Building a Better Bloke

Christianity for … smarties

Posted in Philosophy, Religion by Sam de Brito on October 21, 2009

By Timothy J Graham

Let me preface this post by saying I am not a Christian, though I was brought up in a very Catholic family (my father was in seminary for seven years before dropping out in his final year).

For this reason, I am privy to half-drunken conversations with a rare collection of wise but burnt-out old priests and clergymen, who are old friends of the family.

The following is five points I put together based on conversations I have been a part of for many years. Much of this might be declared heresy by Christian folk, but it is beautiful and rich in wisdom, and I am greatly in awe of how deeply it resonates for me.

Jesus was not a Christian

And certainly not a Catholic, a Lutheran, a Methodist, or a Seventh Day Adventist, and so forth.

He was born a Jew and he died a Jew. He didn’t order people to start a religion after him. There was no bible in Jesus’ time. There were no priests, no bishops, no Popes. No churches. No confessionals. No “Jesus Fish” stickers on the bumpers of mid-range luxury cars …

Jesus never talked about sex

Didn’t mention it. Not even once. He didn’t talk about gay people. He didn’t tell us to judge people on their sexuality.

In fact, he didn’t tell us to judge anybody at all. He said explicitly, “do not judge”, because compassion is impossible if you do.

If a spiritual leader does not come across to you as humble, proceed with caution.

Going to church doesn’t get you into heaven

Nor does obeying the Ten Commandments.

Jesus’ ONLY description of the “final judgment” is that we will be judged on our ability to recognise the Christ in the little nobodies of the world, in the “least of our brothers and sisters”.

Not to help them, not to convert them, but to recognise the brokenness in them as the same brokenness in ourselves. The reason you go to the broken people in society is not to convert them, but to be converted yourself.

You don’t get closer to God by getting rid of sin

You come closer to God THROUGH YOUR SIN, through your brokenness.

This is the place deep inside of you where you are radically broken. The place where you are completely powerless.

Christian churches have taught people for centuries that self-control is the key to being a better Christian. But this never works.

We’ve got generations of young people trying to get everything under control – but it does not work. All it does is come out in disguised forms on the side.

Instead of self-control, Jesus taught self-surrender. Surrendering your brokenness to God, owning your sin, quitting kidding yourself; that is the way to God.

The Three P’s

These are the real issues Jesus was interested in: POWER, PRESTIGE and POSSESSIONS. He hits them again and again.

For a man who told his followers to give away their material possessions, to hang out with the lowest people in society they could find, we sure got sidetracked.

NEXT WEEK: The Three P’s in depth

When alchemy didn’t work out, Timothy J Graham went to university and studied Social Work, which is the dark art of transmuting suffering into happiness. He is also a writer, a musician and a sucker for stout ales. He mostly lives in Brisbane.

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58 Responses

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  1. Adam said, on October 21, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Great article. The “Jesus never talked about sex” point is one I’ve used a lot in arguments. People always seem happy to skip the “judge not” and go on to the fire and brimstone parts.

    • Sean Raymond said, on December 22, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      Hi, Adam.

      Jesus never talked about sex specifically, but He did say He was the completion of the scriptures, and the scriptures are very specific about sex. Those who only speak about the fire and brimstone only present part of the Bible message. Read it all and you will get a wonderful picture of God’s love for us – for you – and you will better understand what God wants for us. Enjoy it! 🙂

      Sean

  2. The General said, on October 21, 2009 at 11:41 am

    I may have missed something (Great article, I want to add) but why do devout Christians make such a deal about no sex before marriage?

    I am not a devout Christian, I go to church about 3 times a year. I’ve not read the Bible but hearing from those who have, I can’t remember this ever coming up.

    • petal said, on October 23, 2009 at 8:52 am

      hi,

      the reason many christians aim to wait for marriage to have sex is that we believe God designed sex to be an amazing, powerful connection between two people who are committed to be together for life, through thick and thin.

      in my experience having sex before i was married led to pain and insecurity when i was cheated on, abused and made to feel worthless by some men. totally different to what i experience with my husband.

      believe it or not, christianity is NOT only about stopping people from having sex! it just gets a lot of attention because our society is so saturated in sex that it seems so radical and countercultural.

      but i would never try to tell any of my friends who don’t know Jesus what they can and can’t do in regards to sex, or anything – up to them.

      i hope that’s helped somewhat!

    • Sean raymond said, on December 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm

      Hi, General. Your comments about why Christians make such a big deal about sex will be answered if you do read the Bible. Jesus also said he was the completion of the scriptures, so try reading it and you will be surprised. It’s a great, great book! Happy reading!

      P.S. Never rely on what others have said about the Bible, not even bible scholars. Read and learn for yourself. It’s a very personal book and it will become one of your favorites!

      Sean

  3. Ash Simmonds said, on October 21, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Nice round-up, lucid and sensible – with smarties, delicious too! I spent a good part of my teens and 20’s reading up on loads of different esoteric materials to both extremes of the whole debate – and the only conclusion I came to is, well, there’s no definitive conclusion.

    Is there an M&Ms or fun-size Snickers version in the tubes…?

  4. aljay said, on October 22, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Tim, nice work and well done for your rational approach to a topic people are often all too irrational about. However even from my limited memory the below comments you made are pretty much the opposite of what jesus said (and by that, I mean whats in black and white in the bible, not whats interpreted by a preacher). That being said, you have encouraged me to go investigate myself….

    “Jesus’ ONLY description of the “final judgment” is that we will be judged on our ability to recognise the Christ in the little nobodies of the world, in the “least of our brothers and sisters”

    “Instead of self-control, Jesus taught self-surrender”

    “Jesus never talked about sex”

    • Timothy J Graham said, on October 22, 2009 at 9:48 am

      Hi Aljay,

      thanks for your critique. Much of what I write about comes from the writings of Thomas Merton, Karl Rahner and in particular Richard Rohr. Not to mention all the wise old folk I’ve known over the years.

      With all things, please please check it out for yourself. Always question.

    • Justin said, on October 22, 2009 at 3:23 pm

      Aljay, Tim’s summary is quite an accurate summary from the Bibilical record.

      Jesus indirectly talks about getting to heaven a few times (only once does he refer to final judgement tho, as Tim says). Each time it’s a reference to either the problem of wealth (eg. “easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than a rich person to get to heaven”) and/or how we treat the poor (eg. the story of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus who lives at the rich man’s front gate, in which the rich man goes to hell and Lazarus goes to heaven).

      It’s Paul who appears to suggest belief is central, but much recent scholarship is emphasising how the traditional church interpretation of Paul is a complete distortion of his theology.

      Jesus doesn’t talk about sex or homoesexuality at all. He mentions marriage once, and divorce once – the latter to suggest wives have equal rights to husbands in this regard.

      • Timothy J Graham said, on October 22, 2009 at 4:18 pm

        Justin, thank you for the studied and thoughtful reply. I find that when analysis of Jesus’ teachings becomes a war of words, it is most helpful to step back and try to take a general snapshot, or general gist, of what Jesus is trying to say in his short but amazing life.

        As you mentioned Justin, it always seems to come back to:
        – wealth / money / possessions
        – treatment of the poor

      • Jasper said, on October 23, 2009 at 6:03 pm

        Actually Jesus was very clear about who goes to heaven: in John 3:3 “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” and then he tells us this is achieved through belief in him (John 3:16) – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.
        So, by believing that Jesus died for us to make us right with God we have new, eternal life.

      • Sean Raymond said, on December 22, 2011 at 3:49 pm

        Hi, Justin.

        You can’t only study what Jesus said without studying the Old testament. Jesus told people He was the completion of the scriptures, so Jesus without the Old testament is only half of the story. The Old testament does speak about sex and homosexuality, and what it says is good!

        BTW, Jesus did say that the only way to the Father was through Jesus – belief and faith in Jesus.

        Sean

  5. Timothy J Graham said, on October 22, 2009 at 9:42 am

    I am still uncertain about the reasons why sex became such a big issue in the church, despite the apparent complete lack of interest Jesus showed in the subject.

    Some authors have pointed to out that in such a complex postmodern West, people’s egos become very fragile. In order to prop up their false sense of self, they need to invent false dichotomies – “us VS them”, for the most part.

    It comes out in all sorts of ways, but for some reason sex seems to be one of the biggest.

    And it’s the complete and utter opposite of the gospel message.

    • Justin said, on October 22, 2009 at 4:50 pm

      The traditional answer is to blame St Augustine, one time sex addict turned Bishop of Hippo (modern day Tunisia). Augustine gave us the doctrine of Original Sin, inclusing the specific idea that it was transmitted through the act of sex.

      Basically he was so horriifed by his own perversion that he made sex (and women as temptresses) the ultimate evil.

  6. the thinker said, on October 22, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Jesus was not a Christian. Correct.
    Jesus didn’t order people to start a religion after him. Correct. He inspired the apostles to create a Church after him.
    There was no bible in his time. Correct.
    There were no priests, no bishops, no Pope[bishop of rome]. Incorrect.
    No confessionals. Correct. Confession was done publicly in groups of people.
    Jesus never talked about sex. Incorrect. He talked about adultery “throw the first stone” and “5 husbands” [sexual partners?] to the women at the well.
    Going to church doesn’t get you to heaven. Correct
    “Recognize Christ in the little nobodies.” Incorrect. You’ve gone all New Age here.
    You don’t get closer to God by getting rid of sin. Incorrect. Still smokin’ new age here.
    Self control never works. Incorrect. Read JD Unwin’s anthropological treatise ‘Sex and Culture’ written by a scientist who is not religious. Civilizations rise and fall based on the level of self control of the people in them.
    Jesus taught self-surrender. Correct. In addition to self-control, not as a substitute for it.
    If I had to pick three: Faith, Hope and Charity.

    • Timothy J Graham said, on October 23, 2009 at 8:37 am

      Hi The Thinker,

      Thank you for your post, it seems to demonstrate a confident knowledge of the subject. Just be wary of ‘thinking’ too much and not listening to your heart! Playing word-games with the Bible will only get us a small leg of the journey of the gospel.

      But thank you again for your in-depth reply and thoughts

    • nerdy girl said, on October 27, 2009 at 2:51 pm

      In response to having no bible in his time. Actually they did have the scriptures of the old testament, which were recorded on scrolls and used in their worship services. The Jews were in fact waiting for the Messiah that was prophesied about in the scriptures they had. example Isaiah 9:1-7.

      Jesus made himself known for who he was in the Synagogue, (Luke 4:14-30) when he read from the prophet Isaiah 61:1-2, and saying that this prophesy is fulfilled in their hearing. This of course didn’t go over so well. They were expecting a Kingly Saviour.

      It is also interesting to read the prophesies of the beatings and Crucifixion in Isaiah 52:13-15 and of the Jesus in Isaiah 53.

      Old testament prophesies that referred to in Romans 9, that we were included in the promise of the Christ taking our sin upon himself as final act of reconciling ALL (Jews and Gentiles) to God, so that we too are His people when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us, allowing us to approach God with the confidence He will accept us even as imperfect as we are through the atoning blood of Christ.

      For the Smarties:

      The OLD TESTAMENT = the old covenant – people had to make atonement sacrifices to approach God, as recognition of their sin.

      The NEW TESTAMENT = new covenant – Jesus the lamb of God was the final sacrifice that did away with this old covenant. The final atonement was made so that we are no longer separated from God by our sin. Matthew 26:28 (the last supper before his crucifixion) “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

      I would suggest that instead of reading a whole pile of authors thoughts on the scriptures that you read the scripture first, as it is. Kind of like, it’s better reading a Shakespearean play first before reading the Coles notes. That way you have the opportunity to form your own thoughts about what it may mean before adopting another’s. ( Someone who may be way off base). From personal experience and experiencing first hand that the Word is indeed “alive” as they say. If you do not believe, perhaps ask “the higher power” (if you believe even in that) to reveal Truth to you when you read the scripture. You will be surprised what a difference that can make.

      • Dubb said, on November 5, 2009 at 4:50 pm

        I think it’s important to be careful when talking about reading the “scripture first, as it is.”

        There are very few people I know of who spend a lot of time going through the (few) original Aramaic and Greek manuscripts. Most of us have to settle for someone else’s translation…

      • nerdy girl said, on November 6, 2009 at 1:38 am

        Yes, the original Hebrew and Greek, add so much more to the intended meaning of parables etc. I would suggest the Amplified version. Longer reading, but the meanings of the original Hebrew and Greek are written in the parenthesis within the verse.

        I still think it is best to read the scripture as it is first instead of reading a book on what “Bill Anderson thinks the bible says.” In the extreme case people trust another person’s experience and revelations (cult leaders) more than reading it for themselves and discovering God for themselves, and or weighing what someone else has said, rather than reading it for themselves.

        I would still rather read “Hamlet” in it’s original form, before reading one of the 100’s of commentaries on it.

      • the thinker said, on November 6, 2009 at 5:00 pm

        For the smarties:

        NEW TESTAMENT = NEW Covenant. According to the Catholic/Orthodox theology Jesus sacrifice, as re-presented in the mass, confers the sanctifying grace by which each individual can achieve justification.

        Translation: Jesus sacrificed himself to redeem humans but each individual still has the ability to separate himself from God through doing bad things and the possibility of ending up in hell still exists for someone who believes that God exists.

  7. the thinker said, on October 22, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    One clarification: He taught surrender to God, not surrender to one’s ‘internal self.’

    • Timothy J Graham said, on October 23, 2009 at 9:04 am

      Carl Jung said that the Western mind seems to have a great deal of trouble with the equation “Self = God”.

      Without saying I subscribe to this equation, I do find it interesting. When Jung refers to “self” he is not referring to the false or ego-self, but rather the True Self that is discovered through meditation practice – the enlightened self or the non-self.

  8. the thinker said, on October 22, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    On the issue of sex, Paul’s letters in the new testament pre-date St. Augustine by a couple of hundred years.
    “that they refrain from fornication”
    “being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, etc”
    “let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, so as to obey the lusts thereof”
    “for if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.”
    “it is absolutely heard that there is fornication among you”
    “but the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord: and the Lord for the body”
    “know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid”
    “Or know you not that he who is joined to a harlot is made one body?”
    “Fly fornication. Every sin that a man doth is without the body: but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.”
    “I mourn many of them that sinned before and have not done penance for the uncleaness and fornication and lasciviousness that they have committed.”
    Not bad for a guy who used to persecute [i.e. kill] Christians before having an epiphany on the “road to damascus.”

  9. david said, on October 23, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Hey all, I like the attempt to be very real. I think You’d like “Mark Driscol’s” stuff. He presents Jesus is a very down to earth manner.

    I’m not sure why I’d bother, but there is a time when Jesus talks explicitly about sex…
    Mat 5:27″You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

    the word for “adultery” is the word “Fornication” and it just means ANY sex outside of marriage. And then he says to not only stay clear of that, but to stay clear of “looking lustfully”.
    The good thing is, Jesus doesn’t just talk about sex and what’s wrong about it, he “came to die and give his life as a ransom for many”. Jesus got punished for my fornication and my lustful looks – so I don’t have to be punished. That’s what I “surrender” to… Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. I say “sorry” and “yes – I want to live your way”

    • Timothy J Graham said, on October 23, 2009 at 8:58 am

      Wow, thanks for the clarification, David. I will certainly look into this! And thanks for the tip on Mark Driscol – I love “down to earth” (maybe because it suggests humility).

      My immediate thoughts are:

      – the principle Jesus seems to be teaching in Matt 5:27 is not about sex, but about how to relate to people. Adultery appears to be used as an example, rather than an outright treatise on the topic of sex.

      – You are quite correct in that the Greek root of “adultery” generally means sex outside of marriage. But do you really think Jesus cared about the institution of marriage? For an enlightened mind, wouldn’t it be more important that two people loved each other unconditionally and with complete trust, rather than requiring human-made law to approve it?

      – As a kind of compass on this issue, I try to remember that Jesus was always stressing “right relationship”. The Mark quote here is smack bang on the money for right relationship with oneself and other people. (Food for thought – to my mind there are only three kinds of relationships – self, other, and God)

      Cheers
      Tim

      • dave said, on October 23, 2009 at 10:48 am

        Hey tim.

        Yeah, its about “how people relate to people”… in the issue of sexuality. Jesus talks about how people relate on loads of issues, and this time he’s talking about sexually. You’d be doing Jesus’ words an injustice to suggest he doesn’t actually think adultery is wrong.

        and Yeah, I really do think Jesus cared about the “institution of marriage”. So check out Matt 19…
        3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
        4″Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

        So Jesus doesn’t think its a “human-made-law”, he says that when you do that marriage “thing” (public, vows, promises, sex)… God “joins” you to that person. (Note that Jesus also believe the OT… so he doesn’t have to teach explicitly on Sex, because it does)

        The real issue here isn’t what Jesus says, but an arrogance in thinking that our minds are more “enlightened” than Jesus’.

        Please stop trying to make Jesus you’re playtoy. He also said he’ll judge us all. I know that I deserve his wrath, and nothing can change that (not even my attempts to be good)… it can only be changed by his mercy.

      • Jasper said, on October 23, 2009 at 6:05 pm

        I second the Mark Driscoll recommendation.

  10. Steve said, on October 23, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Hi Tim, how refreshing it is to see someone look at christianity from the perspective of improving our life experience. It is no secret to the educated mind that god probably does no exist. There is no heaven, there is no hell, there is no afterlife or everlasting soul. The myriad of ‘facts’ presented in the scripture of all diety based faiths are not the history of our time and their righteous messages are forever used as battle cries that lead to negative experience’s for all. However that does not say that perhaps somewhere in there the ideals to provide a positive life experience for all are not present. Perhaps if scriptures could be taken as a philosphy, as a series of idea’s for life’s improvement and not a series infalible word’s, that they could find a place of positivity & value in our society.

  11. - said, on October 23, 2009 at 9:44 am

    I sit here reading, wanting to contribute. By the time I am ready to articulate my thoughts, it may be January.

    Interesting discussion to read, nonetheless.

  12. the thinker said, on October 23, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Tim:

    On word games with the bible, I entirely agree. It is only one source for us to draw from, not the only source.

    Also, ask yourself why you don’t want Jesus to be talking about sex? when he says if your right hand causes you to sin cut it off, why isn’t he talking about masturbation?

    On Carl Jung saying that the Western mind seems to have a great deal of trouble with the equation “Self = God”. Western society is largely influenced by Christianity (secularism is a much more recent influence) which views God as an external entity to be worshipped. When we equate Self with God we may end up worshipping ourselves. On an understanding of Self I would recommend reading the Freedom Paradox by the Australian author Clive Hamilton and his discussion of the noumenon vs phenomenon.

  13. the thinker said, on October 23, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Hi Steve,
    It is no secret to the rational mind that:
    -whether God exists or not is a question which cannot be answered by science
    -good and evil exist. Hitler, Stalin etc
    -rising civilization is accompanied by the increased influence of deistic religions and provide positive experiences members of society
    -falling civilization is accompanied by decreased influence of deistic religions
    -civilizations which adopt moral relativism decline within 3 generations (i.e. civilizations which do not accept absolute or infallible truths)

  14. Anthony Caruana said, on October 23, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Great topic and discussion.

    With regards to adultery, sex outside of marriage, wealth – Jesus’ point wasn’t about these things specifically. His point was that if we dedicate ourselves to these things then we cease to put God first. The Matthew 19:24 “eye of the needle” illustration is about humans finding it very difficult to completely give themselves over to God’s authority when they are tied to things of this world.

    The question about adultery and sex outside of marriage is interesting. I suspect that the reason Jesus isn’t recorded as saying a lot on it is because the nature of marriage and sex is thoroughly covered in the Old Testament (Genesis 2, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, etc) and he doesn’t supersede it (like he did with food laws – see Mark 7:19)

    On the questions/points posed in the original post – Jesus was a Jew and did not create a church. He did however give a “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:16) to spread the Good News. The establishment of churches stems from that commission and are, IMHO, a human invention that stem from the original Jewish temple (destroyed, finally, in 70AD).

    The path to God doesn’t come from self control. It comes from believing that when Christ died he took all of our sin with him. Going to church doesn’t get you heaven. But worshiping God in a church service is a reflection that you’re already going there.

    @The Thinker – The Bible may not be the only source for us to draw from but for Christians it is THE primary and most authoritative source.

  15. Sam de Brito said, on October 23, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Man, this thread makes me feel stupid.

  16. rilestar said, on October 23, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Very good Tim, et al. Of course, all of this discussion relies on the books of the New Testament being factually correct – so when saying things like “Jesus never talked about sex”, what we’re really saying is “There is no record of Jesus talking about sex in the New Testament”. Considering most scholars agree that the earliest of the Gospels was written around 60 – 70AD, it’s tough to know whether anything recorded was truly said/experienced by the historical Jesus/Yeshua (and although Paul’s letters were written earlier, he never even met the guy – and no, I’m not buying the road to Damascus mallarkey, particularly since his preaching seemed at odds with those of Jesus’ followers who had actually known him). This is especially reinforced by all of the inconsistencies between the Gospels: Hello, resurrection story, I’m talking about you.
    On the adultery issue, I interpret Jesus’ point there as being “Just because you have literally followed a particular law doesn’t mean you haven’t broken it in spirit” – and he uses adultery as an example.
    And then recommends masturbators cut off their preferred hand.
    PS Sam – it’s not you, it’s the thread.

  17. Jasper said, on October 23, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    “Jesus was not a Christian”
    True, because then he would be following himself as he was in fact God – in John 10:30 he says “I and the Father are one”.

  18. the thinker said, on October 23, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Rilestar:
    That’s why I introduced “Sex and Culture” from a non-religious scientist (JD Unwin) so that this thread would not rely on the New Testament being factually correct.

    If you want to find out why society should not engage in ‘pre-nuptial and post-nuptial incontinence’ (fornication/adultery) consult science rather than the new testament.

    Then if science convinces you, come back to the new testament.

    Anthony: trust me

  19. steve said, on October 26, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Hi the thinker, actually evolution proves that god probably does not exist, it also shows us that despite what religions would have us beleive, the human race has evolved to best ensure it’s survival in the same way that a leach, buffalo, or squid has evolved to ensure it’s. We are no different in essence to anything else on the planet, hey including the planet and the entire universe and beyond, that is made up of cells.

    In the same way it is the philosphies we as a culture evolve that provide the positive or negative experiences and not whether we follow a diety. Yes religions are part of that evolving culture and the essence of their message can have a place in it, but good and evil and the rise and fall of man is not bound to them.

    Positive life experience for now and moving forward is the aim and that should be based on the facts of life and not the fairytales.

  20. the thinker said, on October 26, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Hi Steve,

    Actually I accept evolution myself (at least until a better scientific theory arises which improves upon it) and don’t find it is related to the question of whether God exists or not. Evolution ONLY gets you back as far as the first appearance of life on planet earth which still cannot be explained by science. Evolution doesn’t do anything to help you understand the creation of the universe where I accept the ‘big bang’ (at least until a better scientific theory arises which improves upon it.)

    Evolution ONLY provides a problem for evangelical biblical fundamentalists who believe a literal interpretation of the genesis story in 7 days and sometimes subscribe to the earth being 6,000+ years old. This doesn’t apply to ALL Christian religions. For example, the current leader of the Catholic Church, a Christian religion, supports evolution.

    “In the same way it is the philosophies we as a culture evolve” – I have to pull you up on this one and refer you to scientific anthropology. This is a common mistake which we humans who accept evolution make all the time. We erroneously assume that culture within human society evolves in a forward manner, the same way as genetic evolution did.

    Anthropologically, the scientific evidence is that human culture rises and falls more like a flat sine wave. When American culture crashes it can fall to the same depth as Roman culture when it crashed (or even further). There is NO cultural ‘safety net’ for a modern culture which will prevent it falling past a specific level cultural level attained in the past. Also, remember that on a genetic scale we are no smarter as humans than the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Mongols, the Huns etc as evolution takes longer than 2,000 years to significantly improve human brain power.

    It is actually better to think of religion “systems” (i.e. collections of moral teachings) as existing outside the rise and fall of individual cultures which over their lifetime while adhere more and then less to the religious system.

    So in re-framing your thinking I’m actually sending you to anthropological science based on observations of 80+ cultures across 5,000 years of recorded human history and multiple geographies. Once you “get this” you see the world in an entirely different light.

    • Ash Simmonds said, on October 26, 2009 at 8:11 pm

      Yup – basically.

      I fully accept there may be an intelligence bigger and better out there – I mean heck can we really think that us human meatbags are the pinnacle of existence?

      Our planet/universe is half-likely a petri-dish in the scheme of things.

      In the end – we’ll likely never find out for sure, so it’s not worth stressing about. If people want to follow the Christianity version of God stuff because it makes *them* feel good about their existence then fine by me, it’s just when they try to convince me their view of our little dream world is the correct one that it kinda gets annoying.

      Thrust in God – get thee behind me Satan!

  21. the thinker said, on October 26, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Hi Ash,

    It sounds like you can fathom the existence of God i.e. bigger and better intelligence

    The “petri dish” view that many people hold today comes from scientific reductionism – Breaking things down into smaller and smaller pieces. i.e. A human being is simply “re-animated stardust” from a past supernova. To take this further, the logical conclusion is that you don’t have feelings such as love, anger, sadness etc Next time you feel one of these remind yourself that they are simply chemical imbalances in your brain….

    OR

    you can choose to view each human as a special individual being of a remarkable order of creation.

    The other area you may want to investigate at some point in your life is whether there is an OBJECTIVE or SUBJECTIVE morality. i.e. the Golden Rule “do unto others as you would have them to do unto you” appears across cultures. OBJECTIVE morality would say this is a uniform law, similar to the laws of physics that applies to humans at all times.

    SUBJECTIVE morality would say that there are NO unique laws outside of what a human determines to be his own morality. e.g. When a particular Nazi decides SUBJECTIVELY that Jews are NOT real people it is perfectly acceptable for him to do that and no-one else should convince him that his little dream world is incorrect.

    • Ash Simmonds said, on October 26, 2009 at 10:50 pm

      Well – reframing a perception to consider a petri dish world is more simply rendered in Arthur C Clarke’s old saw “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be reduced all the way to the nihilistic conclusion of a sociopath to justify actions/moral code.

      It’s good to have thought many different POVs through whilst staring into space, but there’s no reason to vehemently subscribe to any particular theory. If in doubt – go with what gives chuckles.

  22. the thinker said, on October 26, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    Under SUBJECTIVE morality, there is no reason to vehemently subscribe to any particular theory.

    Interestingly, when societies are in cultural decline the people within the society have the tendency to introduce “vagueness” (as opposed to rationality which is exhibited when peaking societies display maximum human entropy e.g. Greek, Roman, British) The rise of postmodernism within western society is an example of this vagueness as is the rise of ‘new age’ philosophy.

  23. steve said, on October 27, 2009 at 10:15 am

    hey the thinker,

    so let me get this straight, you are saying that religion is impervious to the rise and fall of human culture and that cultural evolution is only evolution when it moves forward and not back?

    In terms of biological evolution, the human race is exactly the same as every other life form on the planet so why is it alone privy to a god? In terms of evolution being accepted by the church this is the same area they fall down in their thinking. Furthermore religion can provide no evidence to prove it’s claim of a god to be real.

    Unfortunately religion is so rigid, it is so caught up in it’s own legitasicm that what should be the centre of it’s message is lost. This inability to accept that it’s traditions are based on untruth’s will forever keep it from simply being a philosophy that can perovide community and improved life experience without the strings attached and it’s suseptibility to being taken to extremes.

  24. the thinker said, on October 27, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Hi steve,

    Not exactly. For clarification, there isn’t ‘cultural evolution’ as such, the same way that there is genetic evolution. The culture of a particular society (independent of other societies around it) is either exhibiting expansive cultural energy or contracting in cultural energy.

    Let’s not use the word religion as it imports unwanted connotations.

    There are three broad types of “worship/spirituality” exhibited by different human socieites at different stages of cultural progress or cultural regress.
    1)zoistic e.g. superstition
    2)manistic e.g. ancestor worship
    3)deistic e.g. worship of a deity as in Judaism, Christianity, Islam

    The human race is the ONLY life form on the planet (to our knowledge) which has evolved a capacity for reasoning.

    Religion can provide no evidence to prove it’s claim of a god to be real. 100% Correct.
    Science can provide no evidence to prove the absence of god to be real.

    If you are driving in traffic and ALL the traffic is driving over a cliff, as someone caught up in the traffic flow you are impervious to your impending peril.

    Zoistic worship/spirituality is not rigid at all. i.e. New Age
    Deistic worship is rigid.

    Cultures which rise to a high level need deistic worship/spirituality except that on it’s own has proven to be insufficient to hit the absolute peak. The culture also needs to adopt RATIONALISM in addition to a deistic religion to max out.

  25. the thinker said, on October 27, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Steve,

    If you subscribe to SUBJECTIVE morality who are you to say what the centre of ANY particular religion’s message is?

    Who are you to say that any particular religion’s beliefs are “untruths.” Under SUBJECTIVE morality you have to accept that the people that belong to that religion see the beliefs as truths to their way of thinking, the same way as you see things as truths to your way of thinking. Something can be untrue to you and true to them at the same time as their is no external OBJECTIVE morality that you both can refer to.

    By accepting SUBJECTIVE morality your personal mantra has to be ‘each to his own.’ Otherwise you are making the mistake of raising your own SUBJECTIVE morality to the level of an OBJECTIVE morality.

    Also, under SUBJECTIVE morality there is no concept of extremes. A suicide bomber who seems extreme to you, is actually operating under perfect sanity in gaining eternal life under his/her belief system. You appear to him as extreme if you live a lifestyle dominated by money and sex (i.e.America as the great satan.)

  26. the thinker said, on October 27, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Anthony,

    Jesus was a Jew [correct] and did not create a church. Incorrect.
    In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

    Jesus clearly intended to create his Church, just possibly not the 35,000+ different Christian churches that we have today.

    Jesus also said “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me.”

    The continuing fragmentation of Christianity we see today makes it more difficult for the non-Christian world to believe that Jesus was sent by God.

    The Bible is the primary and most authorative WRITTEN source of information for Christians. However, it is important to remember that Jesus himself never mentioned the Bible. The Bible was compiled in the 4th-5th century so for the first 400+ years Christianity primarily spread via ‘word of mouth.’ Due to the huge time & effort in copying a Bible manuscript, monks were involved in the task of copying the 73 books of the Bible for about 1,000 years prior to the invention of the printing press.

    The Bible was the first book to roll off the printing press and today it remains the largest selling book of all time.

  27. steve said, on October 27, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    hey the thinker,

    I must say I completely disagree with the idea that ‘Cultures which rise to a high level need deistic worship/spirituality’ and that ‘A suicide bomber who seems extreme to you, is actually operating under perfect sanity in gaining eternal life under his/her belief system.’

    Deitic worship is not needed to establish a philosophy/ spirtuality/ culture amoungst the human race, philsophy/ spirituality/ culture will establish itself and evolve over time whether religious idea’s are part of it or not. New age and Eastern systems such as Buddhism, that are not god based, show this already.

    The argument is, and what you said about the suicide bomber makes the perfect point is, does deistic religion add to the betterment of life experience for all. Based on your example i would say no as there is no sanity in blowing yourself up to reach a place that has no evidence to support it’s actual existence.

    This all comes back to the failing all deistic religious systems fall into with their rigidity and idea’s of ultimate truth.

    As for the proof that god exists, the onus is on the claimant to prove the claim and not the repsondant to disprove it. With that said, biological evolution is a fact and is in complete opposition to a key and unfounded claim shared by all deistic religions.

    What does one with a religious beleif bring to the table that one without does not? Apart form fanatcism based on unreality i’d say absolutely nothing.

  28. the thinker said, on October 27, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Hi Steve,

    ‘Cultures which rise to a high level need deistic worship/spirituality’ is actually the result of anthropological research conducted by a non-religious scientist (JD Unwin). To disagree with this you need to use the scientific method to disprove his thesis.

    Remember, deistic is NOT enough on its own to hit the maximum peak in culture. You also require RATIONALISM. You could argue that a suicide bomber could be in a deistic culture which has NOT attained RATIONALISM.

    Deitic worship is not needed to establish a philosophy/ spirtuality/ culture amoungst the human race. Correct. Most cultures in the human race are established under zoistic worship. New Age is an example of zoistic. Buddhism is an example of manistic.

    However, where the ‘survival of the fittest’ comes into play is where conquest or revolution enter the scene. Remember each society is surrounded by other societies which are at different levels at any point in time.

    A zoistic or manistic society will lose in a competition with a deistic society. A deistic society which permits polygamy will lose to a deistic society which promotes monogamous marriage.

    The most common path that a rising civilization takes is to start as zoistic, move to manistic and finally to deistic. The civilization then gets ‘fat and lazy’ and regresses to zoistic. A perfect example is America being built on a Christian foundation and rising to become the world superpower. It is now in decline which explains the massive resurgence in New Age e.g. Oprah’s endorsement of “a New Earth”.

    Does deistic religion add to the betterment of life experience for all? No society adds to the betterment of life experience for all at the same rate. Each large society is segmented by classes i.e. lower, middle, upper class.

    However, Greek, Roman, British and American civilizations were built on deistic + rationalism. At their peak (prior to their declines) was it better to be living in one of these societies than ANY other society on the planet?

    Biological evolution is a theory strongly supported by all available scientific evidence. No scientific theory is FACT. The scientific method itself does not PROVE FACTS. A good example is Newton’s law of gravitation being augmented by Einstein’s relativity.

    Biological evolution is in opposition to “fundamentalist” religious teachings. i.e. Societies which have attained Deistic worship but NOT rationality. Biological evolution is NOT in opposition to non-fundamentalist religious teachings. i.e. Deistic worship systems which have ALSO adopted RATIONALITY. An example used earlier was the Catholic form of deism which supports evolution.

    Remember, we are discussing at “population level” when we use anthropology rather than at the individual level. A sole individual subscribing to deistic belief within an entire civilization where the rest of the society are zoistic usually goes unnoticed. If the subscription to deistic belief spreads to a substantial proportion of the society (at least one class) the society gains the capability for:
    -rising education standards
    -wealth generation
    -monumental architecture
    -technology innovation
    -stable family units – i.e. lowering divorce rates
    -conquest & empire building

    What isn’t apparent is the time lag involved which is consistently 3 generations. After a deistic society peaks and starts to decline it will still look like it is rising for 100yrs before the cracks show up. i.e. it is likely that America peaked culturally in the early 1900’s (not economically, but culturally.) Divorce consistently rose in the 20th century in America which is an indicator it was in cultural decline for some time before the wealth destruction of the financial crisis.

  29. the thinker said, on October 27, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Nerdy girl,

    Yes they did have the Jewish scriptures during the time of old testament.

    “It is also interesting to read the prophesies of the beatings and Crucifixion in Isaiah 52:13-15 and of the Jesus in Isaiah 53.” This is just one of many examples where the Old Testament pre-figures something which occurs in the New Testament. I understand the term for this as being “typology”.

    Take another example:
    Melkezedic is mentioned as being both a Priest and a King in Genesis. Something which was very rare in those days as usually Priests and Kings were from different castes. Melkezedic was King of Salem (Later renamed Jerusalem) and offered Bread and Wine as a sacrifice to Abram after returning from defeating another King on a mountain. Bread and wine was an unusual sacrifice in those days where the normal sacrifice was a lamb. Uncharacteristically, the offering of bread and wine wasn’t burnt.

    Fast forward.

    Abraham takes his son Isaac up the same mountain range to sacrifice his son to God as instructed by God. Isaac asks Abraham where the lamb is to be sacrificed (not knowing that he is planned as the sacrifice). Abraham replies “My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice.” God stops Abraham before the sacrifice is complete after Abraham passes the test of faith.

    Fast forward.

    Jesus performs the last supper in Jerusalem where he offers bread and wine as his body and blood. Next day on the same mountain range outside Jerusalem, Jesus King of the Jews, also known to God as “My Son” and to us as the “lamb of God”, is sacrificed.

  30. Anthony Caruana said, on October 27, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Typology isn’t the same as prophesy.

    For example, the passages quoted from Isaiah are prophesy – foretelling of some event.

    Typology is where one set of events is similar to another (for example, King David and Jesus)

  31. Tim said, on October 27, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Struth, this thread really has gone wild. Amazing points from everyone, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

    Here’s to loving our neighbour, turning the other cheek, and sharing all our possessions.

  32. steve said, on October 28, 2009 at 9:21 am

    hey the thinker,

    I still don’t agree that deity based beleif on any scale is necessary for a culture aimed at the best life experience for all, I will check out Unwin non the less. If it was then it should already be rational.

    The theory of evolution isn’t a theory as in a hypotheses, but rather a theory as in theorem, the theory being the explanation of how it works as a fact and not a possibility.

    In regard the catholic church, does their subsrcription to the theory of evolution superseed their teachings of creationism, adam, eve, their ancestors, noah and beyond? Somehow i doubt it. The biblical version of history and the theory of evolution cannot co-exist, and only one of them is supported by actual evidence.

    Anyway, this is rather off the point of the original blog.

  33. the thinker said, on October 28, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Hi Steve,

    There are two main methods of interpreting the Bible. The fundamentalist/literal approach (earth created in 7x24hrs) is adopted by most of the “evangelical” Christian groups. This is most likely what you are thinking of when you talk about teachings on creationism. This view is pitted against the scientific view. The fundamentalist interpretation of the bible and the theory of evolution cannot co-exist.

    The Catholic interpretation of the Bible is not fundamentalist/literal. This allows the interpretation of the Bible to be made in light of human reason as developed within the natural sciences. You may be surprised by the role the Catholic Church played in the development of the university system and the scientific method.

    Catholic teaching maintains that there was one first man and one first woman called Adam & Eve. 16bn+ years since the creation of the universe before they arrived on the scene is perfectly acceptable.

  34. Leah said, on November 13, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Your comments, instead of illustrating how informed you are about Christianity’s teachings, illustrate how terribly uninformed you are. You’ve obviously never read the New Testament in your entire life, yet you claim to make judgments about what Christianity’s teachings really are?

    1) Jesus did not come to earth to make Christians. The word Christian simply means follower of Christ (Jesus was the Christ, in case you didn’t pick that up). Jesus came to earth to fix our (humanity’s) relationship with God. The first part of the bible (the Old Testament) is the story of God’s people, the Israelites (Jews, Hebrews, whatever name you give them). God promised them a saviour. Throughout the ages they had different ideas of what this “saviour” meant. God meant it to be someone who would save them from judgment for their sins. At the time Jesus was born, the Romans ruled over the Jews, and so they thought it’d be pretty awesome if this “saviour” was actually coming to save them from the Romans. So when Jesus did come (and by the way, he opened up ‘salvation’ to all people groups, not just Jews) a lot of Jews rejected him because he wasn’t doing a real good job of saving them from the Romans; not to mention, the Jews had a law forbidding anyone to claim they are the Messiah, or Saviour, so they weren’t real happy when he claimed to be just that.

    So the people who ended up following Jesus were not all Jews. Some were Jews, some were Greek, some were Roman, some were Asian, some were African, etc etc. They developed the word “Christian” to describe these people. So in some ways Jesus would have been Christian – pretty sure he believed his own teachings. But he was definitely a Jew too.

    2) The bible is made up of a lot more than just Jesus. There are lots of other parts that discuss sexuality and what is or isn’t allowed. If you only take what Jesus physically said while he lived on earth, you’re only looking at a fraction of what the bible – and God – teaches.

    3) You’re right that going to church and obeying the ten commandments will get you into heaven. But I’m interested to know where you got this notion that “our ability to recognise the Christ in the little nobodies of the world, in the “least of our brothers and sisters”” is what gets us into heaven. Pretty sure Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father (God) except through me” and “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Sounds to me that if you are to believe what Jesus said, you have to believe the only way to not be condemned (ie. to go to Heaven) is to believe in him.

    4) Also not sure where this notion of “You don’t get closer to God by getting rid of sin” came from. The bible speaks a lot of “sanctification”, which means becoming holy, sinless, more like God. Of course we will never be completely sanctified here on earth. We’re all sinful, Christian or not. But God advocates it, NOT revelling in our sinfulness because it apparently makes us closer to him. It’s the fixing of our sinfulness that makes us closer to him, not the sinfulness itself. You are spot on that we cannot get it under control. We need to surrender it to God. Once we have done that, we are to get on with the business of ridding ourself of sin, with the help of God, because obviously we fail at doing it ourselves. (If we could do it ourselves, we wouldn’t need Jesus to save us).

    5) You think Jesus was interested in power, prestige and possessions? Seriously? The man was a carpenter, a nomad, had no set home, had little in the way of possessions, taught that it is very difficult for “a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”, was CRUCIFIED (I don’t think you realise what a humiliating and degrading sentence that was in Roman times)… yup, sure, I can see all the power, prestige and possessions there. Not.

    Instead of making judgments about what Christianity stands for by looking at what the church has taught in the past, look at what the bible teaches. Christians are humans and get things wrong. The Christian and Catholic churches have got many things wrong in the past. Self-control is indeed a characteristic God says we should exhibit, but the bible is also blatant in saying self-control will never be enough in getting rid of our sin and that we need Jesus for that. If a church ever taught that self-control is all that’s necessary to beat sin, it was way out of line. Just like churches that claim we have to confess to a priest are way out of line (Jesus flatly rules out the need for priests and confessions to priests – he explicitly says we only have to confess to God). Just like churches that claim God wants us to be rich and successful are way out of line, coz Jesus warned us that being followers of him would often result in persecution. If you want to know what Christianity teaches, look at the bible, not at people who often teach faulty interpretations of it.

    In response to “the thinker”. The Catholic Church is a walking contradiction if it believes evolution happened before Adam and Eve came around. Genesis says that death was introduced to the world after Adam and Eve sinned, but evolution – which you say happened for billions of years before Adam and Eve – requires death. It’s one or the other, you can’t have both.

    Also in response to Steve, many scientists say willingly that evolution is a theory as in “hypothesis”, not as in “theorem”. My biology teacher from high school was explicit in saying (even though she definitely believed in evolution) that it has not been proven, per se, and is just a theory of how the world has come about. (And no, I did not go to a Christian school that required a “tempered” version of evolution).

    • the thinker said, on November 13, 2009 at 7:33 pm

      Hi Leah,

      Great post which for the most part I find myself in agreement with.

      For those reading here are a couple of differences in Christian thinking:
      3) Catholic Christians consider it possible for someone of another faith (other than Christianity) to reach heaven. Evangelical Christians usually take a literal interpretation of what Jesus said and only consider it possible for believers in Christ to reach heaven.

      It is good to make judgements about what the Church has taught in the past in the area of “faith and morals” – investigation will find that in these areas, the teachings are the same in the past as what the Church teaches today. Views on the nature of the Solar System (e.g. Galileo) are NOT within what is considered “faith and morals.”

      People within the Church have fallen to temptation from the very beginning and sinned, the first notable example being the apostle Judas. Another being the apostle Peter, who lied about knowing Jesus 3 times.

      Catholic Christians consider that Jesus came to earth to found a Church. Catholic Christians were inspired to compile a 73 book Bible about 400yrs after Jesus came to earth. One of the books included in this Bible actually mentions Jesus’ intention to create a Church. None of the books in the Bible mention Jesus’ intention to create a Bible. This 73 book Bible was copied by Catholic monks by hand for over 1,000 years. This 73 book Bible was the first book to roll off Gutenberg’s printing press.

      Evangelical Christians generally follow a 66 book version of the Bible. A subset of books in the Catholic Bible selected by Martin Luther at the time of the Reformation.

      Catholic Christians believe that the Catholic Church is still guided by the holy spirit today. This includes guiding the Church in a SINGLE interpretation of the scriptures. Under the Catholic Church’s interpretation of the scriptures the first priests, known as apostles, were granted the power to forgive sins.

      Evangelical Christians do not accept that the Catholic Church is guided in interpreting the scriptures. Every Evangelical Christian has the right to make their own interpretation of the scriptures. When different Evangelical Christians differ in their interpretation of scripture they change churches OR make a new church.

      The Catholic Church has a SINGLE interpretation of the Bible which according to one’s view may or may not be ‘out of line’. Other Christian denominations have multiple interpretations of the Bible which are in line in some areas with each other and out of line in some areas with each other.
      Examples being Rapture (multiple views)
      Pre-marital sex OK/not OK
      Women priests OK/not OK
      Gay Bishops OK/not OK
      Divorce OK/not OK etc

      You are correct in that you cannot have evolution AND adam & eve under a LITERAL interpretation of the Bible. The Catholic Church does not take a LITERAL interpretation of the Bible on this point which allows evolution to lead to a FIRST man and woman (not apes).

  35. nerdy girl said, on November 14, 2009 at 1:57 am

    Oh, Oh, Oh!!! Can we have a “Christianity for Smarties” Blog meet. This is getting me fired up! (in a good way!) Thank you Thinker for explaining a bit of Catholicism. It is something I haven’t really studied in depth.

  36. the thinker said, on November 18, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Hi nerdy girl. I’m up for a blogmeet.

  37. the thinker said, on December 19, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Never too late in blog land 🙂

    Maybe when can get a moderator (if there is one to connect us via email without having to put our emails on the blog itself).


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