Jesus and Muhammad, 2015, part 2 of 3
Muhammad picked up the conversational trail at this point, “Lets get back to the issue at hand, JC. You do tend to ramble, you know. OK, the concept that all four basic religious structures have in common is that there must be positive and negative aspects in all religions. Basically the old story of the donkey controlled by a carrot and a stick, describes the structure of reward and punishment that is the fundamental motivation for sentient beings. If there is no reward for winning and no punishment for losing, humans will invent them, as strongly evidenced by human politics, games, and sports. In religion, the carrot (eternal life in paradise) is prophesied for the future of the believer, while the stick (eternal punishment in hell) is prophesied for the future of the unbeliever. And you have to be an unequivocal believer in the tenets of a particular religion and fulfill all the requirements of that religion without question in order to get the positive reward of the carrot. The conflicting negative for those that do not believe or that believe in a competing religion is the stick, which is more than a tap on the rear of a donkey, it is never ending life suffering unrelenting and extreme physical and mental torture, a burning lake of fire, for all eternity. So, to implement this metaphysical foundation of extreme supernatural reward and punishment, the deities that war for control the supernatural world of the immortal soul must also be positive and negative in order to deliver the eternal future promised by the writings and traditions of the religion. Without a supernatural being powerful enough to fulfill the carrot, and an opposing supernatural being powerful enough to apply the stick, religion is meaningless. So in the case of the Abrahamic religions adhered to by almost fifty five percent of humanity, God, under whatever human name defines that positive concept, provides a heaven; and Satan, also under many human names, provides the negative antitheses, hell.
Now, JC, for the record, you can present the rationale for the Great Experiment, and describe the four basic religious constructions. “
“Very well, Muh, As you know, I had a very small part in the formulation of the Great Experiment so I can outline the four religious configurations we chose for the Great Experiment. We selected Earth for the project because the pre sentient human primate species exhibited rapid evolution and a high degree of genetic uniformity that reduced intellectual and behavioral variations that might otherwise create complications that would affect the validity of the results.
Just then the monk at corner table stood up and waved is quill to get attention. Muhammad and Jesus looked up with annoyance and the monk pleaded that his scroll was now completely filled and he had to run outside and get another one from the back of his Range Rover. (As a functionary of the CHC he was not constrained outside of the Bacchus Bar and Grill by the statutes on the sanctity of the era of the conference environment.) Jesus waved him off and turned to exchange gossip with with Muhammad. However Muhammad got up and announced, “It’s been a long time and I’m not used to the demands of this biological body, I have to go the restroom, but given the time and place for this meeting, I guess I’ll have to go out behind that dune out back." Jesus smiled and said, “Yeah, on Earth biology is the supreme administrator of behavior. Don’t forget, as you directed back in the day, use three stones and bury it." Muhammad grinned and said, “This may take awhile, get yourself another Mojito", and went out the back door.
The monk returned, opened the new scroll, checked his inkwell and then ran out again to get a refill of the ink. Jesus waited patiently, sipped his Mojito and mentally went over his notes The monk came back in again and busied himself getting the blank scroll in just the right position and the inkwell in a convenient place out of danger of a spill on the scroll but still very handy to the work. He had participated in the preparation of the fifty Bibles Constantine had commissioned in 331 for the Church of Constantinople. Those bibles were the first that resulted from the codification of the books of the Christian Bible as confirmed by vote of about 320 members of the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. That was a very demanding task of transcription, but still, taking detailed accurate minutes of a fast moving meeting was quite a challenge for him. He hoped the CHC, would have their typical response to low level meetings, and would not look too closely at his efforts.
Mohammad returned and brushing the sand off his robe, sat down. They both looked to the monk for a signal to resume the meeting agenda and the monk nodded politely.
“So to continue," said Jesus, “the four basic religious structures are represented on Earth by the four major religions, in order of their size, Christianity in which I have a personal interest, with 2.2 billion souls, Islam, in which you have a personal interest, with 1.6 billion souls, Hinduism with 900 million souls, and Buddhism with 488 million souls. Of course there are thousands of other religions and many millions of unaffiliated and unconvinced souls as well. Despite their differences, however, there are core beliefs that are pretty much universal to all religions and also to most of those that hold a personal religious belief outside of organized religion. Such a personal belief may be loosely within or completely outside of an organized religion. This individual belief is defined as a personal conviction that a god actually exists and usually that it is personally interested in their welfare. Also included are those souls that are cultural believers, where religion is just a societal structure, a rubric that greases the road of life. These universal beliefs are:
Belief that a supernatural aspect to human life exists, and has a greater or lesser both positive and negative involvement in human life.
Belief that the essence of a human life, an immortal soul, does not end upon biological death.
Belief by most that the quality of existence (or nonexistence) for the soul after death, depends on matters believed and expressed during the time of biological life
Belief that there will be a supernatural resurrection and restoration of the physical body followed by a judgment of a supreme being as to the fate of the human soul. I included this one because it is very important to both of us as a foundational belief since the majority of humanity is part of the constellation of Abrahamic religions, primarily Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and this is a core belief to these religions.
So, for the Great Experiment, the CHC directed the development of four basic religious structures into various human societies as they expanded beyond small relatively isolated tribal communities. These are, again according to number of adherents:
The first, eternal existence of a human soul within a highly variable religious concept, but essentially under total cultural control directed by a central deity and achieved by individual voluntary acceptance of a religious meme, primarily my responsibility, Christianity.
The second, eternal existence of a human soul within a strong total cultural control directed by a central deity and universally imposed on society through a specifically defined religion, Islam. And that is your responsibility,
The third, variable acceptance of the existence of a human soul that is present before birth and after death and that travels along a four-fold path, chatushpada. Reincarnation of the soul is generally believed within the general structure of a religion populated by a large and varied community of deities responsible for various cultural elements, Hinduism.
The fourth, eternal existence of a soul that is continuously reincarnated and changes as it seeks Nirvana, a state of calmness where the cycle of rebirth is soothed and quieted, Buddhism.
Sentient societies on most life supporting planets follow one of these general religious constructs, and for the most part, civilization and reproduction of technologically capable life forms progresses at sustainable rates. The downside of a universal stable religion, of course, is that a certain vibrancy and passion of individual life is muted, and progression through the stages of life and development of civilization moves at a slow and determined pace. Or as T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) put it ‘The living knew themselves as just sentient puppets on God’s stage’, an apt description of life under religious totalitarianism, but as you well know, Muh, it does seem to fit best with the soul farming design of the CHC.
Muhammad leaned back, looked at the ceiling and emphatically said, “OK, OK, now we know the problem that besets sentient life on Earth. They are about to destroy themselves and the ecological balance of the Earth to temporally support human life in the face of uncontrolled population growth, intensive and uncontrolled technological advancement, ecological destruction, and warfare with weapons of mass destruction that have the potential to destroy almost all of the life on Earth. And unfortunately, the Great Experiment of the CHC nurtured religious competition which provided the authority for wars of conquest and genocide. But we know that even in a well tended universe about 20 percent of technological civilizations wind up destroying themselves despite religion and sometimes their planet also. Why not just walk away and let what happens happen?"
“Well, sure Muh, that’s the easy way out.", mused Jesus, “And that was one of the favored options at the CHC summit, But that would be admitting defeat and coming away with no usable information. The CHC wants a solution, and that’s where we come into the picture. Now I have an idea, since time and space are constructs that we can manipulate, why don’t we just go back in time and start the process all over again, or pick a pivotal historical time and modify the developing religions into forms that are more compatible with each other. Of course it would take more than a subcommittee of two, there would be hundreds of deities and thousands of prophets involved but given time and our leadership it could be done. couldn’t it"?
“Good Lord, JC, listen to yourself" said Muhammad, “It was precisely those minds that orchestrated this mess, and you want to get all of us in one time and space and try to work it out? Have you ever tried to herd cats? Most of them still believe that what they did was God’s work and not something that was engineered to profit themselves and/or their societies. And besides, going back in time and changing things is like pulling the pin out of a grenade and then taking a nap. Making one little change in real time and it reverberates down through the ages in ways that can’t be predicted. You wind up trying to unbake a cake and pretty soon you have something that isn’t and never will be a cake. The Great Experiment would be so compromised that none of the data would be of value."
End part 2
Jesus and Muhammad, 2015, part 2 of 3
Jesus and Muhammad, 2015, part 3 of 3
The monk was furiously laboring over his scroll. He had given up trying to keep up with the conversation and resorted to the digital recorder hidden in his robes. He hoped they wouldn’t notice the earphone in his ear as he carefully drew the Greek characters for the first paragraph of the meeting minutes.
Jesus looked a little crestfallen, scratched his head and a shadow of a smile crossed his face. Muhammad looked at him sharply, “But you knew that, didn’t you!" he exclaimed, “Of course, you and your Dad know everything. But then whenever someone asks you a real stumper of a question , you always say, ‘Oh that’s one of things my Dad knows…’ Anyway, if you’re looking to me to come up with a solution and the best I have is to go with is to insert the most societal and cultural religious control possible, and make sure that graft and corruption is as minimal as possible, but of course, it’s always good to be the one with all the answers…"
“I thought that was what you would come up with, Muh, but the idea was worth exploring. There is another avenue that would probably reduce or at least change the nature of the Great Experiment, but might provide a pattern for other civilizations facing the same sort of problems. You’ve heard of Jay Gould’s NOMA theory I presume?" Muhammad was about to expound expressively on that, but Jesus cut him off before he could get started and said, “Wait, hear me out on this. Gould developed his theory on Non Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) in an attempt to make science and religion agree to disagree and thus form a societal base for cooperation. Of course that sounds like the lion lying down with the lamb, a warm and fuzzy, but fatally flawed theory. Religion will always measure science with the absolute standard of theology, and science will never consider arguments based on the supernatural as having any validity in reality. And that’s the way it is no matter how strongly we may use our influence with humanity to see our scriptures as fact and disregard what their senses and reason tell them. But the basic concept could possibly be used within religious interests. After all, we, all religions, have the same basis in the supernatural, we just have different supernatural worlds and convictions. We war with each other in ways small and ways great but we all agree that the human soul is immortal and that there is a supernatural aspect to real world existence. Why can’t we construct Non Overlapping Religious Magisteria (NORM) and accept with open arms those all religions that follow NORM without killing or denigrating those that follow a different religion or that have no religious belief? If we could get this into operative form, then we would actually have the beginning of answers for the Great Experiment."
It was very quiet as Muhammad mulled over Jesus’ proposal. The monk drew his characters as quickly as he could as Jesus waited for Muhammad’s response. Finally Muhammad spoke. “Unfortunately, JC, your proposal has two fatal flaws. Like NOMA it sounds good and it might be workable within and between civil cultures but civility is still just a veneer over human societies. Human primates developed technology so rapidly that their primitive reptilian brain structure (and I know reptilian brains), is still so functional that reason and compassion remain strongly conflicted and confused with aggression and individual survival, and this promotes the primitive behavioral imperative for economic advancement at any cost as a religious mandate for destruction of competing societies and authority for war. And that would be more than enough to make NORM unworkable. But, on the other hand, there are already signs of such progress, maybe if human primates could hang in there for another fifty thousand years and evolve a bit more, then, if it also includes a toleration for rejection of religion, that might be a stable situation. I think that this concept would probably be the best we can do at this time for the CHC."
Muhammad held up his hand as Jesus started to reply, frowned and said firmly, “But, JC, you seem to forget the biggest of the game busters. The most fatal of all the fatal flaws you or anyone else can think of. This is the one thing that totally collapses anything we might come up with to solve the problem. Those human primates that are killing each other, destroying their environment, and propagating like rabbits are completely on their own. There is nothing we can do to help them solve their problems and survive into a stable civilization that is compassionate and successful; as well as help them find their way as a civilized species from Earth to other worlds, natural and artificial". They have to learn to survive all on their own. Muhammad paused for effect, Jesus and the monk sat in confused and stunned silence.
Muhamad stated forcefully, “You seem to forget that we are all completely fictional! We and the CHC, and all the supernatural creatures that the human mind has created over their sentient history just do not exist! Sure we can speculate and ruminate and wish we could solve these problems, but all we are all just fictional creations of the human mind without any direct avenue to the physical reality that humans. experience. About the closest we can come to having any effect on human reality used to be in books and stage plays, but now that includes not only radio and television, but also those infernal computer games. Good or evil, we are just imaginary creatures born in the human mind, but through their imaginations, humans have given us a pseudo reality where we do have considerable power.
Actually we have a great deal of power but there is a catch. It is only power given to us by those humans who believe in us. Now this is very great power, but the catch is that, unfortunately, even though it is our power, we do not control it. It remains in the purview of the humans that create it. They are the ones that use our power for their own purposes and we can do nothing about it because we do not actually exist…"
The monk stopped creating calligraphic letters, shook his head and finished his beer. Jesus put his hands behind his head, stretched back and looked at the ceiling. “Yeah, you’re right Muh, with all our long history and the belief of billions of minds behind us, we do tend to forget the basics of our existence, or non-existence, as it is. I guess we’ll have to tell the CHC that the Great Experiment was a failure and that Earth will go whichever way it is that the human primates stumble. We have no other option."
Just then Satan came through the door and demanded with a grin, “Why wasn’t I invited to this conference? I’ve got more experience with human primates than all of you put together. And I have some good ideas for them as well." He slapped the barmaid on her bottom, ordered a Devil’s Firecracker (vodka, rum, tequila, cherry juice, and dash of Tabasco), sat down at the table and asked, “So, what have you guys been up to?"
The monk sighed, rolled up his scroll, gathered up his implements and wandered out to the Range Rover, “I wonder if they’ll let me keep this, he thought, it would be great fun on Mars".
end part 3 of 3
I don’t know… Should I post this or not? It’s a fictional story, a bit long, 3 posts needed to complete it. Maybe this isn’t the place for it, maybe there are rules against it (I’m new here), and if so I’m sorry for my transgression, and I won’t do it again. But some of you may find it of interest, so I’ll go ahead and post it. Don’t know what else to do with it.
Jesus and Muhammad, 2015, Part 1 of 3
The camel was cranky, but then what camel isn’t? As it plodded on through the hot sand Muhammad swayed with the rolling gait of the camel and it felt familiar and good. He wondered why the Celestial High Council (CHC) had summoned him to this meeting. He was quite busy with the awaking of religious concepts in a developing reptilian species on a planet in a very old universe. He checked his place and time reporter and noted that he had arrived at division 62-C; an obscure arm of a minor universe which was listed as Universe 8,200,730,592 in Sector 356. He noted that the time was presented in Earth years, 4,540,032,015; which was the age of a small planet in a tiny solar system in this diminutive and quiet galaxy. Because of the time and the current environment, this meeting obviously concerned the planet Earth and it’s developing post industrial civilizations. And most unusual, it was midway between the 1000 year scheduled conclaves of the supernatural entities concerned with Earth sentient life development It was most likely a sub committee societal directional change meeting, maybe a few thousand gods and prophets meeting in a desert resort setting, at least he hoped so. It had been a long time since he had come to an Earth environment in primate human form and visited with human females.
Unfortunately for Muhammad this was not the case. As the camel plodded on and passed over a large mound he noticed a large limestone rock that was formed in the Earth’s Late Cretaceous. It was roughly 15 cubits (22 feet) on each side. He glanced at it and then in recognition turned and stared. No doubt, there it was, the Foundation Stone, Moriah, the navel of the Earth, the site where God gathered the dust that formed Adam, the site where Abraham offered his son to God, and the place where Gabriel accompanied him, Muhammad, to Heaven. The cleft for the Ark of the Covenant was there in the center as was the hole near the edge that leads down to the Well of Souls. Muhammad then knew that this was no casual meeting, this was the place where the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims shared histories clashed most violently, the place of war and the place of prophecy This would be no ordinary meeting.
He passed over a dune and down a valley which led into an desert oasis and there it was. There is a little bar and restaurant located at the corner of Time and Space with the appropriate name of The Bacchus Bar and Grill. This establishment can be in anywhere and at any time, in any guise, depending on the requirements of the customers. In this particular instance it was sitting in a desert environment in a small pocket of matter on the edge of an arm of the small milky way galaxy. This supernaturally fabricated environment consisted of a spring fed oasis in a desert valley between a plateau and low rolling hills and the time was Earth in pre industrial days. This was the ideal familiar ambiance for the meeting of two high emissaries of the Sentient Beings Control Unit of the Celestial Affairs Division.
Muhammad rode up to the hitching rail on his camel and noted that Jesus Christ’s donkey was already tied up at the rail Oh, yeah, he remembered how, back in the day, ole JC got here first and established a strong foothold and he had had to really scramble and war just to compete with what JC had already done on this contentious planet.
As he entered the dimly lit establishment through an old wooden door, he saw JC sitting at an equally old wooden table. As he became accustomed to the dark, he heard JC call out, “Over here Muh, I’ve been waiting on you". As Muhammad sat down he sniffed at the Mojito JC was sipping. With a grin, JC said, “This is a great drink for this dry environment, Muh, can I order one for you?", as he offered Muhammad a glass with a hand that had a prominent hole in the wrist. Muhammad said “You should know better than that JC, I’m almost offended. I’ll have a cup of water tempered at the Camphor Fountain, but thank you very much for the offer." “I see," said Jesus, “You’re keeping your mind clear and your intentions in keeping with your Earthly religion active. Probably on point for this discussion."
Muhammad looked around the bar and noted that they were the only customers. The barmaid/waitress was in the period costume, robes and a head scarf, and she brought Muhammad his clay cup of tempered water. “Where are the others, JC?" he said. “I figured that with the Foundation Stone reminder out there, that this meeting would be about the Earth crisis, but I didn’t think that it would only be between us. After all, Buddhism and Hinduism are also major parts of the CHC’s Great Experiment. Where’s Buddha, or at least one of his incarnations, and maybe Shiva who might be able to represent that alphabet soup of Hindu religions? But, actually, to be inclusive, for Earth there should be thousands of gods, prophets, angels, and saints, and maybe a few devils and demons involved in these deliberations. The Great Experiment resulted in an unprecedented schism of religious development. If we had just had that lottery at the beginning of conscious awareness on Earth, as we usually do, this crisis would never have developed."
Jesus sipped his Mojito and said, “Well Muh, what’s done is done and the CHC wants to fix the problem and continue on with the Great Experiment. As you know I have a quasi membership on the CHC, I guess you might call it a junior nonvoting membership, but all that gives me is just responsibility without control, an unfunded mandate, if you will. So it was my decision to start with just the two of us. After all, we together represent the majority of religious commitment on Earth, so it will be helpful if we can at least provide a strategy for moving forward before the can of worms is opened for everyone. Let me recap the situation for you. I know you already have a good understanding of the problems, but the CHC requires background and a detailed report of the proceedings of all meetings." He nodded in the direction of a brown cloaked monk sitting at a corner table with a quill pen, an inkwell, and a very long blank scroll. He waved to them with a beer clutched tightly in an ink stained hand.
Muhammad stared in disbelief. “Jesus Christ…, err, I mean Gee Whiz, you’ve got to be kidding me JC. Talk about retro, why not just a digital recording? That would save time and insure accuracy. “Well Muh, you know the CHC, hidebound with tradition, quite a few traditions, actually." said Jesus, “And this does give the staff something to do, so, like many of the congregants on Earth, we go along to get along."
“But let me recap," Jesus continued,“ As you know Muh, there are four basic religious structures that allow biological species to form functional cultural societal constructs when they evolve biologically to a point of development of conscious self awareness and the capability of reason. The trigger for this is the appearance of the ability to reason that an act of an individual in the present can, and usually does, effect the well being or distress of that individual in the near and far future. And when reason links acts and events together, then at that point the germ of religion is planted and as mental self awareness evolves it is up to the CHC staff to determine, based on the present and future biological, mental, and physical capabilities of that species, to determine what religious structure should be implemented in the grand plan for the civilization of that species. Usually, however, with all the competing interests it becomes just a lottery. This works well for over ninety percent of the many billions of civilizations that have been established throughout this complex of universes. But in that outlying ten percent, there is failure and a question as to what flavor or religion should have been imposed.
Thus the Great Experiment was advanced for Earth. Without that having been done, Earth would be of little significance and only one of us would have been involved here. In fact, very few of us would have had any contact with this human primate species. We can second guess the wisdom of this experiment, but the CHC is determined to see it through and make a decision as to which, under similar circumstances, type of religious structure has the best chance of creating a civilization that operates in harmony with its social, physical, biological, and ecological environment. However, things did not go as planned on Earth, perhaps due to the disparate evolutionary baggage from the recent past that the human species carried with it into sentience and sapience. It was expected that one of the four basic religious structures would dominate early in the development of religious structure and that analysis of the characteristics of the resulting society would provide the CHC with the information necessary to tweak the genetic designs of species that were in the process of forming biological responses to the development of civilization within that species.
But what happened, as you know Muh, was that the meme of a particular religion did not become universal. Religious beliefs diverged and compartmentalized and created great conflicts. Which actually was not unexpected, even sort of planned because conflict often propels the most fit civilization/religion into a dominant social position and the end result is a peaceful society that learns to live within the carrying capacity of its environment. But what was unexpected was that this conflict fueled the growth of technology in the human species at such a rapid rate that the primitive biology of the hunter/gatherer human primates made them incapable of using their technological strength for establishment of societies based on stability and sustainability. Continued dependence on growth and expansion for economic dominance created great wars conveniently based on the pseudo authority conferred by differing religious beliefs. Wars of conquest and aggression are never considered aggression by the aggressors, especially if they are based on direction from a supreme being. Some humans say that few if any wars are religious and others say that all wars have some basis in religion, mostly it depends on the belief structure of those that present the argument. What is true, however is that most of the humans that actually fight and die in the wars are religious in one way or another. But I digress.
The Great Experiment did provide one important insight so far, and that is that a religion promulgated by a single supreme deity is far more effective in concentrating the power of religious belief into societal division and conflict and then into religious wars than religions with many complex deities. Cultures with many reasonably equally powerful deities tend to be more tolerant of divided loyalties that are spread among different supernatural beings. Although conflict and war, secular and/or doctrinal, persecution, marginalization and insularity is not unknown in the history of all human societies."
end part 1
Not sure of your point of thought. Can you tell me where you want to go with this?
Well, Mike, I had several points of thought. First of all it was fun to write and it was a way that I could express my thoughts and ruminations in fictional way that I hoped would be interesting and entertaining enough not only to capture the attention of some of us that reject the authority and supernatural basis of religion, but perhaps also interest some of those that are beginning to question the rationality of their ancient religious beliefs. Often those of us that look at our world through the lens of reason and reality are so repulsed and offended by the off hand and ignorant response and rejection of science and reason by that those indoctrinated with supernatural beliefs express with sometimes sweet judgment and supernatural “science", and at other times with vitriolic damnation; that we soon reach the point where we also use derision, insult, and contempt to reject their supernatural foundations. This only more strongly creates animosity and unyielding entrenchment in religious belief. Unfortunately, the world works this way and I don’t have much of an answer for this state of affairs.
Also humans expressed imaginary religious concepts within the knowledge and culture of the times in which they lived. We today are no exception, to wit, the new translations of the Bible that are now in wide use. (The Koran has yet to catch up…) In my case, I have always thought that fiction is often more powerful in creating understanding and fomenting thought and cultural change than academic erudition. Of course the fiction has to reflect the reality of current culture and knowledge in order to create a personal response and understanding. And this works on any aspect of human culture. It is relatively easy to use fiction to reinforce a cultural meme of any stripe, Religion apologists do this abundantly. It is more difficult to plant the seed of a different kind of tree that fights for space in an established forest. So, as I have the time, I’m experimenting with fiction as a tool for education and dissuasion of religious belief. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. (Of course, in this arena, there maybe much to lose, but at my age that is not important.) Anyway, my story is an effort to work in this arena.
Good morning Martin. You do have a skill as a word smith. The biggest problem I see is that people have different levels of religious understand. For example you lost some at the four basic religions. You lost more at Muhammad. It is tough to write about religion outside of the bible to Americans. And then you have to understand where the belief is. It does not always follow the bible.
An example I could write about the number of people who died trying to save Jesus, zero. But Jesus’s half-brother had over ten million die trying to protect him. But very few religious people even know about Jesus’s half-brother. Some say the number killed may have reached as high as twenty million. The point being, people have blinders that are built into their thinking at a very young age. And no matter how intelligent they become, some of these items cannot be changed by logic or science. I called it the “human factor", and that’s what I think you will be up against. Sometimes the facts seem more unbelievable than the fiction.
Thanks for the input, Mike. It is important to gather opinions from others, especially on controversial topics. You pointed out a major problem with religion in America, that most Americans have little knowledge and understanding beyond what the new versions of the King James Bible presents. I think that a broad knowledge of the basics of belief of at least the major religions provides at least a glimmer an understanding in some people that religion is product of humanity, rather than humanity being a product of religion. Either that or God really gets a kick out of universal human confusion. It is good to present and discuss the great varieties of religions that humans follow.
And wow, if every version of the history of God(s) is correct, then the supernatural world itself is a mass of confusion. I’ve heard of the half brother of Jesus, I recall that his ossuary, a stone box with his name on it was recently found and there was some question as to the veracity of box, but I don’t know the outcome of the investigation. True the “human factor" is a complete deck of wild cards, Deal out a hand from that deck and you wind up with cultures based on every old religion, and even “new religions" like Mormonism, Scientology, Urantia (that’s a weird one, apparently Jesus had eight younger siblings), Shakers, Quakers, Jehovahs Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Subud, Twelve Tribes, Umbanda, Universal Life Church, and many, many more. Jesus and Muhammad in one way or another are featured in many of them but some just take off completely with their own imaginative structure. It seems like some folks have a propensity to create religions and others (most) have a propensity to follow religions. Makes you wonder about the “God gene" (VAMAT2). Perhaps absence of this gene, mixed with a little venality, allows people to create new religions, and those without the venality, to reject religion. (Just a wonderment,) We must be careful though, talk of genes and behavior leads to the E word, evolution.) But I digress. Your comment on the protection of the half brother of Jesus causing 20 million deaths is interesting, I don’t follow you on this, unless it pertains to those of Jewish decent and the historical and present wars and persecutions that have created in world civilizations.
Hello Martin, the ossuary was James, Jesus’s bother. What is interesting is the burial methods at the center of the Juda religious power, the Mount is where the ossuaries are located. And the ossuaries were only used for about 100 years. These changes happened before Jesus, so one could suggest that religion was already changing before Jesus time.
Dong, claimed to be Jesus’s half-brother, having the same father, and of course a virgin mother. In America we had Chinese working on the railroad. History never talks about why these Chinese workers were in America. They were in America because they were part of the Christian movement in China. England did not want to deal with a Christian China, so they supplied China with the weapons to conquer the Christian Movement led by Dong. When they started losing the war, the Christian Chinese fled the county, most wanted to go to other Christian countries, which America was one.
Religion itself turns out to be quite simple if you start at the beginning. Use a timeline, otherwise you will think you understand the reason for something, but you will be off base. Start with the Red Ocher Burials. This will give you a feeling for how little information from the past we really have on certain subjects, and that to get a picture of the past you have to use all of human and nature’s items. On the timeline you can date history and pre-history. The Great Flood for example is dated at 2807 B.C., in March I think, I would have to look it up to be sure. But that is also the date that Egypt started building with stone and not mud bricks.
Next understand the “ERA’s". The term god started off meaning the “knowledge of mankind". And that was in the era of Domestication. 90% of man’s protein today, came from food that was domesticated in this era. Same with animals. When the bible said god created earth. They were correct. And remember the Jewish and Egyptian religions was created by the “Word", another name for “Knowledge". What I always find interesting is that Jesus was a teacher of gnostic “knowledge". Even in the early church the pictures of Jesus had him standing on a gnostic cloud that was shining light. And the cloud omitting light is the gnostic cloud “holy spirit" omitting knowledge. In other words, people seeing the picture understood that Jesus was a teacher of gnostic.
Point being, understand where the fruits, nuts, and vegetables came from first, and it will make understanding where religion and god came from a lot easier.
Mike, I am rather skeptical about the veracity of historical accounts. Now there are two kinds, or rather extremes of skepticism. On one end there is the skepticism about things like the claims of some used car salesmen, wondrous herbal remedies, supernatural cures, and instant wealth if only one “sows a seed" of $1000 to a TV preacher. The other extreme of skepticism is the healthy skepticism given to someone who is always late insisting that they will be on time, this time; and claims that the snow plow will clean your street within three hours. Historical accounts deserve plenty of both extremes of skepticism and it is always wise to use the whole range of skepticism when dealing with dealing with all human affairs, with extreme skeptical application when religious topics are concerned. . I do not reject historical accounts entirely out of hand, there is much truth in our knowledge of the human history in this day and time, certainly more so than ever before in our experience. New archeological finds and modern tools of communication, research, and analysis are opening up pathways into the past as never before.
My problems with history stem from the knowledge that humans create history and report history. Thus the history we have today is dependent on all of the following factors.
Human passage of oral history down through generations
Human generated records of events both during and sometimes long after the fact
Loss of original records
Human interpretations --sometimes simplistic, sometimes incomplete, sometimes in error
Human preconceptions of facts and meanings
Human outright omissions, misstatements, fabrications, embellishments, and , created through error and/or adjustment of fact to fit the political requirements and/or religious beliefs of the existing culture
Those who try to write accurate accounts of history not only have to wade through the filters of human prejudice, research, thought, misperceptions, and political and religious intentions that effect their analysis and conclusions; but also must seek the truth through the filters of their own cultures, beliefs and assumptions as to what constitutes the actual truth of the history that they interpret and create.
All to often, published history is a mosaic of what many minds have perceived through the lenses of their own filters to be the truth of a matter. A good scientist, historian, reporter, journalist, and writer of nonfiction does their best to obtain and analyze all pertinent previous work that it is possible to find, and present their own interpretations and additions honestly to the posterity of the written word. Even so, they can not escape the limitations of their own mind, their culture, the times in which they live, and their sum of their knowledge. Some succeed adequately and make valuable contributions to the topic, and some do not, and it is often not possible for the non professional to know the difference. In my view the modern practice of peer review before publication in science and academia, although not infallible (especially in religious publications), is essential for establishing a floor of truth and accuracy in science and in history as well.
Journalistic legitimacy began to get better with William Howard Russell’s on site reporting of the Crimean War, notably his account of the Charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade as reported in The TImes of London on November 14, 1854. Russell was arguably the first independent war time reporter. Before that war reports were based on military correspondence from participants in the war and such reports were limited to the experiences and political biases of one individual with the great bias of personal involvement in the conflict. The book, The First Casualty by Philip Knightley is a wonderful account of the history of wartime reporting. Another interesting book is Eyewitness to History edited by John Carey. He found translations of accounts written at the time by witness to historical events beginning with the Plague ion Athens in 430 BC by Thucydides and finishing with The Fall of President Marcos, Manila, Philippines, February 1986, by James Fenton. Although still subject to human the human frailties of observation and opinion, the accounts lend an authenticity the exceeds most historical after the fact analysis.
To point out the frailties of memory when recounting historical information, your reference to Dong who claimed to be Jesus’ half brother was actually a reference to Hong Xiuquan, a Hakka Chinese who lived from 1814 to 1864 and led the Taiping Rebellion against the Qing Dynasty, establishing the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom over varying portions of southern China, with himself as the “Heavenly King” and self-proclaimed brother of Jesus Christ. Hong had dreams that he later interpreted as God and Jesus telling him that he was the brother of Jesus. The history of every Chinese era is long and complex and it is quite possible that as you state remnants of the quasi Christian movement in China wound up in America.
History, especially religious history is so convoluted and malleable that I can not accept that anyone has an accurate understanding, much less account, of what actually occurred thousands, even hundreds hundreds of years ago especially those that consider accounts of supernatural revelations as accurate human history. It has only been about 175 years since the birth of the technology of photography and since the Civil War in 1861 that photograph records capturing actual images of events provided an accurate means of evaluating the accuracy of written accounts. Recording of sound follows the same technological path. Now however, in our modern technology based societies, we have easy manipulation of images and sound recordings, and accuracy of images and speech is no longer a given.
Thus I do not think that the history of religion is simple, it is one with the history of humanity and that is a complex and interwoven morass of beliefs and conflicts, an ongoing, valiant effort of a sentient animal species find civilization in the shadow of its animal instincts.
When I say the history is simple, I think of it more like the base colors. Understand the base colors and don’t try and learn and understand the history and names of all the colors that can be made from the base colors. What I think qualifies as base colors are items like burial methods, language, dating systems, money, measurement systems, crops and livestock, building methods, laws, medicine, pottery and basket making, boats, food preservation methods, musical instruments, clothing, plagues, And then we have items after pre-history like writing and religion. These are the standard items. Now we have DNA which is correcting the timelines of all these items. Can you name a timeline that has not be greatly changed in the last five years? History is just getting interesting for the common reader as new information is now weekly, and not yearly.
I thought that was an excellent response, Mike. You correctly and succinctly pointed out that the science of archaeology, i.e.,“the study of human activity in the past, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts (also known as eco-facts) and cultural landscapes (the archaeological record)”, definition from Wikipedia, produces an examination and analysis of ancient and recent past artifacts and written accounts and as such, can support or refute ancient and contemporary historical texts. But of course, there is a human factor in the analysis of such artifacts and preconceived ideas of the cultures and the meaning of what they represent must be avoided. The efforts to find Noah’s Ark is a case in point. Your comment about changing timelines is right on. Our knowledge of out past has never grown as rapidly nor as accurately as in the present age. But still, the “sure" knowledge based on elements of religious revelation color, bend, and pervert all past and present understanding of our world into the iron box of ancient (and contemporary) religious doctrine.
(I’m still not sure of how to submit a post, it seems like sometimes it goes through and other times it does not, maybe there is a delay, or maybe not… I thought I had posted the first part of the JC and Muhammad story first, but it turned out I hadn’t. I thought I had posted this reply earlier. but put evidently not.)