I’ve been making my way slowly through the book Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman and am more and more convinced that there is no such thing as a “true” text of scripture, let alone an inerrant scripture or a “verbally inspired” scripture. There ain’t no such animal. It’s all verbal and doctrinal gymnastics to keep the faithful ignorant. I think that’s precisely the dirty, little secret of textual critics or anyone else who’s been to a university not tainted by religious bias and committed to honest inquiry. There is no “text” of scripture at all, but several letters, treatises, gospels, and other bits and pieces that were chosen randomly by a bishop here or another teacher there according to their whims at the time. No women were allowed to choose the texts, even though women were apostles and prophets as well. God no more orchestrated the gathering of these bits and pieces together than Zeus orchestrated the gathering of all of his children from several different mothers for a family reunion of the gods in ancient Greece. Of course, I always knew this from my own studies. Ehrman just solidified it for me.
Ehrman began his career as a conservative Moody Bible College graduate who, after working his way to a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, realized that what he was taught as an ultra-conservative fundamentalist Christian just didn’t jibe with the facts. In fact, the tossing about of texts, the castigating of those of differing opinions, and the fighting over words went on from the very beginning of Christianity…
In a recent post here HeIsSailing offered this wonderful glimpse into his soul:
But I want to believe. I want to believe that there is hope for us here on earth, comfort for the sick and needy, help for the helpless and love for the unloved. I want to believe in assurance for abundant life here on earth, and everlasting life in the hereafter. I want to believe that I will spend all eternity with my wife, the woman that I love. I want to believe there is hope in the future, there is relief when I get older, and there is confidence of my eternity.
Oh, how I can believe this! I have coined a similar type of feeling that I fall into, much like HeIsSailing. I call it spiritual depression. To me, and this is ONLY my definition and no one else’s, spiritual depression is that limbo of the gray area surrounding cognitive dissonance where you want to believe one thing, but your mind tells you something else. It’s the heart/mind dichotomy. Now depending on which viewpoint you take on the extreme spectrum of believer to atheist, there are different reasons for this depression and different cures for it. Neither view solves the dilemma and leaves one even more spiritual depressed…
Related Post: Why Do Christians Try So Hard To Convert Others?
I’ve come to the conclusion once and for all that a male god, especially as presented and defined by fundamentalist Christianity (or any other religion) is not good for women’s mental health. Millions of men swear by the good ole boy in the sky, but I can’t. I think millions of women are just like me, too. I sincerely believe that we concoct our own gods out of our various upbringings. Roopster’s Creation Story pretty much sums up what I believe happened with religion over the centuries. The gods are of our own making. Therefore it makes sense that the myth makers in history, being mostly male, concocted the god of their choosing.
Coming out of fundamentalist religion, which is completely patriarchal, is very hard, emotionally. The threat of hell and punishment is everywhere in the corners of your psyche. The god of fundamentalism is portrayed in the bible and in church and in all the literature as a punishing daddy who wields a rod of chastisement like nobody’s business. Oh the preachers all say god is merciful and loving, but that’s just double-speak. It’s to prevent reasonable people like you and me from running from the church. This god found in the bible and in church is the idol of every fundie parent’s eye and the supreme model for punishing their own children. I find this abhorrent. For every child out there suffering under the rods of their fathers and mothers steeped in fundamentalism, perpetuating the god as father image is tantamount to spiritual and emotional abuse of the worst order. To hold out this god as the ideal husband and father is abusive in itself…
Daniel C. Dennett, in his wonderful book Breaking the Spell: Religion as Natural Phenomenon, puts forth the theory that religion may be an outgrowth of the needs of the human community in its evolutionary process.
He likens religion to two natural evolutionary phenomenon. The first is the “sweet-tooth theory” which asks, “Might we have a god center in our brains along with our sweet tooth? What would it be for? What would pay for it?…God may just be the latest and most intense confection that triggers the whatsis center in so many people. What benefit accrued to those who satisfied their whatsis craving? It could even be that there isn’t and never has been any actual target in the world to obtain, but just an imaginary or virtual target, in effect: it’s been the seeking, not the getting, that has had a fitness advantage…Is religion itself a subspecies of folk medicine, in which we self-medicate for relief, using therapies honed by thousands of years of trial-and-error development?” (Dennett, 83).
I recently watched Brian Flemming’s The God Who Wasn’t There DVD and I must confess that I was a little disappointed. I took notes and may comment more in depth later, but the general impression I got was that, as usual, the points Flemming was making about Christianity seemed like cheap shots. He used clips of rabid Christians speaking in the 70s. He chose cheesy “C” movies to relate bible stories as background, and he even managed to equate Charles Manson and Pat Robertson in the same montage as if these people had something in common. I’m sorry, but just because a maniac like Manson uses biblical imagery to fashion his own apocalyptic vision of society, it does not mean Christianity was the cause of his psychosis. That’s stretching it. Oh, yes, and the usual Bush created Abu Ghraib montage was in there as well. Never mind the fact that Abu Ghraib was probably in existence long before Bush took office.
I’m not an apologist for Christianity by any means, but this documentary makes me want to be one simply because of the sloppy, underhanded ways that Flemming tries to present his view of history and how he tries to make Christians look ridiculous.