Archive for June, 2013

Far East Influence on Christian Development

Posted in Atheist, belief, Christianity, faith, random, religion with tags , , , , , on June 22, 2013 by chouck017894

Throughout the Roman occupation of Palestine c. 40 BCE there were living in that country a number of missionary Buddhist monks. This fact is indisputably evidenced by a number of clay figurines that these monks carried into Palestine dating from this general timeframe. Buddhist monks industriously traveled far and wide in their avid pursuit of converts. Palestine, as a commercial crossroad between nations, was a natural target area in a Buddhist missionary appeal that was aggressively aimed to convert others away from the many competing and indistinguishable faith systems simmering there.

Earth had just entered into the Age of Pisces, and the majority of cultures in this pivotal age were content to quietly tend to their own beliefs, practicing an illuminated tolerance of “live and let live.” Perhaps each small sect or mystery school may have been calmly convinced that the rest of the population was destined for spiritual oblivion, but they did not feel duty-bound to rush out to imposed their teachings upon others, or even offer a prospect of salvation for the price of conformity. The concept of active recruitment, introduced among the western cultures by the Buddhist monks, was viewed as not only strange and aggressive, but as an inexcusably offensive intrusion into other people’s personal affairs.

Pagan understanding was that spiritual attunement is highly personal and was meant to be experienced by each person individually. The reason why Pagans were not encouraged to actively solicit others to join any particular spiritual quest was the belief that the impulse for spiritual enlightenment must originate within the person himself. Such an inner longing for enlightenment was not viewed as a commercial project. The Pagans knew that the first place of one’s spiritual preparation had to germinate from within each being’s heart. Spiritual preparation, they understood, was not something acquired through exterior pressures. To the Pagan, regardless of what small sect or mystery school he or she might ascribe to, it was always accepted that those in any leadership-counselor positions were like elder brethren who, just as the postulants, were sharing in a similar search for divine enlightenment. Attainment of enlightenment was understood to be attained through personal effort, not through watching priestly theatrical performances.

How different from the western world’s rivalling solicitation-faith systems with their hierarchical structuring and constant clamoring for monetary donations and political clout and which, as a result, promote precious little in personal spiritual advancement.

To the Pagans, no bribery in Creation could cancel out or alter a seeker’s personal responsibility of proceeding at one’s own pace and standing totally responsible for self at all times. To attempt otherwise was simply a futile attempt to bury the truth of one’s personal relationship with the universe and their consequential responsibility under the carcass of a fictional scapegoat. Destined also to influence Christian practice (primarily Catholic) was how the Buddhists, from the earliest periods, had utilized relics that were claimed to have produced miracles. The origin of Buddhist relic worship, some scholars have suggested, can be traced back to the story that at his death the bones of Buddha’s limbs had been scattered over the world. This is not too dissimilar to myths surrounding such revered holy ones in other cultures such as the Egyptian god Osiris, the Greek god Zagreus, etc. The prime duty of Buddha’s descendants and followers was professed to be for them to search out and collect the scattered relics and entomb them.

The aggressiveness with which the Buddhist monks had approached the western cultures in Palestine did not go unobserved by the officials and aristocrats of the Roman Empire—especially since that foreign spiritual credo had managed to carry on in the region of Palestine where the Jews were routinely a source of conflicts with Roman authority. Through the course of time reports of contacts with Buddhists would filter into Rome from centers of commercial trade–Antioch, for example–and curiosity of the Far East would lure adventurers to investigate. Apollonius of Tyana, Cappadocia (early first century CE) was one who traveled widely, particularly in India where he was initiated into the doctrines of the Brahmans. This is noted here because Apollonius would translate a story about the Hindu god Krishna, son of the god Indra, which he altered somewhat according to his own philosophy while retaining all the major story components. That literary work became widely discussed among the Roman aristocrats and literati, and elements of the work would influence the author of the book of Mark, the first Gospel to be written.

By the later timeframe, c. 75 CE, within the struggling faith sect that would become Christianity, the Buddhist type activity of recruitment became a requirement even before its basic faith-articles were defined! Thus Christianity was founded upon the aggressive concept of a proselytizing religion–one which seeks out to convert others into their formulated manner of faith. This mania for drawing everyone they could into a religio-club-like atmosphere for practicing prescribed manmade formulas of devotional practices has infected the western world ever since.

It was this commitment to active religious competition as Christianity muscled it way into a position of broad material power which came to influence other cultures to also engage in similar competitive tactics of spiritual pretense. Personal spiritual integrity, so highly prized by the Pagans, became crucified upon practices of prejudice and rivalry. Abandoned and lost was the truth that acive recruitment into a religious affiliation is itself an act of premeditated aggression and is nothing more than a devotional practice of intolerance.

[This post was abridged from Time Frames and Taboo Data, pages 153-155 and 184. All posts are under copyright.]

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Construction of Monotheistic Belief

Posted in Atheist, belief, Bible, faith, Hebrew scripture, random, religion, scriptures with tags , , , , on June 15, 2013 by chouck017894

In assessing the background giving rise to one-god-only faith systems it is necessary to consider the Yahweh culture in the small settlement of Jerusalem circa the eighth century BCE. Whereas all Pagan cultures affirmed that all things were made manifest out of a single Source, the gods that they recognized were but personifications of various creative energies which they could observe in the panorama of life around them. Thus the ocean, for example, could be addressed as a god, for its might and power was received and reflected from the Source and therefore it could more directly transmit personal appeals through its interaction with the Source. Any energy-as-matter phenomenon was also theorized to hold this capability, which accounted for a pantheon of gods endowed with various degrees of power. The Pagan’s closeness with nature and the observable universe provided a sense of intimacy with the creative power which is lacking in monotheism.

In the timeframe of the struggling Yahweh cult in the hill country of Canaan, the small region which became Judah was being encroached by powerful forces (Assyria). The wily priests of Yahweh in the little village of Jerusalem had long yearned for broader control over regional happenings, and what they contrived was a psychological management system by which the people could be manipulated by claiming that the ultimate creative power could be approached directly through a system which the priests alone could provide. If the priests could convince the people that the priests possessed a system of exclusive access to the Creative Source, the people would stand defiant against any threatening forces of man.

As noted in Time Frames and Taboo Data (pages 108-110): Jerusalem burst forth in sudden expansion c. 720-717 BCE. The little kingdom of Israel to the north had fallen to the Assyrians two years earlier (722 BCE), and the Assyrian provinces and Assyrian vassals surrounded Judah. Under the steady influx of refugees the village of Jerusalem (the so-called city of David) that had covered no more than ten to twelve acres rapidly mushroomed out of its narrow ridge-site to engulf the entire western hill, growing to one hundred and fifty acres of closely packed residences, workshops, businesses and public buildings.

Jerusalem was not yet regarded as a “holy city”–except perhaps by the priests of Yahweh. There was, in fact, a widespread diversity of worship practiced throughout Judah, and there was a widespread mixing of other gods with that of YHWH inside the Jerusalem Temple complex itself. Archaeology has proven that the claimed golden age of tribal and Davidic fidelity to Yahweh was not a historic reality. Cults of various gods and goddesses were prevalent throughout Judah, with “high places” (referring to hilltops, roofs, etc.) being the popular sites for acts of devotion, which included burning of incense to the sun, moon and the planets (especially to Venus, “Queen of Heaven,” Jeremiah 7:18 and 44:15-25). Furthermore, inscriptions from one archaeological site (Kuntillete Ajrud) in northern Sinai indicate that the goddess Asherah was regarded as the consort of YHWH. The priests in Jerusalem, of course, regarded this as blasphemy.

Despite the biblical accounts (written by priests in Jerusalem), Israel and Judah had never been equally powerful sister kingdoms: the implied early united monarchy claimed as being comparable with Israel was nothing more than priestly falsification. As the kingdom of Israel had battled with Assyria, the priests in Jerusalem were well aware that priests in the northern kingdom had composed a “holy” account of beginnings, and so the Yahweh priests busied themselves in writing a similar account which, of course, featured the Creator as Yahweh. The perspective of the two accounts were quite similar, and as Judah rose in power after the fall of Israel and the temple in Jerusalem became the focus of religious attention, the influx of refugees from the north brought a need to blend the two versions of Creation into one text. The result was somewhat uneven. Thus chapter one and chapter two of Genesis as we now receive it seem to present somewhat different versions in the Creation sequence and in the presentation of Adam and Eve. This is marked enough that biblical scholars speak of the version written by priests in Judah as “J”, which called their god Yahweh: the version incorporated from Israel sources is known as “E”, whose authors referred to the Creator as Elohim.

In the “J” version the priest-authors seemed to be uncertain over whether or not Yahweh was the sole Creator of heaven and earth and man. Vacillating between the “J” and “E” accounts of Creation, the “J” version’s singular God thus suddenly and unexpectedly says,”Let us” create man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). In the second chapter, however, it is declared that God (again singular) carefully formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life… (Genesis 2:7). This cunning verse about man being fashioned from dust effectively blocked any idea that man might share some divine attributes of the Creator as Pagan versions seemed always to accept. This “dust” assertion intentionally invalidated all earlier Pagan versions of Creation which routinely presented primal energy conditions (presented as the Almighty) as essentially active within any and all defined matter forms.

The priest-authors of the “J” version of Creation then purposely sought to bind Creation activity into ordinary time and in this manner fashioned a pseudo-“history” of their “chosen” status. The priests of Yahweh thus brought God (personification of the almighty Creative Principle) down to Earth. In this dimension of energy-as-matter, the Creator-God then allegedly interacted directly with man and participated with his “chosen people’s” national events instead of presiding over universal management from within sacred time–i.e. the pre-creation conditions. For this reason the progression of life development as narrated in Genesis speeds along rapidly until Genesis 12 where Abram is introduced and from whom the “history” of Israel allegedly descended. When the archetype of life form, which is referred to as Abram, takes up mortal life (rather than remaining an energy-archetype), God renamed him Abraham and allegedly told him that he had a special destiny and his descendants would one day possess the land of Canaan. Monotheism, which the Yahweh priests thus introduced, and the alleged promotion of Abraham’s descendants into some “special destiny”, would expand to become permanently etched upon western man’s conscience and set the stage for constant religious conflicts over which one of today’s three interrelated faith systems supposedly holds God’s especial favor.

Curious Circumstances Regarding Jesus’ Trial

Posted in belief, Bible, Christianity, faith, random, religion, scriptures with tags , , , , , , on June 2, 2013 by chouck017894

There are a considerable number of questionable things in the accepted New Testament versions of Jesus’ ministry and the alleged events of his final days, especially the account of his blasphemy trial which was allegedly presided over by Pontius Pilate.  Pilate was indeed the Prefect of the Roman provinces of Judea, Samaria and Idumaea from c. 29 to 36 CE, having been appointed by Emperor Tiberius.  And yes, he was endowed with the power of supreme judge.  But it is highly improbable that the trial of Jesus’ alleged “treason” trial would have been conducted as portrayed in the crafted texts. 

There is the fact that the Prefect, a Roman governor who was not particularly sympathetic to the religious convictions or spiritual pride of the Jews, would have personally interrogated some gentle rebel of that faith.  The Roman jails held many other felons who merited more serious attention, and in addition it would have been the duty of the Prefect’s subordinates to interrogate the common-law violators.  Remember that Jesus was, for the most part, known only as a wandering preacher, and not yet renowned as someone bearing the exalted caliber of “Christ.”  (That designation originated in the Greek community of Antioch before the timeframe set as Jesus’ birth, which would not have been respected by Jews.)  Also, in cases which related to religious matters, the seriousness of an accused Jew’s offence was determined by the Sanhedrin–the Jewish supreme council and tribunal.  The Sanhedrin is portrayed as having found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, but that council did not have the power to sentence him with death.  Jesus was then allegedly brought before Pilate (Mark 15:5, Matthew 27:1-14, Luke 23:17, and John 18:29-38–all of which sustained several rewrites).

Pilate is portrayed rightfully as having refused to approve the judgment of death without Roman style investigation, and here again this duty would have been carried out by underlings.  This cautionary procedure purportedly inspired the Jewish priests to invent other charges against Jesus which allegedly led Pilate to interview Jesus privately.  On the surface this sounds reasonable, but nothing is ever conveyed how this interview with a jailbird could have occurred.  Jesus is said to have spoken Aramaic, and Pontius Pilate may have known some Hebrew, but his native language was Latin.  Did Jesus carry the omniscient gene of his divine father and thus understand everything about everything?  According to John’s Gospel, Pilate conversed with Jesus without need of an interpretor.  Curious.

According to John, the Jewish conspirators had led Jesus to the judgment hall but would not enter the Roman facility for fear of being defiled and thus rendered unqualified to partake of Passover.  Pilate obliged them and went outside to ask what accusations they made against Jesus.  Not particularly impressed with the Jews’ claim, Pilate told them to judge Jesus according to their own law, to which the Jews replied that it was unlawful for them to put any man to death (John 18:31).  At this point Pilate allegedly went back into the judgment hall and conversed with Jesus (without an interpretor), asking Jesus pointedly “Art thou the King of the Jews?”  Jesus never said yes exactly, and he didn’t say no; he said only that “My kingdom is not of this world.”  Pilate apparently just shrugged, saying, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) and went back outside to tell the accusers, “I find in him no fault at all.”

The situation then became a bit more muddled with Pilate saying to the Jews (verse 39), “But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at Passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?”  Verse 40 continues, Then cried they all again saying, Not this man, but Barabbas.  (We will ignore here that the name Barabbas means son of the father, which could be applied to the only begotten son of God.)  The chapter concludes saying, Now Barabbas was a robber.  Chapter 19 begins by saying that “Pilate therefore took Jesus and sourged him.”  Are we to believe that a Roman governor would personally scourge a jailbird?  For what offense?  Pilate had found no fault in Jesus.  The crime of Jesus is the allegation of treason, but it was not treason or blasphemy in the eyes of Roman law, so Pilate said simply, “Behold the man.”  To which the chief priests and officers allegedly cried out “Crucify him, crucify him.”  And Pilate is said to have replied to the malicious priests, “Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.”  In Matthew 27:19 Pilate is quoted as saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”

Now we get into even murkier territory.  Pilate had already announced that he found no fault in Jesus, and so the resposibility of a death sentence was passed back to the Jews.  But—and this is an important but—crucifixion was not a killing techique among the Jews; for the crime of blasphemy Jesus would have been, by Leviticus law, stoned to death.  Pilate sought to release Jesus (John 19:12), but for the Christian authors to get the crucifixion angle to work Pilate was pictured as being maneuvered by the priests who taunted Pilate saying, “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend; (to) maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.”  This is pathetic story plotting: even if Jesus claimed to be a king, he would not have been seriously considered in Rome to be any threat to imperial authority.  On the other hand the Christian cult desperately needed a messiah capable of resurrecting without too much physical damage.  And so Jesus was, by Gospel accounts, nailed to a cross–allegedly by the order of Pontius Pilate.

Another weakness in this crucifixion plotline is that the disgraced victims–Jews or not–were rarely permitted to be taken down for burial as is described for Jesus.  Customarily victims were left upon the cross to the mercy of dogs and wild beasts, for the crosses upon which victims were impaled were not the high silhoettes that Christian artists love to glorify; the Roman instrument of slow murder was rarely more than eight feet tall once it was anchored in the ground in an upright position.  The remains of the executed victims were, in due course, dumped into a mass grave.

There is an interesting footnote to Pontius Pilate’s alleged role in condemning Jesus to death by crucifixion.  Back in the nineteenth century the records of Pilate’s court were still in existence, and a distinguished scholar-educator (rabbi) Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900), was able to study those records in a search of evidence of Jesus’ famous blasphemy trial.  Rabbi Wise could find absolutely nothing concerning such a trial.