I have been thinking about the best or most appropriate way to tackle the relationship between Christ and the gods of Pantheon, and recently I came across a potential approach in Sloterdijk’s “Cabinet of Cynics” chapter from Critique of Cynical Reason where he goes through the five embodiment of cynicism through history. The first suspect is none other than Diogenes, who embodied the low theory version in his decided opposition to the all-too serious discourse of Socrates & Plato. Kynicism was based on the animal nature of man, where the gestures of the body were framed as arguments (farting or shitting or whacking off in public). In other words Diogenes poked fun at his grave opponents, but instead of talking against such idealism, he lived in opposition in an anti-theoretical, anti-dogmatic and anti-scholastic way. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’
First, go read the blog titled “Philosophy and Remedy” @ thekindlyones.org. I originally posted the following blog in the comments section.
If this blog relies on a distinction between the public n private role of the intellectual then I think irony can serve as the secret that avoids merging them both and forcing the philosopher to act as a politician every time he speaks.
The dream of a single life that fuses the private and the public sphere dates back to Plato’s efforts to answer why one should be just and Christianity’s moral imperative that one can reach self-realization through serving others. All of these relies on the assumption of a common human nature, that both private life and human solidarity are one and same. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
While vacationing in Italy, I had the opportunity to flex a couple of neurons. My family is full of devout Catholics, and my youngest aunt Costanza (Costu) has the “gift” of speaking in tongues. That means the hardcore Catholics pray with her, and sometimes that sets her off in a indecipherable tongue-speaking frenzy. My uncle Michael can interpret her, so the message isn’t lost.
Moreover, Costu is also intelligent, having graduated from MST in Rolla. So she wanted to discuss philosophy with me, and she wanted to know what was my “truth.” It was early in the week, and I thought it would be a good idea to get this over with so we all can enjoy our fantastic resort.
As somebody well read in post-modernism, asking the very question “truth” sets off alarms. Such questions like “what is X” are classic questions of philosophy, but after Nietzsche, they no longer have any place in our society – all and any answer has no credibility – but I couldn’t answer like this to my Aunt. So I had to speak in the right language, and speak about the game of philosophy. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
I don’t have a dramatic story to share: my deconversion was a slow process that began in childhood. It began when I, a bored catholic boy started to discuss religious matters with a young child of a Jehovah Witness family. We went over the differences in our religions, but even then, I could tell that his faith limited the bounds of our discussion, and that I had hardly any of my own. I remember asking Matt which bible he used, and he simply declared it to be the first one. I did not press matters there, and did some researching of my own. I asked his mother if I could borrow those short books they had around the house and I enjoyed reading the extensive explanation in their stories that expanded the bible stores. Lovely paintings. Of course my mother didn’t like this and insisted that I study our religion before I start to investigate others, and of course I readily ignored her advice. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
There are two forms of knowledge: logos and mythos. From an old post of mine, based on Karen Armstrong’s division of knowledge:
Mythos: “myth”, from greek musteion – to close eyes or mouth. Myth as a mode of Knowledge was rooted in silence and intuitive insight, and gave meaning to life, human existence, but cannot be explained in rational terms. In the premodern world, mythical knowledge was complementary to logos.
Logos: “word” or rational, logical, scientific discourse
Both were essential and complementary ways of arriving at the truth for each had its area of competence. Myth was regarded as primary, for it dealt with the timeless or constant elements of human existence. Myth was about the origins of life, the very foundations of culture and the most essential nature of human mind. However, myth has little to do with practical stuff, or anything other than the meaning of life. If people cannot or do not find significance in their lives, despair is the result. The mythos of a society is the context that makes sense of the daily life, and points at the eternal and universal. Moreover, myth is rooted in unconscious. The various stories of myth, which were not meant to be taken literally, was ancient psychology. All these stories of heroes in the underworld, in labyrinths, and fighting monsters, was the premodern way of dealing with the obscure realm of unconscious, which is completely inaccessible to rational investigation, but had profound effects on experience and behavior. Since myth is absent in modern society we instead developed the science of psychoanalysis to deal with our inner world. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
The Problem of Evil (PoE), as formulated within the philosophical & theological tradition, presupposes that one acknowledges a magisterial god who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. If such a being exists, then the existence of evil becomes a moral mystery. On the face of things, an all good God would eliminate evil; an all-knowing God would know how to eliminate evil, an all-powerful God would be able to eliminate evil, an all-good God would desire to eliminate evil. Evil shouldn’t exist, if God exists, because everything should already be perfect, precisely because the world is the creation of a perfect creator.
Nonetheless, it is apparent, quite painfully, that the world is thoroughly soaked with suffering everywhere. Therefore, either God doesn’t exist or God has reasons to allow evil to exist, although such reasons might be inscrutable to human beings. Given the existence of evil, one must therefore either give up the belief in God’s perfectly allied omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence, or, accepting such a God exists, discern the divine reasons for the existence of evil, or, failing the suprarational effort, engage in humanely reasonable speculations about God’s mysterious ways. At most, and ultimately, one is left to submit oneself faithfully to the complete mystery of God’s ways, content that there are good, albeit inscrutable, reasons why the world contains the misery it does.
Given the traditional framework, there are many solutions to the PoE:
- Each instance of evil prevents a greater evil from occurring, or serves as a necessary precondition for a greater good.
- Evil is the person’s fault, not God, because God gave humans free will, and this gift is routinely abused.
- Evil is God’s just punishment for our endless crimes.
- If there were no evil, then the concept of “good” would not make any sense.
- Without evil, there wouldn’t be any way to positively build character.
- Satan, not God, is responsible for evil.
All these answers presuppose that the world is intelligible and that there’s a reason for everything, even if only God knows it. Theoretically, I remain unmoved by such theistic formulations of the PoE. However, I’m not insensitive of the general philosophical desideratum to understand the nature of suffering, and neither am I content to accept evil as a naked and brute fact.
Schopenhauer’s understanding seems similar to one of the traditional solutions that man is the chief culprit, and not God. This solution claims that people are almost entirely responsible for evil, because God gave them free will, and they have chosen to abuse their gifts. This explanation, however, fails to account for natural evil, such as disease, earthquakes, floods, Katrina, etc., but it does shed light on the pain people experience. If they stopped hurting one another, the world would be far less threatening and more peaceful place in which to live.
Schopenhauer’s view is intellectual, for evil is the byproduct of human nature. This indicates something truly diseased about man. Catch some of George Carlin’s stand up acts, and you’ll appreciate the finer points of this implication. Instead of mere free will, Schopenhauer goes further and insists that it is the rationalizing and the will-infected human consciousness itself that is largely responsible for the world’s evil. In order to understand Schopenhauer’s view of the human mind, we must first look at Kant’s formulation. For both Kant and Schopenhauer, the human mind is not a quiet and passive mirror that immediately reflects towards which it is aimed. It is more of an active processor, the mind actively organizes and gives form to sensory data directly present to it, just like a computer organizing bits of binary code into the readable images appearing on the monitor screen.
Technically, the human mind organizes this sensory data – the material for touch, smell, hearing, vision, taste – in a way that reflects the mind’s own rational structure. According to Kant the structure of the mind organizes the sensory data in both a rational order and into a sequential order in terms of space & time. Both Kant & Schopenhauer maintain the world as it appears within experience – as causally ordered world of individual things in space & time – is partially and yet ineradicably due to the way we organize and inform what is given to us in sensation. For both, there is more artificality, artifactuality and artistry in our perception of the world than most naively thought. Thus, the world of daily experience is a synthetic byproduct.
Kant’s account seems now common-sensical, because cpu processing is familiar that can retrospectively inform his 18th century view, but if we look closer at the implications of Kant’s proposal, our natural perspective is turned inside-out.
Kant’s theory suggests our minds are cookie-cutters that impresses their form upon the “given” cookie dough, not a mirror that never touches what they reflect. This is the self-styled copernican revolution in philosophy, the proposal that the observed daily movements of the sun and stars across the sky are not explained by referring the movements of those bodies, but actually in reference to our own movement. Now, we know that the observed movements of the stars across the sky is due to the spinning of the earth. Much like how the landscape spins when you’re on the merry-go-round, Kant expanded this merry go round with the claim that the “out-there-ness” of things – space itself- is better understood by analogy with the movement of suns and stars, the world that appears out there, is the construction of our own mental activity. He did acknowledge a foundational being that can be said to “be” quite independent of us, but the “out-there-ness” of this being is an attribution projected from our minds. For all we know, the true being – the thing-in-itself – could be independent of space & time, just as God is assumed to be independent of space-time.
Much like how the experience of the salty taste of salt isn’t “in” the salt itself as it sits untasted in the shaker, the space & time, the individual things which are all causally and scientifically connected to each other with our experience – in other words, the entire physical universe as we experience it – do not represent in a pure and transcendent way the innermost reality of the way things are in themselves. We live in a world of appearances and phenomena. For Kant, the philosophical status of the world of daily experience, particularly in reference to its dependable geometric and mathematical structure, is more analogous to the taste of salt – a quality of human experience that arises internally when the salt crystals stimulate the tongue – than it is like the crystals as they are in themselves before they are tasted. Looking at an object in space is like tasting salt – both involve experience whose qualities are as due to our own constitution as they are due to the constitution to whatever we happen to be tasting or looking at. For Kant, this means humans aren’t in a position to know the exact nature of ultimate reality.
Each Kantian sees through a glass darkly, and they think everyone else’s perception is just as limited. Therefore, the mind stands in the way of knowing the ultimate truth, because the mind is finite and must inform whatever it knows in its own limited way. Our perception of reality echoes our own modes of perception. Kant philosophically extends this past the senses to the limits of our intellect, in conjunction to the limits of our spatial & temporal awareness.
Although Schopenhauer was more optimistic about humans being able to know or come close to knowing the ultimate reality, he agreed with Kant that the world of space & time is largely a human fabrication and that with respect of the way things are in themselves, independently of human existence, space & time doesn’t necessarily apply. Reality in itself – that which remains if there weren’t any humans – could be spaceless and timeless. Given this kantian view of the mind and the world of human experience, the realm of human suffering (spatial & temporal world) becomes an artifact of human artifice and a direct reflection of human nature’s activity.
Schopenhauer, pace Kant, maintains that people are themselves the creators of evil in the world, insofar as their minds express the general conditions through which evil is made possible. For Schopenhauer, the mind structures raw fields of disjointed sensory data into a single world, which contains individuals arranged across a spatial & temporal expanse. If there were no individuals, there wouldn’t be any suffering. If there were no humans, there wouldn’t be any individuals, pace the Kantian theory of existence. Schopenhauer describes our creation of our experienced world as Wille, or reality in itself, shining through our minds as if they were “magic lanterns” and as if reality was a single and undivided light. This poetic metaphor paints Schopenhauer’s explanation for the existence of evil itself and why he turns away from the miserable world.
…just as a magic lantern shows a multitude of different pictures, all of which are illuminated by one and the same flame, so it is within all the manifold appearances which together fill the world, or which follow each other as events, that only one will appears, whose visibility the objectivity of everything is, and which remains unmoved throughout each change. (World as Will and Representation I § 28)
The magic lantern is our mind that apprehends as it expresses the more encompassing universal will under the condition that this single will appears as fractured into innumerable objects that are distributed mosaically across space and time. The sands of time are the sands of our own mindscape, and the infinity of space is, as far as can be known, nothing more than the concept of infinity projected by our own consciousness. Schopenhauer observes that this renders the mind responsible for constructing an appearance, or a movie screen that involves animals fighting, killing and eating each other, people inflicting and suffering countless harm endlessly. We humans, given our ability to organize diverse sensory data into individual things – due to our capacity to know anything at all – reveals ourselves at bottom to be sadistic film directors that are the architect of a monstrous vision. This is the bitter fruit of knowledge.
You may moan and complain that Kant has ascribed godlike powers to the human being, because according to him they are the very architects of space and time. Schopenhauer, almost ironically, notes that if humans are architects, then they are the inventors of a warlike scene: the infinity projecting human nature gives birth to terror. Therefore, it isn’t the abuse of free will, but the very presence of the rational human consciousness in its quest for knowledge!
We have no choice but to generate evil and suffering, if, as Schopenhauer claims, the world itself is Wille. Once the Wille is divided against itself, conflict is inevitable. The human condition is doubly fabulous and frightening, terrific and terrible, condemned to surprising and sickening ourselves. In the early days of the 19th century, the less than reputable aspects of man was slowly becoming more explicitly thematized, and emerged as a serious subject for reflection. However, this initial apprehension of the irrational was still analyzed under the restricting framework of traditional morality that maintained a powerful psychological hold on speculation. These many monstrous apprehensions were initially expressed within a wider and more generous thematic. Fichte expressed an early formulation only to reject the idea of a purposeless universe as psychologically unbearable:
” I should eat and drink, only in order to hunger and thirst again, and eat and drink, merely until the open grave under my feet swallows me up as a meal for the earth? Should I create more beings like myself, so that they can eat and drink and die, and so they can leave behind beings of their own, so that they can do the same as I have already done? What is the point of this continual, self-contained and ever-returning circle, this repetitive game that always starts again in the same way, in which everything is, in order to fade away, and fades away, only in order to return again as it was – this monster, continually devouring itself in order to reproduce itself, and reproduce itself, in order to devour itself?” (Vocation of Man, Book III, faith part II)
Fichte rejected this ouroboric scenario for the sake of a more linear weltanschaaung within which everything acts naturally and inevitably and prorgressively towards a moral and harmonious end, even if this end is permanently beyond the horizon. Fichte did lift the veil from the thoroughly purposeless world for a second’s peek, but only for a second, and let the comforting prospect of a rational & meaningful world return to its properly fundamental place. Schopenhauer too held the veil up, a bit longer, but eventually he retreated to another sort of salvation that involved the dissolution of one’s individuality & a flight into the universal forms of consciousness. Nietzsche gazed at this abyss for much longer, and, being burnt by the medusa of paralyzing meaninglessness, he opted for an existentially centered view in light of such a threatening experience.
Typically, the literature indicates three types of love, such as Eros (erotic, sexual, since Romantic age, “romantic”) Philia (Friendship and family relations) and Agape (Caritas, asexual, unselfish and altruistic), but the most exciting type is Eros. It has been hypercognized, meaning it has been excessively talked about, whether one is in love, looking for love, hurt in love, lost love, or just gossiping about scandals. Oddly, love isn’t a popular topic in the philosophy corpus, after Plato, notwithstanding some half-hearted attempts and concessions.
The distinctions between the types of love offer a deep lesson. Eros has often included sexual desire, although Plato originally distinguished erotic love (something intrinsically rational and morally pure) from sexual desire (animal nature). Despite Plato’s best efforts of etherealizing Eros, a thousand years of Christianity has degraded and abused it until it degenerated into lust and selfishness. In contrast, Agape became increasingly altruistic, giving, until theologians claimed only God had this emotion.
In the oldest treatise on love in western philosophy, Plato’s Symposium (something that has determined our ideas on desire) the courtesan Diotima tells Socrates the parents of Eros was Contrivance (cunning) and Poverty (need). Eros takes after his parents – for he is needy and always contriving to fill it. Eros knows as the god of love that love cannot be induced in another person if they don’t feel the need. So, his arrows pierce people’s flesh by making them feel a lack an ache or hunger. However, this amounts to little more than myth, and actually refers to the love of a Greek youth.
Love is often considered a positive emotion, although whoever has been in love can relate with some of its nastier, negative and anxiety provoking aspects. Since love does reveal the world as wonderful and beautiful it is easy to call love beautiful and wonderful. But it also can inspire irrational and foolish behavior. Tina Turner is right when she called love a second-hand emotion. One’s love isn’t original, for everyone travels the same road. Love indicates a physiological substratum, on top of an evolutionary past. The physiological reality of love is sexual.
However, sexual desire shouldn’t be confused with lust, which is a loaded term that presupposes condemnation, championed by sanctimonious moralists who are quick to condemn sexual activity. One of the greatest obstacles to inquiry are the fears and prejudices of morality, for they provide a certain reluctance, an inertia that avoids deep studies of the psyche. If prejudices of the heart – love and hatred – limit the mind, then they must be sacrificed for the sake of inquiry. And if Pascal is right, the heart holds reasons the mind is ignorant of, then the mind will give up the heart.
Sexual Desire is perfectly normal. It isn’t gratuitous reductionism to trace the origin of the emotion of love to the natural desire for sex, because love does, in fact, encompasses much more. However, there is an undeniable physiological basis. Sexual desire in love may or may not be explicit, and it may be frequent or sporadic. Yet the energy of love, libido, originates in the primitive and clearly biological features of human psychology. Romantic love is built and shaped and molded on the natural desires for intimate contact and the reproduction of the species.
The reasons why philosophers and theoreticians of human nature often ignore this “desire of desires,” even though its reality is so pervasive and influential, is that their attitude is merely another example of the innumerable ways people delude themselves through idealization and mystification. We have grown so intellectually sophisticated that we can no longer recognize what is obvious, because when we learn of the “great secret” we never fail to be startled by its sheer enormity. Only once when we abstain from romanticizing love do we observe the sexual drive as the “most distinct expression” of biology and then admit that the perpetual unremitting business of the biological imperative, as far as human existence is concerned, isn’t with the welfare of the individual per se, but solely with the preservation and propagation of the species. This maintenance of the species is achieved through appealing the individual’s egoism, which lies at the heart of all sexual passion, and capable of deceptively presenting the possession and enjoyment of the beloved as a supreme good to the lover.
Schopenhauer was among the earliest thinkers to define the content of human motivation as sexuality, the “invisible central point of all action and conduct,” “the cause of war and object of peace, the basis of the serious and the aim of the joke,” “the key to all hints and allusions, and the meaning of all secret signs and suggestions.” Even though the individual does not apprehend his own essence as such, the will of the species is carried forward by sexuality, and subjects the individual with two imperatives: advance his/her own interests and the interest of the human race. Sexual love, for Schopenhauer, singles out another person as the object of desire and is idealized. But this is an illusion, for the individual is being used by the biological doctrine of the species.
Imagine yourself at an airport, on a business trip, waiting for your next flight. But your thoughts on your upcoming meeting are dashed the moment a beautiful woman enters the lounger and sits across from you. She reminds you of some Botticelli painting wrapped up in 21st century garb, possibly moving you, even sadden you. Unlike the Botticelli, she’s wearing a necklace. You begin to imagine your hands are massaging her slender neck, slipping in… Then you start to wonder if she is an violinist, or a research scientist… You deliberate on whether to ask her innocent questions (the time, directions to the bathroom), then you yearn for a terrorist attack where you would help her outside to safety, to coffee and more… Because terrorist attacks are seldom, you can’t help but lean over and ask the beauty for a pen…
Later, you’re seated at a table in a small restaurant. A bowl of breadsticks sits between you, but neither of you can think of a way to grab the food with dignity so it lies unmolested. She didn’t have a pen, but she offered you a pencil. Not a violinist or a research scientist, but a recall coordinator for a major firm. By the time your plane was ready to board, you acquired a phone number and approval for dinner plans.
A waiter takes your order. You ask for the lobster and she asks for the antipasto. She’s wearing a warm gray suit, and the same necklace. Your conversation centers around hobbies, hers is rock-climbing, tho she feels dizzy on the 2nd floor of apartment buildings. Another passion of hers is dancing, and she often stays up all night. You prefer bedtime by 11:30 pm. She explains a recall situation, and although you’re unable to follow her account, you’re convinced of her intellect and compatibility.
After you pay for the dinner, you ask, with deliberate spontaneity, if it would be a good idea to return to your pad for a drink. She smiles and stares at the door. “That would be lovely, it really wold,” she claims, “but i have to get up early to catch a flight to Chicago. Maybe another time, though.” She smiles.
Your despair is held in check with a promise that she will call from Chicago, maybe on the day she is back in town. But there’s no call on the appointed day. She claims the flight was delayed, that you shouldn’t wait. There’s a pause before you confirm the worst. Things are “complicated” in her life, and she’ll call you when the coast is clear.
Your pain is normal – the force that’s strong enough to push you to reproduction cannot vanish without some collateral damage. Moreover, nobody is unlovable, your character is not repellent, nor is your face abhorrent. The potential union failed because you were unfit to produce a balanced child with that woman. One day you will meet someone who will find you wonderful (because your chin and theirs make a good combination). Forgive your rejector – she might’ve appreciated your finer qualities, but her will-to-live didn’t. Therefore we ought to respect nature’s edict against procreation that is the message in every rejection. You may be beset with melancholy, and take walks by the river and sit on the bench overlooking it.
Is Schopenhauer right, that love but a clever way of tricking people into multiplying and contributing to the survival of the species? Is the attraction between two people merely the expression of the will, that always attempts to endure through the procreation and reproduction of the species? Does not the result, the progeny, confirm the endless hunger for existence? Are we doomed to interpret our existence in rational purposes, in order to invent purposes and continue under such false pretenses that conveniently upholds rationality?
There are hardwired origins for sexual desire, and some psychologists point at certain proportions and traits that serve as innate triggers for sexual desire. Men and women judge one another subconsciously, whether the woman’s hips are wide enough to bear children, or whether the male has the features that is worth passing down to children. During ovulation, women experience sexual fantasies with other men, and are more prone to cheating on their partners. Hence, there exists a chemistry beyond actual compatibility, backgrounds, beliefs, values, etc. Although there is a distinction between infatuation and love, between finding someone attractive and falling in love, it is grounded in biological realities – not some cloud-cuckoo-land of simplistic romanticism or obscurantist cock and bull that it is a “mystery.”
Love isn’t ineffable or indescribable, for it is an emotion, which means it also has an intentional structure, a way that puts the world one experiences in order. The Intentional Structure has to do with putting one’s beloved in a special position. The intentional structure of love allows the lover to see and appreciate all sorts of charms and virtues in the beloved. This is the process Stendhal called “crystallization” in his book on Love. Therefore, love can be described, and its description refers to the beloved. However, this description ends in an irresolvable paradox, and that is a topic for another thread.
Typically, a person does not believe that her belief is a belief. If she does come to believe that a belief is a belief, she will recognize it for what it is, a mere belief, and no longer wholeheartedly believe in it. “To believe is to know that one believes, and to know that one believes is no longer to believe… every belief is a belief that falls short, one never wholly believes what one believes.” (Being and Nothingness, p. 69) A person is able to suspend disbelief in a belief because she fails to spell out to herself the fact that a belief is merely a belief. Spelling out the policy of not spelling out undermines the policy. Coming to believe that a belief is merely a belief undermines the belief. If a person comes to believe that a belief is a belief, then she ceases to be convinced by it and loses faith in it, because by its very nature, belief implies doubt.
Wittgenstein realized that the expression ‘I believed’ always means ‘I no longer believe.’ Therefore, ‘I believe’ cannot truly be the present tense of ‘i believed.’ The actual present tense of ‘I believed’ must express the lack of belief. ‘I believe’ doesn’t express lack of belief, although it does express a measure of doubt. If a person said ‘I believe in the existence of God,’ then it is because she is not certain of the existence of God. If God’s existence was certain, it would be as strange to say ‘I believe in the existence of chairs,’ extreme skeptics notwithstanding, the existence of which is certain.
Belief is an attitude that is only relevant when a person is uncertain. She can believe what she doesn’t know for certain. However, she doesn’t also believe what she knows, for certain, even if it’s impossible to disbelieve what she knows for certain. That one cannot disbelieve what one knows does not mean one believes what one knows. One doesn’t believe what one knows, she knows it. ‘I believe’ is redundant when a person is talking of matters about which she is certain.
Not to say that to refrain from any talk of belief is to be certain, but rather, that to talk meaningfully of belief is to reveal uncertainty, even if the use of ‘I believe’ is used to indicate the “unwavering firmness of belief.” (BN, p. 69) Beliefs can be firm, strongly and widely held, frequently expressed, but because they are beliefs they are always uncertain.
For instance, increasing the number of believers in a particular religious doctrine in no way makes the doctrine any more certain. Evangelism, the drive to recruit believers to a doctrine, is a reaction to the uncertainty inherent in religious faith. The evangelist is concerned with the belief of others in order to distract himself from the fact that his own belief is just a belief. If he honestly examined his own belief he would expose it as ‘necessarily uncertain” so he busies himself with the beliefs of others. For him, the beliefs of others is a thing, an objectified belief that is firmly based upon itself, rather than a mere disposition based upon a fragile suspension of disbelief. Consequently, the evangelist is in bad faith towards others because he denies them their freedom by regarding them as believer things incapable of going beyond their “state of convictions.” If someone stopped believing, the evangelist would regard them as corrupted or deluded, for they did not reach a decision on their own free will.
The evangelist champions sincerity regarding beliefs with the aim of reducing others to receptacles of objectified beliefs. Belief is thereby transformed into a public object that the evangelist can then take possession of. Incapable of believing without doubt in his own belief, he gets involved with the apparently certain and objectified beliefs of others by regarding himself as simply another object. The original project of bad faith allows a person to see himself exclusively from the point of view of others. Therefore, religious faith involves a person objectifying her own faith through the objectification of the faith of others. All faith is bad faith in the sense that all faith involves a state of false consciousness in which a person does not believe that her belief is a belief.
Christians are prone to overstatements such as the simple claim that the New Testament is a historical document.
However, this is incorrect, since they are religious works, not historical documents. There is a reason why your public or university library has the Gospels classified as religion, not history. Your public university does not include the Gospels in Ancient History 100 courses.
If the Gospels are historical, then they have to stand up to critical analysis. Once critical analysis is applied, they are anything but reliable history, and i will expand why:
No Gospels or Jesus of Nazareth known in the 1st century
We must distinguish between the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament: the NT epistles of Paul and Revelation and Acts do not contain explicit knowledge of the Gospel events or biographical information of Jesus of Nazareth, for they contain high spiritual formula instead. Now, moving on to the Gospels, since they are what most Christians suppose to be historical.
Gospels Not written by eyewitnesses
It is painfully clear that the Gospel of Mark was not written an eyewitness, because:
- the writer is often ignorant about the geography of the region
- the writer is often ignorant about the customs of the locals
- Papias , circa 130 explains Mark was not an eye-witness
- Clement and Tertullian later agree Mark was not an eye-witness.
The Gospel of Matthew and Gospel of Luke both copied large amounts of Gospel of Mark word-for-word, so they can hardly have been eyewitnesses either. They also changed, deleted and added to GMark to suit differing purposes and audiences – showing they did not represent historical events, but religious mythology.
Manuscripts of the Gospels are a century or more late
Christians are quick to claim that the historical writings and the date of the events are very close. This is factually incorrect, because of the paucity of positive evidence. all we have instead are:
- a few WORDS possibly of Gospel of John from early 2nd century
- most of John from circa 200
- several verses of Gospel of Matthew from c.200
- several chapters of synoptics from 3rd century
The earliest substantial manuscripts of the synoptic Gospels date back to two centuries after the alleged events.
Citations of the Gospels are a century or more late
The extrabiblical knowledge of the Gospels or its content does not appear until a full century after the alleged events:
- The first mention of Gospels is not until perhaps circa 130 with Papias.
- the first substantial quotes from the Gospels is not until circa 150 with Justin
- The first numbering of the Four Gospels is not until circa 172 with the Diatessaron.
- the first naming of the Four Gospels is not until circa 185 with Irenaeus
The Gospels became public knowledge in the middle to late 2nd century, which is about a hundred and fifty years after the alleged events. Once approximately 150 years of oral tradition has passed, history is considered immaterial and vacuous, lost among the legendary accretions.
Early Doubts about the Gospels
During the first appearance of the Gospels there are doubts: Trypho, circa 130 seems to doubt Jesus, and Celsus, circa 175 exposes the Gospels as fiction and based on myth.
Later writers also criticized the Gospels as fiction: Porphyry called the evangelists inventors of history and Julian called Jesus spurious and invented.
There are no contemporary references to Jesus of Nazareth or the Gospel events. None.
A lack of neutral reports of the events in the Gospels further reduces the Christians’ claim of historicity.
Many differences in Gospel manuscripts
Christians are also very eager to argue that there exists a similarity in content among the gospels. However, the manuscripts do not show exact similarity because, in fact they show excessive variation. There are NO TWO substantial manuscripts of the Gospels which are identical.
It is estimated there are 300,000 variations in the NT manuscripts, 30,000 in Gospel of Mark, even 80 or so in the Lord’s Prayer.
Furthermore, these changes were often driven by arguments over dogma in the early centuries. Bert Ehrman’s classic work The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture shows in detail four examples of how the scriptures were altered by early Christians to argue their points.
To finish, I will list a typical list of modifications of the scriptures. Note that such changes are not just minor things like spelling errors, they show variation of the some of the most fundamental issues of Christian dogma including – the virgin birth, the baptism, the Lord’s Prayer, the trinity, even the resurrection.
Examples of Corruptions to the NT
- Markan appendix – not found in early manuscripts – there are now FOUR differing versions of endings to Mark (the short, plus 3 versions of how it ends)
- Matthew. 6:13 – to this day, there are different versions in various bibles – the early manuscripts show that “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” is a later addition.
- Luke 3:22 – early witnesses have : ” . . . and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou are my son, this day have I begotten thee”
later manuscripts have the KJV version : “…Thou art my beloved son; in thee I am well pleased”
- John 9:35 – The KJV has “…son of god”, but the early manuscripts show “..son of man”.
- John’s periscope of the Adulteress – not found in the early witnesses – generally agreed to be a later addition.
- Colossians 1:14 – the phrase “through his blood” is a later addition.
- Acts 9:5-6 – Absent from early manuscripts – a later addition.
- Acts 8:37 – “And Phillip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” Absent from early manuscripts – a later addition.
- John 8:59 -“…going through the midst of them, and so passed by” Absent from early manuscripts – a later addition.
- 1 John 5:7 The Trinity formula found here only originated centuries after the events. Bruce Metzger notes : “The passage is absent from every known Greek manuscript except eight, and these contain the passage in what appears to be a translation from a late recension of the Latin Vulgate . . . “
The passage is quoted by none of the Greek fathers, who, had they known it, would most certainly have employed it in the Trinitarian controversies (Sabellian and Arian). Its first appearance in Greek is in a Greek version of the (Latin) Acts of the Lutheran Council in 1215.
On another board, in response to my comments on Buddhism and its superiority over Christianity, a poster asked about my characterization of Christianity as self-deception. Hence, this blog.
The Christian concepts of moral experience (sin, afterlife) are entirely imaginary as well as psychologically pernicious. These categories undervalue human experience, making it much more vile than it really is. Thus, those moral concepts motivate Christians to adopt a paranoid and hostile attitude towards their behavior and that of others. Since they are convinced of their sinfulness, that they are deserving of eternal damnation, Christians are compelled to seek spiritual reassurance that comes a large cost of their own mental health and their relationships of others.
Christians are eager to escape their embodied selves, given their convictions of their own sinfulness. Because they believe they’re sinners and are beholden to an unfulfillable law of perfect love, the Christian is certain s/he is a failure. In order to ameliorate this sense of guilt, s/he look to others in the hopes of finding worse sinners. The moral worldview of Christianity has convicted the advocate that their position is perilous, which drives them to judge others to be sinners in order to gain some “upper hand” over them. Therefore, the moral worldview of Christianity inspires uncharitable judgments of other people, despite paying lip-service to neighborly love.
Such misrepresentation of reality results in dishonesty from the adherents, especially when they judge themselves and others. Moreover, the worldview also encourages a disgust with earthly life for the sake of another reality. Worst of all, the insistence on an absolute conformity to a single standard of human behavior causes further psychological damage to the believer. However, there is no “one-size-fits-all” morality. When the Christian, in the attempt to abolish his or her individual character, fails, his or her feelings of inadequacy is reinforced.
This morality is much older than Christianity and has an inherent structure, and a fundamental disposition called ressentiment, or what John Milton calls an “injured merit,” towards the noble class, and revenge is accomplished by passing judgment. The strong and active traits of the noble are vilified by the herd class, who in turn grant virtue to their own passivity and weakness.
In Christianity, the herd morality blooms magnificently in “bad conscience,” where the soul attacks itself, is a disease, although it also has been the prime motive behind some of the greatest achievements of man. The apparent selflessness is the subjugation of one part of the soul by another, where the selfless man, the self-denier and self-sacrificer feels delight in cruelty.
The combination of both bad conscience and the delight in cruelty (ancient morality) is the source of monotheism. Bad conscience motivates a sense of guilt and indebtedness. In early civilization, the feeling of indebtedness was restricted to one’s own ancestors, and the “powers” of the ancestors increased once the power of the tribe also increased. This escalated to the climax of the supreme and all powerful god. Thus, the notion of the all powerful god also hikes the feeling of guilt to ludicrous heights, so extreme that only God himself could redeem humanity from it.
It should surprise absolutely nobody that I appropriated Nietzsche’s views regarding Buddhism in order to antagonize the Christians on another board. His reasons for judging Buddhism as degenerate because the bourgeoisie, weakened after the death of God, would gravitate towards the inherent nihilism and passivity of Buddhism.
Nietzsche rejected Buddhism, even though its treatment of suffering was superior to the Christian version, calling it a “surrender of life” and an inferior response to human life. The treatment, although sensitive and hygenic, are just as life-denying as the ressentiment of Christianity, for they propose how we should manage the cruelty of the world, while failing to engage or embrace it. Buddhism holds out an illusory promise, merely a comforting fiction, that pacifies the masses because reality is far too harsh. Life’s a bitch, therefore, self-deception ensues in the invention of escape.
Buddhism is pretty much a life-negating philosophy that sought to escape the vicissitudes of life drenched with suffering, a “nihilistic turning away from life, a longing for nothingness or for life’s opposite, for a different sort of ‘being.’” Both God and the Nirvana are symptoms of the same root of sickness – fear and weakness and the inability to see the world as it really is.
Now, is this a fair judgment? Nietzsche’s knowledge of Buddhism was limited to the second hand accounts that described Buddhism as a depressive and nihilistic religion, and failed to account for the many flavors of Buddhism. However, despite all those variants of Buddhism, the very core of Buddhism, life as suffering and the cure of the rejection of suffering and desire, is irreconcilable with the affirmation of life, which is, for Nietzsche, a standard to judge worldviews. Buddhism remains nihilistic because it, in the end, projects a system of values onto the world instead of embracing it.
Some scholars, especially the Japanese thinkers (Nishitani Keiji and Abe Masao) reverse the equation by attributing Nietzsche with decadence and present Buddhism as the cure. Other scholars like Morrison argue that Nietzsche’s characterization of Buddhism as a passive nihilistic religion was incorrect, and that there are actually “ironic affinities” between the religion and Nietzsche.