Monday, September 22, 2014

Christian myth and The God Who Wasn't There

"But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence."  Jesus of Nazareth, quoted in Luke 19:27 New American Bible.

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I have just watched the film, The God Who Wasn’t There.  It is a short one-hour documentary by a former fundamentalist Christian who was educated at a Christian school here in California.

The film doesn’t say anything new for atheists or those that don’t accept Christian mythology as real life, but it starts off with a really interesting 6 minutes of footage debunking Christian history and revealing the obvious inaccuracies and gaps in the historical record.

Of course, the worship of gods, Christian ones or otherwise cannot be explained away through rational argument as facts don’t matter to believers.  This is made very clear when the filmmaker returns to the school for an interview with the principal.  The principal admits that there is no empirical evidence or any scientific evidence that the world works in the way his institution’s teachers tell the young people it does; it’s simply faith.  It doesn’t matter to the him that he offers no evidence for his views.

Sam Harris, the author of The End of Faith points this out.  There is no way a medical degree would be issued to anyone who used this same method, they would be thrown out, and laughed out of the room.   As I have said before, in the US, a political figure can start a speech thanking god or talking about god or that his or her decisions are based on god’s will without anyone batting an eyelid, but try saying you got your inspiration from Odin and people would think you’re nuts. But what’s the difference really?

These beliefs have no place in the political sphere or public discourse. It’s fine if people want to believe in mythology as real, they have a right to do so.  But it’s not that individuals believe this stuff, it is that it is state sanctioned.  I know and have worked with many people in my life who actually believe that this Jewish woman gave birth to a child from supernatural being and all that this entails but when these ideas are given credibility by the state and the institutions of learning it becomes problematic.

I have always said that I have respect for the fundamentalists because they do their very best to live their lives according to Christian teachings.  Christianity, like all religions is not a tolerant dogma, it is not inclusive. It is a violent philosophy and makes it perfectly clear that if one does not accept Jesus Christ as your savior and the one and only god then you are condemned to eternal damnation.  I know a lot of Christians who pick and choose what they want from the teachings but what is that about?  You are either a follower of Christ and the teachings of Christ or you are not. How can the Bible be wrong?  As the movie asks of the viewer: How do moderate Christians make sense?  They are not Christians surely. It’s like I always tell my liberal/moderate Catholic friends when I raise why they are a member of such a corrupt and violent organization, it’s like saying you’re in the KKK but your local branch is OK, your not a racist, it’s the head office.

The reason there are many Christian Zionists in Israel blind as they are to the horrific suffering of the Palestinians, is that for them, and apparently a large percentage of the American Christian population (the ones that vote), the crisis in the Middle East is a precursor to the return of their messiah. Harris comments in the movie that there are people who if they were to see a mushroom cloud rising above Jerusalem would see the silver lining in that horrific event.

Religion is a very useful tool in keeping people in the dark.  As we all know, once someone tells you in a discussion on any subject that their views are faith based or that Jesus tells them this or that, the discussion is over.  Never mind that just about everything Christianity has taught over centuries has been wrong and disproved.  Once the faith card is played, critical thinking stops.

Religious education is in some ways the worst form of child abuse in that the child has no defense. The movie used some clips from Mel Gibson’s (the right wing Catholic filmmaker) The Temptation of Christ, an incredibly violent film. It reminded me of my childhood and the affect those scenes had on me back then. I remember my mum walking me round the walls at St John’s church in Banbury showing me the stations of the cross and I couldn’t stop weeping.  I hated those people that were so cruel to this guy who was, after all, the person I owed my very existence to.  Mind you, the indoctrination was not all powerful as human nature took its course. In my bedroom I had an altar with two candles, one at either end with a Virgin Mary statue in the middle. When I reached that tender age where the art of self-pleasuring became known to me I would turn the statue around.  Couldn’t have her see that, sinner that I was. But she was a god wasn’t she? Could she see everything? The great thing about it all though is that you can be forgiven.

I saw the light long ago and am so grateful that I am free of all that magic and fantasy presented as real life and can address the world as it really is.  As I say, what is the most dangerous thing for me, is not that people as individuals believe this, but that it is presented as real in the institutions of learning, the media, the movies, and politics. The difference between ISIS, or any other religious extremism and those that follow the teachings of the Christian bible as historical fact is political, not religious.  The fundamentalists would govern in the same way, but in a developed capitalist economy the political structure doesn’t allow it, not yet anyway.

This movie is 7 years old you can see how much attention the mass media pays to films like this.  Not good for the mind.

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