Cursed are the Meek, for They Dream of Being Enslaved

I’m going to keep this entry short ‘n’ sweet and get you thinking about something. (If you end up coming to the same conclusions I have under your own steam, the insight will be more truly yours than if I simply serve it up fully-cooked.) I want to spill just a little metaphorical ink over the most important verse in the Bible. I’m not talking about John 3:16. I have in mind a different saying attributed to Jesus, one that can be found in that compendium of aphorisms and apothegms known as “The Sermon on the Mount:”

 

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NRSV)

 

If I pull up my Microsoft Word thesaurus and search “meek,” here’s the list of synonyms I’m offered: humble, timid, submissive, gentle, docile, modest, compliant, mild, quiet, lowly, weak, cowed, fearful, and tame. That thesaurus suggests “assertive” and “overbearing” as antonyms. (Nominal synonyms for “assertive” and “overbearing” tend to be gender-specific: “leader” for the males, “bitch” for all the rest. Funny how that works, ain’t it? But that’s another essay.)

 

Meek. It’s a telling word, is it not? What message do you suppose “Jesus” was trying to send here? Let’s not forget there’s a good possibility that such a character never actually existed and the only reason we have these sayings of “Jesus” is that a powerful institution collected/concocted them to be promulgated to someone’s advantage. Whose advantage might that be? Isn’t it obvious?

 

There’s a reason that Nietzsche called Christianity a religion of slaves. There it is, in black and white (or red, if you’ve got one of those), straight from the mouth of Jesus of Nazareth, sitting right there like a shiny new dime on one of the gilt-edged pages of the Best Book Ever Written. And as Nietzsche understood full well, Christianity’s not the only religion designed to enslave its devotees. There have been hundreds, and plenty are still on offer.
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Christianity Isn’t Irrational… It’s Worse Than That

© David Teachout

Christianity is about as multifaceted as the people who label themselves adherents to it. Once “the bible” was given to the masses and the notion, put forward by the Renaissance and Enlightenment, that the individual mind could seek truth, it didn’t take much time for theology to reflect even more the nature of its creator, i.e. human variety. The title here then is a simplification, for the topic in question has far more to do with the basis of a supernatural tradition than with any particular instance of it. Still, for ease of writing, Christianity will serve as primary example. At issue is the claim there exists a fundamental level of reality, the realm of god and his angels, that is by definition outside of the understanding of humanity. While much can be said about such claims and their absurdity, what is often overlooked is what such a pronouncement means about people in general.

 

The apologetic traditions of Christianity boil down to two: evidentialism and presuppositionalism. The former is most glaringly offered by people like Josh McDowell and William Lane Craig, offered through some variation of the cosmological argument.  Essentially the practice boils down to finding a point of ignorance and then filling it with, in a display of utter self-service, their own deity. The latter has historically been placed in the hands of Gordon Clark, Carl F.H. Henry and Francis Schaeffer, among others, and is offered through some iteration of an axiological argument. Essentially this attempt is to declare all ideologies must assume some foundational basis for knowledge and existence, so of course their holy book and their god is correct, particularly since once you assume their book and god, all other ideologies fail. Truly, it’s that mind-numbingly simple. What both traditions have in common, besides attempts by users of each to destroy the arguments of the other, is a belief that at some point there is a limit to human understanding, not because existence is huge and complex, but due to some inherent lack or deficiency in humanity. This is why at some point each tradition flings itself into the arms of faith. The evidentialist does this as a “leap of faith” ala Kierkegaard, the presuppositionalist simply assumes faith as the preeminent means of knowing right from the start.
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Fundamentally Fundamental about the Fundamentals of Fundies: Facepalms of Biblical Proportions

Despite loose usage of the term and the tossing about of its diminutive form, “fundamentalist” is not a pejorative: the word was invented by conservative Christians for purposes of self-identification and bears an exact meaning that has only secondarily to do with attitude. I’m well acquainted with the history of this word because it is my interesting fortune to have been raised in one of the small, fractious, separatist, backwater Christian sects that coined it around the turn of the 20th century.

 

By the time I was born at mid-century, Missionary Baptist churches all over the U.S. South proudly touted their fundamentalist bona fides on the signs that identified them: “Independent – Bible-believing – Fundamental.” While dismissing the historic creeds as the inventions of fallen man, such churches showed not the least hesitation in publishing “statements of faith” (as though “creed” meant something different) sometimes disguised as “church covenants,” and those published statements always included an article such as “We believe the Bible to be the divinely-inspired and wholly inerrant Word of God.” Fundamentalists of the other monotheistic religions hold a similar attitude regarding their various “holy books.” Belief in the divine origin of a “sacred scripture” is essential to fundamentalists of all sects, because it’s the primary premise – often unspoken – in all of their arguments.

 

What I wish I could say to fundamentalists of all stripes (and wish they could hear me when I say it) is that their foundational premise is false. The Bible is most certainly not the Word of God: it has no more to do with the (alleged) creator of the universe than the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon or the Left Behind series.
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