Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mysticism, Superstition and Christianity

One of the things that Christians often say to reassure themselves and each other is that Christianity isn't an ordinary religion; that it's somehow special. Some even say that Christianity isn't a religion at all because of how fundamentally different it supposedly is from all over religions.

To those on the outside of the cult this claim seems utterly absurd. Christianity is one of three Abrahamic faiths built on the same foundation - JUDAISM. About two thirds of the Christian scriptures are actually older Jewish works with the New Testament only making up twenty-seven books of the Bible which has a total of sixty-six (some versions have more or less). Even within the New Testament constant reference is made to the Old Testament, so in what way do Christians contend that their religion is different, it's just Judaism plus a sprinkle of their own flavor.

Within this little extra portion the Christians have Jesus who is usually a big part of the argument that Christianity is different, because rather than getting into heaven on the merit of whether or not you do great things or are a good person Jesus offers his life and salvation even to the most wicked and fallen among us. This policy of vicarious redemption, this suspension of justice and wrath to save the wicked, is meant to make God seem more loving or merciful but actually it turns God's judgment into a complete joke.

God is said to be just and yet he is willing that a murderer get into Heaven for the act of accepting this sacrifice but not willing that someone who gives their whole life to helping others but dies without accepting should get in. Let's say there is a soldier in the second World War who happens to be a believing Jew but who has not accepted Christ and he gives his life fighting to free his brothers and sisters from the clutches of the Nazis and protects the entire free world with his sacrifice. This man who fought and died for the freedom and well being of others would go to Hell in most versions of Christianity for the mere act of not accepting the impossible tale of Jesus. In an ironic twist this Jewish man would be tortured for eternity for staying true to the version of Yahweh he was taught in the Jewish scriptures and rejecting the false Messiah Jesus Christ.

The idea that God shows preferential treatment only to those who grovel repentant at his feet and revokes mercy from any who don't no matter their character or actions makes Christianity absurdly unjust. Christians celebrate this, however, and look at it as one of the advantages of Christianity. Indeed this doctrine does help Christianity bring people in by taking advantage of the guilt of those in our society who have done something wrong. This is why prison evangelism is so strong and why conversions in prison are so common, because Christianity has made itself appealing to criminals.

But to those who aren't a part of the super secret club of Christianity the whole doctrine makes it repugnant and even more so when you consider the price, an innocent man's life. Christians claim to love Christ while in the same breath hoisting their sins gladly onto his shoulders so they can walk away without the burden of their guilt scot-free. If they truly knew Jesus and loved him would they not choose, instead, to take the punishment they deserved? In truth they love Jesus only because he did something for them, only because in his blood they are set free, and they happily WASH themselves in the blood of an innocent man.

Symbolism, Structure and Myth

Another point on which Christians insist is that their religion has better archaeology to back it up than any other. This is a heavily debatable point especially since no archaeologist has ever uncovered proof of the supernatural claims of any religion. So no religion stands on better footing when it comes to proving the reality of their supernatural claims.

Often we see Christian apologists like Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, etc trying to make the historical case for Jesus as if it isn't enough to take it on faith as if there need be proof. Rather than own up to the fact that they believe it in spite of its absurd claims they attempt to establish, laughably, that the superstitious conjurations of their sacred texts are not just the writings of adherents and zealots but are historical accounts worth taking seriously.

Jesus, they say, isn't just a figure from their faith, but is a real historical figure who really performed magical miraculous deeds and really rose again. In doing this however Christians miss out on the big slam-dunk home-run aspect of their faith that makes them just another religion - the use of spooky superstitious horseshit and symbolism.

What makes the Gospels myth and not historical accounts is their use of symbolism, allegory, themes and story-telling techniques that seem at home in mythology but make no sense when taken out of context and reinterpreted to be literal truth. Take, for example, the arbitrary period that Jesus stays in the tomb.

Christians will say that it was three days, but Jesus died on Friday and was raised on Sunday, the real amount of time he was dead is one day, he simply "rose on the third day". Now if Jesus really was the son of God and really lived in real historical times what in the fuck was the point of staying dead for a day? What took Jesus so long to come back to life?

Now some might say, "he went down to Hell and redeemed souls who had died before he came" but this is actually a legend invented hundreds of years into Christianity it's not in the Gospels. The answer is symbolism and story structure. Think about the dynamics of what happens in the story. The Disciples are torn, beaten, Peter has cursed Christ before the cock crows, they are back in Jerusalem moping around. They believe Jesus is dead and buried. This is a low point in the story, it's a moment of doubt where no one knows what to believe anymore, and then, like the sun rising again after the darkest night, Jesus returns.

And the Gospels all tell it differently. John, the latest Gospel written, has Thomas still doubting until he sticks a finger in Jesus' wounds. The original version of Mark dramatically and mysteriously ends on a cliff-hangar where the women find the tomb empty, talk to an enigmatic man and then simply scatter in fear.

The story of the dying and rising hero is so common throughout ancient times and even today in our modern myths and stories we always have a moment where our heroes look beaten only to rise from the ashes.

What other reason can there be for the delay?

In fact why would Jesus need to have died at all, in reality the idea of washing in his blood is SYMBOLIC, it's a spiritual concept, not a physical one. The idea that this MUST BE a real retelling of the real adventures of a real flesh-and-blood savior is absurd and the idea that somehow the existence of these intricately woven pieces of mythology is evidence of a historical Jesus is highly questionable at best. That isn't to say no one ever existed to inspire some of the legends rather I am saying that Christians miss the forest for the trees.

Superstition is a sign of Humanity's Design

The Old Testament is riddled with superstitious rituals and absurd claims. Witches and necromancers are considered real things and there are strict rules for "ritual cleanliness" that, if not followed, can result in you being a target for the wrath of God himself. There are, of course, detailed instructions on how to butcher an animal and make it an offering for Yahweh, and how to sprinkle its blood and arrange its organs to best please God.

Why would this be part of your religion? If you indeed claim that this God of the Old Testament is the same one you serve why in the hell did he require such bizarre and barbaric things as animal sacrifices? Why does he bear such a striking resemblance to an invention of the human mind, a warlike plague-bringer who sits upon a throne and demands the smell of burning flesh to appease his anger - AND YOU THINK THIS BETTER than ancient pagan faiths? You think this superior?

There is only one description I can think of for such practices - superstition. The sort of thing that makes people throw salt over their shoulder or take care not to walk under a ladder - the idea that somehow the rules of reality are governed by unseen forces that can be appeased or manipulated through the use of ritual or magic. And the Old Testament claims that magic, curses, speaking to the dead and bringing the dead back to life are all possible even without God and any who do these dark things are to be put to death.

Even in the New Testament rituals like Communion are set up, a symbolic act of mock cannibalism where you take in a part of the savior's flesh and blood. Many sects of Christianity today have other rituals, such as baptism, and let's not forget that both Jews and Christians cut the foreskin off of their male children, an act of ritualistic mutilation.

The point of bringing all this up is to make Christians wonder whether or not there is any reason to take all this stuff literally or to consider it necessary to read the Bible as if it is a history book. Apologists work hard to make Christianity sound somewhat historical to help ease the doubts of believers who treat the existence of God and the salvation of Christ as intellectual matters rather than merely spiritual ones. But all of those attempts fail utterly when you bring up the bizarre superstitions of the Old and New Testament, the fact that so many stories are riddled with impossible feats and mythic heroes and told with structure, symbolism and lessons to the story.

The question is, at the center of this very man-made religion with so much superstition and mythology, at it's core, are you confident that there is actually a God there?

When I dug down and read between the lines I found Christianity to be an invention of mankind and I have yet to see any evidence that it's beliefs mean anything outside of what they mean to those who already believe. Christians are welcome to the spiritual aspects of their faith, as empty as they may seem to me, but when they start asserting that it is real beyond their own belief in it they will butt up against those outside the cult who see it for what it is.

If you are a Christian and by some chance you stumbled upon this I'd ask that you do research. Read your Bible and study where it came from, how it was put together, how much it was changed and what it actually says. Don't take my word for it but also don't swallow down what some apologist or pastor says without questioning it. Remember that doubt is not something to be feared and no God worth a damn would ever punish you for it.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Lack of an Answer

One of the most commonly and openly committed logical fallacies that Christian apologists love to engage in is the use of mystery or the unexplained to propose that God is the best or only explanation that makes any sense. Often times they will steep a subject in it's own complexity and play up the intricate inter-workings or causes and effects that would have had to all come together to make this thing happen... so there must be some form of God, some agency, some purpose to it all.

This tendency to read agency into things is one of the foundations of superstition and therefore serves as a psychological crux propping up all of religion. The mysteries that apologists often exploit are those that human beings most desperately want answered. Where did we come from? What is the origin of the Universe? What is the meaning of our lives? Are we just here or do we have a higher purpose? And, if it is all by natural processes, how can that be so?

That last bit of question begging, asking HOW all this could happen by natural processes, is often the most plaintive of the questions, pulling at the hearts of everyone. Everyone wants to believe they were special and no one seems willing to accept the idea that natural processes can be responsible for everything.

Yet enduring mysteries, even ones that seem insoluble and without resolution, are not a call to invent something spooky or, even worse, to cower beneath the shadow of something spooky that ancient people invented thousands and thousands of years ago. It is utterly human to want to fill in those mysteries and even to invoke agency to do so but it is also ignorant and it is even more ignorant to merely choose whatever supernatural agent happens to have been handed to us by our parents or the society around us.

The fact that children most typically have the religion of their parents and that religious denominations are cut almost as hard as political and geographical borders is a telling one indeed. It says that many people share the psychological need or desire for a creator or some sort of superstition but it also shows how misguided they are to put their faith in the cults of the past.

And this brings in another fallacy, the idea that these ancient schools of superstition (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc) are somehow MORE likely to be true because they endured thousands of years. Of course they've changed and evolved a great deal in that time and the beliefs of believers are not only vastly different today than they were five hundred or even a hundred years ago but there are so many varieties of belief even within those religions. Sects diverging like a thousand splinters from a bolt of lightning all with varying beliefs but all with the certainty that they understand the answer to the mystery better than the others.

We all understand, at least those of us outside the cult do, that something like Scientology is a load of shit, absolutely devoid of facts at its very core - an exploitative cult with bizarre ideas about ancient galactic empires and brainwashed alien spirits. But in the same breath people will praise the unseen hand of the Jewish God - a warlike plague-bringer who, sometime in the early 1st century, dispatched a constituent part of himself into the womb of a teenage virgin so that this incarnated divine child could set up a new more merciful covenant with humanity and then, through a blood-magic ritual of atonement where he dies and returns to life, save at least some of us from the wrath we all deserved because two ancient people in a garden somewhere took bad dietary advice from a talking snake. For some reason we can all tell Scientology is bullshit but as a society we give something as old and big as Christianity a free pass to be as full of magical mumbo-jumbo as is possibly imaginable.

Feel free to use this quote:

So when someone appeals to mystery in a talk about apologetics, when they appeal to the vastness of the Cosmos, when they start talking about the "improbability" of it all coming together just so and then they run and hide beneath some Middle Eastern deity who murders children, supports slavery and brings down horrid plagues on the heads of any who displease him their reasoning is flawed. They have forgotten the very mystery they were just praising and instead invested in some horseshit humanity made up to fill in the gaps. This is why it's called a God of the Gaps argument.

This came up earlier this year when I was discussing internet celebrity Joshua Feuerstein and his absurd 100,000 dollar challenge to disprove God, the good pastor Josh makes a great appeal to mystery where he draws a circle and then puts a dot at the center. Our knowledge of the Universe is the dot and the circle, more or less, is the rest of what's OUT THERE, all of the UNKNOWN Cosmic goings on. The problem is that Josh's answer to this isn't to be inclusive. He's not asking people to become New Age gurus who accept and cannibalize different parts of all religions to build one big UBER religion, he wants you to abandon the idea of the mystery of the Cosmos immediately after you've agreed to it and agree to his bullshit theology. He only wants you to acknowledge that HIS God and only his God might be out there and, because you can't disprove it, that you're a moron for disbelieving as strongly as you do.

The problem isn't that Josh's God is impossible or is definitely not out there, it's that Josh's God is no more likely to be out there than any of the other shit human beings have believed in since the dawn of superstition. Josh isn't actually open to the vastly weird Cosmic intelligences, gods or not, that might be out there. He isn't interested in talking about Bleebblarp from the Irulian Galaxy Cluster who is an almost omnipotent psychic being that can bend time and space however he sees fit. Josh doesn't want to find out and isn't open to finding out that a group of super-intelligent interdimensional bunny rabbits were contracted by an even smarter more intelligent being called Marvin the Space Penguin to build our Universe.

Apologists making these arguments aren't open to the mystery actually being answered, they want to shove their already existing beliefs into the gap they've just opened. This is part of the proof that apologetics is just verbal masturbation, or a verbal circle-jerk. Christians making other Christians feel reassured that they aren't wrong by fallaciously appealing to mystery or complexity and making sure their God sorta kinda could maybe work as an explanation if you squint real hard, clap your hands and say "I do believe in fairies".

Part of being open-minded is admitting that you could be wrong. I openly do this, I openly admit Gods could be out there. All kinds of weird shit could be out there and I want to know if it is but faith, superstition, they're a hindrance not a help, they're far more likely to close a mind than open it. The lack of an answer is not proof that your answer is the only one and sticking an even bigger mystery into an existing one does not help.

Author's Note:

Okay so this was a very off the cuff and spontaneous post but Hubpages (where I do most of my writing) has redesigned their site to look like shit, removed feedback features that are fundamental to the site and has basically shit the bed 100%. Chances are you (who am I addressing this to? No one reads this shit) will be seeing more posts here and over on my Bible study blog: fuckthebible,