2014-05-15

The Confessional Epilogue: Christians and Acharya

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by Neil Godfrey

Scholarship motivated by confessional interests

Most of us are familiar with the confessional reflections that so many biblical scholars drop in at the close of their scholarly works on Jesus. Sometimes this confessional is found in the prologue or preface as well. It is like a little prayer uttered by the devout believer thanking and praising the Lord for the academic study he has produced. It is particularly obnoxious when found in the dedication of a formal higher degree thesis. “Obnoxious” because it betrays an interest and motivation that is not entirely scholarly: it is scholarship motivated by confessional interests.

Examples (my bold emphasis throughout):

  • “Indeed, for Christians, the unending conversation about Jesus is the most important conversation there is. He is for us the decisive revelation of God. . . .” (last paragraph of Borg’s Jesus)
  • “And yet, despite everything, for those who have ears to hear, Jesus, the millenarian herald of judgment and salvation, says the only things worth saying, for his dream is the only one worth dreaming. . . .” (Allison, last paragraph of Jesus of Nazareth)
  • “Jesus will always be for me the way to God. . . .” (Spong, last paragraph of Liberating the Gospels)
  • “For a believing Christian both the life of the Word of God and the text of the Word of God are alike a graded process of historical reconstruction. . . . If you cannot believe in something produced by reconstruction, you may have nothing left to believe in.” (Crossan, final words in The Historical Jesus)

ChristInEgyptAnd so on.

Confessional statements and astrotheology

So it occurred to me that if I am correct in coming to realize that D.M. Murdock (Acharya S) is just as devoted to a religious view of Christian origins and writes with a view to sharing her belief system in the same way, then in her more neutral and “academically” minded books I should find the same confessional statements, most probably in the epilogue.

I have read sections of Christ in Egypt before but this time I turned to conclusion and here is what I found:

We are currently in a position to recognize fully our natural surroundings, based not on blind belief but, rather, on scientific observation as well as aesthetic appreciation. Regardless of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, as human beings we can all relish the splendor of the natural world, with most people able to cherish an exquisite sunset or full moon, for example. . . . .

The comprehension of the astrotheological and nature-worshipping perception behind the world’s religious ideologies and greatly imaginative and creative capacity of the human mind but also the beauty and awe of creation that inspire and unite mankind beyond the divisive and destructive beliefs. In the end we are free to develop true human community based . . . on shared, common experiences and reference points, such as the mysterious and marvelous planet upon which we all live. (Christ in Egypt, p. 521)

And if there is any doubt about what she means by this humanity saving comprehension of astrotheology, Murdock makes it clear in the Introduction:

Astrotheology — the reverence for the sun, moon, stars, planets and other natural phenomena . . . . (Christ in Egypt, p. 17)

Now we understand more clearly why Robert Tulip speaks worshipfully of the restoring the “dignity” of the moon to its “rightful” place and excoriates those of us who do not duly “respect and honour” the scientific facts of the planetary system. It also explains why Murdock in the above quote limits her examples to sunsets and the full moon: appreciation of waterfalls, flowers, other positive attributes of our fellow species, etc., etc., would distract from her intended point.

[Note: A version of this post appeared earlier on earlywritings.com.]

9 Comments

  • Pete
    2014-05-15 23:47:36 UTC - 23:47 | Permalink

    You cannot possibly be serious. Neil, your biases against Acharya is glaringly obvious. You don’t treat anybody else like this so, I have to wonder if you’re a misogynist. You’re starting to sound like James McGrath and his horrendous attempt to compare mythicists with creationists.

    I own a few of Acharya’s books including ‘Christ in Egypt’ and to even attempt to claim she actually worships this stuff is just asinine. All you’ve done here is quote-mine a quote completely out of context to confirm your own biases.

    Very disappointing and disgraceful.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-05-16 01:34:17 UTC - 01:34 | Permalink

      I am sure the motivations of all the names in this post are scholarly. One and all. At the same time it is useful to be aware of the personal interest a scholar has invested in their scholarship.

      No-one is without bias of some kind. What is important is that bias be recognized and factored in — both by the author in his/her discussion and by the reader in his/her reading.

      It is always a worry if either does not recognize their own and each other’s bias.

      Do you also think I have quoted Borg, Allison, Spong and Crossan out of context and misrepresented them?

    • Mark Erickson
      2014-05-16 21:02:12 UTC - 21:02 | Permalink

      Pete, if you could provide more context I could evaluate your claim. Or maybe Neil would quote the ellipses here.

      Your wondering about Neil being a misogynist is the most asinine statement here by far. And saying Neil claims “she actually worships this stuff” is a straw man. Reread the last section.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2014-05-16 21:15:18 UTC - 21:15 | Permalink

        From what I have seen of Acharya/Murdock’s personal attacks against anyone who criticizes her work she does appear to have a tendency to label critics as women-haters, sexists, bigots, even “internet terrorists”. She does give the impression of having a lot of troubling hang-ups. She doesn’t seem to appreciate that she’d have a lot more respect if she could let it all go and just respond at the content level.

        This post was originally made on another site as a direct result of her supporters, one in particular, pouring on the personal abuse because of my attempts to engage one of them in a serious critical discussion. It was so tempting to drop it all and ignore her but then I realized by doing that that she and her followers would “win”. They would have achieved what they have wanted, and that is to silence all criticism of her views.

        Can you imagine how much worse it would be if the astrotheologians were the mainstream scholarship today?

  • Scot Griffin
    2014-05-16 16:20:39 UTC - 16:20 | Permalink

    Acharya definitely romanticizes astrotheology, but is she being “confessional” in doing so? I don’t know.

    I have only read one Acharya book (The Christ Conspiracy), and that was years ago. While I found the underlying scholarship helpful at times, the book is first and foremost a polemic against Christianity (and, arguably, Abrahamic religions generally). It is not surprising that somebody attacking Christianity would feel compelled to offer an alternative they believe to be better, but I am not sure that Acharya even does that because her claim is that Abrahamic religions are essentially astrotheological in nature. In other words, if one is a Christian, he is already an adherent to astrotheology, just within an authoritarian framework that obscures that fact. Thus, astrotheology is not an alternative to Christianity, it is part and parcel of it.

    So, to me it seems that Acharya’s primary interest is to destroy the authoritarian framework of Abrahamic religions without attacking their underlying spirituality. A kind of religious neutron bomb. This makes sense rhetorically because it invites Christians and other believers to realize they can be spiritual without being Christian (and solve many of the world’s ills at the same time).

    At the same time, I don’t see Acharya offering up an alternative authoritarian framework to that of Christianity. Therefore, not only is “astrotheology” not a religion in the way Christianity is, it does not even seem to be a cult because there is no organizing principle behind it.

    If Acharya is preaching anything, it seems to be religious and spiritual anarchy, the opposite of a totalitarian collectivist religion like Christianity. Anarchism is a philosophy, but so is positivism. Neither is a religion.

    I suspect that Acharya and her supporters have an emotional investment in maintaining their sense of spirituality that makes them incapable of engaging in a purely scientific, positivist effort to explain Christian origins. The only thing you have in common with them is the search for Christian origins, but after that, I don’t see any basis for you even having a conversation with them. They want to rescue spirituality from Christianity. All you want to do is understand how Christianity came to be.

  • Will
    2014-05-16 17:02:52 UTC - 17:02 | Permalink

    I think you are spot-on here Neil. It does seem like a confessional interest on Murdock’s part. I find it a relatively inoffensive one that doesn’t evoke the supernatural.. but the quotes you provided above do seem to indicate a particular reverential worldview behind the scholarship, influencing and informing it. Of course that in itself doesn’t make any of her theories incorrect, but it does make sense of her preference for astrological explanations as the primary formative force behind the myths. (I still think her best work is “Who Was Jesus?”.. less of the astrotheological angle, if memory serves)

  • 2014-05-16 19:26:19 UTC - 19:26 | Permalink

    Acharya S is an idiot who brings shame and discredit to the topic of Jesus Mythicism and Historicity. IMO, she’s single-handedly done more to discredit the field that anyone. You should generally ignore anything she writes.

  • Pete
    2014-05-16 22:05:48 UTC - 22:05 | Permalink

    LOL, many would say the same about you, rationalrevolution:
    http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1511

    as well as others:
    http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=4771#p4771

    Neil has cut off the quote in order to confirm his own biases:

    “…In any event, the case demonstrating that “astrotheology”—the reverence for the sun, moon, stars, planets and other natural phenomena…”

    Here’s what Neil cut off:

    “… —has been the main motivating factor behind major religious myths and rituals the world over can be found in my book Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled…”

    – Christ in Egypt, p. 17

    It’s low Neil, very low.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-05-16 22:17:50 UTC - 22:17 | Permalink

      Well you’ll be very happy to see that I have allowed you to demonstrate how low I was in cutting off the part of the quotation that I considered served no purpose in clarifying or defining what is meant by astrotheology.

      I am not quite sure how the extra words add to the meaning of the word or how anything I have written contradicts or misrepresents anything at all Acharya has written or suggested, but just in case there is some perverse and diabolical shift in meaning then I am happy to have your correction here for the record.

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