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Christian Beliefs – The Saviour Motif

Saturday, 19. January 2013 20:50

Here is a quick ‘Pop Quiz’ for you… What do the following fourteen historical figures have in common?

Vishnu of India
Osiris of Egypt
Mithras of Persia
Baal of Phoenicia
Alexander (the Great) of Greece
Indra of India
Tammuz of Syria
Attis of Phrygia
Caesar Augustus of Rome
Adonis of Greece
Hercules of Thebes
Thor of the Scandinavians
Fo of China
Jesus of Palestine

Rather than make you guess, let me tell you… They were all said to have been ‘born of a virgin.’ Not only they but also hundreds and hundreds of other Kings, leaders, warriors and rulers hold the same distinction. They were all said to have been ‘born of a virgin.’ Moreover, it has been written in documents through out the ancient world that most of them have been labeled with the entire ‘Savior Motif’, as I call it.

The ‘Savior Motif’ consists of eight specific points;
1. Born of a virgin,
2. Said to be the ‘Son of God’,
3. Said to have performed miracles,
4. Died a cruel death,
5. Said to have died to save humankind from sin,
6. Said to have arisen from the grave,
7. Said to have been seen by many after he arose,
8. Said to have been seen ascending into heaven.

As one can easily see, with the exception of number four, the elements of the motif violate natural laws in ways that make it impossible for a person of average intelligence to fathom. And yet millions do believe it to be literally true with regard to Jesus of Palestine.

My second question – directed to those who believe – would be… If it can be believed to be true for one ‘savior’, then why not the hundreds of others?

Truth is… most believers are probably not aware that there were hundreds of so-called ‘Saviors’ in ancient history. They do not realize that the eight elements of the motif were not intended to be taken literally. Historians explain that these things were said about a person (long after they had died) to indicate that they were important, extraordinary, exceptional, and special.

Unfortunately, believers, through the centuries, have insisted on literalizing these stories as they relate to Jesus and thus have destroyed the beautiful prose that it was intended to be.

Why is this so?

Could it be that the average believer is not a student of ancient history?

Could it be that the average believer is not inclined to question what the church has told him/her?

Could it be that the church has been negligent in explaining this truth to its adherents?

I am inclined to say that all three are true. And furthermore, the hierarchy of the church, from the pulpit to the highest levels of the institutional church, have known has know this truth for more than two hundred fifty years.

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Christian Beliefs – God in the Space Age

Saturday, 19. January 2013 20:35

In an age where space stations and satellites traverse the vast expanses of the universe, an increasing number of Christians are having difficulty acceptingas one of their Christian beliefs, the Biblical definition of God as a being ‘up there’ or ‘out there.’ Common knowledge, in the twenty first century, tells the thinking person; believe in a sky-god is simply a bankrupt idea of the ancient past.

As a result, more and more Christians are leaving the church and fewer and fewer are being enticed to join. Why should anyone want to sing praises to, or otherwise worship and bow down to a make-believe, imagined father figure who somehow resides above the ‘blue canopy’ of the sky, when common knowledge tell them that such an idea is nonsensical? Each time a congregation is led to perform such a simple act as reciting the ‘Lords Prayer’… “Our Father, who art in Heaven”, the Church is affirming the intellectual dishonesty of its doctrine and drives another nail in it’s own proverbial coffin.

We need a new definition of what god is and what role such a god can/should play in our life.

Many, if not most, clergy and church hierarchy have known for decades that there is a problem regarding the intellectual honesty (dishonesty) of the church doctrine and dogma, but, to my knowledge, nothing significant has (is) being done about it. A majority of churches ignore or dismiss the need to address the issue all together.

We Christians who believe that an intellectually honest church is needed in our society, are becoming more and more frustrated by the inaction of our church leaders regarding this situation. It seems to be the ‘elephant in the room’ that no one will admit to, or is willing to talk about. I have had some Clergy suggest to me that perhaps we should simply “let the church die a natural death.”

That, to me, is an unpalatable suggestion.

Bishop John Shelby Spong has suggested that change will not come until a critical mass of the laity becomes educated enough in such matters to  demand change from the church.

If that is the case, the question becomes; How best can we facilitate that education?

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Christian beliefs – Hungering for Truth

Saturday, 19. January 2013 13:21

 The following article recently appeared in the St. Petersburg  (FL) Time. I find it disturbing that the writer – Norma W. – and thousands of others like her, must live outside their religion and cannot communicate their Christian beliefs with their families, because the Church continues to withhold the truth of the church doctrine from the people-in-the-pews.  

 —————————————

I lost my religion in Religion Class. We were a religious family – at least in name. Nobody I knew would have dared admit out loud that they didn’t believe in God. So after misplacing my faith, I kept quiet.

 I could hardly believe the loss myself. I kept returning to the place faith had been, prodding it like a sore tooth. How could this happen? I’d gone to Sunday school and church my entire life. I even went to church camp. I knelt every night as a child and asked God to bless a long list of relatives while glancing nervously at the prayer over my bed: “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” I wasn’t afraid for my soul. It was the dying part that scared me. Who knew you could be snatched away while you slept?

 In college, before taking the required Religion Class, I’d been devout enough to debate my aunt (who was also my English professor) about angels. We were reading Milton and she said when we die, we become angels. I said angels were another thing altogether, and the reason Milton put man above them was that we had the choice of being good or not. If we chose good, we were placed higher than the angels, who were heavenly beings and – except for the fallen ones – by nature good.

 After she called our minister to check on this, she phoned my mother to say I was right. But, not wanting to show favoritism, she gave me a B in the class, which did not affect my belief in God, but definitely soured my belief in her.

 To graduate from my Methodist college, you had to take a year of religion: one semester of Old Testament and one of New.

 It was not the college’s intention to undermine our faith, but religion was taught as history. Who were those tribes? How did they come to worship one God, and how did the books we call the Bible get written and put together? This is where it happened – in the first semester among the begats.

 I discovered that the Bible had come together over hundreds of years, written by different men in different times. Our textbook Bible contained the Apocrypha, the books that were once part of the Bible, but through one dispute or another had been cast out. To me, they sounded just as plausible as the official parts.

 Doubt crept in like a poison, or maybe it was faith leaking out.

 All I know is, during those months, as I read my chapters, took notes and wrote papers, belief gave way to logic. God – at least the God I was kneeling to in church – was a construct, put together over centuries, codified, fought over, killed for, and what did we really know? Nothing, except we needed this story, needed to believe our soul went somewhere and that we didn’t blink out like light bulbs at the end.

I knew better than admit doubt. I continued to kneel in church and bow my head for grace during family meals. Was everybody pretending? At dinner, I opened my eyes a crack and peeked around. My sisters certainly looked pious enough. I never ask them what they believed for fear they’d ask me in return. If I told them the truth, they would shake their heads and say they’d miss me when they were in heaven with the angels and I was burning below.

I graduated, left home without admitting my faithlessness, and quit going to church. Now and then I can feel doubt pinching at my atheism, but I repress it. When you’ve tasted the forbidden fruit, there’s no going back to innocence, and no point being wistful about what you’ve lost.

—————————————

Such a tragic story, one that is being played out thousands of times a day, all around the world. And who is at fault?- The Church with its outdated Christian beliefs. By refusing to be honest with their constituents and would-be-constituents, they are driving away the very people they are trying to attract.  

A minister friend of mine recently confided in me that at the annual conference of his church denomination he had had conversations with several of his colleagues regarding this problem. All admitted the problem exists but none are willing to ‘rock the boat’ or do anything about it. 

So while the Universities, Colleges and Seminaries teach a modern, intellectually honest understanding of our Christian beliefs, the Church continues to preach an ancient folklore and superstition that is irrelevant to the 21st century worldview. 

If nothing is done, and the trend continues, Christianity will soon find itself on the fringes of society, among the ignorant and uninformed. 

 Such a pity. The church… dying from its own lack of integrity. 

Barry E Blood Sr. – 2009   

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Christian Beliefs – It would seem to me . . .

Wednesday, 4. April 2012 21:19

Our Christian Beliefs study group, that meets each Sunday morning, has been discussing a chapter from the book ‘Philosophers and Philosophies’ titled ‘Christianity Without Belief in God’. The book is by Frederick Copleston.

The essence of the chapter is this… “For an increasing number of people, belief in the existence of a God is becoming impossible in a sense analogous to that in which it has become impossible for most people to believe that there are elves in the forest.

It is not a case of one’s being able to demonstrate the non-existence of elves. Rather it is a case of one’s seeing no good reason for accepting the hypothesis that they do exist. The events, which might be said to be the activities of the elves, can be explained in other ways.

Analogously, in view of what seems to be the massive silence and the conspicuous inactivity of the alleged divine being, and in view of the fact that events that were once explained in terms of divine activity are now explained in other ways, belief in such a God has become a superfluous hypothesis.”

It would seem to me… in addition to those who do not believe, there are vast numbers of Christians who would describe God in some way other than the description found in the Bible.

This, of course, is not a new discovery. Humanity has been trending in this direction for (at least) the past two hundred years. Bishop John A. T. Robertson said as much in his book, ‘Honest to God’ written in 1963.

It would seem to me… the trend is beginning to grow exponentially as the intelligence level of the nation and the world increases.

It would seem to me… the Church must embrace a new understanding of God and begin to gently infuse it into the its liturgy and teachings, before the critical mass of non-belief in the traditional description of God causes the Church to fail completely. Copleston suggests the possibility of an understanding that moves “from God to god”. (I’ll explain that concept another time.)

It would seem to me… a new approach to religion and/or spirituality must become an urgent priority of the Church if it intends to survive the 21st century as anything more than a fringe organization among the uninformed and uneducated…

BEB

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The Church One Hundred Years from Now – Christian Beliefs

Wednesday, 4. April 2012 16:55

During our group discussion this week I posed the question… ‘What do you think the church and our Christian beliefs will look like one hundred years from now?’

The thoughts expressed went in two directions, first; if the church continues to preach and teach a literal belief in a religion based on an ancient and obsolete worldview. And second; if the church enters an era of intellectual honesty expression of our Christian beliefs, thus preaching and teaching a religion that is compatible with current knowledge.

In the first instance, most felt that the church would either disappear or become only a fringe organization among the uneducated and uninformed of society. Other secular organizations would spring up to replace the need for community and altruism. Most likely the US would mirror the current religious environment of Europe.

In the second instance, it was felt that the church—assuming it reforms its liturgy and teachings—could play as vital a role in the society of the future as it has in the past, perhaps even greater. This, however, will require a great deal of change and effort on the part of both church leaders and laity. The small part Progressive Christianity is currently playing in such a change would need to grow enormously over the next several decades.

Which direction will the church go? Only time will tell, but to be sure, the actions of the current generations of believers will play a part in the decision either consciously or unconsciously.

Copyright © Barry E Blood 2009

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Christian beliefs – Spirit of the Living God

Sunday, 1. April 2012 0:41

This past Sunday our (Christian beliefs) discussion group was studying Chapter Ten of Lloyd Geering’s book, ‘Christianity without God’. Chapter Ten is titled ‘Why Christianity must become non-theistic’.

Geering states, near the beginning of the Chapter, “If we think of God as ‘a superhuman person regarded as having power over nature and human fortunes’, we are using a descriptive definition. But if we take ‘God’ to refer to the highest values which motivate us, then we are using a functional definition.”

Someone mentioned the confusion this causes when we use the word ‘God’ to refer to two different things (definitions). It often becomes difficult to discern which ‘God’ the speaker or writer is referring to. Several people agreed, adding that even if one knows that the speaker is referring to the functional definition, confusion is created because of the ‘baggage’ surrounding the word ‘God’; caused by two thousand years of using the descriptive definition as part of our Christian beliefs.

We discussed the desire to refer to the functional definition with a new or different term but this would, admittedly, cause great consternation and anxiety among those Christians who are not ready, willing or able to move away from the descriptive definition. The word ‘Ruach’ (the Hebrew word for spirit or breath of life) was mentioned. Ruach might be used to refer to “the highest values which motivate us”, i.e. love, compassion, tolerance, inclusiveness, justice. Expressed is this way, ‘the Ruach of life’, might give rise to an utterance of our new meaning for the word ‘God’.

Still, for those not disposed to advancing the intellectual integrity of the Church, this would seem unnecessary, even blasphemes.

Later, during the morning worship service, the congregation sang the familiar old hymn, ‘Spirit of the Living God’….

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me,
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
As I sang the words of this song, my thoughts went back to our group discussion, and I began to ask myself…. “ When we refer to the functional definition of ‘God’ as love, compassion, tolerance, inclusiveness, and justice… are we not referring to how we as humans ought interact with each other in living out our lives? Is it not a manifestation of the Ultimate expression of life itself?” And in this context are we not speaking of the ‘Spirit of a Living God’?

This thinking does not solve the confusion factor mentioned earlier, but perhaps it could serve to help those who are concerned about the baggage surrounding the word ‘God’ when used in the functional context.

I’ll let you decide…..

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Christian beliefs – Imagine for a Moment

Sunday, 1. April 2012 0:25

Imagine for a moment that there were no Christian beliefs, no religious writings. That such things as the Bible, the Torah, the Koran and other religious writings did not exist. Imagine that mans knowledge of the ancient world came exclusively from history books.

Then imagine that we, the people of the 21st century, were to decide that it was time to sit down and write an epic of our world and of the human race.

Ponder that thought, an epic of the human race, as seen exclusively through the eyes and the worldview of the people of the 21st century…. An epic that would try to explain, as best we could, the origin of the earth, the universe and life on this planet.

Knowing what we do about the cosmos and the formation of galaxies, planets and stars, do you think for one moment we would postulate the idea that a supernatural being of some sort, standing out on the edge of space, creating all that exists?

Knowing what we do about biology and the functions of the human body, do you think for one moment we would suggest that a supernatural being (of some sort) impregnated a young virgin and she gave birth to the son of this supernatural being?

Do you think we would suggest that this supernatural being, by virtue of its omnipotent power, controls the weather? That it speaks to people from the clouds, causes disease to punish, cures disease to reward?

If we were to write the history of the universe, the earth and life on earth from the point of view of an intelligent adult of the 21st century, do you think for even a nano-second we would hypothesize such nonsense?

And yet millions of otherwise honest, well-meaning, intelligent people believe these things to be literally true.

What does this say about the maturity of the human mind? What does it say about the power of the Church to control human thought patterns?

The Church can and should be an agent for change and truth in the world and it should start by becoming intellectually honest about it doctrines and dogma.

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Our Christian Beliefs About God

Friday, 23. March 2012 0:16

Our Sunday morning study group,  which makes a habit of studying Christian beliefs, has been discussing a chapter from the book ‘Philosophers and Philosophies’ titled ‘Christianity Without Belief in God’. The book is by Frederick Copleston.

 The essence of the chapter is this… For an increasing number of people, our christian beliefs in the existence of a God is becoming impossible in a sense analogous to that in which it has become impossible for most people to believe that there are elves in the forest.

It is not a case of one’s being able to demonstrate the non-existence of elves. Rather it is a case of one’s seeing no good reason for accepting the hypothesis that they do exist. The events, which might be said to be the activities of the elves, can be explained in other ways.

Analogously, in view of what seems to be the massive silence and the conspicuous inactivity of the alleged divine being, and in view of the fact that events that were once explained in terms of divine activity are now explained in other ways, belief in such a God has become a superfluous hypothesis.”

In addition to those who do not believe, there are vast numbers of Christians who would describe God in some way other than the description found in the Bible.

This, of course, is not a new discovery. Humanity has been trending in this direction for (at least) the past two hundred years. Bishop John A. T. Robertson said as much in his book, ‘Honest to God’ written in 1963. This trend is beginning to grow exponentially as the intelligence level of the nation and the world increases.

In my opinion, the Church must embrace a new understanding of God and begin to gently infuse it into the its liturgy and teachings, before the critical mass of non-belief in the traditional description of God causes the Church to fail completely. Copleston suggests the possibility of an understanding that moves “from God to god”.

It would seem to me… a new approach to religion and/or spirituality must become an urgent priority of the Church if it intends to survive the 21st century as anything more than a fringe organization among the uninformed and uneducated…

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Upgrading our Christian Beliefs

Sunday, 11. March 2012 0:47

There are 56 events recorded in the Old Testament that are called “miracles.” Some well known like the parting of the Red Sea, some not so well known like the consumption of the sacrifice in 1st Kings Ch. 18.

 What would it mean to your personal christian belief system if you were to learn that none of these events were actually historical fact but were embellishments aimed at emphasizing the importance of certain occurrences in the history of the Hebrew people?

 Many church professionals believe that if you and I were to learn that those so called miracles were not really miracles after all that such knowledge would cause you and me (the people in the pews) to throw up our hands and say, “Well, that’s it. If those “miracles” aren’t really “miracles,” I quit ! I can’t be a Christian anymore !”

 Well, I don’t— for one minute— believe that that is what any one of us would do. Most of us are adults – and have been for several years – and I believe we can intelligently process adult information without undue trauma.

 But, believe it or not, for the better part of the past three hundred years, many in the church hierarchy have purposefully withheld items of information (miracles being just one of them) from the people in the pews, on the assumption that we can’t handle such knowledge. . . . I totally disagree.

 I believe that if the church is going to survive in the 21st century, then all knowledge that the church has, about church doctrine, must be shared and known by all Christians.

 When we were children, it was  appropriate for us to be taught as children. And as adults it is appropriate for us to taught, and treated, as adults.

 You and I support the church with our time, our leadership, and our resources because we believe the church is vitally important to the well being of all humanity. And we want to see the church grow and flourish.

 We should hope that sometime soon, the church will begin to share all it’s knowledge, . . . the doubts, the questions, the certainties and uncertainties. . .  that it has been reluctant to share with us in the past.

I believe when the church becomes intellectually honest with you and me—the people in the pews, and the world at large—about our Christian beliefs, it will once again flourish and grow as a vital part of our postmodern society.

 That’s what I believe.

bb

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Does it Matter What We Believe? – Christian Beliefs

Wednesday, 4. May 2011 10:32

A few years back there was a movie called “A Few Good Men” playing in the theaters. It starred Tom Cruise and Jack Nickleson. Tom Cruise played the part of a Naval lawyer. In one courtroom scene, Jack NicklesonNickleson was on the witness stand and Cruise was interrogating him. He pointed his finger at Nickleson and in a loud voice demanded, “I want the truth.”. . . Theatergoers watched as Nickleson’s face turned red, the veins in his neck bulged and in an angry voice he replied,“You can’t handle the truth!”

For the past two hundred plus years, the “Professionals” of Christianity (the clergy, theologians, biblical scholars, professors of religion, the hierarchy of the church) have, in essence, spoken this same line to the people in the pews, regarding the truth of religion. They have covertly said over and over, “You can’t handle the truth,” . . . about God, about the Trinity, about prayer, about the virgin birth, the resurrection, original sin, atonement, heaven, hell and eternity.

For over two hundred years, the “Professionals” of Christianity (with only a few exceptions) have chosen to remain silent about the true history and authenticity of God, religion and the dogma of the Church. Opting instead to allow the myth of an immature belief system to continue unabated; by maintaining an “Our father who art in heaven” theology.

But now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, intelligence is beginning to overtake the silence of the Church. More than just a few of the Church “Professionals” are breaking rank. They are talking and writing about the true understanding of gods and goddesses, religion and “faith.”

Some – who would squelch this new truth – object on the grounds that the people in the pews should believe what ever they want to believe. If the old belief (myth) system gives them comfort, leave it alone. After all, many of them . . .”can’t handle the truth.”

My question to you is . . . Does it matter? . . . Does it make one “hoot” of difference what the masses believe?

I believe that it does.

It is a well known fact that ‘what a person believes will affect how he acts.’  If one believes there is a supernatural being, “up there” or “out there’”who will hear and answer prayer, it lessens one’s feeling of personal responsibility. “I will pray for the hungry, the homeless . . . and God will care for them.”

If one believes that his/her “Holy Book” contains the inerrant word of God, and the moral law(s) for all time, then all debate over moral issues is dead.

If one believes that his/her “Holy Book” contains the inerrant word of God, he/she might be persuaded to strap on a vest full of explosives, walk into a crowd of innocent people and blow one’s self up.

If one believes that his/her “Holy Book” contains the inerrant word of God, he/she might feel compelled to bomb an abortion clinic, to drop “smart” bombs on a city of two million people, or to suggest “taking out” the leader of a foreign country.

Belief in a God and/or an ancient book, is a belief based on lack of knowledge. Twenty-first century knowledge explains how when and where Gods and Goddesses and those ancient books came from, and renders such belief systems impotent. Facts, evidence, reason and just a little bit of logic must prevail if the human race is to mature beyond it’s current state.

Yes, I know all the arguments about leaving room for the spiritual and the transcendent and not wanting to disturb Granny and her comfort zone . . . but such right brain (emotional) thinking is bringing the world closer and closer to the brink of disaster.

Richard Holloway, Bishop of Edinburgh, in his book,  Godless Morality writes:

”it is better to leave God out of the moral debate and find good human reasons for supporting the system or approach we advocate, without having recourse to divinely clinching arguments. We have to offer sensible approaches that will help us to pick our way through the moral maze that confronts us.”

It is time for all religions to become honest . . . and first of all, honest with themselves.

That’s what I believe . . . but then, I could be wrong.

Barry E. Blood

Copyright © 2009

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