Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Social Epistemology / Religion / Christianity /
@ K. 2004 09 22
Christianity — Has God’s Messages Wrong
Mission: to reassert that Christianity has its messages wrong: Jesus and all other saviors have FAILED to save us
For a decade now pk has scribbled about God, god, religion, Christianity … apologizing the while for not yet getting it all coordinated, edited down to an efficient message, as simple as possible. Again I have to say something (partly repetition) but don’t have time or energy to coordinate it with what’s here: so it’s a note to be integrated.
Whoops, my cross image wasn’t loading.
Christianity is a religion. Not a science, not a philosophy. Religions are based on faith; not on evidence. The religious may see all sorts of evidence, but the evidence is not rigorously gathered or falsified: it doesn’t qualify. Durkheim observed that all religions have in common the belief that members can distinguish between sacred and profane. Durkheim also pointed out (and I repeat) that not all religions have a “god.” I believe the question should be asked: don’t they all believe in magic? in something magical? Indeed, isn’t the belief that human beings can distinguish sacred from profane magical? Could we prove it? Could we prove that there indeed are such things as sacred or profane to be distinguished?
I hope that the reader is already familiar with the fact that pk distinguishes between god with a capital G and god with a lower case G. I was raised to believe in God. I no longer even respect God; but I have never not “believed” in god: provided that care is taken to understand what I mean by god: that the hearer or reader has the processing capacity to follow the argument. (For every example in my experience of my believing that someone understands what I’m saying I have N thousand examples of the opposite!)
Already too many words are going by: here’s what I want to add:
Christianity (of more than one stripe) teaches that God sent Jesus to save us. The Passion of Jesus is an example of God’s compassion. Both God and Jesus know us, know us to the core, and want to forgive us for being human: first create, then blame, then save.
I now see that story very differently. God sent Jesus to show us a path that would indeed make human life worth living. We did everything then, and we’ve done everything since, not to see it!
But that’s nothing new. The Jews didn’t listen to Noah, or to Moses …
The Temple of Jerusalem not only didn’t hear Jesus well, then stopped him from talking: permanently. We have some words that some men wrote down: much latter. Something of an interesting message comes through anyway. However garbled, however edited by this and that agenda, Jesus said something, showed something. Or maybe Jesus was a fraud: and talked gibberish. That’s OK: other geniuses, other saints, other smart well-intended helpers have come: and still come: and still receive the same kind of treatment.
Before I go further, let me clarify, again clarify: I do not believe that god is magical (I do believe that God is magical). God (small g) is a synonym for what’s true about everything. The universe exists, right? Well, it came to be: somehow. That’s god.
It’s foolish to quarrel about niceties of diction: that god created the universe, the world, life, man, whatever … That’s putting a constraint on god. It’s not our business to tell the universe what it should be or how it should have come about. Our business, if we want to survive, is to figure out how to live: in the universe as it really is.
And there lots of others have tried to help. Darwin, for one. Abelard, for another. Saint Francis … How well did we treat any of them?
Virtue, the good life, tempted him in the dark like a sin.
The Heart of the Matter
Now: I talk about Judgment. Etc. Maybe I shouldn’t. Because I hope it’s clear that I don’t mean any of it literally. I don’t mean what I just said about the universe coming into being literally. Something happened: and English (or mathematics) is not sophisticated enough to symbolize it well without a lot of latitude.
In the life time of those of us older than three, Ivan Illich came among us. He became a priest in the Catholic Church. For years, the Church loved him. Promoted him, honored him. Ivan Illich tried to pass “messages” from god: to us: and to the Church! Just like the Temple with Jesus, the Church got rid of him, all but silenced him.
In the life time of those able to read this today, I came. I spent my youth talking to God, finally realized it was god, still tried to talk, still do. I received messages. I don’t want to quarrel about how, or from what: and they were non-verbal so don’t ask me to repeat words (if you do you’re a phoney!)
But I needn’t worry about that. No one, not once, since 1960 or so, with a church or without, has asked me what any of god’s messages were!
In Darwin’s universe, that spells death: for all of us false-sentiences. In the Christian universe, I see it as spelling universal damnation. But the hell with that: let’s stick with Darwin’s universe: it’s death! extinction! You want a fiery Hell too?
Still, the Christian metaphors are easiest to talk in. People know those words; they don’t know Darwin’s words. So: imagine that god is God. Imagine that God has a Judgment Day. Imagine that human time so far — 6,000 years of civilization, 40(maybe 50),000 years of talk-talk-talking, three to six million or so walking upright … (Did you hear? the skeleton of an upright primate has been found twice as old as Lucy!) is but the blink of an eye compared to “eternity” — or to infinite time, time maybe with a beginning, but time with no end, and imagining God actually paying attention to us as individuals. If you don’t believe me when I say that I had messages to convey, would you believe God? If God can show you movies of your life, interacting with mine, and God shows us you resisting the message, will you believe it then?
OK, you don’t believe in God. The Christian Churches can’t believe in God or they wouldn’t behave just like the Temple of Jerusalem. You don’t harmonize with my metaphors: fine. Do you harmonize with the Darwinian metaphor? No communication, no cooperation, pure kleptocracy … no future.
OK, back to the God metaphor again. Say God says to me, OK, Paul, I gave you a message: did you deliver it?
No, God. I failed. I tried and tried to deliver it: and others, also concerning survival, but I can’t demonstrate that a single one was ever received.
In primitive tribes, if you break the taboo, you broke the taboo: don’t bother with excuses. You saw your mother in law naked because the hurricane blew her roof off and left you paralyzed with a twig propping your eyelids open in her direction? You broke the taboo. Guilty.
But then wouldn’t Illich … Jesus have to give the same answer?
“Cheese, God, I even let them crucify me, I was even sarcastic to them at my trial … but no: I couldn’t save them. Forgive them or not: it’s up to you.
See? Whether God wants to forgive my failures is an entirely different subject from whether God wanted you to have a low-tech internet, at cost, in 1970.
If God has a hell, he can throw me into it: forever. And God can put the guy who stuck Jesus with the spear in a mansion in paradise. That’s up to God. But I don’t think he will. I don’t think god is like that.
I think that what god will do is whatever he’s already “done.” And that included some intelligences seeing things that would fit the way things are: fit better. And some intelligences inventing devices, patterns, ways to help: and trying to share them.
But once the majority has devoted thousands of years to switching sawdust for brains, we can just die and rot. Me too. Jesus, Illich … Thoreau, Spooner … Abelard … and Darwin.
Make more room for the cockroaches.
2004 10 02; Insults like the latter have piled up here at Knatz.com. I don’t mean them to but I don’t seem to be able to help it. And I’m not the first — or only — one. Jacques Cousteau concluded one of his films with footage of crabs crawling over the “face” of a broken plastic-little-girl doll: humans dead, crabs crawling over the dead human face.
All such rhetoric needs to be qualified (not that the audience for whom it’s intended understands what “qualify” means). Why shouldn’t crabs crawl over whatever trash has been dumped in their habitat? Are crabs or cockroaches “evil”? (Are humans “good”?) Cockroaches, crabs … aren’t the end of life. And neither is man. Life has no foreseeable “end.” (We don’t see its “beginning” very well either.) Human beings filled (then over-filled (so would crabs or cockroaches)) an opportunity in the biosphere. If that opportunity is changing (why shouldn’t it?), who should be surprised?
It’s an insult to life, to matter, to the universe (to god, to potential …) to imagine that rises shouldn’t be followed by declines OR that declines shouldn’t be followed by rises. Don’t sell the bacteria short. If “we” fail, they can make something else. (Give that something else enough time and it too will fail (maybe having too become “intelligent” en route).)
Shame on us: we confuse directions along a spectrum with discrete entities. Take “intelligence” for example. Is man more intelligent that crab? I don’t doubt it. But then crab is more intelligent than cockroach, and cockroach is more intelligent than lichen and lichen is more intelligent than blue-green alga … What’s more intelligent than man? We don’t know of any such creature.
But so what? Look further: in time if not in space. If man leaves nothing behind on earth except broken dolls on the reef, that will just clear new opportunities for new developments. And we’ve got to give them time.
Imagine a piece of real estate photographed at thousand year intervals: for many many thousand-year iterations. In one frame one oak tree fills the whole of the time slot. Several photos earlier, different trees were there. Several photos earlier still, it was a different environment altogether: scrub land, shallow sea … Several photos later it may again be scrub land or shallow sea. Several photos still later it may be a block in a city of some intelligence we can’t imagine.
Prigogine says time is infinite. Christian Eternities can be lost in a real infinity.
“Christian”: what does it mean? It would seem to mean “follower of Christ,” wouldn’t it? Has any population of people called Christian ever seemed to you like a collection of followers of Jesus (called Christ)? (or Jesus the man?)
Large numbers of people became Christian under Emperor Constantine. Were those people followers of the man who said to turn the other cheek? I don’t see it. They were following orders from a dictator.
In 1970 or 1971 Ivan Illich spoke at Fordham. I remember him “defining” Christian by asking, “Are you a Christian? or are you a son-of-a-bitch?”
To me Christians are the people who killed the Indians, lied in nearly all of their treaties, made and kept slaves, then dismissed the slaves without compensation … killed millions in Vietnam, unknowable numbers in place after place … These are the same people who don’t understand a word from Jesus, from Illich, from pk … the same people who license universities which understand no better, don’t even try.
Gospels Much Later
It’s well known that the gospels were written after the purported events. It’s understood by some that the purported authors couldn’t have been the actual authors. Good. I’ve said all that. But here’s a different point: Some of what’s reported as said by “Jesus” may copy things said before Jesus’ presumed lifetime! Some of the Sermon on the Mount for example, was recorded literature long before Jesus supposed birth!
Some of the Sermon on the Mount (and other utterances) may have predated Caesar, and Herod, etc.
we’re as likely to misreport things as younger as well as older. Jefferson could have been repeating saws said by his grandfather. Delayed publication does not have a monopoly on misrepresentation; neither does anticipated publication.
One thing that’s uniform, you can’t trust human publication, human utterance, human assurance.
(And when God gives us the answer, don’t trust that too far either.