Reading from “A History of God”. Page 92.
“Nobody expected religion to be a challenge or to provide an answer to the meaning of life. People turned to philosophy for that kind of enlightenment. In the Roman empire of late antiquity, people worshipped the gods to ask for help during a crisis, to secure a divine blessing for the state and to experience a healing sense of continuity with the past. Religon was a matter of cult and ritual rather than ideas; it was b ased on emoiton, not on ideaology or consciously adopted theory. This is not an unfamiliar attitude today: many of the people who attend religious servicees in our own society are not interested in theology, want nothing too exotic and dislike the idea of change. They find that the established rituals provide them with a link with tradition and give them a sense of security. They do not expect brilliant ideas from the sermon and are disturbed by changes in the liturgy.
Interesting thought here. I can see the parallel.
In taking my class on Religion in the Roman Empire, and Ancient Greek Philosophy, as well as The Philosophy of Religion, as well as my various readings over the years in Spinoza… I can see the influences on Spinoza’s thought. I can see also appreciate some of the thoughts, the directions, the intentions of some of the early Christians who were very important in helping the backwater religion of Christianity develop its arguments and stances for the educated pagans of the day. One can make a good case that without Greek Philosophy to buffer its shortcomings, Christianity might not have grown as much as it did.
<lj-cut text="more to read. Stay away if you are frightful ">
But this is conjecture and speculation on my part. Not particularly helpful.
My main problem is with Sin. I hold the point that there is no sin. There is a fear among many Christians of a place called Hell. This keeps their butts in the pews and going through the motions of piety. They know their hearts are not in it, but they go through enough of the dance and hope that they will not go to Hell. Hell was a pretty nifty meme invented by the Church to keep their power. Power, it would seem from history's records, does corupt.
So one has sin and one goes to hell unless you play by the right set of rules. But how does one get sin?
God is All. Correct? There is nothing that is not of God nor is not infused with God. This might or might not be accepted by some Christians today. It was held/discounted by Christians back in the Roman empire. The nature of God has been a topic of debate, as well as instant ticket to a stoning or burning, for centuries. (by the way… allow me to communicate to you the love of God by burning you at the stake, or blowing up your abortion clinic). Jesus, as I firmly believe, was not God, nor do I believe he made himse out to be God. The author of the book makes a pretty good case that Jesus isn't the only one referred to as "Son of God" (David was also in Psalms), nor was it odd or rare that a voice from Heaven proclaim that "this is my son" as this sort of voice was common among rabbis. It is an old belief in Hindu, and really many religions, that the divine in me greets the divine in you. We each hold within us a tie to the essence of the Divine. It is not uncommon to find the sentiment of "I am the son of God/dess" in many relgions today (take for example modern pagans) or during the times of Christ.
It also might be of interest to some to read accounts of Apollonious of Apollodora, a pagan holy man that performed miracles, had visions, healed the sick, etc… At the time of Jesus it wasn't uncommon for holy men (including pagans) to be able to do this sort of thing.
Oh, I forgot the bible school tales of Old Testament prophets in a spiritual contest against the evil, spiteful, and stupid pagan priests. Mind you that the authors of these texts, nor the re-writers of the re-writters of these re-written text created from orally passed down tradition are not in the slightest way biases at all in their tellings. I'm sure that the slaves who worship a vengeful war god named Yahwah (who himself does not proclaim that there aren't any other gods… only that you cannot worthips any other gods but him) who were controlled by the Egyptians had no bias at all in their tellings of how the pathetic Egyptian priests had no answer, their magic useles in the fury of Yahweh. No… I'm sure there is none at all.
So, reading outside of the texts the Christians accept one finds a large amount of writing in history of other holy men of other gods performing miracles as well. One also finds a great number of differences in Christianity at its beginning. The gospels, taken as eyewitness accounts, were not written until about 70 years after Jesus' death. The earliest one being Mark, and it doesn't begin with Jesus nativity scene… but as Jesus as walking in the desert preaching his word.
I should note that I have no problem with Jesus, nor his teaching. It is simply too bad that I've not met a real Christian yet. How many people on this Earth call themselves Christian? By their own beliefs they say that only a few will make it to Heaven. Seems to back up my point a bit. Of course, don't get me started on the love, mercy, and understanding of a God that creates a place called Hell to send to burn in for eternity. No matter what the sin(s) are… this is not the action of a loving, just, compassionate god. Can I launch nuclear weapons on Cleveland because a guy from there stole my iPod? If that qustion is ridiculous, you agree with me on the notion of Hell.
Again, I have no problem with Jesus. He was a cool guy. He taught a good message on the Sermon on the Mount. Charity to your neighbor. Love. Giving. Sheesh… he might have been Communist for all I know (though the term and organized thought we call communism didn't formally begin until centuries later.) I do not believe that he thought himself God, but that he taught a way that brought one closer in relationship with God, a god that was loving and kind and merciful.
So anyway, why would God, that is omnipresent need to seperate itself to know itself? Why did God create anything? Any answer seems to give me the answer that this orginal state of God was not perfect. And if it was so, he did a botched up job in the beginning. How do you take any other meaning from Noah's Arc other than "whoops… this batch was crap… time to start over again with more humans from one better seed." ? Really. I'm dying to know.
So God is not omnipresent. If he was, then he would not be in any way shape or form involved in, say, an axe murderer takign a hit of meth and killing his family while listening to Ozzy Oabourne.
But God is present in our hearts.
Really? So God's presence is so small in the heart of the axe murderer that he cannot feel it and he kills the family?
Another question or two and I'm landing this post square into the question of God and evil (how can a just God permit evil to exist?) and I don't want to go there.
But God is present in our hearts and when one is filled with it, opens one's self to it, one begins to think of others and to behave in a more righteous manner.
Uh oh… used the word "behave" in an argument.
Okay, so Jesus was showing man how to behave in a manner that allowed one to sense the spark of God within us, to live a life that would allow this feeling to grow, and to live a rich life of rightrousness? You know, correct me if I’m wrong, but Jesus wasn’t the first to do so. Others have contemplated on what the good life was and how to live it. First thought out of the hat is Epicurous, though pretty much any culture, philosophy, time, and society have all given energy to this question.
But Jesus said that his way was the ONLY way.
Okay, again, the Bible is not word for word, is not completely accurate, and is not an eyewitness account. For someone with so much important stuff to say, Jesus didn’t say all that much in the New Testament. I sure that, some three hundred years after his death when the Church finally got their dogma together and declared Jesus as God, that there was no competing scriptures in circulation of the various Christians, no violent fights among rival Christians, no revisions in various scriptures… oh wait… there was. So much for taking the Bible as literal and suspending critical thought.
If I ever have children I want them to think for themselves. If one should choose to become Christian, then I hope that he/she will do so out of love and thought and to truly follow the words of Christ instead of being a fearful dogma driven machine of the various churches that, as far as I see, are more concerned with cementing their power base than spreading love. To be fair, there are many Christians who work in missionaries, homes, shelters, hospitals, and such… and these I call Christian. The blind herds of people who go to church on Sunday, who condemm everything as evil that is not of their particular sect, who are ready to condemn the world of humanity to an eternal Hell… these I do not call Christians, but the prophets of fear and hate.