If my life has been anything it has been a constant quest for truth, or knowledge which could at least point in a direction leading to truth. This will get heavy so bear with me please...
I like Dawna Lee over at Dawna Lee - Because it Matters because she makes me think, and think hard upon questions which I was comfortable in believing I had answers for. Until I try to articulate them then realise they fall apart - My wee comfort zone goes up in flames and I seek solace in reading more sociology texts. Marx has all the answers, until I spot a few holes in there and flames lick once more. That's ok, Weber or even Giddens will have the answers, maybe Durkheim or Kant or even Thomas Paine and the list goes on...and my answers fall through the holes reality tends to punch in theory.
I've read just about every Bible in existence, or every copy of every scroll which led to the Bible - I've read them in Hebrew, I've read them in Greek, I've read them in Aramaic, Latin, I've even tracked down fragments which are thought to be the earliest known copies of particular scripture, I've read every English translation I could lay my hands on and my budget would stretch to - and I haven't done so in search of some religious truth - I did so from the viewpoint of social and political history. The Bible (as we have it today) is a hate filled monstrosity filled with prejudice and violence. Yet it is presented as 'The unerring word of God' by many who fill our churches every Sunday. My Daughter was a bit on the wild side last week - Maybe I should have done as instructed in the Bible and just told her 'Sorry Brenna but I now have to take you to the outer walls of the city and have you stoned to death.' Deuteronomy 21:18-21
Of course it's monstrous, cruel and absurd - though some Christians will defend it by saying 'But in the context of the times it was God's will; though we no longer have to do such things thanks to Jesus'. They fail to see that even in the context of the times it was monstrous, cruel and absurd. There are any number of texts within the Bible which display such monstrous cruelty. That's when one realises that the Bible is not the infallible words of God - it is the fallible words of men. Each scripture was carefully selected and compiled to convey a construct which best suited the purpose of the men of the times - before those who sat at the council of Nicaea in 325 in particular, canonized those parts they deemed worthy. They threw out all scripture they disagreed with leaving us with the Bible as we know it today. Much of the nonsense which appears in the Bible is something a good historian can prove to be nonsense using no more than logic, alternative contemporary sources, forensic techniques and computer aided software (See Robin Lane Fox 'The Unauthorised Version' - Fact and fiction in the Bible). His book has nothing whatever to do with the spiritual messages contained in the Bible and everything to do with historical fact and fiction. But as he pulls at one thread, then almost inevitably another becomes loose before the entire garment threatens to fall apart.
So what to believe if looking for something to satisfy that burning question of 'Why are we here?' which resides inside us all. Well for years now I've been a 'Dawkins' man - There is no God, we were an accident waiting to happen...but please bear with me just a moment longer...
Some years ago I was invited to attend a seminar held by a South American Catholic Priest. So radical, so challenging was his view of Christianity that no less than the Secretary of State for Scotland attended along with all the highest representatives of every church in Scotland. The Priest stepped on stage and never have I seen such squirming and discomfort among dignitaries - He opened with "Listen carefully to what I have to say - I will not get the chance to come back and repeat it. Maybe a year, maybe two years from now, I will be dead. I will be murdered by my own Government or my own church - whichever I displease most, the quickest."
In less than a year he had been assassinated by the Government of Chile. I'm ashamed to say that as I write this I have forgotten his name - but his message lives on....
"You are important in Scotland yes?" He asked, pointing a finger at the Secretary of State. The packed audience laughed..."And you? And you? And you?" he continually asked working his way along the front row. "You guys are obviously important in the Church?" He laughed as he said it pointing to some in the front row who were clearly Cardinals or Archbishops dressed in their finery.
"Even without the fancy clothes I know this because you are in the front row. Most of you will have fine lives and few worries. As we move back through the theatre we'll find some kind of grading system in place - with poor students no doubt sitting up there in the back row, maybe there is a leper? Or a blind man? Is that what to be Christian means? To put the most important in society first and leave everyone else feeling second class? You dignitaries and important people are here today because you want to know about God, about Jesus and the message I am spreading in South America. But how can you hear it when your starting point is 'I'm more important than some others in society'. Being closer to the stage may make you hear better - being farther away makes you listen more."
I remember he pointed to a Cardinal or Archbishop and mocked him saying "Why are you wearing all these fancy clothes? Did Jesus have fancy clothes? Was Jesus adorned with gold round his neck and carry a Gold walking stick? You do it because you are saying to people "I am the Church and the Church is important therefore I am important - I say 'No' you're not any more important than the leper or the blind man if there is one in the back row. And it is your duty if you are called to God to ensure that he or she has everything you can give them to make their lives better. You won't do that by wearing gold around your neck or dressing in fancy clothes. Already you are saying to that person 'Look at me, I am important' when you should be saying 'My son or my daughter, where the church is concerned you are the important one here - now what can I do for you and how quickly do you need it done?' I am sure that if someone has a burning issue in their heart and telephone's your house of god you'll tell them 'I'm a busy man so I can't actually fit you in until next month' Is that what Jesus would do? Would he say 'Sorry Amigo but my diary is full of stuff which is more important than you?" He straightened up from his wandering around the stage before bellowing "NOTHING is more important than the poorest man or woman who comes to seek the aid of God. NOTHING! Not the church, not the Priest, not the time, not the place - NOTHING! In the parishes of the churches all over Scotland tonight there are women being beaten, there are men with no work and no hope, there are children who are starving and abused - HOW DARE YOU say to them - 'Oh I'll speak to you next week, or, I'll find a space in my diary' and HOW DARE YOU be so vain as to think that wearing fine robes and gold somehow makes their lives better - it makes YOUR life better, it makes you feel good, it makes you feel important in which case you'd be better employed at Exxon or any other multi national company."
I was totally enchanted by his views - not enough to become a Christian though because of the hatred and bile to be found in the Bible. Being cut off from the internet this last week was frustrating and it brought back so many memories I had forgotten about and also gave me some time to think on those 'big questions' again - when reconnected I went on a hunt around the internet for some political/religious/social/spiritual explanations for discrimination which Dawna Lee frequently asks questions about on her blog...My wife actually found this guy for me....A Clergyman with the balls to say 'The Bible and the Church is a vile piece of work - but there is an underlying goodness to be found there if you can just get rid of the crap.'
There is a brief few comments he makes - which just totally took me back to that lecture theatre - I might go looking for God again - Sorry Dawkins, you were good - but you never did quite answer everything...this guy might just have the edge...Short video to give you the flavour of the man - a longer video with one of the finest lectures I have heard in many, many years...If Dawna Lee has the stomach for the second video -for me it answers many of the questions you pose....
Hell as an Invention of the Church
The Burke Lecture