What divides Christians and non-believers|290|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Oct 13, 2015.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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    What divides Christians and non-believers|290|
    by Alex Tsakiris | Oct 13 | Spirituality

    Biblical Scholar Joel Watts looks at what Christians don’t know about Christianity.
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    photo by: Bolton

    We’re conditioned to believe the cultural and political divide between Christians an non-believers is a matter of worldview and faith. Atheistic science-types are trying to rescue us from ignorance while believers are saving our soul from a culture that’s lost it’s moral compass. But these hardened battle lines leave most of us out of the equation. Polls measuring religiosity consistently find, “spiritual but not religious” among the fastest growing segment. Maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at what really divides Christians and non-believers.

    Join Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Biblical scholar Joel Watts, author of Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark:
     
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  2. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Alex's question at the end of the interview:

    How do we reconcile the experiential reality of Christ consciousness (as experienced by mystics and NDErs for example) with the apparent fact of Christianity as an invention?
     
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  3. chotki

    chotki Member

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    What if "we" say none of the above? What if "we" don't think it was "invented" as if people in togas in a smoky room hashed out a plan? Who is this "we" anyways?
     
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  4. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    How do we reconcile the experiential reality of Christ consciousness (as experienced by mystics and NDErs for example) with the apparent fact of Christianity as an invention? Was it invented by:
    • The Romans to control the masses
    • Jewish rebels trying to rally the troops
    • Gospel writers trying to counterbalance the attempt by the Romans to influence Christianity and rewrite history
    --or (as Alex thinks) some strange combination of all of these?

    You know, I've been a bit baffled/nonplussed by the inside baseball that's been going on in the last two episodes of Skeptiko, but finally, Alex has got to his real point with this question (which it was hard to extract from his closing statement, so I hope I've got it right).

    It's a good question, and one that has in some sense been marinating in my mind this last couple of weeks. Say what you will, but even in the canonical literature of the four Gospels, Jesus as an archetype comes across as a remarkable figure, despite any invention that might be inferred. I mean, even if the Romans were in some way involved in a conspiracy, why would they make of Jesus a metaphysical hero who in large part contradicted everything they stood for? A figure who in brutal times refrained from and condemned violence? Why would Jewish rebels create such a figure when they believed in a messiah who would come to bring them victory by the sword? And how would the evangelists manage to rescue the situation without invoking the ire of the Romans whose conspiracy they were apparently causing to fail?

    See, we have the canonical books of the New Testament, and putative conspiracy theory, but what we don't seem to have, apart from Josephus, is any other historical memoir of what was going on. You'd think that the Romans, who were great chroniclers and recorded everything, down to the minutest details of everyday life, would have left a few sardonic hints here and there. One almost has to believe that if it was all a conspiracy, it was the most masterful example in all of history. Anyone who attempted to blow the gaff would have had to have been immediately suppressed, possibly executed. I can hardly credit the fact that everyone who might have done that would have been so perfectly erased from the record.

    Alex's belief in the reality of Christ Consciousness is one I share. I also have no doubt that the NT is largely allegorical: beautiful stories, but which nonetheless manage to convey something of the character of, and driving force behind, a person such as Jesus. Such a person has a reality in the collective mind of humanity: a feeling of rightness, such that even if he didn't actually exist, he is the archetype of what everyone should be striving to be.

    Doctrines such as the Trinity can be interpreted in useful ways, transposable to practically any religion. Man is more than man: he's also a facet of God, and Holy Spirit is the symbolic manifestation of the connection/communication between the two. Holy Spirit could be said to account for why many of us at Skeptiko feel dissatisfaction with a science that is devoid of recognition of something beyond the material. It's a shorthand term for that feeling, which expands into many areas of our scepticism, and tends to get lost in the dizzying multiplicity of ideas about our true nature. The very hostility of modern science to a transcendent dimension of reality is a potential sign of its truth. Does anyone become so vehemently against something unless, at some level, they suspect its truth? Fear its truth? Fight against its truth with every fibre of their being? The thing is, if it's true, the real fear is the apparent loss of control over one's own destiny. Better go to any length, even the denial of free will, and the acceptance of complete annihilation, than to take on board the possibility that we're all here for a reason which, ultimately, isn't under our absolute egoic control.

    I don't know how our present idea of Jesus originated. I'd agree with Alex that all sorts of extraneous influences shaped the NT, but we'll probably never know how those occurred. Was there a master craftsman, or a few master craftsmen who managed to produce it? Possibly: but I don't happen to believe that it ended up being a spectacularly botched attempt to shape history in their favour by the Romans. If it was anyone, or a few people, I believe that somehow, despite all the historical forces in play at the time, they succeeded in their aim. They produced something that has influenced millions throughout history, and I believe that even if eventually no one ends up taking it as literal truth, it has dug into the psyche of humanity and will, in its very essence, persist regardless, deeply and inextricably embedded in our societies and laws.
     
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  5. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    This is a great subject which I want to come back to after I return from my holiday.

    In brief, my feeling is that most religions start with some deep spiritual/non-material contact, but then degenerate into human organisations.

    David
     
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  6. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    My closest friend feels he has had some important parts of his faith restored by my own take on the GoT.

    I'm not christened, or religious at all, with very little exposure to religious education. Whereas he was a strong Methodist, from a family of strong Methodists.

    For many reasons, over a long period of time he left his faith.

    Yet when he first exposed me to the GoT and I gave him some of my interpretations. He later told me that because of his religious education, he found it extremely difficult to understand the sayings in the GoT, other than in the way he had been taught in Church.
     
  7. Saiko

    Saiko Member

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    I feel slightly sad about the recent focus on "let's attack Christianity." Not because that's verboten but because it's utterly pointless. It goes nowhere and offers nothing. It's been done for eons.

    The "let's attack physicalism" path that seemed to be the main point of Skeptiko does go somewhere and does offer something. A something that is greatly needed - bringing science back to what it was meant to be: a method for open exploration, not a philosophy.
     
  8. Alex

    Alex New

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    a nice set of contradictions :) I agree that no simple answer really satisfies. I suspect (as you allude to) we are looking at many characters with differing/shifting motives, over a very long time.
     
  9. chotki

    chotki Member

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    Some of us Christians are quite happy to be allies with Alex's effort. We're not who he thinks we are, either. Needless to say, we don't feel the love.
     
  10. E.Flowers

    E.Flowers New

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    Don't take this as destructive criticism... But religions have been beaten to death and I find the ongoing trend unappealing.
     
  11. erickh

    erickh New

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    As I've mentioned it makes the most sense to me that Jesus was the real deal that is to say a true way-shower or enlightened person. I suspect even his closest disciples didn't get him 100% much less as time went on. The movement as it began to grow was totally co-opted by the powers that be for their own agenda. Today's christianity is related to that co-opted movement. Of course today's christianity does contain some original teachings of Jesus but much of it would be completely unrecognizable to him. So the christ consciousness Jesus was preaching as "God's kingdom" is very real but today's Christianity is also quite invented.
     
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  12. Alex

    Alex New

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    maybe... but that history is indecipherable from the Christian texts (e.g. Bible). Given the influence this literature has (even for many Skeptiko guests) it deserves our probing.
     
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  13. Hurmanetar

    Hurmanetar New

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    Really enjoyed this interview... wish I had time to put down more thoughts on it. I think the interviews on Christianity are pretty important as anyone who wants to get a better understanding of the evolution of Western society and the overarching conspiracy for world domination and the process of societal evolution in general needs to understand the origins and development of Christianity as well as its counterparts: Satanism, and Zionism.
     
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  14. Alex

    Alex New

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    agreed... moreover, about 80% of the guests on Skeptiko have a stake in this game. they are either placating Christian silliness, or in the case of non-believers, denying it for the wrong reasons.

    funny to me that more aren't interested.

    also, I can't get over that more folks have not connected Watts' shift in position re Atwill with a deeper understanding of the overall situation.

    http://unsettledchristianity.com/joe-atwill-bill-oreilly-and-josephus-sitting-in-a-tree/
     
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  15. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    I am glad that this interview is the end of the series about what the bible and the Jesus myth really means.

    Just one point for Alex. You seem to imply that since many near death experiencers meet Jesus, this indicates that Jesus is or may be real.
    But this is not a proper interpretation of the data, in my opinion.
    I don’t think Hindu or Buddhist NDEers meet Jesus. They meet appropriate icons from their own traditions.
    In my opinion the testimony of NDEers is culturally influenced or contaminated; and to properly or scientifically interpret it, we must strip away the cultural overlays and endeavour to access the raw experiential data; what they actually experienced, as distinct from what they interpret it to have been.
    The interpretations are personally significant for the NDEer, but they cannot form the basis of a scientific analysis of the experience.
     
  16. Alex

    Alex New

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    not always. moreover, you're assuming way to much with this.

    I don't think you can get to the kind of scientific analysis you seem to be looking for. these people don't have a functioning brain! we're talking about NDE accounts that contradict almost everything we think we know about science, cultural influence and contamination.
     
  17. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    I don’t agree Alex.
    Even if the brain is not functioning, the mind clearly is, and to a heightened degree. You have often made this point yourself.

    Something is being experienced. Whatever that something is, it is being interpreted by the NDEer.
    The personal interpretation is significant for the experiencer, and can bring about life-changing alterations in the person's personality and outlook; but to get to the factuality of the something that is occurring we must bypass the personal overlays.

    That’s how we found out about stuff like physics and science generally. We had to get past the cultural and personal overlays that obstructed the factuality.

    I think we have to be very cautious about accepting the personal interpretations of the experiences as factual evidence.

    You may recall that Moody makes this point in his first book. I agree with him.
     
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  18. E.Flowers

    E.Flowers New

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    You should look up the May/James/Rashad case published by IANDS 15 years ago. In it, three different people encounter the BOL during a shared NDE and each one of them interprets it as something different... More intrigingly, they were aware of this fact during the experience.
     
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  19. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    Alex, I shared my reaction to this interview with you privately a while back, but I'll repeat some of my comments publicly here.

    I thought this was a truly fantastic interview. I didn't know what to expect when you were going to be interviewing Joel as a "reply to Atwill", and it turned out great. The way you framed the interview, in terms of what "divides" the two of you, ended up showing, it felt to me, ironically, that you were mostly in agreement (!) much of the time. Of course I think a lot of that is down to Joel being such an open guy, a real intellectual - that kind of willingness to look into the "data", and show inquisitiveness and broadmindedness about his own field of research as well as topics completely outside his realm, are just really refreshing to hear in a Christian biblical scholar.

    The segment at the end where you dig into the Josephus stuff, and my reading part of Joel's book, make me very sympathetic to his incredibly well-informed and -researched views, and demonstrates to me how much of Jesus' life events and words, as recounted, are massively filtered through the men who wrote the NT texts and the socio-literary-cultural-political contexts they happened to be living in.

    Beyond that the subjects you got into before that point are also really interesting. I especially love the part where you talk about the divide between what the laity and regular clergy believe to be established about Jesus and Christianity, and what the scholars - even the conservatives one, as Joel points us - know/discover to be true (which I get the feeling winds up being not much more specific than "there was a guy called Jesus and a movement around him"). It shows there's a huge disconnect there that doesn't get talked about enough in the wider culture (which is probably the case for most religions?), as you rightly emphasize in the interview.

    Last point: you didn't get to this, and that's OK, if would have needed maybe its own show - but given just how much Joel "deconstructs" in Christianity, I simply was left with the question of wondering on what basis Joel still calls himself a Christian?
     
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  20. Alex

    Alex New

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    maybe Moody said that 40 years ago, but today he's saying that NDE can't be understand scientificly/logicly. While I not fond of the way he frames the argument, but I get his point.
     

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