Mod+ 275. MARK VERNON, IS CHRISTIANITY WORTH SAVING?

#41
Jesus represents a certain kind of spiritual awareness, whether or not he personally did or said everything reported in the NT: an awareness that manifests itself in love and compassion, something most of us find very hard outside our immediate circle of family and friends. It's a picture of someone of great knowledge--and the courage arising from that--in the face of ignorance.

It's useful to meditate on that, and to try to emulate it. In the beginning, it's an effort, but with practice, we can begin to experience a little of how and where it originates. We can have little victories where we manage to refrain from making the usual thoughtless response, thereby noticing that most of the way we behave is automatic. Practice like this makes us realise that we are beings of free will who can control our reactions, which in time, can come to arise from a different centre, where we can see others as they have the potential to be.

IMO, the story of Jesus is one of overcoming the ego; he's portrayed as being permanently centred in this place of freedom. For some, being subjected to compassion in the face of their automatism effected change; for others, they weren't ready, and, so the story goes, they crucified him.

Literally true or not, the story is instructive: every day, we indulge in little crucifixions of others, and they, of us. But if we can accept their crucifixions and resist the temptation to reply in like kind, as well as avoiding the temptation to congratulate ourselves for our forbearance (just another ego-based response), we can nurture increased freedom of action.

This is a living teaching: it isn't about "studying ancient texts in microscopic detail". You and I can apply it right now, in this very moment. Maybe your intuition has led you to this discovery independently of Christianity: but somehow I doubt that. I think it likely that the story, which you're aware of, has had some part to play in shaping your responses to others.
well said!

I think we should strive to make this distinction explicit. As Marks says in the interview, "trying to save Christianity for its own sake is the surest way to kill it."
 
#42
http://www.skeptiko.com/241-joseph-atwill-repsonds-to-caesars-messiah-critics/
So first of all, the question I want to ask is if that is accurate? Does your theory hinge on there being no historical evidence for Christianity prior to 73 A.D.?

Joseph Atwill: Well no, in fact there was Christianity prior to 73. It of course depends on how you’re using the term. I would say that the messianic movement that rebelled against Rome was a kind of Christianity. Christ simply means ‘anointed’ in Greek and it is just referring to the relationship between a Jewish leader and God.
How does Atwill reconcile this with the fact that Paul's letters referring to Jesus were written before 66 AD the year Paul died. Many of these letters are considered genuine by most scholars (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauline_epistles#Authenticity)

http://www.biblestudytools.com/nkjv/romans/
Romans 1 NKJV
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in
the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was
born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the
Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.​
move these Atwill posts to that thread or start a new one.
 
#43
This is such a complicated loaded question to answer, I don't even know where to begin, so I guess I'll speak from experience: I've spent most of my life a part of the church. It has benefited myself and others, but after leaving it behind a couple of years ago, I felt like a huge weight was lifted. Attempting to be positive, I haven't stopped to really contemplate the ways it was damaged myself or others. I see it as an imperfect system that was better than nothing and rafted me across the river. My current paradigm feels so right and good and better than the fundamentalist Christian paradigm. But I don't know how I would have gotten here without going through that. It is a question I think about a lot considering what will happen if I raise children. By teaching them what I know now (or think I know) am I truly giving them a pain-saving shortcut or would I be denying them a critical part of their developmental journey? I could never be a part of a fundamentalist church again without stirring up all kinds of problems, but I have considered looking for a non-fundamentalist church to occasionally attend, which is strange because when I was a fundamentalist I had a lot of disdain for the wishy-washy insincere Christians who didn't go by exactly what the Bible said. They weren't really serious about Truth and just wanted a social club, I thought. Since I am more familiar with Christianity than any other religion and know the Bible inside and out, it makes sense for me to try and reform it from the inside rather than leave it behind altogether. Just not sure I'm ready to jump back into it yet!
cool. thx for sharing this.

I suspect that your openness will inoculate your kids from most of the Christian craziness... I used, "I'm not sure" with my kids.
 
#44
I believe the Catholic Church should be held to account for those many centuries of repression and abuses. Let's all take a share of their worldly treasure, much of it 'blood money'.
 
#45
Is Christianity worth saving is a question that demands a definition of Christianity first, and there we have many problems. The original faith was eschatological [it anticipated an end]. Some say Jesus had such a vision, and so did Paul, who expected that end in his lifetime. Hence, in certain important respects the faith continued because it got wrong a fundamental element. It should not have survived a century. The fact that it did arises because it underwent a number of transformations from the original Jesus message. The most critical was the Nicene Creed in 325, which, in typical committee fashion, established a number of fantasies as critical attributes of faith. Post the fall of the Roman Empire the Church took on a powerful role in law making [something that would have unsettled Paul] for the emergent Western civilisation. Larry Siedentop's 'Inventing the Individual', published this year is a brilliant exploration of the faith in the evolution of our notion of the individual. The implications of Siedentop's thesis are worth thinking through in great depth and I commend the book to all.

The root of Christianity is Jesus and his ideas and I suggest these are universal and have no need of branding. Paul took that sense of universality and then locked it into a nexus between history and myth that has serve no good end since. The resultant notion of Christ as the divine made flesh in history has been profoundly disruptive and delusional. We can do without that.

We are left with Christians as a community and here we have the problem of distinguishing between a culture of doing good works and a culture of pernicious dogma that derive from the Pauline influence and reaching back into the Judaic tradition. I feel for Jews in that I think Christianity's exposure of their tradition to all and sundry was an act of unkind colonisation, and I want to ignore it, not out of disregard, but out of respect. It is not public property. So, so far as the good people doing good works are concerned I think they'd do that no matter what faith tradition they had. So the there is no need to preserve the faith to get good works. In fact there is much more good done in the name of secular agencies these days, so if the church evaporated overnight there would be little real loss that could not be accommodated in other agencies. The old Christian logic was that goodness was exclusively a faith in Jesus matter, and that is not true, demonstrably.

But what we do need to preserve is a conscious sense of our cultural history, so that we can collectively understand what values and reflexes in belief and thought are conditioned or influenced by the faith in the wider secular and even atheistic community [I like John Gray's observation that atheism is merely a later and less intellectually sophisticated Christian heresy - Black Mass]. In a sense this is no more than a case of knowing your enemy, but it insists that the enemy is to be known and not merely dismissed as an unfortunate and inconsequential mistake.

If you are disposed to dismissing Christianity as an historical affair that does not touch you do please read Siedentop, and then bear in mind he does not even touch the metaphysical dimension. So yes, preserve it in the way we'd preserve any scene of crime and corpse for autopsy. But let us also acknowledge that within its tangled branches real good was done, if for no other reason than those who intended to do good had only that faith available to them. Faiths do not make people good. At best the give good people an avenue to act.
 
#46
If someone wanted to improve Christianity, I would suggest figuring out which churches do it right and then analyze and document how they do it so other people can reproduce the phenomenon. And by "churches" I don't mean denominations, I mean individual churches. How are they run? What's in the sermons? And by "do it right" I mean they don't drive people away from the religion, they don't produce atheists, they don't preach fear, they do preach love, and the members demonstrate love, charity, tolerance, honesty, community service etc. Certain forms of Christianity have something unique that is immensely beneficial to individuals and to civilization and that should be studied and cultivated and not lost in an effort to bring Christianity into the 21st century.
 
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#47
People are still seeing Jesus



If you don't believe Jesus was a real person, but people see Jesus during NDE's how does that influence your understanding of what an NDE is?
 
#49
If we accept that an afterlife exists then surely there will be billions of beings 'over there' and one would expect life there to be as diverse and as rich as that found here on earth. So, how do we know that there are not beings 'over there' getting a kick out of playing around with NDE experiencers? Pranksters. Some OBE experiencers have said as much.

Do Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus all see Jesus or do some see Mohammed or Buddha? How do we know these people are actually seeing Jesus? Maybe people believe they saw Jesus?

Jesus may well have been a real person but I haven't seen any real solid evidence to suggest he was anything other than human or that he has actually been seen by anyone. How sure can we be about any of this?

I did enjoy the show.
 
#50
Certain forms of Christianity have something unique that is immensely beneficial to individuals and to civilization and that should be studied and cultivated and not lost in an effort to bring Christianity into the 21st century.
I think it might relate to this:

A lot of our social problems might be due to the fact that empathic thinking and analytical thinking are mutually exclusive.
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/252241.php

Brain Can't Empathize And Analyze At Same Time, New Study

Scientists have discovered that the brain circuits we engage when we think about social matters, such as considering other people's views, or moral issues, inhibit the circuits that we use when we think about inanimate, analytical things, such as working on a physics problem or making sure the numbers add up when we balance our budget. And they say, the same happens the other way around: the analytic brain network inhibits the social network.

Perhaps the study, led by researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, in the US, and reported early online on 27 October in the journal NeuroImage, explains why some business leaders sometimes overlook the public relations consequences of their cost-cutting exercises.
Materialism and capitalism (and scientism) cultivate analytical thinking while de-emphasizing empathic thinking. However Christianity emphasizes empathic thinking so it might hold a solution to the problems caused by materialism.
"Materialism and capitalism (and scientism) cultivate analytical thinking while de-emphasizing empathic thinking. However Christianity emphasizes empathic thinking so it might hold a solution to the problems caused by materialism."
 
#52
If we accept that an afterlife exists then surely there will be billions of beings 'over there' and one would expect life there to be as diverse and as rich as that found here on earth. So, how do we know that there are not beings 'over there' getting a kick out of playing around with NDE experiencers? Pranksters. Some OBE experiencers have said as much.

Do Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus all see Jesus or do some see Mohammed or Buddha? How do we know these people are actually seeing Jesus? Maybe people believe they saw Jesus?

Jesus may well have been a real person but I haven't seen any real solid evidence to suggest he was anything other than human or that he has actually been seen by anyone. How sure can we be about any of this?

I did enjoy the show.
I agree! We make certain assumptions about the afterlife almost without thinking:

1) There will be only nice guys, or the others will be in a different place.

2) The place will be rather uniform - no red light districts or science labs!

3) New arrivals will have everything explained fairly soon after they arrive.

4) There won't be any humour or practical jokes!

5) We will all recognise that our lives on Earth were necessary for our development.

Conceivably there is an afterlife where none of these is true!

David
 
#53
I agree! We make certain assumptions about the afterlife almost without thinking:

1) There will be only nice guys, or the others will be in a different place.

2) The place will be rather uniform - no red light districts or science labs!

3) New arrivals will have everything explained fairly soon after they arrive.

4) There won't be any humour or practical jokes!

5) We will all recognise that our lives on Earth were necessary for our development.

Conceivably there is an afterlife where none of these is true!

David
While this may be true, I think there is evidence that the "other side" is "regulated". There are many things which NEVER happen so, in my opinion, somebody (God?) is preventing these things. Why don't we see:
-Mediums who get lottery numbers.
-Mediums who are absolutely consistent and so could go on TV and nail it to the satisfaction of the skeptics.
-Ghosts who want to go on TV and appear for the camera.
-etc

So, what I am really saying, is that the empirical evidence seems to me to indicate that it is not the wild west on the "other side". To me that is evidence of God (or higher power or whatever word you want to use but evidence of something conscious not something woolly). Of course, skeptics would say it is evidence that there is no "other side" and they do, of course, have a point.
 
#54
If someone wanted to improve Christianity, I would suggest figuring out which churches do it right and then analyze and document how they do it so other people can reproduce the phenomenon. And by "churches" I don't mean denominations, I mean individual churches. How are they run? What's in the sermons? And by "do it right" I mean they don't drive people away from the religion, they don't produce atheists, they don't preach fear, they do preach love, and the members demonstrate love, charity, tolerance, honesty, community service etc. Certain forms of Christianity have something unique that is immensely beneficial to individuals and to civilization and that should be studied and cultivated and not lost in an effort to bring Christianity into the 21st century.
The Quakers - https://www.quaker.org.uk/aboutquakers
 
#55
Why don't we see:
-Mediums who get lottery numbers.
-Mediums who are absolutely consistent and so could go on TV and nail it to the satisfaction of the skeptics.
-Ghosts who want to go on TV and appear for the camera.
-etc
Though I don't dispute your comment on 'regulation', let's just assume that the only thing which matters is love. Then, none of your examples (except perhaps in some convoluted way), none of these things demonstrate love. It's not that they are prevented, just that they are not prioritised. If they were given priority it would undermine and hide the message of love.
 
#56
Though I don't dispute your comment on 'regulation', let's just assume that the only thing which matters is love. Then, none of your examples (except perhaps in some convoluted way), none of these things demonstrate love. It's not that they are prevented, just that they are not prioritised. If they were given priority it would undermine and hide the message of love.
I agree with your point. I also agree that, somehow, only love matters and I feel a need to live that a bit more... That is the big message. Hard to do in everyday life sometimes.

I suppose what I am really saying is that the "other side" is deliberately evasive. This is why paranormal stuff is a "backwater" because nothing sufficiently concrete happens to prove anything. How is that possible? To me, there are only two solutions: i) all this stuff is rubbish (the skeptic view) ii) the paranormal is tightly regulated to retain "plausible deniability". So, this then is another data point to join the existing data points (as explored by Skeptiko guests). There are too sorts of data: i) things which exist and we can examine/talk about etc ii) things which don't exist which we might expect to exist. It is these latter data points that I think should be explored more fully as they are currently ignored.

To me this specific data point (plausible deniability) is an especially interesting data point as it is true through all paranormal phenomena so it shows a "link" between or single source of all these phenomena. Also, the logistics of maintaining plausible deniability (no dropped bolts by UFOs, no good photos of UFOs, no ghosts on TV talk shows, no lottery numbers, no unequivocal precognitive dreams etc) are to my mind, God like in scope. Every alien teenager is held in line (zero of them land on the White House lawn), every ghost stays off TV, every precognitive dream leaves out critical details etc. So, I see "God" behind it because nobody else has the logistical wherewithal to pull it off. Only God never makes mistakes.

This plausible deniability is why the skeptic narrative is still the one accepted by the general public. Is that an accident?
 
#57
Alan, what you say makes sense and adds together pretty well. However, the more I look at sceptical behaviour and the arguments used, the less I can really accept 'plausible deniability' as valid. From my perspective at least, the denial by sceptics involves most implausible twists and distortions, plus ignoring of evidence, so I guess I'm tending towards a different view, where all the evidence we need is already here (though there's always room for more). The key point really is the not small matter of free will. No-one is forced to follow a path which they don't freely choose.
 
#58
Alan, what you say makes sense and adds together pretty well. However, the more I look at sceptical behaviour and the arguments used, the less I can really accept 'plausible deniability' as valid. From my perspective at least, the denial by sceptics involves most implausible twists and distortions, plus ignoring of evidence, so I guess I'm tending towards a different view, where all the evidence we need is already here (though there's always room for more).
I agree that sustained study of all the evidence leads to the conclusion that there is something here. But people have lives to live, money to make, children to care for etc. Most people don't have the time to make this sustained effort. Also, the effort appears to yield nothing practical. My interest in the paranormal has not made me any money and has not made me a happier person. Perhaps I am better informed about what I need to do (more love) but it hasn't really improved my ability to realise this in practical terms. Sometimes I wish I had never looked into any of this. Life would be simpler.

The key point really is the not small matter of free will. No-one is forced to follow a path which they don't freely choose.
Exactly! No-one is forced to follow a path which they don't freely choose.
 
#59
I agree that sustained study of all the evidence leads to the conclusion that there is something here. But people have lives to live, money to make, children to care for etc. Most people don't have the time to make this sustained effort. Also, the effort appears to yield nothing practical. My interest in the paranormal has not made me any money and has not made me a happier person. Perhaps I am better informed about what I need to do (more love) but it hasn't really improved my ability to realise this in practical terms. Sometimes I wish I had never looked into any of this. Life would be simpler.
I can understand that. I don't think this is a one-size-fits-all scenario. What is useful to one person may be a wasteful distraction to another. But I think the human experience aspect is perhaps the most important. It isn't a matter of coming up with some sort of scientific breakthrough. Rather such things as NDEs and various other phenomena give us a better idea of who we are, what it means to be human. But not to the exclusion of all else. Those who never have any such experiences also contribute to telling us what it means to be human too.
 
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