Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hard to believe

I was recently asked if the reason why I don't believe in God (referring to Jesus, not Heimdall) is because of the fact that I know so much about other religions and belief systems. That's a pretty good question, and it certainly makes me wonder.

I responded that it was part of the reason why, but I actually know some Christians who know as much, if not more, than I do about other belief systems. (In all honesty, I don't even feel as though I know all that much - but if you know just a little something, you know more than most people.) Lately though, as I've been reading a Gore Vidal book on the apostate emperor Julian, this question is popping up in my head quite a bit more.

For those of you who don't know, back when the Roman Empire was embracing Christianity after the reign of Constantine, there was quite a bit more than the expected token resistence. In fact, the Emperor Julian tried to get Rome back to the old Greek/Roman pantheon. I'm not very far into the book, but I've learned a few things. For one, I've learned about Mithras, who's yet another pagan God who predates Jesus but seems to have done a lot of the same stuff that Jesus did. The other thing, which is far more surprising, is that the prevailing thought in the beginning of Roman Christianity was to deny the concept of the Trinity. Ultimately, and I don't know when, Roman Catholicism stressed that Jesus and God were one and the same, but Julian's Christian upbringing taught him that they were "similar" and most definitely not the same. (If only The Bible was a little bit more clear about important issues, a lot of early Christians wouldn't have had to die, eh?)

So, this gets me to thinking - what am I to make of all this? I suppose it's true that I have a hard time swallowing the whole Jesus story when I know of older religions from which it seems to have borrowed How am I to take a step backward and suddenly start believing that Jesus is real but Horus, Mithras, and Dionysus are not? I suppose that I could always go with the whole notion that those stories were created by Satan to sew the seeds of doubt. I suppose that I could also wear a hat made out of aluminum foil so space aliens don't probe my butt. Seems like a pretty intellectually bankrupt way to look at things though, doesn't it?

And of course, there's other stuff - like the notion that God had a "chosen" people and allowed various mythologies to spring up throughout the world but only informed one particular group of people what the truth was for thousands of years. That's a pretty hard thing to swallow.

So yeah, my knowledge of religions and mythologies is why I can't believe in the divinity of Jesus. It's not the reason why I don't believe in any sort of a god, even in a deist sort of way though.

But I have to wonder about those Christians out there who have some knowledge of other religious beliefs and Jesus-like myths that predate Jesus. How are they able to reconcile those two seemingly contradicting ideas? I'd genuinely like to know why any of you knowledgeable Christians out there have come to a different conclusion.

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