An Introduction Part One: Who I Am

An Introduction Part One: Who I Am

I once happened to find myself wandering through a New York City bookstore one afternoon when I stumbled across a section called “Christian Fiction.” Imagine my surprise when I found no trace of a Bible! Is not the term “Christian Fiction” something of a redundancy, an oxymoronic play of words? For is not all of Christianity, and thereby the Bible, just fiction, fantastical stories from the minds of over-imaginative primates struggling to grasp the answers to their surroundings, the very keys to the universe they are a part of, bottled and sold still by a corrupt ad hypocritical regime of the “Holier-Than-Thous” and bought and consumed still by those so afraid to think for themselves, those individuals for whom logic and reason is so easily overridden by the briberies of a paradise after this life in exchange for servitude and a “pick and choose” application of archaic, sometimes contradictory, and often oppressive, laws and edicts?

Were it that I were still able to curl up in my mother’s arms and believe her tales of Santa Claus with visions of sugarplums still dancing in my head, to be childlike and impressionable and susceptible to every early indoctrination, then, and only then, would I know truly what it is to be called “Christian,” for did not Jesus himself allegedly say that, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) Not at all those who call themselves “Christians,” however, are ignorant and hypocritical. Quite the contrary, while they may be misguided, there are a great many who accept the differences in others while simultaneously understanding that the Scripture on which their faith is based upon is something allegorical and figurative, rather than a literal and historical account of what has been, is, and ever shall be. I have been invited here to present a series of dissertations against those we shall the “Literalists.” These are the men and women of the Christian faith (which sect, pick one!) who claim the Bible is perfectly true, historically accurate, and “straight from God’s brain to [their] hands,” to quote one Bartholomew J. Simpson.

Throughout the course of what I hope will be several weeks, I shall be providing various commentaries and arguments on topics ranging from how religion in general, and Christianity in specific, is inherently divisive, to the incompatibility of an omniscient God with a truly free will, from how the Virgin Mary was likely anything but to the historical and even blatant textual inaccuracies in the whole of the Bible, particularly, for the sake of this website, in the New Testament, from “Tastes great!” to “Less filling!” Be forewarned: I will ramble at times. I will draw examples from sports, from history, from television shows, from hypothetical situations to argue my points. I will be sarcastic at times, yet serious, firm, and yet fair. I will draw upon such sources as the Bible itself, Gnostic texts, alternative texts such as those by Timothy Freke, scholarly texts such as those by Shelby Spong, and philosophical texts such as those by David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Plato, Aristotle, and Martin Smith. For the other side of the argument, I will address those with stronger arguments such as C.S. Lewis and Father William O’Malley, the latter of which was a mentor of mine in high school and college, and those with weaker but more forceful arguments such as Jerry Falwell and Lee Strobel, the latter of which uses his “journalistic skills” and takes the notion that since no one ever recovered Jesus’ body, that is proof of the Resurrection. That’s some fine detective work there, Mr. Strobel. Perhaps Jesus is hanging out with Hoffa sipping lattes somewhere in the Southwest then?

My purpose here is not to prove that Christianity is wrong per se, but rather that it simply is not correct. There is a difference. Christianity, the spirit of it, the core of it all, is something I find to be very real. There is a certain beauty and comfort in the belief that after all of the hardships of life, there is a better place for us all. Where Christianity crosses the line is where it begins to dictate who gets that better place and how they get there. Despite the messages of inclusiveness, once you define yourself and your fellow believers as possessing criteria A, B, and C, you automatically by extension create an “Other,” those who possess criteria D through Z, i.e. those who do not belong. This divisiveness is at the heart of every religion, no matter what benignity it clothes itself in disguise. This is an attack, for lack of a less militaristic word, on the Literalists to, quite simply, show them the errancy of inerrancy. So, hang on tight and bear with me as I lose my “blogging virginity” here and I promise to do my best to create an open dialogue with those from both sides of the fence, and everywhere in between. All comments, questions, challenges, love and hate mail are always welcome. Now kindly read on to Part Two, which can be read here..

10 comments:

Kaffinator said...

Not sure if I should comment at DC any longer…after Loftus’ removal of his thoroughly debunked Rick Warren post, it seems the new policy ‘round these parts is to erase all trace of successful criticism.

So with the expectation that my efforts may end up in the bit-bucket…

> My purpose here is not to prove that Christianity is wrong per se, but rather that it simply is not correct. There is a difference. Christianity, the spirit of it, the core of it all, is something I find to be very real.

Baserap schisms what is “real” from what is true (“correct”). Can you hear Reason weeping?

> There is a certain beauty and comfort in the belief that after all of the hardships of life, there is a better place for us all.

Is there a certain beauty or comfort in the belief that my home is made of sugar wafers? Or that if I flap my arms hard enough that I can fly? I believe Jesus Christ rose from the grave, Baserap. Pity me, scorn me, even ignore me if you wish. But do not condescend to me by labeling “good” what is to you a false belief. It cheapens us both.

> Where Christianity crosses the line is where it begins to dictate who gets that better place and how they get there. […] This divisiveness is at the heart of every religion, no matter what benignity it clothes itself in disguise. This is an attack, for lack of a less militaristic word, on the Literalists […]

Despite Baserap’s scorn of exclusivity he cannot help but exclude “Literalists”. And so we see that divisiveness is at the heart of Baserap’s religion as well. A classic case of sawing the branch upon which he sits.

John W. Loftus said...

Kaff, I'm going to try to edit the thing about Warren and repost it later, with your comments intact, so don't worry. The timing wasn't right, and the aim wasn't achieved.

Kaffinator said...

Hi John, I appreciate the explanation.

C.J. Baserap said...

Hi, Kaff, thanks for commenting.

I'm in between shifts right now, so for the time being, I will have to be brief, but, seriously, thank you for an educated disagreement.

As for the real vs. true, perhaps I should clarify better.

In an attempt to sum it up, I suppose I can say is that what I find "real" about is the "spirit," but what I find "incorrect" is the notions of the miracles, Jesus' virgin birth, etc.

Take the example of the anti-war protesters I see at the White House on a regular basis. There is one man who has been there since 1981, non stop. I respect his "spirit" and his "conviction," but I do not believe in his statements and ultimate outlook on American policies.

Do I know all the answers? Absolutely not. I presented my views, and in this first post, they are largely from opinion. I can only say that I find more evidence against than for the basic elements of Christianity. Some see it the other way. But, hey, that's life! And that's fine.

I am not condescending to you at all. I truly do believe that many of the stories contained in the Bible are wonderful. I, myself, would like to believe that there is a better place out there after this life, one where I will see my loved ones again, one without pain. I just do not believe it is likely, nor do I believe it is the Heaven described in the Bible.

Do I pity you? No. Do I scorn you? Not at all? Will ignore you? Obviously not.

What "cheapens us both" is to see only negative and be unable to accept a genuine compliment, my friend.

As for the "divisiveness," I can understand your point. I never claimed, however, that I had all the answers, let alone have a "religion." Most things are divisive to a point. I like the Yankees. Everyone who does not is automatically different in views from me. But I am not using my like of the Yankees, or dislike of the Red Sox, to condemn to Hell or wage a Holy War or exclude a group of people from getting married.

When I start to say anyone who doesn't agree with my views is to punished in a lake of fire for all of eternity, then I have crossed a line.

Those who disagree are more than welcome, Kaff, and you are, too. I hope you do reconsider not posting here. And, please, call me Charles, or CJ.

In any case, thank you for posting. I will post later on when my thoughts are together and I'm not stuck here at work!

Kaffinator said...

I appreciate the cordiality of your response, CJ.

> What "cheapens us both" is to see only negative and be unable to accept a genuine compliment, my friend.

So it seems to me that by “real” but not "correct", you are simply saying that the Christian’s self-delusion is real to him, and you might respect his fervency, and perhaps even share a sort of optimism that you wish what his beliefs were indeed true, but ultimately you do hold that it IS a delusion. If this describes your position accurately, I am sorry but I only view this as a deeply ambivalent compliment.

> As for the "divisiveness," I can understand your point. I never claimed, however, that I had all the answers, let alone have a "religion."

Why don’t you re-read your opening paragraph, in which you allege that all of Christianity is nothing more than “fantastical stories” sold by a “hypocritical regime” to people “afraid to think for themselves” but are bribed by a false paradise in exchange for “contradictory” and “oppressive” edicts.

Someone who writes a paragraph like that is most certainly claiming to have the answers and is without question engaging in a holy war. You have chosen to enter the battlefield with a specific position to defend, so … defend it! This mock-casual “But, hey, that’s life! And that’s fine” business that compares our very belief (or disbelief) in God to be a matter as casual as sports team allegiance is demeaning to anyone who takes their faith (or lack of it) seriously.

C.J. Baserap said...

Christianity has been around for centuries. Allow me, kindly, more than an evening to defend my position my friend. Think of the first post as a "Chapter One." Surely, no book would ever be considered persuasive or possibly even worth reading, if it was all over in a matter of a few paragraphs.

This is an overarching "series" if you will. Don't judge the paintjob based on the primer. lol

I do not believe I have the answers as to what it is. I believe, however, I have many answers as to what it is NOT. The "it" I refer to is God. I never claimed to be an athiest. Rather, I believe in at least the possibility that there could be SOMEthing out there, a single god, a pantheon, whatever, but I do not believe that any religions that I see created by Mankind as being accurate. I was raised a Roman Catholic and attended 18 years of Catholic and Jesuit schooling, the last eight at Fordham Prep and Fordham University where I was required to read the Bible in its entirety multiple times. I found that there are several contradictions in the Gospel stories, ranging from how many generations there were from David to Joseph, to the order in which Jesus performed certain miracles. There are many earlier stories from other cultures that predate the Old Testament that are extremely similar. Why is one taken as "fact," the other as myth, especially when it's the earlier "version" taken as the latter? There are other gospels that are not regarded as genuine, as chosen by men. There are several THOUSAND sects of Christianity in America alone, and none of them say the exact same thing. Each group interprets things differently, some liberally, other very literally. There are several passages in the Bible that are demeaning to women, others that are outright racist (though the latter is mostly in the Old Testament). There are several things in the Bible that do not line up with history and are inaccurate in those regards.

My point is that if there is one mistake, there can be two, and if there are two, then there could very well be more.

I do not mean to make religion sound like something trivial like a sports team. The analogy was there to illustrate a very simplified point. I shall do it again here. (by the way try going to a Yankees/Red Sox in Fenway and telling the fans it's not a big deal! lol)

In this post I mentioned what it is vs. what it is not. Eventually, I hope one day that I will find the former by covering all of the latter, though I know such a task to be impossible.

Take this example: Suppose I have never had chocolate ice cream and someone gives me a taste. Well suppose I have seen and tasted strawberry. And vanilla. And peanut butter. I can know what the "mystery flavor" is NOT, but I still do not know what it is, until it is either revealed to me or I have eliminated and/or examined every other flavor.

In short, I know that you have some very well thought out insight and that you have much to say and I definitely look forward to conversing with you on this site.

There will, hopefully, be many more topics, each building upon the last. I would very much enjoy you staying along for the ride. I like to be challenged and I sense you do, too.

At the end of all of this, we may still be where we are now--not seeing eye to eye. But if that's the case, so be it. You know the story of the two Japanese samurai? We may have that outcome.

I admit I may have taken my zeal a bit too far in my opening paragraph, and spoke more from emotion. I can admit my mistakes and shortcomings. Can Christianity do the same?

Sharon Mooney said...

allege that all of Christianity is nothing more than “fantastical stories” sold by a “hypocritical regime” to people “afraid to think for themselves” but are bribed by a false paradise in exchange for “contradictory” and “oppressive” edicts.

Sharon: First off, I've read C.J.'s post(s) and I find what he wrote thought-provoking and well-stated. Pleased to acquaint another Agnostic.

Second, I think many Christians misunderstand when non-believers make statements that may seem "abrasive" .. they take it too personal, - because it's their belief system in discussion. The Christian really ought not to take it so personally. The anger is not being directed at them personally -- but a system that is broken, at least that's speaking for myself. Most non-believers are addressing the position, not the person. We too were Christians once, and many of us were devoted, reverent God-fearing believers... often sincere devotees, so naturally as deconverts you'd expect us to be equally as passionate in our non-belief as we were when we were believers... many of us found ourselves let down. Once bitten, twice shy.
I fervently believed with blind faith for a couple decades of my life that the Bible was God's one true inerrant word, and will never forget the shock and grief that evening when I read "The Bible Handbook", I set there comparing scriptures until the sun rose. I was cooked -- I was sick to my stomach... for several days I was in a state of shock... I felt like my safe little world had caved in beneath my feet -a second time. (The first was when the Church itself began falling apart in 1991). I went a couple years hanging on to the Bible in blind faith --and had that taken out... it was a spiritual freefall I did not ask for and I did not want. The Bible had contradictions in it. The most traumatizing thing was, all my life a preacher had a patent answer for everything. Every question in life, was filled in with God or a scripture... and now I found myself very alone. I had invested two decades of my life in a lie.
I had been told all my life, that it was a lie to say a contradiction was found in scripture --I was told it was inspired by God himself --and a perfect book -- I defended that book with strong convictions -- I would have done anything to please God, but I knew what I was seeing / reading with my own eyes. Contradictions... errors... so how can I ever respect these people again? They lied to me.
I believed the preachers when they said with all conviction, "Live your life just so... and God will reward you just so." I *expected* those promises to fulfil, but it never happened that way. As Farrel Till put it, "I was sold a bag of damaged goods". I have personal grievances with religion... I have a right to feel angry and betrayed toward the system of religion. I'm sure C.J.'s got his own story, everyone here does. Many of us took our religion that seriously, most of us, we believed with all our heart, soul and mind... what are we suppose to feel like?

Kaffinator said...

Sharon and CJ, I do believe I’ve been misunderstood. By quoting CJ’s initial paragraph I was not responding from some kind of deep personal offense. Nor was I demanding he substantiate every contention in that paragraph. I was simply pointing out that his position was in fact being expressed in a form stronger than opinion.

Sharon Mooney said...

Kaffinator: I was simply pointing out that his position was in fact being expressed in a form stronger than opinion.

Sharon: Of course. For most people ranging from Christian to Atheist to everything in-between spiritual views are almost always much more than an "opinion".

Kaffinator said...

Well, Sharon, I guess you'll have to take this up with CJ since he's the one who used the word (not I) :-)