Today is Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Fred's Views

What in the name of God?

Remember, this is just speculation. One person more or less thinking out loud - or in cyberspace as the case may be. I was raised in a fairly religious family. We went to church regularly. I went to Sunday School. I more or less accepted what I was taught as being the truth. I was confirmed as a Christian. I even considered, for a short time, becoming a minister. I received my B.A. in history and religion. But, little by little, my views of traditional Christianity are becoming more and more critical.

How many of man's conflicts in the last two millenia have had nothing whatsoever to do with religion? I can't think of any, at the moment, though I will allow that there may have been a few. One might argue that conflicts against "communist aggression" were not religious, but were they? One side was attempting to protect its way of life, which most emphatically included religion - mostly Christian or Jewish religion. The other side openly opposed religion. In fact, they blamed religion for a lot of the ills of man - and I'm beginning to think they may have been right about that.

It's not that religion is bad. It certainly isn't that Christianity is bad. However, Christianity, like many religions, urges its adherents to "spread the word". It is one thing to tell other people about what you believe; it's another to try and cram it down their throats. Many of our problems over the years are due, at least in part, to one religious faction or another trying to cram their beliefs down the throats of others who do not wish to accept them.

Even within Christianity, there has been a great deal of unnecessary bloodshed, violence and hate between the various "flavors" of Christianity. The Roman Catholic church has a long history of dealing harshly with "heretics". And I won't even mention, well yes, I will mention, its terrible history of violence against Jews. Not that this deplorable action is limited to the Roman Catholic church. All sects have their own shame and blame to bear. For years, the news used to talk about violence between protestants and Catholics in Ireland. That always bothered me. To my way of thinking, those who resorted to violence to solve their problems weren't practicing Christians (be it protestant or catholic) at all. Didn't Jesus teach us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek? I don't recall him ever enjoining us to slaughter our fellow Christians just because their beliefs didn't entirely mesh with our own.

In recent years there has been a series of incidents where Catholic priests have been accused of molesting children. Is the priesthood a haven for people with evil thoughts and urges? Or do priests begin to develop these urges because they are denied normal human companionship? I don't know. I have a real problem with many beliefs of Roman Catholics, but I'm not about to launch a holy war against them. Why can't priests marry? Why must priests and nuns remain celibate? Why can't women be priests? Why do they believe that the pope is infallible when we have clear evidence that he is not. The infallibility of the pope is a relatively recent development, but the others go back to the very beginnings of Christianity (although many of the early priests were married, definitely not celibate, and perhaps even female - including, possibly, a pope). Many of the early popes "bought" the throne. Many were not worthy of the position. So why put up barriers that seem unnecessary? Probably to protect the status quo and stem the tide of new ideas.

While it may be true that it was financial ruin that brought the old Soviet Union crashing down, it was really ideas that defeated communism. It is ideas - and western capitalist expansion - that currently threatens Chinese communism. China fights back by trying to control Internet access and thus stem the flow of ideas. They may slow the flow, but I doubt that they will stop it.

For many years, the Roman Catholic church tried to keep new ideas such as those proposed by Galileo and Martin Luther in check. But in the end, the ideas won out. Scientific investigation and freer access to God took hold and continue to grow. There was a time when the theory of evolution was an idea that Christians found hard to accept. Today, only the fringe Christians, the fundamentalists, still refuse to believe an idea that seems so logical - and in no way diminishes God's role in creation. Of course, even after more than a hundred years, it's still a theory. It might be wrong; it might be replaced by a new, better idea - and that's okay.

I've got lots of ideas dancing around in my head. Some are likely, some are fanciful. Some I want to believe are true even if it seems illogical. Most protestants believe that one of the gifts that God gave to humanity was the gift of free will. Free will explains much of the suffering in the world. God did not choose for a child to die in a war; a human did that. God does not usually interfere partly because that would interfere with free will. One of my problems with this idea - and I do believe that God gave us free will - is that, if free will is to mean anything at all, then it means that even God himself does not know what I am going to do in a certain situation. But if God is omnipotent how can this be? Did God purposely limit his own powers to give us free will? It appears so. Unfortunately, this opens up more cans of worms. By the way, I used the male personal pronouns when referring to God. It is strictly convention and habit. God could certainly be a woman. I suspect, however, that God is above gender somehow. It is only our inferior English language that forces us to choose between the impersonal - and gender-less - "it" or the gender-specific pronouns we all know and hate.

If God gave us free will, how could God - or Jesus - know that Judas would betray him? And just exactly why did Jesus have to die on the cross to take away our sins? If God is God, he can pardon us whenever he wants to. I have to confess I am questioning Jesus death and resurrection more and more. And the Trinity? Do I really believe that Jesus, God and the "Holy Spirit" are both separate and yet one? Do I really need to?

Most of us already know that most of the details of Jesus birth are, to put it plainly, made up. The Virgin birth (birth of Jesus, not Mary) is not unique to the Christian religion. In fact, it is most likely that the evangelists copied the idea from other sources because they felt it elevated Jesus' importance. And we all know that there is just a 1/365 chance that Jesus was born on December 25th. In fact, there is some evidence in the Bible record that suggests a different time of year is more probable. December 25th was chosen because it was a feast day of a rival pagan religion. If you can't defeat them, steal their ideas. That appears to be the motto of the early Church - and it worked quite well. Much better than trying to suppress an idea that the public really likes.

I believe Roman Catholics are supposed to believe that Mary was a virgin all her life. Why? Because Christianity has had this idea that sex - and women - is somehow unholy. There is quite a bit of evidence to support the idea that Jesus had brothers and sisters - I don't know if there are any Christian sects that would deny that. So why would they not have been born in the normal way? Beats me. Of course, I'm not opposed to the idea that Jesus may have been born in the normal way as well. How better to experience what life is like for humans. Is that not the reason Jesus (as son of God) was sent to earth in the manner that he was sent in the first place? And what if Jesus did marry? So what? What if Peter was not the person intended to found Jesus' church on earth. What if it had been Mary Magdalene or his brother James? There is some evidence to support the idea that the true church Jesus intended was carried on by his brother James. And that the Roman Catholic church is based more on the teachings and missionary work of Paul and Peter than on Jesus' original intentions.

Ideas, ideas. Some of them may be worth keeping. Some will no doubt be discarded - but only after they have played around in my mind for a while. Do you ever question the ideas that form the basis of who you are? Shouldn't you?

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