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Ch. 10: The Bible and Morality 
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Gentle: The notion that God would put a person like Jesus through torture and crucifixion intentionally to save people who had no further moral responsibility themselves except to believe his blood would wash their sins clean and everyone else would burn eternally, left me wanting to do the cosmic civil disobedience of going to hell rather than letting such cruelty and injustice support me in bliss in heaven. How could any decent person feel bliss while others were being burned forever?

When I confront the crucifixion (and confrontation is the correct term...there is no dispassionate or detached way to simply analyze, inspect or consider such brutality) I am always reminded of the terrors that actually and really plague human existence...not imaginary, mythic or merely religious concoctions...but factual abuses that wound real people in actual locations at certain times...genuine wounds that bleed real blood and cause real suffering....Jesus crucified is a graphic mirror of the horror that fills our world.

Jesus crucified also stings my own conscience, forcing me to consider how I have and am currently supporting the crucifixtions of others: in this sense it becomes a symbolic accusation and metaphorical challenge to admit to where my actions (or inaction) lends power to the torture and wounding of others...what is my part in the terrible injustices and cruelties that fill the contemporary landscape...again, not imagined or mythic wounds- but actual bodies in real places suffering in real ways?



Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:22 pm
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Oy. Here we go.

I agree with most of what Seespotrun and realiz said about what I said. I'm not defending the totality of Barker's book. (Can't: didn't read it; not going to. If narrow-minded people can disagree with books they haven't read and try to ban them, I can agree with aspects of books I haven't read and try to defend them.) I actually like to try to agree with everyone about this kind of thing. It's much more intellectually stimulating and challenging than trying to disagree about religion, which is like shooting fish in a barrel. Any narrow-minded, ignorant dogmatist can do it, explaining where everyone else is wrong. It's also more spiritually valuable for me to look at what people are saying that makes sense or could stand for something of value than it is to pick it apart, waiting to pounce on the least danger of evil.

That said, I'm most likely to pick apart and nitpick over things that threaten most to turn me intense or dogmatic by way of my emotionally-charged agreement with something horrific in them. For instance, Dissident Heart, with absolutely no mercy to shed upon my sensitive little soul wrote:
Quote:
When I confront the crucifixion (and confrontation is the correct term...there is no dispassionate or detached way to simply analyze, inspect or consider such brutality) I am always reminded of the terrors that actually and really plague human existence...not imaginary, mythic or merely religious concoctions...but factual abuses that wound real people in actual locations at certain times...genuine wounds that bleed real blood and cause real suffering....Jesus crucified is a graphic mirror of the horror that fills our world.

Jesus crucified also stings my own conscience, forcing me to consider how I have and am currently supporting the crucifixtions of others: in this sense it becomes a symbolic accusation and metaphorical challenge to admit to where my actions (or inaction) lends power to the torture and wounding of others...what is my part in the terrible injustices and cruelties that fill the contemporary landscape...again, not imagined or mythic wounds- but actual bodies in real places suffering in real ways?


All I can say is, if you would like me to be able to live to do the kind of support and service work I do in my daily life, you will keep the bloody crosses and exhortations to imagine how I may be lending power to the torture of others to a minimum.

Many of my life choices, good and bad, have been based on an exaggerated sense of my power in this area. You and I are not the only people on the planet making choices, Dissident Heart, and I find that my capacity to effect a change by taking more responsibility than is my share corrodes responsibility into guilt, rescuing, enabling, crusading, ranting, and ultimately, self-destruction.

I live a modest life with an emphaisis on service and self-care, and I try to stay right-sized about how much I am actually entitled to control. Nobody ever consults me before they exploit and torture people, to my indignation. If they did, I would surely make them stop.

I have a dear, retired friend who went to prison for crossing the line at Fort Benning, Georgia (Formerly School of the Americas, where they teach and export torture). She had to do it twice to make the judge punish her because she was so old, they didn't want to. I picked her up at the train station when she came back and arranged for her to give a presentation to the community. I have also supported survivors of torture. I try not to buy products linked to practices like child slavery (nearly impossible).

That's enough. I am not going to look at bloody pictures of Jesus and meditate on the blessed sorrows of the holy martyrs because I just don't think it helps me or anyone else. (You can see how hard I have to struggle not to get "intense and dogmatic," huh?) I like to go to nature for my prayer and meditation, grow pretty plants, pick up shells and pinecones and pretty rocks and leaves and pet my purring kitty. Life has beauty in it and joy and love, and its Creator needs a safe place to store these treasures, a safe heart will do. Why not mine? Why not yours? We are so fortunate and privileged. If we aren't at peace and grateful, who in the world will be?


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Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:48 pm
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Crosses paid for with our Tax Dollars


United States and weapons of mass destruction: nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Sta ... estruction

The USA is the world's biggest polluter http://www.vexen.co.uk/USA/pollution.html#Pollution

Too Many Guns http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5619
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The United States is the world's largest arms-supplying nation. In 2007, the United States entered into over $19.1 billion in Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreements with other nations and for 2008, sales of military goods and services mushroomed to $34 billion - triple the volume of the Bush administration's first year.

U.S. exports range from combat aircraft to Pakistan, Greece, and Chile to small arms and light weapons to the Philippines, Egypt, and Georgia. Since the beginning of the war on terror, the United States has transferred more than $88 billion in weapons and military material through the Foreign Military Sales channel. In 2006 and 2007, U.S. weapons and military training went to over 168 states and territories. But it's not just big weapons systems transferred legally.



Fri Jan 09, 2009 12:39 am
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DH, we understand how these things are bad, and are attempting to eliminate them. The exception is the arms trades, which I'm sure is far more complicated than what it appears on the surface. If there are warlike countries with their self-built weapons, and we could save innocent lives in a neighboring country by lending them weapons, the issue becomes more complex.

I don't see how flaunting such evils supports your point. We can, and are, working together to reduce nuclear arms and pollution production. What more can feeling guilty about this situation as individuals benefit us? We don't need to picture a man tortured on a cross to prompt us to take responsibility.



Fri Jan 09, 2009 2:15 am
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Interbane: DH, we understand how these things are bad, and are attempting to eliminate them.

If you feel the need to speak for we, that's your perogative...it's inaccurate and impossible, but it's certainly possible to type it when you feel the desire to do so.

Considering the terrors of nuclear war and the generations of toxic waste that accompany the production of nuclear weapons...the costs and risks are awesome, profound and terrifying...making your absurd statement "we understand how these things are bad" sound as glib as it is ridiculous...these weapons systems and their waste products can, and probably will, annihilate the biosphere as we know it, or can even imagine it...creating a moral crisis of global, cross-species and generational proportions..."we are attempting to eliminate them" is like saying, "we have built our cities upon mountains of TNT, but we are trying to walk a little softer"...this is a horrific nightmare that our civilization has simply learned to live with: making believe that it really isnt there...that we actually have a handle on it...that we understand and are working to minimize and even eliminate its threat...all the while crucifying ourselves, the biosphere and countless generations to come. You're right, we don't need images of Jesus crucified: we need to simply look in the mirror.



Fri Jan 09, 2009 8:43 am
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DH: "..."we are attempting to eliminate them" is like saying, "we have built our cities upon mountains of TNT, but we are trying to walk a little softer""

Except that the original motive to build the weaponry came from political tensions, the same territorial exclusive thinking that is not only fundamental to human nature, but also the root of this problem. It's a critical distinction.

What would you do to solve this problem DH? Your broad skepticism of the START treaty seems to ignore the fact that we are, in the end, human.

DH: "...making your absurd statement "we understand how these things are bad" sound as glib as it is ridiculous..."

Fine, sorry. We're all going to die horrible deaths from this technology. Everyone must drop what they're doing and flock to Washington DC to rally against nuclear technology!!! They sky is falling, the sky is falling!!! Better?

DH: "You're right, we don't need images of Jesus crucified: we need to simply look in the mirror."

That's a start, and quite a bit more truthful. Now you need to cross the bridge of no longer dwelling on our mistakes, and instead start making positive steps.



Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:10 pm
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All I can say is, if you would like me to be able to live to do the kind of support and service work I do in my daily life, you will keep the bloody crosses and exhortations to imagine how I may be lending power to the torture of others to a minimum.


I understand what you are saying gentlereader, I work in social service as well and also see a lot of suffering. It is very tricky to remain positive and take care of yourself when you do that kind of work.

I think that different people need different things. If it makes some people feel humble and inspires them to make the world better due to the fact that they see the crucifixion, I think that is not a bad thing. I also see crucifixion as a horrific thing and that does not really inspire me. But I personally see some benefit in what Dissident Heart is saying. Perhaps the Christian crucifixion can be viewed as a metaphor for all human suffering for some people.

Individual spiritual beliefs or the rejection of spirituality is so complicated because it is such an emotional topic. It can be very hard to step back and allow others their beliefs. It is something that I struggle with even outside of religion.

Yet, there is another side in which we can not allow each other to be bullies to others. Just because someone has a personal conviction does not mean that that person has a right to demand that other people believe the same thing. There is some beauty of our constant discussion of this topic in the United States. We are constantly learning how and where to set boundries with each other and how to live with each other and our different experiences and viewpoints.



Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:18 pm
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seespotrun: Perhaps the Christian crucifixion can be viewed as a metaphor for all human suffering for some people.

I think it can be a metaphor for all that suffers: the tortured existence of, well, existence ... from the obliteration of star-stuff to the consumption of food-stuff ... stuff suffers and I think the crucifixion is a way to contemplate what that means, its implications and demands upon our lives ... this is not simply a moral theory or ethical system: it is a visceral slap in the face, kick in the groin and punch in the gut ... not a pollyannish glimpse of life's difficulties ... nor a cooly objective, calmly measured and balanced analysis of sorrow ... it is the smell of imperial brutality and dictatorial abuse: malice that disappeares victims, torments communities, and wages war against civilians and innocents ... it is the bloody reminder to consider innocence ... to protect the innocent.

But the Crucifixion is not the only element of the story, thank God ... the life that led to the Cross: the agenda, teaching, organizing, activism, and movement that triggered the violence of empire and the brutality of its attending cohorts ... the life that spurred such a death ... the life of Jesus: of healing and feeding, gathering the oppressed together in solidarity and service ... challenging taboos of power, dominance, status and identity ... offering a profound, radical alternative ... again, not simply a morality to follow or an ethic to understand: but a way of life that envisioned the fundamental transformation of empire, temple, family and identity.



Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:46 pm
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DH: "I think it can be a metaphor for all that suffers: the tortured existence of, well, existence ... from the obliteration of star-stuff to the consumption of food-stuff ... stuff suffers and I think the crucifixion is a way to contemplate what that means, its implications and demands upon our lives ..."

Well, matter is neither created nor destroyed. It merely changes form, and perhaps for the better. I believe you're being a bit overdramatic in the application of your metaphor. The metaphor also seems a bit outdated. What I envision of the problems in today's world is an asian man setting himself on fire, or a terrified martyr about to kill himself and many around him for what he believes.



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Interbane: Well, matter is neither created nor destroyed. It merely changes form, and perhaps for the better.

What happens to matter matters ... your glib merely , again, much like your we understand how these things are bad , betrays either an insensitivity to how matter suffers or a dismissal of how suffering matters...

Interbane: I believe you're being a bit overdramatic in the application of your metaphor.

Drama matters because matter is dramatic: its performance is terrific and terrifying and few spaces exist where terror is not present, or on its way, or has left its trace, wounding existence...matter is wounded...wounds matter...

Interbane: The metaphor also seems a bit outdated. What I envision of the problems in today's world is an asian man setting himself on fire, or a terrified martyr about to kill himself and many around him for what he believes.

The Asian man setting himself on fire (as some did in opposition to the Vietnam War) is a powerful image: but I don't know what led to it...what kind of living led to that kind of death...what kind of movement and solidarity brought that man to such a terrible demise...and, unlike the Crucifixion, the one doing the killing was the dying man himself: whereas, it was the full force of imperial brutality that nailed bodies to crosses...likewise, the violent martyr you refer to is not the same as the tortured victim crucified by the cold machinations of empire...the one committing suicide alone and the one committing suicide murder do not convey the same meaning as the victim tortured on the cross.



Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:25 pm
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DH: "What happens to matter matters ... your glib merely , again, much like your we understand how these things are bad , betrays either an insensitivity to how matter suffers or a dismissal of how suffering matters..."

It betrays an insensitivity to how matter suffers... or rather whether matter suffers at all. Oh the agony of the decomposing foodstuffs in our bellies! Would you cry that a piece of sand is turned into glass by using heat? It's interesting to see the influence irrational beliefs have on a person... to feel sorrow for the restructuring of matter!

DH: "Drama matters because matter is dramatic: its performance is terrific and terrifying and few spaces exist where terror is not present, or on its way, or has left its trace, wounding existence...matter is wounded...wounds matter..."

Or perhaps drama doesn't matter, and the personified emotional additions only exist to help you, DH, understand your reality. Subjective only.

DH: "...the one committing suicide alone and the one committing suicide murder do not convey the same meaning as the victim tortured on the cross."

Perhaps that is the point. We are no longer in need of a message originally constructed against oppression from the Roman Empire. Powerful empires are no longer the only evil entities, there are evils of belief that are now equally powerful.



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We are no longer in need of a message originally constructed against oppression from the Roman Empire. Powerful empires are no longer the only evil entities, there are evils of belief that are now equally powerful.


There have always been beliefs that fuel oppression. Americans live in a powerful empire. We do not have the same perspective that someone from another country would have. The people who wrote the gospels were not the people in positions of power; they were people who were being oppressed. Since Americans are on the winning side of empire, we are basically in the same position as the Romans would have been then. Of course there is oppression within the country as well. Beliefs have always either been a tool for oppression or a tool for liberation. It is a constant pendulum.



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spot: "There have always been beliefs that fuel oppression."

Some fairly massive ones lasting for 2,000 years at that!



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seespotrun2008 wrote:
I understand what you are saying gentlereader, I work in social service as well and also see a lot of suffering. It is very tricky to remain positive and take care of yourself when you do that kind of work.
I think that different people need different things. If it makes some people feel humble and inspires them to make the world better due to the fact that they see the crucifixion, I think that is not a bad thing. I also see crucifixion as a horrific thing and that does not really inspire me. But I personally see some benefit in what Dissident Heart is saying. Perhaps the Christian crucifixion can be viewed as a metaphor for all human suffering for some people.
Individual spiritual beliefs or the rejection of spirituality is so complicated because it is such an emotional topic. It can be very hard to step back and allow others their beliefs. It is something that I struggle with even outside of religion.

I think this is well said. Doesn't it indeed become harder to disapprove of beliefs that are improbable when they do help people manage through difficulties? I know a number of people with schizophrenia. In their cases, I heartily approve and am happy for them if religion is a support that helps them hang on. I don't have the restraint not to laugh when I hear on the radio about Mormons who baptise dead Holocaust victims. The victims have the option of refusing the baptism, the Mormons say, so the practice in not an intrusion. This is nutty. Now, if a Mormon said this to me, would I laugh or tell him it's nutty? No. Should I? I have gotten the impression from some that such statements should be challenged. Would that simply be bad manners?



Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:21 pm
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Some fairly massive ones lasting for 2,000 years at that!


Interbane, are you telling me that oppression began with Christianity? Karl Marx said that if there were 3 people left on earth 2 would work to oppress the third. I think that people have generally found some way to oppress each other.

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I don't have the restraint not to laugh when I hear on the radio about Mormons who baptise dead Holocaust victims. The victims have the option of refusing the baptism, the Mormons say, so the practice in not an intrusion. This is nutty. Now, if a Mormon said this to me, would I laugh or tell him it's nutty? No. Should I? I have gotten the impression from some that such statements should be challenged. Would that simply be bad manners?


I don't know. I am of the opinion that one should live and let live unless people are being hurt. But that is where it becomes complicated. Figuring out what that means. Obviously what the Mormons were doing was incredibly offensive to Jewish people. Yet from the Mormon perspective they were doing something good. I suppose that situations like that are where people need to communicate with each other and figure things out together. And that is why zealousness can be dangerous. Because zealots very rarley listen.



Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:42 pm
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TolkienThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsAtlas Shrugged by Ayn RandThinking, Fast and Slow - by Daniel KahnemanThe Righteous Mind - by Jonathan HaidtWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max BrooksMoby Dick: or, the Whale by Herman MelvilleA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer EganLost Memory of Skin: A Novel by Russell BanksThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. KuhnHobbes: Leviathan by Thomas HobbesThe House of the Spirits - by Isabel AllendeArguably: Essays by Christopher HitchensThe Falls: A Novel (P.S.) by Joyce Carol OatesChrist in Egypt by D.M. MurdockThe Glass Bead Game: A Novel by Hermann HesseA Devil's Chaplain by Richard DawkinsThe Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Moral Landscape by Sam HarrisThe Decameron by Giovanni BoccaccioThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Grand Design by Stephen HawkingThe Evolution of God by Robert WrightThe Tin Drum by Gunter GrassGood Omens by Neil GaimanPredictably Irrational by Dan ArielyThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki MurakamiALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean by Richard Logan & Tere Duperrault FassbenderDon Quixote by Miguel De CervantesMusicophilia by Oliver SacksDiary of a Madman and Other Stories by Nikolai GogolThe Passion of the Western Mind by Richard TarnasThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinThe Genius of the Beast by Howard BloomAlice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Empire of Illusion by Chris HedgesThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner The Extended Phenotype by Richard DawkinsSmoke and Mirrors by Neil GaimanThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsWhen Good Thinking Goes Bad by Todd C. RinioloHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiAmerican Gods: A Novel by Neil GaimanPrimates and Philosophers by Frans de WaalThe Enormous Room by E.E. CummingsThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGod Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher HitchensThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama Paradise Lost by John Milton Bad Money by Kevin PhillipsThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettGodless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan BarkerThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Limits of Power by Andrew BacevichLolita by Vladimir NabokovOrlando by Virginia Woolf On Being Certain by Robert A. Burton50 reasons people give for believing in a god by Guy P. HarrisonWalden: Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David ThoreauExile and the Kingdom by Albert CamusOur Inner Ape by Frans de WaalYour Inner Fish by Neil ShubinNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthyThe Age of American Unreason by Susan JacobyTen Theories of Human Nature by Leslie Stevenson & David HabermanHeart of Darkness by Joseph ConradThe Stuff of Thought by Stephen PinkerA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniThe Lucifer Effect by Philip ZimbardoResponsibility and Judgment by Hannah ArendtInterventions by Noam ChomskyGodless in America by George A. RickerReligious Expression and the American Constitution by Franklyn S. HaimanDeep Economy by Phil McKibbenThe God Delusion by Richard DawkinsThe Third Chimpanzee by Jared DiamondThe Woman in the Dunes by Abe KoboEvolution vs. Creationism by Eugenie C. ScottThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanI, Claudius by Robert GravesBreaking The Spell by Daniel C. DennettA Peace to End All Peace by David FromkinThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonValue and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. WielenbergThe March by E. L DoctorowThe Ethical Brain by Michael GazzanigaFreethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan JacobyCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared DiamondThe Battle for God by Karen ArmstrongThe Future of Life by Edward O. WilsonWhat is Good? by A. C. GraylingCivilization and Its Enemies by Lee HarrisPale Blue Dot by Carl SaganHow We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael ShermerLooking for Spinoza by Antonio DamasioLies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al FrankenThe Red Queen by Matt RidleyThe Blank Slate by Stephen PinkerUnweaving the Rainbow by Richard DawkinsAtheism: A Reader edited by S.T. JoshiGlobal Brain by Howard BloomThe Lucifer Principle by Howard BloomGuns, Germs and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownFuture Shock by Alvin Toffler

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