2019-02-04

Tragic Reminder of Christianity’s Power to Alienate and Crush Life

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by Neil Godfrey

Chris Terry is a Christian in love with Christ. For me his post Amazement was a tragic reminder of how life-destroying that devotion can be. No doubt if Chris were to see this post he would respect that statement as containing a hidden irony: yes, I imagine he might say, we must become “dead” so that Christ can live in and through us.

“Apart from Christ”, he says, “there is absolutely nothing in me that was good.”

I don’t know if Chris is a parent. But I find it hard to imagine any healthy parent thinking their newborn babe, their growing child, having nothing good in or about them. Indeed, in Leaving the Fold, a book about deconversion from fundamentalism, psychologist author Marlene Winell suggests one activity that recovering believers might find helpful is to have a baby doll that they should come to see as themselves when they were an infant, and that whenever they feel overwhelmed by guilt or shame they should project themselves into that babe and reassure them that they are loveable and are loved. As a believing Christian one may, like Chris, be convinced that one does not “deserve God’s grace, mercy, and favor”, but that’s not how any sane parent rears their child. Of course our children are deserving of grace, mercy and favour. Growing up believing anything else is to grow up a psychological wreck.

The Bible is brought out, that book of often fascinating ancient literature that has had such a cultural impact throughout our history, and grotesquely seriously applied personally to the extent that a modern believer will come to see they are “dead in sins” and under the sway of Satan merely by being a part of wider society. If ever the believer comes close to a moment of sanity and begins to wonder what can be so wrong with being a normal and healthy part of the community just as themselves, without any put-on act of trying to be a light for Jesus, and then begin to think that their “sins” are miniscule compared with the mass murderers and child abusers out there, they will devoutly remind themselves as does Chris that that is the sin of pride “downplays their depth of guilt and corruption apart from Christ”. As Chris says,

The mistake is seeking to understand these issues through our own reason, rather than understanding all of life as God views it.

Such a God was responsible for biblical genocides. Even literally sacrificing one’s own children is something he has said is both an unspeakable evil and an ultimate sign of heroic righteousness – the trick is knowing which god to do it for.

No, Chris. You are not as evil and wicked and worthless as your god wants you to think you are without him. Without him you can flourish as a wholesome, good human being. Yes, with faults, some that can be quite harmful. But you are mature enough to know how to manage those potentials and to be a good force for liberation and humanity for others and even yourself, as many other humans really do without suppressing in fear one’s own nature and trying to replace it with some alien “put on” (the Bible’s expression for the process).

 

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18 Comments

  • 2019-02-04 21:10:27 GMT+0000 - 21:10 | Permalink

    I agree with the point of this, but I can’t really take issue with the Bible itself.

    This is a contention I have with many atheists, who like to denounce and poke fun at the Bible. The problem isn’t the the Bible and it is “God”. The “God” of the Bible isn’t a bad god because he isn’t a god at all, he’s make believe.

    “His god” doesn’t want anything from him, as his god is just a figment of his own imagination.

    “God” isn’t the problem, people are the problem.

    The Bible isn’t the problem, it is how people choose or are persuaded to read and interpret the Bible that is the problem.

    The Bible is a collection of mythology from thousands of years ago, and those writers can’t be blamed for how people today choose to interpret and use those writings.

    The Bible is no worse or more absurd than Greek or Norse or whatever mythology. If someone today made poor life decisions based on their interpretation of stories from Greek mythology I wouldn’t curse the stories, I’d curse the present day people who convinced that person that those stories held a specific meaning for him/her.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, we can’t let “the Bible” take the blame for problems that come from people and institutions that are alive and acting today. The Bible and “God” aren’t the problem, the churches and the preachers are the problem. Real human beings and institutions that are active in the world today, with responsibilities. These people and institutions need to be held accountable.

    • Yam
      2019-02-05 06:22:39 GMT+0000 - 06:22 | Permalink

      I personally blame the Bible for all this and not the church, after all the church is shaped by the function of the tool (Bible).

      The Bible (always as I see it) is a psychological drama which is trying to deceive people to believe that they must obey theocracy.
      I believe this cause the Bible is not a collection of myths, but a collection of laws through myths. When I take in consideration the so-called minimalists approach, meaning that those stories where written in the Hellenistic ages, the Bible becomes clearly a propaganda tool.

      And by the way Bible is black propaganda :

      “Black propaganda is when the source is concealed or credited to a false authority and spreads lies, fabrications, and deceptions. Black propaganda is the “big lie,” including all types of creative deceit.” from Propaganda and Persuasion 2012, p. 18

      By believing that the Bible is a collection of myths and especially a collection made through the ages, blurs the source (the Bible) and conceals the function of the tool (propaganda).

      • 2019-02-05 17:41:19 GMT+0000 - 17:41 | Permalink

        I don’t disagree with this. To a large extent Christians are misreading and misunderstanding the writings of the Bible. And anyway, these are writings produced thousands of years ago by a different culture for different purposes. You certainly can’t blame ancient Jews for their understanding of the world at that time.

        What the Christians have done is like someone finding a copy of Harry Potter and forming a religion around it and then blaming J. K. Rowling when people derive beliefs that they need to oppress and kill people based on their interpretation of his stories, which were never intended by her to be interpreted the way that such people interpreted them.

        We can’t blame ancient people for how modern people (mis)interpret their writings.

        • balivi
          2019-02-05 20:17:28 GMT+0000 - 20:17 | Permalink

          I don’t disagree with this. The ancient people also mis)interpret the writings (see Paul), as the modern people, the ancient people’s writings. This is not just a question of interpretation of text.
          This is about power.
          I’ve seen many people who didn’t really understand what they read. But they never wanted to press my throat as truth, what they “read”. And I saw many people, who really “understand” what they read, and they wanted to press my throat as truth, what they “understood”. They do this, who wants to reign.
          JK Rowling didn’t write what she wrote, to rule. But the author of the Bible (who is God supposedly), write what she wrote, to reign. He found many servants for this.

          • balivi
            2019-02-05 20:28:27 GMT+0000 - 20:28 | Permalink

            Sorry my poor English.

            • balivi
              2019-02-05 21:00:55 GMT+0000 - 21:00 | Permalink

              There is a relatively rare mental disease, what is called Münchausen syndrome. The person suffering from the disease (usually a mother) is able to get sick by itself in order to be loved. The reverse state of this is when he does not hurt himself but his/her child, to can to love and care for the child.
              I do not know, but this is not the God of the Bible?

        • Yam
          2019-02-06 06:23:41 GMT+0000 - 06:23 | Permalink

          I agree that we cannot blame ancient Jews for this, neither modern Jews, in the end they are victims of those writings like Christians and in an extent like Muslims.

          The point I am trying to raise, is that cause we have strong indications that the OT is a product of Hellenistic ages, we must treat it as such. We cannot downplay it at the level of Harry Potter, this is going to do more harm than good.

          But did ancient people misinterpreted those texts like balivi said?

          I don’t think so, cause we have the Maccabees, they killed, they made forced conventions etc.

          If we get those writings, as a product produced through several centuries (Documentary Hypothesis) then we leave open the possibility that even the Maccabees misunderstood it.

          Gmirkin’s “Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible” does not leave open this possibility

  • JBeers
    2019-02-04 21:36:14 GMT+0000 - 21:36 | Permalink

    ‘[H]ow life-destroying that devotion can be’ is a good way of putting it–emphasis on ‘can’. Organized religion of various sorts has much to answer for. In my opinion it usually has tended to be destructive in one way or another–a horrible icon or idol to be against (according to my own personal perhaps fanatical ultra-protestant inclination).

    However let me perversely argue the other side–and the way you used the word ‘can’ instead of ‘is’ may mean you do not necessarily disagree with me. Here I argue against my typical anti-religion way. Please forgive the sermonizing somewhat tangential to your post.

    There have been devout Christians who have not been so bad, and I don’t just mean doing some nice things here and there while being miserable and making everyone else miserable as they do their occasional charitable good works or actively defying a repressive church organization. I refer to a lenient theology, even a devoutly held one. For example, at least at one time I think Universalists could be pretty fundamentalist–but thought that everyone got to go to heaven, real and literal heaven, for eternity. Also imagine the theology of the Christians as described by some of the ‘mythicists’, where a not necessarily very incarnate Christ may or may not have even made it down to earth, and some things are left vague. And then take even that story of a not very incarnate and not necessarily very descended Christ as being completely allegorical or ‘mythical’ yet take it inwardly (as I tend to personally, for myself–and perhaps even some of the early Christians did(???)). Not necessarily so bad. One doesn’t have to be in charge of or responsible for God. Who can know these things? One can just try to do one’s best. One person’s benign atheism can be similar to another person’s devout benign Christian theology or benign agnosticism, in my naive opinion.

    Again, tangential, and not necessarily a disagreement.

  • Marty
    2019-02-05 00:00:37 GMT+0000 - 00:00 | Permalink

    I am so sorry Neil! Did your wife piss in your cheerios this morning and you decided to take it out on God, the Bible and all Christians?

    The passage is form Ephesians 2. One must understand there are two types of people in this world. Israel and gentiles, pagans or the other nations, whichever term one wishes to use. These two groups are broken down into believers(those trying to serve God, the best they can) and Unbelievers(those who only serve themselves). Paul, was speaking to Gentiles. In context they where just as he described them because they where not in the family or in relationship with the family of Israel which is the family of God.

    But each of us can change our context if we want.

    • Donald W Ciriacks
      2019-02-05 18:37:12 GMT+0000 - 18:37 | Permalink

      Paul (Saul) has been proven to be a false apostle per Acts Chapter 1, as well as by a thousand and one learned Theologians (professional Bible Studiers). For starters, “Paul And The Invention of Christianity” by Hyam Maccoby. Those who studiously read the Gospels quickly discover that Jesus had now interest whatsoever in starting a “church,” starting a “Christianity.” It was Paul (Saul) who started Christianity after a supposed vision….and it was Paul (Saul) who turned out to be an Anti-Christ; anti-christ in both word and behavior. After all, wasn’t it Paul (Saul) who first preached the ungodly doctrine of Original Sin (Romans 5)? Thus proving himself to be anti-Christ.

  • Martin Lewadny
    2019-02-05 03:05:03 GMT+0000 - 03:05 | Permalink

    Marty !!!! This is Marty…but no one close to your dogmatic and delusional drivel here. Shame on your comments to Neil..the director of this site that tries to educate fellows like yourself who know very little and have little minds to include alternative views and interpretations!!!

    It appears you can’t positively contribute to the learning processes and interests being expressed here… …Your contributions here are highly suspect…

    Moreover you completely missed R.G. Price’s very astute comments here in this blog.

    Quit being a troll! BTW you have misused Eph.2. You know shit about what is going on in your use of it!

    And as a man who was a Christian since 16 yrs old and later became a professor, scholar , and a pastor… and now 64 years old I would encourage you to clean up your so-called “Christian” life… since it lacks careful thought and context.

    I have never had to say such things here like this before, but if you are a trouble-maker in a bad sense (there is a good sense) please leave the site. And I guarantee that every time you submit here and your comments are full of shit I will point them out to you, and I am sure others will as well!

    I think I remember some of your other responses.

    Here is something to think about re; your Ephesians text. You have got to be kidding me that there are two types of people in the world. Listen up Mr….!!!

    The conflicts in the NT gospels etc. have nothing to do with Christians vs. Atheists. There are no atheists in the NT!!! They were either monotheists,(one Jew as well against the other) and polytheists , and others. One faith fighting against another.

    An unbeliever in the NT is someone who doesn’t believe the other faith.

    Wake up and do some real thinking and historical work.

    I would like to get back and work through all the wonderful resources being offered here.

    I am really “pissed” at you, whoever you are!!

    BTW Neil, if this response is problematic you can dismiss it or take it out, but I can’t stand the kind of stuff vomited up by guys like this!

  • Martin Lewadny
    2019-02-05 06:06:08 GMT+0000 - 06:06 | Permalink

    R.G Price,

    I want to support you here, but was set off side to address this other “Marty” whom I think is not really interested in listening to those present here. So I am getting back to my original good feeling direction…in responding to your comments…

    I liked your comments in this blog and wanted to get back to them and take them further and hopefully become as fruitful as your thoughts have been, not only to me but to others I hope.

    Yes! Everyone must start at ground zero..these texts..that is all we have at the moment…. what do we do with them…?? Start obeying them ?? What?? Obeying what?!!! Let’s not jump on board because one attaches a particular “god” to their inspiration.

    The only thing we know right now as far as empirical evidence is concerned in relation to these ancient texts is that they have human sources and agents…nothing supernatural is evident in them in terms of actual ontology or history or science that we can check out at this present moment…

    …These texts are “historical” and sociological, etc “artifacts” edited over many decades,– even “accidents” of history….time periods of what people were perceiving and also projecting into their own Sitz im Leben (their very own situation in life , at many levels!). Extremely creative writers…. trying to solve real problems in these contexts which we know about from many sources…

    Tradition history is being passed on, not necessarily history!!!!

    Sorry, after having studied under Dr. Thomas L. Thompson and his research regarding Judaism and Hellenism I can not let go of the cogency of his costly research…unless someone has disproved beyond a doubt his careful argued views as a scholar within the Copenhagen School re OT and Higher Criticism.

    We discovered these ancient texts…not from any god, but from humans and through human investigations.

    The ancient world, whether historical, political, religious, etc is worth examining to hopefully shed some light on our own contexts….and also for their own sake..

    History can help us avoid things but it has also showed we repeat them. They are simply damn interesting…. !!!! Yes!

    But we are here “now” and they are “then”…and it is no easy task to identify what is “relevant”… for our own time…but Judaic/Greek Scribes never wanted to let their traditions fossilize so they kept them alive..how ?? through oral and written traditions , but we are still asking questions to check our own historical hunches…etc.

    Christians (quoting a sophisticated scholar in the christian religion won’t do). Most Christians as I have met for the most part don’t know what to do with the Bible “as is” and they want to make it something else.

    I remember Dr. Clark Pinnock (what a beautiful man and scholar) saying in his The Scripture Principle which I used in my college classes… Christians struggle with the Bible they have…and don’t know what to do with the cognitive dissonance that sets in when they discover what they have concluded it is, is not the way things really are….

    Hence, Christians wish they had a different Bible!!!

    Too bad for those who are having to face the reality of a human bible!!!,. Suck it up!!!!

    Thanks again R.G. for your seed thoughts and theses!

    They gave birth to the reflections here.

  • balivi
    2019-02-05 12:23:31 GMT+0000 - 12:23 | Permalink

    I Following Bart Ehrman’s blog, and I read a post, about the dangers of fundamentalism. I deeply agree with Ehrmann, when he writes this:

    “…fundamentalists tend not only to think explicitly that stated VIEWS of Scripture are absolutely true, but also that their own inferred INTERPRETATIONS of Scripture are absolutely true.”

    This is a serious problem. History has already proved. My heart grumbles, when I talks to a fundamentalist. I see my old self, my own mistakes, and my heart hurts. It is very difficult to help. There is no one who can. This is sad.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2019-02-05 21:04:17 GMT+0000 - 21:04 | Permalink

    Some of us will find a lot to enjoy in the Philip Davies’ book “Whose Bible Is It Anyway?”. He addresses head on the two ways of approaching the Bible: the religious or faithful versus the academic or what should be the academic, demonstrating what it would truly mean to study the Bible the way academics study any other ancient book.

    Davies, Philip R. 2004. Whose Bible Is It Anyway? 2 edition. London ; New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark.

    I see it’s rather expensive to purchase new, but we do have interlibrary loan options and also a search for a second hand copy through a site like bookfinder.com can be worthwhile.

  • Marty
    2019-02-06 13:52:59 GMT+0000 - 13:52 | Permalink

    Martin, I am sorry you got so upset. i must have hit a nerve! I did not mention Mr. Price’s commit, because i basically agree with what he said. I am not a troll, I just disagree with some opinions put forth on this site. Any two people can read the same text and come up with different understandings. As to using the word “believers” your right not a good word it carries to many different coronations. But still, one is either in the family or out!

    I felt like Neil had and axe to grind with his post. I read almost all of Neil’s post entirely. Some I trash others get saved. Some get forwarded to friends, they are the good ones. 🙂 Although some of Neils conclusions I disagree with, most of his research is thought provoking and makes one stop and consider the subject matter. If I was afraid of searching for truth and looking at things from a different perspective I would not be reading Neils post. Neil makes one THINK, even if one draws a different conclusion.

    Martin, your just a little older then I but not any smarter. All your years of higher education has not help much – you should clean up your christian life it seems to me. I am not technically a christian, I don’t believe the tenants of the religion. As per the two types of people in the world. Read your Bible, there is Israel and everybody else. Those others can be classified differently per their relationship to Israel. i.e. Godfearer’s and converts to Israel from among the nations. If you don’t understand that context of the Bible, you need to go back to school.

    Martin you said, “The conflicts in the NT gospels etc. have nothing to do with Christians vs. Atheists. There are no atheists in the NT!!! They were either monotheists,(one Jew as well against the other) and polytheists , and others. One faith fighting against another.” You are correct. However, I never said anything about “Atheists”. That means you do not read very well!

    Peace brother!

  • James D. Williams
    2019-02-07 09:26:16 GMT+0000 - 09:26 | Permalink

    Nature coerces us. Disobedience is Death.

    We were all babies, once.
    I figure I’m the same person as Adolph Hitler or Anne Frank.
    To think otherwise is Pride.
    At conception, “…there was absolutely nothing in me that was good…” considering the eventual possibilities. Duh!
    I expect to “reenter the womb” at some point. The shit-train of existence makes regular stops.

    But, in case my understanding is amiss…

    Ephesians presumes a God. Although Ephesians puts it into a Jewish/Gentile context.
    “…He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations…”
    Ephesians says that God let’s us “off the hook”, God understands. There’s a way out.
    Good enuff for me!

    That God dude is one big motherfucker and I don’t mess with God’s shit.
    So I burn incense and prostrate myself before my idols.

  • Martin Lewadny
    2019-02-07 09:50:05 GMT+0000 - 09:50 | Permalink

    So then you are you then just some sort of “shit-disturber”of some kind or someone who enjoys engaging in making things obscure…without any real helpful purpose. You come across as a fundamentalist of some sort..whoever you are…You have the intrusive right to tell me “all your years of higher education have not help(ed) much..””.

    So let me say Mr… Marty…. your response is not helpful, neither your our unreal apology… and added insinuations and insults”

    Who in the hell do you think you are to tell me anything about my education and my experience and what it has meant to me and others in this field,,, and, furthermore my best credentials are the students who studied under me ..and they would put you in your place as well…

    You said there are only two types of people in the world, quoting Ephesians as some sort of authority, without any secure basis in history or ontology or epistemology. You did not state clearly anything about the actual historical context of these alleged Pauline texts and much more. And you made it your goal to attack Neil without any real basis… with weird comments about piss and cheerios?? Looking for effect are you!!!???

    ….Moreover, you sound like some sort of secret Christian and then tell me I am one. No way!

    Not like you anyway!! I don’t know any god, except the ones in texts , nor any Jesus , except the Jesus expressed in many texts….. and neither do you or anyone else knows…except the Jesus in the NT who said “No one knows the father except the son and no one knows the son except the father.” Do you know where that is found!!??

    Who on earth could make such a claim! I am…if I were to follow Jesus, but I don’t really believe him either, but if he was a final authority, and he is not, then I don’t need to believe hims either…. John was written so people could believe…Sorry I don’t believe it.. yet I have learned much from it. Pretty clear ,, right!! Do you believe that text???!!! I bet you don;t if you are a “believer”. It’s too hard on your belief!

    I have no problem being an agnostic, given Jesus’ own words! Here is another human telling all other humans. No one knows god except me! would you believe that for a moment!

    I’ve learned much from my study of the NT….(Even though I couldn’t care one bit about the their inspiration or inerrancy .)

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