Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Real Christianity?


Ok, this post is kind of designed to tie in with Shadow’s recent posts on religion, which I’ve really enjoyed and highly recommend.

The topic is a big one: the real nature of Christianity. The general problem, insofar as I can see it, is that people yearn for two contradictory things. On the one hand, they want the hope and the assurance that there is a world of joy and redemption beyond this existence, a realm of pure bliss, where evil, pain, suffering, loss and so on have no meaning or reality. On the other hand, they are tied to this life; they do not want to die. This world is where their lives and being are constituted. Their identities, loved ones, joys, plans and hopes are here, so renouncing this realm isn’t exactly easy. Many even hope for a paradise to be established in this existence, either through political means or through direct intervention from on high. 

Now as far I can read it (and I’m no theologian), the whole tenor of the New Testament runs thus: the world is irredeemably tainted, it is corrupted beyond repair by sin, human greed, selfishness and egotism. Anyone who wants salvation needs to recognise this, clean up their act, abandon the ways of the world and concentrate all of their energy and activities on being righteous, kind, non-selfish and giving, otherwise they’ll end up damned like all of the life-suckers who rule this realm. 

In what way is this exemplified in Jesus? Well, he is a man who has no place or position in normal society. Most importantly, he has absolutely no interest in having any, and he goes out of his way to condemn those who are content with their earthly lot. All of his teaching is focused on how people can shed their earthly skins and the shitty habits they’ve picked up as a result of wallowing in their fleshy selves. 

On anti-natal lines, he has no wife, he has no children and expresses utter disinterest in the traditional worship of family. When someone tells him his family have arrived to see him, he replies “‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ ; and pointing to the disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mothers and my brothers’” (Mth. 12. 48-50). Also, “No man is worthy of me who cares more for father or mother than for me” (Mth. 10. 37-38). So social conventions count for nothing. Following the herd and the rules only buries you ever deeper in the muck of the world. (Unsurprisingly, DNA worshipper Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion expresses his bewilderment and mild English outrage at such a disgraceful repudiation of the life principle.)

Furthermore, Jesus announces that he hasn’t come to save the world itself, or to maintain life as we know it; he’s only interested in individuals who are willing to see through the world’s deceptions and lies: “You must not think I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, [...] and a man will find enemies under his own roof” (Mth. 10. 34-37). And, of course, there’s the well-known line “What will a man gain by winning the whole world, at the cost of his true self?” (Mth. 16.27). So wallow in the filth of the world if you like, but don’t expect any lasting happiness from it. And another famous line comes at the trial: ‘My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18.36). (It’s also worth recalling the various descriptions in the NT of Satan as ‘Prince of this world’, ‘Lord of this world’.)

I guess if I really wanted to push it, the crucifixion and resurrection stories could be read as an allegorical lesson: renounce the world, let it crucify you for rejecting its way, run the risks of isolation, loneliness and poverty, and gain your reward through knowing you’ll have shed a false skin and become a better person. 

What I also find interesting in how Christianity developed as an organised religion is the manner in which the Church attempted to reconcile this world-rejection with the fact that, for most people, such a message is simply too much to bear. (Theologically, the difficulty lay in reconciling the life-affirming nature of Judaism with the rejection of the sin-infested world as preached by Jesus.) As a result, we have schisms and mixed messages. Catholicism prescribes celibacy and non-reproduction for its clergy, yet maintains hostility toward birth-control for the laity. It says we must love the world and each other because we and it are God’s creation, yet urges us to keep a main eye on what may befall our soul after death and not get caught up in life’s machinations.  Then you have Protestantism, which to my eyes at least, seems to completely embrace the world and advocates having a good time and enjoying social status as long as you go through the motions of church-attendance. Its clergy are even allowed marry and reproduce, for God’s sake:-)
 
(Incidentally, in the wake of the various paedophile scandals in the Catholic world, there has been lately a popular call for the Church to revoke the rule of celibacy for its clergy, which I personally believe would be a disaster. The Church is what it is because it rejects the whimsies and fickle demands of the masses; that’s why it’s survived for two thousand years and still commands respect, even amongst its most bitter enemies. Contrast this with the Protestant churches of Ireland and England, utterly ineffectual echo chambers of the secular societies they inhabit.)

By way of a conclusion, for me the genuine religious person is someone who does not feel at home in this world. He or she dreams of something better, and attempts to embody in their own life what they think the world should be with the hope perhaps that others may follow their example. To mount that tired old nag of a cliché for one last trot, if you want to change the world, change yourself.

34 comments:

  1. Beautiful.
    Thanks for pointing out my post as well.

    "By way of a conclusion, for me the genuine religious person is someone who does not feel at home in this world."

    Touché! Nothing to add here.

    Religions, mainly Christianity, should be more close to pessimism and antinatalism, than they are, if they (their followers and leaders) were more honest and sincere.

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    1. Thanks as always, Shadow. Yup, religions should really be about the serious business of giving up on life.

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  2. This entry actually brought a few tears. All of my readings of the new testament brought me to the same exact understanding of the character of Christ. I dare say, I think I consider you and Shadow to be my brothers.

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    1. Thanks, Garrett. I feel the same about you guys (and Bazompora). It always amazes me when I go to the actual trouble of reading the NT just how shocking, disorienting and revolutionary it really is. A shame more so-called Christians don't actually read it.

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    2. Garret
      Consider yourself embraced as a brother! Let´s keep fighting the good fight.

      I figure there´s not much we can do to help each other through physical means, since we are so distant, but anything my antinatal brothers need to confide and converse about, I´m here.

      Cheers

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  3. "Unsurprisingly, DNA worshipper R.D" <- I laughed. Your posts have humor in them, as well. You the man!

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  4. Very good post, Karl. I have also noticed that most Christians are not in any hurry to die. It makes me wonder if they truly take the afterlife idea seriously. I figure they must have at least some doubt deep down.

    I will never respect the Catholic Church. I consider their opposition to birth control to be truly evil, not to mention all of the horrible things the Catholic Church has done over the centuries. It is very impressive they have existed as institution for so long, but an institution isn't good just because it has existed for a long time.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Stacy.

      The Catholic Church is a complicated issue. I do think it's important to take a long view of the institution and not automatically swallow all that the mainstream media have to say about it. Obviously, its paedophile scandals are a disgrace and those involved and those who helped cover it up should be prosecuted. On the other hand, the Church has been a source of solace and comfort to millions (billions) over the centuries and has served as a bulkwark against the madness of the everyday world.

      Actually, a really good book I'd recommend to everyone is 'Atheist Delusions' by David Bentley Hart, a superb analysis of the myths spread by professional capital-A Atheists about Christianity and a deep reading of how our culture and its ideals have been shaped for better and worse by Christian ideas. Although of no beliefs myself, I found it to be a superb read and a much-needed corrective to the ignorant crap thrown about by the usual suspects.

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  5. Actually, Jesus was a karaite Jew.

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    1. Thanks for the vid, anonymous. There is so much speculation about 'the historical Jesus' and so many conflicting interpretations, yet ultimately all we know about him is what we have in the NT.

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  6. The post is titled "Real nature of ....." and your arguments convincingly show that Christianity has no true nature. Biblical statements are so general that it is very easy to interpret them one way or another and this is the main reason I do not respect Christians very much as they always can find cover ups for their actions in the bible. I believe that AN is what bible directly advocates, however it is often Christians who have a lots of children. Why?

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    1. I guess because fundamentally they are human beings with an innate drive to procreate. Personally, my favourite Christians are monks, the guys who really live it. (And Christians who actually go out and help the poor and needy on the front line of misery). I don't really see how anyone can call themselves Christian who doesn't try to imitate Christ; as far as I'm aware it's meant to be a lived religion, not a set of metaphysical or propositonal beliefs about the universe.

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  7. We must not forget that Jesus promised eternal torment to all who didn't join his fan club.

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    1. He certainly was no saint: he was an arrogant hoodlum who conned the gullible and lived of others. And Jesus never embarked on attempting to save everybody. He reminds me of 'someone central to my life' in his mundane disposition.
      Yet, the figure revealed remarkable standards of integrity nevertheless: blood ties are but base, origins and status don't affect your moral worth (he was giving us the earliest recorded anti-racist lessons), nobody 'deserves' better for having greater ability, suffering and death are not aspects to ever welcome or be unmoved by, corruption must not be tolerated, and so on.

      But Jesus was lazy (didn't bother to write a word down himself) and so am I, unfortunately: I only went through the Gospel of Thomas and a little beyound the Genesis chapter in the OT; it's like two different civilisations - one of which Neanderthal, I think.


      Karl,

      splendid study. Much appreciate the honor too.
      Your last comment on The last page ("If only there were secular monasteries") resonates with a familiar regret: whenever, as an agnostic wishful elementary school student, I was faced with the question about what I would want to be later in life, I always answered policeman. Sirens, warning lights and 'manly cars' were cool concepts to boast about. But secretly, I saw my vocation as a Catholic pastor ... or a soldier in a foreign legion. Little did I know about my later rejection of institutional religion, civilian casualties in contemporary warfare or the difference between gun wounds etc and a painless ticket of this world. Point is: I always dreamt to GTFO this creepy society. But alas, growing up meant realising that there is no refuge in life.

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    2. Bazompora, funnily enough when someone in the NT calls Jesus good, he denies it vehemently (too tired to dig out the reference). And as for anti-racism, during my research for this entry I came across a brilliant discussion on Jesus's own prejudices. Well worth a read:

      http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/shaming-jesus.html

      And the monastery, yes. I still haven't given up hope of finding a refuge yet. And oh, I think you'd be a BRILLIANT pastor; I'd queue to hear your sermons on the iniquities of the world. And the Catholic Church now more than ever needs good people:-)

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    3. I'm an atheist through and through now, Karl: I don't even believe in "good people" anymore, along with any incarnation of 'good'/"god" (one and the same flatus in the West-Germanic root).

      Maybe I should start my own church, faithless and on a holy war against Hell on Earth. No hookers or booze though:
      no touching ANYONE!

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    4. You can sign me up for that church; I'd be happy to spread the Bad News:-)

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  8. Has anyone here read the Book of Revelation? It reads like one of the most mind blowing accounts of an acid trip ever. And, btw, I've never touched the stuff!

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  9. The original post is great as usual, Karl. I was listening to Christian radio this morning as I sometimes do. Usually, the stations here play contemptible soft rock music with Christian themes. Listening to these songs is a way for me to meditate on the false promises of the religion in comparison to the world's cruelty.

    Today, though, was a quite different. Instead of banal rock music, I was greeted by a man naming off a list of people who were in need of prayer/intervention from God. It went on for sometime. In fact, I was struck most of all by the length of the list. The reason for the prayer was also given by the speaker. People needed them for recovery from injury, surgery, job finding, as well as faith and trust in God. Not once did the speaker hint that the person in the prayer would be better off in the presence of the Lord. He always hoped for "speedy recovery" or some such nonsense.

    For this man, we seem genuinely created to suffer. No blaming god for prostate cancer. I mean, where do these people think suffering comes from? They believe God created the world. The world is full of suffering, from small to large in scale. Ergo, God is responsible for suffering, ultimately. Yet they seem not to acknowledge this fact. Sure, you can blame Adam and Eve for allowing sin and death into the world, but come on! He could have "fixed" it. Or that it's a test of faith. But that makes little sense either when the level is so variable.

    Those secular monasteries sound appealing, don't they?

    Also, this line struck as me so great:"religions should really be about the serious business of giving up on life."

    I guess that is one reason why I listen to so much black metal. So much is inhuman and otherworldly in the extreme. The world and its false promises are burnt away in the purity of the dark illumination!

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  10. Artasha, thanks for the kind words and the very interesting thoughts.

    Re. suffering and Christianity, I was reading something by Karl Barth, the 20th-century's best known theologian, last night. Essentially, he was describing the great joy of Jesus's resurrection and how human sin had been wiped as a result and how extultant Christians should be. It left me wondering as to what are people still doing here on earth if this were true. If the great saving drama occurred with a happy ending two thousand years ago, shouldn't the whole human saga have been wrapped up and brought to an end? Shouldn't Paradise have been established for all those alive at the time, with no entry for latecomers? Why is the machine still churning out humans who must suffer? Of course, the problem is that if you ask such a question to a Theologian, you'll get the 'you're being theologically naieve' response, which is really a front for the fact that they can't answer a direct question, in fact the only question really worth asking.

    Having said that, as stated previously, I do have respect for those religious people who just want to get the hell off this earth (pun intended) and dwell in a realm of pure love, and who basically abandon the world in order to do so. So hurrah for the monks, hermits and nuns; boo to the Sunday school brigade who aim to be merely pious, while going about the far more compelling business of getting rich.

    Incidentally, my music escape is the opposite of yours. I listen to Deep House and Trance, the best of which puts in a state of quiet ecstasy. It's the nearest to bliss I'll ever get on this abbatoir of a planet:-)

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    1. To each their own, I suppose. :-) Having sampled some Deep House, I can see why you enjoy it.

      "At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory."

      This line, Mark 13:26, has been one of my favorites from the NT. Very intense, almost apocalyptic. As you well know, there is quite a debate as to what Jesus was trying to say during his time as an itinerant preacher. We do know that other Jewish sects from his time sought to cast off the Roman Empire and in some ways institute direct divine rule. Perhaps Jesus was hoping for something similar. In any event, he failed and we are still here!

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    2. Yes, I guess in many ways eschatology is the key to Christianity. If there's no second coming and no judgement, then what would the point of it be? What a relief Judgement Day would be, I wouldn't have to worry about the rent anymore:-)

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  11. I am one of those people who has always just wanted off this **** planet. I was born feeling this way. I feel like my soul was not meant to be imprisoned in this body/world (I have severe genetic problems which caused deformity). When I think of the scriptures it brings a frightening idea, as Jesus was described as a pure soul brought into the world to suffer for redemption (human sacrifice) and I wonder, if the scriptures are true, does that also make me some form of human sacrifice? If the scriptures and biblical God are true...does that mean God created me like this purposely so that other lives would benefit perhaps by medical knowledge gained, perhaps by feeling encouraged their lives are probably easier than mine? Isaiah 53:2-3...describing Jesus apparently...could just as well be a description of me and others who suffer similarly. Sacrifice is a huge theme of the scriptures, maybe the primary theme. As for me, I would just have been happier not living at all. By the way, I also prefer "dark" music, as I find solace there. I can't listen to Christian music as it seems, to me, overly positive, ignoring the darker realities of life.

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  12. Anon2, my genetic hell comes from my mother, who in turn inherited it from her father. Who knows how many generations it went back. No physical diability, "just" chronic anxiety, depression, and general dysfuction.

    I guess I just wanted say that you are far, far, from being alone, as I'm sure you know.

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  13. Anons- I have severe anxiety and depression, too. I have cracked multiple molars by virtue of my incessant teeth grinding at night (I now have a mouth guard, but that only helps so much), my nerves are so bad that I involuntarily violently jerk awake repeatedly night after night as I try to fall asleep, I'm distracted by worry/fears to the point of having trouble carrying out basic daily functions, my hair comes out in clumps, I could go on... I find life so utterly horrifying. I constantly wonder how can anyone can stand it.

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    1. Anons, you have my every sympathy. As to how people get throught it, you basically adopt a pose, choose a set of values dictated by societal forces and spend your life swallowing shit. Then you're lowerd into the ground and the show rolls on. (Feeling black today: made the big mistake of reading the news. What a fucking species. Get me the fuck out of here!)

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  14. Hey, newcomer here, I'm an optimist / Christian / father and definitely not an anti-natalist, but I somehow really jived with your post. You seem to have a better grip on the NT than many Christians I know. As for me, I definitely don't feel like I belong on this Earth. Your post made me reflect on the seriousness with which I handle my beliefs, and as always, there is room for improvement.

    At the end of the day I just can't embrace the whole "kids bad, celibacy good" thing. Jesus didn't have children, but at the same time He praised them. Like many things, the Bible seems to leave this open.

    I want to say something like "I'm sorry for those in the thread who have afflictions" but I feel like it would just be interpreted as pompousness. Believe me, I really do wish and believe the world can be different.

    Anyways.

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    1. Hey, cl. Thanks for the comment! Everyone's welcome here, so I'm gratful for your words. I'm planning on writing a couple of more posts on Christianity, so stay tuned; I'd be grateful for any feedback.

      Thanks for the words of sympathy; we all need it!

      Mind if I ask you what, if any, demonination you belong to?

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    4. What YOU want is not the issue here. What I want is not the issue here. Personal bias and tastes that result in opinions that certain things are cute, and should therefore be further propagated, are flawed. They are flawed because everyone else has personal tastes that differ and thus create conflicts of interest. The real problem is that you have desires to create new beings that do not necessarily share your wishes upon being manifest into your biological family. Do you think the fact that I am an antinatalist is due to my negative view of this existence? I can assure you that is not the case. My reasons stem from my respect for the individual.

      What thoughts do you think most frequently occupy the mind of a prisoner? A prisoner is fully aware of their limited space. An acute awareness of being cut off from true love and the outside. Surrounded 24/7-365 by other individuals who constantly seek to impose their will upon them. I'll tell you what a prisoner thinks about: it's freedom from their cage and their captors. My parents shared the same exact "optimistic" worldview as yourself, and I am the unfortunate result. I spend every moment of every day, simply seeking an escape. I am a prisoner of this world and I want OUT. I have felt this way all my life. It's been thirty years now. Hell of a long sentence if you ask me.

      You said: At the end of the day I just can't embrace the whole "kids bad, celibacy good" thing. Jesus didn't have children, but at the same time He praised them. Like many things, the Bible seems to leave this open.

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    5. So, how does Jesus' praising children (the child-like mindset and reverence required of God's adopted children) and beckoning them to come to him, suddenly equate with giving his blessing to sexually mature adults to "be fruitful and multiply"? It's not that the Bible "leaves it open", it's that your biological bias has convinced you of it. Do you ever find yourself repeating daily affirmations that serve to strengthen your ego and constantly remind yourself that reproduction is "good"? Do you ever stop and think to yourself, "Hmm... it does seem pretty weird that God loves the things I love and hates the things that I hate. Maybe I need to search deeper, and consider my own actions before making such rash decisions that amount to gambling with a life for my own amusement. Maybe if I truly revere and respect God, and consider myself a child of God... I shouldn't be 'playing God'. Babies don't make babies. Flawed beings only create more flawed beings. Maybe my hubris is true evil. Maybe I am the the problem."

      Consider this: I have the capability to do monstrous things to other living beings. Everyone in this universe can. If I were to take a fancy to oh, let's say, removing the limbs of unsuspecting individuals with a machete, does that give me the "right" to do so? A "right" to permanently hobble and disfigure at a whim, because I hypothetically derive some pleasure from it? Is it a projection of "love", to cut another being down so that they are weak, and dependent upon me for care? What would that say about my character? Bearing this in mind, why do you think you have a "right" to join forces with another individual, have sexual intercourse, and actually create a new consciousness from the void? One should not take it upon themselves to seek a moment of pleasure and potentially create a lifetime (possibly an eternity) of pain. Just because you can, does not mean you should. Think about it.

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    6. The Biblical attitude to procreation is an interesing one. On the one hand, you have the injunction to 'go forth and multiply', then you have the God's decision to wipe out humanity because of its evil, except for Noah, who is then told personally to procreate. Then you have the various books lamenting birth (Job, Ecclessiastes etc.) and most interestingly of all, I think, Jesus's warning that those with children will have the worst experience when the Apocalypse arrives. What a mess!

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  15. Karl,

    Sorry for the lag in reply. I don't identity with any denomination and even if I did I'd be hesitant to label myself. In my experience that often results in more confusion than it endeavors to clear.

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