Believing is Seeing

Fish

Have you noticed how the risen Jesus seems only to have appeared to those who were already primed to see him? Of course, the accounts of the resurrection are inconsistent, unreliable and constructed long after the supposed event, but just for now, let’s take them at face value. Jesus appears first, according to Matthew, Luke and John, to his female followers – maybe one on her own (in John), maybe two (Matthew), maybe several (Luke) – but to women who would be mourning him and would be longing to see him again. And lo and behold, they do! He’s not quite substantial and not quite recognisable – every bit the hallucination, in fact – but he appears.

Next he is said to have shown himself to the disciples – maybe one (Luke), maybe two (Luke again), maybe several (Matthew) – men who have been thrown into complete disarray by Jesus’ death but who believed in him and his mission to inaugurate the Kingdom of God, and were looking forward to ruling it with him. So naturally they see him in their midst. Never mind he walks through walls and disappears at will, just like an apparition – he appears! As Acts 1.3 puts it, ‘he presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs’.

Wait – ‘by many proofs’? What does that mean? That he had to prove he’d come back to life? Could they not see that for themselves? Couldn’t they recognise the man with whom they’d spent the last three years? Or if they could, weren’t they convinced he’d returned from the dead so that he felt he had to prove it? How? How did he prove it? With a death certificate? By letting them poke his holes? And this took forty days? Isn’t it more likely they were subject to group hysteria and some sort of hallucination (they’d had hallucinations before – see Matthew 17:1-9) and they then had to convince each other that what they’d experienced was really Jesus? No wonder it took forty days to concoct a ‘plausible’ story, to arrive at ‘the many proofs’ that Acts speaks of. Whichever it was, Jesus’ gullible old pals convinced themselves they’d seen him.

During these same forty days – though in his gospel Luke implies it’s a much shorter time (24.40-53) – Jesus fits in a guest appearance at a rock concert in front of 500 believers – believers, note. Not people who were converted as a result of this miraculous appearance, but people who were already part of the Jesus cult when they experienced this vision. Or so Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15.3-8. He wasn’t actually there, but he heard about it from a friend of a friend of a friend so it must be true.

And finally he appeared also to Paul himself (1 Corinthians 15.5). Not as a physical body but as a beam of light in Paul’s head. I’m not getting into how this was, as Paul himself admits, no more than an inner vision (he too is prone to hallucinations – see also Acts 16:9-10 and 2 Corinthians 12.1-7) because you can read about that here. Rather, I’m going to argue that Paul, arch-enemy to this point of all things to do with the Jesus cult, is just as primed for a sighting of the Lord as all those other people who think they saw him… next time.

to be continued.

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Are You Doing What Jesus Christ Says?

Billboard

Dale McAlpine, sometime commenter here and fanatical street-preacher in these parts, has posted a tasteful little video on his web-site – that’s the smugly named Repent.com if you’re interested – called Are You Doing What Jesus Christ Says? Take a look at it over on Repent.com or on YouTube; it’s ludicrously melodramatic and wonderfully over the top. You’re sure to enjoy its typos and spelling mistakes too.

What’s remarkable about it apart from these things is that, despite its title, it makes little reference to what Jesus is supposed to have said. Instead, it’s all about how you’ll go to hell if you don’t repent and accept him as your saviour; but Jesus never said this. It says you’re a ‘vile, wretched, hell-deserving son or daughter of Adam’ – Jesus didn’t say this either. It also insists you should let his cross ‘disrupt the very centre and citadel of your life of self’ (whatever that means) and guess what? This wasn’t part of Jesus’ teaching either. In fact, none of these claims were part of his ‘good news’.

Of the things Jesus did say – go the extra mile, sell all you have to give to the poor, turn the other cheek, avoid judging so you won’t be judged, give to all who ask, give away your shirt as well as your coat, feed the hungry, visit the sick, clothe the naked and love your enemies – the video makes no mention. Funny that. Maybe that’s why we don’t see Christians doing them very often.

So, Christians – and Dale too – are you doing what Jesus said or are you, like the video, only interested in pointing out others’ supposed sins and shouting about how they need to join you in your delusional mumbo-jumbo?

Yes. Thought so.

In the Wrong Body

prayer3What to do about those people who feel they don’t belong in the body they were born with? Those who disparage the vehicle that carries them through life? Should we ban them, shun them? Prevent them from using the same bathrooms – to use that ridiculous euphemism for places never known to include baths – as those of us who accept the body we’ve got? Should they be side-lined, castigated and ridiculed?

Well, no. Let’s go easy on Christians who believe they are somehow separate from the bodies that house them; who regard their bodies are inferior to the spiritual being God intends them to be. Christians who look forward to the day when they’ll be relieved of their physical bodies, which will then be transformed into spiritual ones, and who, in preparation for this miraculous change, claim to resist the demands of the body – the lusts of the flesh as the Bible puts it (1 John 2.16). Yes, those Christians, the same ones who disparage people who find themselves in the wrong bodies and want them to conform to the sex they know themselves to be; transgender people.

The Christians are wrong on every level of course:

  • They are not designed to be spiritual beings;
  • None of us is separate from our bodies;
  • The illusion of the self is a product of the brain and wider society, and we demonstrably do not have souls or spirits;
  • Bodies, while frail and susceptible to illness, injury and ageing, are all we’ve got; they don’t survive death and are not refurbished or replaced after it.
  • The demands of the body can be managed but not entirely ignored, not even by Christians who eat, drink, have sex, sleep, defecate and generally indulge their carnality in the same way the rest of us do.

Still, none of this prevents Christians from thinking they’re prisoners of a temporary yet  strangely inhospitable body while here on Earth. You’d think that would make them empathetic to people who are also in the wrong bodies, but you’d be wrong. They ridicule them and tell them that they’re sinful aberrations; they object to their use of the ‘bathroom’ that corresponds to the gender they know themselves to be.

What was it someone once said? ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’. There sure seem to be a lot of sinless Christians about these days.

The Stuff Christians Say… (part three)

DoorToDoorAtheists are aggressive/militant/unreasonable. The Christians might’ve got us on this one. After all, it is incredibly irritating when we atheists start preaching in the town centre or invade others’ events to tell them what to believe or dish out loony pamphlets or turn up at people’s doors when they’re just about to have their tea. And what about all those meeting places we have, on just about every corner of the city, with smart-arse posters about Adam and Steve on the board outside? And let’s not forget our readiness to blow up ourselves and others in the name of our great cause. Now that’s ‘militant’! Yes, we atheists really do have too much freedom to push our views on others. No wonder we’re so insufferable. (Note to self: check you’ve got this right.)

It takes more faith to be an atheist than a Christian. It takes no faith to recognise there are no supernatural beings. It takes no more faith not to believe in God – or to acknowledge that there is no God to believe in – than it does not to believe in Santa Claus, Poseidon or Ra. Christians themselves require no great abundance of faith to dismiss these characters. Is it so difficult to understand that atheists disregard the Christian pantheon of fantasy figures in exactly the same way? Or are believers practising their dishonesty-for-Jesus again? There is no faith involved in being an atheist. On the other hand, believing in an omnipotent but suspiciously inactive God, a super-hero Saviour, a magic Spirit, angels, cherubim, seraphim, demons, Satan, resurrected saints, Heaven, Hell and all manner of powers and principalities – this requires faith in delusional quantities. No atheist could possibly compete. Nor would they want to.

Faith: An Exercise In Futility

MountainsWhat is faith?

The anonymous author of the book of Hebrews says it’s ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ (11.1)

Hoping for ‘things’ like perfection, resurrection, eternal life, heaven (not to mention the ability to move mountains), the likes of which no-one has ever achieved, is nothing but wishful thinking. Despite what the Hebrews author says, wishful thinking isn’t evidence of anything – except a capacity for wishful thinking.

By it’s very nature, then, faith is not evidence, but the very opposite. It is the effort to believe in things for which there is no evidence and the delusional insistence that the imagined is more real than that which is.

The Stuff Christians Say… (part two)

Balaam

Atheists don’t behave as evolution says they should: This ridiculous accusation is often slung at atheists by Christians who seem to see it as some sort of stinging rebuke. Answers In Genesis is very fond of it; the Hamster’s drones and other Christians seem to believe – without ever thinking it through (plus ca change) that because those who acknowledge the veracity of evolution don’t behave according to its principles they are somehow inconsistent in their ‘beliefs’ – hypocritical even. They seriously propose that because natural selection and the survival of the fittest (not one of Darwin’s phrases) are cruel, uncaring processes, then that is how, for the sake of consistency, atheists ought to behave too. We shouldn’t care, they say, when a child develops cancer or someone dies. We shouldn’t attempt to cure illness or work to prevent suffering because these are nature’s way and part of the mechanism of evolution.

While it’s true they are, it’s been a long time since our behaviour, our existence and continued success as a species has been solely determined by what nature does. Humans regularly override its mechanisms, natural selection included; every time we use birth control, show compassion for the weak, heal the sick, develop medicines, engineer genes and preserve life. And so we should.

Christians seem unable to comprehend that evolution is not a pattern to be followed. It is not a set of instructions for living, a prescription or a set of (a)moral guidelines. It is the best explanation, supported by considerable amounts of evidence, of how life developed on the Earth. As such it makes no ethical claims nor does it demand that its principles be blindly followed (that’d be religion). Are Christians truly unable to detect this difference?

Atheists have no reason to be moral: I’ve looked at this ignorant claim before. Of course we have reason to behave morally. We’re human, we live in human society. Morals help us do so while doing the least damage to ourselves and others. They may also enable us to bring some happiness or comfort to those around us. Atheists don’t look to an imaginary God to tell us how to be good; our morals come from our culture, upbringing and education. Christians’ morals do too, whatever else they may claim. They certainly don’t get them from that most immoral of books, the Bible.

 

to be continued…