongues, dude! It's an honour to speak with you!", etc.

So...that was exactly one year after I left the area. Miracle-making, or at least one form of it, is sort of like planting a seed: do a little something out of the ordinary amongst certain people who like you and who are prone to superstition (cut up some bread and fish, perhaps), and with time, your little something grows, and grows, and grows in the fertile soil of human imagination, until it becomes some fantastic, even supernatural, feat that only someone with "something extra special" could ever have done. So, in my case, a few phrases in Toba multiplied by a year and the power of human imagination equalled a genuine miracle. Think of how the story would have (or has) grown over five years? Ten years? Fifteen? Twenty?

WELL - the stories recorded in the four gospels were passed on orally for at least four decades before being written down - and it is likely it was more like five and six decades. How drastically might they have been "improved"? AND, except in the case of John - who wrote, it must be said, almost a century after Josephson's birth (supposing that the book's author really is who he says he is) - there is no reason to believe that the writers of the other three gospels (whoever they actually were) could even pretend to have been eyewitnesses to the events. No wonder there are so many troubling discrepancies and contradictions.

Moreover, even just taking the gospels seriously as the founding documents of Christianity (since they purport to be biographies of its supposed founder) gives us another problem: there is simply no indication in the four gospels of Joshua Josephson wanting to start a brand new religion. He says over and over that he is devoted to the law of Moses. He never mentions changing the Sabbath. He never mentions the mass invitation of Gentiles into the tribal religion he wished to reform. He never mentions abolishing Jewish dietary laws. He wants to reform - not start a brand new religion apart from Yahwehism. It is just not there. It is Peter and Paul, according to the Bible itself, who essentially invent a brand new religion or cult based on the worship of their deceased leader. But where Paul and Peter are recorded as contradicting the plain teachings of their leader...who should Christians follow? If they follow Josephson, they would be simply be a certain sort of practicing Jew. If they follow his disciples, then they are following what the Bible itself suggests is a religion at odds with the whole mission of Josephson as recorded in the gospels.

Much more could be said, but just one more thing. Even if we can make ourselves believe that some loving God would create us at the same time he doomed us to eternal torment unless we tortured, murdered, and symbolically ate him (or his Son), or that the Israelite religion was somehow God's "one, chosen religion", how in the world can we imagine that this sacred murder could have rightly been performed not by the properly designated Israelite priests according to the prescribed mode of ritual slaughter, but by Roman pagans nailing the sacrifice on to wooden planks? True Yahwehism would not have viewed the Roman crucifixion of a wee little lamb as an efficacious Israelite atonement sacrifice. Why, then, the crucifixion of Joshua Josephson, who, after all, is supposed to be, as the human "lamb", the ultimate atonement sacrifice? It makes no sense.

At least, it makes no sense, unless we assume that the cosmology built over the past two millenia, and helped along in many instances by government lackeys masquerading as "priests", is the product of primal human needs and desires, human creativity, and political convenience, rather than - well, rather than something true.

More soon.

45 comments:

Cheri said...

I feel very sorry for you and your delusions.You have travelled so far from the light that you are perhaps beyond help.

Greg said...

Have you been at the Christmas rubbing alcohol punch again?

Tal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tal said...

Let me get this straight, Cheri:

You think that to NOT believe that if we don't torture, murder, and symbolically eat God, that we will fry in hell for eternity, is a "delusion"; but to BELIEVE it, is NOT?

You want to explain that to me?

How, for example, could a "non-belief" be a "delusion"?

Delpha said...

Delusional? How is Tal delusional? The man has been through religious hell and back, so I think we can all give him the time of day to speak his mind -- agree or not. And has for the "light," what light? Is your light based on YOUR religion? Is it your way or the highway? I refuse to celebrate a God who refuses entre into his Kingdom for being "bad," or has I call it, human. The only light, for me at least, is to follow what you want to believe in and don't pressure others’ onto them. Live a life of joy, rather then this hate.

rachael said...

I don't read about or contemplate religion very often, so I am not particularly eloquent in discussing it, but I do think I get the point of your post.

When I was young, I respectfully wandered away from the Catholic church that I was brought up in, because I kept hearing from them that ours is the "only" path to God.

Given I was aware of the vast number of other humans on the planet who had different beliefs, that whole "one path" thing just did not sit right with me.

Maybe I was just a pain in the butt teenager, but the Catholic church seemed to me like an expensive, outdated 'club' to be in, and I started to regard the Bible as merely a storybook of its time.
We know too much about the world (and Universe) for me to be able to take it literally. It would be like trusting in a map written by someone who still thought the world was flat.

I'm aware that for some people their church provides the 'community' they seem to desire, so if it works for someone else, good for them. If it keeps you from killing your brother, that great.

I never felt like I needed a church to teach me that. Nor do I need the promise of doom, to make me want to tell the truth, or do the right thing every day.


For me the most interesting 'Gods' to read about, were the ones that the Indians created. Animal spirits, totems, the Elements, the stars, the moon, Mother Earth, Father Sun, etc. etc.


There have been all sorts of interesting Gods created by humans through the ages. The Greeks with their great storybook full of mythology, Egyptians with their belief in the afterlife and their incredible burial rituals. And though we don't have a lot of info on them, the Mayans seem to have had some brutal Gods that required some pretty hideous human sacrifices. But of course it wasn't really the 'Gods' that were brutal I guess, it was the humans that created those Gods.

I wonder why some people today can look at those stories of old Greek myths and/or Indian legends, and scoff at them, yet, they still read the Bible like it's sworn testimony.

Is it in the pictures they paint and their relative believability? In some books you have images that are easy to dismiss (Centaur, Pegasus, Wolf spirit,Father wind. etc. ), and in the Bible, you have the image of man himself.

Cheri said...

No Tal,I wont at the moment as you will turn it into an agressive debate that will ruin both our Christmases.
I think if you spent more time in your heart,rather than your head,you would be happier man.
I guess a date is out of the question now,eh?

As for you Delpha,piss off!

Cheri said...

I want to clarify for Delpha that I am not about hate or just one religion being the only way to God.I am all too human,as you put it.
I just think there is a universal light that we have inside us that guides us and Tal seems to be clutching at anything intellectual to disprove God or to explain his own existance.I think its genuinely sad to see him this way. And remember...I have a right to an opinion too.He is very much living in his head and not his heart.Religion is much more a subject for the heart, rather than the mind.NOT that the mind isn't required to reason things out and to learn from everything.I do not want to put a damper on Christmas for any of Tal's readers, and I think you are setting the tone for an argument , or HATE , as you call it.

Tal said...

Hey Cheri

I didn't say anything about a "universal light". For all I know, there is a universal light, or eight million universal lights.

But supposing there IS a "universal light", I can hardly see how it would require humans to torture, murder, and symbolically devour some innocent bumpkin from the Galilee in order to have contact with it. Can you?

That's why I said at the beginning of my post that the Christian story was "profane". It turns the figure of God - or the "universal light" - into something demonic and bloodthirsty, when there is absolutely no reason to believe that the universal light, or God, is like that.

In short, my post was about the Jeffrey Dahmer-like myth at the heart of Christianity, not about a "universal light".

I wonder also if you've considered how dumb it sounds to tell someone to stop trying to tell nonsense from truth. Why would the "universal light" have given us brains, if finding or accepting the universal light required us to stop using them?

Waaaaait a second...WAIT.

YES, I WANT TO GO OUT ON A DATE WITH YOU. You see...

God told ME, to tell YOU, that you need to give me a whole bunch of money. Do not anger him by critically evaluating what I have told you. Do not resist. All you need to do is "follow your heart" when it tells you right now to GIVE ME MONEY. GOD HAS TOLD YOU TO OBEY ME FOREVER.

When can we meet, so you can write me your first check? (God told me the first one should be for $3000.00).

Write me soon, honey!

Anonymous said...

Who are you to title your post The True Meaning of Christmas. How do you know your theory is any better than Christ being the saviour of the world?You could easily not be understanding his role and mission to the world.

Cheri, don't go out with him.I've got a nice nephew you would like.

~Jen~ said...

ohhh yeahhhhhhhhh...

Dating the Agnost! woot! woot!

I love how any talk against xtianity brings out the crazy talk in believers...keep on calling them out Tal...it is refreshing.

Rich McCue said...

It is interesting how many people check their critical thinking skills at the door of their church when they enter in. On one had they consider the stories of Zeus and the gods of Mount Olympus as mythology (as they should), but on the other hand will not critically evaluate super natural stories from their own religion. I must admit that I was guilty of doing this myself for many years. It is not easy to consider the possibility that the things that your parents taught you as truth, and that you believed as such, may be in fact no more than stories.

Tal, thanks for providing the text for our next FHE discussion!

Take Care.

Tal said...
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Tal said...

Actually Anonymous, the title of my post was "The True MeaningS of Christmas", not "The True MeaninG"; I did that because of where I'm heading with this series - I'm not sure there IS any "one, true meaning".

By the way, very little of what I've written has anything to do with "theory". Most of what I wrote is right there in the Bible - a book which, strange to say, most Bible "believers" have never actually read in its entirety. Most have never even read through the New Testament in its entirety - or even the Gospels!

By the way, I haven't gotten my check from Cheri yet. What's up with that? Cheri presumably takes Moses's word for it when he says that God told him to tell the Israelites that they had to obey whatever Moses said. She therefore presumably has no problem with the fact that Moses ordered the Levites to kill all the people who disobeyed him in worshipping the Golden Calf (lovely).

So, if the word of some obscure Egyptian-raised guy who'd never followed the Israelite religion a day in his life is good enough for Cheri, why isn't mine?

Follow your heart, Cheri, and you will know that you must OBEY EVERYTHING I SAY because it is the word of God. And God has told me to tell you to give me THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS!

If you refuse, you need to stop using your head. Use your heart!

Jack said...

However Rich...stories about whatever person or subject aren't the same as feeling a witness from the Holy Ghost that certain things are true.That feeling is not the same as a belief that something is true.You must have had many experiences yourself where the Spirit's witness to you was something that stood out from other feelings.Don't be too quick to forget that and take your place on the current bandwagon.

Also,Jen, why is it good to have respect for people who don't believe in Christ and yet mock those who do believe and respect Him?I know the wacky Born againers have given Christ a bad name but for the quiet Christians who quietly go about trying to live His teachings and help others,why can't you have the same respect for them that you demand for other theories(as Anon) says?

Cheri said...

Next time I see you at the Blethering Place Tal,I'll introduce myself and ,if you can keep yourself from having an attack of the "I throw a snotty fit when someone disagrees with me",we can have a civil discussion about all sorts of things. I'll even pay the check.

Tal said...

Will the check be for 3000 dollars?

Rich McCue said...

Jack,

It seems that everyone has good feelings about their own particular god or faith. Does that mean that they are all true? In my own experience good feelings (what a Christian would call the holy ghost), is not a reliable predictor of truth. I'm sure you'll feel differently. Really though, can the Hindu and Christian versions of the afterlife both be "true"? People from both faiths have have spiritual experiences that lead them to believe that their teachings are true.

As for respecting people of faith, I'll respect them for what they do, not what they believe. I hope people will do the same for me.

Rich

Cheri said...

No.I'll be donating the $3,000 to the poor and homeless in your name.

Have a merry Christmas and see you in the new year.

zalia said...

Tal,
Do you use your TalmadgeBachman g.mail address?

Jack said...

Rich,funnily enough I study near death experiences as a hobby and have read over 1,000.I can find very few that are anything other than what a Christian would expect from the afterlife and so would be most grateful if you could tell me where to find Hindu and Buddhist accounts of what they encountered after death.I have read several of other faiths who describe a Christian or neutral account of what they encountered after death and many who say they died but were not clinically dead.This is not a joke, please can you direct me to these accounts?

Tal said...

My email address is:

tcr (at) gmail (dot) com

Tal said...

Cheri

Just one more thing.

Hearts pump blood. Brains are what help us discern truth from error. I might as well tell you to start allowing your pancreas to guide your investment strategy.

What I find troubling about your comments is not that you "disagree with me". After all, you *haven't* really disagreed with me at all. That would have entailed, say, pointing out a flaw in reasoning, or pointing out how I'd gotten some fact wrong.

What you did in lieu of offering anything substantive is to simply announce that doubting the outlandish story at the heart of Christianity is a "delusion" - a completely bizarre claim which you have yet to explain - and a demand that, basically, I and everyone else start "*feeling* that Christianity is true", rather than actually taking its literal truth claims seriously.

By the way, I think I've been into the Blethering Place once in my entire life, snd that was like two years ago. Were you there or something?

Also by the way, God told me to tell you that *I* am the charity you are supposed to donate the money to.

Show everyone on here that you truly put your money where your mouth is by using your heart, rather than your head, to evaluate my claim...

God is waiting to see you obey him, Cheri. Don't disappoint him, or his chosen servant (me).

~Jen~ said...

Jack...how is my enjoying someone well versed in the bible who can challenge believers disrespectful?

I think xtianity in general is ridiculous, I am entitled to think that as much as you are entitled to think xtianity is the truth.

Respect is subjective...don't assume we all think it is the same thing. To me, my restraint against burning down nativity displays this time of year is a showing of my respect. Your definition is likely something else.

Anonymous said...

Yes I was in the Blethering Place.You were with Tracy...I assume...I don't feel the need to justify anything to you Tal and just because you want to rant on,I have better things to do with my time...like enjoying Christmas.
Why did Tracy leave you,by the way? I wont be checking back for the answer so be as nasty as you like.It wont affect me.

Cheri said...

Sorry I came up as Anononymous when it should have said Cheri.I am not the other anonymous listed.

Bistander said...

Being misquoted,misrepresented and feeling such animosity directed at you when you feel you are innocent of wrongdoing must give you an insight into how Joseph Smith must have felt when the same things happened to him.Or at least it should give you some little crack of compassion in your heart,one would hope.

Tyson said...

Tal,
Great blog, I've been wondering where you've been posting since I don't see any current comments on the bloggernacle. Coinciding with the topic, Tom Flynn has a great book called "trouble with christmas" and he did a podcast about it at

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/tom_flynn_the_real_war_on_christmas/

Cheri, I wish you would take Tal up on his challenge and defend your faith. It would be a shame if your only basis of faith was an emotional experience.

Tal said...
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smile said...

My thoughts have run in this direction the past couple of days too. Thanks for articulating it so well for me.

rachael said...

Cheri: you said

"Religion is much more a subject for the heart, rather than the mind."



That depends on yor perspective of religion.

rachael said...

I just watched a TV special, which billed itself as an examination into the origins of Christianity. It is called After Jesus, I found it very interesting.

Im thinking this film only 'scratches the surface' for those of you who study this sort of thing, so that makes you exactly the right people to ask for an opinion of After Jesus


Has anyone seen this show? How well do the filmakers do in thier interpretation? Is it largely correct?

I found it to be good at illustrating how long and how closely, Christianity has been tied into power, politics and money.

Rob said...

The perils of spending too much time in the head rather than the heart is a common theme in psychology.I think Cheri is trying to tell you something more than just relating to religion.She probably thought you would get what she meant because you are studying psychology.

The Homely Animal said...

Tal, I'll knit you a sweater anyway,(where is the wool Ace?) but regardless, super lame-o to write a Jesus is our victim, pretend to drink his blood or go to hell post 4 days before Christmas ;0) It seems like u got a chance to vent, which is always nice for a blogger, and although you've touched bases with a few comments, this particular post didn't feel like an overwhelming success. It's like a B- for being well written, and concise, while expressing an opinion. It's not an 'A' for me due to the fact that (as many religious writings go) it is too one-sided and lacks the ability to substantiate it's claim as does the opposite argument.

p.s. I'm looking forward to the "critiques" of all other religious holidays posted less than a week before they occur.

p.p.s. Merry Christmas *bwah, ha, ha... (she says, as she quietly pretends to dine on the blood and flesh of Josh Josephson)

Tal said...

Listen up, readers.

This is an official invitation to those who happen to disagree with something I've written to do more than post a comment saying they're "lame", or that they're not emotional enough, or that you disagree, the end. That is, or should be, embarrassing to you.

What I want is an actual *argument* - say, a recitation of FACTS which you think contradict my conclusions, or some discussion of where my reasoning has gone wrong, or some challenge to produce substantiating evidence if you don't believe some supposed fact I've mentioned.

I'm not asking for Einstein. I'm asking for junior high school debate team level of discussion. Like, if this were Grade 8 debate class and someone got up and said, "you need to approach matters of historical fact more with your heart than your head", or "that's just lame", they'd get an F. And rightly so.

I am HAPPY to allow critical comments to stand, as long as they are coherent, on-topic, and present some counterargument. (Check the recent Hitler post comments as an example).

No more mindless hit-and-run stuff.

Tim said...

I think you have two main thesis here:

1) The historicity of the Gospels is lacking.
2) Christianity is too ridiculous to believe.

Would you say that even IF the Gospels were accurate, Christianity would still be too ridiculous to be followed? Jesus equating himself with God and then proving it by rising from the dead would not be enough to overcome your perception of "Torture, Kill, and Eat"?

For the sake of argument I'll grant that you think that's a big "if". I just want to know which of the two is the bigger objection for you.

If you're bothered by the historicity, I agree. If Jesus didn't actually rise from the dead, there's no justification for being a Christian. Paul even says so a mere 15 years after the resurrection in I Corinthians 15.

If it's the "torture, kill, eat" thing, I don't know that you've got the authority to say "God did it wrong, he shouldn't be so silly". God should be worshiped simply because he's God, not because we think he's loving, clever or swell (it's just good news that he happens to be loving).

If God is a mean, punitive a-hole who put us here simply to have some one to torture, I'd say our knees still must bow and we better do all we can not to piss him off.

Tal said...

Hi Tim

Thanks for the comment.

I'd say first that our immersion in Christian mythology, to the point where it has sort of just seeped into us, is no reason to suspend our critical faculties when evaluating its truth claims.

And when we evaluate its truth claims, we find a story which, if we were only confronting now for the first time, we would say is grotesque (human sacrifice? symbolic cannibalism? eternal torment unless we murder God?) and extremely implausible.

When we asked for supporting evidence for this tale (which bears every mark of being the product of imagination and superstition), we would be handed collections of orally-passed down stories written many decades after the events were supposed to have occurred, no different in principle to stories about a shape-shifting Athena or a flying Mohammed.

In short, we would say that there was absolutely no reason to believe that the story was true. And all the insistence from people who themselves had uncritically accepted all those stories that "it really is true!", just wouldn't be a great reason to believe them. I refer you to Cheri's refusal to believe my claim that *I know for a fact* that God told me to tell her to give me three thousand dollars: she doesn't believe me because she *shouldn't*. And neither should anyone else believe that laws of physics, which have NEVER been observed to have been violated, *were* once violated by supernatural beings who lived 2000 years ago, purely on the say-so of some person who's never even taken the time to read entirely through the very book he's insisting I believe. It is a total joke.

You raise the question of whether we should worship God (supposing he exists) even if he is a sadist. I'm not I can answer that, except to say that it even further supports the idea that popular religious ideas derive from a sort of subconscious perversity. This view is merely a supernaturalized Stockholm Syndrome...

Tim said...

Yes, yes, you've said all of that and I don't disagree. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

But you still haven't answered my question, IF it were true would you buy it even though it's weird and grotesque, or would it just be too much for you? Say you had the first hand experience of Thomas.

Don't worry, I'm not asking you to sign up, accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior or to strap a bomb to your chest. Nor am I going to debate the historical claims with you (You're intellectually astute enough to at least have given the best apologist at least a passing glance. ie Habermas, Craig, McGrath) I'm just curious which is the bigger objection for you, historicity or weirdness.

For myself, if there were evidence in support of Athena and Mohammend that would certainly change things for me.

wine country girl said...

Hi Tal!

Tal said...

Tim wrote:

"But you still haven't answered my question, IF it were true would you buy it even though it's weird and grotesque, or would it just be too much for you?"

---I'm not sure I exactly get this. If the universe were controlled by a psycho and I knew that, would I acknowledge that fact? Well, I wouldn't have a choice, would I? I don't get it.

By the way, if the supreme controller of the universe in fact were a total psycho, so that it was like we were all held captive by Ted Bundy or something, then we would have no good reason to regard that entity as a "god" in the sense of an embodiment of "goodness", would we? He would only be a psycho captor. Are you telling me that if you were captured by a sadistic psycho killer and held captive in his basement, that you'd start singing hymns and praying to him?

>>>"I'm just curious which is the bigger objection for you, historicity or weirdness"

---Uh - the completely freakazoidal nature of certain claims speaks directly to their plausibility. If your Haitian neighbour tells you that ghosts live inside her body and are telling her to sacrifice animals and drink their blood, do you disbelieve her claim on grounds of "historicity" or "weirdness"?

See what I mean? We're trying to find out what's TRUE here, Tim. TRUE. Not just "not weird" - true. But as it happens, completely wacko stories which appear not to make any sense in the end, are often not true. Just watch "Judge Judy" some time...

"For myself, if there were evidence in support of Athena and Mohammend that would certainly change things for me."

Well - there is probably as much for them, as for Josph Josephson being the creator of the universe.

Tal said...

Hey Miss Representative of the Universal Light of Love and True Spirit of Christianity, I mean Cheri -

Why not keep the cheap personal insults off the board, and stick to the discussion topic: whether there is any reason to believe that God will condemn us to eternal suffering if we don't torture, murder, and symbolically eat him?

As far as I can see, that doesn't have anything to do with me coming in to see you at your restaurant, going out on a date with you, or talking to you about Tracy...

Cheri said...

When you stop your cheap personal insults Tal, I'll stop mine.

Anonymous said...

Cheri,
Delusion.
Really? How so?

Moving on from Cheri, I think the word you people seem to be missing when Tal says ate his flesh and drank his blood SYMBOLICALLY.
Is it not true that during modern day services you take a drink of water and eat a peice of bread?

Well?

Heres my problem with Christianity. Nice enough people, claim to be "Free from delusion." Lets take a swift look at paganism first, shall we?

Norse Mythology, undisputedly gruesome is it not? How the norse world came to be is the land of firee and the land of ice in space finally clashde, and the is froze the fire, but the fire also melting the ice, thureating a giant, who in the intense heat of the fire, sweat out some children, Odin, was one of them. Some time later Odin wanted to create a world, so he destroyed his father, used his flesh for the soil, his bones and teeth for the rocks, his eyes as the sun and planets, is brains as the clouds, his blood as the oceans and his skull as the sky. After that gods killed more gods and symboliucally ate their flesh to create giants and so on and so forh

and....that is wrong. Everything about that is wrong because Christians say so. Because "God" told prophets to control people, but the people weren't allowed to talk to the people. Norse men didn't have wealth, because Odin told the people to give it to them. Norse men just knew that the will of Odin was to loot and plunder and rape, and take it all, because their HEART told them to do it. Because they didn't think that, "Hey, this is bad."

And that is different, evil, dwarfed by the fact the how the world was ACTUALLY created was by a white dude in a long flowing robe in space, how went. "OK, lets get ready to rumble" and BAM, Seven days later here we are.

Heres the problem with saying you can't think about religeon. Use your heart. Well, "Your heart" is an eternal organ that delivers blood to your body. But what I beleive Cheri meant when she said "Your heart" was acutally the illusion created by your brain.

Matt said...

Hello Tal,
I just wanted to comment on a few things in your blog.
First, I'm not sure it would accurate to describe Christianity, as you do in your opening statements, "for human beings to avoid eternal torment (just by virtue of having been born), we had to torture and murder God/God's son, and then in commemoration, had to symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood."

My first remark concerns the weight placed on human volition. That we have to do something horrible to receive something precious: kill to avoid damnation. As though Jesus was a maze, and we had to make the right moves in order to get where we want to be. I think that, like any relationship, if one is to have a relationship with God, by whatever means: prayer (through, or not through Jesus Christ), worship, celebration etc. there has to be a two way street: the will of man, and of God must work together. In this description you paint all Christians, that is, whether they know it or not, as living out a purely selfish, and vulgar existence, where they kill God in order to be saved by God. I don't think this is the case. I actually think the opposite to be the case. Christ did not come to the earth and ask his followers to kill him, informing them that it would be to your our advantage if he were crucified. No, he told us that the two most important things were loving God and loving our neighbor. That feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and giving drink to the thirsty are all part of what God wants of us. Never does he tell us that human sacrifice is a necessity. And, I think that's what your statement gets at. The assumption that God, needed us to kill him, in order for us to be saved by him is a weird idea. God could have saved us through any means he choose. We could have been saved by by the death of Christ, or by the life of Christ, or by any other facet of his infinite existence. The means to salvation could have taken any form, but the end product remains: life. The death, if it occurs for any reason at all worth mentioning, is to show humanity that life does not end with death — death is not the ultimate conclusion to human existence. And not only that, for that had been believed by many people, but also that it can be done. That, if you take the Bible account to be a historical account, there was a person who did not die when he died. Or stated differently: a person whose existence was not annihilated in death. If it is truly about life, then eating and drinking his blood, would not be a cannibalistic feast where the individual participates in a ritual commentating death; where death is the essential aspect to the remembrance. I think your interpretation of Christianity is more in tune with a conspiracy christianity, where underneath every prompt towards kindness and love is in reality merely the the icing that hides the vile, and perverse inside. What happened to the version which dictates that there is virtue in self-sacrifice. You must, in some from, sacrifice yourself on a daily basis for your family, and, if it came down to it, you would probably give up your life for them, you would suffer for their well-being — morbid ideas I know, but for the sake of the argument, I think they're usful. And yet, when taken to a different level, a level concerning God, for some reason you see that he would be drastically different. I take different perspectives very seriously, but I have to admit that your perspective paints a very negative image onto Christianity. An image that does not reflect my own pursuits as a Christian. And, I think the arguments you present against Christianity are cliche and unoriginal. It seems you're arguing from your own dislike of the religion rather than looking plainly at the whole picture of what is said.

mikey said...

Hey tal, I was reviewing some of your comments on a little itinerant preacher in the ancient backwater of Judea, and had a thought that a couple of books might make some sense of this. Even a library might help -- but your time might be exhausted by it.

The problem I see in your presentation, is that a couple dozen good Jewish boys actually intentionally hit on an entirely different religion than existed in First Century Judaism. They all met, agreed on where to take it, and then -- at an extremely volatile point in that nation's history -- took it there.

It's not the case. In point of fact, Judaism took itself in another direction. First Century Judaism is not Second Century J., nor anything between then and modern J. either.

We're not entirely sure what Jesus was trying to reform.

If you look at the ethnic references in Scripture though, you see something strange though.

Jesus isn't completely focused on Jewish people.

He's looking 'round attracting heretics, outcasts.

And who's the biggest outcast in Judaic terms?

The Goy.

They're by a guy in England -- NT Wright. He's been working on an apparent inconsistency you've observed, how Christianity deviated from Judaism, and a fair explanation of how later Judaism deviated from the variety that must've existed in the First Century. It's very interesting reading. The big book / lotta time is "The New Testament and the People of God". The small book is on Paul, it's "Paul in Fresh Perspective" or the earlier "What St. Paul Really Said".

They're mostly to Christian people comfortable in their own preconceptions. So you might actually appreciate his attempt to tease entrenched Christians out of their preconceptions (or not -- he's not very confrontational).

As for being to Hell and back, welcome to the club. Wright's been castigated and attacked in many Christian denominations. Although, he holds a bishopric in the Anglican church. And he's one of the bigger representatives of modern scholarship on the Old and New Testament.

I know the mess people make when obsessing on religion. I'm probably way more obsessive on my own religion than you can handle. But I thought this guy was very informative.