On eating babies and the pagan’s faith in history, too

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by Neil Godfrey

Dr Jim’s Thinking Shop is too quiet lately, but when it speaks it makes up for ages of silence with a good belly laugh with a dash of cerebral acuity.

His photo of the atheist BBQ [Link //drjimsthinkingshop.com/2010/10/11/a-snap-from-this-summers-atheist-bbq/ and blog is no longer active… Neil, 23rd Sept, 2015] is a must-see, and his previous article Cooking the Book . . . how not to do religious studies [Link //drjimsthinkingshop.com/2010/07/03/cooking-the-book-on-the-bible-and-how-not-to-do-religious-studies/ and blog is no longer active… Neil, 23rd Sept, 2015] is a perfect companion to my earlier posts on the historicism of much Historical Jesus scholarship:

I’ve  run completely out of patience with the almost impossible to avoid rubbish that Livingston repeats here (he certainly did not invent this idea!). “Yawheh was revealed to Israel through her historical experience” What frikkin’ theistic religion (other than deism) DOESN’T think that their deities show their power in historical events? And didn’t the Israelites think that big storms, famines, locust swarms, etc. were the will of their God? Didn’t Babylonians interpret their military history as being influenced by their deities?

And as for the “uniqueness” of the Israelite religion:

Certainly, the ancient Israelite and Judean worldviews were NOT identical to that of their neighbours, but then the Babylonians’ were NOT identical to that of the Assyrians, Hittites, Egyptians, Persians and so forth. Too often, scholars construct lump together non-Israelite cultures and religions as one part of a dichotomy with Israel and the Bible on the other. This polarity does not help the cause of understanding any of these ancient people, religions or texts. “All non-biblical religions look the same” and “All god are created equal but Yahweh is more equal than that others” are biases that biblical and world religions scholars must overcome.

Seeking the Sacred. But Why?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

17th century representation of the 'third eye'...
Image via Wikipedia

Listened to an interesting discussion with Stephanie Dowrick (“psychotherapist, interfaith minister, writer and commentator”) on national radio this morning — http://www.abc.net.au/rn/lifematters/stories/2010/3058168.htm — arguing for the need for us to value all life, others, etc. and that this can be achieved through a new self-awareness or identity that comes via a spiritual mindset or consciousness.

I agreed completely with the values she was expressing, but kept wondering: Why the need for “spirituality” in order to embrace them?

Is it not enough to see us all as vulnerable members of the one species? To see oneself as one with others simply on the basis that we all have the same basic needs and desires, were all born as helpless babies and someone cared for us enough to enable us to survive and be where we are now? Does not such a thought, or awareness, consciousness or whatever, humble us enough to see us all “as one”, so that when we lose our cool with a colleague, it does not take too much to calm us and forgive? And of those who are really bad, who do harm and relish in doing harm to others, we can at least maintain some sense (most times) of understanding the makeup and background of such a person, so that we do not have to lower ourselves to respond in kind.

And proactively, does not such an awareness — an awareness that is based entirely on the genetic facts that we all share — direct us to seek to alleviate, help, improve the lot (where we can) of our fellows? Some join Meals on Wheels, some Amnesty International, some Rotary, some the World Socialist Forum, some teaching and volunteer work, some risk their lives with activist subversion, and some just like to give their small change to beggars.

We do all of these things for different reasons, but I personally find it enough to know that we are all here for a short time, with the same genes, the same feelings, pains, hopes, loves, frustrations, needs.

I don’t see the least need to envision anything “spiritual” to bring all this together at all.

But if some find that image works, then I guess that’s good for them. I can understand that my “this is all there is” view has had a bad press and some may have been conditioned to find the very idea leaves them cold. But to me, the awareness that “this is all there is” makes all this more precious than ever.

Faith in History: a faith for both Christians and Marxists

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

. . . Modern Christianity must always reckon with the possibility of having to abandon the historical figure of Jesus. Hence it must not artificially increase his importance by referring all theological knowledge to him and developing a ‘christocentric’ religion: the Lord may always be a mere element in ‘religion’, but he should never be considered its foundation.

To put it differently: religion must avail itself of a metaphysic, that is, a basic view of the nature and significance of being which is entirely independent of history and of knowledge transmitted from the past . . . (p. 402 of The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 2001, by Albert Schweitzer.)

Dominican priest Roland de Vaux of Dead Sea Scroll fame or infamy, wrote that if the historical faith of Israel is not founded in history, then that faith is in error, and our faith is also (“et la notre aussi.”)

Biblical archaeologist George Ernest Wright wrote:

In biblical faith everything depends upon whether the central events actually occurred. . . . To assume that it makes no difference whether they are facts of not is simply to destroy the whole basis of faith.

Thomas L. Thompson (from whom I have taken these references to de Vaux and Wright) aptly notes (my emphasis throughout):

Indeed, it soon becomes clear, it is not ultimately in the Bible that this “biblical faith” is grounded, but in the events of history, and in the Bible only insofar as the Bible retells historical events.

Is not this a rather wry reminder of Marxism’s faith or belief in history?

Is not the fundamental difference between the two, then, merely the interpretation of history? Continue reading “Faith in History: a faith for both Christians and Marxists”