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The Truth Is Sometimes Exceedingly Disturbing


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The last six years of my life have been a series of continuing revelations. My journey began when I left hard core religious fundamentalism in search of something else. I’ve experienced a number of revelations since then that have been instrumental in the reformation of my faith.

 

My most recent revelation has been by far the most disturbing. While studying Gnosticism I stumbled across some material on ancient pagan religions. One thing lead to another and I eventually discovered material that linked paganism and the beginnings of Christianity.

 

The discovery that unsettled me so profoundly was finding out that the Jesus biography preceded Jesus by some 600 to 1000 years and the only significant difference in the stories is the identity of the god/man. It seems there have been many Pagan Jesus like god/men in ancient history and their stories are virtually identical to the biblical Jesus.

 

I came to the conclusion some time ago the bible wasn’t literally true or factually accurate, but I held on the belief that at least the original incidents were basically true. Now I know that is likely true either. The historical Jesus may or may not have ever existed. If he did he has been lost in history. All that remains is myth. My discovery convinces me that Christianity is basically repackaged paganism combined with elements of Judaism. I suppose Constantine and the Roman Empire are the ones most responsible for that.

 

 

I continue to cling to the hope that God, in some form, exists but I’ve accepted the reality that Christianity is foundationally a myth because the biblical story of Jesus is a complete fabrication stolen from the Pagan Mystery religions that preceded it by hundreds of years.

 

I identify the shattered remnants of what is left of my faith as deistic in nature. I continue to believe that a Divine Presence, Life Force, Divine Energy, or Spirit, that I once identified as God, does exist, but this force, if it exists, in no way resembles the God of the Bible.

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Javelin

 

I am sorry that the road is difficult. I wonder what your source is for the Jesus myth. I have seen one movie that makes similar claims which seem to be correct but are not.

 

Second: We tell our stories in context with reference to what is already known. To say that a football team's season has been Cinderella-like does not invalidate the football team because the Cinderella story has already been told.

 

That the story of Jesus is told with reference to other ideas and myths does not invalidate Jesus the historical man but it does tell us about the difficulty hearers of his story had in making him fit known categories.

 

Third: that our collective understanding began in a primitive form does not undermine the process by which we arrive where we are today. That the Bible still has fragments that reveal the polytheistic beliefs of the Israelites does not invalidate the monotheism that was acheived.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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Hi Javelin,

 

Good to see you around. Thanks for sharing.

 

Personally I'm somewhat wary of the Jesus/Krishna/Mithra/Horus/etc./etc. comparisons that many assert exist. Though parallels do indeed exist, I think some go to the extreme of fabricating or wildly misreading data.

 

In any case, I might suggest to look at it this way: there are recurring themes in religion that Christianity too imbibes and embodies. I don't think the early Christians were simply copying down the myths of other cultures and changing the names, but rather exploring the implications of the incarnation for themselves and integrating the ideas of other cultures over a period of time. Early Christians shared in an experience of Jesus, and that experience and its implications have continued to be explored.

 

Also in any case, the formation and development of Christianity need not have any influence over your experience and belief in the Divine Presence. I think that Divine Presence is prior to any religious formulation and gives it its basic sustenance.

 

Peace,

Mike

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Javelin,

 

It is clear to me that the Jesus of the Bible is a combination of both historical fact and myth. I am convinced there was a historical person as legends don't develop so rapidly. Paul was writing not long after the crucifixion and had contact with some of Jesus' companions and family members. But, there is no question that mythology entered the story over time and as time went along, the more the mythology.

 

If you are interested, Richard Bauckham, a NT scholar makes a good case in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses that there is more historicity to the Gospels than many think. He demonstrates the likelihood that the Gospel writers, while themselves not eyewitness, had access eyewitnesses - they were eyewitnesses to eyewitnesses. He also shows that oral history in essentially illiterate societies is more reliable than what we might imagine today.

 

George

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I really like the Bible as myth. The key to the door that is not there. It is Christian Zen. I agree that people couldn't read so symbols would naturally be used. Knowledge takes us to a door that is not there so I don't think it can take us through it. I like the symbols that point to the cliff and say just jump.

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I admit that my faith has been shaken. At this point in my life I absolutely need some positive input and reasons to believe. I was encouraged and uplifted by your responses.

 

I am attempting to interpret this new information from different perspectives. I'm certainly aware that most writers have an agenda. Some acknowledge it and some don’t but it often becomes apparent somewhere in their writings.

 

Thanks to each of you for your responses.

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Javelin,

 

I empathize with the situation of trying to digest a lot of new information, and of being shaken by it. Please feel free to come here often so we can all join in and interpret things together. What's that Chinese proverb? -- One of us is not as smart as all of us. :)

 

One thing that really helped my reentry into Christianity was iconography and music. For instance, if you walk into an Orthodox Church you're hit not with an historical memory of Jesus, but Jesus as a living reality in the sacred present. I believe that if Jesus stayed in the past as an historical figure, then he couldn't be a living force that guides the church in the here and now. Perhaps this is what the angel meant, saying, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" (By the way, I do believe Jesus was a real historical figure and that the gospels were inspired by his life; the number of scholars who assert that he never even existed is vanishingly small, to my understanding -- but this is really beside the point).

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Thank you Mike. I can at least metaphorically accept that Jesus was all scripture says he was, and I can also accept the premise that a historical Jesus existed. I fear that historical Jesus has been lost in history forever though. At this point I can only hope that at least some of the NT writings are based on actual events and that some of the teaching attributed to Jesus is true.

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In my own life, I found that as I acquired new concepts and broadened my experience with religious philosophy, certain questions that had at one point been very important to me became somewhat peripheral. I'm not by this implying your concerns are unimportant. We all have very real reasons behind our hopes and fears. But I suppose we have to pick our battles. It seems unlikely, short of a divine revelation, that there will ever be any finality in determining who Jesus was and just how accurate the New Testament's record of him is. Our own presuppositions as individuals and as a culture have as much to do with this as anything else. For instance, one who believes that the miraculous is possible, or that there is a spiritual dimension to reality (as I do), is more likely to see validity and meaning in the New Testament accounts of the post-Easter Jesus. If such possibilities are ruled out, then materialistic-naturalistic explanations will dominate.

 

The question becomes, for me, What is our disposition toward reality? Is there room in reality for spirituality? I've become less interested in historical reconstructions and more interested in spiritual practice. The Church has had a long history, by no means defined solely within the confines of the first century. It is as if the Christian narrative is continually being reborn, continually unfolding and renewing itself. The revelation of God in Jesus Christ need not be an event for the first century alone.

 

When one commits oneself to a practice, reality itself becomes the practice; reality unfolds as a path to be walked in earnest. I look at spirituality and the gospel as living life inwardly, that is, from the inside-out.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Javelin,

 

It may be necessary to go through a deconstruction period before being able to begin reconstruction. As evidenced by a number of people, including members of this forum, it is possible to find things that are positive and worthwhile without first accepting that everything must be the literal and universal truth.

 

I also think it is important to realize that some people need certitude based on authoritative sources. Others can live with degrees of ambiguity and uncertainty. While I disagree with those who assert universal truths of scripture, I try to understand that this suits their needs and as long as these beliefs are benign, that I should have no objection.

 

George

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I agree with George that some measure of deconstruction probably needs to take place before the construction can commence.

 

I just wanted to clarify some thoughts very briefly about what I said here: "one who believes that the miraculous is possible, or that there is a spiritual dimension to reality (as I do), is more likely to see validity and meaning in the New Testament accounts of the post-Easter Jesus." I just want to emphasize that believing in a spiritual reality does not mean we need to take the NT accounts at face value or starkly literally. But we can believe that the early Christians did have a life-changing spiritual experience of Jesus after his death. This belief need not embody some sort of dogma, but a living experience with continuously unfolding meaning, to be realized by every new generation.

 

I'd also like to emphasize that "spiritual" need not refer only to metaphor. Reality - life itself - can be seen as spiritual in its essence. Just so, an experience of Jesus, God, or the holy Spirit can be a real truth-event, even if not interpreted the same way as in fundamentalist veins of thinking. I think it is also often assumed that the only alternative to a literal reading of a text is a purely metaphorical one. I'm using "metaphorical" here in the sense of being an indirect way of expressing something otherwise mundane. But if we admit the possibility that there is a spiritual meaning to our existence, it doesn't seem to be a stretch that there can be spiritual truths in a text (and not merely metaphorical ones, even though they may appear similar).

 

Let me provide an example here. A "metaphorical" reading of the resurrection can mean for us that Jesus lived on in his teachings and example. It is a dramatic image of an otherwise more-or-less mundane reality. But a spiritual meaning of the resurrection can see something more than mundane and see something dramatically sacred in the event. "Sacred" can be defined as what is most inwardly and essentially real about our existence. Perhaps the disciples really did have a sacred experience of Jesus that spoke to their lives in a very real way.

 

Just some thoughts that have been stirring in my head the last few hours.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Beautifully said, Mike.

 

Javelin suggested that “the biblical story of Jesus is a complete fabrication stolen from the Pagan Mystery religions that preceded it by hundreds of years.”

Not sure what book you read, but this claim, that the accounts of Jesus are all borrowed from ancient pagan myths-- Mithras, Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, Attis, Tammuz etc --was apparently begun in the 19th century by German writers. There are some parallels in the stories, but here are a few counter-arguments by theologians that are convincing --to me anyway--

 

There is little or no evidence that most pagan mystery religions such as the Egyptian cult of Isis and Osiris or the cult of Mithras existed prior to the mid-first century CE.

The real Mithras scholars deny any myth borrowing ever happened between Christians and followers of Mithraism.

The first Christians were mostly Jews who were raised with a revulsion toward Graeco-Roman paganism and idolatry. It is absurd to think that, in the birthplace of monotheism where Christianity was rooted, the main components of the faith were myths borrowed from pagan mystery cults that didn't even exist in the same country.

If Christianity was nothing more than a collection of myths already found in other mystery religions, then there would be no need to persecute the Church. It would have been no threat to the existing society.

Christianity not only survived the first three centuries but eventually spread globally, while all of the pagan mystery religions disappeared.

 

I agree that the quest for a historical Jesus you can have intellectual certainty about, is futile. What we have is a witness of his emotional effect on people. For me, it’s more relevant to regard the bible as a collection of writings loosely based on historic people and events, that have been spiritually meaningful to people through the ages, where we can see parts of our own lives and find insight. You said earlier that one of Marcus Borg’s books had helped you -- maybe you could seek out more of his work or others that speak to your heart as well as your mind.

Edited by rivanna
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Thank you Mike. I find much wisdom and encouragement in your words. I am looking for reasons to believe and your words offer valid alternatives and options.

 

rivanna, I read a number of authors. I have read various scholars perspectives that present both sides of this issue. I have admittedly just recently become aware of the Pagan Mystery religions so I am still in the early exploratory stages of this material. I am sure you are aware that the one thing you can be assured of when it comes to scholars is that they don’t agree on much of anything. It is easy to find a “scholar” that will defend an opposing view on just about any topic.

 

As a curious, but moderately educated person, I often find myself in the position to rely on my intuition and common sense, after the dust of the debate settles, to embrace what I believe is mostly likely true. That said, you made valid points and I have recently read material that presents similar conclusions

 

My comment that Christianity is a myth built on the Pagan Mystery religions was a knee jerk reaction to something I had recently read. Since then I have read other material that offers a different interpretation. Having been a member of a fundamentalist religious cult for 27 years has made me a little gun shy. I want to believe in God and Christ but I don’t want the accompanying legalism and indoctrination that all too often is part of the package.

Edited by Javelin
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Javelin wrote: I'm certainly aware that most writers have an agenda. Some acknowledge it and some don’t but it often becomes apparent somewhere in their writings.

 

I think 'agenda' misses the mark in this context...perhaps purpose or intent? As for some acknowledging it or not, very often a person may not be consciously aware themselves of their purpose or intent, let alone have in mind an agenda, a deliberate plan worked out toward some end.

 

It is not most writers, but any of us when we write, that have some purpose or intent...we are trying to convey something, say something, otherwise we'd as well be simply randomly dropping words from a dictionary onto the paper. When you wrote what you have above, your aparant purpose or intent was to convey to others things you think and feel, with hopes someone else will understand what you mean.

 

Many, perhaps most, writers in an area such as religion, faith,and spiritually are trying to express passionate feelings, thoughts,and beliefs, rather than having a planned agenda. Some surely do, but I don't think most. You or i may look at what they are saying and think they are way off in the ditch, maybe they are or maybe not, very often it seems they are just parrotting what others have programmed into them, but it is where they are when they wrote it, just as you are I are where we are writing this. Before you or I had experiences and thought things through enough to begin to question what we were taught in our early lives, we surely did our own share of parrotting what we'd been told was true.

 

You are struggling, as do we all, with disentangling your thoughts and ideas about what is faith, and what is merely beliefs...remember, a belief is nothing more than an opinon held strongly enough to be accepted as true. I've always been totally puzzled by those I've heard express such things as that there is something admirable and to be respected in a person that holds a belief we don't agree with, but that holds it with extraordinary conviction and dedication. To me, isn't that saying there's something admirable about being opinionated to a pathological degree? I mean, you can believe something strongly enough to be willing to die for it, and still be dead wrong about it.

 

I'm glad you found this forum, I think it will be good for you as you struggle through this stage of your growth process, as have, and are, pretty much all the rest of us here.

 

Now, as a writer, I will acknowledge I have an agenda in writing this post...that is to try to help you see what you are struggling with is normal, and I believe, healthy and a positive element of your growth journey. And that we, at least I, really do hear what you are trying to epxress.

 

Jenell

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