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There are three doctrinal issues that should trouble even the most fervent Christian. In the following discussion, I do not claim any special qualifications or insight except for that of a sentient human being. If you believe that this subject is the sole province of the theologian or  the philosopher, then this diary is not for you.

I was brought up Roman Catholic, and I recognize that anything I might say about Christian belief might not apply to each and every Christian denomination. However, I think it's fair to assert that if a sect rejects the divinity of Jesus, that they have stepped outside the boundaries of Christianity, as defined by the council of Nicea in 325.

Without further ado, the three doctrines are: the Trinity, the Resurrection of Jesus, and the doctrine of redemption. (In the text, I have adhered to the Christian custom of capitalizing the personal pronouns referring to their deity.)

It is to be acknowledged that there are—even today—Christian denominations that do not subscribe to the doctrine of the Trinity. Examples include Mormons, Unitarians and  Christian Scientists. But to the majority of Christians the doctrine is central to their faith. A Roman Catholic, for example, might reject the doctrine of purgatory without rejecting the core of the faith itself, but rejecting the Trinity would, I think, be grounds for excommunication. (Needless to say, I am not a cardinal, so this might not be doctrinally accurate.)

The doctrine of the Trinity suffers from the fatal defect that three does not equal one. This doctrine is generally passed off as a mystery of the faith, but the skeptic rightly says "Not so fast!" The transubstantiation might be passed off as a mystery of the faith, because it is merely physically impossible. But in the logical, i.e. the Boolean sense, three does not equal one. This doctrine implies that Christianity actually has three Gods despite the assertion that there is only one.  

Much ink has been spilled in an effort to justify this doctrine. For example:

Saint Augustine, one of the greatest thinkers of the early church, described the Trinity as comparable to the three parts of an individual human being: mind, spirit, and will. They are three distinct aspects, yet they are inseparable and together constitute one unified human being.
Augustine's analogy may sound vaguely convincing, but his three parts or aspects are not distinct, as are the three persons in the Trinity. Dividing the individual human into three aspects smacks of Freud's division of the psyche (rarely taken seriously these days) into the id, the ego and the superego. Augustine gives no hint why three is the magic number. If he had to justify a quadrinity instead, he could have added the aspect "identity" and the explanation would have sounded just as coherent.

According to Trinity doctrine, there are three 'Persons' that constitute God. All are coequal, and all are fully divine, with all the infinite attributes of God. But for some reason (unexplained), they are separate 'Persons'. If that is accurate, then it follows that there must be something that distinguishes one from the other. Let us now consider "God the Father". He is presumably infinitely perfect in all respects. If "God the Son" or "God the Holy Spirit" differ in any way from Him, then they are—by definition—imperfect in some respect. But this contradicts the original premise that they are fully divine, and therefore infinitely perfect.

Finally, how did the three-in-one idea come about in the first place? There is not a hint of the Trinity to be found in the Old Testament, and the books of the New Testament were written or selected or edited by the founders themselves. The very word Trinity was first used by Tertullian in the early third century. The history of the Trinity doctrine extends to the Council if Nicea in 325 CE, when it was formally adopted in roughly its present form.

Although the Holy Spirit is mentioned frequently in the New Testament, none of these mentions explicitly ascribe divinity to Him. Even the use of a masculine pronoun to refer to the Holy Spirit feels strange. It is also odd that the Holy Spirit has never spoken a single word that we know of. Many Christian denominations appear to put much more emphasis on the Holy Spirit than does Catholicism. In fact, I cannot remember a single prayer explicitly composed to the Holy Spirit, although I'm sure that such prayers exist. By contrast, the Hail Mary prayer is so well known that it has entered the lexicon of the fan of American football.

My point is that the Trinity doctrine is—historically speaking—an invention of the founders that did not coalesce for three centuries as established doctrine. Indeed, Christianity tells us to accept as brute fact that God is triune. There is very little in the way of revelation to support this view, and nothing in the way of logic. To put it bluntly, the founders of Christianity simply made it up as they went along.

The second fatal flaw is the doctrine of the Resurrection. I argue that Jesus was never resurrected because He was never dead, any more than the actor who, when shot, clutches his chest and sinks to the stage floor. That actor didn't experience pain when he was "shot". If Jesus was God, as implied by the doctrine of the Trinity, neither could Jesus have died. The perfect God of Christianity could no more experience actual pain or true death than he could experience greed or orgasm, or malice, and for roughly the same reason. To do so would require God to become, in fact, not just in appearance, an inferior being. If we consider Jesus to have merely taken on the appearance of a man, as a stage actor does, then His life and death was just a pious sham. On the other hand, the notion that He actually became a man is absurd. An eternal divine being cannot be a man; He cannot shed His perfection and His divinity as one sheds a suit of clothes.

I am reminded of the "Mr Deity" series, in which the title character occasionally talks about turning off his "all-knowingness". (The series is a hilarious parody; I recommend it highly.)

If the events of that first Easter weekend of long ago portray accurately what happened, then Jesus could not have been divine. God cannot be thought to "turn off" his divine characteristics in order to become a man and actually die. Ask yourself this: Was there a period from late afternoon on the first Good Friday to sunup on the following Sunday during which one of the three persons of the Trinity did not exist? This is absurd. But if His existence was continuous, as implied by the fact that He was God, then He was merely masquerading as a man, and the crucifixion was nothing less than a hoax.

This brings us to the third fatal flaw in Christian doctrine, that of redemption or atonement. The spectacle of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection is held to atone for the sins of all mankind, and especially for the original sin committed by Adam and Eve. To start with, why would a perfectly just God hold people yet unborn responsible for a seemingly minor sin committed by Adam and Eve? Well, yes, He is God and can do what He wishes, but even a child can see the injustice of punishing a person who had nothing to do with the offence.

The notion that a person can atone for the sin or crime of another is surely ridiculous on its face. Does God regard the punishment for guilt as a commodity that can be transferred, like mineral rights? If you are rich, can you hire a poor person to suffer the divine punishment that your sins properly deserve? The idea that God appeased Himself by dying on the cross, and thus atoned for the sins of all mankind just doesn't make sense. It contradicts the concept that the Trinity is actually one God. If Jesus was actually God, to whom did he offer the sacrifice?

In practice, it turns out that Christians don't actually take that idea seriously, because they still hold the individual responsible for his or her actions. Jesus' death didn't atone for Hitler's sins after all, did it? I suspect that very few modern Christians think so, and most of them are certain that Hitler is in hell (at least those who believe in hell).

So, maybe the sacrifice on the cross was only intended to atone for the original sin of Adam and Eve. But if God is truly all-merciful, why did He not simply forgive mankind for the original sin of eating the forbidden fruit? Surely, that would count as being all-merciful, wouldn't you think? In fact, why did He set up Adam and Eve in the first place? Being omniscient, He knew in advance down to the last detail what the outcome would be. The entire tale of the fall hints strongly at allegory, but Christianity has instead taken it literally. As I see it, this is an insult to God's presumed characteristic of being infinitely just.  

It turns out that Jesus dying on the cross didn't really do any good for mankind. We still have to follow certain rituals, and perhaps refrain from certain sins in order to be saved. Fittingly, the sham crucifixion, death, and resurrection only enabled a sham atonement for a "sin" that would not exist if God were truly just.

The fact that Christianity is based on an intellectual fraud does not establish that God does not exist (although that is my personal conclusion). But it does establish that this particular iteration of theism is a theological blind alley. I think that the precepts Jesus preached were, in the main, worthy of a great moralist. As religions go, Christianity is—in theory—a wonderful expression of quintessentially human values. But the religion that sprang from the life and death of Jesus is logically inconsistent. It doesn't add up, both literally and figuratively.

Daiky Kos is a political blog, and I can't help but point out the political consequences of Christianity. The sorry fact is that the impact of Christianity on our political life is not very Christlike. Jesus commanded us to feed the poor; Republicans want to cut the food stamp program. Jesus healed the sick; Republicans are proud of sabotaging medical care. Jesus said "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Evidently the deep red states of TX, FL, VA, OK, MO, AL, and GA are without sin, for these seven have accounted for more than 75% of the country's executions since 1976. (None of the executed were millionaires, by the way. Are you surprised by that?) And what did Jesus say about a rich man, a camel and a needle? It seems that the party who makes the loudest and most public protestations of Christian piety is the party that least carries out the actual teachings of Jesus.

Alas, hypocrisy and mendacity are the stock in trade of those who peddle political hate in the name of Christianity. They hate President Obama, the poor, women, and anybody whose sexual orientation is different from theirs. They hate Muslims, Latinos, and anybody whose skin is not white. They protest otherwise, but their actions betray them. And, worst of all, they justify this appalling hatred by their religion.    

My personal bottom line: Christianity as a philosophical and ethical system has much to recommend it and I find no fault with those who follow it. It has imperfections, as the late Christopher Hitchens was always quick to point out, but the core message of love for one's fellow man is surely worthy of admiration even by non-believers. But as a logical construct, Christianity is just not credible. In my (not so) humble opinion, its fundamental doctrinal flaws are fatal.

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Comment Preferences

  •  applying logic (11+ / 0-)

    to mysticism is, in the end, a fruitless task. The classic conundrum, 'if god is omnipotent can he create a rock he cannot move' sums up most of your discussion. It's 'beyond our understanding', to plagiarise the bible.

    •  "beyond our understanding" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tim DeLaney, Panama Pete, jacey

      Is the reason early man created gods and God in the first place.   Especially if those early men had children that kept asking questions like "Why?".   What better way for an ignorant man to explain a phenomenon than "God's will"?
      As we, as a species, learn more and more, gods and God becomes less important in our understanding of how things work.   But the moral examples still shine through, regardless.  If only the fundamentalists weren't so stupidly literal.  

    •  Indeed, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking

      faith by definition is believing in that which cannot be proven through observation, analysis, or reason.

      Of course, believing in stuff like that is basically believing in superstition.

      I am, troubled, however, as a logical thinker, that I am hard-pressed to decide if there is a human soul. I do believe that the right thing to do and the smart thing to do are always the same thing. Therefore, it's willful stupidity that is a "sin" in my book.

      When I read Genesis as allegory, however, I find it remarkably insightful. Those old Jews were pretty smart. Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil equates to gaining self-awareness, IMHO. Once our brains reached a certain critical mass, we became "God" because we became creators. We no longer simply responded to stimuli, both genetic and environmental. We could now create a third way.

      Had we not eaten the fruit and stayed in the moment blissfully unaware as animals (presumably) are, Eden (a perfect physical place) would have been paradise indeed. And we would have been obedient. It was the rebel in us (Satan?) that said eat the fruit because we would become creators ourselves, and rivals to God (after all, Satan created Hell, which some folks seem to prefer). The Old Testament has only one real commandment: Obey! For ignorance is bliss and God will make sure you suffer if you don't.

      Personally, I'm glad Adam and Eve went for it. I think we can do better than Hell. Or at least make a better Hell. I'm an optimist.

      Somebody's probably already said most of this below, but I got here late and I haven't read all the comments yet. So forgive me. It's the smart thing to do.

      "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others." --Groucho Marx

      by Dragon5616 on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 02:04:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  mysticism (0+ / 0-)

      A character in one of A. Huxley's novel asks "is it mysticism or misty scism"? Deities in the Hindu pantheon are sometimes  described as having Aspects and Attributes.
      Personally,I believe that there are few if any angels dancing on the head of Occam's pin in search of a shave.

      "....at last in virtue's narrow cell, the wretched bondsman sits"-Auden

      by pixelate on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 12:57:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Another problem (10+ / 0-)

    is most so called Christians are nothing of the sort. More Christians today put more stress on a few lines from Leviticus than they do with anything Christ taught.

    •  If Christ came and told them 'you can't serve (13+ / 0-)

      God AND Wealth (Mammon), you have to pick one or the other' they'd slit his throat because 'he's possessed.'


      Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

      by Jim P on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 12:22:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  But this "Christ" was also reported to have (4+ / 0-)

      said many harsh things, most notably the passages where he condemns whole towns to the fate of Sodom and Gemorrah or everlasting fire and torture for not welcoming him or his disciples.

      I am endlessly frustrated by people who don't read those gospels carefully.  Any man who demands that other men leave their families high and dry to go galavanting around the countryside with him is not what I would call a moral teacher.

      •  Keep in mind that Jesus did not write the words (4+ / 0-)

        that purportedly came out of his mouth.  He was a long dead Aramaic-speaking, probably illiterate Jewish sage when some highly educated, Greek-speaking gentiles with agendas, far removed from Judea, somehow "divined" what he had actually said, although not in complete agreement with each others' version.

        I have no doubt that he actually said some of it, the part passed down as common knowledge through oral tradition.  

        The beatitudes best exemplifies that part, and modern biblical scholars have painstakingly peeled away the later Christian layers to reveal his most likely actual words.

        There's not much else you can ask for from a society that didn't do actual history, and some 2000 years after the fact at that.

        As for the complex and convoluted Christian theological part that pervades the faith today, not only do I believe it was made up by the gospel writers - who, by the way, are completely anonymous, despite the pious sounding Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that were later added by the Church to promote credibility (how many people know that these four are not actual people?) - but I believe is STILL being written by people who never met and have little regard for Jesus, e.g., the carnival barkers for the "prosperity gospel."  

        As free and loose with the teachings of Jesus that they were, even the gospel writers would be flabbergasted at what the 21st century has done to Christianity.

        The Book of Mormon resulted from supernatural events that a 17-year-old kid claimed to have experienced in 1823, and that's a whole different story, but still a good example of how Christian dogma continues to be written.  

        Religious belief does not rely on scientific verification or even logic.  All that is required is a folk tale (note please that I did not say "myth") that is handed down over so many generations that it becomes ingrained in the psyche of an entire society so deeply that the true parts and the imaginary parts are virtually indistinguishable.

        We've ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia.

        Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity -- George Carlin

        by ZedMont on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 10:40:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Richard Carrier's book (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Liberal Thinking

          On the Historicity of Jesus Christ should be out the beginning of next year.  It may give us all a very strong argument that there wasn't even a wandering preacher that the Jesus fables were built on. So the words attributed to this figure will not go back to him because he's not there.

          •  I'll have to read that, because I'm skeptical. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Liberal Thinking

            From everything I've read, I'm convinced Jesus did in fact exist and was crucified by the Romans.  Roman history mentioned the crucifixion in fact.

            There would have been no reason to "make up" Jesus out of thin air.  It's not like he was unique.  There were numerous wandering preachers and claimants to messiahship at the time.

            I can understand that people may not believe Jesus was a divinity, but I don't understand the persistent desire to "prove" he didn't even exist as a human being.  I just don't see the point.

            Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity -- George Carlin

            by ZedMont on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 07:08:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Amen. (0+ / 0-)

      As they say.

      "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others." --Groucho Marx

      by Dragon5616 on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 02:07:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There was a crude post the other day (6+ / 0-)

    on FB that went like:

    "God fucked his own mother to be born so he could live forever."

    Which, for God, seems a pointless exercise as you have worked out.

    However, I can see the appeal to the primitive man.

    But yes, your logic is quite good. Jesus being divine could not die. I suppose he could have been a separate piece of God but then he was resurrected and then melded back with God......or something.

    Makes absolutely no sense.

  •  Well, only through the Trinity Part so far. (13+ / 0-)

    First off, religious theology and philosophy is about the human psyche (aka 'inner life') more than it is about modern science and mathematical norms.

    So what is one thing, but also three things in our experience?

    An exploration and demonstration: conceive of anything at all in your mind.

    In my case right now, it's a walnut. It could be a deer, or an artichoke, but it's a walnut. Which is pictured in relief, against a background. As I picture it, the background flutters around to black, red, a table (weak attention span)... these are idiosyncratic to me at this moment. But there will always be a background.

    You'll have a foreground thing, and a background which throws the foreground into relief: two things.

    Is there a third thing? Yes. The two things together, foreground and background make the picture, conception. If you don't have either of the two, there is no picturing.

    Let's call this for the moment in accord with our Catholic Training: The Father (the main conception), The Son (the background, or contrast), the Holy Spirit (the thing which is the result of the two things together. The very breath ('spirit') of the thing).

    Now, when a human being uses symbols (and language itself is a symbol-making device) all meaning is conveyed through similarities and dissimilarities. The 'meaning,' again, being the spirit of the exercise. Even our very language structure (at least in European languages, I don't know others) has us with subject/ verb/object. (The Trinity strikes again!)

    Still, symbols, by their very nature, can't contain the living reality. The mystical impulse behind religion (there is a purpose to life and it is discoverable), in its more driven forms, is preoccupied with shifting the orientation of attention from symbol-making to what is actually occurring.

    Hence, the Taoists say 'the Tao which can be said is not the true Tao.' The Buddhists talk about the Void (meaning 'void of description' or 'unable to be described'). The Catholic Church, maybe other churches, talk of God Immanent and God Transcendent. The later of which cannot be symbolized or personalized. Some old Gnostics talked about 'the Absolute of which nothing more can be said' or 'the Nameless One.' Islam and Judaism say make no representations, and things like 'bigger than the biggest, smaller than the smallest' -- things that render comparison and contrast meaningless.

    So we've got operative, in every instant we're aware, even in dreaming, the Tibetan 'self-arising stream of awareness' which -- when we are forced to, or desire to, communicate about it, or any of its objects, we end up with a tripartite scheme. Just human engineering.

    The exigencies of culture, history, and environment lead to the Catholic Church's doctrine we were taught. But the same living principles apply in all traditions, and their manifestation naturally differs. So the Hindus have Shiva-Vishnu-Brahmin at the root of (discussable) reality, the Taoists Yin, Yang, and the Tao, and so on.

    But these various forms of expression are all 'fingers pointing to the moon.' Calling attention to the finger is not the purpose of the pointing.

    There's a Taoist essay which runs more or less: Root consciousness has three modes. They are presence, attention, and intention. These things are all really just one thing, but three modes when we talk about it.

    I hope this, assembled together, might throw some light on the meaning of 'The Trinity.' It's a practical, moment to moment thing.

    Too late to read the rest of your diary tonight, but thanks for posting your ideas.


    Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

    by Jim P on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 12:21:05 AM PDT

    •  Terrific comment, Jim! (5+ / 0-)

      You bested my original intended post on Doctrinal Trinity, that's for sure.

      And thank you Tim, for a thoughtful diary. T&R

    •  All that this really illustrates, (5+ / 0-)

      including the Tao ideas is that people have great imaginations.  We have imagined gods and we have imagined afterlife systems and we have imagined all the deep philosophies that can go on forever. None of it changes the fact that all of it is based on absolutely no facts or evidence presented by reality at all.

      The trinity is also not an idea original to Christianity. It's simply mathematically attractive to human beings.

      •  I think it was Jim P's (6+ / 0-)

        intent to present an alternate interpretation of the trinity to the one presented by Tim Delaney and to show that the perceived contradictions within that worldview are not as troubling when viewed on another level. He made no attempt to present an evidentiary  basis for Christianity or any of the other worldviews discussed so it is not quite fair to turn the discussion from one examining internal consistency to one that is examining justification of belief.

        I agree that his analysis does, in part, demonstrate that human beings have great imaginations. But, IMHO, that is not all it shows. And everyone relies on assumed or imagined "facts" about reality, even the most empirically  based, affirmative atheist out there assumes, mainly from wanting it to be so, that the world reported by his senses are real as opposed to being the workings of a solipsistic reality or the proverbial brain in a jar or that there is no mystical aspect to reality.

        As for mysticism, non-theists such as myself can avoid it, IMHO, only by a concerted effort of will because however we view the world, at some point we arrive at something we must regard as a brute fact that beggars further scientific or even rational analysis (think of the famous question, "why is there something instead of nothing").  Eastern empiricism says that this is  as far as we can go, which to me is a tacit admission that to allow curiosity to take you any further will  be a journey into mysticism. I have no quarrel with those who say "here be dragons" and turn their backs on further speculation, but neither do I not condemn or denigrate the thinking of those who do otherwise.  (Just for the record, I think the eastern worldviews and religions have done this in a deeper and more satisfactory way than western religions.)

        I would suggest to you that religion and mysticism are not necessarily one in the same and that not everyone who acknowledges a mystical aspect to reality is weak minded. As an exercise I would ask anyone who believes otherwise to regard the question mentioned earlier "why is there something rather than nothing" and to try to think about it in depth. Of course it can be dismissed as a foolish question.  But however you look at it, it is one that transcends western empiricism and one that, if given serious contemplation, will tweak a person's rationality in a way that might offer a hint of what mystical systems such as the Tao are all about.

        The world is a den of thieves and night is falling. -Ingmar Bergman

        by Pirogue on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 08:38:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  nice! (4+ / 0-)

          Indeed, one can believe in the existence of a spiritual dimension while rejecting most of what religions have to offer.  Perhaps you will appreciate this diary: http://www.dailykos.com/...

        •  Exactly on 'religion' and 'mysticism' (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dragon5616, Liberal Thinking

          not being the same thing. That organized religion has its origin in mysticism is a key fact of history which many people don't seem to know. Nor a distinction of which they are aware.

          So people with such ignorance think St. Francis and Pat Robertson are thinking about the same thing when they talk about God.

          Mysticism is a practical matter, perhaps without equal even in modern science insofar as its rigor, and the depth of time over which its methods and instruments have been developed. But the topic of study is our experience, and how things play out in time.

          What is amusing, and annoying, is that scientists have taken themselves too often to be a kind of priest-craft. So we get "nothing blew up one day, and that's how we have the universe we see" pushed as if it were something other than, not only faith, but the superior faith. A 'science' that starts with a miracle followed by a lot of mathematics.


          Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

          by Jim P on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 11:55:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  For my money (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dragon5616, Jim P, Liberal Thinking

            science is the most efficient and effective truth seeking system we have, by a long shot. But ideally it understands and respects the limitations of its field of discourse. And, as with any such endeavor, when dogma and doctrine start creeping in then you get something resembling religion. This is true also of mysticism and we find that most mainstream religion has divorced itself from true mysticism. Pat Robertson (to the extent that his ramblings are a reflection of his sincere beliefs and are not the hokum of a charlatan) has retained only the dogma and possesses none of the insight of the mystical origins of his belief system.

            For what it's worth, I think it is an oversimplification of what science tells us about to origins to characterize it as saying, "nothing blew up one day". I think it is as much an oversimplification as analysis of the concept of the trinity in the original diary.

            I did enjoy your rebuttal and found it eloquent, but I also have to allow that my experience with Christianity is that it is practiced in such a way that is not nurturing of the appreciation of the mystical aspect of reality and rests on a scriptural foundation that encourages reliance on doctrine rather than the kind of insights your post illuminated.

            The world is a den of thieves and night is falling. -Ingmar Bergman

            by Pirogue on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 01:58:01 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree with what you say. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Jim P, Liberal Thinking

              I do not entirely rule out the mystical. I like to think that there is a point at which reason, if viewed in the right way, becomes the mystical. Maybe it is sentience itself we should revere. It certainly allows us to create, and it can, if one accepts determinism, explain why we create.

              "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others." --Groucho Marx

              by Dragon5616 on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 02:36:05 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Thank you for your comments. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Liberal Thinking

              I enjoyed reading them. And although it pokes fun, it really does amount to "suddenly nothing blew up" although the expression of that might be dressed in more sophisticated language.

              The scientific method is very very old; it's current self-limiting to material objects, plus the 'doubt everything' assumption are the innovations.

              I know from first-hand experience over decades that sufic, christian, buddhist, and taoist mysticism all begin with a years-long observation of internal processes. Observation without comment.

              The framework might differ (again, local conditions) but they all have you look at how body, emotions, intellect, and imagination interplay. And practice in how to separate the sense of 'self' from any particular manifestation. This kind of thing is always the first step in serious mystical methods.

              Without this kind of work most people can't tell the difference between, for example, what they feel, what they sense, and what is an emotion. Which leads to all sorts of confusion.

              It's much more rigorous than any version of modern psychology, and most of the material sciences once you get outside of inert, and local, matter.

              There's a saying in one tradition that one of the imaginings of people, especially modern people, is that they hear about a thing and then assume by that alone they know everything about it. As if one heard 'bookkeeping' described and then thought they were as competent and skilled in the matter as a CPA.

              It's sad how many people mistake religionism for religion and then write it all off. They are missing many of the features of a big universe.


              Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

              by Jim P on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 03:27:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Good Point (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jim P

            I don't think Pat Robertson and I are thinking about the same things when we talk about God, either.

            As for modern cosmology as "a 'science' that starts with a miracle followed by a lot of mathematics," I suspect most cosmologists don't think of it that way. They think of the big bang as something that happened outside the equations that apply to space-time, and that you'd need a different scientific theory to explain it.

            But I defy you to think of inflation as anything other than mysticism, unless you've discovered some new natural force.

            •  I assume you mean 'cosmic inflation' (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Liberal Thinking

              the problem that requires the invention of dark matter and dark energy to resolve the inadequacies of gravity to explain the observations.

              A priestcraft with arcane formulas to banish what doesn't fit the theology. Much of modern science, at least in cosmology, is indistinct in essence from any of its scripture-based predecessors.


              Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

              by Jim P on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 04:41:27 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not sure you really read the comment. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dragon5616, Liberal Thinking

        All I demonstrated was: the trinity is not an idea UNIQUE to Christianity; that there is a stream of experience; that when communicating or thinking about that stream we are structured so as to see things in three-parts.

        I said nothing about gods or of belief; but I did present an exercise which gives practical experience of how symbol-making for anything experienced is constrained to having three parts.

        btw, it's a really universe. One might be surprised what they find if the stick to systematic observation and think clearly about language. Very surprised.


        Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

        by Jim P on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 11:41:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  A spiritual existence, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jim P, Liberal Thinking

      by its very nature, is indescribable by humans except in metaphor. The problem is that people take the metaphor literally. If I say Heaven is like angels singing, people forget they won't have any ears.

      Hence, the Tao that can be said is not the true Tao.

      And your discussion of the three-in-one is awesome.

      "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others." --Groucho Marx

      by Dragon5616 on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 02:23:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As someone who was never raised (7+ / 0-)

    to be religious at all, the whole Christian narrative has always been kind of inscrutable. Outside of hardline atheist circles, almost everyone treats it with at least some seriousness, but to me it just seems like a flimsy series of fairy tales that have been strung together into a barely coherent mess.

    And that's somewhat separate from believing in God or not. I would never completely rule out the existence of some kind of creator, but the Christian narrative is about the least convincing sales pitch for God's existence I can think of.

    Something like Nick Bostrom's simulation argument (the idea that if we accept the inevitability of humans being able to simulate reality, then there's a good chance our own reality is a simulation of some sort), as far fetched as it may seem at first glance, at least relies on logic. It also has the nicely contrarian implication that God (whoever plugged in the simulation device) might in fact be real while the rest of us are imaginary.

    But aside from all the lack of a coherence, one thing that bothers me about Christianity is how reactionary the narrative is. The horrible crime that Adam and Eve committed to trigger this chain of unfortunate events was not some act of violence or harm towards others as you might expect. It was simply an act of disobedience against God's authority.

    Even if we treat the Bible as metaphorical, this seems completely backwards. Adam and Eve should have been the heroes of the story for standing up against authority and asserting free will. Almost every person we admire in the modern age, from the Founding Fathers to Martin Luther King Jr, has been someone willing to stand up and say no.

    And yet we're supposed to believe that in Adam and Eve's case it was not just bad but so horrible that all of humanity was condemned to sinfulness and potentially eternal damnation. This seems ridiculously out of step in an age where people value dissent and original thinking, where it's a good thing to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. And I get that its all open to revision and interpretation on some level, but exactly how illiberal and regressive does the storyline need to be before you start looking for a better one?

    Apparently nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99 percent of the population exist. —George Orwell

    by ukit on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 02:13:46 AM PDT

  •  A man as a divinity is just too strange. It is a (5+ / 0-)

    great fairy tale however that has alot of people taking it up.  No accounting for the human propensity to believe in the inscrutable.  It is lonely being on this earth and a devine being that is here or there or somewhere is a bit comforting, I guess.  I say change this life by doing good to others and the next will take care of itself.

  •  Trinity (7+ / 0-)

    You forgot of course that the trinity includes the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost as it is variously named.

    What the doctrine fails to note of course is a description although it is usually depicted as a dove in classic pictures. In Matthew 18 the bible states:

    Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
    Which of course means it was not the white haired old guy or the young guy in the towel but ....? Well using that classic iconography, we are in some really strange territories.

    What's more interesting is the early church's divination of Jesus. If his status were more of a prophet (as he is in Islam), the schism between Judaism and Christianity may not have occurred. That has been speculated as being a deliberate act by the early church's Roman elite.

    The Romans of course were perfectly happy to raid the empire for new and fashionable gods but always romanized them. Judaism itself was undergoing profound changes after the burning of the Temple. The Romans would likely have been perfectly happy to adopt Temple practices - bull sacrifice was after all an integral part of Mithrathism later. The more mystic religion based around Synagogue assemblies did not appeal even though there is evidence of a Jewish community in Rome - areas of the catacombs clearly have areas set aside with appropriate symbols such as the menorah.

    Nigel Sharmah in his series "History of the Jews" also puts this down to antisemitism on the part of Paul.

    We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 03:40:54 AM PDT

  •  Is the Trinity really that different (4+ / 0-)

    From the seemingly paradoxical foundational tenet of quantum mechanics that is wave-particle duality?

  •  Christians used to kill each other over (5+ / 0-)

    "In the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit" versus "In the name of the father, the son, through the holy spirit".  There was also a raging debate over whether jesus was a natural birth or just appeared out of thin air.  Early Christians were pretty good at finding things to fight over....

    ... So I guess not much has changed, especially if you consider islam an offshoot...

    The rules to monopoly are fair and apply equally to all. So what is your problem with joining a game-in-progress where all the properties are bought and the bank is empty...???

    by ban48 on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 03:46:22 AM PDT

  •  This is not a good employment of your time. n/t (4+ / 0-)

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 04:01:32 AM PDT

    •  It is an EXCELLENT employment of time, whether... (5+ / 0-)

      we are considering the time spent by the writer, or by the reader (whether a literal Christian, a liberal Christian, or a non-Christian).

      God (if He/She exists, and I happen to be a believer) allowed us to have minds and free will, and - I would assume - we should be encouraged to use them.

      I thank the diarist for a thought-provoking post, an ~excellent~ employment of time.

  •  "The Mystery of Faith". Think about that phrase (7+ / 0-)

    as I ask you:

    What do you have faith in?

    And I do not speak in religious terms here.  What do you have faith in?

    Do you believe in anything unseen and unproven but you are yet convinced exists?

    And as far as the third point goes, why do you confine it to ONLY Christianity?

    Do you know HOW many religions throughout history have the concept of the Deity-as-Sacrifice? From Osiris to Mithras in the Mediterranean world to Xipe in the New World so many faiths have had the concept of the Deity sacrificing himself/herself to benefit humanity.

    So many faiths in so many places throughout history mean that there may be something to that story.  

    Do you read Jung at all?

    Finally, just as you wouldn't want Christians to "shove their beliefs at you", it's just as insulting to post stuff like this and basically call Christians deluded and ignorant for their beliefs.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 04:31:41 AM PDT

    •  Thank you. (0+ / 0-)

      This diary came from the "I don't understand it therefore it cannot possibly be true and anyone who thinks it might be true is delusional" school.

      Tiresome, actually.

    •  There are religon based diaries on here (7+ / 0-)

      left and right that basically promote totally unprovable nonsense and yet we are supposed to "respect" that because it's someone's precious faith ideas.  If you are insulted, then try to live in this world as an atheist and have everyone around you, including your government, tell you that YOU are the deluded one because you don't believe that "God" exists.

      It seems that it's OK to chastise people for presenting political statements that have no evidence to back them up, but not religious ones?  

    •  zenbassoon: (5+ / 0-)

      You said:

      Finally, just as you wouldn't want Christians to "shove their beliefs at you", it's just as insulting to post stuff like this and basically call Christians deluded and ignorant for their beliefs.
      Where did I complain about Christians shoving their beliefs at me? I ask you to quote where I called Christians deluded or ignorant.  

      Did you read what I wrote? Like this:

      My personal bottom line: Christianity as a philosophical and ethical system has much to recommend it and I find no fault with those who follow it.
      Or this.
      I think that the precepts Jesus preached were, in the main, worthy of a great moralist. As religions go, Christianity is—in theory—a wonderful expression of quintessentially human values.

      ... but He loves you! -- George Carlin -- (-7.25, -6.21)

      by Tim DeLaney on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 08:45:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Fatal flaws" is how you describe the central (0+ / 0-)

        tenets of Christianity as a religion.

        Also:  "The fact that Christianity is based on an intellectual fraud"

        That is how you insult, offend and call believers delusional and ignorant.

        And the disclaimer that "But hey, as a general philosophy there are good things, and Jesus sounds like a pretty cool guy" doesn't make it better.

        But in my original comment, I also asked a question.  May I have an answer?

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

        by zenbassoon on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 02:41:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well if more Christians really spent the time (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ukit, Tim DeLaney

          to delve into how the whole resurrection/salvation/Jesus Christ narrative was put together, and by whom, they could spend less time being insulted when others bring this up.

          •  What made you lose your faith? Because you're (0+ / 0-)

            WAY too bitter and insulting to gotten where you are any other way.

            And I asked the diarist a question in the original comment.  You can answer it too.

            "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

            by zenbassoon on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 07:39:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Was this the question? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Tim DeLaney
              What do you have faith in?

              And I do not speak in religious terms here.  What do you have faith in?

              Do you believe in anything unseen and unproven but you are yet convinced exists?

              If so, I'll answer it. Of course we all have "faith", if by faith you mean the belief that more things exist than those that we can currently perceive at any present moment. For instance, if I throw a frisbee across the room, I have "faith" that my dog will go running after it.

              But notice what this faith is premised on: the large number of times I have in past thrown a frisbee, and watched my dog run after it. Religious faith is a bit different because it's not based on any kind of reliable past evidence or experience. The opposite in fact: the claims of religious faith actually contradict what we observe about the world.

              Apparently nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99 percent of the population exist. —George Orwell

              by ukit on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 08:13:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  That's not what I was asking. (0+ / 0-)

                I'm asking whether there is ANYTHING at all you believe WITHOUT those anchors of past experience or evidence or ANY kind of proof at all?

                "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

                by zenbassoon on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 09:05:34 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I can't think of any. What would be an example (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Tim DeLaney

                  of that? Everything we "know" is based on a past experience of some kind, even if it's second hand knowledge from someone else.

                  Apparently nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99 percent of the population exist. —George Orwell

                  by ukit on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 09:41:30 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  What do I have faith in?? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Liberal Thinking, ukit

          The question presumes that I must have faith in something. Bad assumption. I Define "faith" as "belief without evidence"; I don't have it.

          I do, however have many beliefs. They are based on evidence (at least I hope so), and do not qualify as faith.

          Fatal flaws" is how you describe the central tenets of Christianity as a religion.
          Yes
          Also:  "The fact that Christianity is based on an intellectual fraud"
          Yes
          That is how you insult, offend and call believers delusional and ignorant.
          What I wrote implies that I think Christians are wrong -- nothing more. It is an argument. Isn't that what we do here on DKOS? Why do you take a theoretical argument as a personal affront?

          Insult? Where and when? You took insult where none was intended or implied. That's your problem.

          But you stepped over the line when you claimed I called you delusional and ignorant. That is patently false. Nothing I said could be construed to support that accusation.

          I'm of the opinion that further discussion with you is not going to be fruitful.

          ... but He loves you! -- George Carlin -- (-7.25, -6.21)

          by Tim DeLaney on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 02:26:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for putting into words something I have (7+ / 0-)

    felt for a long time but had no way to logically explain to people.   I've long said I respected Jesus' teachings but didn't believe he was divine.  Now I'm better prepared.

  •  I still laugh when I remember my (4+ / 0-)

    Lutheran pastor trying to explain the trinity to us future confirmands by comparing it to a new product on the market... "three in one" motor oil!  Poor pastor, he looked as confused as the rest of us.

    If you read Dogerty's The Jesus Puzzle, you find that there were Christ cults that believed the whole resurrection/salvation scene was played out by Christ on a different plane of existence (the world being in levels) and did not actually occur on earth. Evidence points to the possiblity that Paul was a member of one of these groups, which explains why he didn't talk at all about Jesus's biography.

    Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism asked a really good question in one of his blogs. How does the murder of an innocent absolve another's sin?

    There were many pagan stories about gods who were crucified and resurrected for the purposes of saving mankind, so Christianity was not very original in its thinking.   However, it needs to be noted that the concept of salvation is divisive and therefore not a moral system.

    And finally, the whole she-bang is most likely based on a non-existant mythological character. More and more religous scholarship is pointing to the potential fact that Jesus never existed.  The next book out on this will be Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus Christ... I think it will arrive in early 2014.

  •  trinity etc. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tim DeLaney, Dragon5616
    The notion that a person can atone for the sin or crime of another is surely ridiculous on its face.
    yup.
    The doctrine of the Trinity suffers from the fatal defect that three does not equal one. This doctrine is generally passed off as a mystery of the faith, but the skeptic rightly says "Not so fast!" The transubstantiation might be passed off as a mystery of the faith, because it is merely physically impossible. But in the logical, i.e. the Boolean sense, three does not equal one. This doctrine implies that Christianity actually has three Gods despite the assertion that there is only one.  
    yup.  If some authority figure can persuade you to believe absurdities they can persuade you to commit atrocities. And so they did.
    The entire tale of the fall hints strongly at allegory, but Christianity has instead taken it literally.
    It is very much an allegory about the mistake of passing judgment. From the diary linked in my sig:
    the very first spiritual teaching in the Bible, from Genesis 2-3,  KJV, Bible Gateway:
          “And out of the ground made .. God to grow every tree [including] the tree of knowledge of good and evil”
          The Lord instructed  “ of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat”
          Adam & Eve then they fell prey to temptation and ate:  “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked … and Adam and his wife hid themselves ....
          And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
          And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
          And He said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”

    Busted!  The “fruit” was no apple (“apple” is never mentioned), it was the temptation to pass judgment.  They partake of this fruit and promptly judge their nakedness as shameful.  This gives them away, and they get thrown out of the garden with all the ensuing tribulations.  
     The point is it is a mistake to be passing judgment.

    •  In another venue, I said (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice, Dragon5616
      But, why put the tree right smack in the middle of the garden? Why, He could have put it in Belgium or Australia or even Hawaii, and we'd have had no Fall. At least not for a while.

      ... but He loves you! -- George Carlin -- (-7.25, -6.21)

      by Tim DeLaney on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 07:42:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's an interesting interpretation but (2+ / 0-)

      it leads to the question of why passing judgement such a horrible thing.

      Isn't judgement the basis of morality and any system of justice? Come to think of it, isn't the idea that God passes judgement on humans a central tenant of Christianity itself?

      Obviously, in a historical sense, this narrative doesn't really hold up either. Humans didn't suddenly one day develop self-awareness. Animals are self-aware too and make judgements every moment of their lives. At its root, a judgement is just a simply binary choice that tells us whether something is good or bad, to take an action or not. The idea of difference underlies reality itself.

      But following this same train of thought, I guess I could see it make sense if we interpret "judgement" as consciousness itself. i.e., we were all once in a state of "nothingness" and the moment we emerge from that non-existent state we are "cursed" with being conscious and sentient. But is it really such a curse? And why do we have to atone for it?

      Apparently nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99 percent of the population exist. —George Orwell

      by ukit on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 07:50:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I should have been more specific (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Liberal Thinking

        I was referring specifically to condemnatory judgment such as labeling other people to be "evil".  This dehumanizes others and has been used to justify war and genocide.  A&E judging their nakeness to be "shameful" is a milder form of this. If a person commits a criminal act, and harms others, we may have to lock him up for our own protection, but we should do so without hatred and judging him to be irredeemable.

        Come to think of it, isn't the idea that God passes judgement on humans a central tenant of Christianity itself?
        Precisely so, which puts Christianity in violation of this, the very first spiritual teaching of scripture. The fundies particularly violate this teaching big time.
  •  An apology to all: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice, Dragon5616

    I mistakenly thought that in the publish function 12:00 AM referred to noon. This diary was intended to be published at 12:00 AM meaning 1200 hours on the 24 hour clock. I'll know better next time.

    ... but He loves you! -- George Carlin -- (-7.25, -6.21)

    by Tim DeLaney on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 07:34:58 AM PDT

  •  And Calvin's doctrine of double predestination. (4+ / 0-)

    God knows who's going to Hell before he even decides to create them.  And it is backed up by scripture.  It's in Romans 8:28-30, for example.

    Just if true, as evil as you can get.

    Warren/3-D Print of Warren in 2016!

    by dov12348 on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 09:16:10 AM PDT

  •  ...there you go thinking logically again... (3+ / 0-)

    ...no matter how much I've tried to talk to those who believe everything they are told regarding Christianity, it never works.  They truly believe in you apply logic you are possessed by the devil.

    Another problem is how entirely differently that Bible is interpreted by different "sects."

    My favorite is the group that makes the Bible out to be like the DaVinci Code...all secret internal uber plans hidden all throughout the Bible.

    If you try to talk about any of it...then you have no "faith." That's it! End of Story.

    The one thing I bring up...which always ends any relationship entirely with any Christians, is when I limit the discussion to ONLY what Jesus said himself...NOT all the "commentary" which is exactly what the Bible is.

    I ask, "what did Jesus mean then when he said you shall do all I have done and more?"

    Crickets...and normally the last thing ever spoken between and friends, patients, what have you. They don't like what Jesus said himself. They want the commentary because that is always able to be endlessly re-interpreted.

    The best Bible's are the oldest ones you can get. The older the Bible the closer to the original statements. New Bibles are nothing short of pure propaganda.

    Here is a perfect example. This is the oldest version of John 23:24 I have found:

    John 4:23-24
    21-23 “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

    23-24 “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

    Compare that to this "new" version:
    John 4:23-24
    21st Century King James Version

    23 But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.

    24 God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

    How very, very different. Jesus in the earlier version really is about people and what is in their hearts...those who are "truly themselves" are what matter. It doesn't matter who you are or where you worship. And God is sheer spirit (i.e. Holy Spirit?)

    In the King James version is more of a threat...like time's up mofo. You MUSt worship in Spirit and Truth (what does that even mean?) And it is repeated twice. So it isn't being true to yourself and who you really are that counts anymore...NOPE...it's specifically how you must worship God...in Spirit and Truth...again whatever that means (open for interpretation, no? That way some authority can decide if you're doing it right...

    Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences. -7.38; -3.44

    by paradise50 on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 09:46:24 AM PDT

    •  Well, sort of . . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dragon5616, Liberal Thinking

      You are, in my humble opinion, at least sort of correct about "The best Bible's are the oldest ones you can get. The older the Bible the closer to the original statements." - if you substitute "manuscript" for "bible".  That is to say that the oldest manuscripts may indeed be closer to the "original statements".

      However, some older Bibles (and I'm thinking particularly about the KJV along with some others) were not based on the earliest manuscripts, some of which were not even known about at the time that these older Bibles were written.

      In contrast, some of the newer Bibles reflect knowledge of earlier manuscripts, and therefore ~can~ be closer to the "original statements".

      However, it is also true that at least some of the newer Bibles have a bias that slants what they "reveal" (although some older Bibles do this also).

      Biblical scholarship has been - and still is - affected by politics (as are most human endeavors).

    •  References (0+ / 0-)

      Can you give references for these two versions? I'd like to see them. What are they called and are they available on the Web?

  •  From the other side of the aisle...*grin* (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dragon5616, Liberal Thinking
    [...] But as a logical construct, Christianity is just not credible. [...]

    [...] But the religion that sprang from the life and death of Jesus is logically inconsistent. [...]

    [...] There is very little in the way of revelation to support this view, and nothing in the way of logic. [...]

    [...] But in the logical, i.e. the Boolean sense, three does not equal one. [...]

    Almost all religions are predicated on the existence of deity in some form.  Even those practices loosely referred to as "nature worship" ascribe elements of deity to the natural world.  

    Deity is, by its very nature, an illogical notion--as are all elements of the supernatural--so ALL religion (not just Christianity) falls to your argument IF we assume that faith and science/reason/logic must be contradictory.

    For those who see faith and reason/science/logic as complementary rather than antagonistic, your argument is basically unnecessary.

    Science is man's attempt to explain the universe in terms of natural phenomena.

    Religion is man's attempt to explain the universe in terms of supernatural phenomena.

    I have no problem accepting the findings of science as natural explanations of our universe without contradicting my belief in an eternal Creator.

    On the particulars of the Incarnation (when you suggest that the Resurrection is an impossibility because Christ could not be both divine and human, you're really contesting the Incarnation, yes?), the nature of the Holy Spirit, or the Trinity itself, you could just as easily criticize Brahma (usually depicted with four heads and four faces) or Janus (Roman god of transitions and beginnings, usually depicted as two-faced).

    Is it all metaphor?  I have no problem with any who considers it such.  The divinity of Christ is as unprovable today as it was in His own time.

    We're in total agreement on the various abuses conducted in the guise of Christianity, as well as the fact that more than a few nominal Christians fail to practice much of what Christ taught, but we (both within and without the community of believers) can confront/debunk/criticize those without attacking the core tenets of faith.

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 02:33:09 PM PDT

    •  But faith is by definition illogical. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fishtroller01

      Faith means believing in that which cannot be proven. In that sense, it is illogical to believe in something that can never be proven. And to try to disprove the negative is a logical absurdity. It's a free country so you can believe whatever you want, but that doesn't make it logical.

      "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others." --Groucho Marx

      by Dragon5616 on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 03:16:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I never claimed it was. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Liberal Thinking, Dragon5616

        You seem to be taking a poke at me for something I didn't say; in fact, I specifically said that all elements of the supernatural are illogical, including deity.

        Descartes took a shot at it with his ontological and trademark arguments.

        I will however, respond to this:

        And to try to disprove the negative is a logical absurdity.
        I would suggest that, in this case, it is equally absurd to attempt to prove the negative.  The existence of God (or, if you prefer the lower case, a god) can be neither proven nor disproven by human means.

        The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

        by wesmorgan1 on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 07:17:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'm not sure religious faith WAS illogical (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking

      for primitive humans living in a hostile world where they had limited control over their environment and death could come at the blink of an eye.

      For people living in such a state, "God" was essentially just nature rendering its judgement on them, whether through flood, famine or pestilence. Given their dramatically limited understanding of how things really worked, it wasn't necessary illogical for humans to think that a rain dance or sacrificing a lamb might bring about the effects they wanted, anymore than it was illogical for humans thousands of years later to believe in alchemy or geocentricity. They weren't illogical, just wrong.

      Apparently nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99 percent of the population exist. —George Orwell

      by ukit on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 08:02:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Again, why persist in "correct" and "incorrect"... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Liberal Thinking

        ...when the basic premise in question can be neither proven nor disproven in any objective fashion?

        There are millions across the belief spectrum (from the extremely devout to nominal faith to 'seekers' to apathetic to agnostic to atheist) who simply practice their belief (or lack thereof) without castigating, attacking or criticizing anyone else's place on the spectrum.

        That seems the right place to be.  We aren't all there yet--and, to be sure, there are far more instances of "believers" publicly castigating "unbelievers" than there are of the reverse case--but we can each "get there" in how we treat each other.

        The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

        by wesmorgan1 on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 07:35:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well I'm certainly not someone who (0+ / 0-)

          wants to attack anyone for what they believe in. We live in a society that is still dominated by religion, and for that reason most of us secularists and agnostics will happily bow our heads as family members say grace at dinner, or silently pretend to pray when asked to a funeral. So it's not really a question of tolerance, aside from maybe a few hardliners like Dawkins and so on.

          That being said, I'm not sure if I can accept this idea that there are no "correct" and "incorrect" beliefs. In what sense is this intended? Are you trying to suggest that we should be totally relativistic and never judge anyone, to the point of putting an insane person's views on par with a scientist's?

          Or is it more that religion and science should be viewed as residing on two separate tracks, thereby resolving any contradictions between them?

          I guess if we construct a wall and try to compartmentalize "material reality" and "supernatural reality" it might be possible. But what is "supernatural reality" in the first place? It is an actual state of being that exists outside of actual reality, or just a philosophical interpretation overlaid onto reality? I can accept the second one, but it wouldn't be "true" in any meaningful sense, because in that case it exists only in peoples' minds.

          It also strikes me that when it comes to actually-existing religious practice, this distinction is rarely adhered to. The primitive humans mentioned above for instance didn't think there was a wall between the material and the spiritual. They thought doing a rain dance would actually lead to rain.

          Apparently nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99 percent of the population exist. —George Orwell

          by ukit on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 09:37:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Christian Interpretation (0+ / 0-)

    I think you brought up some really interesting challenges to Christian doctrine. I'd like to address those because I think we do have to deal with the political ramifications of how people in this country (and around the world) practice Christianity. We have seen a very conservative and perhaps dark force capture a large chunk of the Christian faithful and this has a huge impact on public policy--to the detriment of liberal democracy and (I would argue) the public good.

    It is therefore important for liberals to speak out about Christian doctrine and present our case for why Christians should be liberals and pursue liberal policy.

    Obviously, most Christians aren't going to respond favorably to the concept that their religion is illogical and incorrect. So, I'd like to respond to the challenge by examining each premise. (I know I'm late getting back to you, but there's a lot to cover here.)

    First, all religions require you to believe in some spiritual realm, separate but influencing the world of everyday life. (That is, with the exception of Zen, which probably isn't a religion as such, and maybe some minor religions that don't make such claims.) So, this discussion is really in the nature of deciding which religion you might consider acceptable, and particularly whether you accept a fundamentally liberal or conservative view of Christianity.

    The question of the Trinity you raised is whether it is logically consistent to maintain that there's only one god but that the three parts of the Christian trinity are all God.

    So, let's go back to the source, the Nicene Creed, as represented by Wikisource:

    We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion—all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.
    I'm not a biblical scholar or a theologian, but the plain wording of this is that Christians believe in the divinity of "the Father Almighty" and of "one Lord Jesus Christ" who is "the Son of God", and that these two were both divine ("of one substance"). They further believe that Jesus Christ was incarnated (instantiated as a human) and that he then ascended into heaven. Christians also believe in the "Holy Ghost" (but without any explanation here as to what the Holy Ghost is). The Nicene Creed further claims that anyone who questions the divinity of Jesus Christ isn't a Christian.

    Whether you view this as monotheistic or polytheistic is, it would appear, a label put on Chistians that isn't part of the core faith.

    The claim is that there is a divine realm, different from the physical realm, in which some entity created the physical realm. What's in that realm isn't the same substance as what's in the physical realm.

    So, this answers the first question about "The Trinity". According to Christian faith there is a separate (divine) realm where there are at least two persons and another entity (the Holy Ghost). That is to say, there are three, not one, but that they are all divine and Christians believe in all of them (as stated).

    In the physical realm when we look out we perceive some section of the physical universe. Our mind assembles that into a set of objects by interpreting the senses. If the part of the universe we are perceiving contains certain patterns, our mind may interpret those to indicate this part has human bodies in it. The mind then ascribes characteristics to those entities, one of which is the concept of "personhood".

    If you were a seer and you looked into the spiritual realm you might perceive a part of it that contained human forms. Given our experience in the physical realm, the mind might well assemble its perceptions, whatever they are, into human-like objects and ascribe personhood to them. So, if you looked into the spiritual realm and perceived an older and a younger person, you might decide one was the son of the other. The Nicene Creed doesn't say that these are all one person, it just says they are of the same substance, and that the son was not made. This implies that the father didn't make the son, so he isn't less powerful. He has his own, independent, being within the spiritual realm. Perhaps this is intended to explain why the son can intercede on behalf of humans with the father.

    To the degree that the Nicene Creed defines whether someone is a Christian or not, it doesn't say that 1 = 3. It just says that Christians believe in a divine realm where these persons exist, and that people who believe in this are Christians and those that don't aren't.

    What does this say about the resurrection?

    One interesting thing it doesn't say is that Jesus Christ died. It says he suffered and after three days he rose and ascended into heaven. But, of course, the rest of the Bible tells us that he was killed and that he came back to life. I think we can assume the part that says, "the third day he rose again" means he was killed and then came back to life.

    What does it mean to die? In the physical realm it means that your body stops functioning, and that includes the heart and the brain. If you see a human body and the heart and brain are not working, then I think we would consider that person dead. But, if there is a spiritual realm and the spirit of a person is connected with the body, what does this physical death mean to the spirit?

    The claim of the Nicene Creed is that the Son of God "came down and was incarnate and was made man". What about other humans? Is there a spirit for them in the spiritual realm that predates their incarnation as human? What happens to that spirit when the physical human body dies?

    I don't know the entire Bible, but I don't remember anything in it that specifically addresses the question of whether the spirit predates the body. Many religions, such as Buddhism, explicitly posit something in the spiritual realm independent of the physical body, but tied to it. This consciousness results in birth and transcends death. In a way, this life-force causes the physical body to form.

    I think many Christians think of "coming down from heaven" and "ascending into heaven" as movements of the physical body in physical space. Since the spiritual realm is not in the physical dimensions, this doesn't seem right. It's a bit like Aeneas going into Hades by going into a cave and crossing the River Styx. How does that work?

    A more accurate view might be that the spiritual "Son of God" manifested a physical man (Jesus) and that when Jesus died, the spiritual person was given over to Lucifer for some time in some spiritual hell. At the end of this time he overcame Lucifer and returned to spiritual heaven. At that point the body of Jesus was reinhabited with the spirit and some of the disciples saw this living body. Whether you believe this or not, I think that's the actual claim.

    If you separate the spiritual person from the physical person, then I think all the logical problems you brought up about the resurrection go away. (You're still left with a fantasic story that you either believe or don't.)

    This brings us to the third point, the question of atonement. Here, you say:

    The notion that a person can atone for the sin or crime of another is surely ridiculous on its face. Does God regard the punishment for guilt as a commodity that can be transferred, like mineral rights? ... So, maybe the sacrifice on the cross was only intended to atone for the original sin of Adam and Eve. But if God is truly all-merciful, why did He not simply forgive mankind for the original sin of eating the forbidden fruit?
    I agree. I don't really know why this appeals to people in the modern world. At the time of Jesus's death many people were making blood sacrifices. Apparently, there was widespread belief that you could appease the gods by killing off some creature and offering their death in the place of yours. So, I can understand why this would appeal to people at the time, but I have no idea why it appeals to people today, who are not used to sacrificing animals for their wellbeing.

    In a way, I think that there are two kinds of people: people who think that the world was created by a jealous and angry God who demands our obedience and only allows us to get close to Him if we toe the line or atone through physical and mental pain, and people who believe in a benevolent God who knows the best path for all of us and will provide that direction to us for the asking. I suspect the former kind of people tend to conservatism. They believe in the penal theory of atonement, where someone (either the sinner or someone taking their place) has to endure purgatory or risk eternal damnation. But there are other theories of atonement.

    And, in fact, the penal theory was not the dominant view of atonement in the early church and is still a matter of debate. For example, in Atonement in Christianity on Wikipedia you will find four theories of atonement, including basically three that fit the model you give and one (the moral influence theory) that doesn't. The moral influence theory says that the purpose and work of Jesus Christ was to bring positive moral change to humanity.

    What is atonement, anyway? In Christian theology one atones for sin, because sin is moving away from God's will. This only makes sense to me if we view God's will as the best or optimal path to good. By nature, if you move away from the path, you cause harm, so the question is whether you want to do what's good or not. This goes back to the basic nature of the person's soul, the causitive element of the person. If that soul wants to do good, then it is on God's path because that's (by definition) the path to good. If the person leaves that path then a good soul would want to return to it, and that can only be done by atoning for the sin (the error of leaving the path) in some way. The atonement takes the soul back to the correct path.

    Given the choice, what do you want to do? If you could chose either good or evil, and there was no consequence to you, which would you choose? I think most people would chose to do good rather than evil. That's the essential nature of their soul. I believe that the essential nature of most humans is good. Maybe that just makes me an optimist. In that sense, most people are on God's side from the get go. And so most people don't want to sin, and if they find they've sinned they want to atone.

    The premise of Christianity is that the Son of God can get you back on the path. What is the mechanism for this? What does it mean to believe in Jesus? I think it means to believe in the message he brought and to practice it in our own lives. This means, in practical terms, looking at life based on the spirit of Jesus and following his example. This means using your consciousness to choose a better path, one that leads to beneficial actions. It means examining each situation to determine the most loving response and then following that path.

    Let's go back to the fall of Adam and Eve. In that allegory the result of their disobedience was that they would eventually die. Humans were locked into the chain of birth and death, along with a painful and difficult existence where they had to work for what they got and the world was full of dangers. They had to go out and make their own way, without that direct connection to God.

    The moral influence theory says that the presence of Jesus on earth provided an example of how to follow the right path. Instead of wandering in the wilderness, as man had been after the fall, now we all had this specific way of looking at things that helped us get back on the path. In essence, the story of Adam and Eve is not a event that took place in ancient times. It's an allegory for what happens when we make a moral decision to do something wrong. The emphasis isn't on disobedience; the emphasis is on the fact that taking this course has negative consequences. And the story of Jesus is a way to deal with that fall in current time, by looking at the example of how Jesus approached each moral problem and dealt with it.

    I propose this way of looking at these issues because I think progressives can embrace Christianity in a way that works for us and provides a positive response to the harsh and inhuman attitudes of Christians who use it as a bludgeon in the political sphere. We cannot afford to have these reactionary and right-wing elements capture Christianity. Over a billion people profess to be Christians. Just as a practical matter we can't allow this crowd to go over to the dark side. So, regardless of how much we believe in the spiritual realm or supernatural powers, I think we can accept Christianity in a positive way, and that will have a beneficial effect on politics.

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