“Objections to Christianity – The Justice of the Biblical God – An Unbalanced Scale” – Part 4 – (Revised August 2019) – Odin’s Eye – Theological Objections to Christianity

Happy Thor’s Day.  

August 2019 Revision Notes:

It has been almost a year since I wrote these originally starting in November of 2018.  When I got to the rotation in Odin’s Eye the last time where I was going to deal with these objections again, I saw no need for revision but rather simply laid it out there that no one had responded to them to that date and moved on into the rest of the Rotation for Odin’s Eye. 

This time though I feel that I need to spend four weeks of Odin’s Eye doing some revisions that will either clarify my position, add some other thoughts or edit for other issues.  Such edits will be marked by italics.  When archived, they will appear under the original post on this Page: My Four Theological Objections to Christianity

 Mostly though this is a cut and paste with some revisions. As the series goes on there will be more revisions as I can see the need for things to change a bit in the other three objections.

In part four, I felt the need to add a few paragraphs for hopefully a clearer explanation. But also there are some additional arguments that trouble me about the whole afterlife thing with Christianity. I also completely rewrote my conclusions. 

Introduction:

I am wrapping up my four main theological objections to Christianity with the simple but profound fact that the god of the Bible is very suspect in as far as whether or not he is just and acts with justice. I would go so far to say that the god of the Bible does not follow his own clearly stated guidelines for justice – 1) “Eye for eye, tooth for a tooth” and 2) Restitution Included. Namely that the punishment should fit the crime and that restitution when merited should be offered.  This is the standard of justice found in the Torah or Law of Moses. Jesus of Nazareth takes this on in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 pointing out that the principles of justice were still valid and in fact because things should be done for the love of God, they were even more challenging.  God expects Christians to still be just and follow his principles of justice. The issue is: does the god of the Bible follow his own rules.  I would say not.

Faith:

From a standpoint of my own faith, the biblical god’s justice, and in particular the doctrine of Hell, has always been a problem.  My standard answer throughout my days as a pastor to others that asked was that the justice of God was a mystery.  That someday, we would know it all and see that this god was just to send people to hell.  Even if they were people who we loved and who this god claimed to love. But it was more than that as some of the stories of god executing justice were a little lacking justice themselves.

Job’s trial is a good example where God allows the Devil to kill all of Job’s children and servants save a few and does it simply to test Job to see if he will remain faithful.  The Biblical god’s answer of – “I am god, that’s why.” is a little lacking in reasoning for a supreme being for one and the whole situation is lacking in compassion not just for Job but for all the people slain for another.  They all lived and died simply to satisfy a bet between the Devil and the almighty is a little much to reconcile with the idea of God is love.  Stuff like this definitely tests your faith and it should.

Religion:

The thing is most religious responses to the justice of God dilemma is either to cite ‘mystery’ (read – I don’t have a  reasonable answer, so I am going to punt) or our ignorance.  Simply put they both attempt to give a god a different standard of justice than we follow.  How convenient, but also telling that we cannot even use the standard of justice of ‘eye for an eye’ with the biblical god. The very standard that this god gives, he does not follow.

The fact that I used to come up with this double standard for god myself bothered me for years when I realized that is what I was doing.  A standard of justice is only viable if it is evenly applied to all.  It should be logical and consistent enough that it CAN be applied to all without exception. We have learned not to tolerate double standards between those that lead and those that follow, so why here?  Why does this god of the Bible get a free pass for being hypocritical?

Religion does its damnedest to keep us from seeing this, and it does it by trying to make God so high his different standard of justice is justified.  It sounds like a ruling religious class seeking to justify why they can impose rules on others that they don’t have to follow themselves.  After all, they are ‘men of God’ and so as Cardinal Richelieu points out in the Three Musketeers movie in 1993 – “The Cardinal is not subject to the laws of men”.  Easy to justify if you create a different standard of justice for your god and you then say you are subject to that standard, not the standard of men.

Theology:

But the Biblical God fails theologically and it comes out best in the doctrine of Hell and final judgment.  Everything we will do is in a short temporal time of existence but everything about the final judgment of the god of the Bible is eternal.  In short, this god is going to punish us in a way that is eternal and permanent for our behavior in temporal and non-permanent existence.  This includes annihilation and eternal punishment views.  The only thing that might save Christianity here as far as theology is actually the idea of purgatory where the punishment is redemptive and non-permanent.  But even here there is a postulate that punishment can last centuries compared to the shortness of life.

So being burned like the rich man is said to be burned is somehow eye for eye and tooth for a tooth?  In that story, the rich man is burned not because he defied god but because he had a good life and Lazarus was rewarded because he had suffered in life.  Go look at the story (Luke 16) yourself, this is the rationale that is given.  So because a guy had it good he is punished with burning fire?  How is this eye for an eye? Justice would have been to have the two trade places for a second life, not that he is burned for a long time.

There is little justice in this story, just a god who on the one hand in the Old Testament tells people who prosperity is a sign of God’s blessing and then turning around and saying though that if you do become prosperous, the biblical God is going to burn you as punishment for it.  In a full analysis of the biblical account not only are there many accounts where god’s justice is a little suspect but where he violates the very rules he sets forward because he gets jealous or angry. Like the other mythologies, the biblical god is very human and reflects probably more of the attitude of the author of that particular passage than the almighty that actually might exist.

More troubling to me recently in August of 2019 is the fact that no theology of damnation other than purgatory by the Catholics, and even then it only works for Catholics, allows people who gain heaven to appeal for those that they love in Hell for God to be merciful.  I have to ask what kind of compassion anyone has that would allow their loved one to burn for all eternity?  I mean if someone I love like my children or grandparents were in the eternal lake of fire and I knew this, I would have enough compassion on them to be in front of God every single moment of eternity begging for his mercy for them. How can you even say you have a compassionate heart if you believe that your fellow human beings are going to be burned forever and ‘that’s just the way it is.”

But that brings up a question of God’s mercy.  Could you burn one of your children, parents, friends, etc. with fire forever simply because they violated your rules or didn’t believe something you told them?  For me, that is definitely a ‘no’.  My love for them far exceeds my desire for them to be under my control and doing things as I wish or that they absolutely believe me.  If that is true for me, why is God then an unmerciful bastard about this? How is it that he the God that IS Love, has less compassion for some of his children than me? Perhaps because he is a concoction of men who were in power that desired to control through fear? Yeah, I would bet that is it. 

Spirituality:

See the source image

For me personally, I come back to the quote I have used before.  If the god or gods are just then they will judge us based on the virtues we lived by.  If they are not just, then they do not deserve to be served.  If there are no gods then, we should live in such a way as to be fondly remembered. I worry less about an afterlife; because regardless, it is this life I must live either way.  I choose to live based on virtue because, in the end, it is all I really have.  My own personal responsibility for the life I live is mine alone. Cue Robert Heinlein.

See the source image

Conclusion:

I will revisit these objections in the future with other thoughts.  For now, if anything, these objections have gotten stronger and more detailed and still form a bedrock of why I think not only is Christianity a bad Idea, but I am now convinced it is largely a fraud. I would also contend that it has been used, much like Islam and Judaism as well, to deceive, control and manipulate others. 

The most troubling thing to me is I know many Chrisitan friends and former friends have read these and you know what?  Crickets. Silence. My eternal fate is not so important that they would even try to answer.  Perhaps the real truth is that these objections have no answer and the basically constitute the god Yahweh to the rest of mythology and as another concoction of men and his flaws simply are a reflection of their thoughts about him being flawed. Because they had flawed standards of justice and ulterior motives, the God they created’s execution of justice reflects this. 

It also speaks to the real beliefs of Christians.  I know for a fact, that many do not actually believe. I was minister for 20 years and I lost track of the number of people in my churches who when questioned, basically had done one of the following: 1) They had picked and chosen what parts of Chrisitan doctrine or the Bible they liked and discarded the rest.  2) They didn’t really actually believe anything, they just went along with it for the community and to keep family happy. When questioned further, it all came back to one of what I call my four objections in some form as to why they didn’t believe or what they had chosen to discard.  It for all of them had basically become tradition, not real faith or spirituality. 

This to me now is the most damaging thing – why have spirituality in your life that is not genuine?  Why do you have a part of your life basically be a fraud? Would it not be better to be truly honest with yourself about where you are spiritually speaking?  It is my four objections that started me on the path to honest spiritual reflection and being truly who I am.  I am now better for it and a better person in many respects.  Mostly, I have stopped being a liar.  This is the first real step down the path to finding truth.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

“Objections to Christianity – Part 3 – The Cross and Empty Tomb – An Imaginary Solution to an Imaginary Problem”(Revised August 2019) – Odin’s Eye

 

Happy Thor’s Day

August 2019 Revision Notes:

It has been almost a year since I wrote these originally starting in November of 2018.  When I got to the rotation in Odin’s Eye the last time where I was going to deal with these objections again, I saw no need for revision but rather simply laid it out there that no one had responded to them to that date and moved on into the rest of the Rotation for Odin’s Eye. 

This time though I feel that I need to spend four weeks of Odin’s Eye doing some revisions that will either clarify my position, add some other thoughts or edit for other issues.  Such edits will be marked by italics.  When archived, they will appear under the original post on this Page: My Four Theological Objections to Christianity

 Mostly though this is a cut and paste with some revisions. As the series goes on there will be more revisions as I can see the need for things to change a bit in the other three objections. In part three, I felt the need to add a few paragraphs for hopefully a clearer explanation. 

Introduction:

I know I will probably get a reaction out of this one and I am not trying to be provocative.  I am simply trying to get people to see the logical problems of Salvation through Christ.  Once you dismiss sin as a made-up concept, you could say that it is really unnecessary to go after ‘God’s’ solution to the problem, but the whole of Christianity revolves around Christ’s work on the cross and the resurrection to save people from sin and from eternal damnation. You might say it is the core doctrine no matter what flavor of Christianity you live by so it deserves some attention.

For the sake of argument, let’s concede sin is real. Then does the solution the Bible presents God has for it make any sense? 

Faith:

Of course, the first thing that can be said is each flavor of Christianity stakes out is how said salvation is achieved with Christ.  The faith versus works controversy starts right away in the first century. James and Paul go at it right in the Bible.  Now I heard multiple explanations from both Protestants and Catholics of why James and Paul are not arguing about the same thing really but they practically quote each other with only one variation.  One says salvation in Christ cannot be of works so no one can boast, and the other one says that without works it is impossible to show faith. No matter how you logically try to get them to be ‘defending the same salvation only from different directions”; it is contradictory.  One is saying that works have nothing to do with salvation, and the other is saying it does.

So what this really shows is that even in the Bible and among early Christians, they had disputes and disagreements about how this works and thus it points to the Bible not being inspired by God, so much as it records those early debates among the faithful about how salvation worked.  That makes the Bible very human and also not the Word of God because if God had actually wanted to tell us how this works; because it seems it would be the most important thing for us to know, he would have made it plain, straightforward and quite frankly non-contradictory.

Religion:

Of course, every flavor of Christianity goes even further with specifics and added on things to the doctrine of salvation in Christ.  The Catholic Church plain out tells you that you can only be saved from death through them and no one else.  Many Protestant denominations will tell you the same.  My former denomination would tell people that they had the whole gospel, not just part of it.  Salvation is complicated by religion because religion seeks to use these ideas to keep people grateful and faithful for telling those people their version of ‘the truth’.

In the end, I would say that each variation of salvation through Christ is presented in a way that helps the group presenting it.  It is done to layout their other doctrinal tenants so their way of thinking about God is central to it all, and thus gives a theological force to everything they believe. Of course, this gives religion the guilt and punishment/reward options it needs to manipulate people. 

Theology:

Religion aside though, my objections are theological – what kind of God do we have, who claims to be merciful and loving, but demands for his followers to be forgiving without condition, but doesn’t do so himself?  It also brings up the question of the ability to forgive in that we are expected to forgive each other without condition because we can, even as sinners. Yet, a holy God can’t simply forgive without sacrificing his only begotten son in one of the cruelest ways ever devised by man.  He must have this sacrifice or he cannot forgive at all, and I must have faith in it and the resurrection or he will not forgive me specifically.  Worse yet if I don’t forgive others as a Christian, he won’t forgive me. He can choose to not forgive others and still be a holy God, but if I don’t forgive, I cannot be saved?  So I, as a ‘sinner’, have not only a greater expectation than my creator; but also I am more capable because I can do this forgiveness without conditions, but he cannot?

This bit of ‘logic’ pales in comparison to the fact that in order to forgive us he must sacrifice himself to himself, to appease himself to save us from himself. See the problem? Well Ed, what if then the whole doctrine of salvation as it currently stands is man-made and that isn’t the real doctrine of salvation God wanted? How then would we ever know the real one? It seems a little too confusing for something so important as eternal life.  My response that the current one is man-made? – exactly, and that is probably true from the start of Christianity to where it actually stands today.   It seems to me that this idea is just as man-made because a supreme being could have come up with the simple plan to just forgive people. As Jesus is praying in the garden “if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” we would see the opening up the heavens and God saying -“You know what, I have a better plan – let’s just forgive people like I expect them to forgive each other.” That would be just, logical and consistent.

There is also another theological side issue – How much of a sacrifice is it really for Jesus if he knows for certain (which he indicates three times in the gospels) that he will rise from the dead?  Honestly, if he knew that and most people who have faith believe he did and the text certainly seems to indicate he did, then it isn’t that big of a sacrifice? He knows he is not going to ultimately be dead in the end; so why not do it, as there is no ultimate risk to him?  In the end, Jesus is risking nothing himself as God, just going through the inconvenience of temporal suffering.  Why? To make a point? What point would that be, when there is nothing actually sacrificed in the end? He lives and knows he is going to live so why the anguish?

Spirituality:

I guess this leaves me with the question from a spiritual point of view as to what salvation is? Or does it?  I mean, if there is no such thing as sin, there is no need to be saved from it. Of course, then I could be left with the question of what the real divine reality might expect from me?  I guess the only thing then is to live a good life regardless of what that divine reality might be. Marcus Aurelius rightly observes, in my opinion, this in his famous quote on the good life.

See the source image

Of course, you are kind of left to things yourself as to define what virtues you will live by to attain that good life. In short, what is defined as a good life is left to you.

Conclusion:

The implications of losing the whole notion of sin and a need for salvation have been very liberating. There is no guilt or shame in my heart or mind at all these days.  I do try every day to be a better man than I was the day before. This, I have found is a far better way to live. 

Better yet, is discarding the notion of a loving God who also sends people he loves to hell.  Because the god of the Bible seems to have some major issues with justice, but that is the subject of the next post.  

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

“The Virgin Birth of Jesus” – Odin’s Eye – Bible Problems

Happy Thor’s Day

Discussion:

What I am about to do here is give at sample or teaser of what I am doing for my non-fiction book.  What I am doing is taking my expertise gained from a biblical studies degree, a theological studies degree and twenty years experience of being a pastor and doing a class I did many times – Life of Christ.  I am however this time doing it from a skeptics point of view.  I am doing it as a non-believer and a critic of Christianity and The Bible.

Today I am going to give a brief synopsis about why I think the virgin birth story is a tall tale concocted by many people who had personal and political reasons to do so.  The theory I am running with here is my own which is that there was a man named Jesus of Nazareth and that he did indeed have disciples.  That those disciples watched Jesus as he fought the religious establishment.  That establishment then did perhaps have him crucified by the Romans because they came to hate him and the threat he posed to their political and religious power.

This is where those disciples create mythology surrounding the man known as Jesus of Nazareth.  They knew the Messianic prophecies and began to retroactively go back to his life and spin things to fulfill them.  One of those things involved the fact that there was a prophecy where the Messiah had to be born of a virgin.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14

One of the things that may have very well have been true about Jesus is that his origin may have had a little scandal attached to it.  That is there was a question as to who his father was or that it was clear he was conceived out of wedlock.  As a political scientist, I can see how scandal can be turned to opportunity if it is spun right.  So, no Jesus wasn’t the product of an illicit affair or the fact that Joseph and Mary had sex before the wedding day, let’s write it this way to turn him into the Messiah.

Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.  Luke 1:26-38 – NASB

Suddenly the scandal becomes an opportunity to tell the story in a different way and Jesus fulfills the prophecy of being born of a virgin.  So what is the actual evidence?

Time to Look Through the Eye:

Faith:

In order to believe in the virgin birth, you have to believe that God can make a woman pregnant which is not a stretch if you accept an omnipotent god. That Joseph was not involved and that he suddenly became cool with the fact that another man has sex with his bride to be and knocked her up.  He has to buy the story himself.

Mostly though you have to believe that Mary herself is not lying about the angel.  Because the only witness of that event is Mary herself.  Understand that even if I take the account as true, the only witness even in the gospels of the event is Mary and the only gospel that records it is Luke.  Luke is probably the last synoptic gospel to write.  One could theorize that Luke is reacting then to the fact that Mark says nothing about a virgin birth and Matthew only deals with Joseph’s reaction and no one has addressed Isaiah’s prophecy to that point.  If you believe in the virgin birth, you simply taking the word of one witness – Mary.  A girl of fifteen who finds herself pregnant in a culture that stones women who commit adultery or at the best puts away women privately to live out their days in silence.  Which is more likely at this point – God impregnated her or that she came up with a story to cover her pregnancy out of fear of reprisal?  Or she made it up later to vindicate herself after the fact when people are starting to believe her son is the Messiah.

Religion:

Let’s understand something. the virgin birth in the Bible does not stand alone as the only one.  Religions around the world have tons of virgin birth stories and Mary was not unaware of them. This is something that is well known and well published. Just look it up for yourself.

The thing is though for Christianity a lot of theology regarding sin and the biblical god is wrapped up in this story being true; so of course, they defend it regardless of how common such a story is in mythology around the world and how little testimony there is to support the actual story.

But understand that even under the Bible’s own standard of establishing every fact the virgin birth story fails.  It only has one witness Mary herself and she certainly has plenty of cultural and personal motivation to make it up.  Luke is the only direct record of it but it is still her story alone, he just records it. This fails the two or three witnesses required even by Biblical Standards, particularly the Law of Moses.

Matthew records Joseph’s response but even his response might have had a personal motivation if he either loved Mary or he was the cause of her pregnancy.  How he reacted really has only one witness – Joseph himself.  He may have simply been a man who took responsibility for his actions and we are assuming he was even around for Matthew to interview as he might have been dead.  It is easy to see how Matthew who was writing with the goal of persuading Jews to become Christians might make up Joseph’s story based on stories of others. But that makes is second-hand hearsay, not reliable evidence.

Theology:

This story absolutely is essential for doctrines such as original sin and the incarnation of Christ.  For the early Christians, they needed a story that fulfilled some of the prophecies so going back a retroactively recounting things with their own spin on it became essential for the accusation that the Jewish leaders had killed the Messiah.

The motivation for this is that Jesus may very well have been a man who successfully created a movement of reform and the Jewish leaders, by killing him, had created a martyr.  It is not hard to see how the disciples, motivated by a desire for the resurrection to be true and to create Jesus as the Messiah, would stretch the truth and follow rumors and ‘urban legends’ of Jesus of Nazareth to do so. For later Christians, these become the basis for theology that allows Jesus to be the answer to the sin question and how Jesus was both God and Man.

Spirituality:

While a great many Christians, particularly women, draw a lot of spiritual strength from Mary’s Story, I look at it more as identification with a character caught in a bad situation that has a great story to get herself out of it and go from being a immoral unwed mother, to the mother of the Messiah.  I can see where a lot of women would love that idea and emotionally and spiritually resonate with it. Even those who might think it is not true fully understand given Mary’s Culture why she would do it. In the movie Saved! – the character Mary remarks in one scene how she could understand, being pregnant herself in the movie, why a girl would make up such a story.

Conclusion:

My thoughts are this, I think Jesus of Nazareth was a real person but I think after thirty years before the first writing on his life a lot of mythology and what we would term ‘urban legend’ became built around him that also got into the story.  One of the examples is the virgin birth story which appears late in the accounts like it was a reaction to criticism of Jewish leaders that the prophecy in Isaiah is not fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth.  So Matthew records the story of Joseph with his reaction to her being pregnant and later on a little bit after that Luke does the same from Mary’s point of view.  Except this does not even meet the Bible’s own criteria of ‘two or three witnesses” as each account is only one person’s perspective and with no other witnesses.

What really happened?  Most likely Joseph and Mary had sex before they were married.  A common tale even back then.  Joseph may very well have simply decided to marry her because it was his child; which oddly enough the Law of Moses would have accepted provided he gives up is right to divorce her later. Joseph and Mary would have lived with a cultural stigma after that which would have cast her in particular as an immoral woman.

Fast forward some decades and their son actually becomes a great Rabbi and critic of the religious leadership.  He gets killed and becomes a martyr.  Mary finds herself with the opportunity presented by the new but fanatical Christians to vindicate herself and be the mother of the Messiah, to no longer be considered an immoral woman.

So that is what she did.  The story gets changed so that she is a virgin and both she and Joseph have visits by angels no one else sees and they decide to get married after all. She was a virgin until after Jesus was born and the prophecy fulfilled.  Of course, there are no witnesses to this other than Mary herself and so we must take her word for it. No physical exam, no other witnesses of the angels in question, nothing but her word.

I think the more simple explanation is she made it up to vindicate herself.  It is not something Christians want to hear but it seems to be very likely given her culture and her desire to clear her name would have been very strong.  It is just unfortunate how far people have taken this legend. I mean people actually pray to this woman now and she is probably nothing more than a woman who either told the story to save her ass or vindicate herself as an older woman who had lived with the stigma of being immoral all her life. She definitely improved her status in retrospect so the story worked.

So there it is a sample page from my non-fiction book although it will be much more extensive and much more complete and referenced. Hope you enjoyed it.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

Odin’s Eye – Religion Problems: The Growing Unaffiliated ‘Religion’ in the USA

Happy Thor’s Day

Discussion:

In the United States where I live, the number of religiously ‘unaffiliated’ is growing. What is shrinking is White Protestantism and Catholicism particularly with Generation X and the millennials.  Below is a good statistical graph of what is happening.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/245453/religious-affiliation-in-the-united-states-by-age/

In short, older people are clinging to what they know and were taught, but younger people saying ‘fuck that shit.” It also true that as people age death and what follows it becomes more of a thing to them.  But that does not account for the fact that a change is strongly evident. That Protestantism, particularly among whites but truly across the board, is shrinking in the United States and Catholicism as well.  What is happening?

There are a lot of things that one could say here, but for me, I understand one thing for certain – that information is far more available and then there is no way to prevent people from getting alternative opinions. If one has an internet connection, you can find alternatives opinions and arguments against any religion and faith with ease. The two generations that have enjoyed this state of affairs the most are the Millenials and Generation X.  Both of these groups have had the luxury of when any opinion is offered of being able to find a counter opinion in seconds and not just one counter opinion but many.

Of course, Christians fear what means. But in truth, this country was not founded as a Christian one but a secular one based on reason. It could be argued that we are simply returning to where we came from. I question whether this is a bad thing at all.  As we look through the eye today I can only tell my personal story of becoming one of the Unaffiliated. I don’t know if it is typical, but I think it might be the pattern for most.

Time to Look Through the Eye:

Faith:

In the case of Christianity, faith rests on the story of Jesus Christ being true. Not just parts of it but all of it.  Without this, faith is simply not possible.  Paul’s argument in the 1 Corinthians 15 is true in that regard that without the historical resurrection, Christianity is founded on nothing. The problem is that the gospels are problematic as I pointed out in this post: Odin’s Eye – Bible Problems: The Four Gospels. Because of this, the real Jesus of Nazareth is obscured by disciples who created what amounts to a tall tale with no historical verification. In many cases, stories are told alone without even the other gospels to back them up. Once the truth of this was apparent to me, I realized my faith in Christianity was based in large part on nothing but unverified stories that were no better or worse than the stories of any other mythology.

Religion:

My religion was no help here in preserving my faith.  Nor was my experience or education in Christianity a bolster to my sagging faith.  In fact, my traditions repeatedly informed me it was dangerous to ask such questions.  My response was: ‘if my religion cannot handle questions and the god they proclaim cannot stand the scrutiny of logic, then both are weak and not worth serving’. Religion as a general rule doesn’t like questions and would rather have people blindly follow than analyze the doctrines and theology.  My problem was I have always been a rebel in that regard; and when it comes to theology, I am a guy with a degree in theology and that journey actually drove me to realize that all ideas about the divine are strictly opinion based on man’s thoughts about god.

Theology:

As a theologian, I thought a lot about God.  Mostly the problem was how to get the god of the Protestant Bible to make sense. The best I could do was to abandon the idea that god controlled everything; because if he did, then he was an evil fuck.  No matter how you shake and dance, the god of scripture seems very human. Being jealous and acting in ways that would make tyrants look benevolent. He creates man knowing he is going to suffer and do evil things and then yet punishes them for the way he created them. The god of the bible promotes a certain morality, commands it even, and then breaks it himself.  Over time, this and my other Four Major Objections to Christianity formed out of my theological struggles and I simply could not reconcile them.  In the end, I found myself a pastor without any faith.

Spirituality:

The hard cold truth is that our spirituality is chosen.  It cannot be imposed and the reason I was a Christian all those years was not that Christianity as faith, religion or theology could prove itself true.  It was because it was how I chose to engage the spiritual reality that I perceived around me.  Once this truth dawned on me, I left Christianity to follow a more spiritual path without religion imposing on me the thoughts of others. I find a lot more peace about it these days.

Conclusion:

I don’t know how typical I am here but I do know one thing.  All of this journey was possible because my access to information and counter-arguments was right at my fingertips. Books, articles and web pages in abundance offered up alternatives to the arguments Christians used to defend themselves and their beliefs and in the end, they prevailed to the point I could not accept Christianity anymore. I think this is basically what is happening in American as a whole.  It just took longer for me to join the religion known as “Unaffiliated” than others.  It is a new path for me, but one I new cheerfully embrace.  I consider it an honor to be a part of a time where religion is in retreat and perhaps there is a new chance for Reason to reign instead. Or at the very least where people can be Unaffiliated and free from religion’s control.

Continuing to Walk the Path,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

Odin’s Eye – Humanism – Morality and Religion

Happy Thor’s Day

Discussion:

Humanists as a general rule, dismiss the need for religion to be moral. Humanists for the most part simply see that anyone can act ethically and morality if they simply tap into their humanity. That is act on their better nature as human beings. I concur with this.

There is some thoughts that to be a humanist you have to be atheist, but I reject that as well. I think in large part those we call founding fathers were also humanists of a deist variety and I am as well.  I don’t dismiss the idea of creator or creators, I just don’t think that, whomever they may be, has any vested interest in policing our morals.  That’s up to us to define as the creators, if they exist, have left questions of morality and ethics to us.

Time to Look Through the Eye:

Faith:

Faith never cured me of being a dick. Not once did my faith in Christ lead to a better morality.  That choice was always my own. I would say also that I have seen the concept of ‘faith’ used for great evil as old ladies send parts of their social security checks to preachers on television who promise prosperity through giving.  All the while the prosperity comes to them at the old ladies’ expense. Greed justified through ‘faith’ is an old story, and one of the great proofs that religion is no guarantee of morality. Far from it.  You can also add people wracked with guilt because they were sick and that was because they didn’t have enough ‘faith’.

Religion:

I have watched in my own ministry as religion has been used to justify unethical and immoral things:

  1. Because of the Christian notion of submission of wives to husbands, I saw sexual, physical, emotional and mental abuse perpetrated by men toward their wives.
  2. Because of the notion of ‘seed faith’ I saw greed justified as people would plant their seed but the preacher would harvest.
  3. I saw harsh religious judgment as people would literally throw off good friends and even family members simply because they did not believe as they did or left the faith. This one I have recently personally experienced.  I used to have 370 or so Facebook friends.  I cut myself off from a mere 80 or so but now I have 205.  That’s 85 people who simply dropped me after I announced I wasn’t a Christian anymore.  Nice.
  4. I have watched people who, believing the end of the world was coming, ran up their credit cards and quit good jobs to be come reclusive only to find themselves in serious trouble afterwards.  This is the best example I can come up with of stupid behavior caused by religion, but I could list so many I might have the content for a book in and of itself.

That’s just my experience, historically speaking Christianity has the one problem every religion has, a creation of an ‘us’ verses ‘them’ mentality that leads to taking actions against them to justify exaltation of us.  It gets worse when you consider some theologies.

Theology:

Historically speaking Christianity has not had a good moral track record.

  1. The Catholics killed, raped, tortured, etc. people who left the faith.  They branded anyone different who did not hold their faith and punished them accordingly.  The repressed any genuine scientific and philosophical pursuit if it contradicted the teachings of the church.  The Spanish Inquisition wasn’t an anomaly, it was normal operating procedure for the Catholic church.
  2. The Protestant Church was no better.  I would say that the Western expansion into Native American territory and the genocide of indigenous population in the United States was largely due to the Calvinist religious belief held highly at the time of manifest destiny encouraged by the notion of Predestination.  You don’t have to treat people as equals or human, if you view them as predestined for hell.
  3. Regardless of stripe, the moral codes of Christianity are probably responsible for more emotional, mental and other forms of abuse.  Shame and guilt due to imaginary problems that force human beings to act against their nature lead to depression and low self-esteem which preachers exploit.  In some cases, people have committed suicide rather than face the fact they can’t live up to the code placed upon them.
  4. Cultist behavior is present in Christianity and all religions.  I love it when Christians try to differentiate themselves from what they perceive to be cults.  Mostly they will say they don’t try to control people’s sexuality or money.  So what then of this sins of sexuality list and the doctrine of tithing?  Religions all have cult behavior. All of them.

Spirituality:

For me I think I live by two notions: 1) I don’t need religion to be spiritual and 2) I don’t need religion to be moral. Spirituality and ethics are found in ourselves, in our humanity. Religions tap into that, but they twist it to their own purpose. They find ways to interpret the rules to slide through a side door into greed, lust and all the other seven deadly ‘sins’.  It’s a game of moral “I am better than you.” – not spirituality.

Conclusion:

“Do no harm” and “Treat others as you would want to be treated” in some form appear in every religion.  The problem is I can say both of these and not be religious.  It is the strongest indicator that Christopher Hitchens was right, that morality comes from simply being human, but religions steal that notion and then add their own so that certain groups of people gain and others lose. There is nothing moral about that and to pretend there is, well, that is just indoctrination talking.  Sorry, spent too much time as a religious person to not know that is true.

Continuing to Walk the Path,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

Odin’s Eye – Problems with Christianity – The ‘Christian Nation’ Myth

Happy Thor’s Day

Discussion:

I have book on my shelves called “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Gregory Boyd.  I know there is a rebuttal book out there to it and one day I have plans on reading both of them, but I stand with Boyd on this issue. I have read many of the founding fathers and there was little said at the founding of the nation about it being a Christian one. In fact part of the issue with the first amendment is this very thing – preventing any state religion including Christianity. No matter how much Christians would desire this to be true, it is not. If anything this is a deist nation or a secular one by design.

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In truth at the founding of the country under the current constitution, Christian preachers actually decried the fact that the document didn’t make Christianity the state religion.  The called the government it created ‘godless’. What we have is a nation founded on enlightenment principles which would make us more deistic and not Christian at all, as deists in general distrust religion including Christianity.

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Most of this mythology can actually be traced back the 1950s.  Yes, that recent because that is the time when people still fresh with the accomplishments of WWII with its patriotic fervor and feelings of threat from ‘godless communism”.  To combat this a lobbying movement started to do a lot of things, but some of the results were “under God’ in the pledge of allegiance; which basically excludes those who don’t believe, and “In God We Trust” which replaced “Mind Your Business” on the money.

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The results of this is a generation who grew up with both of these things and many of them will tell you they have always been there; but they haven’t.  Personally the old pledge was far more inclusive and the motto “Mind Your Business” would have been a better lesson of “Mind Your OWN Business” which would probably lead to less offended people these days.

See the source imageThe main issue for me is as I watch Christians, is that they use this myth to justify political involvement. To press a Christian agenda on the nation like they were trying to get it back to its roots.  The roots of this nation were never Christian to begin with and the problems this has caused far outweighed the benefits. It pretty much has caused more division in the nation than it ever has unity. I realize I am suggesting that perhaps Christians would be better off dropping the myth and most of them will not listen, but the truth of it is – the Christian nation myth is just that a myth. Believing in mythology as if it is fact has never done anyone any good.

Time to Look Through the Eye:

Faith:

The painful truth is you cannot make anyone believe something by force.  No matter what draconian measures are taken to order people’s behaviors, their beliefs will always remain their own.  Their thoughts and feeling on things are their own.  Faith cannot be forced and it is the height of folly to think otherwise. People believe what they want to believe and to try to make them believe something else by force is sheer folly. You can only cause outward behavior to line up with your faith’s moral rules. This does not have the effect that is intended; which it to make the person believe, but rather it creates resentment and often underground activities that break those moral codes. The moment people can shake those moral codes off they do.  Religious dictatorships end in revolution and rejection as historically they are the most brutal along side of communist ones.

Religion:

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Historically, there is really only one reason to claim something is about God and that it to give you such moral authority, that people never question your real motives. Christians invoking the Christian nation myth, often claim that their actions are trying to get the nation back to its roots. But the root of this nation are deistic and rational, not Christian and emotional. Christians use the myth (which is a falsehood) to secure certain support politically and this is more about marrying their religion to the state which is something the 1st amendment strictly forbids.

Theology:

I have never been sure about the theology of this.  Part of Catholic theology has had the theology of violent overthrow of government that oppressive, but this theology has never been official sanctioned. On the flip side if one can through democratic means enlist this idea then the church has never been reluctant to join themselves to the state with past theologies like the divine right of kings and for Protestants in America – manifest destiny. Almost always the theological paring of faith and state has disastrous consequences for some other group of people who the people of faith dislike. They then use the state to not only do the dirty work of oppression but often engage in murder, theft and rape while they do so.

Theologically speaking, Christians some to forget that whole ‘love thy neighbor’ commandment.  Through their marriage to the state they can eliminate their enemies and opponents using the state, while all the while claiming to love the people they are eliminating. It’s a relationship that allows power while at the same time claiming something else. No church-state marriage has ended without they happy couple destroying someone else that the church claims to love, while at the same time sanctioning the state doing the killing.

Spirituality:

I don’t have time for this anymore.  My main concern as a deist is that all faiths have equal voice and that no one faith gains so much power it can eliminate the others. Spiritually my humanism hits here as well.  I was Born on Earth, I am one member of the human race. My politics are to be free and let others be free as well. My religion is simply to love. Yeah, that sounds actually like more of what the founders were aiming for and doesn’t involve propagating the mythology of the United States being a Christian Nation.

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Conclusion:

I used start each church service with the pledge of allegiance, and we were very patriotic.  I however knew for a long time that the Christian nation thing was a new addition historically.  I am ultimately glad to be rid of it.  It doesn’t need to be Christian nation to be a good nation.  It needs to respect my rights and liberties and the rights and liberties of my fellow citizens more than anything else.  Part of that is not allowing Christianity to be the state religion because as always it will abuse such power. This myth is one of the ways it seeks such power and it needs to be called out for what it is – mythology.

Continuing to Walk the Path,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

Odin’s Eye – My Deism

 

Happy Thor’s Day

I suppose my belief system is a little complicated. However, at its root or its central tenet is being a deist. However my deism, is not of the same flavor as most people would think of it; nor is it classical deism. Some of the things classical deism upholds, I have modified a little.

  1. Deism would maintain at single creator based on reason.  I would say based on reason, you can’t dismiss the idea of a group of powerful beings being the creators following a common plan or that the universe itself is the creator. I hold out a lot of possibilities here as far as what the guiding force behind our origin might be, if any.
  2. I do maintain with the deists that there is an order and complexity to the universe that imply a creator or creators of some kind.
  3. I agree that there is a limit to human knowledge and understanding that makes it hard; if not impossible, to understand the full nature of the divine.
  4. What ever divine power or powers exist have given man his faculties to both create and uphold his own ethical and moral principles.
  5. Human beings should indeed be free to find, know and worship these divine force or forces in their own way. All views of the divine are to be respected as long as they don’t violate the rights of others.
  6. All human beings are equal creations of this divine power. As such they are accorded rights based on that natural equality.  I do have some things I debate about rights at this point though. More on that at some other time.

Faith:

As far as faith in the divine goes, I have faith that something exists at the present.  I have an active faith in the existence of something divine. I must state for the record, that I can no longer dismiss the notion that the atheist might be right but at the same time I simply do not think humanity has achieved a level of knowledge that can say – “There is No God” with 100% confidence. I believe there is something out there that we cannot comprehend and that no religion can truly explain.

Religion:

I maintain that people have their right to any religion they like including the right to not have one at all.  I draw the line however with any religion whose followers want to impose their views, ethics and moral code on others.   If you use your religion to justify harming others or force them to take certain actions because of it; I would say that is wrong as well. Religion is very much like a penis, as one actress in a movie remarked, and should have the same societal limitations.

See the source imageTheology:

As a long time theologian ( yes, I have degrees in Biblical Studies and Theology), I used to rely on special revelation; namely the Holy Bible of Protestant Christianity, for my foundation for my work in theology.  Having come to recognize fully that the Bible is a fully human book and that the divine has little to do with, I have to look at how to understand the divine differently.

There is no such thing as special revelation in the sense any so-called holy book is a direct revelation of God. You might find the divine revealed in the human thoughts that are presented in such books; as the authors discuss and tell you what they think about the divine, but those thoughts are human not divine.  To do theology as a deist, I am left with my own reason as I observe the world around me.  I am left with my human facilities alone as I observe and think about the divine.  Part of that is perhaps looking at religions to find certain foundational beliefs common to all that can be helpful in this process, but no one stands the divine better than another.  They all may have some truth, but none of them have THE TRUTH.

Spirituality: 

Deism allows me to engage one other thing and that is to explore the possibility that there is more to humanity than the biochemistry we are left with, if we remove the divine from the equation.   That there is a possibility that man is more than body, mind and emotions but has a spiritual side and an immortal soul. I probably engage this with my more pagan side of my belief system, but it is deism that opens the door to it.

Conclusion: 

I have fully embraced the notion of pursuing the real divine that actually exists without special revelation.  Natural revelation makes things far more interesting and to be honest, more difficult.  But there is a greater honesty to deism as compared to religious pursuits of the divine that I used to embrace.  Only time will tell where this will lead me.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

Odin’s Eye – Objections to Christianity – Part 3 – The Cross and Empty Tomb – An Imaginary Solution to an Imaginary Problem.

Happy Thor’s Day

Introduction:

I know I will probably get a reaction out of this one and I am not trying to be provocative.  I am simply trying to get people to see the logical problems of Salvation through Christ.  Once you dismiss sin as a made up concept, you could say that it is really unnecessary to go after ‘God’s’ solution to the problem, but the whole of Christianity revolves around Christ’s work on the cross and the resurrection to save people from sin and from eternal damnation. You might say it is the core doctrine no matter what flavor of Christianity you live by so it deserves some attention.

Faith:

Of course, the first thing each flavor of Christianity stakes out is how said salvation is achieved with Christ.  The faith versus works controversy starts right away in the first century. James and Paul go at it right in the Bible.  Now I heard multiple explanations from both Protestants and Catholics of why James and Paul are not arguing about the same thing really but they practically quote each other with only one variation.  One says salvation in Christ cannot be of works so no one can boast, and the other one says that without works it is impossible to show faith. No matter how you logically try to get them to be ‘defending the same salvation only from different directions”; it is contradictory.  One is saying that works have nothing to do with salvation, and the other is saying it does.

So what this really shows is that even in the Bible and among early Christians, they had disputes and disagreements about how this works and thus it points to the Bible not being inspired by God so much as it records those early debates among the faithful about how salvation worked.  That makes the Bible very human and also not the Word of God because if God had actually wanted to tell us how this works because it seems it would be the most important thing for us to know, he would have made it plain, straightforward and quite frankly non-contradictory.

Religion:

Of course, every flavor of Christianity goes even further with specifics and added on things to the doctrine of salvation in Christ.  The Catholic Church plain out tells you that you can only be saved from death through them and no one else.  Many Protestant denominations will tell you the same.  My former denomination would tell people that they had the whole gospel, not just part of it.  Salvation is complicated by religion because religion seeks to use these ideas to keep people grateful and faithful for telling those people their version of ‘the truth’.

Theology:

Religion aside though, my objections are theological – what kind of God do we have, who claims to be merciful and loving, but demands for his followers to be forgiving without condition but doesn’t do so himself?  It also brings up the question of the ability to forgive in that we are expected to forgive each other without condition because we can, even as sinners. Yet, a holy God can’t simply forgive without sacrificing his only begotten son in one of the cruelest ways ever devised by man.  He must have this sacrifice or he cannot forgive at all and I must have faith in it and the resurrection or he will not forgive me specifically.  Worse yet if I don’t forgive others as a Christian, he won’t forgive me. He can choose to not forgive others and still be a holy God, but if I don’t forgive, I cannot be saved?  So I as a ‘sinner’ have not only a greater expectation than my creator but also I am more capable because I can do this forgiveness without conditions, but he cannot?

This bit of ‘logic’ pales in comparison to the fact that in order to forgive us he must sacrifice himself to himself, to appease himself to save us from himself. See the problem? Well Ed, what if then the whole doctrine of salvation as it currently stands is man-made and that isn’t the real one?  My response – exactly and that is probably true from the start of Christianity to where it actually stands today.   It seems to me that this idea is just as man-made because a supreme being could have come up with the simple plan to just forgive people. As Jesus is praying in the garden “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” we would see the opening up the heavens and God saying -“You know what, I have a better plan – let’s just forgive people like I expect them to forgive each other.” That would be just, logical and consistent.

There is also another theological side issue – How much of a sacrifice is it really for Jesus if he knows for certain (which he indicates three times in the gospels) that he will rise from the dead?  Honestly, if he knew that and most people who have faith believe he did and the text certainly seems to indicate he did, then it isn’t that big of a sacrifice? He knows he is not going to ultimately be dead in the end, so why not do it as there is no ultimate risk to him?  In the end, Jesus is risking nothing himself as God, just going through the inconvenience of temporal suffering.  Why? To make a point? What point would that be, when there is nothing actually sacrificed in the end?

Spirituality:

I guess this leaves me with the question from a spiritual point of view as to what salvation is? Or does it?  I mean, if there is no such thing as sin, there is no need to be saved from it. Of course, then I could be left with the question of what the real divine reality might expect from me?  I guess only thing then is to live a good life regardless of what that divine reality might be. Marcus Aurelius rightly observes, in my opinion, this in his famous quote on the good life.

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Of course, you are kind of left to things yourself as to define what virtues you will live by to attain that good life. In short, what is defined as a good life is left to you.

Conclusion:

So with number three down, I am left with my final objection to consider at the end of this month concerning Christianity and the Christian god. Namely that the justice of the God of the Bible is suspect, particularly when it comes to the doctrine of final destination – aka Hell.

The rest of the schedule for Odin’s Eye for 2018 is as follows:

December 13 – Why I Am A Pagan

December 21 – Yule

December 28 – Objections to Christianity – Part 4 – The Justice of the God (Hell)

Then it will be on to the New Year.

I want to note at this point that once mt last objection is laid bare, I will be putting all four of them in one page so that if anyone, want’s to attempt to answer them, I will gladly hear you out and respond at that point.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!