We make some of our greatest gains
when we see old things in new ways
ï This is a pointless column - no kidding. Furthermore, I'll be the first one to admit it. Usually when I sit down to write a piece for public consumption, it's in the hope that my efforts will result in some good; some bit of insight that will lead to a better understanding, predicting and controlling of one's life. Today that's not the case. Alas, all I'm engaged in is a waste of time. Why? Because I'm talking about religion
People spend lots of time talking about love. Most of it is a waste of time because love, like almost everything else, is a matter of chemistry. There are compounds (such as phenylethylamine and oxytocin) that cause humans to fall head over heels for each other. Similarly, all the theology that's spouted in support of this religion or that religion is also a waste of time.
You believe because you can't help it - pure and simple. Patients suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy experience visions vivid enough to convince them that they're in touch with one or more saints, gods, angels, devils, etc. Saint Paul, Moses, Joan of Arch, Joseph Smith and many others (such as Ellen White who fell on her head before starting the Seven-Day Adventists) went on to attract masses of followers.
The more devout of these followers, if not down right epileptics themselves, typically suffer from abnormally high levels of temporal lobe activity. So, like love, religion is an overpowering condition that results in the rational mind trying to devise all kinds of legitimate reasons for irrational emotions. And that's why I say this column is pointless. There's no way - despite what therapists tell you and charge you - that you can talk anyone out of a chemically induced state.
But what the hell - let's talk about religion anyway. Jesus is in the news and, even though he's gotten way more than his 15 minutes of fame, continues to enjoy celebrity status. This despite the fact that there were literally a couple of dozen Christs who cropped up at about the same time because, lo and behold, that's when the priests coincidentally predicted the coming of a savior. Talk about timing.
Similarly, the bible is being quoted even more than usual despite the fact that it was written in a long dead language (Aramaic) and is now available in a couple of dozen versions. Talk about attribution.
Anyway, let's combine the two and see that the bible says about Christ. We'll pick the King James Version and the Christ from Nazareth.
According to Jesus:
Q What must you do to have eternal life?
A Sell everything you have and give all the money to the poor.
Q How should Christians treat their parents?
A Parents should be hated.
(Luke 6: 22)
Q How should slaves be treated?
A They should be beaten for disobedience
(Luke 12: 47-48)
Q What about peace on Earth?
A Jesus came not for peace but with a sword.
(Matthew 10: 35)
And if you want more, visit the Freedom From Region Foundation (FFRF) web site and take a look at their Bible Quiz. Better yet, give it to your local priest.
And speaking of local priests, there's currently much hoopla surrounding charges of pedophilia in the Catholic Church. Evidently, this comes as something of a surprise. Let's see now, men dress in skirts, get on their knees to worship male figures, and forsake all notion of sex with females. Yea - I can see where you'd be shocked that 10% of these guys are supposed to have fooled around with kids - 80% of whom are reported to have been boys under 13.
Personally, I was not shocked. I already knew better. You see, years ago, I was a professor at a Catholic college. As a psychologist, I was also on hand to hear the innermost thoughts of both clergy and students - many of whom were there to become priests. As it happened, I liked both groups. They were typically intelligent, well-read, and good conversationalists. Of course, you have lots of time for such things if you don't have to earn a living.
After a few drinks, which were de rigor at the residence, these Earthly representatives of Jesus made for a most hospitable and companionable group. But to say that only 10% had rather dubious sexual orientations would require a willing suspension of disbelief far beyond anything imaginable in anyone with a health temporal lobe. But that's the bottom line isn't it. True believers will be oblivious to even the most obvious of signals - that's what makes them true believers.
Finally, how can one speak of religion, the bible, and Jesus today without at least a brief reference to the Mel Gibson flick? So here goes - not that it will make any difference you understand. The Mel Gibson movie is fiction based on fiction. The birth, death and rebirth of Jesus are the collective confections of Jews and Gentiles and itinerant street preachers concocted about 100 years after the events supposedly took place.
Just imagine, for a moment, the problems you would have trying to figure out what happened a century ago without access to books and libraries, videotapes, and the Internet. Now add two millennia of multi-layered fantasy and vested interest on top of that. Hello - do you get the point? The Gospel of Mark, which was most likely compiled by one or more adherents of a Jesus cult, was the first to mention the crucifixion.
The writers of Matthew and Luke built on this, adding a birth story and a resurrection story. All of these were standard Greco-Roman fables drawing, as they did, on countless myths involving sons of gods fighting evil, dying in the process, and then being vindicated through rebirth; nothing new or particularly imaginative to anyone even vaguely familiar with the legends of early Man.
Nevertheless, the whole package carried considerable weight in the marketplace of religions and, once picked up by what had become of the Roman Empire, became a force with which to be reckoned. Now part of "history" it remains wholly unsubstantiated by anything other than the bible, which is where it all began in the first place. You've heard of a circular argument - right?
Those of you who don't believe will say "But of course" while those of you who do believe will say "No way." All I ask is that you say such things to each other and leave me out of it. Frankly, I've wasted enough time on this.
The author may be reached via email at DrSBMason@aol.com