The Only Game in Town!
I "studied" the Bible as a child, in college, since, but it's only in the last few years that I've learned anything really significant from those seven decades of study. The society and its institutions can sabotage intelligence all they want, but sometimes something slips through. With John and Jesus murdered, a word may survive. Galileo, Darwin, Freud got attacked, ignorance, stupidity is triumphant, but somehow some intelligence, some wisdom may get through. Jesus may somehow save some of us even while the powers continue to crucify his successors, other saviors, continue to pervert talent, generosity, godliness ... genius. I showed an avid interest in the Bible. I demonstrated an eagerness to perpetuate the fundamentalism I was force fed. But the school, the church, my family, the whole culture steered me away from theology: no, we wanted doctors, lawyers, Ponzi schemers. Well, I'm a theologian anyway, just outside all the churches, outside the Republicans, and Democrats. And Communists! Outside. Near starving. That's me. But somehow an intelligent, honest Bible reader emerged from all those piled millennia of dishonesty: Bart Ehrman. He's was a child fundamentalist who actually insisted on learning some of the lessons of close textural and historical readings of the Bible nurtured in the isolation of the seminary/terrariums. (The Church may have been smarter than the Protestants say when it opposed confidence in the ability of yesterday's illiterate to properly read scripture. The Church wanted a lid on, Protestants blew the lid off, but without understanding much.)
The terrariums teach it, but the graduating pastors refuse to pass it on. The seminaries teach liberal readings, acknowledge problems, but the graduates immediatly return to their initial prejudices, and perpetuate them in the churches that hire them. The churches side-rail the intelligent, the honest; the morons control the misinformation.
Check out Ehrman's books. Misquoting Jesus and Lost Christianities were the first two I read. Now I'm enjoying Jesus, Interrupted too. Get your facts from him: I just want to go straight to one (set of) fact(s), known for a good while now, but not much publicized: despite Ehrman penning best sellers. Cambell got side-railed, I got side-railed; Ehrman gets lionized; but it still doesn't matter. Bishop Wilberforce will beat Darwin and Huxley over the long haul.
Ehrman is the Christian scholar who's actually reached a couple of readers with the news that the Gospel According to St. Mark is the oldest of the Bible's gospels, that it post-dates Jesus's estimated death by two-thirds of a century, that the oldest copies of it are a couple of centuries younger than that, and that the oldest Mark ends short of the Mark passed to us by churches. The oldest Mark ends its story with the opening of the tomb: then the angel tells Mary Magdalene that Jesus is risen. The angel tells Mary to go and tell the others, the disciples. But Mary is frightened, Mary goes home, Mary Magdalene tells no one! That's the "original" ending of the original Mark: that is, the oldest Mark we can deduce, can find.
If God was trying to save mankind by sacrificing himself in the person of Jesus, it sounds to me like he failed. God gave us Jesus, gave us a chance: we rejected Jesus: murdered him, then rejected the salvation. Christians are bade to bear witness. We don't. Or we do: bear witness to bullshit, to lies. To vanity. If it's vain, we'll repeat it, embellish it, embroider it. If it's tough, if its honest, if it's intelligent, if it's compatible with hard truth, we'll ignore it, sabotage it, rewrite it: till it's flattering, fits in our vanity miror.
My piece here, God's Lure, tells how it makes me sick to think that God is using me as a lure only to expose the rapacity of my fellows. I tell my girlfriends, my wife, my son, my more girlfriends ... what I promised God to try to tell people: they get it only enough to reject it, the proudly tell me that they're following Roosevelt instead, or Bush, or Rothbard, or Mises.
My girl friend sees that the Church is a liar. But she still wants to go to Church!
Gamblers have a joke that applies to Christians. The degenerate gambler is playing at a roulette table. His friend says, "Don't you know that table is crooked?" "Yes, I do," says the degenerate gambler. "Then why are you still playing at it?" "Because it's the only game in town!"
Try this as a thought experiment: in our lab we shall for the immediate purpose take Christian symbols literally: there is a God, there is a Christ, there was a Jesus, there will be a Judgment ... Peter was a leading disciple, Peter denied Jesus, a legitimate Church made Peter its first pope ...
Now let's imagine Peter at Judgment. Let's imagine God weighing bits of evidence in a balance scales: in the Saved pan he puts Peter's eminence as a disciple, in the Damned pan he puts Peter's denial of Jesus. ... All my life I've heard jokes in which Peter is the keeper of the pearly gates: but does that make it so? Shouldn't we wait till after Judgment to see who's in heaven, what use God is making of them? If Jesus himself spent three days in hell, how long should Peter go to hell for? Should we imagine that he's out yet? ever? Maybe Peter will tend some future pearly gate.
But of course my thought experiment is just a joke, totally out of taste: because it doesn't line up with the fundamental stance of any religion: that stance which pretends to believe in a god who rubber stamps the human culture: a Big Brother bully of bullies: the bully bullies you? God will bully them! for you! a god who takes the Canaanites land and gives it to the Jews, who judges the Philistines and makes them slaves of the Jews ... who gives licence for genocide so Christians can live on Iroquois turf.
Still: try the thought experiment one step further. God judges Mary Magdalene: into the Saved pan can go lots of apocryphal traditions: she was a whore who reformed, she was Jesus' friend, she was the chief financial patron to Jesus, his ministry, and his disciples ... But: into the Damned pan God can put ... her betrayal at the end! The angel told her to tell the disciples; she didn't, she was afraid, she went home. (Or was "Mark" a misogynist maligner? like Paul?)
Imagine the President phoning the nuclear silo, saying, OK, launch. But the silo team don't launch, they cower in their barracks. The day before, the silo team was shown airbrushed in Life; today what will the media make of them?
It doesn't matter. Humans will never allow God to run Judgment. Man has already judged. We judge that your land is ours, your labor is ours, your ideas are ours, we can pay whichever royalties we feel like and not bother with those we don't volunteer. No: God is our bully on our leash. We have nothing to fear from God. Justice is political license for the church-goers.