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.

I watched a really silly movie

In fact, I am not sure one can say it is a bad nor a good movie. It just is. But it is relevant for some of the discussions we have on this blog and elsewhere. In the recent post by Nan, Barry did mention that god has been defined by Lord Geering and maybe a few others as a metaphor representing some of our highest ideas.

This brings us to the movie. It is on Netflix and the tittle is Saladin. I found out this was the deliverer of Jerusalem from the crusaders in the 12th Century. Men were going to their deaths to fight over a piece of earth. And they still do, to this date.

One thing I can say for the script writers and the directors is they know how to revenge. In the whole act, the Arabs are referred to by the Europeans as barbarians and savages but in their actions, the Arabs come out on top. They are just, innovative and their leader Saladin is a man for lack of a better word, we will say is an just principled and generous man.

It is 3 hours long. And while it is the conversation that is riveting, it is in Arabic so you can’t let play in the background while you do some important thing like spoonfeeding a cat that has refused to eat.

Humanity doesn’t seem to have improved. We still kill one another for a piece of earth, or for believing incorrectly when these beliefs have no demonstrated truth/ facts to support them.

Without the devil

As the fourth and silent member of the trinity, churches, mosques and most likely synagogues would have closed. We must, if we look at the narratives presented to us, take it that the devil has equal power with the god head.

Many a Christian believe themselves monotheistic while they believe in a multitude of gods; god the father, the son, the holy ghost, the devil, Mary mother of god and a multitude of angels and saints.

The priests believe in magic. They persecute magicians only because they think they have commerce with the devil.

The miracles of Jesus do not provide definitive proof of his power. The good book says even the antichrist will do the same but doesn’t tell how we can separate the two.

Nowhere in the bible is to be found a defence of freedom of thought.

There was never a just war. Only defensive wars.

How faiths spread

But how do you think, then, that my religion became established? Like all the rest. A man of strong imagination made himself followed by some persons of week imagination. The flock increased; fanaticism commences, fraud achieves. A powerful man comes; he sees a crowd, ready bridled and with a bit in its teeth; he mounts and leads it.

Voltaire

We cannot be certain

Of the justice of men who are capable of fashioning and worshipping an unjust divinity; nor on their humanity, so long as they incorporate inhuman motives in their most sacred dogma; nor their reasonableness, while they rigorously decline to accept reason as a test of truth

Morley

I am sure Barry would disagree and I would too. There are many times humans have acted better than their gods. The Christians at least have stopped using the rake to discover who believes correctly and are no longer stoning their neighbours for having the wrong interpretation of religion.

But on the whole, if one worships a cruel overlord, it is not far fetched to imagine their capacity for cruelty. Look at the Muslims chopping heads in the name of God or it name of the profit?

To be fair to religionists, it can be said any ideology believed in that admits no error and is taken as absolute truth is likely to be intolerant of divergent opinion and can easily lead to inhumane and cruel acts.

Is it really the case that our laws

Laws and customs having the effect of law in our days can be traced directly to some powerful organized church or churches? That even in the US where they have an amendment separating church and state, the churches managed to have placed on the statutes the individual church’s code of moral taboos.

In his novel, For us, the living, Robert Heinlein writes and I quote

All forms of organized religion are alike in certain social respects. Each claims to be the sole custodian of the essential truth. Each claims to speak with final authority on all ethical questions. And every church has requested, demanded, or ordered the state to enforce its particular system of taboos. No church ever withdraws its claims to control absolutely by divine right the moral life of the citizens.

Robert A. Heinlein, For us, the Living

Such laws include but are not limited to tax exemption for church property, practically all laws pertaining to marriage and the relations between the sexes (laws against polygamy, adultery, birth control and others), censorship laws, laws prohibiting alocohol use, cigarettes.

In his book Genealogy of morals, Nietzsche makes the same argument and calls for a re-evaluation of morals. The difficulty I see is that after a while, these laws begin to have the form of common sense and thus their religious beginnings become obscured.

Do you agree or am i missing something?

imagine what would become of religion

if lies were disallowed.

We all know a good lie in the course of religion is acceptable even to god. I mean, Luther says it. Eusebius alludes to it. Even Paul agrees to doing it.

so friends, start your religion and use lies if you must as long as the cause is right.

and remember that a loving god sends no one to hell. Should you find yourself in the pit, you chose it willingly. It says so in the scriptures.