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Taking the Jew Out of Jesus—and Putting It Back By Bernard Starr



Jesus Teaching in the Temple by Photobucket

When I was a guest on Dr. Michael Brown’s nationally syndicated radio show “Line of Fire,” our conversation focused on a chapter in my book Jesus Uncensored, entitled “The Ethnic Cleansing of Judaism in Medieval and Renaissance Art.” Here I show that classical artworks washed out all traces of Judaism in the personae of Jesus, his family, and followers–despite the fact that they were all dedicated practicing Jews throughout their lives. The process of totally Christianizing the Jesus circle placed an artificial wedge between Judaism and Christianity that remained in place for centuries.

As late as the nineteenth century a painting of Jesus and his family by British artist John Everett Millais and another of the twelve-year-old Jesus by German painter Max Liebermann met with public uproar because they were deemed too Jewish . Liebermann repainted his young Jesus, rendering him blond with no indication of his Middle Eastern Jewish ethnicity. He took the Jew out of Jesus, which soothed and pleased the critics.

Surprisingly, that legacy of bristling at Jewish Jesus representations continues to the present day. Here’s what a listener to Michael Brown’s radio show said in response to my interview:

“While I was in high school–a Catholic high school–we had a project to draw in class. I drew a picture of Jesus, but removed his golden locks and blue eyes and replaced them with a more Middle Eastern looking man with thick hair. The teacher lost her mind. All this resulted in a trip to the Dean’s office, as if I offended her. All I heard was ‘why does it matter.’ So I said, ‘You tell me why it matters. I don’t recall too many blond-haired, blue-eyed people from that region of the world.'”

In commentaries and descriptions of exhibits of artworks depicting Jesus, we never hear that these paintings, as magnificent as they are artistically, distort and falsify biblical history. Renaissance artists revolutionized art with the introduction of realism and naturalism over the earlier artificialism and primitivism. Unfortunately, naturalism and realism did not extend to who the figures were naturally and realistically in their actual lives. Art historians with whom I’ve spoken dismiss these criticisms as ignorance about the Renaissance style of contemporizing figures in painting–dressing people in contemporary Renaissance attire and picturing them in Renaissance settings as Northern Europeans in skin tone and physical appearance.

While it is true that this kind of historical distortion was commonplace in Renaissance painting, it does not explain the obliteration of Jesus’ and his family’s true identities or the pictorial conversion of orthodox Jews into latter-day Christians.

Nowhere in these artworks is there a hint of the subjects’ Jewish identities or origins. For example, Bartolome Esteban Murillo‘s sixteenth century painting The Baptism of Christ pictures John the Baptist baptizing Jesus–an act reported in the Gospels (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23). Curiously, Jesus and John are not dressed in Renaissance attire, but John is holding a crucifix staff, thus telling the viewer that this is a Christian event and a Christian conversion.


Baptism of Christ by wikimedia

The fact is that there was no Christianity at the time of this baptism, nor did John or Jesus have any intention or desire to launch a new religion. Neither Jesus nor John ever heard the word “Christian”; it does not appear in the Gospels, although the term “Jew” appears eighty two-times. Moreover, John only baptized Jews–purifying them with the ancient Jewish practice of baptism for the coming of the Jewish Messiah.

Murillo’s powerful image supports the false conclusion that Christianity was already present. Consider too that the cross was a hated symbol in the time of Jesus and John the Baptist–a reminder of the countless times Jews were brutally crucified by the Romans. Jesus and John would very likely cringe at the image of the cross in this depiction. The cross didn’t become a Christian symbol until the fourth century CE, when it was introduced by the Emperor Constantine on his military banner and shields . No wonder that it didn’t catch on promptly as an endearing Christian symbol.

What has been overlooked by art historians and other apologists is that the pervasive distortions of biblical history in misrepresenting Jesus, his family, and followers established a powerful foundation for anti-Semitism–anti-Semitism by omission. In stripping away Jesus’ Jewish identity these paintings implanted the firm conviction that Jesus was of different ethnicity and religion than the others–the Jews. This conclusion was made even more explicit in paintings like The Tribute Money , by Peter Paul Rubens (1612), and Albrecht Durer’s sixteenth-century Christ Among the Doctors (Pharisees), both of which depict a blond ethereal Jesus in contrast to the dark, menacing and ugly Jews–the others.

If we were to restore the authentic ethnicity of Jesus and others, these painting would be strikingly different, even while preserving the “Renaissance style.” Consider, for example, Michael Pacher’s fifteenth century painting The Marriage of the Virgin, which depicts the marriage ceremony (some say betrothal) of Mary and Joseph. In reality, Mary was a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl from a rural village in Nazareth. Her betrothal and marriage was to Joseph, a working-class Jew originally from Bethlehem. After their marriage they showed their dedication to Judaism by taking the arduous seven-day trip to Jerusalem every year to celebrate the Jewish holidays, particularly the Passover festival (Luke 2:41).

In Pacher’s painting, Mary and Joseph are Christians, with the marriage ceremony performed by a latter-day Christian high church official in a Christian setting. Mary and Joseph’s Jewish identities are erased. Several other Medieval and Renaissance paintings of the marriage also Christianized this Jewish marriage ceremony. Similar misrepresentations of other scenes and events are typical and routine for classical artworks.


Marriage of the Virgin by WIkimedia

In writing about this “ethnic cleansing of Judaism in Medieval and Renaissance art” in Jesus Uncensored I presented a “what if?” that punctuates why artists would not dare to paint a Jewish Jesus:

“Imagine, let’s say, if the painter Raphael presented his patron with a scene of Jesus in a synagogue with a Jewish prayer shawl (tallit), wearing tassels (tstsit), donning phylacteries (tefillin) for morning prayer, and surrounded by other Jewish worshipers in similar attire–with Jesus pictured affectionately kissing his beloved Torah. “Raphael, what have you given me?” the startled patron would surely ask. “Sir,” Raphael would respond, “this is a painting of the authentic Jesus. That’s what Jesus did every morning. Don’t you want to experience the real Jesus?” The patron is unlikely to be impressed and Raphael might then be swiftly turned over to the Inquisition.” (This “what if” image is based on a description in Luke 4:16 of Jesus in a synagogue on the Sabbath.)

 

In recognition of the power of imagery, it’s time to counter these paintings with more authentic ones that tell the true story of who Jesus was. I’ve often wondered what many of the classical artworks would look like if Jesus’ ethnicity was restored. To answer this question I’m developing a proposal for an art contest and exhibit, “Putting the Jew back in Jesus.” Stay tuned!

 

http://www.bernardstarr.com

Bernard Starr, Ph.D.is a psychologist, journalist and college professor.His latest book, “Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew,” is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.Starr’s op-ed commentaries for the Scripps Howard News Service have (more…)
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Senior Catholic priest says gay men can marry lesbians |


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It’s common knowledge that the Catholic church has a rather poor view of gay marriage. But there is hope! Archbishop Oscar Cruz, judicial vicar of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal (try saying that three times fast) just announced that it’s totally acceptable for a gay man to marry a lesbian.

There is, apparently, some logic to this. After all, if the purpose of marriage is to create dozens of horrible little children, then a man and woman who are both capable of procreation should, for the progression of the human species, put their child-creating abilities to good use, within the boundaries of marriage set out by the church, of course.

It might be worth pointing out that the original purpose of marriage was mostly to forge tribal alliances, and to establish that any offspring were legitimate, but that would be nitpicking. Besides, it’s not like Christianity is meant to be about love or anything like that, right?

If you’re thinking that this is all well and good for the Philippines, but that over here we’re seemingly much more socially advanced, you might be disappointed to know that at a recent meeting between the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, it was agreed that marriage should remain something that exists solely between a man and a woman. It’s nice that the Church of England, an institution started because a King was sick of his wife and wanted a younger, hotter one, is taking such a strong stance on this.

So, in summary, according to the Catholic church, it doesn’t matter whether two people are in love, or genuinely want to spend their lives together, so long as one of them has a penis and the other has a vagina. Thanks Catholic Church! How could we possibly know anything about meaningful relationships without your input?

via Senior Catholic priest says gay men can marry lesbians |.

Jesus May Appear in Many (exclusively white) Forms


Throughout the new testament, especially after the crucifixion, Jesus appeared to different people in different form. It would be easy to laugh this off as confirmation bias in the face of obviously damning evidence, but Jesus doesn’t believe in damnation as much as salvation.

I’m something of an expert on salvation. It is literally my middle name. I’m not joking. It’s printed on my license. I know what I’m talking about.

But while Jesus may appear in many different forms to many different people, why is it that he always appears as a white hippy to Americans? In recent years he doesn’t even have a long beard, but rather a well-kempt one, as if he might have owned a Flowbee.

Well fret not my fellow doubters in Christ, the answers are as many as they are plentiful and cornicopiaieriaioreosally… As sure as Christ’s death absolved me of sin, that’s a real word.

65-jesus-italian1 (1)

via Jesus May Appear in Many (exclusively white) Forms (comic) | GlossyNews.com.

Too funny for the Church? Comedy show gets “excommunicated”


Licking a crucifix and pressing some very hot buttons: German satirist Carolin Kebekus 

THIS SORT OF THING really shouldn’t happen. Article 5 of the German constitution clearly states that “Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.” This freedom is absolute – except in cases involving a publicly sanctioned religious group, above all the Catholic Church.

The latest case: This week the German TV broadcaster WDR abruptly cancelled a completed and broadcast-ready satire show starring comedienne Carolin Kebekus. Set to premiere tonight at 8:15, it was to be the popular performer’s first solo show. But now her series has been trashed and she won’t be hired back anytime soon. Why? It turns out that the centerpiece of Kebekus! was going to be an elaborate rapper sequence lampooning the Catholic Church.

The offending musical number starts out with Kebekus dying of boredom at Sunday mass, when suddenly the church door opens and she appears in person, now dressed in a white nun’s habit and wearing golden chains around her neck and waist. During the ensuing rap number, this naughty nun twirls her chains, repeatedly licks a crucifix, flashes an altar, joins other nuns in dancing around a burning bush, and otherwise desecrates revered religious symbols. In other sections, an altar boy raps about how superior he is for being Catholic, and a pudgy gangsta-style rapper (German-Moroccan rap artist MC Rene) dressed in priestly robes expounds on virgins, celibacy, and pedophilia. (“In the church I’m the king,/Everyone kneels when I sing./Skip the bitches, I look away,/Celibacy means I do it my way” etc.).

The guiding theme of the video is the popular hym “Danke dem Herrn” (“Thank -you Lord”), a favorite of Sunday school classes and bible camps, sort of a Central European equivalent of Kumbaya. But Kebekus gives this normally ho-hum tune a different twist:

Thank-you for my golden chains,

Thank-you for my virginity,

Thank-you for letting me wear the same dress everyday.

She and the other nuns deliver a break dance before singing:

Thank-you for my fear of gays,

Thank-you for the condom ban,

Thank-you for threatening hell for every sin I commit.

You can read the entire German song text here.

Hence the rap-song’s title: “Dunk den Herrn.” Yes, that’s really “dunk,” i.e. what you might think of doing to a donut.

WDR explained its decision as follows:

Particularly the scenes with the crucifix could injure viewers’ religious convictions. This was and is not the intention of the “Young TV” editorial group. Nor could it be reconciled with the WDR {code of conduct}, which states clearly in Article 5 that the religious convictions of the population are to be respected.

In other words, there shall be no censorship – until there is.

This sort of censorship is nothing new here – I’ve already written about similar cases in this space before. But those who deplore such satires would do well to reflect on where they come from in the first place, namely from the ban on religious free expression at the expense of basic civil rights.

Let me cut WDR some slack here and admit that the segment is about as blasphemous as you could ever get. Call it Piss Christ on crack. But that’s the whole point of the exercise: Provoking a response. If they’d just let these caricatures go through without comment, the public would no doubt tire of them quickly, and people like me, who don’t even watch TV, would never even have known about this one. As it is, “Dunk den Herrn” is now attracting millions of visitors to Youtube.

You’d think people would learn.

via Too funny for the Church? Comedy show gets “excommunicated” – Alan Nothnagle – Open Salon.

The Apostle Paul Lived and Died as a Dedicated Jew


It’s widely acknowledged that Jesus was a thoroughly practicing Jew throughout his life. Anglican Priest Bruce Chilton expressed that conclusion explicitly and concisely in his book “Rabbi Jesus”: “It became clear to me that everything Jesus did was as a Jew, for Jews, and about Jews.”

But what about Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles? It’s generally accepted that Paul was the true founder of a new religion called Christianity. Biblical scholar Gerd Ludemann, author of several books about Jesus and Paul including “Paul: Founder of Christianity,” affirms that “Without Paul there would be no church and no Christianity.” Ludemann adds, “He’s the most decisive person that shaped Christianity as it developed. Without Paul we would have had reformed Judaism … but no Christianity.”

Paul converted Jews and then Gentiles to Jewish Christianity, basing these conversions on his belief in the teachings, resurrection and divinity of Jesus. But powerful evidence within “Acts of the Apostles,” the book of the New Testament that chronicles Paul’s mission, reveals that Paul, like Jesus, remained a dedicated Jew until his execution. In fact, if Paul had simply stated that he was no longer a Jew but the leader of a new religion, he would not have been imprisoned or executed.

During Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, his appearance and teachings in the Temple in Jerusalem set off a disturbance in which some Jews rioted against him (Acts 21:26-28). He was then charged with blasphemy by the Sanhedrin and would have to stand trial before the Jewish authorities — and face a possible death sentence. The Sanhedrin was able to indict Paul and put him on trial by the special privilege that the Romans gave the Jews. Judaism was a protected religion under the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus and Paul. Jews had their own King (Herod the Great, Herod Antipas and Herod Agrippa). But more important, the Jewish leadership was invested with the right to rule over Jewish affairs. They could bring charges against Jews who violated Jewish laws or who were deemed blasphemous or heretical. That power is why the Sanhedrin was able to indict Jesus. It also explains why the Sanhedrin was able to authorize Paul’s persecutory frenzy to chain and drag back to Jerusalem Jewish followers of Jesus in synagogues as distant as Damascus (Acts 8:3; Acts 9: 1, 2). Although the Sanhedrin could bring charges against Jews and even set the punishment, only the Romans could execute (although that’s not entirely clear since some violators of Jewish law were stoned to death by Jews).

The special status of Jews was first stated in an edict by the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus in 1 B.C.E. and reaffirmed by Emperor Claudius Augustus in 41 C.E.:

Edict of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus on Jewish Rights, 1 BCE

Caesar Augustus, pontifex maximus, holding the tribunician power, proclaims: Since the nation of the Jews and Hyrcanus, their high priest, have been found grateful to the people of the Romans, not only in the present but also in the past, and particularly in the time of my father, Caesar, imperator, it seems good to me and to my advisory council, according to the oaths, by the will of the people of the Romans, that the Jews shall use their own customs in accordance with their ancestral law, just as they used to use them in the time of Hyrcanus, the high priest of their highest god; and that their sacred offerings shall be inviolable and shall be sent to Jerusalem and shall be paid to the financial officials of Jerusalem; and that they shall not give sureties for appearance in court on the Sabbath or on the day of preparation before it after the ninth hour. But if anyone is detected stealing their sacred books or their sacred monies, either from a synagogue or from a mens’ apartment, he shall be considered sacrilegious and his property shall be brought into the public treasury of the Romans.

Later, during the ministry of Paul, the Emperor Claudius reconfirmed the special status of Jews:

Edict of Roman Emperor Claudius Augustus on Jewish Rights, 41 CE

Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, pontifex maximus, holding the tribunician power, proclaims: …Therefore it is right that also the Jews, who are in all the world under us, shall maintain their ancestral customs without hindrance and to them I now also command to use this my kindness rather reasonably and not to despise the religious rites of the other nations, but to observe their own laws.

The Romans were tolerant of all religions under their rule as long as adherents obeyed Roman law and paid taxes. While Jews could rule over Jewish matters, they had no jurisdiction over people of other religions. In principle, Roman paganism was an affront to Judaism. But they could do nothing about that other than negotiate with the Romans to mitigate pagan practices in the Temple area and in some public Roman ceremonies.

After his arrest, Paul faced charges of blasphemy: “And after five days Ananias, the high priest, descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the Governor against Paul” (Acts 24:1).

Paul could only be charged if he were a Jew. After being detained for two years he was brought before the new Roman governor Porcius Festus. The Sanhedrin repeated the charge of blasphemy: “Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him [Festus] against Paul, and besought him” (Acts 25:2). Fearing a trial before the Sanhedrin, Paul invoked his right as a Roman citizen to be tried in Rome. Festus granted Paul his choice: “Hast thou appealed unto Cæsar? Unto Cæsar shalt thou go” (Acts 25:12).

At no time during Paul’s lengthy ordeal did he repudiate Judaism or declare that he represented a new religion. Had he done so, he would have been immediately released — especially since he was a privileged Roman citizen. The Sanhedrin wouldn’t have had any authority over Paul.

After a long treacherous trip that included a shipwreck that almost killed him, Paul arrived in Rome and was put under house arrest. He promptly invited the Jewish leadership of Rome to his residence to explain why he was imprisoned:

“Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Cæsar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” (Acts 28: 17-20)

Still, Paul said nothing about a new religion. On the contrary, he presented himself to the Roman Jewish community as a loyal Jew who was being persecuted for his revisionist views. Since the Romans had no quarrel with him, as a Roman citizen, and with the Sanhedrin a continent away, there would be no viable case against Paul — if he had denounced his affiliation to Judaism and declared a new religion. At this point in his life, facing trial and execution for blasphemy against Judaism, didn’t Paul have every reason to sever his tie to Judaism? The Sanhedrin, representing traditional Judaism, sent a clear message by their action against Paul: “We will not accept your beliefs and teachings about Jesus.” Despite this definitive rejection, Paul didn’t choose the obvious way out of the clutches of the Sanhedrin: declaration of a new religion. This strategy never even showed up for discussion. Paul chose to go to his death as a Jew. Why?

Paul’s vision was to make his brand of Judaism — with the recognition of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah — a world religion easily accessible to everyone. He never surrendered that passion. But after his death the accelerating conversion of Gentiles to a movement that began as Jewish Christianity became increasingly distanced from Judaism — and a new religion was launched.

Nevertheless, an understanding of the deep connection to Judaism held by the founders of Christianity should highlight the common ground of Judaism and Christianity and pave the way to reconciliation between the two faiths.

via OpEdNews – Article: The Apostle Paul Lived and Died as a Dedicated Jew.

The Venial Glint


My father was a lost cause, Granny informed us shortly after arriving to spend her final year of wisdom and illness with us, and by the time she was almost ready to be judged herself, confined to her armchair in the living room from morning until evening when he – The Great Sinner – would carry her to bed, she had given up speaking to him entirely, judging him solely with her eyes.

Despite her assurances that even a venial sin could get you barred from heaven, there were occasions when my mother’s mother was so taken with the idea of damnation that a definite hint of affection could be detected in her voice when she spoke of it. She would turn bright red as her sermonising became more vitriolic, and her eyes would seem to shine. My father called it the ‘venial glint’, and said that if she didn’t feck off to heaven soon he would have her removed from the house – or remove himself – to escape it.

Venial sins were like pennies, she told us, adding up to make a pound, and if you didn’t repent your pennies you would be left with a pound of mortal sin. I was sure that if she didn’t stop talking about venial sins my father would commit a mortal one.

My mother was a sinner by virtue of marrying my father, who was soon forced to enjoy his evening whisky in the shed. I was a sinner for not finishing my vegetables and a heathen for watching cartoons. The newsreader was a sinner for wearing make-up, the weatherman for predicting God’s wind, and the dog for being a dog. We were all doomed.

On the evening she finally departed for heaven, there was an air of quiet celebration in the house. I was allowed to watch television instead of doing my homework, my father was allowed his whisky in the living room for the first time in almost a year, and my mother sat peacefully while the colour that had drained from her face within days of Granny moving in began to return.

I wondered whether Granny was as happy as the rest of us that she was finally up in heaven, and whether her exacting standards would be too much even for the angels. My father, after a whisky too many, wondered aloud how long – if she had managed to get there – it would take for God to have her removed, now that she was living in his house, or whether the big man would simply remove himself and return to us mortals for an early second coming, just to escape that venial glint…

It was a sin to say such a thing, I was sure, but my mother said that God would understand, now that he’d finally met her in person.

Written by Chris Connolly Illustration by Thomas McCar

via The Venial Glint : rabble.

via The Venial Glint : rabble.

Jesus and Mo


* EDL= English defense league

Churchill

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism (Islam) lays on its votaries (devoted followers)! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia (rabies) in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science – the science against which it had vainly struggled – the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome”.

via Jesus and Mo.

via Jesus and Mo.

Fundamentalism, Ignorance and Fear for Profit.


Isaac Asimov, wrote, “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

How terribly, awfully true. And some people love it just the way it is. The fundamentalist Christian religion is a great place to find proof. For these folks, religion is an infection that causes delirious behavior, the kind that comes from a very high fever.

Now to be clear that I’m not condemning all religion or all sincere believers. I’m condemning the ignorance that comes from the delirium of those infected with fundamentalism. And I’m sorry. There is no other way to say it. Ignorance!

Ignorance is not stupidity. Ignorance is a choice. All it takes to cure ignorance is a desire to learn something we don’t know. But when we think God told us all we need to know, we have no need to learn anything else.

When you have grown up in an environment that demands obedience and conformity, as much as Christian fundamentalism, you might be suffering RTS, Religious Trauma Syndrome, a process identified by Dr. Marlene Winell.

From the article titled “Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems” on AlterNet.org by Valerie Tarico, “Dr. Winell is a human development consultant in the San Francisco Area. She is also the daughter of Pentecostal missionaries. This combination has given her work an unusual focus. For the past twenty years she has counseled men and women in recovery from various forms of fundamentalist religion including the Assemblies of God denomination in which she was raised.”

The Christian salvation message is difficult enough to reconcile for sincere adults who remain committed to their religion of origin. But it has even more power to create neurosis in the hands of misguided people whose purpose is to acculturate innocent children.

Think about these teachings from the point of view of a young child who still can’t distinguish fantasy from realty: Being born evil and stained by original sin is just the beginning. Then comes the lifetime of failing to achieve the perfection demanded by an angry and vengeful God. Then the knowledge that Jesus died a bloody, excruciating death because of you. Then believing your natural human thoughts and behaviors are the failings of your weak and sinful character. Finally, knowing “the wages of sin is death” and you can’t stop “sinning.”

As a child, I swallowed this mythology whole. I remember worrying about how bad I was and how much I needed to resist my natural urges to prove myself worthy. I feared I’d never   enjoy the afterlife. Instead I would suffer the fires of hell for eternity; a hell of tortures so well described, I lived in constant fear.

The fear that saturated my youth is still being marketed by fundamentalist Christian’s for big money. Here’s a few examples from Rightwingwatch.org:   Liberty Counsel Continues to Promote the Latest Fabricated Case of Christian Persecution,    Bradlee Dean: Public Schools Evil, Obama Emulating Mao,    Heritage Foundation VP Blamed Boston Bombings on ‘Multiculturalism and Diversity’ in Schools,   Religious Right Panelists: Gay Rights Activists are Christ-Hating Fascists.

Each of the headlines above is accompanied by a photo of the key people who market this fear. It’s ironic. None of them look fearful to me. In fact, they look quite self-satisfied and –rich.

They don’t show any signs of the fear, with which they quite readily infect others. So I’ll take a guess here. These folks are not the ignorant ones. They’re pretty damned smart. The ignorant are the audience of faithful believers who gobble down their venom and ask for more. It’s these people, capable or not of educating themselves out of their ignorance, who pay the bills and keep these purveyors living a comfortable lifestyle.

Eric Hoffer, the American moral and social philosopher said, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

If Christianity was the great cause, fundamentalism is the racket.

Robert De Filippis

Author, columnist and blogger with a long career in business management, management consulting and executive coaching. I am a certified ontological coach. I’ve studied clinical therapeutic practices in Gestalt psychology and am a Certified Birkman (more…)

via OpEdNews – Article: Fundamentalism, Ignorance and Fear for Profit..

via OpEdNews – Article: Fundamentalism, Ignorance and Fear for Profit..

Jesus and Mo


I really enjoy Jesus and Mo. It a series of funny cartoon strips featuring the two characters – Jesus and Mohamed. It’s totally irreverent and of course heretical, but at the same time it isn’t mean in any way and isn’t on any kind of soap box trying to insult these major religions. Its just a bit silly, lighthearted, and very funny

Jesus and Mo.

via Jesus and Mo.

What is Faith?


faith

There are those who scoff at the school boy, calling him frivolous and shallow. Yet it was the school boy who said, Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.–Mark Twain, Following the Equator, “Pudd’nhead Wilson‘s Calendar”

No faith dies because it is unreasonable, but only because the instincts which it has satisfied find more complete and permanent gratification in other directions. –Amy E. Tanner, Studies in Spiritism(1910)

Faith is a non-rational belief in some proposition. A non-rational belief is one that is contrary to the sum of the evidence for that belief. A belief is contrary to the sum of the evidence if there is overwhelming evidence against the belief, e.g., that the earth is flat, hollow, or is the center of the universe. A belief is also contrary to the sum of the evidence if the evidence seems equal both for and against the belief, yet one commits to one of the two or more equally supported propositions.

A common misconception regarding faith—or perhaps it is an intentional attempt at disinformation and obscurantism—is made by Christian apologists, such as Dr. Richard Spencer, who wrote the following:

A statement like “There is no god, and there can’t be a god; everything evolved from purely natural processes” cannot be supported by the scientific method and is a statement of faith, not science (Richard Spencer, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Davis and faculty adviser to the Christian Student Union. Quoted in The Davis Enterprise, Jan. 22, 1999).

The error or deception here is to imply that anything that is not a scientific statement, i.e., one supported by evidence marshaled forth the way scientists do in support of their scientific claims, is a matter of faith. To use ‘faith’ in such a broad way is to strip it of any theological significance the term might otherwise have.

Such a conception of faith treats belief in all non-empirical statements as acts of faith. Thus, belief in the external world, belief in the law of causality, or belief in the fundamental principles of logic, such as the principle of contradiction or the law of the excluded middle, would be acts of faith on this view. There seems to be something profoundly deceptive and misleading about lumping together as acts of faith such things as belief in the Virgin birth and belief in the existence of an external world or in the principle of contradiction. Such a view trivializes religious faith by putting all non-empirical claims in the same category as religious faith. In fact, it would be more appropriate to put religious faith in the same category as belief in superstitions, fairy tales, and delusions.

Physicist Bob Park explains this difference in a way even the most devious casuist should understand. The Oxford Concise English Dictionary, he notes, gives two distinct meanings for faith:

 “1) complete trust or confidence, and 2) strong belief in a religion based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.” A scientist’s “faith” is built on experimental proof. The two meanings of the word “faith,” therefore, are not only different, they are exact opposites.*

There are reasons for trusting science and there are reasons for religious convictions, but the reasons for our trust in science are called evidence and the reasons for our religious convictions all reduce to hope. William James, a scientist and a man of faith, understood this distinction well. In his essay “The Will to Believe,” James opines that the evidence for a god and an afterlife equals the evidence for non-belief and that his hope is for survival of the soul. In science when the evidence is equal for two opposing propositions, James argued, we should suspend judgment until the scales are tipped to one side or the other. We don’t make a leap of faith in such cases, hoping our favored hypothesis is true. When we do give our assent to one scientific hypothesis over another it is because the evidence compels it, not because we hope it is true.

an erroneous view of faith

If we examine Dr. Spencer’s claims, the error of his conflation of two senses of ‘faith’ should become obvious. He claims that the statement ‘there is no god and there can’t be a god; everything evolved from purely natural processes’ is a statement of faith. There are three distinct statements here. One, ‘there is no god’. Two, ‘there can’t be a god’. And three, ‘everything evolved from purely natural processes’. Dr. Spencer implies that each of these claims is on par with such statements as ‘there is a god’, ‘Jesus is our lord and savior’, ‘Jesus’s mother was a virgin’, ‘a piece of bread may have the substance of Jesus’s physical body and blood’, ‘The God of Abraham is one being but three persons’, and the like.

The statement ‘there cannot be a god’ is not an empirical statement. Anyone who would make such a claim would make it by arguing that a particular concept of god contains contradictions and is, therefore, meaningless. For example, to believe that ‘some squares are circular’ is a logical contradiction. Circles and squares are defined so as to imply that circles can’t be square and squares can’t be circular. James Rachels, for one, has argued that god is impossible, but at best his argument shows that the concepts of an all-powerful god and one who demands worship from his creations are contradictory. The concept of worship, Rachels argues, is inconsistent with the God of Abraham (AG) concept.

Rachels makes an argument. Some find it convincing; others don’t. But it seems that his belief is not an act of faith in the same sense that it is an act of faith to belief in the Incarnation, the trinity,transubstantiation, or the virgin birth. The first three articles of faith are on par with believing in round squares. They require belief in logical contradictions. Virgin births, we now know, are possible, but the technology for the implantation of fertilized eggs did not exist two thousand years ago. The belief in the Virgin birth entails the belief that AG miraculously impregnated Mary with himself. Such a belief defies experience but not logic. The Virgin birth is conceivable (to make a bad pun), unlike the Trinity.

All arguments regarding these articles of faith are quite distinct from Rachel’s argument. To defend these articles of faith, the best one can hope for is to show that they cannot be shown to be false. However, the consequence of arguing that logical contradictions may nevertheless be true, seems undesirable. Such a defense requires the abandonment of the very logical principles required to make any argument and is therefore self-annihilating. The fact that arguments such as Rachel’s and those defending articles of religious faith are not empirical or resolvable by scientific methods hardly makes them equally matters of faith.

The statement ‘there is no god’ is quite different from the claim that there can’t be a god. The latter makes a claim regarding possibility; the former is an actuality or existential claim. I doubt that there are many theologians or Christian apologists who would claim that all their faith amounts to is a belief in the possibility of this or that. One can believe there is no god because there can’t be a god, but one might also disbelieve–i.e., reject as untruethe existense of any god while admitting the possibility of AG or any other god. Disbelief in gods is analogous to disbelief in Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny. Yet, those who believe in Bigfoot and Nessie, for example, aren’t known for claiming they believe out of faith. To say you have faith in Bigfoot or faith in Nessie sounds ludicrous. Believers in Bigfoot think there is good evidence for their belief. Disbelievers argue that the evidence is not strong at all and does not deserve assent to the proposition that Bigfoot exists. Disbelievers in Bigfoot do not disbelieve as an act of faith; they disbelieve because the evidence is not persuasive. Belief in a god, on the other hand, could be either an act of faith or a belief based on conclusions from evidence and argument. If the theistic belief is an act of faith then the one holding the belief either thinks the evidence against belief outweighs or equals the evidence for belief, or the belief is held without regard for evidence at all. Otherwise, the belief is not an act of faith but of belief that the evidence is stronger forbelief than against.

naturalism

Another scientist, physicist Paul Davies, represents another kind of deceptive misconception of faith: that science and religion are equally grounded in ‘faith’. Here is how he puts it:

…science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified. (“Taking Science on Faith,”New York Times, Nov. 24, 2007)

The claim that the assumptions of science are of the same kind as the belief in the trinity, the virgin birth, or the existence of God is as wrong as Dr. Spencer’s belief that the claim that ‘everything evolved from natural processes’ is an act of faith. Davies uses ‘faith’ to refer to beliefs that are uncertain or can’t be proved to be necessarily true, but that is not the essential characteristic of religious faith. We can’t prove that it is necessarily true that the laws of nature won’t change drastically tomorrow, but that doesn’t make the countless instances of experienced order and pattern by countless individuals of no evidential importance. Assuming that invisible green angels move objects to appear as if gravity were real is not on par with assuming there are laws of nature. Neither can be proved to be necessarily true but the latter is backed by evidence in support of it. To lump evidence-based belief with beliefs not based on any evidence as both being faith-based is absurd.

If the only alternatives are that everything evolved from either supernatural or natural forces, and one is unconvinced by the arguments and evidence presented by those who believe in supernatural forces, then logically the only reasonable belief is that everything evolved from natural forces. Only if the evidence supporting a supernatural being were superior or equal to the evidence and arguments against such a belief, would belief that everything evolved from natural forces be a matter of faith.

Those of us who are atheists and believe that everything evolved from natural forces nearly universally maintain that theists and supernaturalists have a very weak case for their belief, weaker even than the case for Bigfoot, Nessie, the Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus. But, more important, we are convinced by the overwhelming nature of the evidence that natural forces have brought about the universe as we know it. Thus, our disbelief in a supernatural creator is not an act of faith, and therefore, not non-rational as are those of theists and Christian apologists. However, if Christian apologists insist on claiming that science is faith-based or that their version of Christianity and the rejections of their views are equally acts of faith, I will insist that the apologists have a non-rational faith, while their opponents have a rational faith. Though I think it would be less dishonest and less misleading to admit that atheists and naturalists do not base their beliefs on faith in any sense close to that ofreligious faith.

Jesus and Mo


I really enjoy Jesus and Mo. It a series of funny cartoon strips featuring the two characters – Jesus and Mohamed. It’s totally irreverent and of course heretical, but at the same time it isn’t mean in any way and isn’t on any kind of soap box trying to insult these major religions. Its just a bit silly, lighthearted, and very funny

Jesus and Mo.

via Jesus and Mo.

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