Things I never learned in Sunday School

By Nan Yielding

First, thanks Nan for the free copy. It is an interesting and easy read. I think a revised edition is due especially because I think you have in the intervening period learnt something that maybe was not available at the time of first publication.

This book is not a polemic against religion or an apologia. Maybe we could say it is an argument against taking someone as an authority without good reason. In this respect, I think Nan makes her point clearly throughout the book.

That said, I have a few issues with the book.

On the pentatauch, she alludes to Moses writing the first five books. First comment is that the existence of Moses is highly doubtful but that’s a story for later. On the authorship of the first five books, research that I have read point to a multiple group of writers. My preface to the African Bible( used by the Catholic Church) is explicit that while it is commonly believed Moses wrote those books, this is no longer tenable.

On Jesus, Nan writes in a manner that shows she is convinced of at least two things; he existed and had a message of love that he taught. The interesting question here is which Jesus. And having read several researches on Jesus life, I would ask with Ark, which Jesus? Nan writes we are certain Jesus died but this is putting the cart before the horse.

What can be said of the resurrection? She points out the various contradictions in the narratives telling of this special event. And I don’t think much needed to be added. Maybe we can say with Mangassarian that if he went to the sky it is best to live him there.

She writes a lot on Paul which is understandable because of his influence in Christian teaching. The first question is Paul who? Does the author of Acts know Paul? And while her conclusion is correct that without the Pauline literature, we would likely end up with a different religion today. She takes it for granted that Paul was. And I would think, as the theme of the book is not taking things on authority, a little bit of rigour would not be asking for too much.

Her exposition on the devil is quite illuminating. But in that chapter she says we are certain a supreme being exists? But does it really? Are we certain about this? What is the nature of this being & though in the final chapter she makes the argument that resembles that of Aviciena( via negativa) that maybe we can’t begin to name or even describe this being, this gives us no light on whether we should assume such a being exists.

I am not convinced the argument about the Roman empire persecution of Christians hold against scrutiny. I will have to dust my books & update this criticism but her position is not tenable.

I am African and it is a pet peeve of mine when I find African deities or religions referred to as tribal gods. This is following Hegel where everyone else has national gods or just religions but the African, no. His is a tribal god. I know it is not Nan’s fault here that most literature sees Africans only through the lens of tribe.

I think on matters where there is doubt, to express certainties must surely take away from the value of the work. To claim a supreme being/ god certainly exists is to stretch credulity a little far. My other general comment that covers the whole work is on miracles. The bible which is the source document for Christian belief is said to be a miracle- that is, it is not of natural production but involves the action of god(s) in unknown ways- is in need of defence.

While reading the book, a thought occurred to me concerning monotheism. Is it a belief in the existence of only one god or the belief in & worship of only one god While not negating the existence of other gods? The israelites are told not that other gods don’t exist, just that they should worship a specific god. Or as Nietzsche put it, the other gods laughed themselves to death when one of them said I am on the only god. Am I missing something?

Happy Sunday everyone. And thanks again Nan for the book.