January 15, 2009

Camille Paglia says Jesus was "a performing artist with startling improvisational gifts."

Responding to a reader who asks her to consider the possibility that The Bible is true, she writes:
I respect the Bible as one of the world's greatest books, based on a magnificent body of oral poetry. It is a fundamental text that everyone, atheist or believer, should know. It speaks profoundly to everyone at each stage of life. And of course its hero sagas, from Moses to Christ, have been absorbed into the Western fine arts tradition.

But I do not accept the Bible as divinely inspired. Indeed, most scholars would agree that the New Testament was purposefully written as a point-by-point response to the Old Testament to prove that Jesus was indeed the Messiah whose arrival had been forecast for centuries. Therefore the details of Jesus' life and experiences were tailored and shaped to echo the language and imagery of the Old Testament.

Personally, I do believe there was a historical Jesus. The evidence is fragmentary but, to me, convincing that a charismatic, itinerant preacher of his name was swept up into the cruel politics of the Roman occupation of fractious, rebellious Judaea. Furthermore, as a literary critic, I hear a very distinct speaking voice in the sayings attributed to Jesus. This was a brilliant poet who was able to find simple, universal metaphors (a coin, a tree, a mustard seed) to convey spiritual truths to the masses. He was also a performing artist with startling improvisational gifts. Whether or not he himself thought he was the Messiah is unclear.
A performing artist with startling improvisational gifts? Does that cover the miracles (magic tricks?)?

127 comments:

TreeJoe said...

That completely lacked any justification for why she doesn't feel it's divinely inspired other than "it sounds so good it must be fiction"...

"Her commentary was beautifully written to reflect a deep understanding of the issues behind this judgement, but as a literary critic I feel that her prose reflected a desire to please everyone who read the piece, and therefore does not directly deal with the issue at hand."

Joe

Trooper York said...

In Turin they recently found a series of cloth bindings with the impression of dog's urinating.

The Vatican declines comment.

Simon said...

I would think that if one accepts the historical existence of Jesus, and particularly the circumstances of his death, then the reality of the early church - its mere existence, contemporaneous with events and people who, also being familiar with those events, would dispute any distortions - really starts to narrow the available range of conclusions. "Whether or not he himself thought he was the Messiah is unclear" to Paglia, but why? Does she dispute or accept the broad outline of his death? That's an important question because while most hucksters would happily send followers to their deaths, few will allow themselves to be nailed to a plank. A mere performance artist, a "charismatic, itinerant preacher" would not have preferred crucifixion over recantation. To my mind, then, if there was a Jesus, and if he died as the Bible suggests (and I see no reason to doubt it; what did the early church have to gain by dissembling?), the available conclusions would seem to be either that he was a nut, or he was on the line.

Michael H said...

Um hmmm. Paglia reduces Jesus to a early version of the Amazing Kreskin.

Quite interesting how Paglia willingly overlooks several centuries of scholarly research in framing her answer to the question she was asked.

Michael H said...

I hope Father Martin Fox stops by.

AllenS said...

God took one of Adam's ribs and made Eve.

Who can match that feat?

traditionalguy said...

God can defend himself, so I wont do it for Him. You can say again that this carpenter gave a startling performance. Driving out Demons always draws a crowd. Plus, as Camille notes, the Voice you hear when reading straight thru a good modern translation [E.g, J B Phillips] of the Gospel of Mark is an awesome experience. Read it just to ridicule it, and you may become a believer. As Paul told king Agrippa, the Hebrew Prophet's God has startled people everywhere with both his power and his Love.

Trooper York said...

Well that slumdog millionaire dude took a term paper about ribs and parlayed it into a shot on American Idol. Sweet.

garage mahal said...

A long haired idealist who walked around in sandals followed by whores and outcasts, was constantly at odds with authority, and was famous for his naive faith about peace and love saving the day. He even said "go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor".

Well, it is Hippie Week at Althouse.

Ron said...

I recall Tacitus seeing the "Christ!" stand-up special on Deafus Jamicus IV.

reader_iam said...

Contrast Paglia's attitude with that of (obvious) others. I don't mean just toward Jesus, or Christianity, but also toward the questioner.

chickenlittle said...

Who copied whom, and who falls short Garage?

blake said...

I've never understood why the Jews of the time never mentioned Jesus. Here's this guy running around preaching the worst imaginable heresy, gathering enough notoriety to be crucified, yet nobody thought to write about him?

Simon said...

AllenS said...
"God took one of Adam's ribs and made Eve."

Even the Almighty needed a prototype before perfecting the design, it turns out.

tim maguire said...

Reaching back to college and a class that looked at the bible as a historical document, one fascinating thing the teacher did was to re-order the four books of the gospel into the order in which they were written. Among the things that then jump out--the first book (John, I think) has very few miracles; the last (Matthew) is full of them. In the first, when Peter says the people think you are the Messiah, Jesus responds "get behind me Satan", which was interpreted to mean, roughly, "STFU!" because, after all, they crucifiedy Messiahs, and who wants that fate? (Jesus was by no means the only one. The Romans crucified Messiahs all the time.) But by the last book, you have Jesus saying, "upon this rock I shall build my church."

There were other significant inconsistencies and at least one explicit contradiction (the criminals crucified with Jesus).

Anyway, with this sort of examination, of seeing how Jesus became more miraculous and divine as the books get further away from his actual life and the people who knew him, you get an interesting case study in the development of myth and folklore.

And I agree. It is unclear whether Jesus considered himself the Messiah. He calls God his father, but he calls God everybody's father.

Simon said...

blake said...
"I've never understood why the Jews of the time never mentioned Jesus"

How many Jewish records and writings about anything survive today from that period?

ricpic said...

Although I am an unbeliever there are few things more excruciating to me than the pontifications of other unbelievers in the area of faith. For one thing it's bad manners. You don't make pronouncements about something in which others have a great stake and you have next to none. It also reeks of condescension and hypocrisy. If you don't believe, say it: I don't believe. Don't cover your tracks with all kinds of equivocations about how the bible is full of profound truths and beautiful passages, blah, blah, blah. It's an insult to those for whom the bible is the living word.

dbp said...

Simon said...
blake said...
"I've never understood why the Jews of the time never mentioned Jesus"

How many Jewish records and writings about anything survive today from that period?

I don't understand: Were not all of the gospels written by Jews? Sure, they later were known as founding Christians, but they were born as and thought of themselves as Jewish.

Quayle said...

I have no problem with Paglia.

I find her to be more intellectually honest than almost anyone else that is writing commentary today.

Who cares if she doesn't believe Christ was divine. With intellectual honesty, she could be persuaded if enough evidence was presented.

In contrast, many of our current religionists won't budge from their traditional inherited notions and are consequently damned in their progress, because no amount of evidence will ever persuade them that they aren't right.

reader_iam said...

I thought Paglia's answer was quite respectful.

blake said...

How many Jewish records and writings about anything survive today from that period?

Well, there's the Talmud. It wasn't set down on paper until later but it also didn't spring from whole papyrus.

No Roman records either.

For such a cataclysmic event, it went remarkably un-noticed. (But then, I think that's true of many historical happenings.)

reader_iam said...

So I guess, ricpic, I'm disagreeing with your characterization of Paglia in particular (though I can certainly think of others to whom I'd apply your characterization). However, we all touch different parts of the elephant, and people can disagree reasonably. Sorry for the cliches, but sometimes they're useful when wishing to disagree while emphasizing no intent to be disagreeable (but rather the opposite).

Stephanie Carnes said...

Blake, what about Josephus?

rhhardin said...

Mitchell and Webb do Jesus doing the Good Samaritan youTube.

Alan said...

"Does that cover the miracles (magic tricks?)?"

I always wanted to read Lazarus' death perspective on death. Was there ever a Book of Lazarus or, at least, an interview from one of the Jesus' disciples?

Joe said...

How many Jewish records and writings about anything survive today from that period?

Actually, quite a few. More if you add in Roman records. More than enough to know there were lots of nuts running around claiming to be messiahs, but none that fit the Jesus story. Then there are the massive mistakes about how things worked which indicate the gospels were written by people long after the purported fact, few of whom lived in, or were familiar with, the area.

The extremely strong parallels to Osiris along is enough to persuade me that Jesus is just another myth, borrowed heavily from Greek, Egyptian, Roman and even Indian sources. Add in Horus and a myriad of other myths and the evidence becomes pretty overwhelming. (Add in the known, and quite common, teachings of some self-professed messiahs that predated Jesus by some thirty years and I don't even see the debate.)

blake said...

I don't understand: Were not all of the gospels written by Jews? Sure, they later were known as founding Christians, but they were born as and thought of themselves as Jewish.

Yes, but they weren't contemporary. Well, that's not exactly fair in this context--we have to cut some slack for the oral tradition--Paul of Tarsus wasn't contemporary.

It's the reconciling of perspectives that I find interesting. It's easy enough to destroy evidence and plant false evidence (Josephus).

Does it add up to anything? I dunno. I think there are more holes in history than actual history.

Someone said something here the other day that cracked me up. I think it was "With history, the truth will out."

ricpic said...

My only point, reader, to the extent I had one is that the area of faith is one in which those without faith have little to say. Once you've admitted you don't have faith what is there left to say?

In the mouths of unbelievers (like Paglia and me) talk of God tastes of ashes.

Smilin' Jack said...

"I've never understood why the Jews of the time never mentioned Jesus"

I think some of them mentioned something about him to a guy named Pilate. That has caused a few hard feelings over the years since then.

Joe M. said...

one fascinating thing the teacher did was to re-order the four books of the gospel into the order in which they were written. Among the things that then jump out--the first book (John, I think) has very few miracles; the last (Matthew) is full of them. In the first, when Peter says the people think you are the Messiah, Jesus responds "get behind me Satan", which was interpreted to mean, roughly, "STFU!" because, after all, they crucifiedy Messiahs, and who wants that fate? (Jesus was by no means the only one. The Romans crucified Messiahs all the time.) But by the last book, you have Jesus saying, "upon this rock I shall build my church."

You might want to brush up on your Biblical scholarship, Tim: of the Synoptics Mark was followed by Matthew and Luke; John's the weird one that seems separate from the other three. Also, the book of Mark may be the earliest and most direct (least ornate), but it's hardly without its miracles: to the contrary, it's full of them, from the casting out of demons to walking on water to the resurrection. I'm particularly fond of the story of the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5). Also, when Jesus says STFU, it's mostly to the demons who recognize him for who he is. Why don't you go back and read the gospel? It's very short and a fascinating read. And it might clear up some confusion that still lingers from that college class. ;-)

blake said...

Stephanie,

Josephus didn't write about Jesus. It's Wiki, so grain-of-salt and all that, but it summarizes the arguments I've seen that are pretty persuasive: the meaningful passages about Jesus were added later.

And again, the curious thing to me is that Jesus is clearly the figure that dominates life from the 4th century to, say, the mid-19th century.

And yet "nobody" saw it coming.

Joe said...

There are two alleged mentions of Jesus in Josephus, but one is pretty clearly a later addition while the other is so obscure as to prove nothing. More importantly, Josephus does mention other messiahs and trouble makers. One thing I find interesting is that he doesn't at all mention a new religion or sect comparable to what Christianity should have been at the time of the destruction of the temple in 70 CE.

Original George said...

If the debate is about the divinity of Jesus, it's not interesting.

If the debate is about whether or not one should worship regularly at a church, synagogue, or mosque, the question becomes much more interesting.

Scientific study after scientific study reveals that people who go to church are healthier, happier, and live longer than those who don't. Therefore, it is logical to go regularly to a place of worship, regardless of the depth of one's belief in a God or gods.

So...all you doubters and atheists out there....you should be selfish and go to church. Nobody's going to make you take some loyalty oath. Just sit in the back row and dig the funky tunes.

Plus, you get free coffee and cookies. Some denominations also have doughnuts. (You have to know the secret handshake to get those....)

reader_iam said...

In the mouths of unbelievers (like Paglia and me) talk of God tastes of ashes.

I guess I just don't get that. No doubt I'll put this badly, but: There's so much beauty and richness in so many religions/belief systems which I haven't personally adopted, but yet enjoy pondering and discussing, etc., both in and of themselves and as part of the web of human life, belief and history. I don't experience that as ashes; does doing all that provoke offense in others, reduce their beliefs and feelings to ashes? Is that how they feel/think about it? I've certainly never thought of it in precisely that way before. Does it?

Not snark: a serious question.

Zeb Quinn said...

I don't understand: Were not all of the gospels written by Jews? Sure, they later were known as founding Christians, but they were born as and thought of themselves as Jewish.

Yes. These were the Jewish writings of the period. Paul of Tarsus first pitched Christianity to the Gentiles some 30 years AD, absent which it would have remained a Jewish sect, perhaps an obscure one.

Zeb Quinn said...

A performing artist with startling improvisational gifts? Does that cover the miracles (magic tricks?)?

For some reason I flashed on Obama with that.

garage mahal said...

Who copied whom, and who falls short Garage?

I think most of us fall short chickenlittle, obviously. I know I do.

chickenlittle said...

Sorry garage. You seemed to equivocate up there at 4:58.

ricpic said...

Reader: nothing at all wrong with me talking about Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling and wall murals as works of art. But everything wrong with my passing judgement on them as attempts by Michelangelo to strengthen the faith of the faithful. Because I don't have faith.

It's above my pay grade.

That's all I'm saying. Anyway, this is getting circular.

John Althouse Cohen said...

You don't make pronouncements about something in which others have a great stake and you have next to none.

Huh? Why not? Couldn't you be in a better position to make pronouncements if you don't have a stake? Then you're less biased.

FedUp said...

Geez, Louise! Here I was giving Camille high marks for her comments on Katie Couric and then she goes 180.

I believe that the Bible is truly the inspired word of God and that eternal life comes from accepting His Son, Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. When it comes down to it, you either believe or you don't. If you don't, too bad. Everyone will live forever - the only difference is where... heaven or hell - it's your choice.

Mark O said...

The evidence accepted by historians and religions would be insufficient to obtain a conviction for a traffic ticket. There is no credible, percipient evidence that Jesus ever existed. To religionists this makes perfect sense, because it permits them to have faith, a necessary ingredient to receiving salvation from a source not readily accessible.

I always assume that if God exists, He is much smarter than I. Yet, why would he send the “savior of mankind” to earth in a remote village of an exotic country thousands of years ago. It doesn’t seem particularly effective. If, in fact, obedience, love, and salvation are His objects.

When one assumes that Jesus existed, it seems that one should logically come to the conclusion that He was what He is made out to be, not some cheap imitation. One should take the position that He was perfect, not merely by definition, but by actual act. It is “lukewarm” to suggest He existed but He was a harlequin after the fashion of Godspell.

Man up, Christians.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I believe that the Bible is truly the inspired word of God and that eternal life comes from accepting His Son, Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. When it comes down to it, you either believe or you don't. If you don't, too bad. Everyone will live forever - the only difference is where... heaven or hell - it's your choice.

Assuming you're right that we go to heaven or hell after we die, that's a ridiculous criterion for deciding who goes where. And it seems like if there is a benevolent god, he shouldn't make ridiculous decisions. So I don't see how you can believe that.

The Crack Emcee said...

1) The Jesus story has been retold too many times to be real.

2) Unlike most atheists, talk of religion doesn't bother me because it's a part of history. "Belief" on the other hand derives me mad - because people act on their beliefs - and to believe such nonsense, in this day and age, is not just immature but crazy.

Belief systems (the ultimate basis for cults) are the worst - especially NewAge - because it's the smorgasbord ideology, allowing assholes to blow off anything and everyone they see fit. ("Make your own truth" as Oprah says.) That makes them dangerous: they can kill and rationalize things any way they want. In my investigations, I find wild crimes all the time featuring these wide-eyed goobers, leaping from foot to foot, telling us there's an undeniable "spiritual" basis (which you can't touch) for their acts.

Finally, after looking at it all for this long, I think everybody gets religion wrong and they don't care. We've raised a bunch of stupid, selfish bastards. And it's time for it to stop.

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirby Olson said...

Coming back from the dead sort of takes the cake, I would think: the ultimate trick for itinerant magicians.

Impressive to bring Lazarus back, to walk on water, to multiply the loaves as he did.

I think if he were to come around these days he might have an audience.

traditionalguy said...

There are 2 questions to be resolved:[1] does god exist? [2] does god care enough about you to want to use his Powers to "make you whole". Hundreds of millions of believers have decided that both Answers are YES in Christ Jesus. It does require a lot of help from your friends to always see [2] is personally yes. That struggle goes on due to prideful Legalism in Churches obscuring that the basis of the New Covenant is the sacrificial death in our place on the Cross.The Pauline Epistles are a synopsis of that struggle. Good news: I read the ending and we win. Without this hope of eternal life with a loving god most people cannot stand the horror of their self consciousness and will turn to pain-killing behaviors and seek an early death.[E.g., Moslem suicidal behaviors].

Kirby Olson said...

I liked Traditional Guy! Better than the usual slapstick you get around here. Nice writing, Traditional Guy!

chickenlittle said...

FedUp said: Everyone will live forever

For those who doubt that, consider that to believe otherwise violates Occam's razor. You can't possibly know that you won't exist so why not believe the simplest possibility?

TitusPapaDon'tPreach! said...

As a born again christian these type of comments by a known lesbian offend me greatly.

TitusPapaDon'tPreach! said...

Aren't these same comments from the lesbian who is in love with Madonna?

Enough said.

I say repent Heathen.

Dr Dre's Underpants said...

"Assuming you're right that we go to heaven or hell after we die, that's a ridiculous criterion for deciding who goes where. And it seems like if there is a benevolent god, he shouldn't make ridiculous decisions. So I don't see how you can believe that."

To understand sucker you have to believe in God the Father, not God the Mommy.

TitusPapaDon'tPreach! said...

God is great.

How great thou art.

thank you.

Revenant said...

Whether or not he himself thought he was the Messiah is unclear" to Paglia, but why?

There are two meanings of "Messiah": the Jewish one of the modern and Biblical era, where the Messiah is a divinely-anointed king who will reestablish Jewish self-rule, and the Christian one, where the Messiah is a spiritual savior. The New Testament hints at both meanings, in places.

As "King of Israel": Jesus is anointed with oil, he has armed followers, he is a direct descendant of David, he enters Jerusalem in royal style, and -- perhaps most importantly -- he is arrested by the Romans for insurrection, for allegedly calling himself the king of the Jews.

As "spiritual savior": this is mostly from the Gospel of John, written long after anyone who knew Jesus was dead, and from the letters of Paul, who never met Jesus himself.


Does she dispute or accept the broad outline of his death?

Depends on what you mean by "broad outline". The idea that the Romans arrested and killed a guy because Jewish religious leaders hated him is historically ridiculous; Pilate and the rest of the Roman occupation had nothing but contempt for Judaism and considered Judea to be pretty much the armpit of the Empire.

On top of that, the "Jesus willingly went to the cross" story has significant flaws in it. This story assumes that "not getting crucified" was actually an option available for Jesus to pick, which is strongly at odds with the historical record of how the Romans treated people in Jesus' situation. The Bible presents us with a scene in which Jesus has the opportunity to show his innocence (the conversation between him and Pilate), but doesn't explain who exactly witnessed this scene -- it takes place while Jesus is sequestered from his friends and followers. This is followed up with another historically unprecedented scene, in which the Romans (a) offer to pardon someone the Jews want pardoned and (b) agree to release an armed rebel while sending a street preacher to be crucified. Everything about the story stinks.

There is one thing that has always intrigued me, though, which is that the armed rebel pardoned by Pilate is named "Jesus, son of the father".

That's an important question because while most hucksters would happily send followers to their deaths, few will allow themselves to be nailed to a plank.

Paglia calls him an artist, not a huckster. She specifically identifies him as having a talent for "conveying spiritual truths", which strongly implies she viewed him as on the up-and-up.

Even if you accept the story of Jesus' death, history is filled with countless examples of spiritual people who willingly went to their deaths without the interim step of thinking they were divinely chosen kings/saviors.

Tibore said...

I don't know why anyone would take her stuff as an insult to Christianity. To me, it's refreshing to see a non-believer not feel compelled to turn around and rip the Bible and by extention Christianity itself. I'm glad she still finds worth in it despite not believing much of it.

The core of the Bible is supposed to be the morality lessons anyway. So in a sense, that's still gotten through.

Simon said...

John Althouse Cohen said...
"Assuming ... that we go to heaven or hell after we die, [accepting the existence of God and Jesus Christ as one's personal savior is] a ridiculous criterion for deciding who goes where."

Advocatus diaboli, why?

Revenant said...

Assuming you're right that we go to heaven or hell after we die, that's a ridiculous criterion for deciding who goes where.

Especially because nobody's ever come up with a morally acceptable explanation for what happens to the people who never heard about Jesus in the first place.

traditionalguy said...

"I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah, and though he tarry, I will wait every day..." says the Hassidic jewish confession. The war for control of Messiah's LZ is hot these days. But we wait.

Tibore said...

Joe said...
The extremely strong parallels to Osiris along is enough to persuade me that Jesus is just another myth, borrowed heavily from Greek, Egyptian, Roman and even Indian sources. Add in Horus and a myriad of other myths and the evidence becomes pretty overwhelming. (Add in the known, and quite common, teachings of some self-professed messiahs that predated Jesus by some thirty years and I don't even see the debate.)


The claim of Jesus's story paralleling Horus's is a claim put forth by the movie Zeitgeist. From what I understand, it doesn't hold when you get to specifics. Here's one site, still being built, that discusses this to a degree:

http://ct.grenme.com/index.php/Horus-Jesus_Correlations

There are many attempts to draw parallels between Jesus and early myths. Some are scholarly, some are crap. I can't speak to all of the ones Joe makes reference too, but I've read that the Horus "link" is built on poor information.

Keep in mind that I'm not attacking Joe when I write this. I blame the authors of the myth for the misrepresentation, not those who see the information and believe it. I needed parts of it explained to me to understand it myself; I certainly thought the info was sound when I first heard it. So Joe: Please don't take this post as an attack. Rather, I'mjust contributing to the conversation here.

Revenant said...

Advocatus diaboli, why?

A good and loving God will torture you for eternity for not accepting, on faith, the unprovable proposition that he sent his son to Earth, so that his son would be killed, so that he could forgive us.

Do you actually, honestly need it explained why it is ridiculous to claim that a good and loving being would behave in that manner? That's how psychotic killers behave.

garage mahal said...

Especially because nobody's ever come up with a morally acceptable explanation for what happens to the people who never heard about Jesus in the first place.

All those people. Just wondering.

TitusPapaDon'tPreach! said...

Bringing in The Sheets
Bringing in the Sheets
We must come rejoicing
Bringing in the Sheets

Revenant said...

There are many attempts to draw parallels between Jesus and early myths. Some are scholarly, some are crap.

It isn't that the specifics were necessarily lifted wholesale from another faith. The point is, at the time when the whole death/rebirth/salvation thing was supposedly going down in Jerusalem, the Roman Empire was rife with cults whose central figure was portrayed as bring salvation (either physical or spiritual) through self-sacrificial death followed by rebirth. The specifics varied from faith to faith, but the general pattern was ubiquitous.

This could, of course, be a coincidence. It could be, like the Church used to teach, Satan trying to undermine Jesus by creating fake religions in mockery of him. It could be lots of things.

However, a common Christian claim is that the story of Jesus saving us by dying for our sins is unique and unprecedented. It is neither; it is common as dirt. That doesn't prove the story is fake, just that if it IS true it is among numerous similarly plausible stories that aren't.

Original George said...

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession."

Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."

He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."

The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said.

He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."

"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."

Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Matthew 15:21-28

The Crack Emcee said...

I've always been taken aback by the believer's idea that everyone could go for these stories. I mean, I saw a guy lose his head when I was about 9 years old; and much of my youth had me adrift in a kind of Lord of the Flies-type of situation, with physical attacks and gay people (kids and adults) crawling into my bed at night, just to be chased out with violence. Tales of God and Jesus just never stood a chance of making a dent.

And it strikes me that believers are always demanding respect for their beliefs, whatever they are, but they never give a care if they're (further) torturing a person, like me, who has no need for their ancient fairy tales. Who even finds them difficult to live with. I need sanity in my life - not "nice" people but reasonable enough to talk to and respect - but few care to be that. Their desire to go to Heaven, to mouth the right things to comfort themselves, trumps bringing comfort to anyone else. I like Christians more than NewAgers but, when it comes to selfishness, they have more in common than they suspect.

I want to be surprised, before I die, not after.

Quayle said...

Especially because nobody's ever come up with a morally acceptable explanation for what happens to the people who never heard about Jesus in the first place.

Not true. Joseph Smith said that ever soul that lived or will ever live will hear the gospel of Christ, whether in this life or the next, and will have a chance to fully understand it, and make a decision to accept it, or not, at that time,

Even if they accept it in hereafter, they will be judged according to what they are willing to accept, and as though they did accept it on earth. See First Peter 4:6

Any ordinances that are needed are then done in their behalf by proxies, which ordinances also can be accepted or rejected by each person. (Paul referenced one such ordinance in First Corinthians 15:29.)

Now I know that evangelicals and other Christians get apoplectic at first mention of Joseph Smith and dismiss anything he said out of hand and without feeling any need to address it substantively. Fine - that's their choice.

You may not agree with Smith’s view, but it isn't correct to say that nobody has come up with a morally acceptable explanation.

Alan said...

"Why'd you choose such a backward time in such a strange land?
If you'd come today you could have reached a whole nation.
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.
Don't you get me wrong.
I only want to know."

John Althouse Cohen said...

Simon said...
John Althouse Cohen said...
"Assuming ... that we go to heaven or hell after we die, [accepting the existence of God and Jesus Christ as one's personal savior is] a ridiculous criterion for deciding who goes where."


Well now that you put it THAT way (with your bracketed phrase added to my comment) ... I'd like to reiterate that this is a ridiculous criterion for deciding whether someone gets eternal bliss or eternal fire in the afterlife. If that's the rule God imposes on the world, then God is evil and/or dumb. And if God is evil or dumb -- specifically, less moral or less intelligent than the average human being -- then what's the point? If God is morally inferior to us humans (which he is under Christianity/Judaism), it makes no sense to think we get our moral code from him.

Lawgiver said...

A good and loving God will torture you for eternity for not accepting, on faith, the unprovable proposition that he sent his son to Earth, so that his son would be killed, so that he could forgive us.

From previous postings you seem to believe the universe was created in a mysterious big bang about 13 billion years ago. Your faith in science is such that you defend that unprovable proposition with the zeal of Fred Thompson. It is all about faith isn't it?

What happens to those people who never heard of Jesus? I don't know. But I think that particular scripture was written for the Jews of that time.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"Do you actually, honestly need it explained why it is ridiculous to claim that a good and loving being would behave in that manner?"

Do you actually, honestly need it explained what playing devil's advocate is? I think that the answer is usually a species of "because it just doesn't feel right" that comes with a retinue of unexamined assumptions. If there is a being of sufficient power to create the heaven and the Earth, it would seem dangerous (and somewhat presumptuous) to view their motives through the prism of limited human perceptions and human-created conceptions of morality.

Simon said...

John, just to be clear, I have no dog in the fight, I'm an agnostic.

Rev, my comment immediately above should have included a ;) emoticon after the first sentence, it came out much harsher than I intended, apologies.

Revenant said...

Not true. Joseph Smith said that ever soul that lived or will ever live will hear the gospel of Christ, whether in this life or the next, and will have a chance to fully understand it, and make a decision to accept it, or not, at that time,

First of all, that contradicts the claim that Heaven and Hell are the only destinations. There has to be a third place for dead people who are ignorant of Christ's message to go to so that they can hear the message and have time to decide whether or not they accept it.

Secondly, doesn't actually answer the question -- it just says that the issue will never come up at all, since even if you die without hearing about Jesus you'll have it explained to you later on.

Finally, it creates an ironic situation where missionary work doesn't actually help save so much as a single soul. They'd all have heard the message in time to save their souls anyway, and it would have come from someone a lot more convincing than an human missionary could be. Especially since the conversation would be happening in the afterlife.

Indeed, real-life evangelism can actually be counter-productive, since an unconvincing preacher could drive someone to reject Christ prematurely. That's assuming there are no take-backs, of course; if you get to change your mind after death then obviously no non-masochist is going to reject Christ.

EDH said...

Jesus is Just Alright.

From Wikipedia...

"Jesus Is Just Alright" is a song written in 1969 by Arthur Reid Reynolds. The song was recorded by The Byrds for their 1969 album Ballad of Easy Rider and released as the second single from the album, but it barely scraped the US charts, peaking at #97. Psychedelic group Underground Sunshine released a version of the tune as a single in 1970; this single failed to chart.

The tune was then covered by The Doobie Brothers, who included it on their 1972 album, Toulouse Street, and released it as the second single. This rendition became a hit, peaking at #35 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart after its release in February 1973.

Michael said...

Simon said..."John, just to be clear, I have no dog in the fight, I'm an agnostic."

Oh, please...

What you REALLY mean is this: I don't have the guts (balls/belief)to admit I'm really an Atheist...so I'm wimping out...because I'm afraid of being...wrong.

Saying or adhering to the notion that it's..."unknown and probably unknowable" only makes you even more gutless.

"belief" is based in just that...not representing yourself as one who just doesn't really know.

Who does??

Bissage said...

Camille Paglia says Jesus was "a performing artist with startling improvisational gifts."

Well . . . perhaps.

But Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water and he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower.

There's really no disagreeing with that, after all.

Michael said...

Why is "God" (all of them) so unfair??

Is it a test?

Revenant said...

From previous postings you seem to believe the universe was created in a mysterious big bang about 13 billion years ago. Your faith in science is such that you defend that unprovable proposition with the zeal of Fred Thompson. It is all about faith isn't it?

Um, it is an observed fact that the universe is expanding. That means that either (a) the further back in time you go, the smaller the universe was, or (b) the universe started out at some smaller-but-not-TOO-small size and then started expanding for no known reason. The first explanation is consistent both with observation and with our existing understanding of how the universe behaves, and is thus the most sensible thing to believe. Faith doesn't enter into it.

Which is not to say that I don't have beliefs I can't empirically prove. But if you think "it is possible to describe the behavior of the universe in terms of rules and laws" requires the same leap of faith as the notion that (a) God exists and (b) he needed to have his son killed in order to forgive me for sins I wouldn't even get around to committing for nearly 2000 years... then, well, I don't know what to say to you, because your world-view is simply too far removed from my own. :)

Michael said...

Bissage: "But Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water and he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower."

:There's really no disagreeing with that, after all."

So, so true.

Eeeek.

Quayle said...

First of all, that contradicts the claim that Heaven and Hell are the only destinations. There has to be a third place for dead people who are ignorant of Christ's message to go to so that they can hear the message and have time to decide whether or not they accept it.

You mean something like a spirit world where all spirits await the final judgment? See Revelation 20 - it doesn't happen until the end of the world.

Peter tell us more in 1st Peter 3: 18-19.

Michael said...

Quayle: "Peter tell us more in 1st Peter 3: 18-19."

Peter?

I don't want to step on any toes, but are you referring to "cotton tail" or "pumpkin eater" or Frampton?

Revenant said...

Do you actually, honestly need it explained what playing devil's advocate is?

Um, yes. It means presenting the other side of the argument, even if you don't necessarily believe it. You didn't bother doing that.

It would seem dangerous (and somewhat presumptuous) to view [God's] motives through the prism of limited human perceptions and human-created conceptions of morality.

The word "ridiculous" means "absurd" or "preposterous", with an obviously implied "to human beings". How does the argument that God uses some kind of Vulcan Space Logic we can't understand refute the claim that the Christian theological point in question is absurd? Under your reasoning *nothing* can rightly be called ridiculous, since any claim of ridiculousness can be immediately countered with "your feeble mind just can't understand why I'm right".

Revenant said...

You mean something like a spirit world where all spirits await the final judgment? See Revelation 20 - it doesn't happen until the end of the world.

Yes, Quayle, I'm aware that many Christians believe in that. I was responding to "FedUp", who presented the common belief that Heaven and Hell are the only destinations. Obviously Christians, like yourself, who do not believe that were not the targets of my remarks.

Anyway, as I pointed out above having an afterlife destination where the dead get to catch up on their spiritual homework opens a whole new can of worms, and completely destroys the widely-held (by Christians in general, if not by Mormons in particular) idea that you need to make a decision for Christ before *before* you die.

Diamondhead said...

She's fantastic, but I'm always amused when atheists make comments to the effect that "Jesus probably existed." That may be an edgy statement with the Bill Maher/Christopher Hitchens crowd, but the possibility that Jesus did not exist is not seriously entertained by too many historians who made it past their sophomore year of college.

Chip Ahoy said...

Joe M. said
You might want to brush up on your Biblical scholarship, Tim: of the Synoptics Mark was followed by Matthew and Luke

Not so. Matthew is the first book of the new testament. The rest you have right. For some reason, it was vitally important for Matthew to tell the story of Jesus in such a way that it accords with the prophesies of the old prophets. So here, Paglia is correct.
Although Matthew is one of the synoptic gospels he's the only one who troubles to ensure Jesus is in the line of the house of David. None of the other so-called synoptics do this. He's also the only one who describes a virgin birth. It's important to note, Matthew didn't actually write the testament attributed to him but rather most likely a close acolyte of his. It is, after all, the gospel according to Matthew.

This concludes my scriptural didacticism for the evening.

Michael said...

You people talk about this like it's "true."

Based on what "facts?"

And what God" are you talking about?

Let me guess: Yours...and yours only.

Michael said...

Why did it take 40 years to start writing?

Tim Jasko said...

Chip Ahoy,

I think you're overdue for a brush-up of your Bible knowledge.

If you think only Matthew troubles to trace Jesus' lineage to David, you should check out Luke 3:23-38. As for Matthew's supposed monopoly on the virgin birth, it is also mentioned in Luke 1:26-38.

Revenant said...

but the possibility that Jesus did not exist is not seriously entertained by too many historians who made it past their sophomore year of college.

If you're sufficiently broad in what you count as "existing", sure.

If you want to say "there was an actual person or persons who directly or indirectly inspired the stories of the New Testament" then, sure, virtually all scholars agree that that's the most likely explanation for the stories about Jesus. That leaves plenty of room for scholars who believe, for example, that the original "Jesus" was an armed revolutionary who proclaimed himself Messiah and got ganked by the Romans, with all the rest being added later on. Or any of a thousand other theories of what the "real Jesus" might have been.

But if you asked a Christian what he considers to be the core traits that a person would qualify as "Jesus"? Even if you subtracted out the supernatural aspects and spoke only of the mundane things Jesus supposedly set, did, and experienced, you wouldn't find anything like scholarly unanimity that sure a person really existed. Just unanimity that the "person" so described was ultimately inspired by a person or persons who really did exist.

Michael said...

JC was a really sharp, articulate, charismatic Jew.

Period.

Diamondhead said...

If you want to say "there was an actual person or persons who directly or indirectly inspired the stories of the New Testament" then, sure, virtually all scholars agree that that's the most likely explanation for the stories about Jesus.

Point taken. Aside from the accuracy of details/supernatural events, what I mean to say is that there was a man who had some followers during life, was executed, and had a sufficient effect on certain people that shortly after his death the world's largest religion was born. Whether or not this man embodied the ideals that Christians say he did is a topic somewhat removed from the question of historical existence.

Michael said...

Diamondhead said..."Aside from the accuracy of the details/supernatural events, what I mean to say is that there was a man who had some followers during life, was executed, and had a sufficient effect on certain people that shortly after his death the world's largest religion was born."

Once again: JC was a really sharp, articulate, charismatic Jew.

Period.

cardeblu said...

Luke 12:42-48

42The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?

43It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.

44I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

45But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk.

46The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

47"That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.

48But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Revenant said...

and had a sufficient effect on certain people that shortly after his death the world's largest religion was born.

Scholars do not necessarily agree on that last bit. Specifically, it is not necessarily the case that Christianity became a smash success because of anything the actual Jesus said or did.

Christianity shows every sign of having been cobbled together from a sort of "Roman Empire's Greatest Hits" of religion. It has the whole death/rebirth angle, the "our founder was a demigod" angle, the incorporation of Greek moral philosophy, the promise that suffering in this life is rewarded with bliss in the next (and vice-versa), etc. It is hardly surprising that such a religion would come to enjoy widespread popularity within the Roman Empire, especially since respect for the old Roman Gods was in such decline.

Then, of course, Rome made it the official religion and began discouraging and/or actively exterminating other religions. Unsurprisingly, Christianity became dominant in the territories Rome had conquered, and in the territories conquered by Christian nations... and almost nowhere else.

So no, it isn't necessary to ascribe any particular brilliance or originality to the "real Jesus" in order to explain the popularity of Christianity. Especially considering that it is entirely probable that nothing in the Bible was written by anybody who actually knew the guy.

Joan said...

Revenant and I have danced to variations on this theme before, and he is much more skilled than I at this kind of argument.

That said, nothing he or any of the other Christ-deniers has said offers up any explanations for the willingness of the earliest Christians to be martyred. If Jesus was just an artist, why would they be so willing to die for him? If it was all a put-on and they knew it, why wouldn't they recant, rather than be put to death?

Those of us who believe today do so because they believed, then. Our faith is built upon theirs. It's true that Messianic religions were a dime a dozen in the old Roman Empire, everyone was looking for salvation. But they were looking for salvation in the present world, not in the world to come. If you were going to create a Messiah, would you put him on the cross? Would you have the earliest testimony to his greatest miracle be a woman? If you were trying to invent a religion to sell, the earliest Christians made some very odd choices.

Revenant, what's with the armed rebel pardoned by Pilate is named "Jesus, son of the father"? In every reading of the Passion I've heard, he was called Barabbas; he is called by name in all four gospels. Do you have a reference other than wikipedia? This seems like a linguistic joke of sorts and I am curious if you meant otherwise.

Donna B. said...

If it was a put on and they knew it...

What if they believed it? Do we humans not now believe in utter nonsense of some type or another?

They did believe it and they did not not know it was a put on.

That is the difference between the knowledge of the ancients and our knowledge of today.

chickenlittle said...

FedUp said:
... the Bible is truly the inspired word of God and that eternal life comes from accepting His Son, Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour...

All beliefs aside, who here has disproved this?

Joan said...

Donna, that was my point: they did believe it, otherwise they wouldn't have died for it.

You say, they didn't know it was a put on -- you're saying they believed in a lie?

That is the difference between the knowledge of the ancients and our knowledge of today.

What is? We're just as gullible now (ref. the recent presidential election) as we've ever been. I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.

Chickenlittle: how could anyone prove or disprove that statement? It's not a statement of fact, it's dogma. It's non-verifiable at this point, although it may not always be so.

chickenlittle said...

how could anyone prove or disprove that statement? It's not a statement of fact, it's dogma. It's non-verifiable at this point, although it may not always be so.

It's been 2k years; it could have been disproved, as important as it is, otherwise it stands.

Donna B. said...

Joan, I understand your point that they did believe it, thus they died for it.

I hope you understand mine, that many 'believers' did not die for it.

Had all the believers died, there would be no Christianity today, would there?

As an agnostic (more in the realm of I wish there were a God) I can't find any reason to believe in Christianity than I can for Buddhism or Islam... or other religions.

Eric Hammerbacher said...

I'm beginning my reading for a senior thesis on mental illness as it relates to the reason/revelation conversation. My reading/listening list so far:

Rilke
The Bible esp. Ecclesiastes, John
The Book of Mormon
Under the Banner of Heaven by Krakour
The Koran
Borges
Anything related to Bob Dylan
Joni Mitchell, "Blue"
Paul Simon, "The Rhythm of the Saints" and "Graceland"
The Practical Prophet, Writings of Bishop Ken Untener
33 Arguments Arguing for God: A Fiction by Rebecca Goldstein
The God Delusion by Christopher Hitchens
Gravity and Grace by Simone Weil
R.D. Laing
The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James
Neibuhr
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
etc.

Please feel free to recommend further reading/listening!

chickenlittle said...

Science has been at odds with faith for 500 +yrs. The best scientific method is to hypothesize and disprove hypothesis-then re-hypothesize and retest. It's all Platt and Popper!

Take what FedUp said as a hypothesis: the Bible is truly the inspired word of God and that eternal life comes from accepting His Son, Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour

Parse it, try and disprove it--if you can't--it still stands!

John Althouse Cohen said...

From previous postings you seem to believe the universe was created in a mysterious big bang about 13 billion years ago. Your faith in science is such that you defend that unprovable proposition with the zeal of Fred Thompson. It is all about faith isn't it?

(1) No it's not "all about faith" -- some people have better reasons than others, but you know perfectly well that this comments section isn't going to be a fruitful forum to discuss cosmology.

(2) What the commenter you're responding to is objecting to is not that we have any beliefs based on faith. It's that God will eternally torture you for not holding a specific belief on faith. Face it: that's simply not comparable to people believing that the universe started with the big bang.

John Althouse Cohen said...

John, just to be clear, I have no dog in the fight, I'm an agnostic.

OK, well then I find it even weirder that you keep saying I shouldn't play "devil's advocate." I'm not playing devil's advocate -- I'm making arguments I actually agree with. Anyway, if I were playing devil's advocate (which I'm not), I don't see what's wrong with that. (Conversely, I do see something very wrong with not playing devil's advocate.)

John Althouse Cohen said...

JC was a really sharp, articulate, charismatic Jew. Period.

Why, thank you!

TreeJoe said...

I'm not a biblical scholar, or an expert on religious matters. But I am a man who enjoys his science, and I am a christian.

And to me, they work together in beautiful symmetry. I'll walk through genesis and the intro to God creating the world.

1. Big bang theory - Universe expands from a single point as explained by universal movement/red shift.

Science unsure of impetus for Big bang. God doing it makes as much sense as any other likelihood.

2. Life begins on earth - Scientists still unable to reproduce life from essential ingredients of "primordial ooze"....God doing it makes as much sense as any other likelihood.

3. Life grows, develops, and evolves into a multitude of organisms. No known reason in evolutionary theory for life, starting from the same source, to divide into so many different paths. God doing it makes as much sense as any other likelihood.

4. A different form of consciousness evolves into Man. No known reason for it, as Man's brain is smaller than other brains....so this is not for lack of electrical activity. Certain moralities are introduced. No known reason for behavioral species change. God makes as much sense as any other likelihood.

Just to reiterate, these key parts in the scientific fields of astrophysics, biology, nor anthropology have yet to come up with a suitable theory for these major developments to naturally occur.

I'm not saying they won't; I'm just saying that so far God fits quite nicely into our existing scientific world view.

Speaking of which....the universe is constantly expanding and slowing down. Given enough time, would the universe not contract back in upon itself given the pulls of various black holes? As such, is the universe then not by definition of finite existence (outside of a black hole)?

Perhaps the universe repeats itself over and over every 100 billion years, after contracting back into "big bang style" it explodes again and re-forms?

John Althouse Cohen - A few quotes from you stuck out,

"Assuming you're right that we go to heaven or hell after we die, that's a ridiculous criterion for deciding who goes where. And it seems like if there is a benevolent god, he shouldn't make ridiculous decisions. So I don't see how you can believe that."

It's pretty ludricrous of you to define that a ridiculous criterion. Why is it ridiculous? Why is it not benevolent to give gifts to those who are grateful to their creator?

Is it a good criterion for a parent to remove a child from their Will because the child departed severely from that parent's chosen lifestyle? (i.e. child abandons parents basic guidelines)

I don't know God's will insofar as individuals who aren't exposed to God during their life.

But you have to actually grasp what this sentence means, "Omnipotent". It means nothing is outside of God's ability within our known universe.

Here's an example: What if the ~2-3 billion people in this generation, who aren't exposed to God, are actually God? What if God is actually creating those people as avatars, to see if we attempt to reach out them and perform the missionary work God has requested of us?

What if there are only actually about 1 million souls in the world, and all else are a creator of God made to test the 1 million souls during their lifetime? What if the bum you encounter at the bus stop is actually God testing you to see how you react to a situation in which you could be charitable?

The point is, it is asinine for any of us to say "That makes God evil". We are too constrained by our own view of how the world works to actually understand acts of Good and Evil and how each would be generated by God.

Just to give an example to that point: God being Omnipotent, it is only by his creation that Satan/Devil exists and by God's will that Satan/Devil has power. Therefore, God must be wanting evil/negative things to exist for a purpose of his.

I heard a great expression once relating to "Why bad things happen": Why does a parent let a 6 year old ride a bike without training wheels? They are fairly like to injure themselves. I guess it's because the parent has taught the child as much as possible and it's time to let the child off on their own, see how they handle it, and provide guidance as needed.

Enough rambling for now....I'm no master of these matters, but I can at least point out the obliviousness of some statements.

Joe

Lawgiver said...

No it's not "all about faith" -- some people have better reasons than others, but you know perfectly well that this comments section isn't going to be a fruitful forum to discuss cosmology.

Frankly, I don't think it will be a fruitful forum about Jesus or religion either but that's beside the point. Revenant and I have had long detailed discussions about cosmology and faith but if you want to take issue with my introduction of it into this comments section then have at it.


It's that God will eternally torture you for not holding a specific belief on faith.

I guess that depends on your definition of torture and which particular subset of Christianity you are talking about.

Simon said...

John Althouse Cohen said...
"I find it even weirder that you keep saying I shouldn't play 'devil's advocate.'"

I find it weird that you think I've said you shouldn't play devil's advocate. I didn't say that, I introduced a question by noting that I was playing devil's advocate in asking it.

Diamondhead said...

[quote]Scholars do not necessarily agree on that last bit. Specifically, it is not necessarily the case that Christianity became a smash success because of anything the actual Jesus said or did.[/quote]

My point was that the [i]first[/i] Christians were followers of an actual historical figure. But yeah, one could argue Constantine or even Charles Martel had as much to do with the "smashing success" of Christianity as anybody.

traditionalguy said...

Don't leave out of all of the Christian "Coming to Jesus" experiences reported by people during the last 1,970 years or so, their often reported encounters with the Person of the Holy Spirit. That relationship was like Chas. and John Wesley's reported experience, as it was also a reported experience for Mathew, Mark, Luke ,and John et al.. A personal comforter and all- wise counselor willing to help you is reported to be a Big Time fringe benefit enjoyed by these "believers".

The Crack Emcee said...

Eric Hammerbacher,

You'll probably find lots to mull over at The Macho Response, especially if you click the links. I find a lot of people don't, so they miss a big part of what I'm trying to get at (they think it's just me shooting my mouth off, when there's a lot of scholarship on cultism, etc., out there.) Anyway, it's a suggestion.

There's lots of cool videos and music, too.

blake said...

Paul Simon, "The Rhythm of the Saints" and "Graceland"

I love these albums, but I'm not sure where the "mental illness" part comes in.

Revenant said...

That said, nothing he or any of the other Christ-deniers has said offers up any explanations for the willingness of the earliest Christians to be martyred.

I offer the same explanation I offer for any religious martyr: they really thought they were right. Christians didn't do anything special. People have been dying for what they believe in for all of recorded history. People have been martyrs for everything from Greek philosophy to democracy to Christianity to Buddhism to, yes, even atheism. As a Christian you believe most of these people had misplaced their faith. We differ only in which people we think did so. :)

If it was all a put-on and they knew it, why wouldn't they recant, rather than be put to death?

I never said they knew that it was a put-on. Cults and religious splinter groups commonly exhibit the behavior of co-opting new ideas from other places. That doesn't mean they're doing so for cynical reasons. Jim Jones lifted religious and spiritual concepts from all over the place, and so far as we can tell he really believed what he was doing.

I would also point out that we don't really know what most of the early martyrs actually believed in -- or, for that matter, how many of them really went to their deaths willingly.

But they were looking for salvation in the present world, not in the world to come.

The idea of an afterlife in which the good are rewarded and the evil are punished predates Christianity by thousands of years. It was widely-believed throughout the Roman Empire. So, no, it is manifestly not the case that Jesus introduced a new concept of salvation after death.

In every reading of the Passion I've heard, he was called Barabbas; he is called by name in all four gospels.

Matthew has his name as "Jesus
"Barabbas" (although many translations drop the first part, presumably to avoid confusion on the part of the reader). "Barabbas" means "son of the father".

Revenant said...

You say, they didn't know it was a put on -- you're saying they believed in a lie?

Why not? Muslims do.

RiceBowlHaircut said...

I have never seen or heard Daivid Blaine or Criss Angel raise someone from the dead. So I'm not sure I would classify that under "performing artist w/ improvisational gifts". Also, had he just been a magician how would he keep his "bag of tricks", from his disciples. As we all know street performers require people to be "in on it" in order for the trick to be believable. If they were "in on it" (since they were routinely and actively involved in Jesus' miracles), why would they also give there life for something they knew was just an act?

Revenant said...

I have never seen or heard Daivid Blaine or Criss Angel raise someone from the dead. So I'm not sure I would classify that under "performing artist w/ improvisational gifts".

Paglia would presumably classify that under "never happened at all". The first written record of Jesus raising someone from the dead comes from a good forty years after he supposedly did it, after all. That's plenty of time for tales of his powers to arise.

Most of what Jesus did was standard stuff: faith healing and casting out of demons. Modern faith healers claim the same powers. They may even truly believe they have such power; certainly their followers do. Nevertheless, they don't.

The Crack Emcee said...

Personally, I don't think most actually believe any of it (See Mother Theresa.) Pride and peer pressure's a motherfucker, but once pressed, they show the same signs of mental problems as anyother sufferers: they know they're lying but it takes an inescapable (but much needed) Ted Patrick-style confrontation/deprogramming to bring it out. I've seen it.

If they do honestly believe it, then they have a serious mental disorder (schizophrenia) and require (also much needed) psychiatric treatment. Either way is traumatic because, let's face it, believers are uncomfortable with reality.

What's amazing, from an atheist's point of view, is how large these delusional groups are, and how long this particular affliction has been allowed to continue. Sometimes, I can only shake my head in wonder to think it's 2008 and there are grown men and women who will allow to have such nonsense residing in their heads, whether they honestly believe it or not. I can remember when I first started reading NewAge texts, and how I would involuntarily throw the book - really violently - because I could sense it was doing something wrong to my mind. (Scientists have a cool phrase for that: "The stupid, it burns!")

Anyway, my point is, I think there are sane people in there waiting to get out, but A) it's either not seen as cool to be an atheist or B) they can't understand how one can face death without a safety net or C) they got problems.

Revenant said...

Calling something a mental disorder when most of the people in the world exhibit it is pretty stupid.

Mental disorders are defined in relation to human norms. It would make more sense to argue that atheists like you and I suffer from a mental disorder, since we're the ones who think differently -- and, generally speaking, experience more harm than good from doing so.

Nichevo said...

Blogger John Althouse Cohen said...

JC was a really sharp, articulate, charismatic Jew. Period.

Why, thank you!

6:02 AM



So you're a Jew, JAC? By what right - by what code - by what standard? Did Ann convert? Did you convert? Are you a Reform Jew? Or do you just mean you like bagels with lox?

b/c, I always thought a belief in God was necessary too.

reader_iam said...

By what right - by what code - by what standard?

Am I crazy, or is that Ayn Rand?

reader_iam said...

What's next, on the impress express? **Allusions** (not quotes, much less cited) to Taylor Caldwell?

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

Blogger reader_iam said...

By what right - by what code - by what standard?

Am I crazy, or is that Ayn Rand?


Yes.


'Fraid I don't know who Taylor Caldwell is, nor have I read him.

Nichevo said...

What's next, on the impress express? **Allusions** (not quotes, much less cited) to Taylor Caldwell?

What?!? Reader, have I wronged you or Ms. Rand here?

Atlas Shrugged, repeated usages, I could dig up my ratty paper copy and find you a page number.

I guess my sensitivity is, if you go around adding "Socrates said that" or "As de Tocqueville said of the common man" all the time, it seems more snobbish, i.e. I've-read-Plato-and-you-haven't.

Are allusions bad? Maybe I'm wrong. I'm not trying to claim I originated "By what right - by what code - by what standard."

I probably do this a lot so perhaps you would be doing me a favor.

reader_iam said...

No, allusions aren't bad.

Yes, your original was Ayn Rand.

You can Google Taylor Caldwell (female).

reader_iam said...

Well, more precisely, alluding is great. Whether the allusions are good, bad, mixed or netural depends, obviously.

The Crack Emcee said...

Revenant,

Calling something a mental disorder when most of the people in the world exhibit it is pretty stupid.

Mental disorders are defined in relation to human norms. It would make more sense to argue that atheists like you and I suffer from a mental disorder, since we're the ones who think differently -- and, generally speaking, experience more harm than good from doing so.


I can call "bullshit" on that in two ways (though, here, I wish I had a larger vocab):

1) Evolution. Some part of the group has to be first to acheive the new norm.

2) Only if you define normal as "God did it" for good things and "It's a mystery" for bad - with nothing to back it up. Considering there's no God (and I'd say, at this point, there's lots of faith but no God) it's hardly normal to hold such a position. Thus, a mental disorder - or, as Einstein said, a "weak" or immature mind.

Whatever it is, it ain't good.

Revenant said...

Evolution. Some part of the group has to be first to acheive the new norm.

If you're trying to argue that atheism is the next stage in human evolution, that's a pretty silly assertion. It isn't a survival trait and atheists are generally less successful in passing on their genes than religious people are (particularly because we don't have a divine mandate to do so). The reverse is much more likely. So far as we can tell, ever species except humans is atheistic. That strongly suggests that, if religiosity has a genetic underpinning, humans evolved FROM atheism to religiosity. Atheism is more likely to be a throwback than a newly evolved trait.

Only if you define normal as "God did it" for good things and "It's a mystery" for bad - with nothing to back it up. Considering there's no God (and I'd say, at this point, there's lots of faith but no God) it's hardly normal to hold such a position. Thus, a mental disorder - or, as Einstein said, a "weak" or immature mind.

Non sequiteur. You leap from "faith" to "mental disorder" without establishing any argument for doing so; like I noted above, mental disorders are defined as departures from the norm, and faith in gods is entirely normal.

Also, invoking Einstein's opinion on psychology is an argument from authority fallacy.

Whatever it is, it ain't good.

In most instances religious belief gives personal pleasure and comfort at minimal external cost. That has obvious positives to it.