Society Needs The Foundation of Love

The media bombards us with messages of wars, poverty, weakness’s of government, crimes of passion and hate, environmental and natural disastors which continue to shock us. This constant message about the continual woes of the world around us create a state of fearful confusion or indifference within many for the now and for the future. At times we may hear a feel good story which will help alleviate the pain and grant us a sliver of hope for us at this moment in time.

Shane Clifton a pentecostal Theologian contributed to a chapter in a book called The Spirit Renews the Face of the Earth.”

Shane blogs here on Outer Context

My argument, in sum, is that Pentecostal appropriation of fundamentalist approaches to theology – literal six day fundamentalism and narrow views of salvation and end times – has worked against the development of a ‘green’ theology; against any recognition that the message of the gospel is good news for the earth. This is because presumptions that the earth was created only 6000 years ago, and is soon to be destroyed in the apocalyptic return of Jesus, alonside concepts of salvation that prioritise the soul over and against the body, have meant that:

* the affirmation that ‘Jesus saves’ has been focused on saving souls, and not on the broader social (and ecological) implications of the kingdom
* the declaration that ‘Jesus baptises in the Spirit’ has been concerned with individual spiritual experience, and not on the broader work of the Spirit in the world
* the promotion of the idea that ‘Jesus heals’ has focused on the individual only and not extended to healing of the environment
* the belief in the immanent the end of the world has entrenched the concern for souls as a priority over and against social and ecological concerns
* the emphasis on financial prosperity has aligned the movement with the economic systems that have generated the environmental problems we now face.

The paper goes on to argue for a reframing of the Pentecostal message in such a way that we can truly claim to be preaching the “full gospel” – one that recognises that Jesus saves the cosmos, that Jesus heals a sick creation, that Jesus baptises in the Spirit for the sake of empowering the church to participate in His liberating of all the world (and earth), and that Jesus’ return results in the earth’s renewal not its destruction.

A Scripture comes to mind from 2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

In unpacking this passage we can recognise that the opposite of power is weakness, love is hatred, sound mind is confusion and a reasonable deduction can easily say that the base of weakness, hatred and confusion is “Fear” The message of the Gospel of Christ must send us into every level of society to preach the good news and bring about redemption, hope and change where ever there is fear, hatred, weakness and confusion.

About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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29 Responses to Society Needs The Foundation of Love

  1. levelsofillusion says:

    That was a good read, but, I feel it leaves out the most important part. Being human we fear the other. We resent anyone with a different view of reality simply because it is saying “our view” is wrong. That’s religion’s problem. That’s ALL religion’s problem! One man’s “Good News” is a declaration that another mans views are “Bad News”. There is NO overcoming that I am afraid. That is why we have perpetual war and, I’m afraid, always will.
    In the end all religions are denial of death schemes. Telling someone “you” are not going to live forever, but, I AM!…. pisses people off no end. The real problem is “human exceptionalism”. Upon this is built “Religious Exceptionalism”. The Bible is full of God saying “KILL THE OTHER”.
    Perhaps you would be interested in … http://levelsofillusion.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/homo-suggestibilis/

  2. Craig Benno says:

    Your arguement fails somewhat in that your denying we can’t know truth of any kind?
    It is an oft made argument that wars are started over religion. Yet what you have said is not totally factual. World War 1 & 2 was not a war of religion. Nor was the Vietnam, Korean and American Civil war. When the American’s went to war against its Indian inhabitants it also was not a war of religion.

    Actually if you have ever read the Bible in its totality you will find that its not filled with you will kill the other. Basically the Old Testament proves that mankind is not able to truly live together, love onenother and worship God.

    The New Testament is all about God coming to earth as a man, humans disbeliving and executing him…yet He raised to life 3 days later which made a way for all to be reconciled to God.
    Its interesting that non christian / religious historians / scholars believe the ancient bible is an accurate history book….and can’t explain what happened.

    If anything your post on your site proves the Scriptures to be true.

  3. levelsofillusion says:

    [you write]..”If anything your post on your site proves the Scriptures to be true.”..

    Mormon, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, … what “scriptures” are you talking about?

    [you write] ..”When the American’s went to war against its Indian inhabitants it also was not a war of religion.”..

    It wasn’t war, it was genocide. They were NOT Christians, ergo, they could/must be eliminated [see:Aztec, Inca…] (also, multiple references can be found in the bible with regard to God’s instructions as to how to deal with those peoples who worship “other” Gods).

    [you write] ..”Actually if you have ever read the Bible in its totality you will find that its not filled with you will kill the other.”…

    I have… It is!

  4. craig says:

    I am wondering where in the New Testament you can show me it encourages killing?

    Genocide is a non religious specific activity…take communism for example.

  5. levelsofillusion says:

    Is the Old Testament no longer part of The Bible? Has it been removed? Do ministers tell their flock… “Now, don’t pay ANY attention to that Old Testament baloney… It’s crap and you should disregard it.” Do you keep it out of the hands of children?

    The genocide that took place in the Americas was “religious specific”. Christians killing 6,000,000 Jews was RELIGIOUS Specific. The Old Testament [see:BIBLE] “instructs” in God sanctioned religious specific genocide. Your GOD orders it.

    Back to my question: [you write]..”If anything your post on your site proves the Scriptures to be true.”..

    Mormon, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, … what “scriptures” are you talking about?

  6. Matt Anslow says:

    It seems to me levelsofillusion that you are being far too reductionistic in the way you are approaching these issues, theologically, philosophically, historically (as if the Nazis were a normative representation of Christianity killing Jews simply for their religious convictions…). This is true of your homo suggestibilis blog in which you seem content to caricature groups thus describing nothing more than strawmen.

    It seems a bit overzealous to enter this debate point for point, and in any case I do not wish to offend but simply point out what I perceive as error. I will say thought that theologians the world over debate the meaning of different religious texts and traditions, including the Old and New Testaments, in countless books and articles – wouldn’t it seem a bit premature and ignorant to reduce such debates down to a few pithy statements and then claim such statements demonstrate an authoritative conclusion on religion?

  7. levelsofillusion says:

    Matt, what’s the point of religion? Do you not find it curious that the only thing EVERY culture and society ever observed on this planet has “paranormal” beliefs?
    Why do you think that is Matt? Coincidence?
    The “authoritative conclusion” on religion is this. Man is incapable of dealing with the fact that he is not exceptional, that he is “just meat” like the rest of the living things on earth. So he lies to himself and has his right brain keep information from his left brain. It’s called dissociation and it forms the backbone of religion, hypnotism and much of what we term psychopathology. There was a time when it was a survival asset… those days are long gone.
    Morality is taking responsibility for your actions. Christianity, without so much as a “by your leave”, uses the age old “scapegoat” technique to dump the sins on Jesus. How morally bankrupt! How primitive!
    I think it NO coincidence that the American Bible Belt leads the country in incest, illiteracy, divorce, crimes committed with a gun, lowest wages, largest percentage of the population in jail, least spent on education, most illegitimate children and number of CHURCHES.
    ALL religions are ways for man to deny that his life will end. ALL are immortality projects. But, don’t believe me.
    [see] “The Denial of Death” Ernest Becker (Pulitzer Prize)
    “The Corruption of Reality” & “Wings of Illusion” by John Schumaker
    ……. just for starters

    Matt, would you go to church if they told you your life ended and you turned to dirt, and nothing more? Of course you wouldn’t. Would you pray if they told you that a “magical” being wasn’t listening? Never!
    You DEMAND to be more than meat! …As do all sentient beings. THAT is where religion and priests move in to assume power.
    I don’t wish to “offend” either, but it is IMPOSSIBLE to tell a person convinced of “his” exceptionalism that he ain’t exceptional without offending the very heart of his being. By that I mean, of course, his particular scheme to defeat death… his religion.
    It’s Baloney. Do the math. Thousands and thousands of “true” religions that ALL disagree with each other. Culture is how we collectively decide what madness is acceptable in a reality we find too painful to face objectively.

    • Matt Anslow says:

      levelsofillusion,

      You have asked a number of rhetorical questions that you then proceeded to answer, yet your answers were inaccurate. First off, the universality of paranormal belief is, in my view, no coincidence at all. I actually don’t understand your point – are you saying such universality is or isn’t a coincidence? If it is, then that takes a lot of faith to believe, but if it isn’t, then I suppose all human beings who have deeply felt there is something bigger in the universe are simply less intelligent and more gullible than you?

      I judge by your next point that you believe the latter? Your authoritative conclusion is not new, rather it is a well-trodden path that has failed thus far to convince the best of minds. Is it really sensible to claim that all religious believers in the world are really just morons afraid of death? How reductionistic. How ignorant. How arrogant. I don’t mean to offend by these statements, but you can’t seriously believe that assertion, can you?

      Your assertion about morality is equally inaccurate. You have caricatured another strawman, this time in the shape of the atonement of Christ. I don’t know anyone who believes that they can palm off their sin to Jesus and then continue to do what they like – such an accusation reveals a deep ignorance of Christian theology.

      I agree with you though that some streams of Christianity are somewhat bankrupt and abhorrent. I read in your words some level of personal experience with such people, and perhaps this has left you wounded in some way. I’m not sure. But I would like you to at least acknowledge that not *every* Christian in the world is a hypocrite and fundamentalist.

      You then ask me a question personally – “would you go to church if they told you your life ended and you turned to dirt, and nothing more?” You assume I will answer “Of course not!” However I’m afraid I must disappoint you by stating the opposite answer – if there was no afterlife I would not give up my faith in Jesus. The Christian life for me, regardless of what other Christians might have said to you in the past, is about following the way of life Jesus of Nazareth exampled. This life is about living everyday to see the fractures in this world repaired, to see the problems solved, to see love and justice and mercy be manifested in the world.

      This is no simple task, and I mess it up all the time.

      I agree that competing elements of “truth” is confusing. But I believe that truth is bigger than simply “objective” propositions (as if anyone can really be totally objective anyway…). Knowledge is more than rationality, though it certainly includes reason and logic. But it must also be more… like knowing a person whom you are in love with. There is a rational element, for sure – I know my partners birthday, favourite colour, favourite foods, preferred hobbies etc. But knowing her is more than that – I feel a connection with her, I sense her emotions and I feel emotions about her, I experience her and she experiences me. In the end *love* is a more powerful form of knowing than anything else, and I believe it forms a model for other areas of knowing.

      In my view then you cannot simply string together some propositions and call them an authoritative conclusion on religion or God, for these are subjects that people have known both personally and communally through reason/rationality, experience, emotion and sharing. My encouragement here is to go deeper than just “objective” arguments made by people who are so incredibly subjective in that they really don’t want God to exist. I’m not attacking people for being subjective, I’m just saying that just as religious people are subjective, so too are the non-religious. Let’s just be honest about what we really “know.”

      Again, I don’t mean to offend, so please if I have said anything hurtful do let me know so I can rectify it.

      Matt

  8. levelsofillusion says:

    Lighten up Matt. Don’t let any fear of offending me get in your way. The very idea that Christians believe non-Christians will be punished by GOD for eternity so far eclipses ANYTHING you could POSSIBLY type that it isn’t even funny.
    [Lets go with this] … “First off, the universality of paranormal belief is, in my view, no coincidence at all. I actually don’t understand your point”…

    OK, of course it isn’t a coincidence! It’s necessary! That’s why it’s ubiquitous. When apes crossed the neurological Rubicon to self awareness and became what we call human we faced a perplexing situation. Are we meat… or more? “If” we are just meat then we can have NO CONTROL over anything of any value. Our “human-ness” , the existence of an ego demanded more, or, utter despair would be the inevitable result. Humans (most anyway) simply cannot imagine the universe without them in it. Religion cures that. It promises us that we are much more, and we love it, kill for it and die for it. [see: The News] Mathematically speaking, out of thousands of religions all claiming to be true and mutually contradictory… don’t you think you have some set of balls calmly claiming YOU got it right?
    [You post] …” if there was no afterlife I would not give up my faith in Jesus.”…

    Now, that is just silly. First of all, you would be alone. Second, you would be sitting there hearing “Jesus was sent to earth to die for your sins.” And you expect me to believe you would be still sitting there saying to yourself, “Well, that’s a load of crap.”?

    [You post] …”. I don’t know anyone who believes that they can palm off their sin to Jesus and then continue to do what they like…”

    Has it escaped you that Fundamentalist Christians have the highest divorce rates in America and the Bible Belt leads America in incest, illiteracy, crimes committed with a gun, percentage of population behind bars, homophobia, least money spent on public education…?

    [You post] …”In my view then you cannot simply string together some propositions and call them an authoritative conclusion on religion or God, for these are subjects that people have known both personally and communally through reason/rationality, experience, emotion and sharing.”…

    Likewise alien abductions.

    Do me a favor. Read some books on hypnotism (dissociation). Learn the techniques. THEN, watch John Hagee or old tapes of Jerry Falwell. You will be amazed to see that they employ EVERY technique in the book. So did the “old” Catholic Mass. Catholic church attendance plummeted when they changed the Mass, and for good reason. They threw out most of the dissociation. Any stage hypnotist will tell you that the bigger the crowd the easier to hypnotize. I give you… “The MEGA-Church”.

    If you want to … “be honest about what we really “know.”… then don’t just read religious authors. Look into the psychology. Becker, Rank, Jung, Schumaker, Freud, Lowie, Lehman, Brown, Hocart… THEN, look into the Anthropology and see that man has used bullshit to convince himself that he possesses powers over reality (and other men) since there have been men. As humans we crave it more than life itself.

    How much more time do you think you will need for Christianity (or any other religion) to … “to see the fractures in this world repaired, to see the problems solved, to see love and justice and mercy be manifested in the world.”… So far, I have to be honest, all I see is “the OTHER is BAD”.

    [With regard to] …” I feel a connection with her, I sense her emotions and I feel emotions about her, I experience her and she experiences me. In the end *love* is a more powerful form of knowing than anything else, and I believe it forms a model for other areas of knowing.”…

    That’s hormones. It’s chemical. We evolved the capability because it was an absolute BOON to reproductive success.

    Try some of the books I suggested.
    All the best.

    • Matt Anslow says:

      This is clearly a fruitless discussion. You have not actually done solid intellectual business with anything I have written. You create strawman after strawman in a vain attempt to whittle down religion to the lowest possible denominator.

      Don’t act like I’ve never read Freud or Jung – They sit on my bookshelf for goodness sake. In the interests of integrity, though, it is obvious you have never read a theologian. Rather you simply take your view of religion from extremists like Falwell. That’s about the equivalent of saying every Muslim is like Bin Laden – how utterly stupid.

      In the end you don’t just reduce religion down, but also the evolutionary process. I find it hard to find any validity in your ridiculously simplified version of the evolution of self-awareness.

      And why tell me my conviction that Christianity is not about going to heaven when you die is silly? Because my position doesn’t play into your hands? Seems like it – the conclusion you draw from my statement is senseless and ignorant, as if sitting in church services is the sum of my faith.

      If you’re ever going to evangelise a Christian into materialistic atheism you will need to do far more business with what they actually say and not spout off a bunch of tired old arguments.

      I also feel pity in your reduction of love down to a chemical process… if that’s all you can see in love, then I really do feel sorry for you. I won’t even bother debating the point.

      Matt

  9. craig b says:

    Hi Matt.

    You have described exactly why I dropped out of this trolling argument.
    It seemed to me that there is no intent for serious discussion to take place.
    Which I find ironic on a post that had LOVE as its subject.

  10. levelsofillusion says:

    My, how your tune has changed Matt.

    “Solid intellectual business” indeed.

    Mine was but an exercise. I told you that Christianity (and ALL religions) were immortality schemes for an animal incapable of facing his own death because that is exactly what they are. What they always have been. Your assertion that Christianity could, or world, ever exist without promising “eternal life” is beyond ludicrous. Have you never listened to a mass or service? Have you not understood what they are about?
    Matt, I have NO desire to “evangelize a Christian”. The level of illusion you “need” to exist within is none of my business. I wouldn’t change it if I could.
    In communications such as this I am really only interested in one thing. Plumbing the level of dissociation. Poking at the thin suffice of the balloon, if you will.
    I observe the things you “can’t” hear no matter who says them. I take note of what you “can’t” address and look for deviations from the garden variety. I am disappointed to report that, in your case, I find none. Not even an attempt to address “the math” thing. That was unfortunate.
    Now that you have informed me that in your eyes I am a creature to be pitied… you have, as expected, come full circle.
    [From] …”Again, I don’t mean to offend, so please if I have said anything hurtful do let me know so I can rectify it.”..
    [To] The most insulting thing one person can say to another… “I pity you”.

    It took you no time at all. All it took on my part was to hold your intellectual infirmities beneath your nose. The math, the time frame, the inescapable fact that Christ is a scapegoat and a blood sacrifice no different from the thousands of others found in religions young and ancient. If you were born in MesoAmerica circa 500AD you would be pitying me for not seeing that cutting out the beating hearts of sacrificial humans MADE the Sun rise. I wouldn’t blame you for that either.

    With regard to the …”reduction of love down to a chemical process”. I have been married to my childhood sweetheart for 42 years. She is my best friend. I am happy to report that “the chemicals” from which we are all made (even you) have yet to fail either one of us. I wish for you the same magnificently good fortune we have enjoyed.

    PS For your information Matt, I enjoyed a full and classical Jesuit education. I have probably read more “theologians” as you call them than you have had hot dinners.

    Be well

  11. levelsofillusion says:

    Jeepers Craig B…… At any old time you could have popped in and begun the “serious discussion” by explaining how there could be a thousand religions ALL insisting to be the only true one.

    Not THAT would have been a “serious” discussion!

    (You will, I’m sure, pardon me if I don’t hold my breath.)

  12. Matt Anslow says:

    This will be my last comment on this post as I tire of wasting time and effort.

    Needless to say anyone who has read what I have written carefully would know the immortality scheme you propose is untrue. I just don’t understand how you as an atheist can sit here telling me what I, a Christian, believe. The question of whether or not I have been to a mass or service is the icing on the ignorant cake. You caricature of religious faith is, to say it again in another way, poorly thought out and flat out false.

    But of course this discussion is one with a totally deluded individual, one who believes that they can observe things no one else can see (but of course denying that anyone else could do the same). The apparent deviations from the garden variety that you propose are, as I have said, merely reiterations of tired old arguments that have convinced no one.

    Included in this group is your so-called “math thing.” You reduce the argument of contradictory truth to religions, yet fail to recognise one simple fact – your atheistic beliefs also contradict with thousands of other beliefs, yet for some reason is exempt from such assessment. I’m not sure how your beliefs contradicting with that of others is more legitimate than mine. I’m also not sure how your assertions of contradiction mesh with your “levels of illusion” philosophy – if you are poking at the plumbing of disassociation, then you have surely violated your own standard. But of course I don’t know anything about Freud’s defensive disassociation, so I had better shut my unobserving, unmathematical mouth.

    And I stand by my pity, whether you think it offensive or not. For a man who must be at least in his 60’s I certainly would hope you would have a more coherent case for atheism than simply the (irrational, unlistening) insistence that religious people the world over are simply victims of defensive disassociation. I pity a self-described sense of superiority over millions of other people – the very same thing you accuse fundamentalists of doing.

    There is such a thing as a non-religious fundamentalist I guess.

    Matt

  13. levelsofillusion says:

    Come on Matt. [you post] .. “You reduce the argument of contradictory truth to religions, yet fail to recognize one simple fact – your atheistic beliefs also contradict with thousands of other beliefs, yet for some reason is exempt from such assessment.”..

    Atheists don’t have beliefs Matt. We don’t employ magic in our views, or, people coming back from the dead or living in the sky.

    Atheists think people are animals, like all the rest of the life on earth, except with the evolved neurological ability to self reflect. From that “ability” arises the fear of extinction.

    That’s where you and the Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Mormons, Jains, …and all the thousands of other systems of death denial come in. You “invent” a story to overcome death and extinction… then condemn anyone who refuses to “believe” the silly business. It’s the oldest story in the world.

    Now, if you had really read something other than “theologians” you would be aware of all the research done on suggestibility, hypnosis and religion. You would know that there is a direct relationship between highly religious people and highly hypnotizable people. They are, in fact, one and the same. The correlation is direct.

    Then again, even if you misconstrue not having any system of beliefs (to be) a system of beliefs itself… you STILL come out on the short end of the stick. You still need… “And then the laws of nature were suspended and something magical happened” to flesh out your story. I don’t.

    One thing I must correct and that is your belief that Atheists “feel” superior. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When was the last time you heard an Atheist say… “YOU will be sorry!”

    I go along with George Carlin when he said that religion is like a lift in your shoe. If it helps you stand a little straighter and walk a little taller it’s fine. But, what you DON’T have is the right to go nailing them on other peoples feet.

    What I still can’t quite get over is your insistence that Christianity could somehow exist without denying death. So, I will close with a question to end this foolishness.

    What happens when you die Matt? Do Christians rot in the ground like badgers, chipmunks and worms? Or, are humans “exceptional”… and they go on… to exist forever in a place that is invisible to the living…. Controlled by an invisible God.

    THAT is denial of death Matt. Without it….. You got nuttin!

  14. levelsofillusion says:

    For Matt: (who “thinks” Christianity ISN’T a scheme to deny death)

    “What Happens to Christians Who Die?”
    1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 “”
    The dead in Christ rise first. If you’re ever in Christ, you’re always in Christ whether you’re alive or
    dead. And when you die, your body goes into the grave, but it is the personal and eternal
    possession of Christ and He will reclaim it from its decomposed dust at the appointed time.
    Romans 8 reminds us “neither death nor life nor anything else shall be able to separate us from
    the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.” Death can’t do it. You live in Christ, you die in Christ,
    you’re dead in Christ, you stay in Christ, you will live again in Christ.
    Dead Christians rise first. What good news that is. There will be a reunion with your beloved wife,
    or husband, or son, or daughter, or neighbor. And what rises out of the grave is a glorified body
    to meet an already glorified spirit to become an “eternal person”.

    Have a nice weekend Matt. You “eternal person” you.

  15. Matt Anslow says:

    Your construal of what I apparently believe and your misuse of the Bible is at best laughable. That is all. Farewell.

  16. Craig Benno says:

    Hi levelofillusion / matt

    I think its rude when someone is invited to be a guest at a dinner table and starts disparaging about what is in the host’s fridge and pantry before digesting what the host has put in front of them.

    I’m wondering what both of you guys have to offer to allay the areas of fear that bombard our communities?

  17. levelsofillusion says:

    Hi Craig… You may be right about the dinner guest who checks out the fridge & pantry before “digesting” what the host puts in front of him. But, not if he finds corpses in the pantry and body parts in the fridge.

    You end your piece with …”The message of the Gospel of Christ must send us into every level of society to preach the good news and bring about redemption, hope and change where ever there is fear, hatred, weakness and confusion.”…

    I attempted to offer you an opinion in my first post, but, you would have none of it. Your response to me was… “Your argument fails somewhat in that you’re denying we can’t know truth of any kind?”… You went on to say… “Basically the Old Testament proves that mankind is not able to truly live together, love one another and worship God.”.. and then… “The New Testament is all about God coming to earth as a man, humans disbelieving and executing him…yet He raised to life 3 days later which made a way for all to be reconciled to God.”…
    You go on to say… “It’s interesting that non christian / religious historians / scholars believe the ancient bible is an accurate history book….and can’t explain what happened.”…

    So, lets try to nail this down. Is it your contention that the Bible is an accurate history book and that nobody can “explain” what happened? A 6 to 10000 year old earth, Noah’s Ark, Lot’s wife turning to salt, Jonah taking up residence in the gastrointestinal system of a whale… all that malarky is TRUE history? Jesus turning one substance into another and defying the laws of physics like some Star Trek replicating device? Proving himself incapable of being killed and showing up three days later to prove the point. IS THAT WHAT YOU BELIEVE?

    If it is, and by your writing I must conclude that it is, the only formula I can offer you is the old one. Kill everyone who doesn’t believe you. It’s the only way. The (or some) Muslims are trying it out as I type. They have seen that it works, if only locally, as Christians, Hindus etc. have as long as there has been religion in the world. I’m afraid that is how it works. Only secular authority keeps the streets from running red Craig and all the fundamentalists I know are in favor of doing away with “secular” authority.

    So, back to your question. …”I’m wondering what both of you guys have to offer to allay the areas of fear that bombard our communities?”…

    What fear(s) specifically are you talking about? This I need to know because it is anything but a given that we share the same fears. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure we don’t. So, why don’t I begin by telling you mine. I will start with the biggest. I fear being forced by religious fanatics to “pretend” to believe things that I don’t and to, in essence, live a lie. As an Atheist all I have (and I’m happy with this) is my life, temporary as it is, and my mind. Take that away and I have nothing. All the rest is nothing really… nothing I can’t comfortably handle on my own.
    John Paul Sartre said: “Hell is other people.” There is much truth in that statement.

    Of course, we are pre genetically programmed not to want to die and the fear of watching our children or grandchildren die before we do is, again, a pre programmed horror that spells failure to pass on our genes… but besides the usual “I have failed as an animal” innate biological fears… that about wraps it up for me. But that is life. I accept it on its terms. No, that’s not accurate. I glory in it, celebrate it and treat it with the pure awe and wonder that it deserves, in my opinion. I ask for NOTHING more because I have come to understand that “temporary” is not synonymous with “bad” or “not enough”. The fact that real flowers are beautiful BECAUSE they bloom and die in their time is obvious to me. I don’t like plastic flowers Craig. Only monsters and fake imitations are forever. I reject them in favor of the real.

    So you see Craig, your goal…. [“The message of the Gospel of Christ must send us into every level of society to preach the good news and bring about redemption, hope and change where ever there is fear, hatred, weakness and confusion”…] is the very stuff that my nightmares are made of. I reject that too… for the real. I do not fear death. Not because I have bought into a, to me, farcical scheme to cheat it. I reject it because even if it were true (and I don’t grant that possibility) it would make cheap and tawdry my very existence. The existence of ALL life!

    Are we pets Craig? Judged on our performance by the owner of the Pet Shop? Whistle his tune and a better and cleaner cage awaits us? If for even one second I were to believe your view of reality were true I would HAVE to say “Kill me now”… and lets end this farce.

    May I be so bold as to ask you to do me a favor? PLEASE, explain to Matt what would be left of Christianity if its leaders informed the faithful that… “no, you won’t come back to life, or live forever with Jesus after you die… that’s a mistake.”
    You see, Matt seems to think that is irrelevant to what Christianity is all about.

    Best wishes to you Craig

  18. Craig Benno says:

    Now your actually starting to engage with the actual theme of my post, thats a great start.
    The Bible is a historical book. But isn’t a history book in its entirety as we would call a history book. There are many themes through out the Bible. There is a mixture of poetry, songs, dreams, stories of individuals and nations as they engage with self, society and other nations. Not to mention with God and the gods of other nations. The Bible isn’t written as a science book nor is it meant to be engaged with as such, though some may differ.

    I take from your post that it seems the only type of Christians you engage with are YEC’S but they make up only a small % of Christians and how they engage with the Bible.
    A knowledge of how and why ancient texts are written within the time frame they refer to is needed to engage with what the text is saying. For instance, the Genisis story of creation and Noah etc are what is known as a mythical story. NOTE that the term mythical does not mean a fairy tale or a lie as we would think today a mythical story is.

    Rather it is drawing upon and alongside the Babylonian and Sumerian ancient Texts that also support this story.
    There are no accredited ancient historians today who will deny that the Bible isn’t a historical book that is made up of many individual books. It is true that they may not read or understand the Scriptures from a faith base, but they still look at it as a historical record of how the ancient nations lived.

    Now for the New Testament. What part of it do you think is a lie and why?

  19. levelsofillusion says:

    Craig, I appreciate your patients, but I think you are missing, or “can’t” engage with my point. This isn’t about Christianity or the Bible or disagreement about the age of the earth among any of the hundreds of “kinds” of Christians. It’s about religion and your statement… “The message of the Gospel of Christ must send us into every level of society to preach the good news and bring about redemption, hope and change where ever there is fear, hatred, weakness and confusion.”…
    It’s divisive!

    There are thousands of religions all with Holy Books that reveal the “real” truth for the “believer”. You just can’t get away with expecting me to believe you and not believe them. They can’t either. Believing ANY of you demands that I buy into supernaturalism and historical paranormal activities that I find to be nothing less than farcical. Indeed, they all attempt to explain history in one form or another, but ALWAYS at the expense of placing themselves at the apex of humanity, as the favorite of an invisible deity or deities who offers some kind of everlasting life as a reward for doing things ritually correct. Punishment for doing the opposite.

    [you post]… “Now for the New Testament. What part of it do you think is a lie and why?”…

    Why the New Testament? Why not the Koran or the Mahabarata, or The Egyptian Book of the Dead? I have no reason to believe ANY of them because they ALL demand that I forsake any other explanation in favor of their own and they all are trying to buy me off intellectually with some scheme that will enable me not to “really” die. They are offering me ritualized control over the uncontrollable in return for my suspension of disbelief. I give up rationality and I get magically transformed into meat that is “different”. Meat that is “special”.
    I don’t desire to be special, or different, or chosen, or to live forever. I likewise don’t appreciate being told, or it being hinted, that I am somehow going against the side of “good” if I reject religious advances from where ever they arise.
    In the end it is about how we answer the question, “What is man?”

    We answer that question differently. Because I don’t agree with you I am, in effect, stating that what you believe is false. That applies to ANYONE who doesn’t totally agree with you. The fact that people who disagree exist diminishes your power to confidently, through ritual, control the uncontrollable. That’s why religions ALWAYS seek to expand their flock and thereby their power. “If only everybody would see the light and believe like we do”….
    Sooner or later the killing starts.

    I want no part of it.

  20. Craig Benno says:

    I’m finding this convo hard calling you level of illusion, so I’ll call you Bob. It makes it easier.

    Bob, it seems that what your saying is that because there are many other religions in the world; none of them are right. They are all wrong. There are also many scientists around the world, many have various ideas and proposals about the climate and how the world was made. Does this mean every scientist is wrong?

    Bob. I’m not talking about other religions. I’m talking about my Christian faith which is based on three issues.

    1.) Personal experience
    2.) Fellowship and community
    3.) Bible.

    I had an experience on the 17th of March 1997 at 10:30am. I had just started going to a small Anglican Church in NSW Australia. I had been suffering from bad chronic fatique at the time and this morning had caught a cab to church, with the knowledge I would be able to catch a lift back with someone else after the churches BBQ that afternoon.

    During the service I become stuck to the pew. I couldn’t move off it. When the service finished I still couldn’t get up off the pew. I could slide on it. But not get up. During my time on the pew while every one else was outside for the BBQ, I had a revelation that I was a sinner and asked God for His forgiveness and a incredible peace filled my heart.

    3 hours later I was able to get off the pew, every one else had gone home, and so I walked 12km home, healed of chronic fatigue. The story doesn’t stop there though. My father had suddenly died of leukemia in 1994. He had had a prostrate operation, told they got it all and karked it 6 weeks later.

    I was 26, one of the last things he told me was that he regretted never putting his arm around my shoulder telling me that he loved me. It was too much for me hearing this from my dad for the first time in 26 years. So I shut him down telling him we had more important things to discuss.

    I never did cry at my dads funeral…. In May 1997 I went on a church camp. No one knew my story. Some people were praying for me, there hands held over my head. I felt a internal voice tell me, Craig its time to cry. I said no way, I’m not crying.
    A second time this voice said, Craig its time to cry, I said within my self I’m not crying and started to shunt the emotions raising up in me deeper within and had my fists up in the air shadow boxing.
    A third time this most beautiful gentle voice said to me, Craig its time to cry and cry you will. Next 2 giant big arms came out of the air, and gave me this most wonderful huge loving hug. I fell to the ground a blubbering mess and ran to my room where I cried and sobbed from deep within for the next 3 hours. I then stopped crying and laughed my guts out for the next 3 hours. I woke up radically changed.

    Yet I also struggled with 3 issues. They being gambling, masturbation and a voice that used to trouble me telling me I was gay. 2 weeks after this church camp I had spent my last $2oo in the poker machines. I called out to God to help me and release me from this addiction. That Sunday at church, the pastor asked after the service if any one would like to be prayed for.
    I went up the front, the pastor said. Tell God what you want and I said, God I want to be released from these addictions. The Pastor prayed, I was thrown backwards to the floor voilently, voices screaming in my head saying, “Get up off the floor we have to go” I said, I”m not going I”m staying here. Then 3 shadowy figures rose up out of my body and went out of the church. That day I was released from my gambling and masturbation addiction as well as have never been troubled by any thoughts that I was gay.

    Now my experience falls into the same type of experiences that happened to people in the New Testament. I can tell you many stories of answered prayer. Many miraculous.
    The love of God that I experienced that day has continued with me till this day. Now the question to ask you is, how do you argue against my own personal experience?

    How do I know that Jesus is real, I know because He lives within me.

  21. levelsofillusion says:

    Bob will be fine Craig.

    …”Bob, it seems that what you’re saying is that because there are many other religions in the world; none of them are right. They are all wrong. There are also many scientists around the world, many have various ideas and proposals about the climate and how the world was made. Does this mean every scientist is wrong?’…

    No. It instead means that they, if they wish to be considered credible, must provide reproducible, testable evidence that their hypothesis is correct. Their “personal experience, fellowship and Holy Books”… don’t count.

    You, like so many, came to a religious epiphany from a place of pain and a feeling of powerlessness. I can’t think of ANYTHING more human than that. As I wrote in my piece “Homo-suggestibilis” humans are theological creatures at their very heart. Not because Shiva, Allah or Quoetzacoattle are real entities living in an invisible world that is “higher” than the one we occupy, but because we find the world that we do occupy too frightening and fraught with unanswered questions without them. That’s why AA works. It involves surrendering all the existential baggage of being a sentient being in a world that doesn’t care or make sense. It manufactures the best and most powerful kind of “care” and puts that power at the disposal of the one in need. It makes us special and gives us power over our problems. The fact that it isn’t real doesn’t matter. Nothing succeeds like success. That is why religion is ubiquitous and found in every nook and cranny of human culture from the beginning down to this day. It works! In a way, that must be considered “real”.
    It has, throughout history been selected for genetically because it has the power of unifying groups of people together in a common system of reality and beliefs. Today, in a world of increasing populations and diminishing resources it is problematic. Everybody can’t be right. So, we go to war to prove whose side God is on. George Bush told us all, but, the Muslims are not buying his opinion.
    Does that mean that religion isn’t magnificently useful to you? NO! Does it mean that it doesn’t solve real problems? NO! Does it mean that perpetual war and animosity between conflicting religious populations all claiming to be the only correct religion is man’s future…. I hope not. If it is we are doomed.
    Where I live we have churches where the members fall on the ground and talk in tongues. We also have churches where members handle poisonous snakes openly to prove a passage in the Bible that claims the faithful will have nothing to fear. We have churches that instruct what political party GOD stands behind and what party HE condemns. With the baby Jesus comes the bath water that is polluted with hate of the “other” and political control over the faithful. Now, you may well say that is wrong and NOT what Christianity is really about. But, it’s a fact I have to deal with, the world has to deal with and rather than diminishing it’s a fact that grows stronger. I have no choice but to condemn it.
    That being said, I do not think for one moment that man can exist without religion. The question in my mind is “how do we do it without mutual extermination?” I live in Central Virginia. The largest church here is run by the Falwell Group (Jerry) and they run the largest evangelical university on the planet. THEY look anxiously toward Armageddon and a war in the Middle East that will, with God’s help (on our side of course), destroy all the non-Christians and start the everlasting torture of all those Christians whose belief doesn’t fit with theirs. How can I condone people who WANT this and politically WORK to bring it about?
    That is my problem and why I have been studying religion and man. Why I have been studying mankind.

    The question you have to ask yourself is “Can I be this man’s friend despite the fact that he doesn’t buy into my reality?” Can I do it WITHOUT thinking, “One day he will agree with me.”? Without feeling superior because you have something I don’t. In short, “Can you respect me for MY SELF”… without trying to make me like you? Can we co-exist? That, I fear, is a question the whole world must find an answer to.

    On a personal note, I have very old and very dear friends in NSW. In and around the Tamworth area. They are deeply Christian people and I love them. They are just as flawed as I am with the same existential problems we all share. We just work out of different tool boxes.
    I thank you for your candor and look forward to your next posting. It’s a pity Matt parachuted to safety before the flying conditions became less turbulent.

    All the best to you in OZ. Have a cuppa Billy Tea and a bit a Marmite on toast on me. Lovely, that.
    Bob

  22. Craig Benno says:

    Hi Bob.

    I can’t speak for Matt, he is his own person. Its interesting that you say humans beings are theological creatures.

    It seems that the type of Jerry Falwal type christianity is what turns you off christianity? Not all christians go along side his version, no matter how large a following he has, nor do they follow his end times scenario. A mate of mine from here also ministered once at a snake handlers convention, told them point blank he wan’t going to touch one.

    Perhaps the point your missing in all the periphial differences is the core that Christians hold dear and that being the centrality of Christ. Perhaps your confusing my posting about the message of Christ and peace with what you percieve American evangelicalism to be all about?

    I’m a chaplain working within the mens homeless sector. As a chaplain I make it my priority that I am there to listen to the guys. If they give me permission I will share my faith with them / pray with them. If they don’t I don’t. I have many friends and associates who are not Christian, or come from many other denominations and religious faiths. You can also read some more of my story here http://mencanbeabusedtoo.wordpress.com/my-story-part-1/and some of the advocacy work that Im involved with that isn’t faith based.

    I can be a mans friend without him having to buy into my reality, which is actually based on a historical happening. Birth, death, ressurection of Christ. However if I know the truth, would it be loving of me not to want to share that truth with him / her?

    Francis of Assisi said some amazing words many years ago… preach the gospel always, if you really have to – use words.

  23. levelsofillusion says:

    Hi Craig… I don’t miss the “centrality of Christ” any more than I miss the centrality of Buddha, Mohammed or Horis or Qurtzacoatil, for that matter. I get that it is “central” to the belief system. I also get that you have, as a believer, no choice but to attempt to increase the power, through numbers, of your system. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t answer the question of how competing belief systems can co-exist on a planet rapidly becoming overpopulated where some have too much and billions have far too little.
    I confess. I am incapable of paranormal beliefs of that nature. I simply cannot find within my neurology the where-with-all to say to myself… sure people can come back from the dead and the laws of physics and nature can be suspended or turned up-side-down at the whim of an entity that lives in the sky. I NEVER could, even as a small child. I find nothing new in what Jesus said. To me it is all obvious… except for the paranormal happenings and the scapegoating of Jesus to wash away my sins. No thanks I say to that! I see personal responsibility (un-mediated by threats) as the foundation of morality. I think, quite selfishly, that the more I treat other people like I wish to be treated, the better they will treat me (on average) and the better my life will be. I also do my best to be “valuable” to others for the same reasons. Same result— no need for supernatural “happenings”. When we add to that my utter distaste for the concept of eternal life… we have me as I am.
    So, since I don’t want to be saved, and, without Christ I am willing to do unto others as I want them to do unto me (I slip on occasion) because it is logical…. What’s left to argue about except the “supernatural stuff”?
    That brings us BACK to my question… “of how competing belief systems can co-exist on a planet rapidly becoming overpopulated where some have too much and billions have far too little.” WHEN the belief systems are mutually exclusive as they are?
    I understand NSW has had much better rain than in the past few years.

    I think children should be made to study ALL religions. In the end they, if not brainwashed, will see both the good they all share and the bad. In that I have the hope of a Human Centered Theology … free of institutionalized hate. For again, I freely state, in my opinion mankind can NEVER be free of religion. If we don’t have public religion we foster private religion. Psychologists call “private religion” …mental illness.

    Bob

  24. Craig Benno says:

    Hi Bob.

    Does your lack of belief of the supernatural mean that its non existent? Also while you may find the claims of Christianity as being offensive, how do you deal with the truth of the historical beginnings of Christianity?

    I’m all for good academnic studies done of comparative religions within the school framework. Its important to know what you believe, why you believe it and how you believe it.

    There have been many throughout the ages who made it a life’s purpose to disprove once and for all that Christianity is a lie and a bogus religion…only to discover they couldn’t disprove it and were forced to make a honest conclusion that their prior beliefs were wrong. C.S Lewis who was perhaps one of the smartest men around in his time said of Christ. “Call Him liar, lunatic, or who he said he was…but don’t call him a good moral person, he hasn’t given us that option”

    I’m wondering in your framework of belief what is your position on Christ?

  25. levelsofillusion says:

    Craig,
    Does your lack of belief that a magician can cut a woman in half and then put her back together again mean that he didn’t? Also while you may find the claims of a stage magician offensive, how do you deal with the fact that you observed him cut a woman in half before your very eyes?
    I did NOT suggest that children study the worlds religions [NOT “comparative religion class!] so that THEY would know what they believe. That would just be indoctrination. I suggest it so that children would see that all peoples and all cultures have “beliefs” that totally contradict each other and that it is totally impossible for ANY of them to prove any of their claims. YET, they believe them just as strongly as you do.

    [you ask]… “I’m wondering in your framework of belief what is your position on Christ?”..

    You can’t seem to wrap your mind around the fact that I don’t have any beliefs. My position on Christ is identical to my position on Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Apollo, Mithra, Jupiter, Poseidon, Mars, Aphrodite and all the rest of the thousands of Gods and Goddesses man has worshiped is if they were real. They are wishful thinking on the part of people desperately wishing to have control over their lives… order in the universe that they can appeal to. They are of no interest to me. I don’t need them.

    [you post] … “There have been many throughout the ages who made it a life’s purpose to disprove once and for all that Christianity is a lie and a bogus religion…”

    They are just like you. Except, you don’t do it with Christianity. You do it with EVERY other religion in the world. You have no problem doing it. You certainly seem to do it with a clear conscience and no apologies to the billions of people you call wrong, or liars or fools. I do the EXACT same thing you do, except I just add one more.

    Your article is entitled… [Society Needs The Foundation of Love]. Well, how the heck do you intend to bring that about if you begin by telling everybody who doesn’t share your beliefs that they are wrong? You should call it… [Society Needs to Believe What I Believe]. And subtitle it: [And if you don’t you are WRONG and GOD will punish you!].

    It doesn’t work Craig. It has been tried over and over again. When you boil it down what it comes to is… “The world would be a better place if everybody was just like me.”

    I don’t have any beliefs Craig. Like I posted earlier, beliefs are like a lift in your shoe. If it helps YOU walk a little straighter, fine. But it doesn’t mean you have the right to nail them on other peoples feet.

    • Craig Benno says:

      Your article is entitled… [Society Needs The Foundation of Love]. Well, how the heck do you intend to bring that about if you begin by telling everybody who doesn’t share your beliefs that they are wrong? You should call it… [Society Needs to Believe What I Believe]. And subtitle it: [And if you don’t you are WRONG and GOD will punish you!].

      Hi Bob.

      I think you have not engaged with anything I have said. As Christians, I believe the words of Jesus to go into the world and love your nieghbours. As to telling people they are wrong, what is wrong with that?

      You seem to have no compunction telling me, or any other religious believer they are wrong!

      It’s not what you say that makes it wrong, its how you say it. Early Christianity had a huge impact on society and still in many areas of the world still does.
      Take for instance the heritige that stems from Christianity regarding schools, hospitals, hospices for all? Care of lepers, the off castes etc.

      The other issue is that you a lump every religion together without engaging whether there could be any truth to each or any of them…. how can you honestly do that…without examining any of their claims for yourself to see if they just might be right?

  26. levelsofillusion says:

    Craig… I have spent my life studying the religions of the world and the phenomena of religion itself. And I do not agree that, as you post… “It’s not what you say that makes it wrong, its how you say it.”
    There is nothing wrong and a whole lot RIGHT about treating others as you wish to be treated. But, as you see, I don’t need religion to do that and if the only reason I do is because I fear punishment… that isn’t morality.
    As far as “Christianity having a huge impact on the world”… Yes. Gibbon in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” credits Christianity with much of the blame. Christianity replaced Honor and Patriotism with a promise that the world was about to end and culture fell apart. I see that happening AGAIN in America today. The result last time was 1,000 years of barbarism. It wasn’t too long ago that Christianity forbid scientific inquiry, human dissection, advocated burning witches, forbid anesthesia during child birth… but, that was after the Head of the Christian Church sent out armies of Conquistadors to conquer the world for Christ and practice genocide on millions of non-believers. Being kind to lepers seems rather a mild balance to the carnage practiced in the name of Christ. Besides, I don’t need religion to tell me to be kind to those less fortunate than myself.
    Hindu’s had hospitals and schools before Christ was ever even thought of. Muslims had science and, in fact, saved much of what was learned in Greece when the Christian Church was busy burning books containing ancient knowledge.
    Indeed, I “lump” all paranormal beliefs together. I am not a supernaturalist. I do not need magic to hold my world together. You don’t either, But, you “prefer” it because it gives you some control over what essentially is the uncontrollable. I understand that because I honestly believe that man “evolved” that ability to keep from going mad. You are normal.
    [see: http://levelsofillusion.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/homo-suggestibilis/

    Then again, it’s one thing to tell a child about Jesus and quite another to tell them that if they don’t believe and follow they will be punished with eternal pain for ever. Where I live that is every day practice. Where I live Christians are attempting to rid us of Public Schools and turn them over to the church. Where I live gay people are tormented as a matter of church policy. Where I live (in the land of the free) only Christians can run for public office. Where I live people are anxiously awaiting The Rapture so Christ can come back and the butchering of nonbelievers can begin in ernest.
    I have no wish to examine weather anyone walked on water or came back from the dead because ALL religions make such farcical claims and they ALL conflict. Magic is just not part of my explanation of how the universe works. I don’t have all the answers. But, magic isn’t going to be one of them.

    [you post] “You seem to have no compunction telling me, or any other religious believer they are wrong!”

    None what so ever. I can tell you that you are like the man who has been hypnotized into thinking he was a chicken. But, it would do no good.

    You NEED the eggs!

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