September 20, 2005

Essays Unwritten

Religion is a tricky thing. It has a lot of baggage attached to it, for one thing. Multiple interpretations make things problematic for another. Interpretations of language, intent, etc, etc, etc.

Looking at religion from a historical point of view, you run into other people's prejudices at every turn. Explaining religion from a historical point of view, you often have trouble overcoming the reader's struggle between spirituality and cold, hard facts.

Religion isn't about cold, hard facts. It's about faith. Faith. The belief in something without scientific proof. People cherish their faith and protect it. They can get testy if they think you're attacking it--even if you're not attacking their beliefs.

In the evolution debate, science is challenging faith. Some people do not look at the Bible as a collection of writings made by human beings with their own biases, political agendas, and levels of writing skill. Some people truly believe the Bible is the Word of God. On some level, I envy those people, because I will never be that spiritual.

I look at the Bible very differently. I find it historically interesting, but not something that can be taken at face value. The story of Creation seems to me very similar to other mythological stories that explain the origins of the universe. The writer of the Book of Matthew seems to me to have a serious anti-Semitic agenda to promote.

I have frequently thought about writing pieces on the birth of Christianity and how it relates to anti-Semitism. And I hesitated. I didn't think I could do either subject justice. I didn't think I knew enough about Christianity, and I didn't think I could truly give anti-Semitism the examination it deserves.

But I think I'll try. Of course, it will be from a historical point of view. At the very least, it may make for some interesting conversation. So stay tuned.

Posted by Jennifer at September 20, 2005 04:03 PM | TrackBack

(This comment deleted per Rev. Mike's request.)

Posted by: Rev. Mike at September 20, 2005 06:17 PM

You have read Joseph Campbells The Power of Myth I hope. If not, do so. It is a great book, as are all of Campbells works.

Great post. for thought.

(btw, brought here by Basil's)

Posted by: kender at September 21, 2005 12:34 PM

I understand *completely* what you write about here...

Posted by: Jack at September 21, 2005 03:11 PM

Sorry to see Rev.Mike's quote gone, it was good.

Have to disagree about Joseph Campbell though. Find him to be quite shallow, and intelectually self-congratualtory.

In any case, PLEASE don't take the Bible to be anything it is not, and don't take the secularist line about "faith being about something without proof". The evidence for Christianity is quite strong, stronger than for many things that are commonly believed. What stops people from believing is not "lack of proof" but unwillingness to make the personal lifestyle changes belief would require. In namy cases (Fatima, Lourdes, Padre Pio, for instance) the non-Christian explanations become so strained, silly, and intelectually dishonest that Occams Razor comes down on the side of belief.

More importanly, remember that the Bible is the INSPIRED word of God. Some people think this means it came out of some divine version of Barnes and Noble, with God proofing the galleys personally. That is simply false. The New Testament is more accuate (in the historical sense of the word) than the Old, this is true. In fact the New Testament is not bad as first hand ancient history goes. (Loosing the Library of Alexandria cost us so much primary source material.) That being said, the Bilbe was not designed to be a history book, or a physics text, or a primer on paleo-biology, or a study guide for high temp plasma physics, or a cookbook. The Bible is the result of a divine, perfect, allmighty and eternal spirit being trying to explain the realities of life and the greater Universe to humans. Screwed up, self centered, unbelievably stupid humans. Explaining to humans the idea that life is eternal and the physical universe is temporary... this must be akin to trying to teach quantum mechanics to a Labrador Retriver. If you were God how would you explain The Big Bang to a barely literate mesopotamian shepard? Now explain it in a way that someone in the 7th century B.C., the 4th century A.D., the 20th Century A.D. and the 35th century A.D. will all find it relevant to them. More importantly how would you explain the Big Bang to the barely literate mesopotamian shepard when explaining the Big Bang isn't the real point in the first place?
The real point is of course to teach humans how to live, how to live with each other, and how to gain eternal salvation; not how the Big Bang was accomplished, how the galaxies were made, or what went into the evolution of homo sapiens.

So I'm saying that when one considers the Bible, one should consider it in terms of what it is and what it is designed to do. Honest people don't criticize submarines because they don't fly well, or fighter jets because they aren't good for taking the kids to school, or SUV's because they can't hit supersonic speed.

Posted by: Larry Rasczak at September 22, 2005 06:45 AM

Thanks, Larry, but Jen's blog is for people (like me) who wish to read what Jen has to write. I inadvertently was stealing her thunder on this topic, which I never thought about since I am a man and thus have a genetic predisposition towards insensitivity -- just call it a consequence of the Fall. ;) I have a blog of my own if people want to read what I have to say, so I asked Jen to delete the comment in order to keep her own options open.

Posted by: Rev. Mike at September 23, 2005 05:35 PM