Talking trees

The Pentecostal preacher leads us in a series of hymns. At the end of each, there’s a fluttering of voices, people saying, “Thank you, Jesus” or “Praise the Lord.” They repeat the same phrase over and over, each time with such feeling that it’s like a brand new thought—like they’ve never said it before. I’m starting to get the hang of this, these waves of exuberance washing over us. Here are the “Holy Rollers” I’ve heard about. I once imagined that nickname referred to writhing on the floor, but I’m starting to think it has more to do with the way the energy of their services climbs and dips like a roller coaster.

The preacher is a neatly coiffed older woman wearing chunky turquoise jewelry. I would never in a million years peg her for a Pentecostal preacher—more like a painter in Santa Fe or an art teacher in Berkeley. She is talking about feelings now: how they start as thoughts and end in actions. We are climbing. She says that while all those things matter, they are not the primary focus. She shouts, “God looks at the heart!” I brace myself. Any second, someone will yell in an incomprehensible language I’ve heard described as sounding like Hebrew. It is the perfect crescendo, the logical conclusion. Instead, the repetition of each person’s pet phrase of praise or gratitude winds down into something softer, more guttural, though I can’t make out if they are words. If I closed my eyes, I might think it was a stream running over rocks.

My ex-Pentecostal None friend insists it doesn’t always happen like that—sometimes people really will shout stuff in what is considered a foreign tongue. Others, she explains, might follow up by calling out the English version of those first shouters’ words. So what sounded like unfamiliar words might be translated as “God hates money!” Different individuals have the propensity towards one or the other—some have “the gift” of tongues, some the ability to understand those tongues.

But what I really want to know is how my friend feels about her own history of speaking in tongues. I expect her to claim it was all hogwash. It would certainly be an easier sell among her new crowd to dismiss this past behavior as an aberration—but she doesn’t. She can remember twice being moved to speak in tongues and both times, she says, it felt like a genuine response coming from the depths of her own being. She says she made the same sound over and over again. She tells me, “Maybe I was saying, ‘red’ in Hebrew or ‘squash’ in Korean, but it felt like I was saying, ‘God, you’re cool!’”

I leave the Pentecostal service feeling more upbeat than I have in weeks. All that exuberance has rubbed off on me and I’m almost giddy, like I’ve popped a dozen Prozac. It reminds me of the part of the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy is in the dark forest and unexpectedly one of the big trees starts to talk. When I saw the Wizard of Oz for the first time, I thought nothing could be more frightening: the trunk shifted to reveal facial features, the bark formed a mouth. I wanted to scream. I wanted switch off the television and run from the room. But I waited, frozen in place. I looked out from squinted eyes as the tree says a few things, and then Dorothy says a few things back. Then I laughed at my initial reaction: what’s so scary about a talking tree? Even if it has a face, it’s still just a tree. It can’t chase you. A tree that talks is kind of cool. It doesn’t even compare to the flying monkeys.

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23 thoughts on “Talking trees

  1. Oh! You wrote that so well. It has always intrigued me that most of the women in these movements love to dress up with lots of jewelry.
    After the Quaker silence I guess this woke you up. Ha! You be jivin’.

    • “Showy jewelry?”

      Ooops: someone forgot the Bible’s words at 1 Tim 2:9:

      “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.”

      “Women preachers?”

      Obviously amnesia of Paul’s words at 1 Cor 14:34, where he says that women are to be TAUGHT, but NEVER may assume the teaching role in church:

      “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

      Oh, 1 Tim 2-11/12 repeats the same misogynistic attitude:

      “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

      In Paul’s defense, his words were based on Jewish beliefs prohibiting women from meddling in ‘men’s business’ (and being a rabbi was a man’s game); in the Talmud, Rabbi Eliezer declared, ‘There is no wisdom in a woman except with the distaff’ (a device used to weave fabric). A Talmudic version bars the education of women: ‘It is better that the words of the Law should be burned, than that they should be given to a women.’ In the Mishnah, ‘If a man gives his daughter a knowledge of the Law it is as though he taught her lechery.’

      So in that regard, Paul and Jesus are freakin’ progressives by allowing women to be educated alongside the men. Of course, this policy change was necessary if Paul ever expected Gentiles to adopt Xianity: most neighboring cultures were far more progressive, so Paul HAD to update Judaism to accommodate (AKA syncretism), although clearly it’s an insult to most people who cannot justify such sexual discrimination.

      “Speaking in tongues during worship?”

      Paul covered that in 1st Cor 14:

      (NOTE: ‘Prophecy’ below doesn’t refer to predicting future events (eg “God tells me the Louisville Cardinals will win NCAA March Madness tourney”, etc), but EXPLAINING the prophecies found in the OT TO OTHER BELIEVERS; hence, ‘prophecy’ means communicating other believers of the deeper interpretations of prophecies found in the Bible):

      1 “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. 4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.”

      6 “But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching? 7 Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp? 8 For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? 9 So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. 11 If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me. 12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.”

      13 “Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.”

      See what Paul did there? His admonition is that those who are going to speak in tongues (AKA babble) should interpret their babble immediately afterwards, just to let other believers know what you just said ie to phophecy to them. Can you say, ‘stupid human party trick’, serving as your own interpreter? 🙂

      Paul continues:

      20 “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE, AND EVEN SO THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME,” says the Lord. 22 So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.”

      But here’s where Paul clamps down in SIT during worship, telling them to tone it down a bit, realizing the practice just ain’t that impressive to any but yokels, and it might back-fire:

      23 “Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.”

      26 “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; 28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. 30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; 33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”

      (snip)
      39 “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.”

      Now, Obvious Guy just HAS to point out:

      Since SIT is SUPPOSED to be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, where messages are supposedly coming directly inspired by God, then why cannot the Holy Spirit selectively broadcast to “gifted” individuals in a sequential manner (one at a time), to avoid interference and confusion? For if God’s Holy Spirit is simultaneously broadcasting on multiple ‘channels’, then the Holy Spirit’s I.T. Department is in dire need of a multi-plexer/demulti-plexer to prevent such ‘cross-talk’. Then there’d be no need for such “rules of worship”, where Paul giving such rules is pretty damned incriminating, in-and-of-itself.

  2. God is not the author of confusion so whoever wrote this churches script skitters down dark passageways…don’t coax them into the light!

  3. I have no clear rememberance of exactly how/why I stumbled on your blog about half a dozen posts ago and subscribed because I liked the combination of your writing style and the subject. I now find myself now looking forward to the next installment of your journey. I have been through my own “try at least learn about everything” phase a few years ago … but ended up back where I had started, a plain old simple None. In the Religion box, wherever I come across it, I now put “Tolerance Service Pack for Brains”. Love them all, for the alternative just sucks. Your journey is so much more rich in detail and full immersion experimentation I can only but continue to follow your journey and reflect upon my own. Keep Going! Goddess Bless! (Goddess being a team effort, probably)

    • Hi Dave, It’s great to hear from new voices, thank you so much for commenting–and also for being here. I think it’s very interesting that you ended up back at None because you love them all too much to choose. That’s a beautiful sentiment. Onward I forge!

  4. Well but sometimes it is the flying monkeys. I went to a church for 2 years that was big on prophecy. The minister or an elder would get a Word from the Lord for random people in the pews. Whenever she started that up, I’d always slink down low in my seat. What would happen, she’d approach someone, she’d speak in tongues a bit, then say something like, “You must cease your wandering, saith the Lord, and cleave to the wife of your bosom.” (Guess the whole church just got told that Joe’s been messin around on the little woman.) The whole time everyone else is praising the Lord all kinds of loud, and weeping. Sometimes there would be slaying in the Spirit. You have probably seen this on TV. These things always creeped me out, the way the flying monkeys always creeped me out.

    It was almost a cultural, more than a spiritual thing. Like everyone had gotten used to a certain type of emotional worship that had these elements in it, and would be disappointed if something didn’t happen. I hate to say it, but it was almost like they were looking to get high.

  5. Phunny Stuph !! I enjoy everyone’s comments. There is certainly a broad picture being held before us in Corinna’s blog. In some ways I am reminded of the words of the mystic Rumi who said something like: “Beyond the fields of right and wrong there is another field. I’ll meet you there.”

  6. I find the charismatic experience fascinating … if not always helpful, and often confusing. When we were young Christians (young in faith AND life), we went to Bible school where we were instructed that the Charismatics were of the devil, ie, possessed by some spirit other than God’s Spirit. One problem was that, in the early 1970s in Bible belt Wisconsin, our teachers seemed to fear speaking too much about the Holy Spirit, lest they associated with those “charismaniacs”. Looking back, I call this “Bible belt McCarthyism” since those who advocated being “bold for the Lord” always appeared fearful of what those around them thought if they suspected some sort of doctrinal deviation. It’s all well and good to look back at it now and be able to recognize more clearly what was going on…but this sort of fearful thinking, along with my own natural inclinations to be a “people pleaser” didn’t help me to be honest with many people about what I really believed.

    I now look at that woman preacher, and even though I would heartily disagree with a lot of what was going on in “her” church, I don’t sit in judgment because I know how much confusion there is out there and how many, presuming to be teachers, have pushed people to think that this sort of thing is a “requirement” for those who want to truly demonstrate their growth in spirituality. One thoroughly true thing she said from her pulpit was, “God looks at the heart.” I am so glad he does. I can trust him to look and see my heart and still love me with his father heart. One of my sons and his wife have been involved in a Four-Square Gospel church (Amy Semple McPherson) forever, and while we disagree on some of that stuff, they are godly people, seeking to follow Jesus, to worship honestly and serve others with their whole heart and teaching their children to do the same.

    I envy you in one way, Corinna: you have been looking at lot of things with fresh eyes and telling what you see without having your opinions dictated by others (probably some of your commentators would love to inject their beliefs or non-beliefs into you). I’ve spent a life-time going around and coming back to a similar sort of position as you’re starting off with. I don’ t begrudge that….I’m having the time of my life just getting to know Jesus again and looking at some of what I’ve been taught with (I hope and pray) what is closer to his perspective…..

    Ciao! Walt

    • ps: Do you suppose there will be talking trees and flying monkeys (the non-creepy type) in the new heaven and earth? I once heard a famous preacher talking about dogs and other pets in heaven. There are a lot of people who, when confronted with the loss of a pet, are convinced they will be in heaven–mostly because they can’t imagine being without them. I usually hear that idea poo poo’d because animals can’t be “saved.” But this preacher shocked me, then fascinated me, as he pointed out with some God-given good sense, that God created this earth for us to enjoy and take care of, and he gave us the animals not just as food, but as companions. And why would he not also provide animals to company with us in the new earth?
      Jesus came to announce good news….not some sterile existence strumming harps in heaven and wishing we’d brought a magazine along, but real life to live and enjoy and thrive and celebrate!

      • Walt said:

        “But this preacher shocked me, then fascinated me, as he pointed out with some God-given good sense, that God created this earth for us to enjoy and take care of, and he gave us the animals not just as food, but as companions. And why would he not also provide animals to company with us in the new earth?”

        Problem is, God clearly commands man to subdue the Earth and dominate animals, and forgot to mention animals as companions, so your going off script. In fact, the first murder of any living creature depicted in the Bible is at YHWH’s own hands, where he kills an animal to provide it’s skin to Adam and Eve (they tried to fashion covering out of fig leaves, but that wasn’t sufficient in God’s eyes). A chapter later, we have Abel offering an animal sacrifice, which God prefers over Cain’s “fruits of the field” (hence, God is NOT a vegetarian, and explicitly gives animals for food AFTER the Flood).

        Note: I’m not a literalist, and don’t believe the “skins” were literal, but figurative (where the ‘coverings’ actually are metaphors for rudimentary moral codes, either man-made, or given from God). HOWEVER, that doesn’t prevent the problem of literalists of not seeing metaphor, lazily reading it to mean exactly what it suggests).

        The Bible’s view is animals are disposable, devoid of souls, without any God-given right to life; that concept is demonstrated in the God-approved practice of animal sacrifice, where some innocent animal has to die to atone for the sins of humans (Hebrew sacrificial rituals are where the phrase, “sacrificial lamb” comes from; an innocent who is slaughtered for the actual guilty party). Now that’s hardly a practice approved by PETA, and if you believe the Bible IS the inspired word of God, then it’s immutable/non-negotiable: we cannot make God into what we’d WANT Him to be, since that means we don’t REALLY believe he exists, and are thus allowing our wishes to form a mental image of God (AKA fashioning an idol, an image, of God).

        That preacher you mentioned? He apparently took comparative religious studies while in seminary, as that concept is lifted directly from the ending of the ancient Sanskrit epic, “Mahabharata” (which likely predates the OT, and is virtually unknown in the West, despite (or perhaps because of?) being the basis for Hindi/Far East philosophical beliefs, including respect for ALL life forms.

        At the end of the epic, Yudhisthira (the protagonist) ascends the Himalayas with his brothers to enter Heaven, after engaging in battles of good vs evil, and renouncing the family kingdom and Earthly luxuries. Throughout the journey over the country, Yudhisthira was accompanied by a stray dog which stayed by his side. Each brother fell to their deaths before reaching the summit, so only Yudhisthira and the loyal dog reached the summit.

        A clap of thunder arrested their steps, and in between the mass of brightness they saw the god Indra, King of Heaven, who was standing in his chariot. He arrived to carry Yudhisthir to Heaven, telling the tired Yudhisthir to enter the chariot, saying, “I bow to you. Get in; I’ve come to take you from this death-desert.”

        “Lord of the Past and Present,” said Yudhistra, “this little dog who is my last companion must also go.”
        “No,” said Indra. “You cannot enter Heaven with a dog at your heels. He is unholy and has no soul.”
        “He is devoted to me and looks to me for protection. Left alone he would die up here.” “There is no place in Heaven for dogs. They are unclean. It cannot be.”
        Yudhishthira frowned. “It cannot be otherwise.”

        “Don’t you understand? YOU HAVE WON HEAVEN! Immortality, prosperity, and happiness in all directions are yours. So leave the animal and come with me; that will not be cruel.”
        “I do not turn away from my dog; I turn away from you. I will not surrender a faithful dog to you. Truth and a thousand sacrifices were weighed somehow in a balance, and you have heard which was heavier. Whoever comes to me from fright or from disaster or from friendship—I never give him up.”

        “But I cannot take him! I’ll put him to sleep; there will be no pain for him, and no one will know.”
        “Lord of Heaven,” said Yudhisthra, “you have my permission to return without me.”
        “Your spendor will fill the three worlds if you but enter my chariot alone,” said Indra. “You have left everyone else—why not this worthless dog?”
        “I have decided,” answered Yudhisthra, “and more than that does not concern you.”

        Then, Indra very quickly fell to his knees, and bowed his head. “My Lord Dharma!”

        Yudhisthra turned in surprise. The little dog that had been lying in the shadow was gone, and in it’s place stood Dharma, tall and blond and grey-eyed.

        (Note: Dharma is a master diety.)

        “Yudhisthra, do not bow to me, my son,” said the god. “Blessings to you, as in the form of a dog I followed you across this desert. You have compassion for all creatures, and that is not weakness, but strength, and what you believe in you have defended to heaven’s gate.”

        With that, Yudhishthira saw himself carried into heaven, and so ends Mahaprasthanika Parva of Mahabharata.

        @@@@

        Ancient wisdom and morality, showing respect for all forms of life? Nothing remotely like that is found in the Bible, and anything that comes close is precisely in the Bible BECAUSE of the influence of Indian thoughts being inserted into late Judaism/early Christianity via the Persian Empire’s official state religion, Zoroasterianism (not coincidentally, it’s the same religion that was the first in the World to prohibit slavery, forbidding the practice; this was a time when the Jews were still endorsing slavery, DESPITE having personally benefited from being released from captivity in Babylon by Cyrus, the Great. Once released, they went back to Judah and started up the practice).

        BTW, I suspect the episode of the Twilight Zone (“The Hunt”, screenplay by Earl Hamner, who went on to write “The Waltons”) stole the premise of dogs in heaven from Mahabharata, but instead placed the characters in the South. Nothing new is under the Sun, indeed…

        Here’s a link to a site with the episode on YouTube:

        http://cynography.blogspot.com/2010/06/even-devil-cant-fool-dog.html

        • Sorry Walt: my post contained a dead link to the TZ episode.

          Here’s the full episode (“The Hunt”), a wonderfully-written retelling of a motif featured at the end of the ancient Sanskit epic:

          “Mahabharata” accurately portrays Hindu beliefs, eg animals have souls, are to be treated well (“ahimsa”) or the person suffers bad karma (since souls reincarnate into different forms). Demigods being incarnated into mortal flesh is also found in the Bible, eg just as Dharma appeared in the form of a dog, Jesus cast demons out of a herd of swine that they possessed; however, the herd promptly ran off a cliff, so it’s hard to tell if Jesus’ exorcism was successful.

          So while vegetarian Hindus gave the World the idiom of “sacred cows”, Judaism brought concepts of “blood sacrifices” and “sacrificial lambs”. That’s a HUGE difference, esp if one stops to look at it from the perspective of the animal!

          The TZ episode is heart-warming, as it tells viewers what they’d hope to be true, ie Heaven is customized for each of us, where God loves ALL living creatures great and small (although a moment’s thought would reveal the “fly in the ointment” lurking within the warm happy glow generated by the episode, as most neglect to consider it from the perspective of the poor coons who are hunted in Heaven for an eternity!)

          But to inject the concept of animals going in Heaven into the Bible is extra-scriptural modification, at best, an attempt to rewrite theological doctrine and thus usurping God’s Divine Will (and that’s about as big of a sin as they get: Jesus warned about false prophets with forked tongues in the last days who would speak sweet utterances that tickle the ears, but change teachings so as to mislead others).

          The Bible clearly demonstrates YHWH’s Divine Will in the opening chapters of Genesis, commanding that animals are to be subdued, dominated, being provided by God in order to supply basic human needs like clothing and food. There’s just so many other examples (eg Abraham was directed by YHWH to sacrifice his first-born son, Isaac, but at the last minute YHWH intervened and provided a suitable sacrificial ram, or the Passover ritual in Egypt, etc) that someone would have to consciously suppress all the spilled animal blood found in the Bible to suggest animals have parity with humans in the eyes of God.

          • Well, Dave, your comments are certainly always interesting… I wasn’t really going “off script,” merely reporting what the preacher said, which I thought was quite novel (but refreshing, since he was willing to look for fresh understanding of what the Bible actually says–kind of like Corinna does). He was not injecting any new doctrine into Scripture (hope I didn’t give that impression), but speculating on what God may actually have in mind, based on his knowledge of God’s great love and care for us. If you have read Genesis recently, you’ll realize that your phrasing about subduing and dominating is overstated… Most biblical commentators I’ve read seem to interpret those statements as having to do with God instructing mankind to take charge of the earth, be responsible for it, and be good stewards of it–not to plunder it and its once abundant, seemingly unlimited, resources and treasures . God was giving no license for killing animals. American Indians, as you may know, are very respectful of the spirit of an animal whenever they need to kill one for food, clothing, and shelter. The Bible does not (as far as I can recall) explicitly teach that animals have no soul. It does not speak of animals in the same way as humans and uses different words to speak of the human soul/breath. I know that some have interpreted this as saying that animals have no soul–but I don’t think that can be proved. I’m really surprised at what you said (I’m not, actually) about “rewriting theological doctrine and usurping God’s Divine Will”, since–from your comments–you don’t seem to believe much of the Bible anyway, attributing much of its thought to other ancient religions or philosophy. This makes me think of Jesus’ parable about people who judge (spotting the speck in others’ eyes while not seeing the log in their own). In spite of your obviously great knowledge of ancient thought, the source of the Scripture is not ancient rites or wisdom. Similarity of thought is everywhere in this old world. Resurrection and related concepts and longings, for example, are part of many cultures. Speaking of which, when I asked you once what you thought about Jesus’ resurrection, you had much to say about the idea of resurrection and presented a lot of ancient sources, but I don’ t believe you’ve ever actually answered my question (unless I missed it, forgive me), which is whether or not Jesus rose from the dead–not the idea but the actuality. It’s a rather important part of the discussion about getting wisdom for living from religion. In my young Christian years, I was also an eager student and simply devoured everything I could on the Bible and theology, etc…and I also am soured on much of what “Xians,” as you say, do and think (or, non-think). But I’ve come to realize that, along with Gandhi, to have a problem with people who call themselves Christians is not the same thing as having a problem with Jesus…he is soooo unlike most Christians. I gladly give him my unqualified allegiance (albeit imperfectly). He came to show us the Father: as he said to Philip, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”

            btw, I sort of remember that TZ episode–and yes, we were Waltons fans in its first seasons–and I’ll watch it soon. Thanks!

            • Walt said:

              “I wasn’t really going “off script,” merely reporting what the preacher said, which I thought was quite novel (but refreshing, since he was willing to look for fresh understanding of what the Bible actually says–kind of like Corinna does). He was not injecting any new doctrine into Scripture (hope I didn’t give that impression), but speculating on what God may actually have in mind, based on his knowledge of God’s great love and care for us.”

              Nevertheless, you ARE basically saying he’s going off-script, for whenever we feel compelled to characterize someone else’s words as “speculation on what God might have in store for us”, that’s pretty much a smoking gun, an admission of guilt, for getting ahead of what’s actually said in the Bible.

              “If you have read Genesis recently, you’ll realize that your phrasing about subduing and dominating is overstated… Most biblical commentators I’ve read seem to interpret those statements as having to do with God instructing mankind to take charge of the earth, be responsible for it, and be good stewards of it–not to plunder it and its once abundant, seemingly unlimited, resources and treasures . God was giving no license for killing animals. American Indians, as you may know, are very respectful of the spirit of an animal whenever they need to kill one for food, clothing, and shelter.”

              Yeah, done that argument, too. Good thing God left NO ambiguity there, huh?

              As a result, we have a few millenia of “manifest destiny” thinking, with a seeming mandate from Christ to convert heathens and take their land, arguing against a mountain of evidence that says otherwise. As Jesus said, “you shall know them by their fruits”. Well, we fully know Xians by the legacy they’ve left on the land, all done in the name of God: strip-mining, slash and burn forestation, etc.

              “The Bible does not (as far as I can recall) explicitly teach that animals have no soul. It does not speak of animals in the same way as humans and uses different words to speak of the human soul/breath. I know that some have interpreted this as saying that animals have no soul–but I don’t think that can be proved.”

              Actually, it doesn’t say anything directly about animal souls (which raises the question as to WHY it didn’t: it likely was viewed as too silly a question to even consider, as if animals weren’t worth a second thought). It’s just as good, though, being that science cannot prove or disprove the existence of ANY soul, human or animal; hence the concept of ‘spirit (ruah) /soul (nephesh)’ goes into the waste-bin of interesting ideas not worth wasting time over (alongside other unproven baggage such as pixies, fairies, phlogiston, space aliens, unicorns, etc). No offense, it’s just that I fill my mind with concepts only AFTER someone presents good evidence to suggest they exist, AND provide some explanatory utility (allowing us to construct hypotheses/theories).

              “I’m really surprised at what you said (I’m not, actually) about “rewriting theological doctrine and usurping God’s Divine Will”, since–from your comments–you don’t seem to believe much of the Bible anyway, attributing much of its thought to other ancient religions or philosophy. This makes me think of Jesus’ parable about people who judge (spotting the speck in others’ eyes while not seeing the log in their own). In spite of your obviously great knowledge of ancient thought, the source of the Scripture is not ancient rites or wisdom.”

              Huh? Not sure where you were going with Jesus’ splinter/log analogy (non-sequiter)?

              Who said I don’t believe in the Bible? OF COURSE I believe it exists as historical artifact(s), written by many different men over a thousand years. The only thing we don’t agree on was HOW it came into existence: you think it’s “Divinely-inspired”, and I believe it’s got more terrestrial origins as an outgrowth of Judaic/cultic groups. That’s exactly what I’m able to demonstrate: the ‘evolution’ or changing of ancient thought that explains HOW humans came to entertain certain ideas, which didn’t spring from de novo, or via divine inspiration. I present evidence that some humans who lived BEFORE the authors of the Bible believed in similar concepts, and it obviously robs the later authors of some of their “uniqueness”; it doesn’t seem as so out of left-field. Fact is, it wasn’t: it was just another step in the same direction.

              The problem is complicated by the fact that many Xians make the mistake of assuming the Bible was meant to be an absolutely-error-free recording of historical events, when in fact, that’s NEVER the case for ANY documents written in the past: NOT for the Bible, NOT for Mahabharata, NOT for Islam’s sacred text, NOT for Egyptian texts, NOT for ANY ancient writings. The concept of historical writings (An attempt to leave an unbiased account of events, a historical record) hadn’t even developed yet, and wouldn’t develop until much later. Instead, all of these writings can be considered as documents designed to give THEIR accounts of their Nation’s origins, THEIR ancestors, etc, but it’s NOT to be read as literal truths.

              Instead, we need to read with a jaundiced eye to not be colored by the author’s biases, a fact which has been repeatedly confirmed from failures to confirm the historicity of writings from independent sources (eg archaeology, literary critique/textual analysis, science (carbon 14 dating), etc).

              Fact is, almost all reputable archaeologists know the evidence does NOT support the Bible’s accounts of, say, an Exodus from Egypt, or Joshua’s military conquests in Caanan, etc. NONE of it pans out, and to the contrary, indicates a quite different history than that depicted in the OT. Many gung-ho honest theologians (eg William Devers, Israel Finkelstein) HAVE to face up to the insurmountable evidence that the Bible often tells tall-tales, to tell the story of it’s Hebrew agenda.

              “Similarity of thought is everywhere in this old world. Resurrection and related concepts and longings, for example, are part of many cultures. Speaking of which, when I asked you once what you thought about Jesus’ resurrection, you had much to say about the idea of resurrection and presented a lot of ancient sources, but I don’ t believe you’ve ever actually answered my question (unless I missed it, forgiave me), which is whether or not Jesus rose from the dead–not the idea but the actuality.”

              Of course I don’t believe in it. Throw ‘resurrection’ on the dust-din of ancient ideas that are seductive and enticing to hope/believe/wish in, but reality doesn’t ask what WE think, or ask OUR permission to make concepts exist.

              BTW, it gets a bit tiresome having to always be the Grinch, telling all the adults Santy doesn’t exist. Can’t someone else play the role of the lucid clear-thinking adult, once every now and then? Isn’t a bit greedy of you, hogging all the time on the swings, playing fantasy fun and games? 🙂

              “It’s a rather important part of the discussion about getting wisdom for living from religion. In my young Christian years, I was also an eager student and simply devoured everything I could on the Bible and theology, etc…and I also am soured on much of what “Xians,” as you say, do and think (or, non-think). But I’ve come to realize that, along with Gandhi, to have a problem with people who call themselves Christians is not the same thing as having a problem with Jesus…he is soooo unlike most Christians. I gladly give him my unqualified allegiance (albeit imperfectly). He came to show us the Father: as he said to Philip, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”

              Well, prove that Jesus (as the incarnation, or even the Son of YHWH) existed, then.

              I don’t buy that an all-powerful God would miraculously insert his DNA into a haploid-female’s eggs, causing immaculate conception. Again, the idea of male Gods mating with mortal females goes back a few thousand years, and even is found in Genesis (the ‘nephelim’, the giants of yore). Thus the concept is not foreign to Judaism’s Torah, although the idea of YHWH personally “gettin’ busy” was enough to make Orthodox Jews recoil in horror (yet not even slightly offensive to Gentile readers of the NT?).
              a

              • There aren’t any Grinches here just people like you with differing opinions about the Bible, Jesus and their particular slant and interpretation of what they said or didn’t say. As I learned a long time ago; there is no point in trying to change their opinion even if it’s wrong. They have made a connection that they believe we don’t understand and vice-versa for us. Occasionally, I speak up when something really sounds stupid and then I’m sorry I did because to them it seems the most logical mark of faith possible. The only person I can take care of is me. A few people gather round from time to time to hear what I have to say and find something. For others I might as well be standing in the middle of Grand Central Station. It’s sad in a way because each one of us believes we have something of great value to share and I’m sure we do but we end up talking to ourselves or to other people in our choir. It doesn’t mean we should stop. It just means that not everyone is willing to listen. It becomes too difficult to consider that they might be wrong or that there might be another way to look at it.

              • Hi Dave:
                About the preacher who “speculated on what God might have in store for us”: My view of Scripture is that it is actually given by God (inspired) but mine doesn’t fit the stereotypical view of infallibility (or, as you stated, an “error-free account of historical events”). I don’t believe it is full of errors, but I do believe it doesn’t say everything in the way we might like it to. My view is that it is indeed authoritative, but I’ve had to work long and hard to know how to apply it in my life—or at least, get hit with a 2×4 enough times. God has told us what he wants us to know, and the Bible is not an exhaustive encyclopedic index to all that we might want to know. (I suspect—nay, speculate—that he has done so in part to keep us from becoming bibliolaters and remain dependent on him for wisdom.) To my own dismay, I’ve found systems of theology to be mostly man’s attempts to put God in a box that fits our fallible human logic and feels comfortable and predictable. Assuming the Bible to be “true” is not to say that I take everything literally—as some of my Christian friends do. The Genesis creation account, for example, is Hebrew poetry and may therefore be a poetic way of saying that Yahweh (or, however the tetragrammaton YHWH may have been pronounced) is the creator and established this world in an orderly fashion, giving us responsibility (stewardship) over it. All this to say that, because of who we are as human beings in our attempt to make sense of the universe, we cannot help but “speculate” (go off script) in trying to fill in the gaps in what God has told us. I think the preacher was not trying to “go ahead of what is…said” but deduce from what is known about God to help people solve a problem that is often speculated upon. (I know—that’s logic…what can I say?)
                I try to be honest with the Bible and I think there is plenty of ambiguity to go around regarding most subjects it touches on. Since his command was to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28), I have to think he didn’t mean to destroy it, milk it for all it’s worth, etc., but take care of it. There’s nothing there about “manifest destiny.” I know that’s the conclusion that some have drawn (not only as regarding the history of westward movement in the U.S., but also in S. Africa)—i.e., that they had some “divine right” to the land, and they could do whatever they wanted to do with it and the people who lived on it. Even Israel had to learn that they were to be a light to the peoples (“Gentiles”) around them—not shove religion down their throats, but show them what God was really like. They failed in that mission miserably. After Jesus came, his followers had a similar mission—but we are not doing a very good job of that either.
                I’m no scientist. If I remember rightly, you have medical training? You’ve undoubtedly followed developments in brain research. I followed it avidly for awhile, starting in the late 90s while researching ways of teaching reading. The brain is pretty much the “final frontier” of our bodies, and it’s fascinating to read some learned stuff about brain research and efforts to explain the “mind” (or, “soul”) that we have. I think we should not make any rush to judgment (or justification) in order to explain the mind naturalistically in an effort to explain away God.
                You weren’t sure where I was going with the bit about the splinter/log analogy? I’m guessing that, by your substituting “splinter” for “speck” you know Jesus’ point. My intent was a (hopefully) gentle jibe against the seeming hypocrisy of not trusting (note my word change from “belief” to “trust”) the divine origin yet at the same time criticizing those who would “speculate” or change the “script”. It is indeed a ‘sequitur’.
                As for the origin of the ideas presented in the Bible, no matter how much evidence you present for similar ideas as pre-cursers or “terrestrial origins” to that, the fact is, there is no proof of dependency. We peoples of the world are so similar, in good ways and bad, that it’s no surprise to find similar thinking in very dissimilar environments. A study of cultural universals attests to this: I lived in a small village in West Africa for eight years, and have studied a little anthropology. That we have similarities applies not only to ideas and world view but to inventions as well. What’s unique about the Bible is not really any claim to uniqueness of concepts—but truth.
                As far as the historicity of the Bible, I haven’t studied some of the archaeological evidence for many years. What I do remember is rather opposite from what you’ve said, except for Exodus I think. We were in Israel two years ago, and I don’t remember some of the stuff I heard/read about the Exodus then. I suppose I’ll have to take a look. But it’s instructive to remember that reputable archaeologists didn’t believe the biblical account of the Hittite empire either—until it was discovered.
                Ah, and the resurrection: I wondered about “Santy” too. I assumed I believed it until one day, when I had a close encounter with a mortar round in a rice field in South Vietnam (6/10/69), and spent the next day in the hospital bed asking myself (for the first time in my life—I was 21) whether I believed that stuff, whether I would’ve gone to heaven had I “bought it,” whether there was a God or whether Jesus was not just some cosmic Santa Claus. I spent the next couple years digging into the Bible, manuscripts, all that stuff (my BA and love of my life is history and historical method) and quickly found that Jesus was not only a historical person, but that there is good evidence (not conclusive, by any means) for the resurrection. As to him being a historical person, I think that, if you were honest with what is known and honestly interested, you would have to admit there is no real doubt. (Even “Skeptic” magazine had a good article on that a few years back.) I would invite you to take the challenge to prove he did not exist. Before you can do that, you likely will have to come to some intellectual crisis where you feel compelled to know the truth. It got to that for me re the resurrection. The harder I tried to disprove what I was finding, the more I realized I would be committing intellectual suicide if I didn’t accept it. I’m sure you’ve read some of C.S. Lewis. His famous trilogy of questions is a good place to start an honest inquiry: was he a liar? was he a lunatic? or was he really who he said? God will give you the answer, if you have “ears to hear,” my friend.
                While the Jews were familiar with the Nephilim (as you mentioned), the initial question for them as to Jesus being “Son of God” was not about mixing seeds (in the womb of the virgin). That’s where Muslims go any time the subject is broached. Jesus didn’t really try to prove his own deity, nor did he spend much time trying to instruct his disciples that he was Son of God. Rather, he waited on his Father to reveal it to them—and it was a very gradual process. It took Peter (of course) a looong time to come to that conclusion, but once he did, he voiced it loudly—then tried to stop Jesus from even talking about the crucifixion, and then even denied he knew Jesus. After the resurrection, all that changed (although he still did some stupid stuff). Paul was not a nice man, as you’re aware: the KJV says that he “ravaged the church.” But his life was totally turned around by his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road.
                You’re certainly NOT a Grinch—that creature was never really able to steal Christmas, even though it seemed so for awhile. Seriously, debate is good, and instructive—if we will listen. 🙂
                Walt
                Corinna–thanks for the space!

                • first a pps: Sorry I didn’t put more space between paragraphs in the tome above.

                  quick regular ps: One of the things that IS very unique about the Bible is the following:

                  As a young Christian, I was turned on to Luke as an historian. Most readers go through it routinely as just another of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke give a synopsis of Jesus’ life vs. John, which is more highly thematic). That little blurb at the front addressed to Theophilus (and in Acts) gives some indication of his approach as a non-eye witness. This type of historical self-awareness is evident all through Luke and Acts.

                  What made the above about Luke even more remarkable was something I came across in CS Lewis years ago. As a classicist scholar (his primary discipline at Oxford), he pointed out how familiar he was with “biographical” accounts written in “those times” including the period of the New Testament. Apart from the issue of inspiration, the Gospels are unique in that they offer an approach to writing bios that was new in the then world, and is much more akin to our modern genre: they attempt to lay out the facts as they understood them and there is no obviously fantastical approach as there is in other ancient literature. In spite of what you may think about Jesus sending demons into pigs who run downhill into the water, the miracles of the NT show a very consistent theme centered about helping people, not self-aggrandizement, or power in the “normal” way of ancient lit.

    • Thanks, Walt. I do feel like I’ve started off with a “clean slate” as far as religion is concerned. It’s like a new language to me. I probably have a terrible accent, but I’m enjoying being able to communicate…

      • God invented language….so I suppose he can figure out what you’re trying to say without much problem…. Your comments are worth our thought, even if you think they may not say exactly what you want. Your perspective is fresh, and not colored by many of the stereotypes that I can spot in comments from some. You go girl! 🙂

  7. Thank you, God, for all of the different ways to worship and praise you. It’s wonderful to hear how various people worship. God created such a marvelous variety of personalities that we need a lot of differing methods to relate to him. Your experience with the Pentacostal group is a testimony to the joy in diversity! I’m following your adventure with growing interest in your next installment.

  8. HE DIVINE DANCE

    THE BUDDHA SMILED AND HELD HANDS WITH LAO TZU

    THE SMILING AND THE KNOWING ENGULFED THE TWO

    THEN JESUS AND VISHNU AND A THOUSAND FROM GREECE, AS IF BY CHANCE

    FORMED A GREAT CIRCLE THAT BECAME A GREAT DANCE.

    EVERY ARCHETYPE KNOWN TO MAN

    MYSTICALLY HOVERED TO GRASP EVERY HAND.

    THE SUFIS WERE WHIRLING

    PENTECOSTALS WERE SWINGING

    ANGELIC HOSTS WERE WHIMSICALLY SINGING.

    ALLAH AND JEHOVAH WERE TAPPING THEIR FEET

    EVEN LORD KRISHNA OFFERED EACH ONE A TREAT.

    THE ENGULFING CONSCIOUSNESS REFLECTED BY ALL

    AFFECTED THE EARTH, THE GREAT AND THE SMALL.

    THE SEAS WERE ALL SPLASHING IN JOYOUS REFRAIN

    THE MOUNTAINS WERE RUMBLING LIKE THE SOUNDS OF A TRAIN.

    THE BIRDS WERE ALL SINGING AND TWEETING THEIR TUNES

    AND THOSE WITH GREAT FEATHERS EXPANDED THEIR PLUMES.

    EVERY ANIMAL LAID IN QUIET REPOSE

    WHILE EVERY FLOWER BECAME LOVED LIKE THE ROSE.

    EVERY SPIRIT DANCING WITHIN

    EXPRESSED ITSELF BY MOVEMENT IN SKIN.

    AND ALL OF THEM DANCED

    AND ALL OF THEM PLAYED

    ENJOYING THE MOONLIGHT, THE SUNLIGHT AND SHADE.

    I KNEW IN THAT MOMENT THE NUMINOUS PRANCE

    THE QUANTUM MONADS OF THIS CONSCIOUSNESS DANCE.

    THE BUDDHA SMILED AND HELD HANDS WITH LAO TZU

    AND THIS DIVINE DANCE ENGULFED ME AND YOU

    NAMASTE.

  9. Corinna, you write, “I leave the Pentecostal service feeling more upbeat than I have in weeks. All that exuberance has rubbed off on me and I’m almost giddy, like I’ve popped a dozen Prozac.” That’s wonderful. An ancient believer wrote a prayer as he told his own faith journey story: “for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee? Lord, teach me to know and understand which of these should be first, to call on Thee, or to praise Thee; and likewise to know Thee, or to call upon Thee.” His name was Augustine of HIppo. I am not ashamed of desiring to know and love God myself. I find the God of the Bible exhilarating and hopeful.

  10. Corinna,
    I have to laugh at your reaction to the talking trees in The Wizard of Oz. I think I was scared the first time I saw them (and even more so with the flying monkeys). It just reminds me that there is a definite relationship between fear, excitement and joy. Maybe that’s why we like roller coasters? And is it any wonder that, as we approach God, we may experience fear, excitement and joy as well? If I remember correctly, C. S. Lewis makes that very point in Surprised By Joy. Great post.

  11. To tie up a few loose ends, in no particular order:

    1) re historical Jesus:

    MANY Jewish Messiah claimants existed over a span of 300-400 years (and actually, some exist even TODAY), with Jesus being one of many such mortal men to suffer from a Messiah complex (and was one of the legions executed by the Romans for believing in his specialness).

    It’s clear from a side-by-side comparison of gospels that many of the accounts differ, so the historical truth of such a character existing likely creates an amalgam, or a compilation image of such failed messiah claimants. Another who is more famous (by at least getting closer to success) is Bar Kochba: he was executed 100 years AFTER Jesus, but oddly, everyone has forgotten about him and the others known to history.

    It’s telling that there’s a lapse of a few decades between Jesus’ supposed death and the appearance of the many gospel accounts (including those that didn’t make the “cut” of canonization, 300 years later, including the “gnostic” gospel accounts of Judas, Mary Magdalene, etc, etc). It’s clear the sub-genre of cultic fictional religious texts “took off”, selling copies like hotcakes (like the romance novellas of today).

    It’s a fascinating human trait to observe how certain archetypal characters (“heroes”) arise to fulfill a need in times of significant social upheaval, giving voice to oppressed and hopeless disaffected segments of the population. However, traditional orthodox Jews were correct to reject Jesus as THE Jewish Messiah, since he simply didn’t fulfill the many criteria found in those OT prophecies (Ezekiel, Daniel) that pointed to the arrival of such a mortal man, in the first place (as OJ’s lawyer said, “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit”. The prophetic glove didn’t “fit” Jesus).

    EG, the most obvious example is Jesus claimed to not be fully-mortal, but that creates problems of proper lineage, ie he wasn’t the proper blood line. At the time, lineage wasn’t traced matrilinearly (via mother) but patrilinearly (by father, and hence why Abraham could inseminate Rebekkah the slave, and a barren Sarah could act like her DNA was somehow involved in the process as long as the child were born on HER knee: ancient people believed the synovial fluid found in the knees was the same fluid found in the gonads (they believed the fluid was generated in the knees, but transported and stored in the testes/ovaries; this misbelief explains the ritualistic value placed on such animal sacrifices). So understanding that bit of ancient misunderstanding of human genetics/biology explains why we still see vestiges even now, as reflected in words like ‘genuflect’ (bending ones knee, a sign of submission), or ‘generate’ (and ‘genera’).

    Another MASSIVE problem was that the Temple in Jerusalem had ALREADY BEEN REBUILT: it WAS standing in Jerusalem, or Jesus wouldn’t have been able to visit and famously overturn the tables of the money-changers (and I’ll leave it to readers to sort out whether Jesus carried out that attention-getting act at the BEGINNING or AFTER his ministry work was completed: the gospels differ on that important detail)! Hence it was unfathomable for Jews to consider the need for Temple restoration/renovation, as that rebuilding work had ALREADY been completed by King Herod, a decade or so before Jesus was born (and hence why the NT attempts to demonize King Herod as a ‘bad guy’, the ineffective wanna-be Jew (he was likely Arabian in descent, AKA a gentile), the puppet of the Roman overlords who attempted to kill the “true” messiah).

    King Herod similarly didn’t fulfill the prophecies (and he didn’t claim to be “King of the Jews”, even though he literally WAS the installed leader of the region), but that’s because OT prophecies are non-sense, eg OT prophecies about the fall of Tyre didn’t come to true, because hint: NO ONE can predict the future. Amazing to say, I know, but it’s high-time everyone get over the needless paranoia about facing life’s uncertainties without an inside advantage: no one has an ‘inside’ edge with non-existent deities.

    And of course, Jesus failed in the ULTIMATE test of those prophecies: he didn’t assume the Earthly throne (again, the Roman Empire had a SLIGHT problem just handing over control to a religious cultic zealot in the region, allowing an upstart Jewish rabbi to assume the Earthly throne of the restored Kingdom of David, thus bringing Jerusalem to it’s prior promised glory with Jesus installed as “the King of the Kings” (even over Caesar!), with all glory being directed to the Hebrew Temple serving as the centerpiece of worship to the one true monotheistic deity, YHWH! Again, thank you very much for the kind offer, but the Romans already had THEIR panoply of God(s), and just didn’t need another; but thanks for asking)!

    None of which matters to anyone wanting to bury their head in the sand and ignore the OBVIOUS available evidence: people accept it as truth primarily because you WANT it to be true, AKA confirmation bias, the fallacy of accepting only ideas that you WISH to be true. Besides, MILLIONS of people, spread over 3 millennia, couldn’t have been wrong, right? (That’s a thinly-veiled ‘appeal to popularity’, a logical fallacy that says if it’s been done by prior generations, it MUST be true. As if past practices and beliefs were EVER wrong, LOL!)

    2) “YHWH may have been pronounced) is the creator and established this world in an orderly fashion, giving us responsibility (stewardship) over it.”

    I suggest you research far-more ancient Mesopotamian creation myths, which predate Genesis by a long-shot: the motifs found in parallel accounts (Genesis 1 vs 2) are obviously derived from far-more ancient traditions, and the commonality amongst motifs are undeniable.

    John Van Seters is a noted OT scholar/historian who wrote, “Prologue to History: The Yahwist as Historian in Genesis”. He examines the origins of the Genesis account including examining similar Greek origins myths, eg Prometheus (from Hesiod). We’re looking at very old origins myths, which even though ancient, are still pretty recent in our history, as orally-related traditions likely stemmed back 10,000 yrs (which is a blink of an eye, in terms of human evolution and existence, and certainly in the dawn of writing).

    “Even Israel had to learn that they were to be a light to the peoples (“Gentiles”) around them—not shove religion down their throats, but show them what God was really like. They failed in that mission miserably. ”

    Like many Xians, you might be surprised to learn that unlike your own religion (where Jesus said, “go therefore and make disciples (converts), baptizing them”), there is no mandate for Jews to go forth and recruit others; just as good, since that’s not in the offering, anyway (only Jews by birth need apply for special status, privileges, and responsibilities under the principles of Judaism). Instead, Gentiles need only follow common-accepted principles of basic human decency in order to “be saved”.

    That should come as a relief, right? There’s no commandment in the tanakh for you to engage in preaching work, volunteer publishing, or recruiting (converting) others, etc.

    “I would invite you to take the challenge to prove he did not exist. Before you can do that, you likely will have to come to some intellectual crisis where you feel compelled to know the truth. It got to that for me re the resurrection. The harder I tried to disprove what I was finding, the more I realized I would be committing intellectual suicide if I didn’t accept it.”

    Like I said above, I don’t doubt that someone existed who came to become the inspiration of Jesus: you have as many candidates for a real person as you have messiah claimants. Much like any other hero archetype, a figure takes on a larger-than-life stance once deceased, where time loves a hero.

    As far as intellectual crisis, you sound like your close call with mortality triggered a crisis? Speck in your eye, searching for answers as a young man?

    I was raised as a JW, but always was drawn more towards what IS knowable, known, via scientific understanding. I’m driven now by a relentless pursuit with the scientifically-provable, the reasonably KNOWN, the REPRODUCIBLE, the summit of man’s discoveries and knowledge which is obtained in SPITE of threats of prosecution at the hands of the religious (where the Inquisition was a REAL historical event, spanning centuries, being responsible for the deaths of many a rationalist who dared to state that the Sun was at the center of the Solar System, and not the Earth).

    A massive and ancient fraud has been perpetuated upon mankind under the guise of religious faith, all in the name of worshiping imaginary false god(s) that are as fakey as Zeus. If THIS is what is called ‘progress’, then we haven’t made much as a civilization (esp in the US, where evangelical faiths are on the rise).

    “I’m sure you’ve read some of C.S. Lewis. His famous trilogy of questions is a good place to start an honest inquiry: was he a liar? was he a lunatic? or was he really who he said?”

    Unfortunately, CSL forgot to consider a 4th (more-probable) option: Jesus was a deluded individual who actually believed he WAS the Jewish messiah, and faced prosecution as a result (confirming his delusion, in his mind). As such, count him as yet another victim of extremist religious delusional thought, someone who paid with his short-lived life by taking religious ideology as literal TRUTH, and not as unsubstantiated and unproven theories of how the World operates.

    Irony, no? Jesus the man died for non-factual ideology, and has in turn inspired others to do die for nothing. And the difference between humans and lemmings is what, exactly?

    “God will give you the answer, if you have “ears to hear,” my friend.”

    LOL! And here’s where I COULD pass the same type (passive/aggressive) of useless advice back in your court, except not have it couched in faux words professing friendship (uh, have we even MET?).

    See, I have actual verifiable reproducible EVIDENCE to present on MY side, albeit it from the world of Biology, historical (archaeological) evidence, fossils, etc: you have only HOPES and dreams. Xians get the order of the chain of evidence all wrong, refusing to consider all evidence that doesn’t support their already-accepted conclusions.

    “Jesus didn’t really try to prove his own deity, nor did he spend much time trying to instruct his disciples that he was Son of God. Rather, he waited on his Father to reveal it to them—and it was a very gradual process.”

    You know that Jesus constantly made vague references insinuating his status as “Son of God”: as you’ve pointed out in another thread, Jesus said, “If you’ve seen the Son, you’ve seen the Father” (he over-relied on the rhetorical device of parables, which are a GREAT technique for creating the appearance of making claims, without outright stating them).

    Of course, it would be blasphemy to outright claim he literally WAS the Son of YHWH, so Jesus was playing a dangerous game by allowing that idea to fester about his persona; it’s known that the most-threatening accusation that a Jewish male could level against another was to claim that the other self-identified as “King of the Jews”: that was tantamount to accusing him of sedition. In the end, it didn’t matter: whether Jesus openly stated it or not, Jesus didn’t DENY being the Son of God (fact is, he tried to quibble the point, arguing how the phrase was used in the OT to NOT be literal truth), but that failure to recant the claim was as good as an admission of guilt. He was crucified for it.

    And in the end, it’s pointless to even ponder: is there any Xian who DOESN’T actually believe that Jesus literally IS the Son of God, sent on a special mission from Heaven to redeem mankind from the sins of the ‘perfect’ Adam? That’s the ENTIRE PREMISE upon which Xianity is built, so now you’re trying to have it both ways, speaking out of both sides of your mouth (once again).

    Which only begs the question: WHY exactly did Jesus play the little “I’ve gotta secret…” game IF he were indeed the Son of God, on a special mission from Heaven to redeem mankind? Why all the forked tongue, “mum’s the word” double-talk? What purpose could such pleading the 5th (refusing to self-incriminate) POSSIBLY serve, esp considering the mandate to “spread the good news of the Kingdom”?

    Jesus COULD’VE been his greatest preacher, had he personally owned up to his role in the story. Instead, he didn’t, and tried to side-step the issue.

    (And I’ll leave it to readers to compare the differing Gospel accounts portraying Jesus as a victim seemingly caught off-guard by the entire experience (crying out, “My Father, why have you foresaken me?”) vs a calm and collected deity who was always in control (eg forgiving the thief at his side, telling him that he’d be with him in paradise, as if fulfilling the parable of the owner of the vineyard who’s exercising the right of the owner to determine the ‘pay’ for various workers, depending on whether he likes the cut of their jib).

    “You’re certainly NOT a Grinch—that creature was never really able to steal Christmas, even though it seemed so for awhile. Seriously, debate is good, and instructive—if we will listen. :)”

    Seems fair to mention the Grinch, when the topic is OTHER fictional characters. Some people apparently have a hard time deciphering fiction from non-fiction. 🙂

    FWIW, I have no doubt (ZERO) that religious ideology is the SINGLE greatest impediment to men’s intellectual growth in 2013, BAR NONE, serving as an excuse, a justification for men’s continued ignorance.

    One need only consider the many Islamic Nations praying to Allah and stoning others in Iran, Afghanistan, etc, showing an intolerance and bigoted thinking since they will also likely use their love of Allah as justification for killing infidels in a Holy War.

    On the other side are Xian Nations (which the US is NOT, unless you’re one of those types willing to overlook that pesky separation clause, separating church and state), just as willing to go toe to toe in the name of Xian values (overlooking the Bible’s prohibitions against murder, since it’s excusable when killing infidels/heathens).

    Fortunately, most scientifically-minded types are able to overcome the OBVIOUS disconnect between science as depicted in the Bible from “real-world” secular science to know a fable when they see it: one would have to be completely ignorant of what modern science actually knows in order to claim there’s no discrepancy.

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