I’m going to be honest. I think that there is one thing that scares humans so much that we make fantasy worlds that flow with milk and honey, worlds that are controlled by perfected beings of enlightened wisdom and ultimate power: the meaninglessness of life. Amongst the fury of passionate arguments in the responses to one of Roopster’s posts, one commenter (#42) randomly proclaimed,
“You are confused yourself Mr. Ape…
Try to understand. Why do you exist? What is your purpose in life? Do you exist to eat, work and sleep? Think again Mr. Ape…”
I shrugged off the comment along with the brutally useless dialogue I had gotten myself into. Yet I have come to understand that this seems to be a core issue whenever religionists of any sort proselytize to secularists, so I bookmarked the comment in my mind and promised myself to get around to it. We all know that the question itself is quite poor from an apologetic standpoint. Christianity, on any level, does not really offer any more “meaning” than any other religious movement. It is, rather, a purely rhetorical device that plays on an individual’s insecurity with who or what they are in the universe. It is used by almost every major religion, almost universally as a evangelical tool, or, at best, an apologetic for belief itself…
Every so often I am simply astonished by how theologically minded individuals can perform radical surgery on the Bible to cop out of adherence to moral depravities. What further amuses me is the blatantly ignorant “there are no Biblical contradictions” statement. Biblical depravity and contradiction always rears its head whenever criticism of the Old Testament is at hand. Defenders of Biblical integrity then argue that we cannot know God’s plan and so examples of child sacrifice and genocide may be brushed aside – sometimes God just needs to get his hands dirty to get the job done (and because those Egyptians and Hittites were going to sheol anyway). But do these sweeping apologetic brushes do for the law what they can do for their god’s character?
Any Biblical scholar, Christian or otherwise, knows that the Jewish religion is built on a strictly adhered to and enforced law of God, the Mitzvah: the 613 commands found in the Torah. This law is somewhat problematic for contemporary Biblical literalists for several reasons, the most obvious being that it just isn’t cool to put people to death for everything anymore…
Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when [men] shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all kind of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven… You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:10-14a)
It could be argued that this is the beginning of the Christian persecution complex – or at least the reason for it. Of course, the early church had plenty of “valid” reasons to be persecuted – their core beliefs were directly opposed to the established Jewish community from which they arose and, furthermore, the early Christians, especially of the Pauline variety, were downright treasonous in the eyes of the Caesar-worship of the time. These beliefs had little to do with morality, and everything to do with loyalty. Martyrdom – not the kamikaze murderous kind of present extremism – became an increasingly noble cause. In the time of Ignatius – writing in the late 1st century, possibly predating some canonical gospels and pseudo-Pauline epistles – martyrdom was perhaps the single greatest act of faith that a Christian could show (see Ignatius’ letter to the Romans). It was, after all, the ultimate act of following Christ…
In my last semester of my undergraduate studies, I took a seminar course on the early Christian church in Thessalonika. Much of the source material was, of course, Paul’s “first” letter to the Thessalonians – that is, the first letter that shows up in the Christian canon and that we have available to us. During my research for my term paper I came across some interesting statements regarding Paul, made by some very famous people in the last several centuries (there are several lists like this on the internet). It appears that Benjamin Franklin serendipitously anticipated this onslaught against Paul when he declared at Samuel Hemphill’s synod trial, “A virtuous heretic shall be saved before a wicked Christian.” Has modernity and postmodernity declared war on Paul? Are the attacks warranted? How do contemporary theologians defend such assaults?
St. Paul then, it seems, preach’d another and quite different Gospel from what was preach’d by Peter and the other Apostles. (Thomas Morgan, The Moral Philosopher, 1737)
I’m not sure about my title, I originally entitled this article, “To Suffer or Not To Suffer?” You tell me what is more appropriate.
Most of my best ideas come to me while in the shower. Most of my worst ideas also come to me while in the shower. My point – most of my ideas comes to me while in the shower. Since Scavella recently expressed disappointed with some of the recent articles for what may be considered straw man arguments, I felt that this might allow for some more philosophical argumentation. You will, however, have to excuse me for the lack of philosophical articulation in this post. Like most epiphanies, especially ones that happen in the shower, this one could easily be shot down with one sentence – I am looking for that one sentence. So theists, please help me with this one. This is not an argument against the existence of god/God/G-d. It is an argument against the incompatibility of earthly suffering and heaven.
One of my friends refers to himself as an “Irreligious Follower of Jesus,” another writes on her Facebook profile that “I’m in love with Jesus, its [sic] a relationship NOT religion.” Dan Kimball wrote a book called “They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations.” A recent commenter on this site wrote:
“Christianity is not about a religion… Christianity is about a relationship…” I even recall myself saying, on probably more than one occasion, “I’m not religious, I’m a Christian.”
What is this incessant need to disassociate Christianity from “religion?”
Is it because religion is too structured? Is religion barbaric? Is religion primitive and uncritical? What do these people mean when they say they are Christian, but not religious, or that the essence of Christianity is not religious. What do these Christians see about “religion” that makes them want to deny their religiousity?
I wrote this article awhile ago on my personal blog (August 13, 2006 to be exact), but Roopster gave me permission to re-submit some of my old works. I apologize if some of the links are out of date. This post is, of course, a polemic against Biblical literalism, not all Christians. So lets not go there. If you are a theistic evolutionist or whatever, good on yea, let’s move on.
I often wonder what is a greater threat to the Christian faith, the theory of evolution or the belief in creationism (currently passing itself off as “Intelligent Design”). Honestly, I hate writing about the subject and so this will probably be the only time you ever read about it from me. The reason that I am writing this now is the result of a recent article I read in the Globe and Mail (a nationwide Canadian newspaper). The article stated that the journal, Science, published a study that found only 40% of Americans believed in the theory of evolution and an astonishing 39% considered the theory “absolutely false”. Comparatively, at least 80% of citizens of Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and France believe that the theory of evolution it true. What is even more astonishing is that the percentage of “unsure” Americans has grown from 7% in 1985 to 21% in 2005. It is obvious that the culprit of the difference between Europe and the United States is religious fundamentalism.