Today’s post is just a graphic.
Is everyone really sure they want the Bible defining marriage?
Today’s post is just a graphic.
Is everyone really sure they want the Bible defining marriage?
Hey North Carolina! (My home for 20 years, if Chapel Hill counts as part of NC…)
What about the love between David and Jonathan, “surpassing the love of women”? God still made David King of Israel, didn’t he?
What about the unmarried Jesus (not kosher for a rabbi), and John “the disciple whom Jesus loved”? Didn’t Jesus love the other disciples? But just not in the same way, right?
So you can be gay and have pride of place in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, get it?
Repeal Amendment One, for the love of God!
The Book of Numbers, chapter 5 verse 11, starts a section out with the inescapable fact that this passage is not just some prophet or opinionated preacher or whatever, this is GOD speaking: “Then the LORD said to Moses:”
Numbers 5: 12-19 sets the stage: if a man knows or suspects that his wife has been sleeping with someone else, then he has to take her to the priest with a “grain offering of jealousy”. The priest takes the woman to “stand before the LORD”. He unloosens her hair. He puts the jealousy offering of grain into her hands. He takes some “holy water”, and sprinkles into it some dust from the temple floor. Then he puts her under oath and says “If you’re innocent, may this bitter water not harm you.”
But if she is guilty, it is God’s command that the priest ask God to curse her and cause her to have an abortion and have her uterus collapse, as a warning to others and as a way of making sure that the husband is only raising his own children.
Numbers 5: 20-22 (from the GOD’S WORD translation, 1995)-
20 If, in fact, you have been unfaithful and have had sexual intercourse with another man,
21 may the LORD make you an example for your people to see what happens when the curse of this oath comes true: The LORD will make your uterus drop and your stomach swell.’ “Then the priest will administer the oath and the curse by saying:
22 ‘May this water that can bring a curse go into your body and make your stomach swell and your uterus drop!’ “Then the woman will say, ‘Amen, amen!’
And the priest writes the curse on a scroll, and washes the words off into the bitter “holy water”, and makes the woman drink the water, which is designed to make her abort if she is guilty and to “cause her bitter pain” and to prevent her having any further children;
28 but if the woman is not unclean and is pure, she is not guilty and will be able to have children
… but only by her loving husband, of course.
Gotta love those primitive tribes and their old time religion!
This ignited a firestorm of indignation, with tens of thousands of his fellow Saudis calling for him to be tried for blasphemy and atheism, and executed. For some of the worst acting from a cleric, watch this short video.
Hamza flew to Malaysia, heading for asylum in New Zealand, but was arrested in the airport at Kuala Lumpur.
The irony is that his tweets are perfectly in line with the attitude that Muhammad himself tried to cultivate: that humans should never be deified, that neither Jesus nor Muhammad was anything but an ordinary man (though favored with prophetic gifts), and that, as he himself tried to prove, Muhammad could not perform miracles.
By the way, that’s the source of the story that ends “Well, if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.” Very much like King Canute shutting his flattering courtiers up by setting his chair up on the beach and telling the waves to go back, which they wouldn’t.
But the followers and the religious organizers always take over after the great man is dead, and turn him into a god to be worshiped. It happened with Buddha, with Odin, with Jesus. Muhammad put as many firewalls in the way as he could, but all too many Muslims treat Muhammad the way Christians treat Jesus, and impute outlandish miracles to him such as splitting and rejoining the moon.
Realistically, therefore, it’s the fanatical and superstitious accusers of Hamza Kashgari who are the blasphemers. The young poet should be praised for trying to keep Islam true to the wishes of its Prophet.
Half a dozen US states currently have legislation in process to allow the teaching of religious ideas as scientific theories, to be equally weighted against actual science. Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas have all been in the news recently with their popular attempts to turn education back to the Dark Ages when the only formal education was religion-based.
Their cry is “Evolution is only a theory”. And they claim that equal weight should be given to the theories of illiterate herdsmen who thought that the earth was flat, that snakes could talk, and that every species on the planet, from polar bear to platypus, lived within walking distance of Noah’s Ark.
Very democratic of them. And, if the laws of the entire Universe were based on the opinions of the least-educated of humans, very reasonable.
Context. Without context, a star can hover over a house, because that’s the way our creative understanding works. In the context of astrophysics, that star idea is nonsensical. Without context, Jesus was a Christian and the Jews hated him. In the context of his time and place, there were no Christians. He lived in the middle of an area occupied by pig-eating, beard-shaving, idolatrous Westerners. He lived in the middle of 200 years of constant uprisings by religious fundamentalists. Reading his words in context, it is obvious that he was a Jew, he hated the Romans, most Jews loved him, and Romans hated him.
The genius of Paul was in seeing that by removing context and putting everything into the mythic realm, a universal religion could be created that wasn’t tied to the foibles of its anointed fountainhead. In this case, by decontextualizing Jesus, he became no longer a Jew (John says things like “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him” – John 5: 18). He became no longer an adversary of Rome, no longer a Zealot, no longer gay… he becomes instead a mythic god, independent of the realities of history, independent of the laws of the universe. “Magic Jesus“, in the song by Tim Minchin.
Whether Paul understood this consciously and deliberately planned it, or whether he believed the visions from his own epileptic seizures, we may never know. But Paul is the creator of the post-Jewish “Christianity”.
The Gospels are written in an episodic way, highlighting some aspects of Jesus’ teachings, camouflaging other uncomfortable aspects, turning Jesus’ Jewishness upside down to make him more acceptable to Roman listeners and the Roman Empire, blending him with Mithras and Apollo. The Gospels swaddle him in miracles not just “from birth to death”, not even just “from womb to tomb”, but, in words originating in another context, “from the erection to the resurrection”. The very bookends of his life are so unbelievable that many people nowadays suspect he never existed at all.
So Jesus becomes a myth, a spiritual reality, an archetype. Like others before him in the preliterate world, he attains godhood. The historical person didn’t, of course – the historical person is dead and buried. But the story lives and grows and transmutes, constantly evolving to resonate more deeply with more people. All this is natural, inherent in human tendencies, and can be very useful for personal growth…
But magical thinking is a lousy basis for government policy decisions. Especially regarding the science curriculum for schools and universities.
This blog is a marmalade – sweet and sour boiled together, both rind and juicy bits.
By the way, it’s also a blog for the novel itself. With links to the trade paperback and to the Kindle edition. But don’t expect to find all the blog’s ideas in the novel – it’s just a contrarian (realistic, commonsense) retelling of an old story from the point of view of, yes, the Western occupation. And yes, Jesus was crucified. No, he didn’t come back from the dead. So, do you want to see how he did all those miracles?
Humans have been very successful as a species through love of pattern-recognition activities and a broad search for cause-and-effect. This leads to a love of stories and constant search for ‘Meaning’. The easiest way to introduce a new concept to people is to connect it to a story, as Jesus did repeatedly through parables. The inherent danger is that, because people are programmed to seek a narrative, people prefer an incorrect model over an incomplete model. In the absence of a better explanation, they opt for the wrong explanation.
So in the process of trying to debunk an incorrect idea, you have to be sure to provide a complete alternative explanation. You also have to be careful not to inadvertently reinforce the flawed idea – this ‘backfiring’ can be caused by various things: bad framing of the idea, or too many arguments and details, or threatening the listener’s worldview.
The Debunking Handbook, a guide to debunking misinformation, deals with these issues. It is now freely available to download, and offers practical guidelines on the most effective ways of reducing the influence of myths. The Debunking Handbook boils the concepts down into a short, simple summary, intended as a guide for communicators in all areas who encounter misinformation. It originated with climate researchers, but it has universal application.
I believe debunking myths of all kinds is important, because what we believe impacts how we make decisions. Bush foreign policy was informed with a lot of Messianic Christian mumbo-jumbo which contributed to the Iraq war as well as to anti-science policies on health care and stem-cell research. Science and government must be kept free of religion, or we end up with shorter and less fulfilling lives. But we can’t simply say ‘The Christian narrative is flawed; Jesus isn’t God, don’t be ridiculous.’ We have to provide a complete alternative story of who he was, and how we can understand his words and actions in a completely secular way.
That is what I have attempted in “The Gospel According to the Romans” – that Jesus was a Jew, and a fundamentalist Jew at that, who wanted to cleanse Israel by kicking the beardless, pig-eating, polytheist, idolatrous Romans out of Palestine and restoring the Torah as the source of law. He was connected to the Zealot uprisings which had been going on for 100 years before him and continued for another 100 years afterwards – his attempt to take over the Temple at Passover was a clear failure, and he was caught and crucified.
But this book is probably only half of what I need to say on the matter. Because Paul came along after Jesus and used him as the vehicle for creating the greatest syncretist religion the world has ever seen, blending Judaism and Mithraism with Egyptian and Greco-Roman practices to end up with the Christianity that we have today. In order to say that happened, and to be understood and believed, we need to tell it as a coherent and non-magical story – plausible even if we can’t know exactly what happened.
In short, we need a parable to debunk Jesus, Paul and Christianity.
In the news today, Israeli President Shimon Peres is calling on Israelis “to save the majority from the hands of a small minority”. Ultra-Orthodox Jews (who are exempt from military service and, rather than working, collect a government subsidy for religious studies) are increasingly resisting the secular nature of the Jewish state and trying to enforce ancient religious practices.
The Ultra-Orthodox demand strict gender segregation and “modest” dress for women. Recent incidents have seen schoolgirls harassed and spat at, and women ordered to sit at the back of local buses or get off, despite court rulings that women can sit anywhere on a bus.
This issue resonates interestingly with the position of Muslim hardliners in other countries, and with the Jewish resistance to Roman rule 2,000 years ago.
Fanatics everywhere thrive on polarization. Ultra-Orthodox Jews and Al Qaeda are brothers with a common view of the universe, a view that their God, through His Infallible Book, has given them the divine duty to order the lives of entire 21st century nations in accordance with a subsistence-economy tribal past. They disagree as to which set of Semitic writings is the True Word of God, but they all loathe the Western tolerance of casual secular behavior. (Their leaders also understand that their power is increased by turning the Middle East into a religious battleground.)
When Rome ruled Palestine, the same dynamics were in play. Rome wanted a live-and-let-live religious environment where anyone could worship any god, and temples to all of them were scattered about. The more secular of the Jews were happy with this – they enjoyed the peace and improved travel and trade that the Empire brought. But the more religious of the Jews wanted to cleanse Israel of the beardless, pig-eating, polytheist idolators, and they wanted all Jews to repent and return to the Law of Moses. To them, all Jews were one family and everyone else should be evicted from the Promised Land.
Jesus was only one of a stream of would-be Messiahs who, over a 200 year period, led uprising after failed uprising against the Westerners and got crucified for their pains. Osama Bin Laden was of that mindset and he too has been executed. Secularism is gradually replacing religion around the world in a several-generations process now speeded by mass media, mass travel and the Internet. But the Ultra-Orthodox may well have a decade or two of success ahead of them.
The same things are still happening, that have been going on for 2,000 years. The Westernization of Israel is still in question.