Reality versus Religion

The Holy Bible has a great number of readers and believers and has had tremendous influence in the lives of all Americans, yet there are a number of flaws and fallacies that create serious errors in our thinking. We are a population tasked with ruling ourselves, but this book misleads us into bigotry and wars and political choices that are divisive and destructive. I’d like to present what I see as the down side to Christianity in failing us while pretending to enlighten us.

There are several foundational principles in the Christian/Jewish Bible which I would call “magic”. I think “miracle” is merely sanctified magic, so rather than debate the sanctity of this work, I will merely debate its truthfulness and accuracy.

First we need to differentiate between prediction and precognition. I can predict that there will be a Lotto winner today. Given enough cash, I can even predict that I will be a Lotto winner today – not with absolute certainty, but with statistical certainty (at least 19 out of 20 times or 95% sure).

But all I need to win the grand prize of any lottery is to know the winning numbers a day ahead of time and buy one ticket. THIS is precognition. THIS is knowing something before it happens. And I think a number of large lotteries participated in by vast numbers of people, some earnestly trying to predict numbers and some using randomly-generated numbers, have demonstrated that THIS precognition doesn’t happen even a little in that guessed/imagined/hopeful numbers have the same chance of winning as those which are picked entirely at random. Even a small amount of precognition in one out of one thousand people would seriously alter these statistics. Even two or three people knowing the right numbers ahead of time and playing only once would alter the statistics enough to be significant.

One of the principles that form the basis of “Christianity” as defined in the New Testament is the prophetic pronouncements of the Old Testament. The future – and the past – are told in great detail by the prophets of the Old Testament and one of the reasons that a large majority of Jews who had seen and heard Jesus did not become Christians is that the Messianic prophecies were not fulfilled. The Apocalyptic predictions didn’t happen according to their clear understanding of their prophecies.

Now “Saint Paul” (Saul of Tarsus) and his followers (mostly recruited from Pagans of Roman territory) just created a “second coming” and a “second covenant” to explain away failures in these predictions. Two millennia later, some are still waiting. Yes, Israel finally happened, but I would submit that a) Israel was not a useful thing to have happened, and b) Israel happened because quite a few Christians and quite a few Jews believed the predictions of the Bible and helped ensure that it happened. Furthermore, the books of the Bible helped engender the racism that made a separate homeland for Jews rather than assimilating them seem like a good thing to Jews and Christians alike. Of course the good of the resident population in Palestine wasn’t considered, just as the rights of the residents of ancient Jericho were disregarded.

The second foundational principle of the Christian Bible is that disease derives from sin. Throughout this book, this is a clear misconception on the part of the authors. Since the days of the early microscope and the discovery of pathogens and vaccines, it has been clear that these passages are untrue. Furthermore, absolving “sin” became a product of the church and produced quite a bit of revenue for these institutions while, it seems, providing a completely false sense of safety in return.

The third foundational principle of the Christian Bible is blood sacrifice. Since this was the practice for both Jews and Pagans at the time, it was assumed that this is what God wanted from people, though I’ve often wondered about the value of blood sacrifices. Killing something considered valuable might show the Deity that one was sincere, the buying of a living thing in order to kill it seems almost a parody and the killing one’s own Son in order to show God sincerity seems horrible, ludicrous and a sign of bad leadership and awful judgment. Nevertheless, Christian dogma assumes that God somehow needs blood sacrifice and required the ultimate blood sacrifice by having Jesus (Himself) killed for two and a half days in order to be mollified into changing the rules, which seem to be entirely man-made anyway. This is mankind manipulating the (supposedly) Almighty and, to me, it seems an absurd conceit.

Another foundational principle is that there are clearly recognizable and universally understood concepts of “good” and “evil” and that knowing which is which leads to a better world. I do not believe that there is ANY truth to this principle. In fact, history shows me that most killing, most conflict, and many injustices started with assumptions about what was “good” and what was “evil”. The Crusades, the Inquisition, and most wars started with just these assumptions and they generally ended badly.

The First Crusade, as just one example, started with the Pope authorizing a war and designating spiritual immunity for all its participants on the “right” side. Then a mob of adventurers without the wherewithal to sustain themselves left a trail of murder and theft all the way to Asia Minor, arriving after the crisis which caused this mischief had been resolved. In this case, as in many others, the “solution” turned out to be much worse than the original “problem.”

In a parody of this insanity, the United States has, through misleading diplomacy, unilateral intervention and quite a few outright lies, managed to ruin the fairly modern nation of Iraq in attempting to combat “evil.” We have twisted the truth and created a situation where nobody can “win” and all sides are angry and intolerant. We have known that our troops overseas were the cause of terrorism for fifteen to twenty years now (look up the work of Robert Pape of the University of Chicago) and yet we continue to provide the fuel for more terrorism in the guise of “combating terrorism.” Where there was stability, we created strife. And we did it thinking that we were doing something “good.”

This is not an isolated incident. We began sending troops to the Southeast Asian country of Vietnam shortly after the French colonialists left to prop up a government of Francophile Catholics which was clearly and demonstrably unrepresentative of the Vietnamese people. The population was Buddhist and had been fighting a succession of colonial occupations (and local puppet governors) for 200 years. The military regimes which succeeded them were even worse. The “country” we supported was a fiction created by Europeans and the “democracy” we supported was a complete and utter sham, the elections completely rigged. Thus, we killed about three million Buddhists believing that we were “fighting for democracy”. We perceived a “threat” to ourselves when there was none. And we chose violence as the means to “right” “wrongs” when it had no hope of accomplishing our stated goals or anything truly “good” or “right.”

When our small interventions failed to produce the “democracy” we were fighting for, we escalated our violence and there are many who believe that it was a lack of resolve and an unwillingness to bomb Vietnam into rubble which caused us to “lose” this war and not a complete and utter misunderstanding of the situation and a completely inappropriate response. Few Americans have noticed the irony in our supposed “enemy” fighting other Communists as soon as we left and how wrong our thinking and our rhetoric was. Fewer still noticed the lack of hostility or threat as soon as we left Vietnam.

It is quite clear what the people of the United States actually believe and it is not Jesus of Nazareth and His kindness and nonviolent responses. The United States says it believes in Jesus, but when you watch what we do, it is quite clear that we believe in violence. Jesus, however, believed in nonviolence. We worship violence in our video games and our movies. From our common viewpoint, it is the way to “solve” most conflicts. And, even as it fails to actually resolve these conflicts in real life, many of us believe in our hearts that it will if it is applied without restraint or compassion.

When our “Christian” ancestors met Native Americans, it was common for the “civilized” “Christians” to attack “ignorant savages” and not the other way around. History shows clearly that most Native Americans were spiritual and conciliatory and welcoming while the “Christian” newcomers were greedy, violent, and self-righteous.

This greedy, violent self-righteousness is a dominant characteristic of “Western Civilization” and includes an overabundance of violent conflict between various “Christian” sects and power groups as well as intolerant, unfeeling, disrespectful, and violent interactions with just about all other cultures and beliefs.

This is not a trivial fact. It should not be swept under the table. We cannot do the same things we did to Native Americans and pretend that we are somehow “right” or “justified” when it is selfish greed or irrational fear that is driving these conflicts.

There seem to be other false assumptions in the Christian Bible. The ages in Genesis fall into numeric patterns called for by numerology. They certainly aren’t believable historical fact. We have preserved cadavers and written chronologies from the period in which Noah was supposed to have lived 900 years. The Egyptian civilization lived right through the flood without even a mention of it in their historical narratives, though their site would have been inundated according to the Bible and these people were clearly old at seventy or eighty and dead before a hundred.

Finally, there have been many who assumed that the Apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the Gospels. Since these books were written in Greek and referenced an erroneous Greek translation of the Septuagint and were written decades after the death of Jesus, and since the Apostles spoke in Aramaic and Hebrew, this seems extremely unlikely. Furthermore, the animosity of Christians toward Jews seems to have been something that came after the death of Jesus because he did not replace Roman rule and therefore most Jews did not believe Jesus was the Messiah.

“The Word of God” is a label all too often used to describe the Christian Bible. This just isn’t even close to the truth. There are a number of things which are clearly and demonstrably misleading in the Bible.

The story of Creation in Genesis is fiction. We have a clear and unimpeachable record of the evolution of life on Earth going back hundreds of millions of years without a single mammal on the planet as well as a clear and unimpeachable record of mammalian evolution culminating in homo sapiens a couple million years ago. We know from astronomical observations that the Universe existed long before life evolved on the Earth and even before the Sun formed and began to shine. Mankind is, in evolutionary terms, a very recent development on a small planet in a minor solar system in the spiral arm of a minor galaxy in a vast collection of galaxies stretching through an enormous space over vast gulfs and billions of years.

The nature of the “God,” “Jehovah,” is anthropomorphic fiction. Jehovah is a petulant racist and violent fictional character in a fictional work which was most likely written to aggrandize King David and support his schemes of empire and conquest.

Jehovah isn’t compassionate. Jehovah doesn’t “turn the other cheek” or “forgive them for they do not know what they do.” Jehovah doesn’t love his enemies or look to sinners with universal compassion. And Jehovah doesn’t make good decisions, either. Through His angels, he forced Hagar to allow herself to be raped by Abraham and then He reversed the sterility which had originally created the need for this violation. If Jehovah were omniscient, He certainly wasn’t wise.

Thus, when the Council of Nicea, in 325, voted Jesus to be the prophesied Christ and both to the position of God and to an identity shared with Jehovah, Christianity became schizophrenic, having a compassionate and forgiving Jesus and a domineering, violent, intolerant, and arbitrary tyrant Jehovah ostensibly share the same being. This is, as I look at it, a ludicrous assumption, but it was forced on the population with all the might of the Roman armies by Constantine and all “Christians” who believed otherwise were deemed “heretics” and were either killed or exiled.

There are many fictions in the Christian Bible. I suspect that when it was written, it was intended to be a form of entertainment rather than enlightenment. However, pretending inerrant authenticity turns harmless fiction into malevolent lies.

You can say, “Well, I didn’t know they weren’t true,” or “That was the thinking at the time.” But that doesn’t make them true. And if they aren’t true, they are, by definition, untrue and anyone who repeats them, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is lying.

To many, this will seem harsh. I suppose it is. However, we have known for quite a while that a lot of the Bible is false and, because ones livelihood depends on it being believed or because ones membership in the Church or even the Family depends on it being believed, the facts have been glossed over and these untruths are allowed to stand unchallenged while we pretend they have some as yet unknown explanation that will miraculously support them after all. Instead, the facts against the veracity of the Christian Bible keep mounting and have, in recent years led to most “Christians” falling back to a somewhat vague position of “take what works for you and leave the rest.”

In other words, the Bible, because it has been offered as the “truth” for a millennium and a half, is given a free pass now that it is discovered that much of it is fraudulent. I for one think that we need to discover which parts to heed and which parts to discard.

This does leave the jewels sparkling in all that dross.

Let us ignore whether or not Jesus was the Messiah or the Only Begotten Son or God Himself. Let us ignore how Jesus died and disregard the significance or insignificance of his two and a half days rotting in his sepulcher. Let us ignore the prophets and the prophecies. Let us ignore the Pope and the Vatican Councils and the findings of the Councils of Trent and Nicea. Let us even ignore the miracles Jesus was said to have performed and the angry scene with the money changers.

Let us concentrate on the philosophies of Jesus which, after all these centuries are still there, are still true, and are still effective in the long run in bringing about astounding spiritual and social change.

Let us separate our world into two halves but NOT along the lines of “Good” and “Evil”:

Kind ………………………………………….. Harsh
Nonviolent ………………………………..Violent
Compassionate …………………. Intransigent
Meek …………………………………… Grandiose
Humble …………………… Self-aggrandizing
Generous …………………….. Selfish, Greedy
Forgiving …………………………… Vindictive
Inclusive ……………………………… Exclusive
Tolerant ………………………………. Intolerant
Supportive ….. Racist, Sexist, Nationalist
Uniting ………………………………….. Divisive
Loving …………………………………….. Hating
Trusting ………………………………….. Fearful
Win-Win ……………………………… Win-Lose

Right away, we see the early Jesus on the left and Jehovah and Christ on the right. But let’s get beyond that obvious difference, since it is tied to so many other confusing assumptions and there are some “quotes” attributed to Jesus that might belong on the right. We could call the left “spiritual” and the right “religious”.

It doesn’t really matter what we call these two columns. What matters is that we start to see that we cannot continue to see the world as “good” and “evil” and be tolerant or loving or supportive or compassionate or nonviolent toward people not thought of as part of our personal “us.” If we demonize those whom we have chosen to label as “enemies,” we are committing ourselves to the column on the right and abandoning the column on the left. We cannot believe in “evil” and emulate the Good Samaritan as Jesus advised.

If we chose the left column, we might have seen the Vietnamese as friends and trading partners (as, indeed, they have become). Which column we choose influences not only what we choose to do, but what we see through our eyes and hear through our ears.

We can “see” the opposite sex as equal partners and have loving and equal relationships with them or we can continue the “battle of the sexes” in which men claim and maintain superior/subordinate relationships with women they have bought or cajoled from their fathers. But if we maintain a correct opposite-sex relationship by Biblical standards, it cannot be truly healthy or spiritual and those things women have to teach men will be obscured by the conceit of the male ego.

We could have ratified Salt II and continued the peaceful endeavors of President Carter, but we chose to reject peace and embark on “greatness,” “Star Wars,” and continuing warfare. We could have attacked environmental, ecological, and domestic problems, but we chose to identify and attack various “enemies” and expend vast resources in contention over what is quickly becoming rubble, devastation, and a true threat when it wasn’t previously a threat at all!

I believe Christians of the Third Century were nonviolent and actively seeking to fulfill the injunction implied in the Parable of the Good Samaritan: love thine enemy. In this, they were clearly in spiritual opposition to the Roman Empire so they were outlawed by that Empire and killed frequently. Like Daniel in the lion’s den, they suffered persecution with as much dignity as possible and endeavored to forgive those who saw them as a threat to the maxim “all roads lead to Rome” which said, in essence, “The world pays tribute to Roman armies and their disciplined tactics and superior weaponry.” Ancient Rome was a lot like the United States of today. They had the world’s foremost armed forces and they used them to systematically take far more than they produced. Today, the United States consumes something like 25% while producing something like 5% of the world’s production through a combination of invasion and intimidation which is a lot like colonialism except that it uses local figureheads and allows local autonomy as long as decisions which matter to the “superpower” are enforced without regard to local needs or opinions.

There is a reason we have vast fleets of nuclear-armed warships in every ocean on the planet and it isn’t to “keep the peace” or “promote democracy” or even “fight for liberty and justice for all.” The reason – throughout our history, including now – that we’re aggressive is because we only see one side of things and we believe bullying the rest of the world is “greatness.”

The true disciples of Jesus of Nazareth aren’t Apostles, Popes, or Bishops but people like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela who graciously and selflessly embraced “enemies” and sought peace rather than violence and destruction.

Which side of our world do you live in? Which side do you serve? You can follow Jesus or you can follow Christ and Jehovah. I do not believe in the concept “Jesus Christ” and, to follow that concept is to be made crazy so that you become incapable of compassion for other cultures, unable to see the other side, and thus incapable of truly following the Golden Rule or the parable of the Good Samaritan when anyone or anything is labeled “evil” by your leaders.

Five Hundred years before Jesus, Gautama Buddha was quoted as saying:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.  Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.  Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.  Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.  Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.  But, after observation and analysis, when you find anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

Today, more than ever, these words ring true and show us a path worth walking, a way of life worthy of the great power we now wield, and an ethical and moral system without flaw.

©2015,2018,2019 David N. Dodson, Phoenix AZ


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