Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jesus laughed

"How dangerous it is in sensible things to use metaphorical expressions unto the people, and what absurd conceits they will swallow in their literals."

-Thomas Browne - Pseudoxia Epidemica-

Making sense out of someone else's religion is a bit like looking at a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces don't all fit and some are taped in place or hidden under others. Take the Mary and Joseph story. We're supposed to believe that since Joseph was too old to have sex with his obscenely young bride Mary, her pregnancy was a bit of a surprise - until of course she told him that God, in the form of a bird, did the deed. The subsequent pregnancies resulting in brothers and sisters might have been harder to explain, unless the bird left some blue pills for the old man -- or unless we ignore old Occam: "entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem" which means don't make shit up just so people won't laugh at your bogus story.

That of course would have Jesus' brother Jacob the true heir to the throne of David, making him the Messiah; because after all, Joseph, from whose family the title was inherited, wasn't his real father. OK, so we don't ask and we just tape that piece in place and ignore what is underneath.

Anyway, one can choose to treat the alleged divinity of Jesus as a metaphor, which makes sense, or literally, which makes absolutely none. If you're of the latter persuasion, which didn't approach universality for many centuries into the Christian Era, (if it ever really did) the flimsiness of your construction is likely to make you touchy and humorless if not aggressively pugnacious. Imagine the fundamentalist's reaction to a poster showing A young Joseph in bed with a frustrated looking Mary and titled "Poor Joseph, God was a hard act to follow."

The Church that put up the billboard in Aukland, New Zealand simply wished to point out the absurd conceit of swallowing this literal fundamentalist interpretation. Archdeacon Glynn Cardy of The St Matthew-in-the-City Anglican church said he wanted to inspire people to talk about the Christmas story: to challenge a fundamentalist interpretation that's obviously pasted together from pieces torn from other religions, rather than swallowing the cocktail.
"What we're trying to do is to get people to think more about what Christmas is all about. Is it about a spiritual male God sending down sperm so a child would be born, or is it about the power of love in our midst as seen in Jesus?"

Predictably, it wasn't well received by those who demand that everyone else swallow the same mind numbing potion and within hours an irate man was trying to paint over the image. Local Catholic spokesmen were up in arms and a "conservative" group called Family First was calling the whole thing irresponsible. It's nice to know that "conservatives" despise religious freedom in New Zealand as much as they do here. I mean it's one thing to be able to speak out against secular authority, but suggesting that God's own sacred chicken doesn't make half breed, wholly God children with young girls who somehow remain virginal throughout multiple pregnancies and births! What fools these mortals be!

If only I could claim such protection against people who disagree with me.


TRUTH 101 said...

I dig the irony that atheists know more about Christian stuff than most Christians Captain.

You should be teaching CCD classes at the local Catholic church. The nuns wouldn't like it but me and the kids sure would.

Capt. Fogg said...

I think that's true of most of the religions I know about. The official story as told in Sunday School isn't there to inform but to make you reject the real story.

I've spent a lot of time studying comparative religions, in and out of school, and although the way religions evolve and syncrete from other religions I still often find a core of teaching that's independent of the protective shell of mythology.

When the fellow asked "is it about the power of love in our midst as seen in Jesus?" I guessed he'd been through the same process and seen how something profound had been twisted into something very different and antithetical.

Take the story of Jesus and strip it of the barnacles that cover it, and it's a pretty important story with some very important lessons.

RR said...

Good story...

and your comment is so true: the bull the preachers spew on Sunday's is intended solely to keep their flocks in the dark. No real questioning allowed; no contradictory stories told -- just the party line.

The entire enterprise is mockery to modernity.

Capt. Fogg said...

The war on modernity didn't start with Pious IX, of course and most every religion I can think of is all about resisting change, which means resisting enlightenment not derived from the old texts. The OT prophets, the Churches, the Taliban -- it's all the same story, it's all about belief independent of objective reality, reason and human values.

Intellectual Insurgent said...

I'm sorry, but the bull that comes from the pulpit is no different from the bull that comes from the 6:00 news. Shoot, Global Warming has become its own religion that is heresy to question.

Christianity is an easy and very fashionable target. Picking on it is intellectually lazy.

Capt. Fogg said...

Your argument might seem to make sense to someone who doesn't know where you're coming from, but of course it's fraudulent.

Global warming a religion? For some it's belief, for others it's science and science is about probabilities not belief. This is the same horseshit we hear about Obama being a messiah - only his enemies promulgate this crap. The irrational opinions of adherents and opponents are irrelevant as you well know in your attempt at false dismissal without reference to facts.

Where did I pick on Christianity? Is Thomas Browne Lazy? Try reading before you comment and you might have to agree that I'm being cynical about people who don't understand metaphor and know very little about their own religion.

Sorry, picking on arguments I'm not making and arranging my words like a scrabble game isn't even lazy, it's dishonest.