Am I a Believer? Peter Myers, July 29, 2001; update May 19, 2003.
Write to me at contact.html.
You are at http://mailstar.net/believer.html.
A reader "J" asks, 'Do you "believe"?'. This is my reply.
Yes and No.
I think that a lot of religion is man-made; on the other hand, I reject any atheism which amounts to the divinization of man. This, in my view, is the case with the dogmatic atheism of Marx and Nietzsche.
This dogmatic statement, an "abiding of no other", is the ending of debate.
I want debate on religious questions to be brought back: not definitive answers, but debate; and debate keeps questions open, and people's mind focused on the topics of debate.
People say, "Do you believe in God?", but they should first ask, "If there is a God, what is God like?" It's all too easy to imagine God as being like ourselves, as having a mind like ours - made in our own image, as Karl Marx put it.
A little thought will show that God's mind could not be like yours or mine. We can only think of one thing at a time; our focus constantly keeps shifting, so that we can't remember what we were thinking 5 minutes ago.
God, on the other hand, would have to be aware of everything happening to me instantaneously, including my thoughts; and of your condition and thoughts, and those of every other person, and of every non-human sentient being on earth, and on other planets if life be there, and of all physical particles, bodies and energies - all at once, simultaneously. And God would have to simultaneously remember all such information from the past and future. God's mind would have to be so different from ours, that we cannot comprehend or imagine what it would be like to be God.
Therefore, it does not behove us to speak of God as some sort of buddy we know well.
Can I suggest you examine Thomas Aquinas's writing about "the three ways of knowing God"? The first is Affirmation: God is my buddy, whom I know well. The second is Negation: God could not be like that. The third is Analogy.
Negation is understandable, because Affirmation overstates its case. But Negation has led to Nihilism, the notion that there's no Human Nature, that Man Makes Himself without limit.
I think that there are limits. People don't want a "brave new world" - we want to preserve roots in the past, even if we transcend those roots, recognising errors in past ideas & practices.
Whether there is a spirit world is a question I want left open. Some of the evidence turns out to be deception; but then there's clairvoyance, telepathy etc - I've had first-hand encounters with these. I've even had someone practise witchcraft against me, but I don't know whether a "spirit" force was involved, or merely hypnosis.
You will notice a sprinkling of religious themes in my material, e.g. (1) the "neither Jew nor Greek" quote (2) "Man cannot live by bread alone" (3) similar material from Buddhism etc.
My "neither Aryan nor Jew" theme is based on the rejection of both Aryanism and Judaism.
A reader wrote to me, "From the Christian point of view, the Indians didn't have any rights at all until they became proper Christians."
On the contrary, Christianity is based on St Paulıs dictum ³neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, no male or female² (neither.html), a universalist philosophy which had been enunciated in secular form by the Cynics: downing.html.
Unfortunately, because it began as a Jewish version of this universalist philosophy, it adopted Judaismıs cultural war against those deemed ³pagan² or ³goy².
Marcion was the first Christian to sever the tie with the Jewish Bible,
rejecting the Old Testament as the work of a demon opposed to the god of
the Christians. It was on account of Marcion's rejection of the Old
Testament, that the Church first called a council to define the canon of books deemed "revealed": this led to the definition of the New Testament.
Marcion was deemed a heretic. (see Gerd Ludemann, Heretics: The Other Side of Early Christianity, tr. John Bowden, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky).
The reader was also confusing Christianity with Aryanism, which gave India its caste system, and which re-entered Europe via the Vikings. They conquered Christian Europe, and imposed themselves as the Aristocracy. As they adopted the Christian religion they became the Normans - the First Estate. The Church, the Second Estate in alliance with them, used them to push Islam back. The infusion of Aryanism into Christianity led to the barbarities of the Crusades, and the destruction of Inca civilization, as earlier Aryans had destroyed Harappan civilization: rig-veda.html.
The Aryans who invaded Iran, India and Western Europe were tribal nomadic pastoralists. In India, Persia and Greece they learned civilization from the peoples they conquered.
Greece, being in the area of the earliest civilizations, was subject to influences and admixtures from the Phoenicians, Cretans (who also appear to have been semitic-speakers), Egyptians et. al.
By the time the First Persian Empire emerged on the stage, the "aryans" of Persia had, similarly, acquired civilization from the Babylonians and others.
The First Persian Empire did not destroy the cultures of all the peoples it conquered, as happened in the earlier Aryan invasion of India, and as happened when the Spanish invaded the Maya, Incas etc.
The Spanish were influenced by the genocidal mentality of the Bible. It was the Incaıs rejection of the Bible which prompted the Spanish to destroy his civilization.
The Spanish, no doubt, also learned much from the Islamic armies.
Aryanists never seem to appropriate the Persian Empire. The Greeks regarded it as the enemy; Rome constantly fought it.
The ³aryans² of Afghanistan, Iran etc are now Moslems.
In rejecting Aryanism, we don't have to embrace its opposite, i.e. the Trotskyists' "open borders" policy.
To return to the Bible: I can't accept that the Jewish Bible is "the word of God". Now that we are so aware of genocide, it's impossible that God is genocidal: guthridge.html.
Have a look in the front of your Bible. Is there a copyright notice? Can man put a copyright on the word of God? And if the copyright is on the translation, that shows that the translation is man-made.
Who wrote the Jewish Bible? bible.html.
The influence of the Zoroastrian religion on the formation of the Jewish Bible: zoroaster-judaism.html.
Arnold J. Toynbee on the origins of the Bible: toynbee.html.
If the Jewish Bible is not "the word of God", it follows that Christianity is not "the true Judaism", "the new Covenant" etc. I totally oppose that interpretation of Christianity.
The question "do you believe" might refer to a narrow concept that all culture but "the Christian" is evil; this justified Pizarro's conquest of the Incas. In much the same way, George W. Bush pays tribute to "Christ", but is a modern conquistadore. If this is the meaning of "belief", then I'm not a believer.
There may be another meaning, one less oriented to a Church, or Jesus as an authority figure, more oriented to Jesus as a sage or philosopher, whose meaning is not clear. I don't think he was unique; I think him comparable to Buddha and probably many other figures in various cultures. He was one practitioner, among many, of a certain philosophy.
I think that Jesus has a lot of similarities with the Taoist sages of China, and the Cynic wandering philosophers of Hellenism. See F. Gerald Downing, Christ and the Cynics: downing.html.
Admittedly, Jesus grew up within Judaism; at Matthew 15:21-8 he speaks of non-Jews (Gentiles i.e. Pagans, represented here by a Canaanite woman) as "dogs". Mark 7:24-30 tells the same story, calling the woman "a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin".
But I think he also grew out of (i.e. away from) Judaism, as he gained in wisdom; that's why he's so hated. The "turn the other cheek" philosophy is nowhere found in Judaism, but it has strong Buddhist parallels.
Christ as a Buddha Figure - Buddhist sources for Christianity: buddhism.html.
Nor is this "turn the other cheek" philosophy found in Aryanism, or its modern extreme, Nazism.
Nor is it found in the non-theistic movements which have emerged from Judaism, e.g. Marxism and Radical Feminism: philos.html.
The death of Jesus was tragic, but not unique. We do not blame all Greeks for the death of Socrates; on the same logic, we should not blame all Jews for the death of Jesus. But the reason that Jews were collectively blamed, is that Jews were seen as a religion, a religion which emphasized the collectivity. Whereas the Greeks saw themselves as individuals, with individual responsibility, Judaism says that the Jews are the People of God, with collective responsibility and a collective fate (e.g. children are punished by God for the sins of parents, extending many generations). It seemed that Jesus' death was ordered by the leaders of this religion, and that this religion has still not revoked that order, i.e. repudiated it, i.e. apologised.
But if Christianity were to un-graft itself from its Jewish rootstock - as I advocate - then Christians would stop trying to be Jews (i.e. the True Jews), would let the Jews be the Jews, and treat them as individuals.
When one considers Thomas Aquinas' Three Ways of Knowing God (see murray.html), similarities are seen between the Western understanding of God, and the Eastern concepts of Brahma, Karma and Tao, impersonal moral laws of the universe.
How such laws might operate is a puzzle - but do we know how physical laws operate throughout the universe? An anomic, anarchic universe would be even more incomprehensible.
The Society of St Pius X is a traditionalist part of the Catholic Church that rejects Vatican II, seeing Vatican II as transforming the Catholic Church into a Protestant body.
This SSPX site http://www.sspx.com/rande/Principles.htm#P1 says, "PART ONE: PRINCIPLES P1 THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS DIVINE".
Now what does it mean, to say the Catholic Church is divine? Perhaps, as "the Body of Christ". Perhaps, as "the People of God".
But I guess that Jews also hold themselves divine - as "the People of God". And probably Moslems do - as "the People of God". So this can be a pretty dangerous concept.
Two questions: (1) Which is divine - the SSPX part of the Catholic Church, or the other part that changed after Vatican II? (2) If the Church was divine, how could it err at Vatican II? Or in all the other schisms that have occurred?
Write to me at contact.html.