A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible
Hunc tu caveto.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Israelites started off as pagans. According to Biblical scholar Tim Callahan, the ancient Israelites believed in many of the gods as the Egyptians and the Canaanites.

But as time goes on, the Bible began to be reinterpreted. It is very easy when looking at the Bible to think it was all written at roughly the same time. We forget that the writing of the Bible spans approximately 1600 years. The Israelites were never a great nation, though they make claims to that in the Bible.

It is exactly this reason that the Bible was written over 1600 years, that there are so many contradictions and inaccuracies in the Bible. Now, people may object to this claim but any reader would see that it takes a certain amount of mental gymnastics and semantic hoop-jumping to make it seem like the Bible isn't contradictory or inaccurate.

But really, it's the story of a cultural transition, from ancient pagan traditions borrowed from neighboring cultures to the consolidation of those into one God.

El Elyon, translated as "Most High God", for example, was used by "Melchizedek, the Canaanite priest-king of Salem who sacrificed to him on Abraham's behalf. El was a sky god, creator and the grey-bearded patriarch of the Canaanite gods." (from Callahan's Secret Origins of the Bible).
You know the archaic image we all have of the bearded man in the clouds? That is El.

In Isaiah 14:12, it says, "How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!"

Gary Lenaire, a former Christian musician from the band Tourniquet, wrote in his book An Infidel Maninfesto, "In Hebrew, Day Star and Dawn are Helal and Shahar. Helal and Shahar were originally Canaanite (pagan) gods, not Satan." Satan is the common reinterpretation that many Christians have today. I imagine Lenaire got this information from Callahan's book as well.
The Jewish people adopted many ancient pagan stories, including the snake tricking the woman in the garden story (Lenaire). That story predates Genesis.

Even the name the Jewish people adopted for their God Yahweh (YHWH or YWVH) was borrowed from other people. Yahweh is the unspeakable name of God, or the Tetragrammaton. Yah was one of the gods worshipped by the Arameans (Callahan), another culture neighboring the ancient Israelites. And Yahweh was originally a part of one of the Canaanite pagan pantheon and worshipped by Canaanite tribes other than the Jews (Callahan).

It makes sense that the Jews would adopt these names into their culture because the Jewish culture was a mixture of many tribes and cultures over many centuries. All the demon and angel names, the names of gods, are from Canaanite, Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, and Persian deities (Lenaire).

Monday, June 11, 2007

I thought I'd post this just for the discussion (or disgustion?) value.When I think of cult members (i.e. Moonies, Heaven's Gate, Manson, "Satanic" cults, etc.), two words come to mind: Crazy Fanatics.

The first Christians were, of course, members of a cult, and because of that, I see them as crazy fanatics. And by "crazy fanatics", I mean the guy who would stand on a raised platform outside Jerusalem surrounded by his own feces as a testament to the Lord; or people who would mutilate themselves (usually their genitals) because they thought they sinned (or in the case Aebbe's nuns, to preserve their chastity); or never wash themselves because it was copying the infidels' practice of bathing, or chanting "to kill a Muslim is to do God's will" to passers by.

I would include the Apostles themselves in this group, as they may very well have encouraged this behavior. This was how the early Christians operated. Sure, there may have been some sane ones, kind of like there were some sane Branched Davidians who got out of the compound when they had a chance, but in the end they were your average cult members, like the Mithraists or cult of Isis who'd bathe in blood (washing away sins from the blood of the Lamb sound familiar?).

How can anyone doubt that these people would die for their faith? That's what faith does. It makes it easier to die.

Some early Christians even practiced forms of cannibalism, apparently taking literally "eat of my flesh and drink my blood". This tidbit of information I gleaned from a book called Among the Cannibal Christians by Earl Lee. And don't give me the Protestant copout excuse, "Communion is symbolism, it's just a cracker and some juice!"

Catholics and Orthodox, the descendents of the first church, literally think that eating the bread and drinking the wine is eating flesh and blood ... LITERALLY. Where'd they get that from?

Apparently, the church was formed early enough that there were people who knew the Apostles and these people could just ask them.

"Is this literally the flesh and blood of Jesus?"

And the Apostle's would say, "Yes. This is literally the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I've given it some thought. Religion, as presented through any holy text, interprets the universe in a similar manner that comic books also present their own universes.

I think arguing within the context of a particular religion is only valid within the universe created by theologians (or religion's authors), not outside in the real world. If I try to say something that is contrary to or alien to what is understood by Christians, for example, it isn't really understood and/or I am corrected by a restatement of that religion. For instance, I might say that there are contradictions in the Bible. The response would be, "Well, you gotta look at the context of the whole thing."

It's kind of like people that study Dungeons and Dragons, Star Trek or Star Wars. If I asked "If Anakin Skywalker, or even Luke Skywalker, were supposed to bring balance to the force, why is it that they only left it either in darkness (Episode 3) or in light (Episode 6), instead of there being an actual balance?"

The reply I'll get when I actually ask this question might be, "If you would've read the books that go along with the Star Wars series, you would've seen that it was actually the son of Leia and Han Solo that would bring balance to the force." Wow! And apparently, this is true, and that's what I mean. Religion is kind of like a comic book or an alternate universe that was created by people, and then others get into it and contribute more to it.

Sooner or later, the people in charge (or the original storywriters) have to authorize certain people who can contribute to the universe (this is what George Lucas did with a few authors of Star Wars books, this is what the Pope had to do when the Catholic Church had to choose which books to keep in the New Testament, and which to throw out).

Anyhow, the difference between religion or a comic book universe is that the barrier that we have to distinguish fiction from reality isn't there anymore. These religions were created so long ago, during a time in which people really were able to believe these things, that of course stories like the Flood were widely accepted then.

Today, however, we have scientific evidence to deter any new religions (though maybe not cults) from appearing again, but we're still stuck with the same old ones. Why? Because they predate modern scientific methods. And because these religion predate modern scientific methods, we are left with the lingering doubt of each religion: "What if they are true?"

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ever hear of Plato's allegory in the cave? To sum it up, imagine that from birth you and some other people lived in a cave with your head and neck restrained by chains so that you are forced to look at the wall in front of you.

Imagine that there is a fire behind you and people walk by carrying different shapes, the shadows of which are cast on the wall in front of you. To you, this would be reality and you would think the shadows are real.
Imagine, after 20 years, you are unchained and brought up to the light for the first time in your life. You would be almost blinded, confused, but eventually your eyes will adjust and you will come to understand your situation.
How would you feel if you were taken back down into the cave again. Would you feel bad about any others who live in the cave and not experienced the light? Would you be able to come back to the position where you occupied before, that the world is shadows and flickering light? If you tried to convince the other people in the cave that there is another world out there of blinding light, would they believe you, having never experienced the things that you tell them?

In this context, Plato, in the allegory of the cave, is talking about the relationship between knowledge and ignorance.

In whichever state we are in, we have become adapted to it and view everything as "reality" from that perspective. No one has knowledge of the state they are in, except when they are in the process of changing it. Another element that Plato introduces is the concept that there is only one way that one can become knowledgeable, as it is impossible to become more ignorant short of brain damage.

I am here, and right now I feel like those in the cave. I think I know what's going on. If someone were to argue with me about an arbitrary subject like the existence of a specific God like Allah or Jehovah, I am confident that I can hold my own. If someone debates politics with me, I have confidence that my position is more reasonable. Most of the time, this is how I feel. However, being in the cave and being in the light are relative positions. After all, it is quite possible I'll experience some enlightenment or acquire new knowledge that will further illuminate my mind.

The acquiring of new knowledge or the experience of a bizarre revelation or a great idea is the only time where a difference is perceived. The new wrinkle in the brain is the same thing as suddenly walking into the light, a mixture of wonder and confusion, followed briefly by the sensation of understanding and wonder.

However, after we become accustomed to this and adopt the new bit of knowledge to the library in our brain, we revert back into the normal condition until the next revelation. But what happens if I am put in the position which I held before the revelation, or around people that believed what I once did?

For instance, I used to belong to a particular religion. After a Philosophy class, I was imbued with knowledge that enlightened me and led me away from this religion. It was simple logic that showed to me that the belief in specific gods was problematic, especially if the God is all-powerful and all-knowing. Now I don't believe that and it has become second nature to do so.

When I am around people of this religious group, I feel alienated and almost sympathetic for them, because to me it is a delusion that they are living with. I even try to explain it to them. This is like the man who saw the light being led back down to the cave again. It is impossible to get back into the same state of mind because a new bit of knowledge had been acquired, mainly that there is an entirely different world out there. And the people whom I try to explain things to, think I am crazy and delusional.

Someone may say that it is possible to know the objective truth, and if we happen to know that truth, we would always be in the right. I'd argue that by saying that we wouldn't really know, because to think we have knowledge is a state that we always occupy until new knowledge comes by and ruins the thought. So, it is best to keep an open mind and heart, and hear out the various explanations of truth, and adopt only those things that ring true.

So, in essence we are all living in Plato's cave, and if we study and seek knowledge always, we will continuously be enlightening ourselves. If we stay where we are intellectually and don't seek knowledge and truth, it will be as if we are in the cave again. I'm not saying that we will become more ignorant, but that we won't become more knowledgeable.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bernadette Roberts is a Catholic nun who has reached a state that she calls No-self."

Roberts said in her book; The Experience of No Self, the moment this happened it felt like a great blowing out, an intense outward leap of the "living flame within". She felt the awesome presence of God, like a feeling of ecstasy. However, after this union with God both the experience of God and the experience of self fell away. In her words, after that blowing out, the world seems "dull" in comparison.

What I got out of reading her book, is that most people's experience of God, the common way that they "feel" God's presence, is really the sense of their desire for God; but not God itself (ding an sich). When our sense of self vanishes, so to does God the concept, the thing of which we desire, dissipate. As a Christian, this was her interpretation of the events. And I'd recommend reading her book, though it is a very rare find indeed.

Buddhists report something very similar when they reach Enlightenment; and so to do Hindus. In fact, Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) described his experience under the Bodhi tree in a very similar way as Roberts' attainment of No-Self. It's not a coincidence that mystics in general, of all religions, experience the same thing but refer to it with different words.

When these individual people describe this universal experience, which Sigmund Freud called "the oceanic feeling", they can only describe it in the religion and culture that they are familiar with.

Bernadette Roberts was a Catholic nun, and Siddhartha came out of Hinduism and was starting something different.

Our minds are limited only to the symbols and language it has at its disposal to make sense of the world around it and what it is perceiving. It can only compare its experiences with what it already knows.

I don't care if you're an Apologist, a Flat Earther, a scientist, a Protestant or Catholic, Muslim cleric, or Hindu shaman. We all operate with the same mechanism inside our brain.

We sense side effects of the world around us (light, sound, etc.) and we interpret these things against what we already know.

If it's agreeable, it is incorporated into our system of knowledge. And if not, we either find ways to work around the information in order to continue believing what we believe, or we might change our beliefs, or we'll simply pass it off as nonsense.

This is, of course, unavoidable, but it helps to know that this process is always going on. Our mind is the great Editor; continuously dropping inconsistencies in order to have things fit together.

While stilling the mind and the ego is something that only a few people have done, even these people can only interpret that experience from their own frame of reference.

What is the significance of this? It means that while we can share the same experiences in any religion, we cannot help but interpret that experience as meaning something that confirms our beliefs.

Friday, June 01, 2007

I've got a gripe that I'd like to address.

A few times my in-laws and/or relatives have tried to preach to me. They are used to the type of people who just sit there and nod their heads in agreement, or the majority of people who simply ignore them.

But that's not what I do.

I tell them what I believe, and I believe that their ideas are false and are detrimental to society. I have thought long and hard on my own philosophies in life, and I'm not shy about voicing them. Don't get me wrong, I listen to them. But all too often it is like listening to a skipped CD, the same thing over and over again.

As the wise ones say, "You've got to have faith" is something people tell you so you will believe what they are going to say next.

It seems that because I'm willing to stand up for my own beliefs and oppose their's, I've been labeled by a few of my most pious family members as the Lord of Darkness. Well, they don't call me the "Lord of Darkness", they call me things like "El Diablo" or "The Devil".

Sure, they're my in-laws, and I guess traditionally in-laws aren't always the greatest relatives in the world, but that still makes me feel uncomfortable when I'm around them. It kind of sucks being forced (which I am compelled to do) to pretend being nice to someone (an in-law) who nicknames you El Diablo.

Some of the smiles and hugs given to me, I am sure, have been blessed with holy water and anointing oil. The nickname "El Diablo" would be cool if I really was some bad @$$, but they call me that because

a) I'm not Christian

b) I am able to state why I'm not a Christian, and

c) I can tell them why they shouldn't be one either.

The funny thing is they won't say, "You're the Devil" to me. They say it when I'm not around and then other people tell me what they say. Sometimes, when I am around, they'll say it in hushed tones, and I can definitely hear those. But being somewhat understanding of their position, having been there myself, I simply turn the other cheek. Basically, I just let it slide.
Well, the funniest story of something like that occurring happened last October, and it takes the form of a short and humorous tale:

It was Halloween. The same night that the Celts thought spirits of the dead can enter the realm of the living. I didn't see these spirits as I was stuck in traffic, trying to head to Riverside so I can be with my daughter on her first trick-or-treating adventure. I was, ironically enough, dressed like the devil. Well, I just had horns on and that's it (but they were really cool horns).

For two and a half hours I pressed on through the highways, the sky darkened and the landscape changed from urban to hilly to rural. Obviously, I didn't make it in time to be there for my daughter, and I was really bummed out because she was the main reason for my trek.
My wife informed her mother (in the recent past I've had a few "debates" with her mother, and she wound up getting really angry) before I got there that, "Andy's the Devil." My wife meant, of course, my costume.

And her mom said, "I know ... you're getting tired of his shit, too?"

My wife looked at her mom and said, "I mean his costume. He's dressed as the devil."

I thought that was pretty funny.