My ideas on Christianity and the Bible

Imagine going to buy a car and the person selling it says
“this is a great car, you have to believe me, or even though i love you, i will put you in a torture chamber for all eternity where you will suffer horribly”.

The threat of hell is the original terrorism
“believe or suffer for all eternity”.

Right at the beginning i would like to state that i revere Jesus as a great spiritual teacher, one of the greatest. Indeed, both Hindus and Buddhists, even Muslims, also revere him, they just don’t believe he was the only one or the last one.

I am not writing this to deride or attack Christians, but to point out what seem to me to be great logical inconsistencies in the beliefs of people who seem intent on having their beliefs made into law.


Most people i have met who think of themselves as Christians build their faith around the Bible, yet they know nothing of how that Bible came to be put together other than what they were told. They are not aware of the history of Christianity,

* how in the beginning it was a big tent where many different opinions were tolerated,

*how starting around 150AD the theological disputes started getting acrimonious,

*how when Constantine adopted Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire he insisted they do it the Roman Way {Roman, Catholic, which means Universal, Church}.

*How Constantine insisted they come up with a definite statement of doctrine which everyone had to believe and no other beliefs were allowed [sound familiar?] and convened the Council of Nicea to come up with that official doctrine

*that the political disputes of that council made our politics today look like a lovefest

*that there were a myriad of Scriptures and those not selected to be part of the officially approved doctrine were collected and burned

*that there were no printing presses, texts were hand copies, and over the years a number of deliberate additions and subtractions were made “Christ would never have said this, he meant to say this” etc


Try this exercise:
1 Get a bible you don’t mind marking up.
2 Take a highlighter, highlight all the times in the bible God is pissed off and threatening punishment and all the other statements by the prophets telling the people how bad they are

3 Highlight in a different color all the times God or the prophets express love, especially unconditional love, for the people
4 in a different color highlight only the words of Jesus

 


The words of Jesus come to maybe 20-30 pages, or about %2 of the total words of the bible. I really don’t understand why they call it Christianity when there is so little directly by Jesus and not much more directly about him. In practice, i think that this is about how much so called “Christianity” has to do with Jesus.

The bibles i have seen are about 1300 pages. The old testament is about 1000 pages, about %70 of the bible, the New about 300 pages.
Of these, about 130 pages are the four gospels directly about Jesus, about %10 of the total bible.

Statistically speaking, the main message of the Bible seems to be that people are bad and deserve to be punished, especially they are bad and deserve to be punished for not obeying the authority of the Lord.
And what terrible, disproportionate punishment;
to be sent to a torture chamber for all eternity, with no second chance

this “people are bad and deserve punishment” attitude shows up in every political issue conservative christians get involved in; long prison sentences for often small offences, capital punishment, acceptance of torture as American policy, Wars, disdain for the poor and needy, etc. It’s a very logical consequence of the message which statistically predominates in the bible, which is that people are bad and deserve punishment

the bible instills the concept of obedience to authority on the most visceral, deep rooted level, using the horrible threats of eternal torture as a way to terrorize and coerce people into believing, with the carrot of heaven to entice people.

as a method of authoritarian control this is a brilliant masterpiece. So many Christians seem to be authoritarians, indeed it seems the whole religion is founded on accepting and not questioning authority, whether that authority is the preacher or the Bible.

It seems to me that most people who call themselves Christians should really call themselves Biblists, and perhaps even Old Testament Biblists. I realize that these people consider that the Bible is the word of God and their connection with Jesus.

1 So many so called Christians seem much more concerned with who to hate than who to love. This seems directly opposite to Christ’s teachings.

They seem so angry about Gay Marriage and abortion while hundreds of millions of children and adults are starving worldwide, indeed here in America, people lacking the basic necessities of life, yet there are no propositions put on state ballots to outlaw starvation and other sufferings.

Also, it’s confusing to me how so much of the military is made up of followers of a man who said to turn the other cheek, and how so many Christians believe in War. The answer i come up with is that most so called Christians give lip service to Jesus, but in practice follow the old testament judgement, punishment and anger model.

Many people who consider themselves Christians seem very accepting of brutality and violence, even torture and genocide, whether it’s war, football, movies or television. On the other hand, they seem to be very condemning of expressions of sex, intimacy and pleasure, as the incident at the Super Bowl a few years ago epitomized, where seeing Janet Jackson’s breast was deeply shocking for many viewers, while the game itself, where large grown men try to hurt each other, was exciting and interesting.

I think that this has caused a great deal of stress and mental illness through the ages. People were and are taught to not accept their own sensual natures, to be at war with themselves, often living their whole lives in a state of dis-ease (this goes triple if you are gay).
Not a prescription for a healthy society.

I have met some very good, kind, loving people who are bible believers, but they seem to be the exception, not the rule.

2 Christians say that it’s true because the Bible says so, and that one should just trust that authority without questioning, as well as trusting whatever their preacher says.

 I can’t help but contrast the Buddha’s statement that one should not accept what he said blindly, but rather test whether it is of worth and use, with the Christian belief that one should not expose oneself to other beliefs because one might be swayed by the devil. Christianity doesn’t seem to show much confidence in either the doctrines or the believers.

It seems to me that Christians are taught to not question their beliefs, to not think creatively. Instead, they are taught to unquestioningly, blindly obey authority, and they seem to carry this into every realm of life. Unfortunately, it seems to me that this is the root cause of authoritarian governments, and the big reason why politicians and other authority figures can lie and get away with it, because people have been trained to obey and not question authority. An unthinking, unquestioning populace seems to me a terrible basis for democracy.

Christianity says “believe and be saved”, in contrast to the Eastern idea of experiencing truth through various practices. The Christian monastic tradition has some sense of this, and Christian mystics like Meister Eckhart and Theresa of Avila certainly experienced God, but how many contemporary Christians, especially evangelicals, have any idea at at that a Christian mystical tradition exists?

The Eastern traditions teach that man has a dual nature, higher and lower, that it is our task to get in touch with our higher nature, and that no matter how bad our deeds, it is like the sun hidden by dark clouds. In contrast, the biblical traditions teach that man is vile and depraved, original sin, and that we need mercy and forgiveness because we’re so bad. Maybe that’s true, i don’t think so.

In addition, many Christians believe in eternal damnation, that is, spending all eternity being tortured, and believe that if they don’t believe in the Bible, perhaps even go against it, they will be in eternal suffering. In effect, a gun is put to their heads and they are terrorized and coerced into not questioning, “believing”, and of course these are the children of children of children who for many generations were similarly terrorized and brainwashed, told to give up critical thinking and using their own judgement, trained to just blindly obey.

It is very difficult for me to take seriously the statements and beliefs of people who have been terrorized into submission since earliest childhood, by people who were similarly terrorized into submission.

How difficult it must be, after years, indeed generations, of being threatened with the most horrible punishment for questioning what you have been told, to open your mind to a dispassionate evaluation of that dogma.

3 Most self identified Christians seem to have no idea of the history of how the Bible was put together, or what the teachings of the early church were. Some don’t even know that the Catholic and Protestant bibles have a different number of books.

Many Christians seem woefully ignorant of some of the most important parts of their religion. Many don’t seem to even know that the Bible was put together at the order of the Roman Emperor Constantine, and that the politics of which texts to include and which to exclude made American politics look like a day in the park.

How many bible believers know that Matthew and Luke were not written by Matthew and Luke, but by people writing in their names who had never seen Jesus.

How many people know that scholars generally consider that, in the early years after Jesus, there was a short manuscript containing the sayings of Jesus, and that this is the basis for much of the words of Jesus found in the bible. Scholars call this document “Q” from the German word Quelle, which means source.

How many people know of the great diversity of very different Christian doctrines in the first 200 years after Christ, or that many early Christians believed in reincarnation?

Take a look at the work of Bart Ehrman, for example
Misquoting Jesus, The Story behind who changed the words of the bible and why
and his book Lost Christianities
https://www.bartdehrman.com/

How many people know that Yahweh, Jehovah in the Old Testament, was the war god of certain tribes
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahweh_(Canaanite_deity)

There is even scholarly evidence that Jesus may have accepted homosexuality (see link below)
http://www.wouldjesusdiscriminate.org/biblical_evidence/gay_couple.html

Things are nowhere near as simple as many people who consider themselves christians believe.

Take a look at a book entitled The Year Of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs

4 And the issue of hell for all eternity. I simply cannot believe that a loving “Father” would do this. For me, on this rock alone, the whole thing founders, loses credibility.

Just looking at the words of Jesus, what i see is him forgiving the woman taken in adultery, giving the Sermon on the Mount, practicing non-violence, telling Peter to put up his sword, saying “as you do to the least among them you do it unto me”. The teachings contained in the words of Jesus are often totally opposite to what i see believed among Christians, especially conservative christians and fundamentalists. That’s why i think they should call themselves Biblists, rather than christians. One of the things i find admirable about Christianity has been the message that no matter how bad your sins, God loves you, and many people, criminals, etc, have turned their lives around based on that, but that seems to be one of the few loving parts of the dogma.

My perception is that proselytizers often do a “bait and switch”; god loves you, but when you get a little farther into it, he’ll send you to a torture chamber for all eternity if you don’t obey him. I’ve read in a number of auto-biographies how children woke up with nightmares night after night after being scared by this horrible prospect.
God as the greatest terrorist of all

Let’s not forget that there were many, many manuscripts around at the time the bible was compiled. The bible is a collection of only a few of those manuscripts, chosen by men who had a purpose behind which teachings were chosen for inclusion and which were excluded. My belief is that, on the whole, the manuscripts chosen for inclusion gave the message of FEAR AND OBEY, while more spiritual teachings of love and compassion were, for the most part, excluded.

I have met very few people who i would consider Christians. Mostly i have met biblists who called themselves Christians, a name to which i think they have as much right as Ronald Reagan would have had to call himself a Marxist, which is the opposite of who he was. It often seems that people who start by talking about Christ ultimately worship a book, a book put together by men for their own purposes.

I think that many of these people were so terrorized in childhood by the message that they would be tortured for all eternity, that they were coerced into accepting a text which, if titled more accurately, could be called People are Bad and You’re Going to Be Punished Really Harshly.

I see this “people are bad and deserve punishment” attitude showing up in every political issue conservative christians get involved in; long prison sentences for often small offences, capital punishment, acceptance of torture as American policy, Wars, disdain for the poor and needy, etc. It’s a very logical consequence of the message which statistically predominates in the bible, which is that people are bad and deserve punishment

 

In summary,
for the most part i find the bible a very brutal, harsh and unkind book,

with maybe %5-10 nuggets of inspired teaching.

i think the bible has very, very little to do with the actual teachings of Jesus
and yes, i have read large parts of it. Most of the pages i read were soaked in blood.

 

Jesus’ name has been used as a cover for many beliefs and actions which are completely opposite to what he taught. If this only happened occasionally that is one thing, but when this is a pattern during the whole history of the religion, then it reflects on the religion, not just a few hypocrites.

Church history shows that many times the name of Jesus has been used to justify all sorts of ugly, harsh, unloving, generally bad behaviour, such as burning people at the stake, torture, …..

Christianity teaches original sin, that we are essentially bad and need to be made good. In contrast, Hinduism teaches that we are all God incarnate, and our path is to remember that, while Buddhism teaches a similar idea that at our essence we all are all enlightened, yet have forgotten, in the dust and clouds of craving and aversion which obscure our true nature. That makes a huge difference in people’s psychology.

Christianity teaches that if one only believes, they will be saved, while the Eastern Religions believe that no one can do your work for you, you have to do it yourself. Teachers are for guidance, support and inspiration, but ultimately you have to walk road the road yourself. This makes a lot more sense to me.

Remember the car dealer in the beginning of this piece, the Christian car salesman. Now imagine going to look at another car where the seller says “take it for a drive, see if you like it, take it home for a while, see if it works for you, and if it’s not working for you no problem, just let it go”. That’s Buddhism.

There are still some people who genuinely carry on in what seems to me the spirit of Christ, who think about what they read and pick the wheat from the chaff, and i’m all for that, for the spirit and teachings of an enlightened, loving Christ, instead of the image of an angry, punishing Jehovah so often presented as being Christianity.

The question for anyone who considers themselves a Christian:
if the Bible can not be trusted, how can you know Christ and live in a way that accords with his spirit and teachings.
Good Luck

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