Monday, 12 December 2011

Damn it to hell - I think I might be a Christian...

Very often I read that people have given up asking 'The big questions'. No one cares anymore - 'Why are we here? What's the purpose?' are questions suffocated beneath the oppression of a debt ridden, commodity filled life. I disagree.

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


  1. May I suggest the "Jefferson Bible"?

  2. Rory I started to watch the long version and sat there entranced through the whole thing. What a remarkable man to be able to sort out the wheat from the chaff. I never looked at the Bible in quite that way before, the evolving history of a religion. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  3. Laura - I had heard of the Jefferson but never actually knew what he had done with/to it. I heard about it pre-internet days and it disappeared from my mind until now. Good find and I thank you for that - I'll be following it up!


  4. Delores - I was spellbound - here was 'humanity' being articulated in a way that was uplifting, offering hope, new, exciting and all delivered with humility.

    It was so refreshing to be reminded not of what we can't do - but of what we can do.


  5. The terrible texts of the Bible are terrible now because the politically correct, slightly to the political left, liberal personality of the ascendant class in society, want to create a God who is benign. The point is that the Bible is a human invention and has always been used to justify a politically ascendant view. Who, capable of detached logical thought, didn't know that? Christians somehow, in the current social climate, have to come to terms with the truth of the illogicality and terror of their text, much as the pontificate eventually, four centuries later, had to catch up with the truth of Galileo. Bishop Spong is part of that process. Many people have been here before and only completely purblind Christians could be surprised by what he says. Christians surely know that the stupidities of the Bible have been a source for comedians for decades. The Bishop is in that tradition. It's a pity that Christians don't pay more attention to comedy. I have no belief in a supernatural being and Christian confusion over the nature of their particular supernatural, sometimes amusing and often terrifying, doesn't help their cause. It's interesting that the answer the Bishop gives to the final question put to him reveals that he also wants to cherry pick the Bible stories to promulgate his version of Christian faith. While I liked him, and he's obviously the very acceptable face of Christianity for the liberal left (of whom, I believe, I'm one), he still has an agenda. I enjoyed your post, Rory :)

  6. I was raised atheist/agnostic but had an "experience" and became a hardcore Christian although I could never quite align my experience with the church (it was entirely independent of it). I believe in God - but not the old man in the sky type god - and I no longer believe in modern Christianity. There are some good thoughts in other faiths as well - I think they are all trying to explain something that is beyond us - but we are probably striving to evolve to. As such, the ten commandments are pretty wise guidelines. The rest of the bible is history as someone wanted it told. It appears that many of the people were brilliant - Moses in particular - knew how to create a cohesive, "healthy" community which could survive and expand. Violent means were necessary in violent times. Who's to say that God wasn't behind it in some way?
    I think you can find God by reading between the lines.

  7. A very interesting post Rory
    I did have the stomach for the 1st.. and second video! and yes, many answers to be found there.
    Although I haven’t read it flately, I’ve enjoyed the bible for many years and think some of the most beautiful verses can be found there... even amongst the brimstone & fire..
    What can I say... that was a very fine lecture indeed?
    He has a wonderful way with words
    I’d forgotten Hosea and Gomer’s story – and find myself with a desire to reconnect with some of the greatest texts ever written
    Faith, hope and love... the greatest of these is love
    My (like yours I suspect) quest for knowledge and answers is rooted in what I think is love
    This post has given me food for thought...In a pleasant and reassuring way
    Thank you

  8. btw that should read .. lately...
    and ..! and not..? as it was a fine lecture!
    (long day:))

  9. Amen. Years ago I heard this bishop on TV and he had more to do with my slow emergence from faith based on hate, bigotry, and cruelty and into what I consider a more peaceful, meaningful life. I am religion free now and walk in the path of humanity.

  10. Nope, sorry,

    I have to hold with Dawkins.

    Mind you, he can be as illogical sometimes as the established church, but;

    "Put not your faith in philosophy"


    "Put not your faith in anything, but demand absolute bloody PROOF"

  11. Wow, Rory. I just finished a book called the Pagan Christ that went right back in history, and opened my mind a little more. Interesting timing this!

  12. Great post. I enjoyed reading about your journey, and wish you the best in your continued search. For me, the endless wonders of the earth - the sheer joy, love and beauty in this life - all of it screams "creator". The sheer fact that we have both night and day - darkness and light - that alone mimics a loving parent saying goodnight and good morning to his children each day. I know we are not alone. :)

  13. Ah, Rory. I remember my questing period, back in my late teens. Then I started reading the Bible. (I'd had thoughts of becoming a Methodist minister.) The Vietnam War was tyring to ensare me in its death grip. Publishing an antiwar tract, I stumbled upon Mark Twain's War Prayer. Which led me to his "Letters from the Earth". In that one, he pointed out that in the Old Testament world, people had a basic out from the suffering of their lives - they could die. It was the New Testament that really brought in the concept of eternal damnation, thank You, God of Love. That sure gave me a lesson in how to look at things.

    As to your South American priest, it sounds a bit like Archbishop Oscar Romero, a Catholic conservative whose more liberal friend was assassinated. He went renegade and worked against instituionalized poverty, torture, and so on. He even took on the US and President Carter in trying to end US support for the Salvadorian government (oopsie - guerilla training at the US run "School of the Americas"). He was killed while serving mass, just as he raised the chalice at the end of the eucharist.

  14. if I dont get the chance
    just wanted to know I want you to have a lovely christmas xxx

  15. How can you want to "humanise" the incoherent bran tub of ideas, good, bad, and downright pernicious, that makes up the 57 varieties of Christianity - and then suddenly declare a belief in the supernatural ("I believe in life after death")?

    What people like the Bishop are doing is making a tactical accommodation of the growing disregard of the unsustainable weaknesses in Christianity's arguments and practices - philosophical mumbo-jumbo on the one hand and a massive organised child sex ring on the other. It's the modern equivalent of the church admitting heliocentricity.

    No, Christian Aid have it right, with their well known slogan that reverses the terms in that sentence about life after death.

  16. Hey there...that old Canadian broad checking in on you. Hope everything is okay over there and that your Christmas (holiday/seasonal) plans are going well. Best wishes.

  17. Ah, the insidiousness! Not that everyone striving to be a better person, or encouraging others to be, is secretly trying to instill kindly thoughts of Christianity leading eventually to conversion; but the ploy most definitely exists.
    These videos work to that point wonderfully well. Who would ever argue against people trying to be more charitable? That, however, is not the argument that should be made.

    Instead, we should realize that treating others with respect and compassion has NOTHING to do with Christianity. Why do we continue to perpetuate that myth?

    Morals do not come from the "monstrous, cruel and absurd" rules of the Bible or Christianity, or even from God [who is, after all, as Dawkins says, " jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." Yeah, great morals to create a nice society.].

    By all means, let us each strive to treat others more decently and to be better persons ourselves. But let us not delude ourselves that we must be Christian to do so.

    I guess that's enough ranting on someone else's blog!

  18. Hey Rory! Happy New Year! Where the Hell are ya?

  19. Ground Control to Major Tom...

  20. Earth to Rory.....we all want to know if you are all right sweetie.

  21. i am assuming you have had your surgery by now. fingers crossed that all goes well for you. we miss you.

  22. What's the news, Rory babe? xx