Friday, May 23, 2008
Here, at the most exciting junction of my life, the clear evidence of everything not only points strongly to the fact that the Bible presents nothing more than an elaborate myth, but I am able to see how it happened that the Bible came about (including the Jesus legend) and how it happened that Christianity gained such a strong foothold in the centuries following the life of Jesus Christ. A foothold that is mental in nature!
Since humans are able to reason “outside themselves”, humans build abstract models in their minds. This is how we reason. What seems to happen is:
1. We look at different individual facts (bits of data input);
2. Our mind is geared to the building of very elaborate structures in order to accommodate the different facts. Language is such a structure (more particularly – grammar);
3. It seems as if the mind after the structure has been constructed no longer recognises the parts of the structure and if it does, it does this with great difficulty. After the mental structure has been built, the mind thinks in terms of the structures, not the parts. The mental concepts that are themselves constructed by many different facts (or bits of information), becomes the thing that the mind access. Reading is a good example. A good reader no longer reads every letter of the word. The mind recognises the complete word, even if it is slightly differently spelt.
4. Christianity is a good example of such an elaborate structure. A mental construct. Something that very comfortably exists only in the minds of people. Another example will be a concept like democracy.
The mental construct of Christianity represents one of the high points of thought development that happened when humans had a particular worldview. Cosmologically everything was based upon the world is the centre of the universe and the Sun, Moon and Stars revolving around the earth.
Mystical powers shaped our world – the gods.
Two broad god-concepts developed.
There is the Mother Earth concept that developed from peoples who were living in rain forests where there was an abundance of food, given to them by the bountiful earth.
There is the Warrior God concept that developed from nomads who lived in deserts and semi-desert regions where food was scarce and where they had to constantly battle other nomads for dominance over wells and fields in order to survive.
The Bible stands in this tradition with the Concept of YHWH being the LORD of HOSTS or the Lord of the large armies of Israel. It is God who leads the nation in battle. These concepts are very typical Warrior-God concepts.
The ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, etc. started to develop the concept of mathematics which related abstract concepts to the physical world we live in. If something can not be “proved”, it was questioned and ultimately either discarded completely or remained very suspicious in the minds of the ancient philosophers.
What is interesting is that the mental concepts of the world continued to be a product of the universal general prevailing level of technology on earth.
As the view of the world was being changed by the Greeks like Plato and Aristotle; as humans became more proficient in technical matters and as humans started to discover how the “unseen powers” of our universe actually works and how it is these powers who dictate whether it will rain this month or not (as opposed to the whim of a god), people started to develop concepts that precluded god. They started to develop the notion of cause-and-effect.
Cause-and-effect is itself a model that our minds use to accommodate information, but it is a notion that more accurately reflects the prevailing level of technology on earth right now and how we understand life and everything. It is more useful since it more closely resembles reality.
Jesus was probably the fortunate “saviour” from countless different saviours who presented themselves in Jerusalem in that he survived the crucifixion and became the stuff that legends are made of.
It was the natural thing to do for the academia of that time to take the Jesus legend that very quickly developed and to put it into the very familiar religious mental concepts that were the prevailing world view of the time in the minds of people and since there already existed such a well-established god-concept in most people, they plugged the Jesus legend into this with the greatest of ease.
Exactly like us, the people of the time was not that much interested in the particular details of the claims any longer as they bought into the overall concept.
Flowing from this is the concept of “faith” and how it has developed from the time when Paul wrote about it.
The Bible started to develop from the perspective that God did prove himself to the ancients. Moses before the leaders of Israel; Moses before Pharaoh; God proving himself to the children of Israel in the desert.
Faith was not so much a belief contrary to the facts (or in the absence of facts) as it was a belief that what the old people said and how they interpreted events that they saw with their own eyes were to be accepted as fact. Their interpretation could not be questioned. This was Old Testament faith.
Even in the New Testament, faith was never presented as something that had to be believed even if the facts spoke against it. The Heb 11:1 faith definition represents the more mystical of many uses of this concept in the New Testament and was clearly a modern development in terms of the Bible.
Heb 11: 1 reads: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”, but the problem is that it does not read “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, contrary to clear evidence”. The fact is that in order for one to believe the Bible there is a whole truckload of established facts that must be ignored by the person of faith that Heb 11:1 must be taken to mean what I suggest in order for it to be the argument FOR faith.
Faith is also never a synonym for recognising potential. For example, I believe there will one day be regular flights to the moon and ordinary people will be able to go on moon visits. In contrast to this will be the faith that there is NOT A MOON, despite the fact that we can walk on it – faith against facts.
As facts started to present themselves that speaks against the validity of the Bible or the god-concept, people started to change the concept of faith. It shifted to mean faith in the God of the bible, no matter the facts.
Over the last three years, I have not met any Christian who thought that there is any proof for the truth of the Bible. None! Some see the order in creation as some evidence of a god, but they are completely unable to link the vague concept with the God of the Bible and Christianity. They have no proof for any of the claims of Jesus Christ, eternal life, heaven, hell or sin.
But these same people claim that they believe, against all evidence, in the God of the Christian Bible.
The Old Testament prophet called for God on Mount Carmel to come and prove that he exists against the Baal Prophets. In the New Testament, Paul claims that his assurance in the resurrection is based on eyewitness testimony. These people all held that for any claim of divinity there must be proof.
When people say that all we have to do is to have faith, apart from any evidence, these take the word “faith” as something that the biggest part of the Bible does not give to the term. They re-interpret it from a 21st-century perspective.
It amazes me that otherwise very intelligent people can hold this very bizarre view. That faith needs not to have objective, verifiable evidence. Yet they insist on evidence before someone is convicted of a crime; or before they buy one make and model of a car over another; or before they grant a PhD to someone who claims to have mastered a certain subject matter; or before they accept one theory about life on Mars over another.
They start calling general experiences of awe and wonder “proof” that the bible is true and that God exists.
Somehow matters like complexity for example become the “proof” of Christianity. Why can complexity not prove “complexity” and nothing more? Or why can’t the Christian admit that it can prove the possibility of the existence of the Muslim God of the Hindu God just as much as the Christian God?
The same goes for subjective experiences about God at work in our lives. Muslims and Buddhists claim the same!
These matters should not surprise me. The explanation is in how we as humans think. We build mental models/ mental constructs and it is very very difficult to uncreate such constructs.
What is encouraging to see is how fewer and fewer people accommodate the god framework in their mental world. Evolution is happening right in front of our eyes. The evolution of ideas and concepts.
Life is beautiful!
(c) eben van tonder