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Ch. 16: Is Religion Child Abuse? 
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RT
Philo, a student of messianic movements in Palestine who lived at the time of Jesus and wrote widely about just the sort of thing that Jesus was supposedly up to, never once mentions him. If Jesus flew under Philo's radar he was a master of disguise and invisibility, or there may have been something so way out in his ideas that Philo chose to ignore him.


It seems unlikely that Philo would have ignored the activates of Jesus, especially if Jesus was teaching the things mentioned in the bible… largely because Philo himself adhered to many of those ideals and wrote about them.

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RT
I particularly like the line that visiting prisoners is an activity of the elect. Do you get many Christians visiting prisoners in your jail?


Yes and no… the people allowed to visit prisoners must be either directly related or on a list of people supplied by the inmate, although many are no doubt Christians.

Church groups were allowed to visit in the past, but there were way too many problems with the visitors passing contraband to the inmates and causing problems within the prison.

This was not done on purpose (at least not for the most part) but from ignorance.

What harm is there in giving an inmate some gum?

Well gum can be used to contruct shanks or as a mold to copy keys.

Many people were manipulated into bringing worse things into the convicts as well, which ended those sorts of visits, sometimes with the visitor being brought up on charges of introducing a controled substance into the prison.

Sexual advances and attacks, on both male and female visitors also turned many such groups away.

Later


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Sat May 23, 2009 11:16 am
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That's precisely what I gathered from looking into the book while deciding to buy it, geo. It's a book of fiction, where I originally thought it was meant as non-fiction the way Robert was talking about it. Still an interesting read, but entirely within the scope of fictional entertainment.



Sat May 23, 2009 4:15 pm
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johnson1010 wrote:
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We got on to this from the question of whether religion is child abuse. I would say yes when it promotes ideas that are known to be false, but no when its teachings are evidence based, such as the principle that God is love.
Evidence based. Exactly what evidence? The few sentences, out of thousands, you choose to select to support your position while hundreds others contradict it? If we are going by evidence, then surely the great mass of vengeful, petulant, jealous, petty, foot-stamping outweighs the few begrudging snippets of love. If we seek evidence for what "love is" then perhaps we should consult a scientist?
Hi Johnson, fair questions, but quite complicated. In reading the Bible, Jesus and Malachi caution us that we need to separate the wheat and chaff, that there is a lot of rubbish mixed in with a saving message. Clearly, Jesus argues that the nature of this saving message is that God is love. For example, his calls to love your enemies, love your neighbours, and love God with all your heart, mind, soul and spirit, are premised on a theory of the nature of God, and are said to be the foundation of the law, transforming the ancient Mosaic teachings of hatred and exclusivity.

The Gospel of John takes this further with its suggestion that Jesus was the incarnation of pure love. This theory of the nature of God as love, in my reading, suggests that human society can progress if we are completely honest and relate to each other through love, meaning a respect for the intrinsic value of all life and its complex inter-relationships, recognising the sanctity of all nature. The forgiveness that results from such honest love is presented by Jesus as a way to dissolve the hatred which is the ordinary instinctive human reaction to things we don’t like.

Regarding whether this has any evidentiary basis, the question can be posed as to which theory of God improves the world, and which theory makes it worse. John’s equation between God and love is compatible with the teachings Jesus describes as most important. Rather than positing a metaphysical entity, the teaching that God is love says that divinity is encountered wherever we find love. You are right that this Foreigner question, ‘I want to know what love is’, is a scientific problem, especially given that love is such an amorphous quality. My view is that taking “God is love” as the saving message of the Bible gives us a scientific tool to assess the merits of other Biblical claims.

I say this is scientific because it starts from a theory that is compatible with science, defining God as the underlying quality that all love has in common. I know it is hard to escape from the false idea of God as metaphysical entity, but that is what is implied by this equation. You might ask, if that is all there is to God then what is the point? My view is that if love is the wheat within the chaff of the Bible then it is very useful to isolate and analyse this central teaching to assess what Biblical ideas are redeemable.

Taking this method further, the problem is what are the consequences of human failure to love? Hatred is like a cancerous tumour in the world, blinding people to the potential for cooperation and improvement and sowing the seeds of delusion and abuse. The beauty of the ethic of forgiveness is that there is always scope for recovery, as long as those who are forgiven understand their error. Where people march on an adamant path of delusion even a God of love cannot save them.
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Christianity is what it is. The bible is what is written within it. Your position may be "God is love". But that does not reflect the majority of what is written in the bible.
Again, your comment is very partisan. The Bible clearly states that the law of love replaces the law of revenge, in its main central text, the Sermon on the Mount. That is why Christians separate the Bible into the New Testament and the Old Testament, precisely because the new teaching of Christ is centred on a new ethic of love. The church has failed to live up to this ethic, but it remains the inspiring vision at the source of Christianity.
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I have spoken with many christians. Many of whom have not put in the thought about their belief that you have, RT. I certainly credit you for doing that work when so many i talk to simply do not. But clearly, "God is love" is A position, one of many, that can be made from the language in the bible. Not the central, most prominent, most easily understood, or most obvious position the bible takes. You are super-imposing your world view over the one used in the bible. Do not mistake one for the other. I imagine we would all be better off if the world had taken your stance, but it has not.
No, in this context I am not super-imposing, but drawing out what is already there but has been neglected. I agree with you that “God is Love” is hard to understand, but that does not diminish its centrality to gospel theology.



Sat May 23, 2009 7:10 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:
What Jesus is clear about is that salvation is for those who do works of mercy, not those who mouth orthodoxy.....
Calvin got Jesus completely wrong in his theology of limited atonement

You need to be selective in what you believe Jesus really said in order to ignore words like those Frank has quoted, words that make it clear that belief was central to avoiding the flames of Hell, and that a "if you're not for us, you're against us" mentality prevailed. I know the Jesus Group has done this kind of selection, but I fail to see the point. They rely on shaky historical grounds, and what is to stop them from selecting the Jesus they want to be real? But also I see you repeatedly saying that this or that figure perverted the real essence of Christianity, when the germ of such views is clearly in the original documents. You have to do a thorough "Thomas Jefferson" on the Bible to arrive at the document that bears out your view of what it means.



Sun May 24, 2009 7:25 am
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RT: "In reading the Bible, Jesus and Malachi caution us that we need to separate the wheat and chaff, that there is a lot of rubbish mixed in with a saving message."

You are still inside the box here Robert. Back out even further, and you realize that your interpretations are justified by other "meta"-interpretations. You're being circular.



Sun May 24, 2009 5:42 pm
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DWill wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
What Jesus is clear about is that salvation is for those who do works of mercy, not those who mouth orthodoxy..... Calvin got Jesus completely wrong in his theology of limited atonement

You need to be selective in what you believe Jesus really said in order to ignore words like those Frank has quoted, words that make it clear that belief was central to avoiding the flames of Hell, and that a "if you're not for us, you're against us" mentality prevailed. I know the Jesus Group has done this kind of selection, but I fail to see the point. They rely on shaky historical grounds, and what is to stop them from selecting the Jesus they want to be real? But also I see you repeatedly saying that this or that figure perverted the real essence of Christianity, when the germ of such views is clearly in the original documents. You have to do a thorough "Thomas Jefferson" on the Bible to arrive at the document that bears out your view of what it means.


We should select the Jesus we want to be real. That is what the scholars in Alexandria did when they invented him. It is about forming a vision of what we imagine a saviour would be like if he lived. A good example of how clearly Jesus was invented is the story of Lazarus, which is really mainly a nod to the old Egyptian myth of Osiris. Also, Christmas on 25 December is the ancient festival of the rebirth of the sun, taken directly from Egyptian and Mithraic religion. The Christian claim that Jesus was a once for all saviour is entirely fictional. However, fictional mythology is often the most meaningful.

The falsity of its historical claims do not make Christianity worthless. As I said before, this is complicated material. For example, looking at DWill's contrast between the sectarian and universal messages in the gospel, it is not contradictory that a God of love is also a God of wrath: logically, if human society ignores love for long enough, and if love is necessary for life, then a failure of life in love will manifest as what religion calls wrath. My view is that the polarised nature of the Roman Empire caused the early church to gradually shift from a focus on love to a focus on wrath, losing sight of the connection between them. So I am not ignoring Frank's comments about texts such as 'I come to bring peace not a sword'. I'm just saying they can be interpreted as supporting the central message of love, even though this was not how they were used by the church.

The question here is whether religion is intrinsically abusive. Christianity has perverted its faith into impossible lies, including the virgin birth, miracles which defy the laws of physics, God as an entity, let alone creationism and the fond dreams of heaven. This false ideology lays the ground for abuse - in Voltaire's mot, who believes absurdities permits atrocities. Belief in the Blessed Virgin Mary, with its gross distortion of real sexuality, is a big enabling factor in the clerical sexual assault scandals.

The atheist response is generally to say lets do without religion altogether. I reject that because the invented Jesus at the centre of the Bible actually presents a sound vision of human adaptation in the texts I have cited. If we can reform Christianity to meet modern needs, turning all its efforts over the millennia to good purpose, that is a much better result than consigning the whole thing to the junk pile.

For example, consider John 3:16 'whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life'. This can obviously be interpreted in the sectarian way that you describe, as in the teachings on the afterlife in the main history of the church triumphant. However, it also lends itself to a scientifically possible interpretation, that eternal life is understanding of the eternal values needed for human flourishing - love, beauty, justice, truth - and that whoever believes in Jesus will understand these values, bringing an eternal ethical perspective into the fallen temporal world.



Sun May 24, 2009 6:44 pm
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geo wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
This discussion has a neat segue to American Gods where Neil Gaiman argues precisely that this common scientific view of the relation between belief and existence is incorrect. A main theme of the book is that Gods exist in human hearts, and fall out of existence when they are forgotten and ignored. Gaiman's outlook is actually compatible with a key Biblical text, 1 John 4:16 - "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God" - in suggesting that God is not an entity but a quality of human existence. Here we have belief in love serving to make God exist, with a constructed narrative a main part of the nature of an imagined God.
I don't think Gaiman is arguing anything. American Gods is a work of fiction and Gaiman is telling a story, not espousing Christian values except those which are inherently human to begin with. You seem to be applying your Christian worldview to things that have nothing to do with Christianity. The Bible doesn't help us to understand love. As Frank says, it is more likely to show us how to hate. More importantly, the Bible is such a mishmash of conflicting texts that it can be used to argue anything. This interpretation of love = god is no different from using the Bible to, say, condemn homosexuality. Whatever you like. The Bible is open to any interpretation. If anything, one of the themes of American Gods is about the power of human belief, but to equate this story with Biblical parable just isn't very meaningful in my opinion.
Thanks Geo, I will start a new thread on Philosophy in American Gods to respond to this comment.



Sun May 24, 2009 6:54 pm
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