Flavin's Corner

It'll Be Okay...

     We all require reassurance occasionally.  Sometimes we need to be told that
everything will work out, while at other times we're the ones challenging the
future and telling others to hang in there, be brave, and it'll be okay.

     It really wasn't so long ago that we believed the distant stars were the
campfires of far away enemies or that supra-terrestrial deities enjoyed the
aroma of sizzling animal-fat on sacrificial altars.  See?  We've grown some, but
religion and its dogmatic incitement to war and violence is still with us, and we
seem to be far from any discernible level of maturity.  I believe we'll continue
to grow as a species, but I'm not sure how long it'll be before we actually begin
to behave like adults.

        As we explore our human past, better understanding how our species
survived the savanna, first controlled fire, learned to make tools, and migrated
to the distant corners of the planet, we discover hidden chapters of our history
not contained in sacred scriptures or oral traditions.  Creation and etiological
myths abound, science still doesn't (and may never) have all the answers, but
those traditional tales of who we are and where we come from are now seen as
necessary for their day.  That was then and this is ...now and tomorrow.

     We needed to be told something.  Always the inquiring species (read:
scared silly), and much like a child uses training-wheels on a bicycle until they
get the hang of it, we needed dissembling answers to our questions, because
we lacked the maturity to admit we didn't "know" the truth and make our way
without help.  Today, more and more, people are turning to science for help in
answering the age-old questions of who-what-where-when-why, but while
valiantly attempting honest and well thought out responses, science cannot
replace religion.

     Science can study a given situation, record information, and perhaps project
assumptions based on collected and compared data, yet science cannot bury a
loved one, marry two people, or celebrate the birth of a child.  These noble
deeds performed in the name of religion, though essential and socially required,
are part of the larger hold which religion has on us.  Much of that grasp has to
do with loneliness, fear, respect for the past, and the hubris and greed which
often begins when corrupt cartels agree to pretend to speak on behalf of some
"God" or other supernatural entity.  Religion wields power based upon an
accepted bias of belief, while science is simply a methodological technology.
This is an extremely dangerous imbalance.

     I can't think of a single major religion which doesn't contain some partial
hope of peace, but unfortunately the rabid arrogance of BELIEF, often
compounded by racist and/or political agendas, has empowered many deluded
followers of religion to engage in the bombings of abortion clinics, the ethnic
cleansing in Kosovo, and, in one way or another, ...most of the problems in the
world today.  Religion is a thoroughly integrated part of our lives, whether we
practice or not, as we're all effected by those who do battle in "religion's"
name.  Religion, once the dear, close friend we loved, has now become a hated
enemy.  Religion is killing us.

     Please do not mistake these words: I am frightened of religion.  The casual
Christian, chanting Buddhist, observant Jew or Muslim, sleepwalking Hindu,
or practitioner of various "old ways," do not scare me, in fact I draw much
strength and comfort from their love.  It's the collected arrogance, the hunger
to be NUMBER ONE, to control, to kill those you disagree with--it's the
religion of power and death that frightens me.  I believe fecal-deposits will
strike wind-producing devices in the near future, as the next growth period of
our species will be uncomfortable and deadly.  I strongly suggest, however,
...it'll be okay.  We've given religion its power and we'll soon take it away.

     I'm not ready to grow up and abandon religion and I'm assuming you're not
either.  But, we soon will be.  Those bastard siblings love and hate are more
metaphorical twins than opposites, and we feel strongly about issues ...because
it's how we're wired!  Science may one day help us understand our need for
"God" or "The Truth," but it'll be a stringent answer that'll smart and sting.
And, I look forward to it.

     Some years back, the late Dr. Julian Jaynes, a Princeton psychology
professor, published a book/thesis with one of the most daunting titles of this
century (or, perhaps, any other), The Origin of Consciousness in the
Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976, 1990 Princeton University Press).
While mistakes gross and minute occur, Jaynes offered a simple, and arguably
plausible model for the beginning of the concept of "God."  Someone loved a
parent, sibling, friend, tribal or social leader and appreciated their advice, that
person died, the someone encountered a situation (Jaynes uses a forked-road
scenario) when a decision was required, and a "voice" was heard which
contained instruction.  The someone took the correct path, and went on to
begin a cult dedicated to the "voice."  "God" was born.  Of course, this
imagined scenario went on to play out countless times with innumerable
variations, and with many people across our planet, but the thesis remains the
same:  our basic sentiency and the "higher" ability to handle abstract thought
allows for memory, reverence, and humility.  So, we've got God; ...now, how
do we get rid of HIM/HER/IT?  That's gonna be tricky!

     The 19th century philosopher and neurosyphilitic, Friedrich Nietzsche,
remarked in his 1882 Die fröliche Wissenschaft ("The Gay Science") that "God
is dead,"  which he repeated again in 1883-1885's Also Sprach Zarathustra
("Thus Spoke Zarathustra").  Though influential to 20th century philosophers,
Nietzsche's allegorical assessment of the immediate future of organized religion
didn't take in mind the later rise in fundamentalism, national agendas, or the
spiritualism of the New Age movement.  We will soon begin the twenty-first
century with the notion of a "God" (or "Goddess") still inspiring zealots, the
foolish, and the corrupt.

     It's been a wild ride, but now it's time to get off...

The God-Games Begin

     The history of religion is still being written and enlarged upon as the latest
archaeological discoveries continue to add to our knowledge-base, new
methodologies are applied to extant scriptures which allow for a surer dating, a
better understanding of compositional structuring, and occasionally clues to the
identity of an author.  Religion, in all its multifarious aspects, is slowly being
revealed as a series of attempts by a select 'few' to convince the 'many' they
have knowledge of the 'One', i.e., an imaginary, non-human, all-powerful
creative entity.  God-Games have been played for millennia and seem to be
more popular now than ever. Ouch!

     Primitive, tribal, folk, or aboriginal beliefs are said to be our oldest
examples of religion.  Anthropologists used to consider such practices as
quaint superstitions and "windows" into our collective past, in that there may
be certain similarities between these modern survivals and the state of religion
10,000, 20,000, or even 40,000 years ago.  Unfortunately, while such
comparisons were all the rage during the 19th and a good part of the 20th
centuries, anthropologists have recently tempered their models and now realize
we'll never fully understand spiritual matters in prehistoric times.  Bones and
rock art will never definitively prove spiritual belief or gullibility.

     Our most ancient and continually practiced major religion is Hinduism,
which is currently thought to have emerged with an oral or mnemonic
composition of the Vedas sometime shortly after c.1500 BCE, though not
written down until the invention of the Brâhmî alphabet (derived and based on
the Aramaic alphabet) around the mid-3rd century BCE.  The various claims
for a greater antiquity of the Vedas (and ties to the Harappan culture), as well
as an early expertise in mathematics and astronomical prediction, must be
regarded as propaganda (as, for example, the claims of early advanced math go
against datable transmissions from Babylonian and Greek sources to India).
Hinduism is old, but not as old as its followers claim.

     Vedic Hinduism, though concentrating on the central figure of Brahman
(the collected, universal soul), and sometimes citing a monist or panentheistic
approach to the universe, is ultimately polytheistic (read: lots of cartoon
characters), as Hindu metaphysical doctrines cannot be shown to be contained
in the earliest levels of datable scripture, and is a living example of what some
of the expired pantheons (Greek, Roman, Norse, etc.) must have been like.
Apart from the various mythic dramas, Hinduism developed an encompassing
survival-system of existence which proscribed status assignment (caste
separation), diet, exercise (yoga), and a strong national (read: Indian) identity.
Despite such a cherished and memorable pacifist as Mahatma Gandhi, India
and its Hindu majority may preach non-violence, but they shout for nuclear
parlance, were the first to outlaw Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, and are
habitual in violently rioting against their Muslim countrymen.  The God-Games
of Hinduism may have begun with noble lies, tips for conduct, and revered
goals, but I suspect the Hindi will let such excuses go in the future.  I, and
most people, believe in them.

     While often regarded as the first monotheistic religion (excluding
Amenhotep IV, later Ikhnaton, and his brief dalliance with the sun-god Aton in
Egypt, c.1379-1362 BCE), Judaism is actually the surviving remnant of the
polytheistic Canaanite pantheon, also worshipped in Ugarit/Phoenicia.  The
"God" of Hebrew scriptures (Yah, Yahweh, Yahveh properly, and "Jehovah"
to the untrained) was originally Yam or Yave, a minor Canaanite deity whose
followers stressed the importance of their cult, took epithets from other
Canaanite deities, and relegated the rest of the pantheon to "demon" status, a
practice not that uncommon in propagandist theological literature.

     Setting aside legendary claims of antiquity (everything pre-kingdom), we're
intrigued by the attested presence of the Egyptian word apiru or Habiru and
said to mean "foreigner."  The Habiru were regarded as "donkey-caravaners"
and traders.  An odd and slanderous cognate was the Sumerian SA.GAZ, or a
"head-smasher."  The early usage of Habiru as traveling traders does go a ways
toward lending a nod to the legend of Abraham (though not quite enough to
raise the tale from myth status), as is best exampled by the incorporation of the
Indian words for monkey and guitar as letter-names in the alphabet,
c.1700-1500 BCE.

     The Semitic Habiru were undoubtedly nomadic, Canaanitic traders who,
after the confederacy of  "Sea Peoples" and the invasion of coastal Asia Minor
and Egypt, c.1176 BCE, consolidated their resources and became the
Hebrews, settled down, and made themselves a home in Canaan.  They were
like so many others--proud, beautiful, and caught between a failing Egypt and
a resurgent Assyria and Babylon--and history probably wouldn't have
remembered them if it wasn't for their arrogance after their defeat by
Nebuchadnezzar, captivity, weeping by the rivers, and restoration by the
Persian, Cyrus.  Precious little remains to attest to the presence of the Hebrews
c.1000-500 BCE.  But, most sadly, what does survive is the recorded feelings
of others when the Canaanite cult took the unprecedented step and proclaimed
themselves "God's chosen people," and the rest of the planet, in their eyes,
became relegated to secondary life-forms. We still struggle with that approach
to this day.

     Devotion becomes arrogance when intolerance is the rule, rather than the
exception.  The Eastern Mediterranean complex, which included the coastal
cultures of Europe, Asia Minor, and North Africa, worshipped many hundreds
of deities in antiquity, but only the Hebrews stood apart with their insistence
that they and they alone knew the truth about "God."  Several contemporary
authors have pointed to this arrogance as the origin of so-called
"anti-Semitism," which is actually anti-Judaic.  Regardless of finger-pointing,
we have to respond to any culture which cannot function with their neighbors
because of antiquated "purity" laws. [Note: the "Hassidim" of New York
collecting welfare because they refuse to work with the "unclean" is the easiest
example of this.]

     Change is good...

The God-Games Continue

    Even before the Vedas were formalized and committed to writing, the
various believers in Hinduism experienced dissension in their ranks,
disagreements about methods of personal spiritual liberation, and attempts to
favor or prioritize one deity over another.  It was in this milieu of pantheistic
confusion, between c.550 and 450 BCE, Prince Siddhartha Gautama stepped
forth as the “Buddha” and delivered a message promoting ascetic monasticism
and a rejection of worldly things.  Rather than achieving the promises of
religion through assembly, shared ritual, or by the magical interventions of
priests, the Buddhist system stressed personal fulfillment through the rejection
of the physical world (naming it “Maya” or illusion, ...after the Buddha’s
mom), and preached about an obtainable salvation after death.  Once more a
God-Game hinged on the state of  “after death”--a situation well past the time
to ask for your money back!

    The dynamic challenge of Buddhism, though superficially aiming at an
individually and independently achievable redemption (self-enlightenment, if
you will), soon went the way of all God-Game corruption.  As Gautama is said
to have lived before the invention of the Brâhmî alphabet, with the mid-3rd
century BCE introduction of writing his chroniclers concocted an apocryphal
story that his immediate disciples were forbidden to write down his words (an
example of the fact-tradition-redaction-fiction progression). We have no way
of knowing the amount of embellishment or outright lies contained in current
Buddhist scripture.  Gautama’s published opinion of women, and other
matters, do not seem to be those of an “enlightened” individual and surely
reflect the problems of later Buddhist followers who were more concerned
with their own agendas than preserving the “words” of Buddha.  The students
became more important than the teacher and it’s impossible to know what was
the lesson originally taught.

    A similar movement began in the Near East around the time of the
destruction of the Second Temple, in 70 CE, with a radical divergence from
Judaism centered on the teachings of an itinerate philosopher from Galilee
named Yeshu’a (Jesus).  There are no reliable “facts” concerning Jesus (i.e.,
details of his birth-life-death, names of family or associates, whether he could
read or write, or even if the teacher’s name was actually Yeshu’a/Jesus), other
than the resultant movement which bears his name: Christians, from his later
association with the Hebrew “messiah,” the Greek Christos “the anointed
one.”  All we know for sure is that sometime during the early part of the first
century CE a teacher appeared in Galilee who taught a sublime reactionary
response to his neighbors, the Hellenized Judeans under Roman occupation.
The lesson was timeless, akin to the “Golden Rule” of Confucius and Hegel’s
essence of  The Torah, “Treat others as you would have them treat you.”  We
will never know the details surrounding Jesus, but we have the effects of his
message and movement.  This has always been, and remains, a frustrating
problem.

    As with the case of Buddha, we’ll never fully know the teachings of Jesus as
nothing was written down during his lifetime.  The various “books” of the
Christian New Testament were composed between 20 years (the earliest of
Paul’s “letters”) and 70 to 80 years (John’s Book of Revelations) after the
assumed date of his death.  The Jesus of the “gospels” is a blend of Hellenic
and Judaic myth, his words often take a political stance involving Romans and
Jews, and there is good reason to suspect that upwards of 95% of the New
Testament is fictive and agenda-driven.  What probably began as a peaceful,
egalitarian philosophy quickly became an industry of desperate opportunists
seeking personal power over others.  There was no such thing as a copyright
or recognition of intellectual property in the first centuries CE and various
“Gnostic” groups and the “accepted” churches (Catholic and Orthodox)
appropriated the figure of Jesus and have done unspeakable things in his name.

     I was brought up, and provisionally remain, a Catholic, but much like
Thomas Jefferson took scissors to the New Testament and “trimmed” the
foolishness, I’ve known for most of my life that the Church’s doctrines,
promises and penalties, wars and positions, are not those of the teacher from
Galilee.  Perhaps one day the Catholic Church will acknowledge a human Jesus
who preached love and renounce their God-Game of Hell and damnation, but
it’s a moot point until such a time as, if ever, it happens.  For now,
unfortunately, we navigate a comic-book culture who regards Jesus as a
superhero and “believes” in some supervillain called Satan.  Such silliness!

     The last major religion to seize the imagination of the needy was Islam,
founded by Mohammed in 622 CE.  Purportedly in response to continued
pagan atrocities and following the “monotheism” of Judaism and Christianity,
Mohammed is said to have been contacted by the “Angel Gabriel” and wrote
The Koran, the primary scripture of Mohammedanism.  To say that
Mohammed inspired and united his people, sought and initiated reform, and
was a brilliant tactician and general, reminds me of certain apologists who
describe Hitler as a prime motivator for post-WW I German industrialization.
It doesn’t wash...  The basis of Islam is the control of human life.  It's a
governmental process masquerading as a spiritual philosophy.

     Mohammedanism is a misogynistic warrior-cult with almost no role for
women outside of the procreative act.  While I bear no personal animosity
toward the Arab, Persian, and other peoples who have chosen to “submit” to
Islam, I regard the Muslim “religion” as a system used to manage others, with
little else to offer the modern world.  Islam rules by fear (of mutilation or
death) and, as such, would seem to have no place in any peaceful,
multi-cultural society of tomorrow.  Yet, Islam continues to thrive...  Perhaps
one day Muslim women will revolt and reclaim their liberty.  I hope it’s soon.

    The God-Games of the major religions devitalize our integrity as civilized
creatures.  I don’t know if “God” exists at the edge of the universe or not, but
I know that all major religions are wrong.  It’s that simple.

Cults Galore

     Although “cult” (based on the French culte, from the Latin cultus, the past
participle of colere, to “cultivate”) is essentially synonymous with “sect,” today
the word is used in a pejorative sense to indicate a minor religious group which
is often weird and wacky.  Terming various Christian cults (the Gnostics and
the Cathars, to name two) as heretical, the Catholic church successfully
prevented the establishment of any alternative interpretation of the teachings of
Jesus as depicted in the New Testament (with the exception of the rival
Eastern Orthodox church).  This position changed, of course, in 1517 with
Martin Luther and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  Shortly
thereafter Protestant Christian cults started to appear with regularity--a
situation unchanged to this day.

     Disenchanted by corruption within the Catholic church, empowered with
the recent invention of the printing-press which enabled lay-people to own a
copy of The Bible, and insisting “Every man is his own priest,” Luther began
his own Christian cult, achieved personal power and ruled his “flock” as a sad
caricature of the Catholic pope.  The Protestant Reformation allowed others to
share in the wealth of the gullible, for over a thousand years the sole
provenance of capital for the Catholic church, and instituted the lamentable
tendency of any zealot capable of quoting Christian “scripture” to eventually
start their own church, sect, cult, or group.

     After the Lutheran cult came Calvin and his bizarre communal experiment
in Switzerland, followed by England’s break with Rome and the founding of
the (“Episcopal”) Anglican church, then various “puritan” groups, the
“Separatists,” the work of Henry Jacob (which influenced the subsequent
“Baptist” movements), Swedenborg and his metaphysics, and later John
Wesley and his “Methodist” approach.  Whether these cults were and are
“protesting” Catholicism and actually “believe” they understand the message of
Jesus better than the Church, or merely playing the God-Game for cash,
power, and glory, is a point I care too little about to argue one over the other.
[Note: while I stand by the previous statement, in truth, the closest realization
of a “Christian” I’ve ever encountered was a large, black woman who sang in a
Southern Baptist church.  Her kind heart and contagious joy concerning Jesus
far outshone my lazy Catholicism.  Sure, in hindsight, I would today regard her
as a fantasist for her “belief” in Jesus the superhero, but ...oh, if one is going to
be wrong at least be a nice person at the same time!]

     Christianity was not the only major religion to experience the splintering
away of the "faithful" into minor cults or sects.  Around the same time as
Luther was challenging the Catholic church, Chaitanya (1486-1534?)
introduced the now infamous "Hare Krishna" mantra into Hinduism and
established a new faith which regarded the Vedic god Krishna as the "supreme"
deity and all other gods as mere incarnations or variations.  The faith
languished in relative obscurity, rejected by the majority of Hindus, until His
Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada made a journey from
India to New York City in the 1960s and introduced the West to chanting "the
names of The Lord."  Many orange robes, shaved heads, 1000s of airports, and
several convictions of the cult's leaders for fraud and abuse later, the Hare
Krishna movement is now a firmly fixed part of most big city street-corners.

     Another notable "splinter" would be the Babi or Baha'i faith, begun in early
19th century Persia as a pan-religionist cult by the team of "the Bab" and his
dear follower, Baha'u'llah.  Drawing heavily on the surviving remnants of the
Zoroastrian religion (founded c.500 BCE), the Baha'i faith contends that all
major religious reformers were "Messengers" or "Manifestations" of God and
part of some grand plan for the human race.  Needless to add, as this
movement began in Islamic Persia, it's members suffered horrible mutilations
and executions.  While the cult has achieved some growth in various parts of
the world, they still face fatal opposition in Muslim countries.

     America experienced its own unique "splinter," at the same time, with the
founding of the Mormon cult by the "money-digger," Joseph Smith, in 1831.
Harold Bloom has referred to Mormonism as "America's religion," because of
its origin here, struggle for acceptance, current "Donny and Marie" image, and
that many of our foreign service employees, FBI, and CIA are Mormons, as
they've travel experience from the mandatory proselytizing their cult demands
of them, they're clean cut, don't drink, and are perceived as "good ol' boys..."
If Bloom's prediction for a massive swelling of the Mormon ranks in the
coming century is correct, we're in for a scary ride!

     Smith claimed to have discovered inscribed gold tablets in upstate New
York in 1823, which with the help of a magical "seer" stone he was able to
read, and published his "translation" as The Book of Mormon in 1830.  The
Book of Mormon tells the story of some Hebrews who sailed to America in
ancient times, after Jesus died in the Near East he reappeared in America, and
because certain Hebrews didn't believe he was the "son of God," their skins
were burned dark, and created the Native Americans we know today.  [Note:
for a good background on Mormonism, see The Refiner's Fire: The Making of
Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844, by John L. Brooke (Tuft's University),
Cambridge University Press, 1994.]

     The cults of this century are well known, laughed at, and not feared
enough.  The innocent young people selling flowers in the park to raise cash
for the Korean Sun Myung Moon (who says he's the "Second Adam") is
ongoing, despite Moon doing prison-time for tax-evasion.  Sci-Fi writer L.
Ron Hubbard and his "Scientology" con-cult is going strong with help from
celebrity members John Travolta, Tom Cruise, and Nicole Kidman.  The
"chanting for stereos" and now heretical Japanese Buddhist cult, the Soka
Gakkai (begun in 1930 and thrown out of the larger Nichiren Shoshu chanting
cult, itself somewhat controversial to "regular" Buddhists, in 1997), continues
to gain adherents with the backing of such committed followers as Tina Turner
and Herbie Hancock.  The cults from Jonestown, Waco, Heaven's Gate, the
Solar Temple suicides or murders in Canada and Switzerland, and numerous
others, disturb me beyond words.

     None of these cults concern "God," but rather the God-Game.  Tax exempt
status, the dream of cash, sex, personal power--this is why it is said that the
God-Game is the world's second oldest profession and related to the first.

     We need different games.

Bet On It!

     Somedays I consider myself a humanist, while other days I lean toward
more of a scientific pantheist approach, and on still others I'm comfortable
being tagged an agnostic.  All three labels fit, after a fashion, as they express
my commitment to life and reality, not death and fantasy (the stuff of
"religion").  Yet, whenever I have to fill out some form or questionnaire and
am required to specify my religion I always write 'Catholic'.  Occasionally I feel
like a hypocrite, but usually not for long...  With the Second Vatican Council
the Church allowed for evolution and did away with purgatory.  The Catholic
church is changing, as are other religions, and someday we'll all agree more
than we do now.  We can bet on it!

     I suppose my first reasonable doubt about the claims of Catholicism
occurred when I was in seventh grade and had read a book on the 'Dead Sea
Scrolls' by John M. Allegro.  A reference to " James, the brother of Jesus"
caused me to question my teachers, parents, and the parents of my friends,
about the "family" of Jesus.  No two of the answers I received were the same
and I assumed personal details concerning Jesus were not widely accepted or
well known.

     Throughout the '70s and '80s I continued my studies, and though I became
quite familiar with the history and archaeology of the Near East and the
various problems encountered with the "literary criticism" method of analyzing
the New Testament, my "belief" in Jesus the superhero continued to wane and
eventually reached the empty level of disbelief.  In the late '80s I began to read
about the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars debating the words and works of
Jesus, and something inside me stirred.  Tired, as I was, of strict Catholic and
various Protestant doctrine and dogma, I hoped that open debate by the
scholars of the Jesus Seminar might produce some consensus about the man
behind the myth.  My hope was not in vain.

     Within days of the publication of 1991's The Historical Jesus: The Life of a
Mediterranean Jewish Peasant by John Dominic Crossan (San Francisco,
HarperSanFrancisco), one of the founders and co-Chair of the Jesus Seminar, I
purchased and read the book, and immediately my mind was put at ease in that
AT LAST modern scholarship had sensibly approached the human Jesus and
true discussion could now ensue.  Eager to get feedback on a personal theory
concerning the thematic and narrative structure of the characters in and the
chronology of the life of Jesus (as written up by the various "gospel" authors),
as well as compliment him on his excellent work, I left a message with Prof.
Crossan's office at De Paul University on the northside of Chicago, as I lived a
couple of blocks away at the time.

     Prof. Crossan returned my call after a couple of days, suggested two
archaeological sites that might possibly assist in my argument, and became
quite excited when I casually mentioned that in the previous Sunday's The New
York Times' Review of Books his book on the "historical Jesus" had made the
top10 non-fiction bestseller list.  Apparently he'd not heard the news yet, asked
me if I was sure, and subsequently relaxed with a justifiable sense of peace and
achievement in his voice.  Later, in a follow-up to their review, The New York
Times would allow one of their writers to characterize Crossan as the "world's
leading expert on (the historical) Jesus;" a tag well deserved.

     Before our conversation ended I told him how his book had moved me.
That faced with the superhero Jesus (mythic virgin birth, miracles, and bodily
resurrection) I'd turned from that teacher's words, and dismissed the entire
Christian mess as just another God-Game.  However, after reading Crossan's
book (so intent upon establishing a methodological approach that he didn't
even MENTION Jesus for the first few hundred pages), I let my worry of the
personal agendas of the New Testament writers go, eased my opposition to the
ugliness surrounding the formation of the Church, and stepped back from
Catholic history.  I told him that I "understood" Jesus the teacher in a way that
I never thought possible.  And I thanked him...  Prof. Crossan had assisted in
stripping away the built-up, waxy layers of Christian doctrine and dogma and
exposed an admirable human who died a long time ago, but whose words
(those few that indeed ARE his, as opposed to those of "gospel" authors) still
guide us after all these years

     I think, believe, and opine that one day nearly all religionists will let go of
their fantastic notions of the supernatural and concern themselves with things
natural, human, and egalitarian.  It'll be okay...  Some may never let go of the
fantastic and immature, but religion, as we know it, will grow and mature
along with the rest of us.

     Is it because the Vedic deities "speak" through their multitudinous swamis,
or that Moses is said to have split the Red Sea, or Buddha to have stopped the
Wheel of Karma, or that Jesus raised the dead, or Mohammed was able to
move a mountain, that religionists act like "holier-than-thou" jerks?  Belief in a
"greater power" begins with a butt-slap by a parent, is often compounded by
bullies, social predators, mean employers, and usually finalized with the
God-Game players who threaten HELL if one doesn't shut-up, pay up, and put
out.

     As a kid I was intellectually insulted by the fantastic books of Erich von
Daniken (Chariots of The Gods? and all the rest) and the notion that little
green men with poor hand to mouth coordination somehow contributed to the
high cultures of ancient Egypt and Mesoamerica.  The idea robbed (and
continues to rob) millions of humans of the credit for their accomplishments.  I
regard "religion" in much the same way.  It's a game, a con, and a way for
power to be gained by a select 'few' for use against the 'many'.  Religion robs
us of the ability to live our own lives.

     We are sentient, astute, and very much afraid of death.  Religion has ruled
lives, taken lives, and with such extremes as Protestant Christians installing
clear plexi-glass an inch below the surface of the Sea of Galilee so that those
with cash may "walk on water" like Jesus, or the ongoing violence between the
nuclear powers of India and Pakistan, I hope I'm not alone in confessing ...I'm
tired of childish behavior.  It's time to grow up.

     That we all don't mature at the same time is a given--that we'll all mature
eventually is my hope for the new millennium.  It'll be okay...  Everyone has to
grow up sooner or later...

Regards,
Rick

 return to main page