Magi Mike's Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Social

What is the Incentive for People under Communism?

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We have to realise that capitalism has distorted our humanity. Social Darwinism is utterly mistaken so “survival of the fittest” is not how evolved societies work. Darwinism applies to solitary animals competing for resources, but society is one way in which animals can evolve so as to have better chances of surviving through co-operation, sharing, caring, empathy and altruism. Capitalism pretends that humans within society are equal to solitary animals outside it. On that basis they establish that the least human (the most greedy and selfish) will do better than the ones who stick to their social instincts to help others and care for them.

In the primitive communistic phase envisioned by Marx before there was any surplus to exploit, society still had different tasks to be done, and those that did not do their fair share were punished by the community, almost certainly by expulsion in serious or persistent cases. That will have meant death, and will have been the way the prosocial genes were increased in the genome relative to the anti-social ones, the latter over several million years being culled out (a process not completed). What though made someone agree to take on an onerous job like say the group leader? A leader was necessary because there is no time nor inclination to hold a conclave when we are attacked by a pride of lions, say. A leader shows the way, but why should anyone accept such a job?

There are no perks in terms of surplus value but what there is is prestige, the esteem of others in the group. Once we have had a few generations of socialism—which will need to guard against lapses back into capitalism meanwhile (“dictatorship of the proletariat”, would you believe), the instinctive kindly, sharing, helpful nature of people will return and the attitude will be one of wanting to do risky and unpleasant things for others, to have the regard that comes with it. Wanting to be admired is another natural instinct, complementary to sharing and caring. When we return to natural behaviors, helping each other because we like it and want to, the state can whither away.

Milton quotation: Gratitude

Greek Terracotta Figurines on Delos Testify to Pre-Christian Religious Tolerance

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In the second century BC, residents on the Greek island of Delos saw nothing wrong with using others’ gods in their prayers. Caitlin Barrett, Cornell assistant professor of classics and author of Egyptianizing Figurines From Delos: A Study in Hellenistic Religion, examined terracotta figurines found on Delos to determine what influence Egypt’s religion had on the Hellenized inhabitants and their daily lives.

Terracotta figurines are potential evidence for the religious ideas of a wide swath of the population, not just the rich. Such inexpensive figurines were accessible to many because they could be made rapidly and in bulk. Figurines of Egyptian gods appear as offerings at Greek gods’ temples on Delos and vice versa. Barrett explains:

The fact that somebody’s dedicating a figurine of a Greek goddess like Aphrodite to an Egyptian goddess like Isis suggests that the two were associated, or at least that their worship wasn’t considered incompatible. Greeks saw these other gods not as alternatives to the Greek pantheon but as something compatible with their own traditions.

The religious wars raging around the globe today and ingrained religious intolerance attest to the current rigidity of religions, the consequence of the intolerant tradition of Judaism with its jealous god entering the west via Christianity—Judaism for goyim—and displacing the tolerance of Hellenism. At this earlier period the tendency in Egypt and Greece was the other way—towards toleration. Barrett notes:

What’s interesting is the degree to which these foreigners—Italians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Syrians and Jews—interacted with each other’s deities and the cross pollination among worshipers.

Hellenistic Harpocrates with Egyptian Hairstyle and Upturned Torch

Although most of the figurines were produced by local craftspeople, many of them have iconography reminiscent of Egyptian deities. The Græco-Macedonian Ptolemies ruling Egypt at this time worshiped the Greek gods, while ceremonially serving the traditional Egyptian pantheon. Barrett says:

This led to the creation of syncretic imagery that combined aspects of both Greek and Egyptian traditions, and that could speak to members of this heterogeneous population. Some of that imagery wound up becoming hugely popular in the rest of the Mediterranean as well.

Delian craftsmen used techniques of figurine manufacture and conventions of artistic style that derive from Greek traditions, while conveying concepts that are fundamentally Egyptian. Barrett explains that Egyptians depicted children like adults with a finger to their mouth—because babies put their fingers in their mouths—rather than smaller and with the features of a child. However, in truth, Later Greek writers misinterpreted figurines of Harpocrates as a child to mean, from the characteristic gesture of his forefinger to his lips, that he was silencing people, and he became thought of as the god of silence and secrecy. To the Egyptians he was the symbol of the reborn sun and early vegetation, whence the upturned torch in the illustration (not a figurine from Delos), and his being a child (in the illustration having childish features and an Egyptian side lock of hair).

To pretend that Christianity avoided any trace of syncretism, as fundamentalists argue, is quite absurd. Many, perhaps most, Christian traditions and calendar dates copied ones already in use by older religions. Christmas is merely the most obvious example. It is a massive shame Christianity did not adopt and practice Hellenistic toleration too.

Jesus Explains the Rich Cannot be Saved

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In the discussion in The Washington Post following the items about whether Christianity is intrinsically socialist or capitalist in morality, mentioned below, the modern US capitalist oriented Christians so-called were flummoxed by the directness of their incarnated God’s message, and mostly turned to the Jewish scriptures or to Paul the Apostle for answers. They never seem to see any incongruity in citing pre-Christian Judaism against the direct words of God recorded as they fell from His own lips in the gospels, or the later teachings of a plain man trying his utmost to teach something quite different, while pretending to be preaching the same message as Christ, and succeeding so well that modern Christianity is Paulianity not Christianity!

Some of Jesus’s examples brook no opposition they are so lucid. That anyone should be bold enough to question anything so unequivocal, uttered from the lips of the man they are supposed to consider God, proves that they are not Christians. They are happy to contradict the clearest statements of the divine man! How can this one, for example, be contradicted by America’s megarich “Christians”?

Someone came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother, and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up. What lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:17-24

Since US Christians cannot understand biblical English, here is a step by step explanation:

  • The man is seeking salvation, eternal life, entry into God’s kingdom
  • Jesus tells him he must keep the commandments, listing the principal ones from the Jewish scriptures, but adding his own commandment which encompasses all others, “love thy neighbor as thyself”
  • The man considers himself a law abiding Jew and has obeyed all the commandments since he was a boy, and asks whether that is sufficient
  • To be saved people have to be near enough to perfection to satisfy the Judge, God, at Judgement day, so Jesus tells him that he has to give away his wealth to the poor, and become a Christian, thereby being saved—he would have “treasure in heaven”, eternal bliss
  • The reward offered to those who are do these things is salvation, but the man prefers his gold.
  • He leaves sorrowful, but unable to forego his material riches for eternal happiness
  • Jesus explains how hard it is to get into heaven when you are rich—he says it is impossible because a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle.

One commentator confidently proclaimed that this is not the whole story for Peter and the other disciples wonder how anyone can be saved if the rich cannot be. The gospels always show the apostles as being utterly devoid of brain cells, they are so lacking in comprehension. It is a deliberate device of the bishops who commissioned the gospels, because, if they were really so thick, then Jesus must have been thick to select them. Here they are depicted as thick to allow the bishops to be able to insert an ameliorating clause. It is that “all things are possible for God”. So the rich can be saved if God chooses to let them be. It is enough to satisfy the rich, who convince themselves that an occasional act of charity will suffice to get God on their side.

They have, of course, got the let-out clause upside down or inside out. The fact is that in Christian theology God is omnipotent and omniscient, and a few other things. Omnipotent means “almighty” or “all powerful”. It means He always has the final say. God is the Judge. He cannot be obliged to do anything under any conditions. That means that God’s promise is never certain! If God promises that all righteous people will be saved, it means that some of them will not be. That is why pastors are fond of saying that salvation is a gift. They use it as their excuse to deny that good deeds matter, despite the teachings of Christ that they do. It is certain that unrepentant sinners cannot be saved, because they will never be considered by the Judge. To be considered for salvation at all, people have to be perfect, that is righteous, free of sin, and, if they have sinned in their lives, they have to have repented, turned their lives around and not sinned again. The weight of the teaching of Jesus is that, having met the criteria he laid out, they will be eligible for a pass at Judgement, but it always remains God’s gift which He can always withhold, but probably will not.

The same holds in reverse. God is the Judge of sin, and although rich men face an almost complete ban from consideration for salvation, God might offer one or other of them an improbable gift of eternal life, and only God knows why He will do it, if He has a reason at all. But the underlying Christian belief, as it was with the Essenes, is that God is not capricious, so that what we can only call a gift, God has His reasons for it.

It is not a good bet to gamble that God will be benign to the rich man at Judgement Day when during His incarnation on earth, He said unmistakably clearly that for all practical purposes it was impossible for a rich man to get into God’s kingdom. So, gift or no gift, it remains true that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”.

If that is not plain enough for you capitalistic Christians, defending the rich, you ought to read this parable that Jesus told:

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.

The rich man also died, and was buried. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot. Neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Luke 16:19-31

It is hard to see how this parable can be read in any way other than the obvious and direct one that being rich can mortally damage your hope for an afterlife, if that is still any attraction to rich Christians. In the story related above, meant to be an actual incident in Jesus’s life, not a parable, the rich man is less attracted to the notion of being saved than he is to his bags of gold. So Jesus knew what the rich were like, and he even ends the parable of Dives and Lazarus by saying that even someone rising from the dead will not persuade them that riches are the “wages of sin”!

That turned out to be a true prophesy, and all of these US Christian apologists for the rich man’s economic scam prove it!

Is Christian Morality More Socialist or More Capitalist?

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It has been amusing over the last few days reading, and even participating in, the debate in The Washington Post on whether Christianity should favor socialism or capitalism. The leading article From Jesus’ Socialism to Capitalistic Christianity was written by Gregory Paul who argued in favor of Socialism but offered several hostages to fortune in introducing Ayn Rand into the debate, and implying that socialism was necessarily coercive. Two other articles followed refuting Gregory Paul’s argument. One was worthless, written by some Catholic member of the Discovery Institute, and another one, almost as bad but written I believe by a pair of evangelical lawyers, David French and Jordan Sekulow, was titled The Impossibility of a Socialist Jesus.

One of the points Gregory Paul made was that of the sharing of possessions in the first Christian community described in Acts. The act of sharing was so important to them that Luke, if he is the author, described how two supposed recruits, Ananias and his wife, Saphira, are struck dead for not sharing fully. They held back some of their wealth. The Christian lawyers claim the God killed the wicked pair for lying not for failing to share all of the money with the community. They say the notion of an honest lawyer is an oxymoron. It seems it is when it is a right wing preaching lawyer!

The ordinary US Christian is not noted for reading the book they value so highly, so they are easily fooled by right wing pastors and lawyers who cite things selectively. The full story of Ananias and Saphira starts at Acts 4:32, as follows:

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common. Neither was there any among them that lacked, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet. And distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 4:32; 34-37

It says they all had their things in common. The apostles’ community had set its rules, and Ananias and Saphira broke the rules by trying to deceive the community. People joined voluntarily, but once they had, they had to follow the rules. That is true of any just society, surely. As Gregory Paul had said, these early Christians in Acts held everything in common, so Ananias and Saphira were holding from the group some of their wealth, thereby breaking the community’s rules. They need not have become Christians so could have kept their house as their own, or sold it and disposed of their money just how they liked, but they had joined the community of Christians and so were obliged to give up all their wealth. It is justice.

Capitalist societies are not just. In the UK a lot of unemployed young people have been rioting, and not a few employed people too. Why? They have no prospects, and they have just seen politicians and bankers robbing the public purse by billions without being severely punished, or even being properly regulated. When cheating is so transparent in society people get angry. It seems that Peter got angry with Ananias and Saphira, and as the group’s enforcer, dealt with them.

Desperate to avoid the obvious crime, breaking the socialistic rules of the apostles’ community, Christians like to emphasize that Peter in quizzing Ananias wanted to know why he had lied that they had given all the proceeds of their sale when they had not. The crime was lying, they say, not the deed of withholding. Well naturally withholding necessitated lying but breaking the community’s rule was the primary crime and the reason for the consequent lying. But Peter does not ask Saphira why she lied when she arrived a while later. He says:

Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

The Christian lawyers justify capitalism by justifying cheating, though lying is a capital crime in God’s eyes, it seems. Well capitalism depends on both for one necessitates the other. It is quite true that many people have tried to be honest dealers while practising capitalism, but ultimately it is impossible. Christian bankers, politicians and lawyers prove it, all too transparently, and, in the end, the oppressed masses will not put up with it.

The political idea of socialism might not have arisen until the nineteenth century, but it is an ancient economic system, and unarguably the one that the first Christians adopted!

The Essence of Morality

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Ultimately how do you judge what is moral? If morals are supernatural gifts from God, when we are faced with a novel dilemma, we have no way of judging what is the moral way to act. Either God has given us the gift of moral judgement, or He has not—we are good or we are wicked through the grace of God, and our choices depend on that. If, on the other hand, morality is devised by humans living together to provide individual security, then the moral act is the one that causes least harm, or does more good, for other people. A terrorist throws a bomb into a restaurant. He is plainly immoral. He is harming innocent people for his own personal reasons. A waiter falls on to the bomb, smothering the blast with his own body. He dies but saves twenty others. He is a hero. It is an obvious and extreme case, but the morality of it is that, though the waiter lost his own life, he saved all those others. The most extreme such case is that of Christ, whom Christians say died to save the whole of humanity! So, morality is the welfare of other people in society. The instinct is to preserve oneself. That is what a solitary animal would do. The moral animal tries to save others, tries to be a Christ!


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Written by mikemagee

22 June, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Freedom and Social Order—Ancient and Modern

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For most of the dark ages, so called because of the absence of learning brought about by the victory of Christianity, people lived in misery largely because of their poverty, not because they had ideas beyond their station. Peasants knew their place in the social system, and even in the nineteenth century, the wife of the Bishop of Armagh was going to make sure the little scallywags at Sunday school knew it:

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.

All things bright and beautiful, Mrs C F Alexander

Most people were effectively slaves throughout the time of the Feudal system. They had a notional freedom, but in practice were tied to their lord and master and the bit of his land he allotted to the peasant to pay him for his otherwise corvée service to the manor. As Mrs Alexander wrote, God had “ordered their estate”, and few villeins entertained any idea of getting on in the world.

Some however, did, and especially after the millennium year (1000 AD) when the parousia did not happen and Christ failed to appear as the bishops had been promising for centuries. Thereafter, some people objected to their propaganda (Catholic lies—the original meaning of the word), many of them in the south of France, in Languedoc. They were Cathars and Vaudois, and preached spontaneously against Catholicism as being a Satanic plot. The Church organized a crusade against them, massacring and scattering them, then set up the Inquisition to pursue the scattered remains throughout Europe, calling them witches, and projecting on to them the accusation of being Satanic that the witches had originally pinned on the Catholic clergy. As the Church won, it is witches who are now remembered as Satanic.

The Cathars and Waldenses were the first Protestants and the first capitalists, for many had to travel around earning what living they could as craftsmen and tinkers. Their preaching against Catholicism inspired people like Wycliffe and Tyndall, and the Lollards. They also motivated the peasantry to think strange thoughts, thoughts that God had not ordered everyone’s place, and that human beings need not be tied to the land. In England in 1381, the peasants revolted. A Lollard preacher, John Ball, taught quite a different message from that which the serfs held habitually and unquestioningly until then:

When Adam delved, and Eve span, who was then a gentleman? From the beginning all men were created equal by nature, and servitude had been introduced by the unjust and evil oppression of men, against the will of God, who, if it had pleased Him to create serfs, surely in the beginning of the world would have appointed who should be a serf and who a lord.

These dissenting Christians were reading the bible for themselves, and Ball plainly meant that God had not made any such prescription in Genesis, so the presumed order of society had been arranged by the nobility and the clergy hand in hand for their own benefit, and contrary to God’s intention.

Primeval Human Groups

Adam and Eve in the bible had willingly chosen to disobey God, but the notion of God had sociologically come from the interpretation of their societies that early humans, just awakening into consciousness, found themselves living in. These small human groups were essentially classless. Leaders were treated with somewhat greater respect than ordinary members of the group, because they had to take decisions on the group’s behalf, but otherwise they barely differed from the others, living, sharing and caring equally with them.

A child was born into the group, and knew nothing else. When they were ill or hungry, it was the group that looked after them. The purpose of the leader was to keep them united when they were attacked by a predator or a rival group, so every member looked to others for defense and security too. And that was just how they saw it as they died. The group always provided for them and protected them from birth until death. It was, to them, as much part of Nature as the rising of the sun. It seemed eternal because it was in existence when they were born, it still was when they were dying, and so it had always been. The group was led by one member, the most competent of them to do it, and particularly good leaders were remembered, and became identified with the group first as a totem, then an ancestor or a father. In time the benefits of the tribe transferred to a mythical founding leader, who thereby became a god.

So the imagined benefits of the supernatural god or God were inherited from the benefits of the primitive tribe. God is a supernaturalized society, but the society he represents was the egalitarian society of early human beings, a society that made everyone feel secure and safe, and was ever present.

Freedom in Paradise

We can see now, that there was no way that this early simple society could have sustained a division into “haves” and “have nots”. Had it done so, the “have nots” would have upped and left—there could have been nothing in it for them, and the “haves” would have had to become “have nots” to survive. They would have had to do their own delving and spinning. This is the stage when the original hypothetical social contract that founded the original group could have been abandoned, had the social contract been violated.

Were the people in this early human group free? They were and they were not! They benefitted from the help offered by others in the group, and they in turn had to help the others. So they were not free to do as they liked. They had a social duty to perform in return for the social benefits they received. But all of them could rely on the others, for any rogue or antisocial member would have been disciplined by the rest, perhaps even being killed in extreme cases, as chimpanzees do, but also being driven out where they were likely to die unless a nearby group took them in. Members of the groups felt secure, and could participate in evicting a poor or old leader who was no longer effective, thereby participating in a rough and ready democracy—but they were obligated to the group by duty.

Here is the natural source of the ideas of positive and negative freedom. Negative freedom meant that none of the group members felt enslaved or confined. None could be made to do more than their fair share for the group, and could withdraw from the group if they felt some caucus in it was asking too much of them. But they were able to make their own contribution to the group, just the same as the others did, and also could help in replacing an ineffective leader. So, they had positive freedom. True freedom is the right balance of the two of them, and that is what the primitive human group had.


Overdoing negative freedom breaks down the cohesiveness of the group. People may be able to do a lot of things they could not do while they felt more obligated to the group, but they also feel that the help of others was waning, leading to their growing anxiety and insecurity.

For long periods in the dark and middle ages, though their lords could be oppressive, people could not imagine what freedom was. Equally, though poor, and liable to have hard times in bad seasons through cold, drought or flood, the normal working year was short, and people had a lot of free time waiting for crops to grow, and saints days for merriment. They also had the same strong feeling of community that the primitive group had. In short, the anxiety they felt was real, through poverty and providence, but was not generally social. Social anguish has grown steadily in the twentieth century along with the collapse of caring society into greed and exploitation.

People are feeling the absence of the kindness that close groups always had as a compensation for the random hardships of living—positive freedom. Instead they want more negative freedom—with its attendant failing cohesion of society.

Written by mikemagee

22 June, 2011 at 1:25 am

What Matters Most, Christ’s Resurrection or His Moral Teaching?

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Walter Albritton, a Methodist minister, tells how, as a boy, he used to go with his parents to see a dramatization of the rising of Jesus as told in Matthew, except, curiously, he has three not two women going to the tomb on the morning after the sabbath—a careless lapse, perhaps. It was sufficient to persuade him that the story was true because he was merely a lad, and naturally believed what he was told by his parents. He writes in the Opelika-Auburn News:

Years later, I began to question. Is it really true? Perhaps, as some say, the resurrection story is a myth. I wondered and struggled with the issue for awhile.

It seems he did not struggle long, for he decided “it is impossible to explain the Christian movement unless Jesus was actually raised from the dead”, and plainly enough ended up as a minister. Needless to say, he did not explain quite why he could not find any other explanation for Christianity starting up other than its foundation myth of a man being brought back to life being a true story. Instead, he poses his readers a few leading questions.

Could a lie about the resurrection be perpetuated for 2,000 years?

If, by a lie, minister Albritton means something that is not true, then the answer is a plain, “yes”! People have believed falsehoods for much longer than 2000 years, though they believed them to be true. A simple example is believing the sun moves around the earth, when the earth itself is actually rotating. By describing an erroneous belief as “a lie”, Albritton is tilting the pin ball machine! He is prejudicing the reader into thinking the first believers were tricked or were themselves doing the tricking, and they are resistant to either thought.

What, though, stops these sincere believers from simply being mistaken in thinking their erstwhile leader had risen when his corpse had simply been removed from the tomb?

The little boy Albritton would have been persuaded by the parade of Roman guards on duty outside the Easter show tomb, but it is a story only Matthew has and he explains that it proves the body could not have been stolen, an admission that people had already, before Matthew wrote a word, been protesting that the corpse of Jesus had been removed. No other gospel has the story about the Roman guards, and it makes the Roman guards the eyewitnesses to the resurrection, a story Matthew then has to refute by saying the guards had been asleep on duty! The corpse therefore could have been stolen anyway because the guards were asleep.

But could the early disciples have stolen his body from the tomb, while the guards were sleeping, and then convinced hundreds of people that Jesus was alive? Saying that it was so surely would not convince anyone.

Albritton leaps to the conclusion that only the disciples would have wanted to steal the corpse, that they wanted to do it deliberately to fool others into thinking Jesus had been resurrected, and had then gone around propagating what they knew was a lie. Again the presentation of an explanation in this tendentious manner can only be to prejudice his readers against a perfectly feasible explanation when presented otherwise. The Romans might have kept the body in case the disciples had tried to persuade his followers that Jesus was actually still alive. Displaying the corpse would have scotched any rumors that started along those lines.

More likely is that Jesus was an Essene leader, and the Essenes had removed his body for a proper burial with the ritual suited to an honoured leader. His simple converts were not aware of this, and they it was who took it for granted that he had been the first of the saints (Essenes) to have been resurrected at the general resurrection of the righteous that they were expecting at the End of the World. These simple converts were the first Christians, and they believed what Christ had told them—that the world was about to end. Then the righteous and the truly repentant Jews would be resurrected into God’s kingdom. They had been sinners, but had repented and sincerely believed they too would be resurrected when the world finally did end. Christians believe this still. The first believers were not liars and were not dishonest. they simply believed what they had been told, and the disappearance of Christ’s body encouraged them to think he had been resurrected. He had not been, but his followers thought he had been. Does Albritton get it now? There had been no resurrection in fact, but the first Christians sincerely thought there had been!

If Jesus had not been resurrected, it is obvious we would never have heard of his apostles. But we did hear about them; they were so convinced that Jesus was alive they were willing to suffer and die for this new faith. The evidence is overwhelming that the early Christians were willing to be martyred rather than renounce their belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Would anyone be willing to die in defense of a lie?

Albritton persists in suggesting to his readers that only lying apostles could explain Christian belief without miracles, and naturally no Christian will ever think the first Christians could have lied. There is no evidence whatsoever that any of the twelve apostles died for their faith. Christian belief is based on the same sort of evidence as the resurrection of Christ himself. Christians have been told the stories and they believe them. If a false tale is necessarily a lie, then in some cases at least, it is likely that the stories of the apostles all suffering and dying for their belief are lies. The same argument as that given above applies, however. The followers really believed the general resurrection had begun.

Evidence of this is present in Matthew 27:52-53 where “many bodies of saints who had fallen asleep were raised”. Did Albritton and his own Christian admirers ever notice that Jesus Christ was not the only man in the New Testament at the time to have been raised from the dead? Many were resurrected and they went into the city and appeared to many others! Matthew himself believed the general resurrection had started when Christ rose. Why then would they not sincerely think they could be martyred without any fear? They were convinced they would join Christ in the general resurrection. That is supposed to be the point of Christianity, though these days they all believe in a spiritual resurrection in heaven, not an actual bodily resurrection, even though the raising of Jesus was plainly a resurrection of his physical body into this world, not the raising up of a ghost. John 20:26-29 goes to extremes to show that the resurrection was a real bodily one, not a spiritual resurrection into some other place, such that any quack medium would wish to publicize!

At the end of his brief struggle, Albritton yielded to his childhood indoctrination that the resurrection is “the lynchpin of Christianity”.

If one does not believe in the resurrection, there is little else in Christian faith that makes sense.

What was the purpose then of Christ’s extended acts and teachings? Albritton tells us God’s earthly life as Christ, and the lessons He offered His human creatures were just packaging for the brief but dramatic act of God’s one off self immolation which has to be taken or left not on sound evidence but an incredible story and a confidence trick called faith. If that is so, Christianity is worthless. The moral teaching of Christ does not make sense, Albritton avers, proving that he is a shyster not a moral physician.

If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, then Peter’s letters would be a pack of lies.

“Letters” is plural but scholars consider only one of the two letters attributed to Peter in the New Testament has any chance of being genuine, and there is even doubt about that. So, one of “Peter’s letters” is a pack of lies inasmuch as it purports to be written by Peter but was actually written around a century after Peter had died. Indeed everyone except Christians know that there is no contemporary external evidence that any of the gospel stories are true. They are set in some historical setting, but then so too are almost all fictional stories that have been written. Incidental references to historical people and places are no proof of the truth of the stories! Much of it could indeed be a pack of lies mainly composed many years after the events that initiated the myths to explain and justify Christian belief as it had emerged at a later date and in different places.

Had Jesus not been resurrected, we would have never heard of the Apostle Paul, who wrote a great portion of the New Testament.

That is plainly false. Paul, like other early Christians taught that the resurrection had happened either because he believed what he had heard about the supposed disappearance of Christ’s corpse being because the dead man had been resurrected, or because he was the archetypal cynic for whom the story was a great way of earning a good living as a travelling charletan. Paul has been treated as the true founder of Christianity by Christians precisely because he taught an utterly different basis for living from Christ. Christ taught that people should be moral beings. They were moral beings when they loved each other. He taught the Golden Rule that everyone should treat others as they would like others to treat them. He went further teaching that people should love even their enemies, and even further by insisting that the way to love God was by loving other people as if they were God! By so doing, they would be considered for acceptance into the kingdom of God.

Paul taught quite a different outlook. It was that people would enter the Kingdom of God by merely having faith in Christ. Merely professing Christianity made people into Christians and earned them salvation. They had to do nothing. Phenomena like love of others would simply emerge from faith as a symptom of it. This is a much more acceptable belief than Christ’s for the simple reason that people are duped into thinking that salvation requires no effort, or only a little. Priests and pastors, human vampires out to suck mites from widows and orphans, just like Paul, naturally preferred his successful teaching for its benefits to them as a caste. They ignore almost totally the teaching of Christ, supposedly God incarnated as a man of flesh and bone, in favour of Paul’s mystical fusion of Judaism and the Eastern mystery religions centered on Christ as a dying and rising God like Attis, Tammuz and Adonis.

We would not even have a New Testament had not the early disciples believed God had raised Jesus from the dead.

At last Albritton gets something right. The disciples did believe Jesus had risen, and they told others of their belief, and the story has passed down to today. They believed it, but to believe something—like the motion of the sun around the earth—is no proof that it is true. Christians have always believed, but it is quite dishonest to pretend that only a genuine resurrection could have started the myth. People will believe what they have been conditioned to believe, and those Jewish followers of Jesus genuinely believed what Jesus had told them about the coming End of the World. They were not sophisticated people, and they were terribly oppressed by a ferociously ruthless military occupying power, the Romans. They wanted a better world to begin, one in which suffering innocents would be rewarded. There are many in the world today similarly oppressed by modern Romans!

Some say it does not matter whether Jesus was resurrected or not. His great moral teachings are what matter… But this is so much hogwash! Jesus believed that by dying on the cross as the Passover Lamb of God all people could receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Can one value anything else he taught if this teaching is a grand hoax? Surely not!

Why not? The important part of Christ’s teaching, even as recorded in the gospels, was a moral way of living, and particularly, as shown above, the way we should treat each other. These teachings make sense in human terms because we are social animals who depend upon society for our existence. Sociality is precisely what Christ taught. Christians refer to communion and fellowship, ways of living together amicably in society. And these teachings are underlined by discoveries in evolutionary psychology—the fact that we have moral instincts that can only mean something in a community. Solitary animals have no need of morality. Quite the reverse, they benefit from being savage and ruthless.

Christians have abandoned Christ’s moral teaching for Paul’s mystical teaching. As a consequence morality has been lost while selfishness has burgeoned. Morality is concern for others. Faith is concern for self. Christ taught salvation is earned by service to others. Paul taught that a personal and entirely selfish faith guaranteed salvation. The disciples of Paul want to tell their own, supposedly almighty, God how He should judge them. Instead of quoting Paul’s magical and mysterious statements, Christians should get into the habit of quoting Christ’s very plain and understandable principles of personal morality. If they think Christ was God, then it ought to be a no brainer whom they should consider as the more important source in the New Testament, whether Paul wrote most of it or not. Minister Albritton ought to get out of his diapers and read Christ’s moral teaching as an adult, then maybe he would stop propagating lies, for once errors are known to be errors, then to continue propagating them metamorphoses into lying.

Written by mikemagee

30 April, 2011 at 10:15 pm

How “Original Sin” is Destroying Western Society

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No arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death… and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), Leviathan

Hobbes’s famous description of humanity in the state of nature matches the Christian view that had dominated with world for the previous millennium and a half of misery, unless, that is, you were rich. Man is virtually a beast, and the Christian view is that after Adam had sinned, all his descendants—the whole human race—were cursed with an “original sin” that condemned them to just this sort of behavior. Everyone is born a sinner, so it is no wonder that they should have lived fearful, short and brutish lives. W E H Lecky (History of European Morals) thought clergymen, through their desire to show humanity in “an abnormal and dislocated condition” to justify their doctrine of original sin—and its power to drive believers into the churches, mites in hand—“propounded distorted and degrading views of human nature”. He continues:

Nothing can be more certain than that that which is and distinctive in human nature is not its vice but its excellence. It is not the sensuality, cruelty, selfishness, passion or envy, which are all displayed in equal or greater degrees in different departments of the animal world, it is that moral nature which enables man apparently alone of all created beings, to classify his emotions, to oppose the current of his desires, and to aspire after moral perfection… benevolence is more common than cruelty, the sight of suffering more readily produces pity than joy, gratitude not ingratitude is the normal result of a conferred benefit.

So what is this state of nature to which Hobbes refers? With no arts and letters, it was a life of illiteracy and unsophistication, and Hobbes says there was no society by which humanity could live together. So, he is speaking of an animal that indeed lived most of its life in solitude, but just occasionally clubbing an unsuspecting woman to drag by her hair back to his cave, to have a lusty time for a while, and thus propagate the human race. It is a comic strip description of “the life of man” because it was only by living together in groups that humans became human, and found any need for morals. Unless living communally had distinct advantages over living separately, no prehumans would ever have come together to live. There would have been no point in it. The point of it was security.

Humans were not the first animals to find the advantages of communal living. As our closest relatives the various kinds of chimpanzees are social animals, it is reasonable to assume that our common ancestor with the chimpanzees was social too. Whenever this solitary ancestor of ours lived, it was too early for it to have been human. We must have slowly emerged into consciousness living socially, and society must have seemed as natural as the landscape and the heavens to the first humans.

Sociality meant more hands and more eyes—there was safety in numbers, safety from attack and safety from starvation. Groups were more effective as a defence against maurauding predators, and were more effective at hunting and gathering. But group effectiveness depended on them agreeing to share danger and to share their food. Any who failed to share their spoils fairly or evaded their duty to help defend the group had to be punished. They were driven out of the group and faced just such an existence as Hobbes described, a “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” one! On their own, they had little chance of living long. This is what Hobbes must have meant, for humans have never not lived in groups. The ones left in the group were fairer and more responsible, and over the years became more so by a process of eliminating the bad genes of those who failed in their social duties—they evolved the moral instinct to act such as to promote sociality.

The moral instinct has evolved over several million years to protect our social nature by inclining us to be helpful, and not to cheat or evade our responsibilities to others. Where then is original sin in all this? It can only be the tendency, which still exists in some people, to prefer self to others. It is, in other words, the atavistic tendency to revert to the behavior of the solitary brute described by Hobbes, and it was not sin for such an animal, but simply the instincts it had evolved to serve as its own survival strategies. It might seem for small boys, in particular, to be highly romantic to be Robinson Crusoe, but the reality of solitary life is not at all romantic. Crusoe benefitted by salvaging a lot of modern gear from the wreck of his ship, and befriending a native, Man Friday. Having no such fortune or inclinations to trust others quickly removes the glamour.

But theologically original sin was not a reversion to a primitive form of behavior. After all Adam and Eve were newly created, so could not have known a more primitive behavior, and the general nobility of people towards others is played down in the eagerness of Christianity to force its members into church by the guilt of original sinfulness! But it was seen as concupiscence, an obsession with personal gratification, one might say selfishness and greed, the characteristics of the solitary animal!

The fact is that humans, unlike bees, ants and all social insects, have not had enough evolutionary time to adapt fully to social life. A sort of 20:80 (Pareto) principle applies to humans. Around 20 percent of human group membership are inclined to cheat to get more than their fair share of communal earnings, while about 80 percent stick to being moral, stick to the communal principles that have become instinctive to them. The proportion is variable because it depends on the response of others in society. When others are moral—stay fair in social transactions—there is a lesser temptation to be immoral than when others are cheating. Then the level of honesty declines throughout the society. If society becomes thoroughly immoral—nothing to do with sex, but entirely to do with honesty and justice—then society will collapse.

The distribution of society’s wealth over the last three decades has moved so much in favor of a minority of megarich people at the expense of the overwhelming majority of the lower and middle classes that people are beginning to notice, and are getting angry at the injustice of it. The over rich class, of course, controls almost everything via politics, religion, financial affairs, the military, and the media, and so have been successful hitherto in using the smoke and mirrors of supposed external threats, celebrity pap, and perpetual warfare to distract the poor and moderately rich from what has been happening. The recent blatant extraction of vast amounts of money from working people of all classes other than the super rich has put paid to the spin. People are waking up to their exploitation.

The Christian churches have themselves been an arm of the establishment’s instruments of propaganda. The top hierarchs of the church have always been the allies of the rich and their political state machinery. Dissenting voices are sometimes faintly heard in the churches, but it is expunged or swamped by the leadership, and misreported by the media when it is reported at all, and that is when it is not empty verbiage intended for mass consumption. The so called “great” religions, like Christianity are imperial religions and serve imperialist purposes. They serve the ambitions of the rulers (biblical archons) of the imperialist nations, the same super rich that have been increasingly robbing us all in the post war years.

At the core of Christianity—in the self sacrificial life of Jesus and his moral teaching—is a social morality largely reflecting our socially adapted human instincts. It was taken over by Constantine as a tool of Roman imperialism when the empire was shivering with early tremors of its final cataclysm. The central morality of Christ, which was to favor the poor and condemn the rich in a world already perceived as grossly unfair was diluted by the extension of sacramental magic that existed already in the messianic meal, also called the mass or communion. A modern Christianity should abandon magic and mysticism, abandon the imperialist overpainting of the original Christian morality, and return to the human morality of Christ, the socially necessary morality of love of neighbor, a fairer distribution of wealth, and a readiness to openly criticize rulers when they transgress these moral norms.

Written by mikemagee

7 April, 2011 at 10:08 pm

The Title “Father” in Christianity

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A news item somewhere informs us that John Dominic Crossan, once a Catholic priest, and now a long time member of the Jesus Seminar, has written an explanation of the Pater Noster or the Lord’s Prayer—“Our Father…” Apparently it is a prayer about the father of a household and the need to distribute the household’s food fairly. He may be a bit right!

Christians have always tried to maintain that Jesus was a member of an ordinary family, one of the motivations, no doubt, for the invention of the Birth Narratives, stories that no one in the main gospels ever refers to or seemingly knows anything about. And for the very good reason that few scholars doubt that they were later inventions tacked on to two of the gospels when they were compiled.

I cannot imagine why the prayer should not refer to God, as most Christians believe, but in the context not of people who lived in family groups, but of people who lived in religious communities, namely, the Essenes. They had a special meal, like the Eucharist, and most likely its source—the scenes where Jesus broke bread, and fed the four and five thousand—called the Messianic Meal, and it seems that the head of the table would recite the prayer on that occasion.

Jesus was an Essene beyond reasonable doubt. That Christians persistently deny it shows they are unreasonable. The Essenes were a Jewish church and, like Jews, and many others, called God their Father. To them, God was the Father of the human race, so all men were sons of God, but they were sons in a hierarchy of sons, the head of each level in the hierarchy being a father to his own sons.

Familiar? The later gentile church retained the system. Bishops, monks and priests are called father by others, monks are led by a father, an abbot, a Patriarch is a Head Father, an archbishop, and a Pope is a Father (Latin Papa, Greek, Pappas). In Aramaean, “abba” means father, and “ab” or “av” does in Hebrew. So, Barabbas means Son of the Father in Aramaean, and Barabbas was Jesus, indeed modern gospels admit that Barabbas was called Jesus!

The Essene hierarchies were not based on material status, on wealth, but on service to others. “The last is first and the first last” being an expression of rewarding service as opposed to status. God’s sons, the human race, were to be valued for their service to others, not on the basis of wealth, so the Essenes, like the apostles in Acts, held all their goods in common. They were communists. That is one big reason why American Christians cannot face up to the truth about Christ.

Being Good at Recognizing Liars May Allow Us to be Trusting

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Researchers asked the participants in a study to watch taped job interviews of second year MBA students. Several days before the participants watched the tapes, they filled out a questionnaire that measured their trust in other people, with questions such as “Most people are basically honest”, and “Most people are basically good-natured and kind”. They then watched the videos, and rated the truthfulness and honesty of the interviewees.

The interviewees were required to try their best to get the job, and were paid $20 for making the job interview tape, and both the liars and truth-tellers had the chance of an additional $20 if a supposed lie detection expert watched the tape and believed they were telling the truth. Half of the interviewees were completely truthful, the other half told at least three significant lies to appear more attractive for the job.

Highly trusting people were more accurate at detecting the liars. The more people showed trust in others, the more able they were to distinguish a lie from the truth. The more they trusted their fellow humans, the more they wanted to hire the honest interviewees and to avoid the lying ones. Contrary to the stereotype, untrusting people were more ready to hire liars and less likely to realize they were liars. Co-authors, Nancy Carter and Mark Weber of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, wrote:

Although people seem to believe that low trusters are better lie detectors and less gullible than high trusters, these results suggest that the reverse is true. High trusters were better lie detectors than were low trusters. They also formed more appropriate impressions and hiring intentions. People who trust others are not “pie in the sky” Pollyannas, their interpersonal accuracy may make them particularly good at hiring, recruitment, and identifying good friends and worthy business partners.

One needs to be clear about what is cause and what is effect. Rather than being trusting somehow making people better at recognizing liars, trusting people more trusting because they are better able to see through the smaller proportion of liars. Because they know most people are trustworthy, they are trusting people. Untrusting people have to be untrusting to compensate for their inability to see through habitual liars. So deciding to be more trusting will not give you some mysterious ability to recognize liars, but, if you are trusting, it may be that you can do it already, and so have confidence in who you sense you can trust. You are smart.

Written by mikemagee

14 August, 2010 at 9:58 pm