Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The various steps to believing - addendum

I wrote recently about all of the hurdles that I'd have to go through in order to go back to believing in Jesus. That was a few days ago, and my mind's been buzzing on this issue off and on this whole time. I realize that for as much as I wrote, I barely scratched the surface as to what exactly it would mean for me to believe again. So, here are some more thoughts on that:

I mentioned that I give Christianity a greater chance at being valid than I do The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Scientology, and I was sincere when I said that. However, I give it equal weight with Islam, Zoroastrianism, Shinto, Judaism and the Bahai Faith. (Probably a few others that I don't know about in order to really say one way or the other.) That said, I give it less of a chance of being the one, true religion than the following:

1. Hinduism - The thing with Hinduism is that it's a henotheistic religion. In other words, they have their god that they worship, but they allow for the possibility of other gods existing as well. That's the thing with Christianity that comes off as being intellectually dishonest to me. To pick on just one example, there are many surviving stories of gods who father a son with a mortal woman. However, Christianity would have you believe that Hercules, Dionysus, Perseus, etcetera are all just stories, and yet the Jesus one is real even though there is no more evidence for it than the other stories.

With Hinduism, you can believe the Jesus story and not reject other stories of various gods and supernatural occurrences. For me, accepting one is simply opening up the floodgates for all of them.

2. Buddhism - I realize that I'm not putting these in any particular order, but I have an easier time with Buddhism than any of the other religions. Well, let me clarify - there's a certain type of Buddhism that I can get behind. Of course, the versions that venerate him as divine and worship him as a god are just as improbable as any other myth. However, much of modern Buddhist thought doesn't require you to believe in any of the supernatural aspects of the Buddha story. Shoot, from what I've read of the Dalai Lama, even he doesn't literally accept the story that he's a reincarnated Buddha. The thing is with Buddhism is that it's more of a philosophy, and you can follow the philosophy without having to accept the supernatural baggage that might come with it.

3. Odin & the Norse Gods - I wrote about this already, but here is my point in a nutshell: Odin makes more sense than Jesus. I simply cannot look at the world that we live in and accept the notion that there's a loving, caring god who cares about all of us. Every explanation that tries to reconcile a loving god with the cruelties of this world involves so many mental backflips that I get dizzy just thinking about them. As for Odin, nobody ever said that he gave a crap about you. He'll bless you and damn you all in the same day. If a god exists, then that's what he's like.

Okay, so let's say that I manage to get over all of those hurdles in addition to all of the hurdles that I mentioned in the previous blog. There's still one huge problem! What version of Christianity do I go with?

I could go old school and be a gnostic. I could be a Mormon. I could be Latvian Orthodox. How about the Jehovah's Witnesses? Seventh Day Adventists? Baptist? Southern Baptist? Anglican? Snake Handler? Let me try and break down THIS conundrum as well:

1. Biblical literalism traditions - Ever notice that even the literalists can't agree on what The Bible is actually trying to say? Anyway, I give this a leap factor of 9.999 - even if you take it from the point where I've already supposedly accepted Jesus. I accept science. I don't believe that a snake ever talked. I don't think that a guy lost his super strength when he got a haircut. The thing is, I don't even believe that the people who wrote the Bible ever even INTENDED for people to take it all so literally. It's not that they were confused - it's that people today are confused and don't understand symbolism when they see it.

2. "Inspired" Biblical traditions - I have less of a problem with those who can accept things like evolution and the big bang while still believing that The Bible is the inspired word of God. At least they're dealing in reality. However, The Bible still has too many problems for me to believe that it's even inspired by a divine being. I could go on and on about this, but here's a major problem - it condones slavery. I'd be much more impressed if "You shall not own people" made it in the 10 Commandments over a rule about me carving a block of wood into an idol. Leap factor? I'll give that an 8.

3. "Flawed" Biblical traditions - Of course, I'm completely making these terms up, but I'm basing this on the works of some Christians I've read where they don't take The Bible literally at all, and instead they view it as the product of its time. I'm thinking of fellas like John Dominic Crossan when I refer to this. Basically, the man still considers himself a Christian and a Catholic, but he doesn't take any of the stories at face value. Instead, he looks for the deeper messages within them. Now, this is the kind of Christianity I can get behind if I ever went back to believing in Jesus. Shoot, this comes rather close to how I feel about Christianity - it's mythology, and the thing with mythology is that all myths are true stories of things that never really happened.


Nolan said...

As to your point about a loving God allowing all the cruelty, have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, everything happens for a REASON?

Now who's being obtuse? You just got served.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I'm going to put my head down, say "D'oh!" and slowly walk away.

Connie Lindell said...

OK I'm going to give this commenting thing a try. In reference to what you said about Odin...a "god" like that isn't a god at all, merely a being with supernatural powers. If I'm going to worship something/one as a GOD, then he/she/it had darn well better be a lot more highly evolved than me. That's also my problem with the Old Testament. IMHO, a "jealous" and "angry" god isn't worthy of worship. Fear, perhaps, but not worship. Anger and jealousy (esp. of the type displayed in the Bible) are human failings. And as you mentioned, these things (including condoning slavery, adultery, etc) are failings in the greater context of the Bible as well. I expect any "god" of mine to have higher ethical and moral standards than that. I loved that clip you posted of Julia Sweeney's monologue. I totally agreed with her assessment..."Have you READ that book!?" One of the main things that led me to rejecting Christianity...was actually READING the Bible. Ironic, eh? No wonder there was such an outcry from the church back in the day when printed copies were finally made available to the public.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Hey Connie - good to see you in the blogosphere.

As for Odin, I hear what you're saying. But at least nobody's trying to tell you that he is more moral than you are. People prayed to him so he wouldn't smite them. At least there's nothing inconsistent with what people said about him.