Not Rod Stewart's Passion

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Yes, the use-by date of any commentary on Mel Gibson's Passion is at least a couple of weeks–if not millenia–old, but two things freshen up the topic.

The first is the recent "The Passion of the Jew" episode of South Park, which features a starring turn by a gloriously insane, feces-smearing Mel Gibson and arguably the greatest nano-second cameo by Alan Alda of all time. (The man who eventually had all of America rooting for a communist victory in the Korean War hasn't been this good since his starring turn in the greatest psycho Vietnam Vet movie of them all, To Kill a Clown).

The second is this essay by sociologist John Carroll for an Australian newspaper. It's a thoughtful, often insightful piece that puts The Passion in the company of other recent popular, violent movies, including Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, and Gladiator. Carroll writes in part:

[The Passion's] weakness is that it depends on a medieval theory of salvation. The assumption is that redemption depends on metaphorically flogging the body into extinction. In turn, Jesus loses consciousness due to the unbearable pain of nails through hands and feet—depicted here with a gruesome close-up realism only possible in modern film. Then the spirit will rise from the corruptions of the flesh and mind. The film dwells almost pornographically on human sacrifice as some sort of spiritual purgative.

I think he's got this exactly wrong: The Passion's great appeal stems directly from the mortification of the flesh. This sort of intensity–what Foucault, another guy who was into extreme pain-cum-ecstasy, called a "limit-experience"–is one of the things lacking from modern life. And it's one of the few things that religion can deliver in a sanctioned, sanctified way in the modern world.

Carroll concludes:

The Passion fails, crucially, at what in the Jewish tradition is called midrash. That is the method of retelling fundamental stories and their classical themes in ways that speak to the new times. Every new generation has to midrash its stories. This film reverts to the Middle Ages; it lacks spiritual force; it does not uplift; and it leaves little sense of who this extraordinary man was, and why he changed Western history.

The box-office success of The Passion signals that the culture has become more receptive, virtually on the instant, to its own formative Dreaming story. This film may then succeed in a way it did not intend. It may prepare the way, John the Baptist-like, for a retelling of the life of Jesus in a style more likely to speak to the modern West.

As a recovering Catholic, I'm not particularly interested in whether we get a more modern-friendly retelling of the Jesus story, but I think Carroll is right when he says The Passion doesn't speak to non-believers. Yet it seems clear to me that Gibson was not trying to prosleytize. The Passion, which I saw a couple of weeks ago, was structured as an in-group tale. If you didn't know the story (or even more, if you didn't know the Stations of the Cross), you'd be lost; there's no exposition or even perspective. But the audience I saw it with already knew the story and filled in all the blanks. What they seemed to be enjoying was the idea that their story was being told on the big screen, without concession or explanation to out-groupers.

In any case, Carroll's piece is worth a read and is online here.

NEXT: Plame On

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  1. Think on this:
    1) What if it is true, that Jesus was who he said he was: The Son of GOD, one with the Father? ?The Way, The Truth, and The Life, ? no man comes to the Father but by me.? It seems to me that he was either a extremely enlightened, good, but crazy-delusional person, or actually the Son of GOD imparting forgiveness.
    2) And you rejected GOD Almighty?s sole plan of salvation (to save sinful people to be able to live with a holy GOD for eternity)? Do you think GOD would take it lightly that you said ?sorry GOD but your method is really not sterile/stout/sufficient enough for me? I?m good enough to hang out in your presence. Are you gonna pat GOD on the head and say ?The Sacrificial Jesus thing was just for prostitutes and killers? you didn?t really mean it for good ole? me, didja?!?
    3) From GOD?s promise to Eve, promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the nation of Israel of a coming Redeemer to gather all nations to Himself; and all the other prophets throughout time, sending the same message: your sin is coming between you and GOD, you need a Saviour / Redeemer.

    If you haven’t broken any Commandments, then you don?t need a Saviour. If you have, then you do.
    The stakes are high. This is somewhat akin to Pascal?s Wager. Your eternity is in the balance. Choose wisely.

  2. You’re kidding, right?

    My take on the man ‘Jesus’ or Joshua ben Joseph, was that he probably was crazy. He was, however, educated in the Old Testement as well as history and probably many other religions. I think he may have travelled quite a bit in those ‘lost years’ from the bible and picked many things in his wanderings. I think he knew exactly what he was doing when he decided to be the one to fulfill the prophecy by becoming the ‘redeemer’ as you put it. And I don’t think it was because he was the son of god. I’m sure he genuinely wanted to reform the evils he saw in the Jewish ‘church’ as well as the evils of man. But you’d have to be crazy to go through what he did.

    So I respect him a great deal, but I’m not going to take Pascal’s wager, because I am a soft-athiest (is that right, Jean Bart?).

  3. J. Alexander Lowman,
    There has been a lot of speculation among Christians and non-Christians about Jesus’ activities during those “lost years.” Some think he went to Egypt, others to India – those are the places I’ve heard, at least. Thus far, that’s all it has amounted to: speculation.

    As for myself, I find it more plausible to believe that Jesus knew so much about history, other religions, and so on was because, well, he was God.

  4. He was at my place.
    We had beer and watched a ballgame.

  5. Cris,

    Pascal’s wager is one of the more pathetic arguments by theists.

    J. Alexander Lowman,

    “Weak atheist” is term used.

    Eric,

    “As for myself, I find it more plausible to believe that Jesus knew so much about history, other religions, and so on was because, well, he was God.”

    What specifically did Jesus know of history, other religions, etc.? Did he perform lectures on Hinduism or Buddhism?

  6. JB,
    Just quoting from Lowman: “He was, however, educated in the Old Testament as well as history and probably many other religions.”

  7. yah, pascal’s wager is basically the most cowardly stance someone can take when dealing with the universe at-large.

  8. Dink,
    “He was at my place.
    We had beer and watched a ballgame.”

    Sounds like something the Big Guy would enjoy. 🙂

  9. Nick Gillespie,

    Excellent reference to Foucault; he was indeed quite fond of S/M, and he especially enjoyed his experiences in S.F.

    BTW, I think it is less of an issue of reverting to the “middle ages,” than it is 19th century Catholicism; or even more precisely, pre-Vatican II Catholicism. This is after all why Gibson uses as inspiration – see the portion in the film where the blood of Christ is sopped up cloth provided by the wife of Pilate – a 19th century anti-semitic mystic (the Augustinian Nun Sister Anne Emmerich) who is popular amongst “traditional Catholics.” Its also interesting to note that though her sainthood has been on hold since the 1920s, there is a desire by many to have her sainted largely because she was beridden for many years and underwent a lot of physical suffering.

  10. Eric,

    That’s not an answer to my question; and being educated in the Old Testament hardly requires God-like powers. After all, its something required of all Jewish men. I want specific evidence he knew something of other religions, not the re-statement of a claim.

  11. JB,
    Let me rephrase my initial response: Lowman made the claim. Why don’t you ask him?

    “That’s not an answer to my question.”

    It wasn’t meant to be.

  12. Re: Pascal’s wager: I think it was Robert Anton Wilson who said that the lowest rung of Hell is reserved for those who believe in it because they think they’ll go there if they don’t.

  13. Eric,

    This is your claim:

    As for myself, I find it more plausible to believe that Jesus knew so much about history, other religions, and so on was because, well, he was God.

    Its perfectly reasonable and rationale for me to ask you to defend it. As you are unwilling to, I will now presume that there is nothing to defend.

  14. JB,
    Since I accept that Jesus is God, and that God is omniscient, then Jesus must have known about other religions.

    As for evidence, ask Lowman to present his. He doesn’t believe Jesus is God, so he must have some reason for how Jesus came to this knowledge.

  15. Saw some interesting items in al-Jazeera:

    So far the film has not goteen any distributors in Israel, and is not expected to get any in video/DVD release.

    Only about 1% of West Bank Palastineans are Christian.

    Moslems do not believe Jesus was crucified (evidently the Koran states otherwise.)

    Moslems view Jesus as a “Prophet” (a particular status in the Islamic tradition) and for most legalists that means that all the strictures against depicting him visually (at all) apply the same as with Mohamed. I would assume this would have always been a flashpoint with Christians.

    The film will likely not show in any West Bank or Gaza theaters, but pirate video/DVD is extremely popular– everybody likes it, including Arafat who saw it privately. (Apparently practice concerning depictions of Jesus is actually more relaxed…I seriously doubt Arafat would acknowledge watching a film treatment of Mohamed.)

    The release in Lebanon was strong, but not unusual for a new releas. The more limited release in Syria has really struck a nerve apparently…maybe because of recent troubles.

  16. I’ve never seen much of a need for Pascal’s wager either. IF there is a god, and the definition of god is that divine entity which is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, then this god would exist even in the pits of whatever place you chose to call hell. In other words, if god is everywhere, then he is with us wherever we go, and there could be little difference between “heaven” and “hell.” To sacrifice the pursuit of pleasure in this world is true sin.

  17. Eric,

    I’ll take your pathetic argument to mean that you abdicate the field.

  18. Dave Potts,
    That’s a good question, and one that Christians have dealt with and answered before. See here, for example:

    http://www.gospeloutreach.net/hell.html

    JB,
    I can’t control how you take anything or what you presume, so I’m not very concerned about it. Why you refuse to ask the originator of the claim for his evidence, God only knows.

  19. “What specifically did Jesus know of history, other religions, etc.? Did he perform lectures on Hinduism or Buddhism?”

    When Jesus’ teachings were first introduced to Buddhist regions, it common for their religious leaders to say that Jesus must have studied Buddhism.

    BTW, Nazareth is within walking distance of a major Silk Road trade route.

  20. Eric,

    “Why you refuse to ask the originator of the claim for his evidence, God only knows.”

    Well, you made the claim yourself; so its reasonable to assume that you can defend it.

    joe,

    Can you tell me who specifically said this?

  21. I think that Jesus probably did go to India and perhaps Egypt as well. But as you say, it’s just speculation.

    The reason that I would think that Jesus knew something of other religions is due to a lot of influence that seems evident in Christianity from Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, and a variety of other religions. Yes, they could have also come from the apostles or other followers of Jesus, since those religions were not unknown in that area by any means, but Jesus was the leader. I doubt he was the leader of the movement because he was an ignoramus. And much of that influence came in after Jesus died (if he really did die), but I still think he had a hand in at the very least getting those ideas introduced.

    Honestly, I’m not the most qualified to explain some of these theories in their entirety as I’m simply a layman. But there is plenty of discussion about these things out there in academia, and of course the web, although as usual you have to be wary of a lot of quacks and loonies when dealing with web info.

  22. i) Pascal denied the possibility of a demonstrative proof of God’s existence both because it was logically impossible and because it was incompatible with the epistemology claims of Christianity;

    ii) Pascal considered the Christian doctrine a superior explanatory instrument to all other religious doctrines;

    iii) He introduced his wager with these two “facts” in mind, and there’s nothing wrong with it from the perspective of ‘decision theory’ proper. If we treat belief and unbelief as if they’re options in a wager, and assign an infinite value to the stake gained if God does exist and you believe in him, then his argument is perfectly valid. There is no debate – it is. Contemporary decision theory prohibits the introduction of infinite values, however, because they make any and all risk irrational, something many think is problematic.

    None of this matters, of course, because the Wager was never intended to make nonbelievers take up the Christian faith. It was merely a tool he used to induce them to seek out “inspiration” and thereby be redeemed.

  23. ..that should read ‘epistemological claims’, of course.

  24. The sad thing is that after going through such effort to praise his God, poor Mel Gibson is still going to Hell. To quote Jesus o’ Nazareth:

    “Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.” (Luke 6:24)

    “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15)

    Also, Jesus was ignorant about his own religion. In John 1:18 he says no one has ever seen God, yet Ezekiel did (Ezekiel 8:1-2) Jesus said no one has ever ascended into Heaven (John 3:13), but Elijah did in Second Kings 2:11. Jesus claimed to be the only Son of God, but in Genesis 6:4 we learn that the Sons(plural) of God came to earth and had sex with earth women; that’s where giants come from.

    Of course, by Jesus’ own admission his religion is bullshit. Consider what he told his followers about the second coming: “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Mark 13:30; Matthew 24:34; Luke 21:32) At twenty years per generation we’re only 1,980 years late.

    Also, I notice that a person will go to Hell if they call anyone but God “Father” or “teacher.” (Matthew 23: 9-10) Ha! I always knew my students were hellbound, but now I have proof.

    There’s much more I can say, but the pizza-delivery guy just arrived at my door.

  25. Well said Jennifer.

    the pizza-delivery guy just arrived at my door
    Must … resist … urge … to make … snide … porn … comment.

  26. VanVeen, it’s still no good. Even if anyone takes Pascals’ second premise seriously, Pascal’s Wager is still hopelessly flawed. For one thing, just because you think Christianity the best “explanation” doesn’t mean you can rule out all others for your wager. Second, there are many cults and sects within Christianity, often mutually exclusive, so Pascal’s blithe assumption that the Catholic Church was the way to go was questionable even then, and it’s only gotten worse since. (Mel Gibson is wagering Vatican II is wrong). Worse, it’s easy to imagine a Supreme Being who doesn’t like being believed in by bean counters who are playing it safe. Finally, the hidden assumption is that you can force yourself to believe something, but just because someone can, say, prove to you that belief in Santa Claus makes you happier, it hardly means you then simply start believing.

  27. I want to ask someone at suck.com what percentage of their HTTP referrals come from this site.

  28. Jean

    Eric’s statement comes down to this: “Jesus is God, God is omniscient, therefore Jesus knows everything about about other religions, well, because he’s God and must know everything”. Since this is based on faith he is not required to furnish any evidence (like statements by the Saviour regarding Hinduism or Buddhism). I suspect you are not really being obtuse, perhaps you’re just baiting the poor lad.

    J Alex on the other hand thinks JC must have sought out and acquired this knowledge during his earthly sojourn. Eric adds to this with “Some think he went to Egypt, others to India…”. Of course if JC is God and knows all why would he have to go anywhere to learn anything? In fact why did the boy Jesus have to spend all that time at the temple studying with the Pharisees et al? We know he did from the gospels.

    Of course any one who grew up in England, or like me in one of the dominions, or is familiar with Blake’s poetry knows that he travelled to England (…and was the holy Lamb of God on England’s pleasant pastures seen…)

    joe repeats one of those stories that sounds an awful lot like a legend created to make Xtians feel good about themselves (after their history of generally mistreating all non-believers and dissenters).

  29. The best thing about South Park‘s Mel Gibson was that at least half his mannerisms were lifted from Daffy Duck.

  30. “The assumption is that redemption depends on metaphorically flogging the body into extinction”

    Carroll badly misses the point here. Jesus’ death by torture has nothing to do with destruction of mortal flesh as a means of salvation. Instead, it is about his role as the last human sacrifice.

    In the mythology, Jesus is a sinless being who sacrifices himself for the redemption of all mankind. In the story of the gospels, he is given the chance to avoid his fate but refuses. He chooses pain and humiliation out of love for humanity.

    The graphic depictions of his torture are meant to engender a sense of gratitude and obligation in the believer. It’s the “Hey I took a bullet for you!” school of theology. The more visceral the experience of the sacrifice is to the believer the greater the sense of obligation is as well.

    That’s why Gibson went over the top.

  31. The Pin-cushion of the Christ.

  32. Indeed… The best scene from the South Park episode was two folks leaving the theater after Stan and Kenny saw the movie:

    Man 1: Wow, I didn’t realize how horrible Christ’s death was.
    Woman 1: Me neither. Oh honey, let’s be good Christians from now on!

    [they walk off, screen left. A second couple emerges]

    Man 2: I think if more people saw The Passion they’d have faith in Jesus.
    Woman 2: Yeah, it really guilt-trips you into believing.

  33. “Jesus’ death by torture has nothing to do with destruction of mortal flesh as a means of salvation.’

    You are ignoring a long history of scourgings, fasting, Phillipine Easter crucifixions, hair shirts, Opus Dei thigh spike bands, and other mortification-of-the-flesh practices that grew out of Christianity.

    Perhaps this doesn’t mesh with your own Scriptural readings, but it is a real tradition, and one that Gibson and other pre-modern Catholics take seriously.

  34. Eric writes: “Since I accept that Jesus is God, and that God is omniscient, then Jesus must have known about other religions.”

    There is no evidence for either of your premises. But beyond that, if Jesus was all-knowing and benevolent, why didn’t he give the scoop about antibiotics? Hand-washing as preventing maternal death in childbirth? How is it that we had to wait a millennium or two for empiricism to yield these incredibly valuable, life-saving gifts?

    Why no key to ending cancer?

    Why does he not beam down to the UN and announce he really is god, and end all doubt? Cuz we are supposed to believe by faith, without evidence? What kind of intelligent but fair being toys with others like that? I go to hell for not believing in spite of lack of evidence, cuz god wants it that way?

  35. joe writes “When Jesus’ teachings were first introduced to Buddhist regions, it common for their religious leaders to say that Jesus must have studied Buddhism.”

    First, do you take this to mean that Jesus, did, in fact, study Buddhism?

    Second, what is your evidence for this claim? I have a B.A. in religious studies, and it is the first I have heard of it, but my education at that level was of course only undergrad, so it may be limited. What did my matriculation miss?

    My understanding is that Jesus likely existed, but that he was Jewish, steeped in Judaism, and preached as a Jewish heretic in the political context of Jewish subjugation to Rome. Nary a word did I hear about his contemplating Buddhism, except from non-scholarly, New Age wackos.

    –Mona–

  36. Yuck. This whole ‘having someone die for your sins’ bit seems a bit selfish, if you ask me. It’s like having a religion based on someone else taking your driving test for you. I think I’ll pass on this one.

  37. I think Mel’s pre-modern theology was more of the Christus Victor type rather than the mortification of the flesh. Satan is throwing all he has on Jesus and he “bears the sin of all man” with success. Satan screams at the end knowing he has lost.

  38. Addendum to above: the first I heard of this “Jesus knew Buddhism” thing from an intelligent source, was from joe. I have heard it before, but only from New Age nuts. So that explains an apparent contradiction in my second and third parapraphs.

    –Mona–

  39. joe beat me to it, but it’s sort of the basis for Lent.

  40. Did God marry Mary or just use her for his “big plan”?
    She was technically raped, right?
    Was God married at the time?
    Did his wife know about this?

  41. I agree that non catholics just don’t ‘get’ it. The reviews in Entertainment weekly were interesting specifically due to their non-catholic writers struggling to understand what the heck was going on in the movie.

    As for South Park, I missed Alan Alda, but I love that Gibson shitted (shat?) right in Cartman’s face!

  42. “…the first I heard of this “Jesus knew Buddhism” thing …”

    Mona, I referred to this in an earlier post as “…a legend created to make Xtians feel good about themselves (after their history of generally mistreating all non-believers and dissenters)” but now you mention it the New Age whacko thing presents itself. However I have a hard time distinguishing between “New Age nuts” and Xtian fundies and indeed most modern “mainstream” Xtians.

    Did anyone catch “Fresh Air” on NPR on Thurs 4/1? TG interviewed John Dominic Crossan “[who] is professor emeritus of biblical studies at DePaul University in Chicago. A native of Ireland, and ordained as a priest in the United States, he left the priesthood in 1969. Crossan is a founding member of the Jesus Seminar…”. Interesting take on why if all the Jews wanted to kill Jesus they needed Judas to betray him.

    I found it interesting even tho I think JC is a fictional character.

  43. One take on the story of Jesus’s travels through Egypt, Persia, India & oh, Japan etc holds that it arose due to the Gnostic character of the Christianity of that era ie its similarity to eastern religious thought. Read “The Gnostic Gospels” by Elaine Pagels for more on this. Interesting book.
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0679724532/reasonmagazinea-20/

    And refer here for “faith based” speculation about Jesus’ lost years.
    http://www.sol.com.au/kor/7_01.htm
    Well, it could have happened.

  44. “”Fresh Air” on NPR on Thurs 4/1″ was mentioned in connection with allegations of Mel Gibson’s anti-semitism.

  45. Isaac Bertraam writes: “I found it interesting even tho I think JC is a fictional character.”

    Depends on what you mean by fictional. I am enirely convinced that some besotted Jewish fellow born of Mary, prolly of the House of David, got into a whole pile of crap for his troublesome preaching in Rome-occupied Jerusalem and its environs. Messiah fever was in the air, among Jews, at the time. Jesus was only one of the MANY who either claimed the messiah status or found it imputed to them.

    It is an accident of history that a genius (in terms of sheer intellect and promotional ability) like Paul then came along. But for Saul/Paul, there would be no Xianity, and he really believed, for whatever reason; quirk of fate gives us a world-dominating religion. Say what you like, but that guy Paul was one smart fellow who knew how to get a religious movement going. It should properly be called “Paulism,” not Xianity. Paul was brilliant.

    –Mona–

  46. Jennifer,
    “I’ll admit I did not click onto the links providing answers.”

    If you wish to remain ignorant about these things, that’s up to you. But my responses weren’t about explaining anything away – it’s about providing necessary context to promote greater understanding. It’s also not about trying to convince anyone – just wanted you to be aware that your objections are neither original nor the show-stoppers you seem to think they are, and that there are answers to them. Theologians and others have been dealing with these objections for a couple thousand years now.

    Mona,
    “A woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet.” 1 Tim 2:11-12″

    I’m glad you mentioned that, because the answer proves my point about provding context. Paul was writing to Timothy and discussing specific situations in the church in Ephesus. Here are the relevant sections about that verse from the companion commentary from my Life Application Bible, NIV version:

    We must understand the situation in which Paul and Timothy worked. In first-century Jewish culture, women were not allowed to study. When Paul said that women should learn in quietness and full submission, he was offering them an amazing new opportunity. Paul did not want the Ephesian women to teach because they did not have enough knowledge or experience. The Ephesian church had a particular problem with false teachers. Evidently the women were especially susceptible to the false teachings (see 2 Timothy 3:1-9), because they did not yet have enough Biblical knowledge to discern the truth. In addition, some of the women were apparently flaunting their new-found CHristian freedom by wearing inappropriate clothing. Paul was telling Timothy not to put anyone (in this case, women) in a position of leadership who was not yet mature in faith. The same principle applies to churches today.

  47. Mona,
    Here’s a bit more about Paul’s attitude toward women teachers, also from my Life Application Bible:

    Some interpret this passage to mean that women should never teach in the assembled church. However, commentators point out that Paul did not forbid women from ever teaching. Paul’s commended co-worker, Priscilla, taught Apollos, the great preacher (Acts 18:24-26). In addition, Paul frequently mentioned other women who held positions of responsibility in the church. Phoebe worked in the church (Romans 16:1). Mary, Tryphena, and Tryphosa were the Lord’s workers (Romans 16:6,12), as were Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2). Paul was very likely prohibiting Ephesian women, not all women, from teaching.

  48. Mona,
    And some more info from the same source, about women being silent:

    In Paul’s reference to women being silent, the word silent expresses an attitude of quietness and composure (a different Greek word is usually used to convey “complete silence”). In addition, Paul himself acknowledges that women publicly prayed and prophesied (1 Corinthians 11:5). Apparently, however, the women in the Ephesian church were abusing their newly acquired Christian freedom. Because these women were new converts, they did not yet have the necessary experience, knowledge, or Christian maturity to teach those who already had extensive Scriptural education.

  49. SM writes: “Read ‘The Gnostic Gospels’ by Elaine Pagels for more on this. Interesting book.”

    Read it and recommend it, or anything else she has written, including “Adam, Eve and the Serpent.” But I think she only describes these alleged travels of Jesus as gnostic weirdness alleged long after the fact. To the best of my recollection she does not claim that Jesus went to India, much less that he had a knowledge of Buddhism that informed his preaching. It has been a while since I dealt with these matters, but I think I would remember that.

    –Mona–

  50. In summary, providing context isn’t about discounting troublesome passages – it’s about understanding why they were written and then applying the underlying principles today. For example, women are free to speak in most Christian churches, so that specific advice from Paul isn’t followed, because it was meant for a specific time and place.

    But, the underlying principles – don’t allow false teachers in the church, be thoroughly educated and knowledgeable about the Bible before teaching it – certainly do apply and should be followed.

  51. Mona

    I think “Jesus of Nazareth” is a fictional character in the sense that Jewish radicals in the 1st century CE needed to create something that gave themselves comfort with the Roman conquest and humiliation. I have no doubt there were many religious and political radicals that the Roman administration needed to eliminate (in cooperation with the local puppet regime) thru crusifiction to maintain order.

    However I don’t think “He” is anymore authentic than “Brian of Nazareth” created by the wierd folks at “Monty Python” to give us alienated post-moderns mirth in the late 20th century.

  52. Quote: 1) What if it is true, that Jesus was who he said he was: The Son of GOD, one with the Father? ?The Way, The Truth, and The Life, ? no man comes to the Father but by me.? It seems to me that he was either a extremely enlightened, good, but crazy-delusional person, or actually the Son of GOD imparting forgiveness.

    This seems like a rehash of a C.S. Lewis argument. The other possibility is that Jesus was a composite of various religious leaders, with possibly some fictional qualities thrown in. The “madman, heretic or God” argument assumes that we take everything written about Jesus at face value.

    As “Jesus Christ Superstar” tells us, “Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication”. Given that, it’s conceivable to me that a fictional character could be created out of “eyewitness” accounts in a fairly short time.

  53. Mona,

    You are correct. Pagels definitely does not claim that Jesus went to Egypt or to any other place on the list. My point was that the myth of Jesus as Marco Polo probably rose out of syncretic christianity & certainly after the fact. The book suggests something of the sort.

  54. Eric-
    You dismiss my refusal to click on the link, but ignore the reason why. PLease explain, why is it that the sweet’n’fuzzy parts of the Bible are taken at face value whilst everything else must be twisted into something else? If God inspired the Bble, why does it say that the Earth is flat and orbited by the sun? I know I’m not the first person to raise these points–we skeptics are forced to repeat ourselves because you believers keep dodging the questions. Like you did–“Oh, well, if Jennifer wants to remain ignorant then I’m not going to answer why the world is flat and slaves should be obedient and all rich people are condemned.” Of COURSE you’re not going to answer these points–they are unanswerable, at least in thye context of a Christian reality.

  55. No, Jennifer, they are not unanswerable. That’s my whole point! The answers are out there. I provided some and you ignored them. Justify it any way you like.

    The Bible does not say the earth is flat – that’s a myth. This link explains why, so feel free to ignore it.

    Slavery wasn’t approved by God, it was allowed. A fine distinction. Ignore further information here and here.

    Finally, about the rich. Yes, it is harder for them to get to heaven, but not impossible, and Jesus never says it is. It’s harder for rich folks because they tend to place their faith on their wealth and material possessions rather than God. But it’s not impossible because with God all things are possible, and His grace is available to anyone who accepts it.

    Your so-called unanswerable questions aren’t really that, Jennifer. You just have to look for them.

  56. Eric: it is most amusing that YOU accuse Jennifer of making arguments she expects to be showstoppers, when you trot out the standard, special pleading apologetics for NT misogyny that I’ve encountered many times before. (Paul, btw, very likely did not write 1 Timothy; that epistle is almost certainly deutero-Pauline — the vocabulary and style, as well as content, are very hard to square with epistles known to have been authored by Paul.)

    There were those in the early church who were anti-female, and 1 Timothy reflects this. The absurd notion that the Ephesian churh had some particular problem with its women being so ignorant that blah, blah, blah…I mean if you really think THAT kind of crap establishes a “context” that salavages the misogyny in Timothy, you will believe anything. Women in Timothy are to shut up and have babies, and the reason for this is given in the immediately following verses– “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Further, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. But she will be saved by motherhood…” 1 Tim 2:13-15 That’s ALL women, Eric, not just the Ephesians — Eve makes us all “guilty” and so we are to shut up and breed.

    See also, Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, 14:34-35: “…women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a womawn to speak in the church.”

    And BTW, I ask you again: why did your omniscient god — who knew all human history and the contents of all world religions — not bother to tell people about germ theory when he was here? Simply washing hands and wounds would have saved millions and rendered the loaves and fishes stint a minor charitable event by comparison, but he kept his knowledge to himself. Why?

  57. Eric sputters: “No, Jennifer, they are not unanswerable. That’s my whole point! The answers are out there. I provided some and you ignored them. Justify it any way you like.”

    Please *do* get over the notion that these facile apologetics you are posting are news to a lot of us. I was raised and heavily indoctrinated Roman Catholic, and I’ve heard it all and worse. Special pleading, sophistry and sometimes total falsehood. With the minds and knowledge arrayed agasint you here, you are begging for ridicule if you continue to offer such tripe. Indeed, I question the wisdom of putting your devout religious beliefs at issue, as you have done; I do not gratuitously deride religious beliefs and many here find doing so unseemly– but you are ASKING for it.

    As to the flat Earth: certainly for a very loing time, Jews and Xians believed the world was flat or flattish — that there was “an edge” one could fall off of. In fact, there still is a Flat Earth Society comprised of fundamentalists, who have even been published by so-called scientific creationist organizations. (Eventually the creationists distanced themselves from their flat-earther brothers in Christ because of the embarrassment factor.)

    Which raises another issue: do you accept that evolution is a scientific fact? (As opposed to the theories of its mechanisms which are not elevated to fact.)

    –Mona–

  58. Mona-
    There’s really no point for you or I or anyone to continue trying to convince Eric. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I know where Eric is coming from. I noticed problems with Christian doctrine when I was as young as eight, but for years I ignored them because it really is terrifying for a believer to consider a life without god. Heck, I might be a believer to this day if not for this one summer when I happened to find almost all of Carl Sagan’s books in thrift stores (fifty cents apiece, within the range of my grad-school budget), and Sagan, combined with all the other scientific knowledge I’d been collecting since childhood, forced those beliefs to crumble. It was almost like a physical sensation in my mind, and I won’t lie to you–I didn’t feel liberated, I felt abandoned. For all I knew, I would never feel happiness again. In my journal at the time I wrote something like “Of all the nasty tricks God has pulled, not existing is the nastiest one yet.”

    Try to imagine this: say you’re one of those old-fashioned women of fifty or a hundred years ago. You, personally, have accomplished nothing for yourself; all of your status is vicarious, via Your Man. Your social status, your financial security, your self-worth, pretty much everything you value is tied up in Your Man; if you lost him you’d be fucked.

    And then I come along with irrefutable evidence that your marriage is a sham, your man doesn’t love you, all the security you thought you had is fake. Chances are good that despite your intelligence and emotional maturity, you will deny this, or rationalize it away somehow. And not just you–I would, we all would. Humans are weak, that way.

    As Eric has amply demonstrated, it doesn’t matter how much Biblical evidence we can offer to prove that the Bible is not divinely inspired. Eric and his cronies will manage to justify it somehow.

    What, the book of Genesis flat-out says that the Sons of God came to Earth and had sex with us hot’n’horny Earth women? Well, uh, scholars and theologians have been debating what that means but obviously it doesn’t mean what it says and–uh–just because the Bible orders slaves to obey their masters doesn’t mean that God APPROVES of slavery, and just because women are ordered to keep silent and never have authority over men doesn’t REALLY mean that women can’t talk in church or have authority over men and. . .uh. . .WHY CAN’T YOU JUST HAVE FAITH?????

  59. Voltaire, in Story of a Good Brahman: “I have told myself a thousand times that I would be happy if only I were as stupid as my neighbors; yet I would want no part of such a happiness.”

  60. Mona,
    Since you dismissed but did not refute the commentary from my Life Application Bible, I’ll pass along what it says about about the 1 Timothy verse:

    There are several ways to understand the phrase, “being saved through childbearing”: 1. Man sinned and so men were condemned to painful labor. Woman sinned and so women were condemned to pain in childbearing. Both men and women, however, can be saved through trusting Christ and obeying him. 2. Women who fulfill their God-given roles are demonstrating true commitment and obedience to Christ. One of the most important roles for a wife and mother is to care for her family. 3. The childbearing mentioned here refers to the birth of Jesus Christ. Women (and men) are saved because of the most important birth, that of Christ himself. 4. From the lessons learned through the trials of childbearing, women can develop qualities that teach them about love, trust, submission, and service.

    Also, Paul is not excusing Adam for his role in the fall of man. In fact, in Romans 5:12-21, he places the primary blame on Adam.

    All that said, Mona, I will admit the passage is problematic. The challenge is to square it with Paul’s obvious acknowledgment and approval elsewhere that women pray, prophesy, and teach in the church. In short, context.

  61. Mona,
    Here’s more commentary on the 1 Corinthians verse.

    In the Corinthian culture, women were not allowed to confront men in public. Apparently, some of the women who had become Christians thought that their Christian freedom gave them the right to question the men in public worship. This was causing division in the church. In addition, women of that day did not receive formal religious education as did the men [which, Mona, if you’ll recall from my earlier post, Paul sought to change]. Woman may have been raising questions in the worship services that could have been answered at home without disrupting the service. PAul was asking the women not to flaunt their Christian freedom during worship. The purpose of Paul’s words was to promote unity, not to teach about women’s role in the church.

    Again, another example of context. Paul was all about unity, especially since the church was still in its infancy. He therefore discouraged any Christians (he penned directives to men as well) not to do certain things if it caused division. His advice was cultural and for a specific place and time, but the underlying principle of unity still applies.

  62. Mona,
    About the germ theory, the best explanation I can give you (I haven’t looked this up) is that the world wasn’t ready for that kind of knowledge. They wouldn’t have gotten it, they wouldn’t have understood it, and they most likely would have rejected it. And Jesus knew that.

    About the flat earth, the question was not what past Christians have believed, but if the Bible says the earth is flat. I linked to an article that demonstrates that falsehood. That past Christians have believed in a flat earth shows two things: 1. They were wrong. 2. Their belief was not Biblically based, though they obviously thought so.

    As for evolution, I of course accept the general concept that things change over time. I do not support the Darwinian theory, though. No doubt several reputable scientists do; other equally reputable scientists do not.

  63. “Woman sinned and so women were condemned to pain in childbearing. Both men and women, however, can be saved through trusting Christ and obeying him.”

    If this is true, then wouldn’t this imply that Christian women should not feel labor pains? See, secular humanists believe that women experience pain in childbirth because our hips are relatively narrow, compared to the size of a baby’s head. And most born-again women I’ve known tend to be overweight people with truly enormous asses, so there’s plenty of room for God to widen the hip-bones of the devout in order to grant them pain-free childbirth.

  64. Jennifer,
    “There’s really no point for you or I or anyone to continue trying to convince Eric.”

    That’s funny, I was starting to think the same thing about you. 😉

    “As Eric has amply demonstrated, it doesn’t matter how much Biblical evidence we can offer to prove that the Bible is not divinely inspired.”

    Not true – you just haven’t presented any yet.

    “What, the book of Genesis flat-out says that the Sons of God came to Earth and had sex with us hot’n’horny Earth women? Well, uh, scholars and theologians have been debating what that means but obviously it doesn’t mean what it says and–uh–just because the Bible orders slaves to obey their masters doesn’t mean that God APPROVES of slavery, and just because women are ordered to keep silent and never have authority over men doesn’t REALLY mean that women can’t talk in church or have authority over men and. . .uh. . .WHY CAN’T YOU JUST HAVE FAITH?????”

    A nice little rant, but by your own admission you’ve ignored answers to these very issues, while at the same time claiming they’re not answerable! If you are already familiar with those answers, as Mona suggests, it’s not evident. If you are, then I willingly stand corrected.

    Finally, I have to say that I’ve actually enjoyed our little discussion today. The conversation was civil and polite. Ideas and issues were discussed and debated without any personal mudslinging. Not always the case on these threads!

  65. Jennifer,
    Hmm, after reading that last comment, I may have to amend my final paragraph above. Too good to last, I suppose!

  66. Eric-
    I actually did go back looking for the link explaining why the Sons of God who had earthly sex were not the brothers of Jesus, and I could not find it.

    Here is one serious question for you: what guidelines determine which Bible verses should be taken literally in the modern era, and which need to be “explained?”
    Should I assume God still wants slaves to obey their masters?
    Should we still refrain from adultery?
    Should we still execute people who work on the Sabbath day?
    Should we still ban murder?
    Should we still execute all who do not believe in Yahweh, the God of Abraham?
    Should we still Love Our Neighbors?
    Should we still execute homosexuals?

    I’m assuming the answers are “No, yes, no, yes, no, yes, no” but I would like to know hat guidelines are used to determine this.

  67. Eric-
    Sorry if the ‘fat asses” comment offended you, but seriously–if God inflicted painful childbirth as a punishment for sin, does that mean that Eve originally had extremely wide hips, for painless birth, and that God made her hips narrower after the Fall?

  68. Jennifer,
    As to your latest series of questions, you’ve asked me this before and I answered it. It has to do with Jesus fulfilling the law. Ring a bell? Because Jesus fulfilled the law, we are no longer required to do so. That also means that any punishments for breaking that law also no longer apply.

    That’s the very short answer. Again, there are other answers out there, longer and more detailed (such as, what is meant by the law), and if you’re really serious about finding them, you can. If you’re not, then why ask the question?

    About pain in childbirth, all I can say is that was one of the consequences for the fall of man. But remember that God is omniscient. He knows the future. How do you think that applies here?

  69. Jennifer,
    “To quote Jesus o’ Nazareth: “Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.” (Luke 6:24)”

    This passage is more of a warning to rich people. Don’t rely on your wealth to save you, because it won’t. It does not mean that rich people can’t be saved, because that implies there are limits to God’s power and grace. The grace of God is available to everyone, rich and poor alike.

    “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15)”

    That’s right. We tend to value riches, looks, accomplishments, while God values humility, faith, and service.

    “Also, Jesus was ignorant about his own religion. In John 1:18 he says no one has ever seen God, yet Ezekiel did (Ezekiel 8:1-2).”

    Ezekiel saw an angel or a manifestation of God, not God himself in the flesh – that was Jesus. And just for accuracy, in John 1:18, it was John the Baptist who said that.

    “Jesus said no one has ever ascended into Heaven (John 3:13), but Elijah did in Second Kings 2:11.”

    See here for an answer to that.

    “Jesus claimed to be the only Son of God, but in Genesis 6:4 we learn that the Sons(plural) of God came to earth and had sex with earth women; that’s where giants come from.”

    There is debate over just what “the sons of God” refer to. Some scholars say they were the descendants of Seth – others think they were fallen angels who became mortal. In fact, the OT twice refers to “sons of God” as angels (Job 1:6 and Job 38:7). See here for more information about the phrase “sons of God” in the OT.

    “Of course, by Jesus’ own admission his religion is bullshit. Consider what he told his followers about the second coming: “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Mark 13:30; Matthew 24:34; Luke 21:32) At twenty years per generation we’re only 1,980 years late.”

    It’s probable that Jesus’ use of generation doesn’t match our use – He was using it as it was understood at the time. See here for one answer.

    “Also, I notice that a person will go to Hell if they call anyone but God “Father” or “teacher.” (Matthew 23: 9-10) Ha! I always knew my students were hellbound, but now I have proof.”

    See here for a Catholic response to this. And that verse does not say anything about going to hell.

    Jennifer, in the past you’ve also posed this “gotcha” verses, as if Christians have never addressed them, and as if there are no answers to them. There are answers, as you can see. My question is, are you serious about finding them, or are you going to keep repeating them in the false hope of scoring cheap debating points?

  70. “About pain in childbirth, all I can say is that was one of the consequences for the fall of man. But remember that God is omniscient. He knows the future. How do you think that applies here?”

    I was going to ask you the same thing.

  71. Eric writes: “All that said, Mona, I will admit the passage is problematic. The challenge is to square it with Paul’s obvious acknowledgment and approval elsewhere that women pray, prophesy, and teach in the church. In short, context.”

    This is not a problem of context; it is that the Bible contains contradictions. That is because it is a mish-mash of many authors, or the same at different times, and they write sometimes incompatible things. You can find “proof” for just about anything in the Bible, and people have. Including that the Earth is flat, which was Xian doctrine for centuries; you can now say those who believed that were wrong, and link to some apologist as to why, but the bottom line is that for a very long time this “wrong” interpretation was orthodoxy. Why should we believe you and your apologists over the orthodox of yesteryear?

    Further, I did refute your sources. The verses demanding that women be silent carry their own explanation, and it is that Eve suposedly was deceived where Adam was not, and so woman is punished and subservient to the male. That is what the text *itself* gives as the rationale for its misogynistic instructions. If the concern was that women should not be speaking due to the reasons your sources give, hell, it is God’s word, and one would think he could come right out and say so, but it takes your annotators, a few millennia hence, to come up with that face-saving blather.

    Again: 1 Timothy says the reason is that women are paying the price for Eve’s transgression; we are to shut up and just have babies because of Eve. Plain words, unambigious. The special pleading of your apologists, and your constant mantra of “context,” do not change that. You can cut and paste as much from your apologists as you like, but the passages are not ambiguous and contain their own explanation that is not the one you and they offer.

    –Mona–

  72. Mona-
    Forgive the personal question, but are your hips wide or narrow? I’m trying to determine how sinful you are, see. I myself am skinny as a stick, which means if I gave birth it would be MONSTROUSLY painful, which makes sense on account of I am a colossal sinner.

    If only I were virtuous, like Jennifer Lopez.

  73. Eric writes: “As for evolution, I of course accept the general concept that things change over time. I do not support the Darwinian theory, though. No doubt several reputable scientists do; other equally reputable scientists do not.”

    Do you accept that evolution is the natural explanation for the bio-diversity around us? Scientists do not speak of “Darwinian theory.” It is evolution that 99.99% of them consider to have such complete explanatory power that its status is elevated to fact. Almost no reputable scientists question this. Do you?

  74. Isaac Bertram,

    Well, I don’t accept his silly premises, and therefore I expect him to defend his statements. 🙂

  75. Eric-
    Actually, more than once has Jesus condemned rich people merely for being rich. The most famous verse, of course, is “It is easier for a camel to go trhough the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Matt. 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25) Note: this doesn’t say “a rich man who values money above God” or “a rich man who acquired his wealth through dishonest means;” it just says rich man. Period. Makes sense–after all, Jesus was preaching to a mass of poor people who of course resented the rich and enjoyed hearing that sooner or later those rich bastards would get it good!

    Even more damning, consider the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, in Luke 16:19-31. These are one-dimensional characters. ALl we know is that Lazarus is poor and the rich man isn’t, and Jesus makes it clear: poverty guarantees admittance into heaven; wealth sends you to Hell. “Remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things; but now he is comforted (in Heaven) and you are in agony.” Nyaah nyaah nyaah. Take THAT, rich asshole! Obviously this was a religion designed to appeal to the jealousies of the poor. NOt until Paul tried making the religion more palatable to Gentiles did the anti-rich doctrine get replaced by doctrines like “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them . . .” (Titus 2:9) IS there a modern Christian explanation why THAT does not apply to modern slaves? I know there is a modern Christian charity that has been buying slaves in Sudan and setting them free; don’t these Christians know they’re breaking the Biblical law?

    I’ll admit I did not click onto the links providing answers, for this reason: I find it deeply suspicious that modern Christians divide the Bible into two parts: the part that can be taken literally without embarrassment, and the parts that have to have all sorts of tortuous explanations invented, so as to make Christianity still sound good. Why not just take it all at face value? The Earth IS flat, slaves SHOULD obey their masters, a menstruating woman IS forbidden from setting foot in the house of god; you SHOULD pluck out your eyes if you look at a pretty woman through them, rich men WILL go to hell merely for being rich, there WAS a Garden of Eden and God kicked Adam and Eve out not as punishment but out of fear, that the humans would eat from the Tree of LIfe, become immortal and rival God himself for knowledge and power. (Genesis 3:22-23)

    In some ways I almost have more respect for the Fundies who take every word literally; they may be abysmally ignorant about every scientific advance and discovery since the Middle Ages but at least they don’t have to perform the tortured mental contortions necessary to believe that a particular Book is divine, even though more than half of what’s in there is demonstrably false.

    I understand what you’re going through. When I lost my faith in Xianity I fought it, tooth and nail, and when the knowledge that the Bible was utter bullshit finally overcame my mental defenses I was alternately depressed or pissed off for MONTHS. Even now, it would be so much easier if I could just believe that I had an immortal soul created by a fatherly God with a personal interest in me. But I can’t believe that anymore than I can believe the world is flat–too much damned evidence out there, too many IQ points in my head. Even if a magic person offered me immortal life in exchange for a flat-earth belief I couldn’t do it, Pascal’s Wager be damned.

    The Bible says that you should stop wasting your time trying to convince heretics like me and Jean Bart. “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” Titus 3:10-11.

    Think of this: IF you are right and me, Jean Bart, Mona and Mo and the majority of the world’s scientists are incorrect, then in about fifty or sixty years you get to stand in Heaven, point to us in Hell, and say “Ha ha! I told you so!”

    And boy oh boy, will we be sorry. “Waaah!” I personally will bawl. “If only I had eaten lead paint as a child, thus making my IQ drop fifty points and ensuring I’d be too dumb to notice the inconsistencies of the Bible! Why, o why, didn’t my pregnant mom get drunk? Damn her for drinking all that milk instead. What benefiteth a woman if she gaineth a perfect set of teeth, but loseth her soul?”

  76. Jennifer: hush, woman. I have been most bold posting here, and you have been downright brazen. Leave all this to Eric, JB and the rest of the men, for: “A woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet.” 1 Tim 2:11-12

    And as per the same chapter, knock off the braided hair, gold ornaments, pearls and nice clothes. You will be saved in childbearing.

    –Mona–

  77. Eric-
    So you’re saying God designed women to experience painful childbirth before the Fall?

    Aw, just forget it.

  78. “do you take this to mean that Jesus, did, in fact, study Buddhism?” I take it to mean that truth is truth, wherever it is found. But it is entirely possible that His beliefs were influenced by, and presented in the language of, other religions. They were certainly influenced by Judaism.

    Jesus was not God disguised as a human. He was fully human in every way, which to me includes having His beliefs shaped by the culture He was born into, and the experiences He had over the course of His earthly life.

    Religion is a language, and by necessity an imperfect one, since it attempts to describe things beyond human understanding. The important truths in the primitive, mythical sections of Genesis are not the ad hoc explanations for natural phenomena, but the moral and spiritual lessons that illuminate the story.

    And Mona, “inspired by God” does not imply that the prophets and Biblical authors were able to see into the “mind of God,” and learn all sorts of scientific facts beyond the knowing of the time.

    Finally (yeah right), the question of why a moral God didn’t pass down advanced knowledge, or impose a peaceful order on human affairs, or demonstrate definitively the answers to theological questions: try applying the libertarian doctrine of the morality of voluntary charity vs. forced charity. Being good and finding God when you have no choice, or when the game in rigged so that the answers are obvious, is not virtuous. Life on this fallen world is an exercise in spiritual growth. If achieving enlightenment were a snap, there would be no opportunity for that growth.

  79. joewrites: “And Mona, “inspired by God” does not imply that the prophets and Biblical authors were able to see into the “mind of God,” and learn all sorts of scientific facts beyond the knowing of the time.”

    Why not? If they have a pipeline to an omniscient being, why are they not also a font of all kinds of immediately helpful knowledge? Anyone showing up w/ germ theory knowledge, the way to end cancer, even how to cure the common cold, that person will COMMAND my attention. God just doesn’t see fit to tell them? What a dickhead — I guess this god likes seeing folks drop like flies until, several pain-filled millennia hence, through godless empiricism, humans come up with this stuff themselves.

    What, god only communicates vague moral norms and pieties? Show me something *extraordinary that the prophet knows, and I will believe there is extraordinary communciation. Until then, it is just the same old same old, found in many cultures and claimed of many communications w/many gods.

    –Mona–

  80. Jennifer said: ?IF?the majority of the world’s scientists are incorrect?

    Just out of curiosity, do you happen to have a source for this? I was under the impression that a small majority of scientists, at least in the US, considered themselves religious (although, contrary to what Eric seems to be implying, almost all believe in biological evolution, especially the ones in related fields ? evolution, zoology, botany, etc.). I’m a biologist (in an evolution program at a university, no less), and I think about half of the faculty here are religious (fewer for students and post-docs, but still a significant minority). Of course, as a scientist I should know better than to draw inferences from such a small sample….
    Just did a quick google search and couldn?t find any reliable-looking figures about it. I did find a poll that suggested religious belief is inversely correlated with degree of education, although god knows education is hardly a perfect proxy for intelligence.

    Also, for what it?s worth, this soft (and especially squishy around the middle) atheist doesn?t have near the problem some folks seem to with inconsistencies in the bible. It seems internally consistent to me that a book inspired by god but written by humans would be imperfect or inconsistent. (I?m sure you?re familiar with philosophical and theological arguments about how an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent god could allow suffering, and if you don?t buy those I guess the whole discussion is moot.)

  81. Jennifer,
    “So you’re saying God designed women to experience painful childbirth before the Fall?
    Aw, just forget it.”

    Jennifer,
    I’m saying that God knew when he created woman that mankind would fall into sin. So no, he did not create Eve with super-size hips, and those hips were magically narrowed after the Fall.

    Mona,
    Your questions about why Jesus didn’t tell them how to cure cancer assumes that the people at the time would have known what the heck he was talking about. They wouldn’t have. Jesus (and by extension the Bible) had to be understood first of all by their immediate audience. Telling them things they wouldn’t have understood would not have done them any good. Instead, he gave us the ability to figure some things out for ourselves. Gosh, what a jerk – allowing us to live with free will!

    “Show me something extraordinary that the prophet knows, and I will believe there is extraordinary communciation.”

    You can ask for signs and wonders all you want. God is no way obligated to respond – why should he? The OT is full of prophecies that came true decades and centuries after they were written. Why isn’t that enough?

    Your demand is nothing new. Jesus himself said, in John 4:48 “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.”

  82. Oops.

    Those hips were NOT magically narrowed after the Fall.

  83. Jennifer,
    “About pain in childbirth, all I can say is that was one of the consequences for the fall of man. But remember that God is omniscient. He knows the future. How do you think that applies here?”

    “I was going to ask you the same thing.”

    When God created man and woman, he knew they were going to fall into sin. Does that help? Now I also know that raises a whole host of other questions, which I’m sure you’ll ask.

    Mona,
    What I gave you were the reasons why Paul wrote those plain words – ignore them all you like. I can’t control that.

    By “Darwinian theory” I was trying to provide a precise phrase in which to respond to. I’ve learned that the word “evolution” means different things to different people. If, by evolution, you mean “nothing evolved into ooze which evolved into animals which evolved into man” then no, I do not accept that, and despite your claim, many, many reputable scientists also reject it.

    What I accept is that God created the universe and everything in it.

  84. Mona,
    “There is no debate about this among practicing scientists in the academy or industry. The sole possible exception is Michael Behe.”

    I’m sorry, Mona, but that statement is just flat wrong. See here, for example, for a list of 90-some doctorates of science who are creationists, and working in the academy and industry. And this list isnt’ even complete, because Behe isn’t on it (the corresponding evolutionist list also isn’t complete, as you’ll see).

    In addition, there are currently over 600 voting scientists at the Creation Research Society. To be a voting member, you have to have an earned master’s degree in a recongized area of science.

    Jennifer,
    Two things here about the Bible and science. First, the Bible is not a scientific treatise – that was not its purpose or intent.

    Second, there are some passages in the Bible that do allude to scientific truths. I know you hate and ignore links, but this article lays it out much better than I could.

    Finally, I know you and Mona are getting a kick out the wide hips thing (which you brought up in the first place) but the Bible plainly says that no person is worse of a sinner than anyone else. That applies to Christians and non-Christians alike. As a Christian, I am are every bit a sinner as any humanist, agnostic, athiest, etc.

  85. My second link got busted. Here’s the URL:

    http://www.carm.org/issues/science.htm

  86. Joe-
    I can’t find exactly where you answered my question, but I am assuming it has to do with ‘free will.’ Look, even if God proved his existence we would still have the free will to ignore it, just as children know their parents exist but still exercise free will and break the rules.

    Also: if God, or Jesus, or Allah, or whatever, really does exist, then why has there NEVER been a case of two independent societies coming to the same conclusion about him/her/it? Consider fire: fire has certain properties which remain the same regardless of culture. Every human culture agrees on the irrefutable fact that if you stick your hand in fire you’ll get burned. Fire requires no faith; its existence can be proven, and cultures which evolve independently of each other nonetheless reach the same conclusions about fire.

    What is the similar truism about God? SOme cultures say he’s immortal, some make him mortal. Some say one god, some say a pantheon of gods. Some say God knows all, some say god can be fooled. Some say god is good, some say evil. There are different ideas about god’s personality, view of humanity, et cetera. . . .sounds like a bunch of cultures makiing stuff up, rather than discovering something which already existed.

  87. damn avacadoes!

    what is the sound of one god clapping?

  88. Dhex-
    Come by my place and I’ll demonstrate.

  89. are you going to slap god? 🙂

    what we’re doing here is having a collision between the pre-rational and the rational (or mostly rational). the pre-rational keeps using words the rational doesn’t understand, and the rational keeps asking questions the pre-rational can’t answer.

    that said…

    “Second, there are some passages in the Bible that do allude to scientific truths.”

    dude, that’s fucking new age nostradamus with a side of fries weak. you point out in your first step that the bible and science are unrelated. then you try and pull the ancient chinese secret trick? blah!

    sorry, that should read “ancient hebrew secret, ” BTW.

  90. oh, and my use of pre-rational and rational refer to types of thinking, not a value judgement of those types of thinking.

  91. dhex,
    Forgive me, but what questions have I not answered on this thread? I’ve done my best to answer every one, or at least provide direction to answers, hardly any of which have been refuted.

    About the Bible and science, re-read my post. I did not say the two were unrelated. I said the Bible is not a scientific treatise. That is true. That does not mean that there is absolutely no science in the Bible, as I showed with another link.

  92. Jennifer,

    Those cultural differences you mention are pretty significant – almost as vast as the different images they’ve produced of love.

    Does that not exist either?

  93. Joe-
    Love is a subjective emotion/feeling, not an entity. You’re comparing apples and oranges. I can’t PROVE scientifically that I have any particular feelings about my boyfriend, but there is no doubt that he exists.

  94. Eric said: ?I’m sorry, Mona, but that statement is just flat wrong. See here, for example, for a list of 90-some doctorates of science who are creationists, and working in the academy and industry. And this list isnt’ even complete, because Behe isn’t on it (the corresponding evolutionist list also isn’t complete, as you’ll see).
    “In addition, there are currently over 600 voting scientists at the Creation Research Society. To be a voting member, you have to have an earned master’s degree in a recongized area of science.?

    Heehee?yeah, these guys are reputable scientists with relevant expertise like I?m the pope. Unfortunately, their ?evidence? against biological evolution isn?t laid out in a clear, straightforward, and easily accessible manner from their main web page, but a quick look at their quarterly publication shows the same old misrepresentations and misunderstandings about very basic evolutionary theory that creationists have trotted out for more than 100 years.
    Even taking at face value your list of 90-some doctorates of science who are creationists, 90 scientists out of the total number working in academia and industry is an absolutely _tiny_ number. And a quick check of about a couple dozen of them revealed very few whose area of expertise would have required any training in areas directly relevant to the fields of evolution and paleontology (medical physics?!? analytical chemistry?!?).
    And in a link from that page, a ?partial list of creationist scientists? includes many people who died a hundred years or more before Darwin was even born (Francis Bacon?!? Carolus Linnaeus?!? Isaac Newton?!?), so it?s seems more than a little bit dishonest to imply that they were able to consider and reject the modern theory of biological evolution. And that list also includes Henry Morris and Duane Gish, two of the most prominent and notorious distorters of science in the whole creationist movement. Their ?science? has been debunked so many times it?s amazing any group still associates itself with them, but then I guess that?s par for the course with Creation Research Society, Institute for Creation Research, etc.

    I could have some respect for someone who decided that their religion and science were two very different ways of understanding the world (and neither has much to say about the validity of the other) and then decided to go with faith. But to go to such depths of dishonesty and stupidity to “disprove” a scientific theory with so much support (as CRS and ICR do)…that’s just pathetic.

  95. Joe again-
    An even better response I should have made–everybody has different dreams, but all cultures realize dreams are something that happen while you’re sleeping. WHat is the Godly equivalent of this?

  96. Eric – playing translation games is a hilarious act, but much like doing textual analysis of poetry and then writing a paper on irrigation from the data.

    for example, sphere or circle adequately describes what the sky looks like from a wide, flat plane – african myths are filled with bi-partite explanations for this visual display. conversely, does this mean various african tribes are alluding to scientific principles *or* divinely inspired (As you understand the term)?

    of course not. it’s nostradamotastic.

    and citing leviticus as an explanation of sickness ignores certain obvious cultural benefits (segregating menstruating women from men until they reach an approximate fertile area of their cycle, valuable when trying to breed a larger tribe) and plain uselessness, like mixing fibers and facial hair, etc.

    i can pick apart ezra pound and find evidence of nanotechnology if i work hard enough. it’s a pointless stretch – applying pre-rational documents to rationalist frameworks is a round peg, square hole issue. and vice versa. the question itself is the problem, not so much as the answers given by yourself and the others.

    avacadoes ho!

  97. eric: part two…i’m not accusing you of not ponying up the goodies or answering questions. what i’m saying is that, as you have recognized above, you cannot answer questions to the satisfaction of people who don’t share your particular value system and symbol set, and vice versa. saying “god created everything, and i have faith in that god” is not going to be a viable answer for someone who doesn’t believe in god.

    likewise, the rationalist stance of a godless, mechanical universe doesn’t mesh with your understanding of how that universe came to be and how it operates.

  98. “If they have a pipeline to an omniscient being, why are they not also a font of all kinds of immediately helpful knowledge?” Does your telephone allow you to know what type of floor wax the person on the other end uses? No? You mean there such a thing as communication that doesn’t automatically imply Vulcan Mind Meld-level understanding of each other’s innermost thoughts? Wow.

    ” Anyone showing up w/ germ theory knowledge, the way to end cancer, even how to cure the common cold, that person will COMMAND my attention.” God doesn’t command our faith and obedience, He leaves that up to our free will. There is no virtue in good acts done at gunpoint.
    Why didn’t God give the prophets all the knowledge you wish He did? I don’t know.

    “I guess this god likes seeing folks drop like flies until, several pain-filled millennia hence, through godless empiricism, humans come up with this stuff themselves.” You mean like a mother who DOESN’T run next to her 11 year old’s bicycle everywhere he goes, to catch him? She must like to see her son fall and hurt himself. What a bitch.

  99. discussions of these sorts are like an argument between a poet and an engineer about the taste of an avacado.

    personally, i don’t like avacadoes.

    “There is no virtue in good acts done at gunpoint.”

    which is exactly the problem with pascal’s puss-out. there is no virtue in slavery.

  100. Joe: mothers are not omniscient and omnipresent. If they were, they would not have their 11 yr olds falling off of bikes. The god Eric believes in has the ability and knowledge to prevent tons of suffering, but does not.

    Eric: 99.99% of Ph.Ds in hard sciences accept as fact organic evolution taking place over vast geological ages. Man is evolved from other primates, which were evolved from reptiles, and on before that. There is no debate about this among practicing scientists in the academy or industry. The sole possible exception is Michael Behe.

    Jennifer: my hips are rather wide (Irish and Slav peasant stock here). But it hurt like freakin’ hell. So, I must be extremely and wretchedly sinful.

    Finally, J I agree and am not disturbed or surprised by inconsistencies in the Bible, and do not think they render the book worthless as a repository of some human wisdom. My criticisms are directed at those who deny that there are inconsistencies and that it is the inerrant “word of god.” Given some of what is in there, they have a lot of explaining to do when they take this divine authorship as their premise.

    –Mona–

  101. Carl Sagan made some good points. WHy didn’;t God put just ONE irrefutable fact in his Bible that science could prove later: “Thou cannot go faster than light.” “This world which looketh flat is actually round.” “Thy sickness is caused by things too small for thine eyes to see.” “There are more stars in the sky than thou canst see with thine eyes.” Just ONE thing to suggest that the Bible was something more than badly written and repetitive myths invented by a bunch of bigoted nomads looking for excuses to kill everyone not in their tribe?

    Mona-
    Apparently you and I share some ethnicity. I personally care nothing about ancestry, but some folks would say that we now have a Special Bond.

  102. “If they were, they would not have their 11 yr olds falling off of bikes.” They would if they were good mothers, who wanted their 11 year olds to grow up into complete, mature adults.

    ‘WHy didn’;t God put just ONE irrefutable fact in his Bible that science could prove later: “Thou cannot go faster than light.”‘

    This question has been answered millions of times over several millenia, including at least twice by me on this thread. You could resond to those, but you’d rather ask the question again and again, smugly. I don’t think you’re seeking truth, but making what you assume, in your studied ignorance, to be clever debating points, so I’m going to bother to explain it again.

    “Why do Christians hate humanists?” Most don’t. Those that do have a multitude of reasons, the most common being “They’re different from us” – also the most common reason why humanists would hate Christians.

  103. An even better response I should have made–everybody has different dreams, but all cultures realize dreams are something that happen while you’re sleeping. WHat is the Godly equivalent of this?

  104. your site is very interesting and nice

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