Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A Christian by Any Other Name...


Did I hear correctly on he news this morning that Led Zeppelin have been put in charge of university admissions?

Apropos Sunday's post about outrage over something trivial becoming the new black for tossers; I note that the media watchdog, Ofcom, has said Jeremy Clarkson's tongue-in-cheek comment that striking public sector workers "should be shot" was not in breach of broadcasting rules. Public sector union tossers bosses had complained to the BBC that his comments were offensive. Thank God - sanity has prevailed!

Talking of God (again - but at least it generates comments); yesterday, Ermintrude suggested I was being somewhat presumptuous in assuming what Christians believe (the bit about the sins of the father being visited on the sons). 

This argument assumes the atheist has no knowledge of Christianity; however, the vast majority of atheists were;

a) raised in one of the many Christian traditions, and
b) invariably attained enlightenment through critical analysis of religions - not just Christianity.

They therefore arguably have a deeper knowledge of religions in general – and Christianity in particular - than the average practising Christian, who has probably never read the bible from cover to cover and has no idea what the Nicene Creed is, let alone recite it. 

Christianity contains within its mansion a plethora of rooms (to quote a 1st century itinerant sage) and it is impossible to develop a single list of dogmas on which all sects are agreed. During the early stages of Christianity there were long-running battles over such diverse matters as the divinity of Jesus (early Christians didn’t actually believe he was divine), the Trinity (an accretion brought about by the synthesis of Judaism and Greek philosophy) and whether X-Factor was better than Pop Idol, etc., resulting in almost daily mutual anathematisations and excommunications of various church fathers by other church fathers on an epic scale. To say the embryonic church was fragmented is an understatement, and it was precisely so because the Christ didn't leave any written records - after all, he didn't intend to found a new religion as he was a dedicated and practising Jew who preached nothing  but compassionate Judaism.

This anarchy continued until Constantine, who saw in Christianity the potential for a state religion that reinforced the concept of the Imperium (it had an entire language for articulating the relationship of government and piety), thought enough was enough and instigated the Council of Nicea, where he got the competing beardies to agree on a single creed. Any sect not agreeing was declared heretic and bonfire fodder.

The next schism divided the church into Western and Eastern orthodoxy, from which many competing sects shot off at a tangent at light speed. Then came had the myriad strands of Protestantism, a number of which became as right-wing as orthodox Catholicism. 

Today there are over 22,000 Christian denominations with another 5 being added each week. No wonder it’s impossible to define what a Christian actually believes! If one were to take all the professed Christians in the world and delete from the dogma each and every belief that the various churches choose to reject, and yet still call themselves Christian, you’d have no religion at all - or as we experts call it, Anglicanism.


The range of beliefs extends from those who profess biblical inerrancy (despite the many biblical paradoxes) to those who deny Christ’s divinity and resurrection, yet believe Christ had some important messages to give humanity (a bit like a 1st century hippy, man). 

Thus to claim someone doesn't know what Christians believe is entirely true, as no-one knows without knowledge of the particular sect, or sub-sect, that a believer belongs to. To say you are a Christian is a bit like saying you’re a socialist – which means you could be a middle of the road democratic socialist (Anglican), or a communist (Catholic), or indeed a national socialist (Creationist).

I would posit that if Christians actually compared the dogmas of their espoused church with their own deeply held beliefs, it would dawn on at least half of them that they're actually in the wrong church. This is down to the fact you are in the church (or religion) you're in due to no other reason than the simple fact your parents were in it, and neither they nor you engaged in any critical thinking. You adopt the religion of your tribe and it's called cultural relativism.

Point out some logical fallacy or paradox in the dogma of a professed Christian and you'll immediately get the response that the person you're debating with naturally doesn't believe that particular dogma anymore. Another tactic is to declare than the NT trumps the OT; well, if that's the case, why have the OT as a sacred text at all? When all is said and done, the Torah was Christ's only reference and it's what he preached. His crime was to dis the Sanhedrin, who had become corrupt and drunk with spiritual power.

As I said yesterday, like a seasoned politician, the Christian will tend to move the cross (aka goalpost) as the case suits.


9 comments:

  1. Just thing, if God had run a Blog you would be able to sift through the Blog Archive and check what he really said and correct any later misinterpretations. "The Thoughts Of Chairman God" has a nice sound to it.

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  2. That tribal, in-group/out-group stuff is very potent you know CB, in many ways cutting loose from it is a much tougher path to follow for social primates like us.

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  3. It's enough to make you see why someone would go and sit on top of a pillar...

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  4. "yesterday, Ermintrude suggested I was being somewhat presumptuous in assuming what Christians believe"

    And what a response I got :-) I don't assume you have NO knowledge of Christianity (or other religions) but what you write suggests that you don't know much.

    I don't want to write an essay in response! but just to pick up on a few things .....

    1. "it is impossible to develop a single list of dogmas on which all sects are agreed."

    That is possibly true, but you won't go far wrong if you stick to one of the creeds - Nicene, Apostles, Athanasian. They will give you the hard core of what, say, the RCs, the Orthodox and the CofE believe.
    That would give you plenty to disagree with.

    2. "he didn't intend to found a new religion"

    Try Matthew 16:18

    3. "Constantine, who saw in Christianity the potential for a state religion that reinforced the concept of the Imperium"

    Well he had such a thing to hand already if he wanted it - the Imperial cult. I think his adoption of Christianity was about more than political opportunism.

    4. "His crime was to dis the Sanhedrin,"

    Evidence please. I think it was a bit more complicated than that. He managed to upset everybody!

    5. "the Torah was Christ's only reference and it's what he preached"

    Hmmmm - have you read the NT? For a start he explicitly contrasts his teaching with that of the OT and its interpreters in places (such as the Sermon on the Mount - Matthew 5ff); and he tends to quote the Psalms and the Prophets more than the Torah itself in any case.

    On the original point of the sins of the fathers being visited upon their children - the Bible seems to me to contradict itself on that one:-
    (Ezekiel 18:20) - "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself."

    But the real point is that I don't know of any Christian who makes that a major matter of faith. I would take it as a statement that parents who screw up their own lives often screw up their kids too - and you don't have to go far to find evidence for that!

    Sorry - this is still far too long.

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    1. It's not too long at all - it's too short.

      1. My point remains - there is not one single creed, and most are unaware of it anyway - at least among the Christians I know and debate religion with.

      2. I discount heresay written decades after the events took place. Jesus was a devount Jew.

      3. Christianity was a threat, but at the same time (if given the imperial stamp of approval), supported the imperial system - Christianity itself is an imperial system with God at the top weilding absolute power.

      4. It was at the behest of the Sanhedrin that Jesus was condemned by Pilate. Pilate couldn't give a fig for a wandering preacher - they were 2 a penny in 1st century Palestine.

      5. OK, point conceded - Torah and Tanakh. In any case, the Jewish canon.

      As for parents screwing up their children - can't agree more. Done it myself.

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    2. "It's not too long at all - it's too short."

      Yeah, but time is limited at this end! Can't leave the grazing for too long ......

      1. My point remains - there is not one single creed, and most are unaware of it anyway - at least among the Christians I know and debate religion with.

      True about the creeds; but any one of those I listed tells you about the core beliefs of the vast majority of those 2.3 billion . There is no real problem in knowing what Christians believe - to pretend there is is simply atheist evasion!

      There is quite a good analysis of that 22,000 (well, actually 33,000)
      here:-

      http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/a106.htm

      In some ways the situation is even worse than you suggest - but to repeat, there is no problem about discovering the core beliefs of over 90% of the world's Christians, the things they are in principle signed up
      to.

      2. I discount heresay written decades after the events took place. Jesus was a devount Jew.

      If you discount the gospels and Paul then you really don't know anything about Jesus at all, so how can you say he didn't intend to found a religion or anything else?

      3. Christianity was a threat, but at the same time (if given the imperial stamp of approval), supported the imperial system - Christianity itself is an imperial system with God at the top weilding absolute power.

      I repeat, he did not need to jump that way - historians are divided on that. But it is certainly the case that his conversion made a huge difference to the status of Christians.


      "God at the top"

      Well where else would he be? Except possibly on a cross?

      4. It was at the behest of the Sanhedrin that Jesus was condemned by Pilate. Pilate couldn't give a fig for a wandering preacher - they were 2 a penny in 1st century Palestine.

      True enough, but his crime was not to 'dis the Sanhedrin', unless, as is possible, I don't know what you mean by 'dis'!!

      5. OK, point conceded - Torah and Tanakh. In any case, the Jewish canon.

      Ok - I can help here. The Jewish canon is divided into three parts

      T orah - the Law/instruction = Genesis -> Deuteronomy
      N abiim - The Prophets, thought not only what we call prophets.
      K ethubim - The Writings, eg the Psalms or Proverbs

      Take those three initial consonants, stick in some vowels, and you get
      TaNaKh = the whole Hebrew Bible.

      But if you don't believe the gospels then you don't know he knew these or taught from them.

      As for parents screwing up their children - can't agree more. Done it
      myself.

      Yay - common ground :-)

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    3. I happen to work for an Israeli company and spend a lot of time in Israel as a consequence. It's one's tendency is to think Israel has a very religious population. The truth is that only about 25% are practising Jews and the rest are entirely secular, but adhere to many of the Jewish cultural traditions.

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    4. Sorry, I was forgetting!

      Israel is interesting - I suppose it's the history which creates the pre-conception. Is that 25% of the Jewish population or 25% of the whole population including Muslims and Christians?

      Still - 25%. If the CofE could claim that they would be very pleased indeed!

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    5. 25% of the Jewish. The Muslim population would never dare say they were apostate.

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