Interesting response Ordinary, but I didn’t quite appreciate you pulling me into a theistic camp when you said, “We can’t get into the ‘my god is bigger than your god ’ argument.” Presumably you mean that we could not settle such an argument, but really Ordinary, i don’t have a god, so right at the start I am willing to grant that your god is bigger - in fact he’s the biggest ________ ever! It’s all settled. Perhaps you didn’t believe it that those Eastern philosophies don’t have a god, Siddhartha Guatama (the Buddha) was a man, an exceptional man. The Dao is not a god, but an activity - a way making energy. Please do not drag these other systems of living into another egoistic theism to match your own.
As far as Darwin is concerned, let’s face it, he was in line to be an ordained church minister (received a Theology degreee at Cambridge) so he would want to cling to the idea of a Creator in spite of all his wonderful evidential discoveries. Darwin did also write, “The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871)” - in which he claims that man, like all the other creatures of the earth, has evolved. If, in the end he still believes in a Creator, that is no longer the christian god sort of entity.
On Nietzsche, I don’t understand how you can blame him for what happened in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Those unfortunate experiments in human deprivation were the result of misappropriations of Karl Marx’s fantastic analyses of human history. Perhaps you have misplaced the Nietzschean idea of the “Ubermensch” (which he meant to be taken as one who has overcome his own obesssion with his ego - a Buddhist type of perfection as imported into German thought by Schopenhauer). This idea, when applied without the underlying Buddhist philosophy, becomes the “SuperMan” who is imbued with his own moral outlook, an outlook “superior” to that of the ordinary man. Without the essential Buddhist ideas, Nietzsche’s idea can be twisted into a Hitler or a Stalin - depending on your political beliefs.
I invoked the name of Nietzsche because of his philosophal contributions, but mostly because his pronouncement of “the Death of God” (1886) still causes great turmoil to theists the world over. I just admire so much all of his “Anti-Christ” writings, even though there were already prominent atheists in the Eighteenth Century - Hume, d’Holbach, Diderot to name but a few.
IN the end I do agree that “getting into the finer details of the Christian tradition . . . would be fruitless.” (I am, after all, one who was brought up in “the tradition” and has happily rejected all of it.) I agree wholeheartedly with lisbliss, “not only is christianity a religion of egotism, its a denial of humanity to me and a religion of death.” That is a perfect description of the theology involved.
Rod…Its this special status we don’t want, nor do I think is merited. One of the points of discussion through this post is the difference between the way the believer and the atheist lives his/her life. My argument is that there isn’t that much difference. When atheists put ‘religious belief’ in its own class, it is incredibly easy just to sweep it all away without recognizing they live similarily. There are not systems, worldviews that don’t require belief.
I have to argue, its not semantics. You use the phrase “belief based on faith.” I’m not sure what that’s even supposed to mean since belief and faith are the same thing. As I’ve said before, our words “belief, faith and trust” are all the same greek word pistis in the Greek NT. You may mean, “religious people believe based on ‘the faith (ie. the religious communties standard or dogma)’” That may be true, but I guess I think that is a different discussion then what we were having. Why we believe what we believe is different then recognizing that we all live similarily with the exercise of belief. In earlier posts, I sensed some saying that “atheists don’t exercise belief, we exercise knowledge based on evidence.” My point is that wasn’t accurate.
Yes, I would say Reagan did mean that with “trust, but verify”. Trust but verify means, until I see reality with my own eyes, I am going to take your word as to what reality is. What was required? Believing without sufficient evidence. Did he check it out to gather then the sufficient evidence? Sure he did. But the statement meant he wasn’t going to just assume the soviets were lying or deceit. He believed, had faith in them, even though it was temporary.
If Jesus never existed at all, what does that do for your faith (either believer or atheist)?
Resist the urge to say things like, “But the gospels are all fairy tales! or You can’t trust those accounts because they have been changed by power-hungry clerics.” Take the Gospels at face value for the time being like you accept other ancient texts. The ancient texts of Plato or Aristotle, because they are old, we don’t immediately say, “They are a forgery! They’ve been doctored!”
I doubt Plato or Aristotle where either forged or doctored because I see little historical motive to do so (other than maybe trying to burn their books into oblivion during the Dark Ages). On the other hand the “Bible” has been the foundation of various fundamentalist political power structures that stretch from Pre-Judean Sumer to Jerusalem then Babylon, back to Jerusalem, then onto Rome & Constantinople and then Mecca and Lutheran Germany and Salt Lake City and beyond (and between). All of those places in their own times had understandable motives to copy, forge or doctor sacred texts for their own political convenience!
In my limited study of history I see no reason to disbelieve this. You can call it a “Faith” on my part; but any rational student of history will be hard pressed to disagree.
Now, what if the followers of Plato and Aristotle (and Pythagoras), which where “rational” by nature, tried to influence the “irrational” fundamentalist power structure during their own times? How would they do it? I find it similar to the power struggle between atheists and believers today, except that the ancients where much more cunning than we are now (or maybe not, GWB was a member of Skull & Bones LOL).
BEFORE Jesus there where many “Mystery” religions all around the Mediterranean. Each adopted the ancient beliefs of the local region to impart “new” ideas. All did so by describing a Man/Deity born of a God and a Virgin that taught Baptism & a Sacramental Meal of Blood and Body. Eventually this Man-God was persecuted and killed, and finally Resurrected to show the way to Heaven. Call him Osiris/Dionysus/Bacchus/Mithras or what you will, but all existed before Jesus.
Now what if all those stories where made up just to impart the newer “Platonic” ideas into older “Fundamentalist” beliefs? It would be done in a way that respected the older traditions, but yet left enough glaring inconsistencies that a rational mind would question the historicity of the stories. Then when an initiate started to question the “Jesus” story he or she would be let in on the Inner Mystery (as opposed to the “Fundamentalist” Outer Mystery). That being that you are Jesus! When you understand that Heaven on Earth can only come about when you act as if you are in Heaven your old understanding Dies and you are Resurrected into a higher consciousness (remember there was no concept of Heaven or Hell in the Old Testament).
Forgive me for this simple analogy. Did you believe in Santa when you where young? He brought amazing gifts (eternal life in Heaven) by way of a flying sleigh and 8 tiny reindeer (miracles). As you grew older (more rational) you found it impossible to find it all true, but yet you still wished it to be so. Even disillusioned you still understood the principal of Love and Giving that was the heart of the story. When you had children of your own you eventually “became Santa” to pass on this Gift of Love.
The problem I see with Fundamentalists today is that they are stuck on merely believing in “Santa” instead of becoming “Santa”. The Roman Empire thru Constantine adopted Christianity not because of its “Inner Mystery”, but because of its “Outer Mystery” which could be so easily perverted to further their political power. That being to believe what the Roman Government says or you are persecuted as a heretic! And in so doing they did their best to destroy any reference to the original meaning of Christianity and leave us only with half the truth.
Any Fundamentalist believer today (while they have good moral teachings in the gospels) doesn’t truly understand the real meaning behind the gospels or the reasons they where written in the first place (which had nothing to do with actual miracles, resurrections or heaven).
The question you present is an interesting one. I must say, though, I’m not sure if “The Jesus Mysteries” is the most reliable source. I think there are other secular works that may be a little more informative then this one.
The problem I have with the idea of Jesus and his life being forged by his followers is that so many of them perished in their attempt to share that very message. There are many independent primary sources that describe the death of many who followed in the footsteps of Jesus. I think specifically of his contemporaries and maybe the next generation. I just don’t know why so many would sacrifice so much for something they concocted. It doesn’t seem reasonable.
After Constantine “legalized” Christianty and state and religion got closely tied together, we can more easily see the corruption that started infiltrating the church. But we don’t really see that until 350AD or so and even then, the corruption we know most clearly within the church was centuries after that even. So it doesn’t really explain how those initial followers, maybe within the first even 100 years, would give and sacrifice so much for something they themselves changed and doctored.
There is another interesting line of reasoning in books like “The Jesus Puzzle,” that present evidence and speculate that all of early Christianity sprung up without an actual “Christ.” Interesting that Paul’s writings, the earliest known christian writings, by the way, do not ever refer to an actual living person, or quote any of his sayings.
Speculation is that the early “churches” he was writing to were “Cristos” cults, and not followers of a particular person. That part of history, as it relates to the church, is sufficiently muddled that I dont think anyone can claim absolute knowledge about it. Having said that, the evidence for the non-existance of Jesus is mounting. Even if he did exist, the evidence suggests that the “gospels” were largly fabricated.
Thought quite a bit about your arguments and I may give in a little. Can we decide that the difference between “to know” and “to have faith” may be more of degree than absolute difference. What about, say a physician(me) who might have a fairly comfortable “belief” that most patients would just as soon sue me for percieved mistakes as not, and that lawyers promote this attiitude. Rationally it’s probably not true, and I realize that being somewhat biased I tend to put into memory more of those episodes in practice that tend to support the “belief”. (Such as the women who threatened to sue if my nurse didn’t call in a presciption for antibiotics by noon.) The belief seems rational to me, but we’ll admit, based on pretty flimsy evidence. I might say I believe it and have “faith” that this attitude might make me more diligent in avoiding mistakes because that sure seems to work. (As well as increase costs for CYA testing) I still can’t say that I simply have “faith” that I will hurt myself if I drive my car into a brick wall at high speed. This result is a sure thing based on all reasonable evidence. To believe that I would not hurt myself really would require faith, wouldn’t it?
So I’ll agree that in those instances in our lives where there is “evidence” that we use that may be biased, or based on coincidence, or pattern found in randomness, and untested, that if we then say “I believe it” we just might be committing an act of “faith”.
[quote author=“Ordinary”]The problem I have with the idea of Jesus and his life being forged by his followers is that so many of them perished in their attempt to share that very message. There are many independent primary sources that describe the death of many who followed in the footsteps of Jesus. I think specifically of his contemporaries and maybe the next generation. I just don’t know why so many would sacrifice so much for something they concocted. It doesn’t seem reasonable.
I’m guessing you don’t find the beliefs of the Branch Davidians and Heaven’s Gate cult very compelling in spite of the fact that they very clearly fall under the criteria you just said impress you so much in the case of Christianity. Obviously there’s a lot more to the overall issue than the willingness to give one’s life for a belief, but why does the one case assure the believer of the validity of the belief, while the other case can be seen accurately as a case of aberrant psychology.
That’s the question I find interesting.
Have you considered the faith issue from earlier—why, as you put it, you need to use logic in a “particular way” in its defense? Doesn’t the need to use logic differently—to treat faith as a special case—speak volumes to you?
I think you misunderstand me (and quite possibly, me comunicating poorly) when I refer to using logic a “particular way”. What I mean by that is this: in a forum like this where atheists/secularists just sweep away with one fail swoop any consideration of faith, my attempt is not to “prove” faith, my attempt is to show that you can’t just nicely push faith away and call it stupid, for various reasons. The particular attempt in our post is that secularists/atheists exercise faith in their daily lives as well as believers in spite of their heavy and uncritically thought-out criticism. It is not nearly as difficult to show something as “possible” or “reasonable”, then “prove” a case. So I didn’t set the bar too high. That’s what I mean.
Secondly, I figured someone would bring up other followers of folks like David Koresch, and it is fair question. But let me put “true” followers of Jesus in contrast to others like those you mentioned.
True followers of Jesus (that’s very important to consider because there are all kinds of people out there who say they follow Jesus’ way and aren’t anything like the Jesus. Those preachers begging for money on tv, those crusaders putting swords to the throats of others, those hate-filled people standing on the street corners with signs and megaphones telling people God hates them; they are not followers of Jesus. No where in all the gospels would you ever get the impression that Jesus condones anything like that. It is an abuse of Jesus’ teaching, not a logical conclusion of it)... So then, true followers of Jesus strenuously worked and died so that other people might have joy. Whether you agree with what they thought would bring joy is a different question. Jesus’ command to his followers was that they work and suffer and die so that other people might experience joy and love. That is completely different than the examples you gave me. People like Peter, Paul, Thomas, John gave their life for others. They didn’t die trying to hold onto power, they didn’t suffer seeking rights for themselves. They lived and died completely so that other people might find the same joy they found. And that’s what love is; working for other people’s joy and happiness. It seems quite clear that isn’t the motivation of countless others who die for their “faith”.
Doniphon…I agree with Ordinary that there was probably a real person named Jesus and that he persuaded many to risk their lives for him…happens all the time with personality cults.
Imagine if the “Real God” showed up and had to persuade everybody that all in the past was just fantasy….
“Real God” or not, I have yet to see any evidence that Jesus ever existed. If you have please share it with us all. In all my reading I have yet to see any contemporary mention of Jesus (10 B.C. - 25 A.D.).
Interesting that Paul’s writings, the earliest known Christian writings, by the way, do not ever refer to an actual living person, or quote any of his sayings.
To the best of my knowledge that is the earliest written “history” we have that mentions Jesus by name. The fact that it describes nothing of his “life” (birth, family, hometown, travels, miracles, ect…) I think speaks volumes. Try this out once: read the New Testament in the order scholars believe it was written in. First the 7 of 13 letters credited to Paul that are not forgeries then Mark, Matthew, Luke, Acts, John, the 6 fake letters and finally Revelations (I’ve left some books out, forgive me). The point is it isn’t hard to see not only how they built upon one another but how they changed from originally being Jewish to later tending towards being anti-semitic (among other things).
I am not saying “The Jesus Mysteries” is the end all and be all, it just happens to be the last I’ve read that addresses this interesting issue. I have read many other books that if not coming to similar conclusions do not discredit the theory and more often than not reinforce it. These include authors like Richard E. Friedman, Neil Asher Silberman, Israel Finkelstein, John Shelby Spong among many others. I am in no position to judge these writers on their scholarly accuracy other than to say I find little reason to doubt them, especially when they compliment each other while coming at the subject from differing points of view. That is something I cannot rationally say about the Bible itself. But we all have our own “Blind Faiths” LOL.
This thing I find most ironic about this theory (and it is just a theory) is that what was originally meant as a “progressive” advancement of organized religion (its Hellenization) instead became even more “regressive” (Fundamental Literalism) than what it originally intended to “progress” beyond. Does anyone not find it interesting that soon after adopting Catholicism the Roman Empire collapsed and the Western World was plunged into the Dark Ages for centuries?
Originally I started looking into these matters after 9/11 to try and better understand Islam. It doesn’t take an antiquity scholar to see that Islam was built upon among other things the (already centuries old) Bible. The Quran not only “borrowed” Biblical stories, but it more often than not got them wrong, either out of context historically or just plain rewrote them.
So then I looked at the Torah and found reasons to believe many of its stories predated the Jews and actually originated in present day Iraq. Moving on to the New Testament it isn’t hard to see pre-existing Greek ideas being incorporated into the Jesus parables.
I find it very difficult to discredit this “evolution” of religion no matter what credible author you read. It is only the Fundamentalists that do their best to deny it by jumping through increasingly more restrictive hoops to do so.
So then the question becomes how do we stop another 9/11 (which started my initial inquiry into religion)? Rationally from a Fundamentalist point of view the only answer would seem to be either convert them to the “true faith” or kill them. I on the other hand would rather see Muslim culture understand the evolution of its religious history and try to move beyond it. But if that is the case it would be contradictory for us not to examine our own historical religious evolution.
We live in interesting times. It is only in the last 200 or so years that scholars (mostly Christians mind you) have moved beyond trying to merely reinforce the historicity of the Bible to actually trying to understand how it came to be. In the last 20 years alone vast progress has been made and is just now becoming more widely known than ever before.
1 Corinthians 13:12 - For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Well, Doniphon, you say an aweful lot. Far too much to interact with, really. If that’s what you believe about the Christian scriptures and the faith’s formation, that’s what you believe. For me, its hard to fathom why millions upon millions of intelligent people (and there are certainly many, many incredibly intelligent Christian believers, just as there are intelligent atheists) who would devote their entire life to the study of those scriptures and to the faith it points to and come to such radically different conclusions. Not just our contemporaries, but people century upon century in our past. That’s just mind boggling to me.
By reading your post, rejecting the Christian faith just seems so easy and logical. Who wouldn’t reject it? To me, if what you say is all true, even a “safety net to keep me out of hell” isn’t enough motivation to believe all the lies.
...But maybe its because some of your conclusions just aren’t right or accurate.
...Maybe I missed the boat. Its certainly possible.
[quote author=“Ordinary”]What I mean by that is this: in a forum like this where atheists/secularists just sweep away with one fail swoop any consideration of faith, my attempt is not to “prove” faith, my attempt is to show that you can’t just nicely push faith away and call it stupid, for various
But the definition of faith in question—the version that belief in anything supernatural requires (essentially unwarranted belief)—is “sweep awayable” by definition. That’s the main point of TEoF, and it’s the only pertinent definition of faith—the form of faith in question (i.e. other forms are not, unless they’re defined, and then we start from square one, remembering not to mis-apply arguments previously presented for the first case/version—not to equivocate).
But you’re right that I misunderstood you and that skeptics often have the tendency to sweep a bit too freely.
[quote author=“Ordinary”]The particular attempt in our post is that secularists/atheists exercise faith in their daily lives as well as believers in spite of their heavy and uncritically thought-out criticism.
Not the same, problematic, intellectual integrity compromising faith as that which Western religion requires.
[quote author=“Ordinary”]Secondly, I figured someone would bring up other followers of folks like David Koresch, and it is fair question. But let me put “true” followers of Jesus in contrast to others like those you mentioned.
I agree it’s a valid distinction, but it’s also somewhat problematic. Where exactly is the line correctly drawn between “True Followers(tm)” and “other?” It’s a distinction that’s dismissed too easily by skeptics, but it’s often not an easy one to work with either.
[quote author=“Ordinary”]People like Peter, Paul, Thomas, John gave their life for others. They didn’t die trying to hold onto power, they didn’t suffer seeking rights for themselves. They lived and died completely so that other people might find the same joy they found. And that’s what love is; working for other people’s joy and happiness. It seems quite clear that isn’t the motivation of countless others who die for their “faith”.
Allegedly, anyway. Still, it’s largely a matter of perspective, isn’t it? Both the perspective of the story teller and of the hearer, and it seems rather judgmental to me to say the Heaven’s Gaters died for lesser motives than the early Christians allegedly did. Also, non-Christians have died and are dying for their religious freedoms and those of others.
It would be hard to suggest Mahatma Ghandi’s sacrifices were of lesser nobility, for example, but I’m guessing you don’t find that compels you toward Hinduism like the early Christians’ deaths compel you toward Christianity (or rather, affirms your beliefs).
That’s my point. The “people died for the faith” argument isn’t a valid apologetic argument. I don’t discount the meaning of such sacrifices, I’m just arguing that you must distinguish between emotionally compelling and ideologically or rationally compelling, and that you can’t arbitrarily shift from one to the other and still remain within the parameters of sound reason.
Byron, you make fair points. Concerning the issue of martydom, you are right, it doesn’t prove anything. But, I think it does illustrate some major differences that are hard to neglect.
I understand that “representatives” of a certain faith do carry a lot of weight and influence. The saddest truth about our history of faith is just how poorly so-called followers of Jesus have treated others. Its reprehensible. This clearly gives an impression of the totality of the faith and its followers. But I think reasonable thinkers are able to look past some of these abuses. And here is my point: I think someone like me is a little better qualified to say “that isn’t true Christian faith” than a secularist. I don’t blame a secularist to say, “Ordinary, what about this joker over here saying/doing this?” That’s fair. But I think critical thinkers in any camp recognize what they are studied in or speaking about and are willing to say honestly when they see evidence, “OK, Oridinary, I understand what you say and will grant you that.” And I do feel I have been given a fair hearing (even though I’ve fought for it a tad!)
I guess I really don’t agree with your first point in your post. You say, “the definition of faith in question—the version that belief in anything supernatural requires (essentially unwarranted belief)...” You certainly don’t believe there are not “reasons” to believe the supernatural, do you? Most certainly, as some have argued here, a crutch or security blanket is a motivation for some. But there are so many occurrences that are not explainable. I’m not suggesting we scream crazy conclusions from that or dismiss future scientific explanations, but I have heard too many credible stories where the supernatural seems to be at least reasonable. Again, it goes back to some of our discussion concerning science: even science can’t explain everything.
Do you really believe all there is is what we can sense with our five senses? Even many scientists don’t believe that.
[quote author=“Ordinary”]Byron, you make fair points. Concerning the issue of martydom, you are right, it doesn’t prove anything. But, I think it does illustrate some major differences that are hard to neglect.
Neglect in what sense? My point is simply that it’s not compelling as verification of the martyr’s beliefs, only of the martyr’s commitment to them. In other words it makes no apologetic argument, though it certainly may compel believers to act.
[quote author=“Ordinary”]I understand that “representatives” of a certain faith do carry a lot of weight and influence. The saddest truth about our history of faith is just how poorly so-called followers of Jesus have treated others. Its reprehensible. This clearly gives an impression of the totality of the faith and its followers.
I think you’re being diplomatic here. I don’t think it reasonably gives any such impression. If the behavior of [religion X] were universally or overwhelmingly (or maybe even prevalently) heinous (compassionate, violent, selfish, whatever), then it would reasonably provide for an impression, but as far as the level of behavior you’re talking about, that’s clearly not the case for Christians (historically, maybe, but even then I think that’s a hard argument to defend).
In any case, the behavior of adherents and/or practitioners doesn’t speak directly to the merits of the belief system.
[quote author=“Ordinary”]And here is my point: I think someone like me is a little better qualified to say “that isn’t true Christian faith” than a secularist.
I don’t think so, but I don’t think that’s really the issue of contention either. I have no problem with isolating various sects and denominations (or whatever—I like to call them franchises) and defining a specific “my group” or a specific group at issue, but the behaviors and beliefs of the vast majority are quite public, and therefore we can all look them over and judge them on their merits (or their lack thereof). You have no more claim than secularists to any of that, except for what franchise (if any) you fit under, and even that’s not something you can just decide arbitrarily yourself (i.e. if your statements and/or actions don’t support your claims . . . which is actually pretty much what I think you’re trying to get at).
[quote author=“Ordinary”]Do you really believe all there is is what we can sense with our five senses? Even many scientists don’t believe that.
There’s quite a difference between accepting the unknown for what it is (i.e. the possibility of “things” existing outside of our awareness, or even outside of nature) and choosing to believe something about the unknown (i.e. supernatural “things” do in fact exist, and the nature of such alleged “things” much more so). The former is absolutely sound, the latter is not (the latter requires the problematic faith inquestion here).
It’s like considering the contents of a black box that’s absolutely, in every sense impenetrable. There’s no possible way to know what, if anything is inside. A skeptic like me will have no problem acknowledging that something could be inside the box, but will expect proper validation of specific claims (actually skeptics will generally interpret such claims as invalid, by definition—likely exceptions being for claims of emotional or otherwise personal significance). Believers, on the contrary, feel free to make claims about the contents, often in explicit detail and outside of the realm of personal significance. Skeptics aren’t very impressed by such claims not because we don’t agree with the beliefs they’re based upon (that’s a separate issue), but simply because there’s no valid reason to be impressed—there’s absolutely no actual epistemology behind them.