Gentle Jesus – meek and mild?

StonedWhen it comes to derogatory and hateful remarks about minorities, Jesus is frequently given a pass. His ‘meek and mild’ persona – not one he actually had, but one he’s acquired over time – is brought into play to absolve him of all unpleasantness.

For example, and as liberal bloggers are fond of saying, here’s what he had to say about gay marriage:

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Yup, that’s right; he said absolutely nothing about it – not directly anyway. But what Jesus did say, if ‘Matthew’ is to believed, was that he upheld the Jewish Law in its minutest detail:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5.17-19)

That’s the Law that prescribes death for even the smallest infraction that he’s endorsing there. Here’s a brief sample of that Law and the penalty for breaking its petty rules:

Stone to death anyone who works on the Sabbath. (Exodus 35.2 and Numbers 15.32-36)

Kill publicly children who dishonour their father or mother. (Leviticus 20.9)

Stone to death anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord. (Leviticus 24.16)

Execute a married couple who have sexual intercourse during the woman’s period. (Leviticus 18.19)

Put to death those involved in adultery. (Leviticus 20.10)

Execute any man who lies with another man, as with a woman. (Leviticus 20.13)

Stone to death at her father’s door any woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night. (Deuteronomy 22.13-14 and 20-21).

Sound familiar? With its oppressive brutality and liberal use of the death penalty, this sort of behaviour is like IS practices today. They’re both desert ‘moralities’, after all. And this is the law that Jesus advocates and insists remains in place until ‘heaven and earth pass away’. As that hasn’t happened yet, the Law, according to Jesus anyway, remains in effect. Never mind that Paul says it doesn’t – God himself, in the shape of Jesus Christ says it does. How’s that for meek and mild?

(Cue Christians referencing the story of the woman caught in adultery. That, however, is a late addition to the Bible and, in any case, Jesus only saves the woman because his beloved Law hasn’t been properly complied with.)

Thankfully, civilised human beings – and civilised Christians too – ignore Jesus and don’t seek to apply such old barbaric laws (though there are some believers who want to when it comes to LGBT people; see my previous post.) But if you want to know Jesus’ position on moral issues that he doesn’t pontificate on explicitly, just remember he fully supports the death penalty for adultery, homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, not being a virgin on your wedding night, having sex at the wrong time of month, dancing, listening to the radio, tweeting and texting… oh wait… now I have got him confused with Islamic extremists. It’s so easy to do.
Next time: Jesus says that the only way to gain eternal life is to follow this vicious Law with all its unreasonable demands.

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Christian love… but not so’s you’d notice

Church2Today, the world commemorated the relief of Auschwitz seventy years ago, following the murders of millions of Jews, homosexuals and gypsies.

Also today, Christian pastor James Manning said Islamic militants are justified in executing gay people. Another man of God, Ben Carson, implied that Christian bakers might want to add poison to wedding cakes they are ‘forced’ to make for same-sex couples. And just before Christmas, pastor Stephen Anderson said gay people should be exterminated as the means of eradicating AIDS.

Whatever happened to ‘do not kill’? You know, the sixth of the much vaunted ten commandments that believers think should be displayed in public places so that the world might become a better place. I guess it’s far easier to display the commandments than it is to obey them.

What happened too to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’? This doesn’t – big surprise, Christians – mean endlessly pointing out others’ ‘sin’ while relentlessly banging on about ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ like we’ve never heard of him before. Though again, I guess that sort of ‘love’ is a lot easier than actively caring for other people, regardless of their beliefs, values or sexuality, as much as you care for yourself. That, after all, is the whole point of the story of the Good Samaritan; the Samaritans were despised by the Jews of Jesus’ day in much the same way that homosexuals are despised by many of the righteous today. Yet it is a Samaritan whom Jesus makes the epitome of sacrificial neighbourly-love in his story. Still, what did he know?

And really, that’s my beef with Christianity. It just doesn’t work. Believing in Jesus, following him, as he insists you must, to the point of death doesn’t make you a better person. It doesn’t make you loving if you’re not already. Doesn’t make you meet the demands of the very one you claim was God on Earth. It certainly doesn’t make you more compassionate or even more intelligent, as the men of God above more than amply demonstrate.

So what use is it?

 

 

 

All gods must pass

MardukIf human beings were suddenly wiped from the earth through, say, an Ebola pandemic, what would be left of us? What would become of all the things we’ve invented and created? What would happen to language, mathematics, science, literature, medicine, art, agriculture, architecture, democracy, industry, capitalism, civilisation, education, marriage, religion?

They’d all cease, most of them immediately. Remnants of others would survive for a little while before being reclaimed by nature. The surviving flora and fauna, the weather, climates, oceans, land masses would carry on just as before. Indeed, without humans around to abuse it both carelessly and deliberately, the rest of nature would flourish. Reproduction, evolution and the great cycles of life would continue unimpeded.

Which tells us what? That all of our accomplishments and preoccupations, from language and mathematics to marriage and religion are entirely human-made. When we go, they go. And nothing left behind will care. Our religions, all 4,200 of them, will disappear over night and with them their gods; Yahweh, Allah, Vishna will no longer exist, just as Marduk, Anu and Enlil no longer exist.

You’ve never heard of Marduk, Anu and Enlil? Of course not; this particular holy trinity were among the gods of ancient Babylon, a civilisation that existed two thousand years before the Christian God was even thought of. Their worshippers believed in them as enthusiastically as some people now believe in Jesus. For Babylonians, Anu, Enlil and Lord Marduk, the King of the Gods, were just as real, powerful and caring as Christ and Allah are for believers today.

But Enlil, Anu and Marduk have gone. From our vantage point we know they didn’t exist in the first place. They were nothing more than the product of ancient people’s imaginations. That didn’t stop those same people from having real faith in the three of them, praying to them and knowing in their hearts that they were being watched over by them. But as their civilisation fell, the Babylonians discovered that Marduk and company weren’t there to defend and preserve them. When, in 539 BCE, Babylon finally ceased to exist, so too did its mighty gods.

And so will the mighty gods of our own era. Either when a pandemic destroys us or when we destroy ourselves, or even when – as unlikely as it might seem – we come to our senses and abandon belief in made-up things.

However it happens, there will be no repercussions. Yahweh, Christ, Allah and Vishnu will not smite the Earth in their wrath at our abandonment of them. They will, instead, pass silently from history just as Marduk, Anu, Osiris, Zeus and Woden did before them.

If you still cling to human-made deities – and they’re all human-made – why wait? Why not be ahead of the game and let go of them now? Allow your pet god to go gently into that good night. You’ll not miss him, and he certainly won’t miss you. How can he? He’s not real, after all.

 
This post was prompted by Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

 

Where is the love?

ExecutionThe picture above has shocked and affected me deeply. It shows a man about to be thrown to his death from a high building in Iraq. According to the original news source, a large crowd was gathered below to watch him fall and then die as he hit the ground many metres below. Another man was then killed in the same way. This happened within the last couple of days; the photo, along with some others, was released by IS on Friday.

The men’s ‘crime’ was that they were deemed to be gay. The method of execution is that prescribed by the Koran.

Religion – in this case Shari’a Islam – lies behind and motivates behaviour of such profound inhumanity. It could be argued too that this is part of the culture in which these people live and as such, must be respected. Really? So what is ‘cultured’ about murdering people?

I’ve been asked recently whether I shouldn’t respect the right of people to hold religious views. But how can I – or anyone in a civilised society – accept the right of others to believe that, simply because someone’s perceived sexuality ‘offends’ an imaginary god, that person should die? And not only that, but that they merit a sentence of such barbarity?

I can’t respect such views, nor anyone’s ‘right’ to hold them; they will, inevitably, act upon them, just as we see here.

There are Christians too who support the death penalty for homosexuals (for example, here, here, here, here and here). Well, you men of God, this is what it looks like, though I guess your preferred method of execution would be to stone them to death, just as your own ‘holy’ book advocates (Leviticus 18.22, 20.13).

No respect is due to people who behave like this towards others, nor to the religions that ‘inspire’ them. Bullies who believe fellow human-beings should be executed because of who they are, and thugs who justify murder because it’s done in the name of an invented deity, are not worthy of anyone’s respect.

Where is the international outcry about this? The solidarity? The politicians linking arms? The advocacy of the civilised world?

Je suis découragé.

 

 

Thank you, Nick, for your question and to Joe.My.God.

The gift that keeps on giving…

PunchSo that’s it then. The Pope has spoken. We can no longer ridicule religion.

Frankie warned yesterday that faith, his own especially, cannot be mocked.

Shame. I was enjoying this.

Respect?

HebdoI could so easily take offence at this. (The caption reads ‘But who wants the English in Europe?’)

How far should we respect religious beliefs? I would suggest, not at all. The multitude of religions that exist in the world, not least the big five – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism – are all built on mythologies that require belief in supernatural beings, highly improbable events and meaningless rituals. There is no evidence these beings exist or have ever existed, no evidence the improbable events ever occurred and none that the rituals lead to results of any sort.

Most religions have their revered teacher, prophet or saviour who died centuries or millennia ago, and about whom stories are told that cannot possibly be true. How can any thinking person respect the idea that one of these figures rose from the dead? Or that another flew to heaven on a winged horse? Or another grew a jewel tree from a toothpick? These stories deserve as much respect as other ancient tales – like the one about the man who killed a one-eyed giant or the dude who returned to life after being hacked to death and eaten. The preposterous stories told by today’s religions are of the same order.

For this reason, as well as many others – not least how religion causes some of its adherents to act and relate to others – religion is not above criticism. Indeed, there is a moral imperative to criticise world views based on far-fetched stories, especially when they cause some who subscribe to them to discriminate against others, advocate murder and  take it upon themselves to carry out executions like the ones we’ve seen in Paris this week. I’ve written before about how, while most religious believers are not themselves extremists, it is moderate believers who sustain the culture responsible for those who are. Fanatics, extremists and terrorists do not spontaneously create themselves; they emerge from mosques, churches, synagogues and temples. As Bill Maher said about Islam this week, ‘when there’s this many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.’

While some have argued that the magazine Charlie Hebdo provoked Muslim extremists to attack it with its satirical drawings of Muhammed (among many other religious ‘leaders’) it is absurd to suggest that publishing provocative pictures automatically leads to murder, as if the perpetrators have no choice in the matter. Of course they do. Caricatures of the pope have also appeared on the magazine’s cover and, as bizarre as the Catholic church is, it has not responded to these depictions with violence.

There is, in any case, a good argument to be made that offence can’t be given, only taken. While no doubt there are Muslims who don’t find rather poorly drawn, largely unfunny cartoons of Muhammed offensive, there are those who choose to. (Just like I could choose to take offence at the cover above.) But provocation, whatever the context, is no defence and no excuse for the slaughter, violence or incarceration of those with whom we’re offended.

The religious need to grow up and put away childish things; to stop taking offence so readily, insisting they’re being persecuted when they’re not and constantly assuming they and they alone have the right to mete out punishment. Is the god each religion claims for itself so weak and feeble he cannot look after himself, his standards and his reputation?

Well of course he can’t, because he doesn’t exist. Every god there has ever been, from Osiris to Christ, from Zeus to Allah has been a human invention. And if no god exists, then neither do his standards and reputation, nor his prophets and teachers, his Sons and emissaries; they’re all largely made up too. No-one should be punished for failing to respect the figments of primitive people’s imagination. It is beholden on all of us who have indeed put away such childish things, to disregard the sensibilities of those who subscribe to and peddle puerile nonsense and point out as often as we can that not only does the Emperor have no clothes but there’s not even an Emperor. Only then can the world work towards being free from the tyranny of religion.

Simplistic maybe, but the alternative is to continue tolerating the intolerable. And look where that’s getting us.