Reflections on religions

While I have quite a few thoughts about what passes for religion, I don't seek to stop other religions, I'm not like that.  Please, that's what I am against. 

There is a realm above existence where all else is irrelevance.

Truth is something that you are.  Many people misunderstand religion and think those things contrary to their own views are "wrong".  In many respects religion is 'created reality' in the most positive sense.  We are talking about the dignity of the being, when we discuss religion.

But equally one is entitled to a point of view, my attitude to many religions is that I would support them, with a few modifications.  Not to make them the same as my view, more probably more as themselves.  Perhaps changing things back, such as the false doctrine of Papal infallibility (a conceit only introduced in the 19th century), or simply a change of emphasis.  I find the "Sermon on the Mount" the most interesting part of Christian teaching, but prefer the version in Luke.  While much of Christ's teaching in the 4 Gospels chosen as orthodox text, was about a coming apocalypse, an intriguing verse in Luke presents an alternative view which aligns with the Gospel of Thomas saying 113 "the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it."

The bitter truth is people as a mass make religion into an image of themselves.   People commonly want to blame someone else for their existence.  They put their leader on a pedestal and kill him at the same time.  People don't want to take responsibility for their moral choices, they are afraid to stand forth and be.

I am for the bum becoming a god, that is to find the spark under the cinders.  Cinders are not truth.  I find it is effective in life to mostly ignore that which is disagreeable and go for the essence.  However, sometimes you have to make comment.

Religion frequently ends up turned on it's head. If Buddha came back to see the idols erected to him he would most likely laugh.  Similarly might Mohammed view Islam, and who knows what Christ would think of Christianity.  

For instance Matthew 5:17-20 explicitly states that Christians must follow all of the Jewish Law.  Acts 15 records the debate on this subject and says "certain people" came to Antioch with this message for Christians. Galatians 2:11-14 says it was Peter himself, Paul asserts:  "But when Peter came to Antioch, I withstood him to his face"  (In some translations the Aramaic form of Peter's name is used "Cephas").  We appear to have jumbled versions of this debate from Luke, author of Acts, and directly from Paul.  Suffice to say according to Paul he, a man who never met Christ but claimed to have visions from him, stood up to the leading Disciple appointed by Jesus.  According to Luke, Peter supported Paul's position.  But history is written by the winners.  Perhaps Luke saw it would look bad for Paul to contradict Peter, but Paul himself had no problem boasting about it.   Gospel of St Paul

We might conclude that the earliest Church had no relation to what it has become.   Keeping the Jewish Law might seem onerous and anachronistic.  However in Mark 12:23-34 when asked by a teacher of the law what is the most important commandment, Jesus explains that what is important is to love God, and love one's neighbour as oneself.  (ref "Did Jesus Exist" by Bart Ehrman page 311)  This is solidly grounded in the Old Testament and a very clever answer, something that encapsulates Christianity.  Yet these two approaches, either the whole of the law or just the essence are quite different.  One must be wrong.  Given that the first Jewish approach continued into a famous confrontation after Jesus death, we might suspect this to be the original.  Another clue is Mark 12:34 where after the teacher agrees with Jesus summation, Jesus tells him he is "not far from the Kingdom of Heaven" suggesting the view of  Gospel of Thomas discussed above, that the Kingdom of Heaven is present for those who can see it, as compared with the Kingdom of Heaven which might come after an apocalypse.  The options are that one or both is invented, or that one or both are different streams of Jesus's theology that became apparently different, after development by particular disciples who focussed upon them as what had been most real in their experience of Jesus.  

There is a curious set of stories about Jesus that show him opposed to his own family.  His family attempts to have him declared "mad" so that he can be restrained.  His mother comes to visit him with his brothers, and he refuses to see them, telling his disciples that they are his family.  And again:   "A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home"   Finally: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple".  Putting an interpretation on this, the body is hardwired to continue in the physical universe and family in that sense is seen as a distraction from God. It is a fairly uncompromising view almost immediately turned on its head, and a mythology based on family values, was created. Elaine Pagels writes:  "orthodox Christians affirmed the natural order.  Earth's plains, deserts, seas, mountains, stars and trees form an appropriate home for humanity.... The orthodox Christian saw Christ not as one who leads souls out of this world into enlightenment, but as "fullness of God": come down into human experience - into bodily experience - to sacralize it."  (The Gnositic Gospels by Elaine Pagels page 146).

While there is almost universal mindless agreement with the physical universe I am sure it is possible to have a family and also have spiritual values, in balance (see Ego versus God in this treatise).       

It is a problem of the human state, and something for any philosopher to ponder before he opens his mouth:   if your words find acceptance they will be turned into their opposite.

So I don't offer rules but I have put together a few principles.

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Copyright (c) David R. Griffiths 2012