Tag Archives: Bible

A Sample Size of One

BCAlthough he has never addressed the subject directly I suspect my self labeled “Genuine white Supremacist” neighbor is a sample size of one. He calls himself a white Supremacist but denies any connection with or allegiance to any of the typical white supremacist movements including Nazism, the Ku Klux Klan or Christian Identity. I have asked him if he belongs to a group or church and where he learned his philosophy from but he never seems to want to answer that question. At this point if I had to guess as to where his philosophy came from I would say he simply made it all up on his own. In this respect I cannot say with any certainty that his white Supremacy is indicative of white Supremacy at large.

He claims to be a Christian. Normally I would not question the veracity of a person’s claim to be Christian. However, he also claims that true Christianity requires a person be a racist and anyone who is not a racist cannot authentically call themselves a Christian. Certainly, I support the right of anyone to make outrageous claims on their own blogs or platforms. But he insists (for some reason) on posting his radical philosophy in the comment section of my blog posts. As such I believe it is entirely in my right to respond to him in this way.

He claims his racism is a “traditional” racism which is not to be confused with the “liberal” definition of racism. According to him, “traditional racism” actually means “love of Father” and not (as he says the liberal conception of racism espouses) hatred of the black man. This love of Father in his mind is connected with the “white race” and his line of white fathers which he claims stretches back in an unbroken white line all the way to God the Father Himself. He specifically rejects the scientific consensus that all presently alive humans (black and white alike) can trace their ancestry back to a common line of fathers. Presumably he sees this research as a liberal conspiracy or some such. Despite his claims that his racism is a love of father and not hatred of “other” he has specifically stated he is against racial mixing and integration. In this respect, I am not sure how his love of father differs from hatred of the other. It seems as if he does not want to fully own his racism.

His logic in claiming Christianity endorses racism seems to be rooted in the primacy of racism in his own mind. In other words, he believes racism is true and correct and that Christianity is also true and correct. As such Christianity ipso facto must endorse racism and anyone who does not endorse racism is ipso facto not a real Christian.

The rather glaring problem with this logic is not only that there is no scriptural basis to support this argument, there is substantial scriptural basis to reject this argument.

Love Thy Neighbor / Good Samaritan

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus teaches that love of God and love of neighbor are of primary importance under the law. By saying that love of neighbor is second only to loving God with all one’s heart Jesus is ranking love of neighbor above the commandment to honor one’s biological parents. When asked “who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan.

… A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him… Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. (Lk 10:30-37).

Here we see Jesus explain that one’s neighbor is defined by his behavior (specifically acts of kindness and compassion) and not by race or political affiliation. This point is made even clearer when one considers the fact that Jews and Samaritans were of separate lineages and enemies in the context of this story. Certainly, if Christianity preached a gospel that racism is of primary importance that fact would have been referenced in this parable.

Hate Thy Father

Indeed, in the Gospel of Luke Jesus specifically states that one must reject his biological ties in order to follow him.

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Lk 14:26)

It is the consensus of biblical scholars that this rather strongly worded passage is properly interpreted to mean that a follower of Jesus needs to prioritize Him above one’s kin. At the very least this passage calls into question the notion that love of one’s line of fathers is of primary importance for a true Christian.

Teach All Nations

In the Gospel of Matthew, the risen Jesus instructs his disciples to “… teach all nations…” (Mt 28:19). There is no instruction to restrict Christianity to white people or to any specific people as there would have to be if Christianity espoused a doctrine of racism.

Things Above

 In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he says to “[s]et your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col 3:2). Clearly one’s race is tied to materiality and of lesser importance that one’s life with Christ. In light of these and many other passages I could reference there is simply no scriptural basis to support the idea that Christ taught a gospel of racism. When I consider this in light of the fact that I have never heard anyone argue that Christ taught racism and the fact that my self labeled “Genuine white Supremacist” neighbor does not claim to belong to any particular community of fellow believers, I must conclude that he is very much alone in the world. Although his beliefs are interesting in their bizarre complexity and consistency I do not think they reflect anything greater than the contents of his own mind.

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Genesis Through the Lens of Shame Part IV

In chapter eleven we come to the Tower of Babel where all the people of the world speak one language and attempt to build a tower so tall that it reaches heaven. God becomes concerned that if they complete this project they will somehow threaten him. God’s solution is to make mankind speak all different kinds of languages thus making them confused and unable to work together. The project is subsequently abandoned.

I find this story similar to the story where Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge. In both stories God does not want man to get too close to God even though God made man in his own image and supposedly endowed him with free will. In a sense God is like the shame ego in Genesis. He is conflicted. On the one hand he creates man with seemingly genuine affection. On the other hand he sabotages man’s efforts to grow and becomes wildly angry and wrathful when man screws up. God seems to be afraid that man might become too powerful. This ancient story of the creation becoming more powerful than the creator is played out in 2001 A Space Odyssey where man’s tools, at first a bone used to break other bones and eventually a computer that controls life support on a spaceship threaten man’s existence.

This conflict can be explained in that Genesis is a compilation of several different sources written by different authors with different perspectives. As such it makes sense that God might appear to have different personalities in different stories. Although there are stories in Genesis where God appears conflicted with himself in the same story.

The Gnostic interpretation of God in Genesis is that he in fact is not God but rather the demiurge, a lesser being who created the world and trapped man within his creation. In the Gnostic world man is trying to wake up within this matrix, understand the true nature of his confinement and ultimately escape through the agency of this awareness. See gnosis.org for a fascinating treasure trove of information on the Gnostic tradition. I especially recommend the audio lectures by Bishop Stephan Hoeller.

In some ways God acts like an alcoholic father in Genesis. He lashes out unpredictably and then becomes apologetic (as with Noah). He never admits fault and man is expected to love him, indeed to worship him. And when man has a problem with this situation, man is to blame. It is no win situations such as these that give rise to the shame ego. In order to be right with God, man has to accept that he is wrong.

In truth, man is innocent. Man did not ask to be brought into this existence under these circumstances. It is curious that nakedness is considered shameful. We see this with Adam and Eve and again with Noah. It is also curious that free will is associated with shame. Nakedness (i.e., man’s true self hidden under his outward appearance) is shameful. Gaining knowledge is wrong. Reaching for the heavens is wrong. It could be argued that in the Book of Genesis God himself is shame.

 

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Genesis Through the Lens of Shame Part III

After the story of Cain and Abel Genesis skips forward in time through the use of genealogies. As a reader, my shame ego looks over my shoulder when I reach the genealogies in Genesis. It makes me feels like I should read them. Another part of me (my true self) wants to skip over them. Logic weighs in on the side of skipping over them. Their value is as a reference. The information is there if needed but it is not necessary to read them absent a need to find the information. Not to mention the fact that they are boring to read. But when I skip past them my shame ego tells me I am cheating and not really reading the Bible. What happens is I skim over the genealogies not really absorbing the information but satisfying my shame ego’s desire that I mire myself in useless effort so that I feel like I have obeyed the rules while ultimately stagnate my growth.

After struggling with the genealogies, we arrive at the story of Noah and the Flood. God is frustrated with his creation he endowed with free will. It turns out mankind used this gift of free will and chose not be as God intended and so he decided to wipe them out.

And God seeing that the wickedness of men was great on the earth, and that all the thought of their heart was bent upon evil at all times, it repented him that he had made man on the earth. And being touched inwardly with sorrow of heart, he said: I will destroy man whom I have created, from the face of the earth from man even to beasts, from the creeping thing even to the fowls of the air for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace before the Lord. (Gen 6:5-8).

I suppose Noah found favor with the Lord because he followed the will of the Lord seemingly without questioning. He had no free will or was unwilling to exercise it. God then meticulously instructs Noah on how to build the ark and how to populate it. Noah does all that God tells him to do without question. After he builds and populates the ark God floods the world and wipes out his creation. After the water recedes Noah and the other survivors leave the ark Noah makes an offering to God. He is pleased and promises that he will never again destroy the world with a flood.

Later Noah plants grapes and makes wine. He then drinks the wine, becomes drunk and passes out, naked in his tent. His son Ham sees him naked and tells his two brothers Shem and Japheth who walk in the tent backwards so they do not see their father naked and cover him with a cloak. Noah then wakes and finds out that Ham had seen him naked. Curiously, Noah then curses Canaan, Ham’s son.

Noah carries the shame ego passed down from Adam and Cain all the way through the genealogy to Noah. Noah curses Cannan and not Ham or his brothers because shame is cowardly and attacks the weakest target. Shame robbed Noah of his free will and his true self. When Noah got drunk these walls broke down. He then felt embarrassment and rage and vented it on Cannan who presumably would then shame his son so that it could be continuously passed down through the genealogy after Noah. It is this same shame that had been passed down to me. It is the one that makes me feel bad for wanting to skip the genealogies in the Bible.

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Shame and Free Will

If my actions are motivated by shame then I am not exercising free will. I am acting out a prefabricated script that was passed down to be by those who imprinted their shame onto me. But it feels like I am using my own free will when I am acting motivated by shame. Or to put it a bit more accurately, it does not feel like I am acting out a script when my actions are motivated by shame.

Shame can be very subtle in this regard. Here are a few examples:

I am told to believe in the Bible because it is the word of God and was divinely inspired. How do I know this is true? I want to believe it but I really have no evidence to confirm it one way or the other. So I am left with a dilemma. Either I believe it on faith (because I have been told that is what good people do) or I remain skeptical. If I remain skeptical my shame will punish me for not having faith. But if I believe in the Bible my shame will also punish me for not being a modern, critical thinker.

I was brought up in a family that votes Democratic. There have been times over the years that I have flirted with conservative, Republican ideology. This was back before the invasion of Iraq. At the time my liberal, neo-hippie friends and my family tried to make me feel like a dumbass for siding with the conservatives. Very little of this was based on reasoned debate. It seemed to be all based on shame. Now I vote more along the Democrat lines but I still sometimes feel like I am made out to be a dumbass by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity and the people in my life who espouse that philosophy. Again, their tactics are loosely garbed in reason but their main point of persuasion is shame. Nowhere in the mix is what is true and false and best for the country. It is really all about shaming the other side. But when I pick a side I feel justified in my own beliefs and justified in shaming the other side.

I often feel awkward in social situations. When I am invited to a party my first inkling is to come up with an excuse not to go. Usually what happens is that I feel I should be social as the correct course of action. I go to the party and have a reasonably good time after a few drinks. Later in the night I feel glad I went and silly that I felt like I should not go in the first place. All this is shame. I don’t want to go to the party because I feel I will be judged. After I loosen up and feel okay talking to people I judge my pre-party self for being antisocial.

Where in the mix is what I really want? Where is my free will in any of these situations?

Shame is passed on from generation to generation. To the extent I act out the script I do so because my parents acted out the script on me. Their parents acted it out on them and so on down the line to the point where Adam took that bite of the apple, his eyes were opened and he felt ashamed. (See Gen 2:25 – 3:8). Interestingly it was free will (or so the Bible tells me so) that got us into this mess in the first place. If Adam had not chosen to eat the apple of his own free will then he would not have created the feeling of shame and it would not have then been passed down to me to rob me of my free will.

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Genesis Through the Lens of Shame Part II

In Chapter Four of Genesis Adam and Eve are now living outside of paradise but still in direct communication with God. In this location they beget their first children Cain and Abel. Cain seems to strongly carry the shame mindset. He is a farmer and his brother Abel is a shepherd. Both of them make offerings to God from the fruit of their respective labors. God shows respect or favor to Abel’s offering but not to Cain’s. The text is not clear about how God conveyed this information but Cain becomes angry and jealous of his brother as a result. In this context Cain’s anger and jealousy are shame based reactions because they arise from his assumption that God is disrespecting him by showing respect to his brother. He is living by comparison. It is this assumption, that favor to one means disfavor to another that is at the heart of the misery of the shame based experience.

God then asks Cain:

Why art thou angry? And why is thy countenance fallen? If thou do well shalt thou not receive? But if ill, shall not sin forthwith be present at the door? But the lust therof shall be under thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it. (Gen 4:6-7).

This is interesting. My reading of this is that God is telling Cain not to live by comparison and that his favor of Abel’s offering has no reflection on Cain. Furthermore, God tells him that to live by comparison (i.e., with the shame mindset) is the gateway to sin. Of course sin can be interpreted as an offense to God, meaning, God has preferences and sin is simply something God does not like. I tend to look a sin as those actions which stop a person from growing and truly living a full life. Living with the shame mindset is absolutely something that I would classify as sin in this respect. It makes sense to me that God would not prefer this. Further, if I am to look at the character of God as being symbolic of man’s true self which becomes buried by shame I think this makes even more sense. Finally, God points out that Cain can master sin by not allowing himself to live with the shame mindset. I imagine a Buddhist might similarly interpret this passage.

Of course Cain does not understand what God is saying here (as a shame-based person would tend not to be able to do) and when God is not looking he takes Abel out into the field and kills him. This is another shame based reaction because Cain is really angry with God for not favoring his offering. Since he cannot lash out at God he lashes out at a weaker target. Then when God asks him where his brother is he responds sarcastically, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” This is all shame based. Shame cannot admit guilt, in extreme cases, not even to itself and it deflects with sarcasm.

God knows what Cain has done and banishes him from this original place of banishment.  Cain protests saying that now other people will kill him. It is unclear who these other people would be assuming the only people on earth at this point are Adam, Eve, Cain and his wife (where ever she came from). But God marks him as a warning to anyone who might try to kill him. Cain then moves east of Eden. It seems that every time man betrays himself with shame he moves further from God (i.e, his true self).

 

 

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Genesis Through the Lens of Shame Part I

When I read the first few chapters of Genesis dealing with the creation, I always think about consciousness. What is the difference between something with consciousness and something without it? “Let there be light.” (Gen 1:3). This phrase (perhaps) describes the moment when consciousness is turned on. The moment prior there was a void. (Gen 1:2). The moment after there was something. This something was a blank slate, unexperienced and blameless and God existed along side it. Then God started making his creation more and more complicated, separating the light from the dark, the land from the water and then filling it with living things. This, in a sense describes the evolution of consciousness. It suddenly appears out of a void. It starts out pure awareness and gradually takes in information, becoming more and more complex.

Then God creates Adam and Eve (in the second creation story) and places them in an idyllic world called Eden. He tells them they can eat from any tree in Eden except from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Before they eat the fruit God tells them not to eat it because they would die. God later tells himself they cannot eat it because then they will become like him. Before they eat the fruit the text specifically says they were both “naked” and “without shame.” (Gen 2:25).

Once they ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge their “eyes were opened,” (Gen 3:7) they became embarrassed (ashamed) and hid themselves from God. When one walks down the path of shame he actually hides himself from himself in that he subordinates his true desires to what he perceives are the desires of others. In the context of this story I see God as the true self that Adam and Eve are hiding themselves from. When God confronts them they attempt to avoid blame by blaming each other. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the Serpent. This is all shame oriented behavior; feeling not good enough, feeling embarrassed about self-appearance, avoiding blame, blaming other people.

In my own experience shame is passed from one person to another. Parents humiliate their children then their children humiliate their peers and ultimately their own kids. This feeling of being humiliated brings forth all these other shame oriented feelings and the desire to make other people feel the same way. But it is always an endless chain. As such, children cannot blame their parents for acting out this cycle because they are just re-acting the cycle their parents modeled for them. What Genesis is doing is explaining the origin of this process.

It seems to me (reading this story through the lens of shame) that the book of Genesis is depicting the origin of this endless chain of shame. First of all, shame is a corruption from the original blank slate of consciousness. The idea that the self is bad and wrong entered consciousness as one of the many pieces of information it took in. When that happened it took over to the point where man was irrevocably altered and had to be removed from paradise. In a sense man removed himself from paradise by becoming ashamed. But also shame came from the Serpent who is perhaps shame incarnate.

 

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Thoughts On Quotes from Bill Maher and Penn Jillette, Atheism and Religion In General

I heard Bill Maher say this on his show “Real Time” and it got me to thinking.

Explain to me how a book that is written by God, who is perfect, there’s so much–it’s pro-slavery, pro-polygamy, it’s homophobic, God in the Old Testament is a psychotic mass murderer–I mean, there’s so many things in it. I always say to my religious friends, you know, if a pool had even one turd in it, would you jump in? — Bill Maher

First of all, Maher is proposing a straw man argument.  Yes, there is quite a bit of stuff in the bible that is contradictory to modern morality and even to itself at times.  To use that as a strike against the Bible assumes the Bible is supposed to be interpreted literally.  Some people espouse this viewpoint and to them, I assume Maher’s argument is difficult to circumvent.  But certainly all Christians do not agree that the Bible is to be interpreted literally.  So this argument cannot really be used to refute Christianity or (as I suspect Maher is implying) religion in general.

Second this argument is painting religion in a purely intellectual framework.  I would argue that religion makes more sense on the emotional and spiritual levels than it does on the intellectual.  To me, religion seems to come from the limbic system whereas science and logic come from the prefrontal cortex.  That is, religion comes from an emotional, primitive part of the human conscience.  It comes from the place that wants to connect to its source, the infinite unknowable that is reality.  I suspect those inclined towards religion feel an emotional need to connect to this unknowable something.  In this way, faith is a feeling more than an intellectual belief.  Because this something is unknowable, I see religion as a tool created to relate to that something.

This brings me to another quote I ran across recently from Penn Jillette:

If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again. — Penn Jillette

This statement might be true but I would argue religions are products of the culture in which they arose.  We live in a big complicated universe that we don’t understand.  At the same time we feel more comfortable when we understand things so we frame the unknowable according to things we understand and what we understand changes over time and from culture to culture.  That is why Christianity is different from Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and even Scientology.  Religions are different because the infinite unknowable is unknowable.  Science is the same from culture to culture because the material world is knowable.  As such I do not see Penn Jillette’s statement (even if true) to be a particularly effective in terms of undermining the case for religion.

English: Penn Jillette at Rio Las Vegas

English: Penn Jillette at Rio Las Vegas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Really, the only honest position is agnosticism because we cannot know for sure what is the true nature of reality and if there is something more than material existence.  But agnosticism is neither interesting intellectually or satisfying emotionally.  So those inclined towards religion choose religions (usually) connected with the culture they live in.  That does not mean that religion is wrong or untrue.  It means we are trying to have a connection with the infinite unknowable on some level.

The final point I’d like to make is that it is probably impossible for a person inclined towards religion and a person not inclined towards religion to find common ground on an intellectual level.  This is not something that an honest debate can solve in most cases.  This is precisely because religion is emotional at its core.  I suspect atheism is also emotional at its core in the case of Maher and Jillette given how they argue their points of view.  I have respect for anyone’s belief.  It seems that statements like Maher’s and Jillette’s come off a bit snarky and judgmental.  They seem to observe religion from a purely intellectual vantage point and from there it is easy to claim religion is nonsense.  I certainly do not want to say they are wrong for doing this. I guess I would rather they not support their beliefs by attempting to shame those who disagree.

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