02 June 2015

Another fun religious inquisition

Yesterday a street preacher approached and questioned me, so I responded. Then I asked my aggressor for permission to publish our exchange on my blog; and Ronald said that he would allow it, provided that I do not list his name.

PREACHER: Why did you leave the faith?

ME: It’s hard to talk about this kind of stuff, because terms like “faith” mean different things to different people. By the way, your question is as presumptuous as if I were to ask you: Why haven’t you left your cult? I don’t think that I have “left the faith” – I only rejected one particular group, one viewpoint among many: the church. And even its adherents’ ways aren’t so different from the way that I think, act, and believe. After all, I am supposedly human.

PREACHER: All right, then let me put it this way: Have you abandoned the idea that Jesus is the son of God, who paid with his innocent life that we may be reconciled to Him?

ME: Yes, that’s an idea that I abandoned. I don’t believe that Jesus is the ONLY offspring of divinity; I don’t believe that Jesus was “innocent” any more than the rest of humankind is innocent. And I don’t think anyone needs to be “reconciled to God.”

PREACHER: Why?

ME: First, regarding Jesus being “the son of God”: if any being is a child of God, then ALL beings are children of God; so Jesus is not exclusive in this respect. And regarding whether he “paid with his innocent life that we may be reconciled”: I think that this kind of payment is not at all necessary; it’s a mistaken view: there’s no need for adding, subtracting, zeroing out, balancing – just live, and keep trying to harmonize with whoever affronts you. By the way, I admire Jesus as much as I admire Blake, Whitman, Duchamp, etc. . . . And my view is that IF reconciliation MUST be attained, then simple forgiveness attains it – there’s no need for the bloodshed of sacrifice.

PREACHER: It is then your belief that blood payment for sinful fallen flesh is not necessary?

ME: Again, I don’t think that all flesh is “sinful” or “fallen,” but, yes, I’ll stick to what I just said: The bloodshed of sacrifice is a sham.

PREACHER: Then what does the Creator of the Universe require? How does He reconcile sinful man unto Him, who is perfect?

ME: I don’t think that there is a “Creator of the Universe” who is distinct from the truest part of ourselves. Neither do I think that humans are necessarily “sinful,” nor that God is of the male sex, nor that “He” is altogether perfect – however, provided that your deity is not malevolent (which is questionable, to say the least), and assuming that this monstrosity actually wants us to be reconciled with “Him,” I’ll repeat yet again what I said above: Forgiveness should be our primary spiritual goal.

PREACHER: Then how can we enter into His throne room, after this life?

ME: I think that any notion of a “throne room, after this life” is a metaphor, so the way to “enter into it” is to forgive your enemies and abstain from judging them.

PREACHER: Hmm, thanks for offering your views to me, Sir.

P.S.

Clicking here will link you to the first religious inquisition.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

WE NOW ARE NO LONGER PROTESTING YOU, INSTEAD WE ARE PROTESTING FOR YOU.....YOU JUST MAY BE THE 7,777TH COMING OF JESUS CHRIST!! NOT THAT WE ACTUALLY NEED ANOTHER ONE, BUT WHY NOT?

Bryan Ray said...

Whether for or against, your protest is always important to me, O Anonymous; and I will gladly serve as the 7,777th coming, if you will serve as the 7,778th. Please take it as a compliment that your words so often remind me of my favorite poet Walt Whitman (the 6,669th coming, by the way; as William Blake was the 444th)—the following fragment is from an early notebook, which, after much revision, Whitman worked into section 38 of ‘Song of Myself’:

In vain were nails driven through my hands.
I remember my crucifixion and bloody coronation
I remember the mockers and the buffeting insults
The sepulcher and the white linen have yielded me up
I am alive in New York and San Francisco,
Again I tread the streets after two thousand years.
Not all the traditions can put vitality in churches
They are not alive, they are cold mortar and brick,
I can easily build as good, and so can you:—
Books are not men—

kinky won said...

Why did you become a believer in god is a better question and I think very eloquently addressed in H.L. Mencken's "Treatise on the gods" and amusingly enough in William Safire' "The First Dissident, Job". Amusing because Safire is a devout Christian. He prefaces the book with different versions of the bible edited and written by different men. When people ask me about the bible, I ask which version are you referring to? Oh I forgot to mention how much I love Heinlen's book about Job.

kinky won said...

Rumors of Sarah is also very loverly reading as well btw;

Bryan Ray said...

I’m familiar with both Mencken and Safire, but I’ve never read either of the books that you name – so I thank you for mentioning them: I’ll definitely check them out. And Heinlein’s book as well. (I’m very interested in this topic.)

Re: “When people ask me about the bible, I ask which version are you referring to,” – that’s good! – I’ve given the same response myself. And I do the same when anyone mentions god: “Which god are you referring to?”

Job is my favorite book of the Bible (and I mean the King James translation with optional Apocrypha) – actually, I should say that Job is in a three-way tie with Ecclesiastes and Jonah. Here are a few books about Job that I love:

William Blake made some illustrations that are as good as a commentary (not to mention sublime) – they are now in the public domain and therefore (I assume) easy to find; nonetheless, here’s the Wikipedia link.

Also, the poet Robert Frost wrote a verse play called ‘A Masque of Reason’ – it can be easily found in his ‘Collected Poems’; but, again, here’s the Wikipedia article.

And lastly, there’s a book by Jack Miles called God: A Biography (available here) that contains a chapter called ‘Fiend,’ which deals with the book of Job – after a long, detailed explanation, Miles arrives at the following translation of Job’s last rejoinder to “the Lord” (42:1-6). This interests me because most biblical translations soften Job’s speech to make it palatable to modern believers (especially those last lines) whereas Miles attempts to restore its original piquancy:

Then Job answered the Lord:
“You know you can do anything.
Nothing can stop you.
You ask, ‘Who is this ignorant muddler?’
Well, I said more than I knew, wonders quite beyond me.
‘You listen, and I’ll talk,’ you say,
‘I’ll question you, and you tell me.’
Word of you had reached my ears,
But now that my eyes have seen you,
I shudder with sorrow for mortal clay.”


One last thought comes to mind: I think that perhaps the Book of Job itself might be the harshest critique and criticism against an Almighty God that has yet been written – or at least it is the strongest. Except when I consider the church’s blasé attitude toward comprehending its self-styled holy scriptures (and compare how much it values the comprehension of its doctrines), I cannot imagine why modern believers do not simply expunge the Book of Job from their Bibles.

Bryan Ray said...

I’m very happy that you mention that! Yes, Rumors of Sarah is an embellished mistranslation of St. Mark’s gospel: I would canonize it in a heartbeat; also, there are excellent (anti-)biblical writings in Truth and Other Fictions; as well as in the purposely unperformable adaptation of Shakespeare, called A Terrible Misunderstanding. Lastly, the big tome of cheerful blasphemies Collected Religious Writings of Bryan Ray is an endless fount of theological amusement.

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