Author Topic: The original reasons for religion may not have been as bad as we think...  (Read 592 times)

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I have listened to both a podcasted speech by and an interview of author Karen Armstrong today. And in them I found out a couple of things I didn't know before. Most notably, that religion was not originally intended as a controlling mechanism, but rather a coping mechanism to help people deal with all the unknowns reality had to offer.

I heard the podcast here: http://libwww.freelibrary.org/podcast/?podcastID=441

And the Fresh Air interview here: http://www.npr.org/2009/09/21/112968197/karen-armstrong-builds-a-case-for-god

1. The bible was not treated as literal until the scientific revolution of the late 1600's and beyond. Prior to that, the bible was seen clearly as myth, but a myth with purpose. Genesis, simply put, was  a myth that explained that a newborn child would probably do the wrong thing (sin in religious parlance) unless taught otherwise. But since science was being to literal, some folks started treating the bible as literal. And here we are.

2. This means that I am an atheist because folks changed religion greatly starting in that time period, and now, as a super-customized social force with many versions, the followers of literal biblical interpretations (as well as similar folks amongst the muslims and I assume some jewish groups as well) are out to ruin the world with their literal reading of a book never intended to be read literally. I assume I would still be an atheist even if religion were a milder force that dealt with things still mysterious rather than trying to be everything to everyone, but at least I wouldn't have to be fending off Fred Phelps and other Kirk Cameron.

3. Early in the scientific revolution, science was seen as an ally of religion. Newton thought that his findings proved that an intelligent designer was behind gravity and his math. But once folks started interpreting the bible as literal, obvious conflicts arose.

4. Earlier in human history, there were two ways to look at the world. Logos and mythos. Logos being science and such, mythos being a way to look at and explain the mystical. Each had a place. Things that were known (when the deer would start to migrate and be easier to hunt) were treated one way. Things unknown (where rain came from or why someone suddenly died) were deal with using religion via mythos.

5. Though religion has always had a suck factor because of the people involved, the original reason for religion was to pass on the wisdom of the ages, most notably lessons such as the golden rule. Given the plethora of unknowns early man had to deal with it is not surprising that the concept of a "god" was used to explain away many mysteries. But there were two types of gods. One was the huge one. Not one who looked human and had human characteristics, but one so big that no human could manage to imagine how powerful and amazing it was. Then there were the human gods, such as the ones in Greece, who had frailties and made mistakes and stuff, but were immortal or close to it and hence more than human.

6. The christian god, yahweh, was picked from a group of several by early jews who were moving things around a bit. He was made closer to human and tossed into the book. People started taking him too seriously.

7. The various horrors of the bible (massacres, kids killed by bears, floods, etc.) were lessons in how bad the bad could be, not something that the real god literally did.

Ms. Armstrong, a former nun who went straight, does believe in the overarching god, sort of, but is not into specific religions. But she seems to be doing an amazing job of explaining what religion is, how things are being done wrong, and what can be done to change things. She is not against religion, and assumes it should continue in society, but the religion she advocates does not insult me nearly as much as the religions we are up against today. Were the world to change and become religious in the sense she says it could, religion would be a social force that helps people deal with actual unknowns, like death and disease and such. Because no matter how many times you read a geology book, it isn't going to help you deal with the loss of one of your kids. So religion such as that doesn't bother me too much. And religion such as that could deal with our atheism, with gays, with science, with eating crabs and with birth control much better.

The book she was discussing is called "The Case for God" (On Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Case-God-Karen-Armstrong/dp/0307389804/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334377861&sr=1-4

I'm an old guy with the attention span of a gnat, so I may have misinterpreted several of the things she said, but I think I have it about right. Correct me if I am way off. Forgive me if I'm close enough.

If what she is saying is true, then many of our arguments with christians have us falling for the same line of thinking (though we disagree with it) that they use. I'm going to track down a copy of the book and give it a read. It sounds interesting.
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Offline jaimehlers

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This really does stand to reason, and it's a good explanation for how religion might have come about.

Offline wright

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Back when I was still a believer, I read Armstrong's A History of God and was impressed. I'll have to take a look at The Case for...; thanks for the links, PP.

Interesting, that Biblical literalism is historically recent. I'll have to look into that a bit.
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Interesting, that Biblical literalism is historically recent. I'll have to look into that a bit.

I'm going to look into that too. Guess I'll download the book itself today, but I'd like other sources as well.

I too read A History of God, though I was already an atheist. But that was when it came out years ago and we didn't have the internet yet, so while I was fascinated by what she wrote, I didn't have anyone to discuss it with. I remember that she said the catholics made suicide a sin in somewhere around 500 C.E. because slaves were being converted to christianity, then hearing about heaven, and putting two and two together and deciding that if they were dead, they could get out of being slaves and get into heaven right away, which had a certain appeal. This distressed the slave owners something fierce, so the vatican got all helpful and made it a sin to commit suicide.

Love stuff like that.

Anyway, think I'll do some looking around on the net this weekend about the history of christianity and see if I can find others that agree on the fairly recent development of taking the bible literally. Except I have to work today. So it won't be until this evening.
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_literalism

After you look into biblical literalism, you can muckdate wikipedia, because their info is useless.

I surmise that literalism did not start until people could read the bible  :scholar smiley:
Prior to the Protestant Reformation, the Catholics owned the religion, and said random shit about it.  "The BIBLE, I say, the BIBLE only, is the religion of Protestants!".
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I've been reading through the reviews at Amazon and while almost half are 5 stars, some folks who seem to know what they are talking about are not impressed with her scholarship. So I don't know what to think yet. I did find reference to another book by a different author that sounded interesting, but it is out of print and the only new copy available was $313.00. A used one is over $100. I don't think so.

Hopefully Historicity will jump in here and give us some references.

Now I really have to go to work.
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Armstrong's style, if not position, has changed over the years.  She's a very educated and knowledgable person, but in later years, seems to be giving religions a free pass at times.  I don't really know what her position on much is anymore, and don't really care much as she's fallen off my radar some time ago. 

I don't really feel fully comfortable reading stuff if I don't know what the author's core position is.  I see contradictions with little explanation and I start wondering how I'm now supposed to take the previous stuff.  It's not always obvious, and I don't think I had really thought about it until now - I think it was more of a sub-concious thing I was doing that leads to me turning my nose up a little when I see her books. 

I've seen her in a position where she had a religion standing in front of her with its legs wide open, and she never delivered the kick.
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Offline screwtape

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^ Last I knew, she was an accomodationist.  She advocated being as deferential to religion and the religious as possible.  In another era, in a different fight, she would have been called an Uncle Tom. She wants every one to just get along and have tea together quitely.  Apparently she has forgotten that it was not that many generations ago the friendly vicar down the road from her would have had her burnt as a heretic and a witch. And it probably would not take much to return to those days. 

I think she has a lot of nun still left in her.  Heck, she might even be on a secret undercover mission, sent by the last pope. 
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I've decided the book probably isn't worth it. Too many factual errors have been pointed out in the Amazon reviews to make it worth my while. But I would still like to know if the bible was indeed not considered literal until around the end of the 1600's. And I do like her idea that religion was originally to give consistent guidance to people over generations. Teaching the golden rule and stuff more than about gods in the sky. That would be nice. And something I could at least understand.

I could live with nice people I disagreed with. But not this current crop of christians.
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Offline jeremy0

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I have listened to both a podcasted speech by and an interview of author Karen Armstrong today. And in them I found out a couple of things I didn't know before. Most notably, that religion was not originally intended as a controlling mechanism, but rather a coping mechanism to help people deal with all the unknowns reality had to offer.
True - religion was first brought about to cope with the horrors in life.  We wanted to believe that our dead and suffered went to a better place.  That's why they invented the notion of heaven.  Hell wasn't brought about until religion intended to control people.  But, afaik the earliest notion of hell was Dante's Inferno..  the first actual notion of an eternal suffering.  It is common for me to argue that people don't want to leave their religion as a Christian because they are too scared of what will happen when they die.  Something like that isn't a good thing to be taken literally, and is a terror on society...

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1. The bible was not treated as literal until the scientific revolution of the late 1600's and beyond. Prior to that, the bible was seen clearly as myth, but a myth with purpose. Genesis, simply put, was  a myth that explained that a newborn child would probably do the wrong thing (sin in religious parlance) unless taught otherwise. But since science was being to literal, some folks started treating the bible as literal. And here we are.
The bible can be taken quite literal.  It's only become a recent argument that it was intended to be taken metaphorically.  I would say the greatest example of metaphorical religion is Revelation.  You can apply things in it to anything to make sense of it, and they are always wrong.  But case in point, regardless of whether or not we take it literal or metaphorical, it doesn't really change the message.  I mean, Moses can be taken from a military perspective in the Torah.  Same with other things - being metaphorical about it just changes meaning slightly. 
A newborn child will inevitably do the things they have in their dna and also things that their environment teach them to do.  Then you grow up, and some things change, once you have time to think for yourself or have children and change your mind.  But, environmental factors are the main causes of how you will be as you age..  It doesn't require a religion, it requires good friends and good parents - relationships with other people.

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2. This means that I am an atheist because folks changed religion greatly starting in that time period, and now, as a super-customized social force with many versions, the followers of literal biblical interpretations (as well as similar folks amongst the muslims and I assume some jewish groups as well) are out to ruin the world with their literal reading of a book never intended to be read literally. I assume I would still be an atheist even if religion were a milder force that dealt with things still mysterious rather than trying to be everything to everyone, but at least I wouldn't have to be fending off Fred Phelps and other Kirk Cameron.
Most religious texts these days have been disproven by science.  Also through logical reasoning.  I took a milder stance on Jesus, and it still didn't work, because what he said would happen if you do something certain ways doesn't actually happen.  I wish I wasn't taught any of this stuff to begin with, because it's simply done me much more damage than it has done good - even with the way I was being raised and parented..

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3. Early in the scientific revolution, science was seen as an ally of religion. Newton thought that his findings proved that an intelligent designer was behind gravity and his math. But once folks started interpreting the bible as literal, obvious conflicts arose.
Conflicts are there even if it's taken metaphorically.  It just changes the message, but then it makes the message something that doesn't seem so religious.  It seems more mundane, where instead of applying a positive notion on morality, we see more of a story that doesn't make much sense..

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4. Earlier in human history, there were two ways to look at the world. Logos and mythos. Logos being science and such, mythos being a way to look at and explain the mystical. Each had a place. Things that were known (when the deer would start to migrate and be easier to hunt) were treated one way. Things unknown (where rain came from or why someone suddenly died) were deal with using religion via mythos.
I used to think mythos had a place as well.  Now I am under the impression that it's doing more harm than it is good.  For example - explaining the mystical 'my tooth was taken from my pillow in the middle of the night by the tooth fairy', explains what happened when I was a child, but then you feel stupid that your parents were feeding you full of crap.  That doesn't explain the unexplained, it just inserts 'junk' to put a false idiom on the situation.  Thunder isn't black spirits tap-dancing...

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5. Though religion has always had a suck factor because of the people involved, the original reason for religion was to pass on the wisdom of the ages, most notably lessons such as the golden rule. Given the plethora of unknowns early man had to deal with it is not surprising that the concept of a "god" was used to explain away many mysteries. But there were two types of gods. One was the huge one. Not one who looked human and had human characteristics, but one so big that no human could manage to imagine how powerful and amazing it was. Then there were the human gods, such as the ones in Greece, who had frailties and made mistakes and stuff, but were immortal or close to it and hence more than human.
Yes.  Religion was intended to pass down the wisdom of our forefathers.  That's the way we should be looking at it.  A literal translation of wisdom from earlier people.  Everybody that is dying wants to leave behind the best things that they have learned in life, because they are important lessons, and important for people to understand.  It does a lot of good.  However, we don't need to believe in false religions in order to pass down wisdom..

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6. The christian god, yahweh, was picked from a group of several by early jews who were moving things around a bit. He was made closer to human and tossed into the book. People started taking him too seriously.
Did you know yahweh was actually started with the jewish sect that believed in magic and worshipped things like trees?  I read this while studying past religions..

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7. The various horrors of the bible (massacres, kids killed by bears, floods, etc.) were lessons in how bad the bad could be, not something that the real god literally did.
I disagree.  The various horrors of the bible were intended to enforce control on people through scare tactics.  I have such a hard time breaking the religion barrier with people because they are too afraid.  Satan and judgement is not a description of how bad things can be in life, but rather a form of control that says people get their revenge.  But, to any single group of Christians, the others are always the ones to burn.  Therefore, I can't believe in a righteous deity that also follows rules of revenge and torture.  The real god is taught to have done this, and the early jews did in fact believe that god was pissed when lightning or thunderstorms occurred.  This was this way all the way until Ben Franklin revealed lightning was actually just electricity..

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Were the world to change and become religious in the sense she says it could, religion would be a social force that helps people deal with actual unknowns, like death and disease and such. Because no matter how many times you read a geology book, it isn't going to help you deal with the loss of one of your kids. So religion such as that doesn't bother me too much. And religion such as that could deal with our atheism, with gays, with science, with eating crabs and with birth control much better.
We had better come up with a damn good religion.  Strip out all the bad things.  this will never happen, however, because people now need ancient things in order to believe in something that doesn't really exist.  And you are putting people on the whipping post by saying we need to 'deal with atheism, gays, science, and birth control'.. science is the #1 saving grace of our time.  It has saved me on multiple occasions, where religious people have been trying to 'get me'.  And I was a devout catholic once.  It took the insanity and idiocy of people to make me atheist.  I don't have a problem with gays, atheism is just people that have finally freed their minds from childish beliefs or thought, and I would very much like to offer people birth control when they need it.  Just because I have sperm doesn't mean somebody needs to bear my child if we make a mistake during sex.  And even the bible isn't going to help you with loss of loved ones, it just becomes a distraction and can sometimes paint a good picture in your mind, which is akin to therapy.  (mental imaging).  However, religion also postulates that people are damned - I doubt my parents would feel better when I die worrying about how much I am then suffering compared to how much I suffered during my actual life....

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Forgive me if I'm close enough.
There's not a problem with listening to this nun.  It's just that she postulates religion still has a place and a purpose, where I think it should be abolished and we should replace it with curriculum, learning, and punishment during childhood about morality.

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If what she is saying is true, then many of our arguments with christians have us falling for the same line of thinking (though we disagree with it) that they use.
Obviously - you can't get into an argument with Christians as an atheist because many times you have to refer to their religion.  That does indeed cause these people to fall for the same line of thinking.  Good point there..
"If you find yourself reaching for the light, first realize that it has already touched your finger."
"If I were your god, I would have no reason for judgement, and you have all told endless lies about me.  Wait - you do already. I am not amused by your ignorance, thoughtlessness, and shallow mind."

Offline screwtape

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Quote from: jeremy0
Did you know yahweh was actually started with the jewish sect that believed in magic and worshipped things like trees?  I read this while studying past religions..

Do you have a source?  I am very interested in the origins of judaism. If you can torpedo judaism, xianity falls with it.
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Offline jeremy0

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Quote from: jeremy0
Did you know yahweh was actually started with the jewish sect that believed in magic and worshipped things like trees?  I read this while studying past religions..

Do you have a source?  I am very interested in the origins of judaism. If you can torpedo judaism, xianity falls with it.

It was from a book in the library.  You can probably find it by looking up the history of Christianity or something, or the history of the Christian or Jewish God.  I read it so long ago, so I don't remember the author or the title, sorry. 
"If you find yourself reaching for the light, first realize that it has already touched your finger."
"If I were your god, I would have no reason for judgement, and you have all told endless lies about me.  Wait - you do already. I am not amused by your ignorance, thoughtlessness, and shallow mind."

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Quote from: jeremy0
Did you know yahweh was actually started with the jewish sect that believed in magic and worshipped things like trees?  I read this while studying past religions..

Do you have a source?  I am very interested in the origins of judaism. If you can torpedo judaism, xianity falls with it.

It was from a book in the library.  You can probably find it by looking up the history of Christianity or something, or the history of the Christian or Jewish God.  I read it so long ago, so I don't remember the author or the title, sorry.

From my research, Judaism was originally a Polytheistic faith that took heavy influence/plagiarism from the Norse, Greeks, and Zoroastrianism. You can see this by the changing styles of writing in the Original Hebrew Old Testament. So, the initial quote sounds a little fishy, but when in comparison, it doesn't seem that farfetched, giving that Christianity/Judaism copied the Pagans.

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@screwtape:
The book I was reading was an old book on the history of Judaism.  I believe I was reading about the Canaanites, because they have a reference to 'El Shaddai', which was another worshipped god.  But the book I read said they believed heavily in magic, like controlling the forces of nature.  They were heavily intertwined in nature, and their main god was the 'tree of life'.  If you get into the religion, it's supposed to be like controlling magic.  So kind of interesting old stuff.
The reason I looked it up back then (this was about 10 years ago) was that my reasoning at the time was if god had visited people in ancient times, then the most ancient religion would be the most correct since it has been constantly changing.  (Until after jesus, at which point religion didn't change much in the past 2,000 years like it was back then)
"If you find yourself reaching for the light, first realize that it has already touched your finger."
"If I were your god, I would have no reason for judgement, and you have all told endless lies about me.  Wait - you do already. I am not amused by your ignorance, thoughtlessness, and shallow mind."

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I forgot to mention in the OP that prior to the start of the bible being taken literally, it was considered allegory.

If the original idea of religion was to scare the crap out of folks and control them, then it has always been bad. If the origins or religion were people a) trying to make sense of the world the best they could and b) trying to pass on the wisdom of the tribe, then it obviously didn't start out to be anything terrible. I tend to think the latter, but that the whole thing has been so distorted by those who do indeed want to use it to control that it has become useless to all.

I posted this because I'm more interested in the history of religion, christianity especially, and if a few of the things that Karen Armstrong said have a strong historical basis, then some of the things we are arguing here on a regular basis could stand a little updating. The literalness of the bible, for instance. If we could show that it is a modern interpretation with no basis in the original version of christianity, then we don't even have to argue with folks. We can just show them that they are wrong, and prove it.

See, I'm naive about a lot of things.  ;D
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I have listened to both a podcasted speech by and an interview of author Karen Armstrong today. And in them I found out a couple of things I didn't know before. Most notably, that religion was not originally intended as a controlling mechanism, but rather a coping mechanism to help people deal with all the unknowns reality had to offer.

Whoever said it started as a controlling mechanism? I've been talking about hyper-active agent detection on here for months. That's the major cause for belief in the supernatural, and belief in an afterlife stems from fear of death.

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1. The bible was not treated as literal until the scientific revolution of the late 1600's and beyond. Prior to that, the bible was seen clearly as myth, but a myth with purpose. Genesis, simply put, was  a myth that explained that a newborn child would probably do the wrong thing (sin in religious parlance) unless taught otherwise. But since science was being to literal, some folks started treating the bible as literal. And here we are.

This sounds like a bunch of "the bible isn't so bad, can't we all just get along?" crap. And clearly she hasn't done her research. When the bible talks about animal sacrifice, with specific instructions as to how the animal is to be cut and how many times you are to shake the bloody ox tail, what exactly is that a metaphor for? When it says that gays should be stoned to death, what is the purpose of that myth? Most of the bible was intended to be taken literally, including the evil stuff.

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3. Early in the scientific revolution, science was seen as an ally of religion. Newton thought that his findings proved that an intelligent designer was behind gravity and his math. But once folks started interpreting the bible as literal, obvious conflicts arose.

So in other words, if the bible isn't true, it doesn't conflict with science. Sure, I agree.

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4. Earlier in human history, there were two ways to look at the world. Logos and mythos. Logos being science and such, mythos being a way to look at and explain the mystical. Each had a place. Things that were known (when the deer would start to migrate and be easier to hunt) were treated one way. Things unknown (where rain came from or why someone suddenly died) were deal with using religion via mythos.

Translation: religion is crap with no basis in reality.

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5. Though religion has always had a suck factor because of the people involved, the original reason for religion was to pass on the wisdom of the ages, most notably lessons such as the golden rule.

Science, history, and math classes pass on the wisdom of the ages. The church passes on the lack of wisdom of ancient psychotic homophobes. The golden rule is evolutionary, not religious.

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7. The various horrors of the bible (massacres, kids killed by bears, floods, etc.) were lessons in how bad the bad could be, not something that the real god literally did.

I smell a magic decoder ring.. and it smells suspiciously like bullshit.

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If what she is saying is true, then many of our arguments with christians have us falling for the same line of thinking (though we disagree with it) that they use. I'm going to track down a copy of the book and give it a read. It sounds interesting.

Regardless of whether the bible was intended to be taken as myth, which I doubt it was, the fact is that it's taken literally now, and that's the position we have to argue against.
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  But, afaik the earliest notion of hell was Dante's Inferno..  the first actual notion of an eternal suffering.

Eh?

All the early Christians believed in eternal hellfire:
http://www.bible.ca/H-hell.htm

The Octavius (~200AD) reasons that hell is OK, because the Greek philosophers thought that in their own religions.

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Chapter XXXV.—Argument:  Righteous and Pious Men Shall Be Rewarded with Never-Ending Felicity, But Unrighteous Men Shall Be Visited with Eternal Punishment.  The Morals of Christians are Far More Holy Than Those of the Gentiles.

“And yet men are admonished in the books and poems of the most learned poets of that fiery river, and of the heat flowing in manifold turns from the Stygian marsh,—things which, prepared for eternal torments, and known to them by the information of demons and from the oracles of their prophets, they have delivered to us.  And therefore among them also even king Jupiter himself swears religiously by the parching banks and the black abyss; for, with foreknowledge of the punishment destined to him, with his worshippers, he shudders.  Nor is there either measure or termination to these torments.  There the intelligent fire burns the limbs and restores them, feeds on them and nourishes them.  As the fires of the thunderbolts strike upon the bodies, and do not consume them; as the fires of Mount Ætna and of Mount Vesuvius, and of burning lands everywhere, glow, but are not wasted; so that penal fire is not fed by the waste of those who burn, but is nourished by the unexhausted eating away of their bodies.  But that they who know not God are deservedly tormented as impious, as unrighteous persons, no one except a profane man hesitates to believe, since it is not less wicked to be ignorant of, than to offend the Parent of all, and the Lord of all.  And although ignorance of God is sufficient for punishment, even as knowledge of Him is of avail for pardon, yet if we Christians be compared with you, although in some things our discipline is inferior, yet we shall be found much better than you.  For you forbid, and yet commit, adulteries; we are born men only for our own wives:  you punish crimes when committed; with us, even to think of crimes is to sin:  you are afraid of those who are aware of what you do; we are even afraid of our own conscience alone, without which we cannot exist:  finally, from your numbers the prison boils over; but there is no Christian there, unless he is accused on account of his religion, or a deserter.


Christians have always been scumbags who believe in 7 day creation and eternal hellfire. Quit with this post-revisionism.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2012, 10:05:41 PM by Add Homonym »
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Offline joebbowers

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Not to mention other religions had their own versions of hell long before Christianity came along. Hades, anyone?
"Do you see a problem with insisting that the normal ways in which you determine fact from fiction is something you have to turn off in order to maintain the belief in God?" - JeffPT

Offline Add Homonym

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Not to mention other religions had their own versions of hell long before Christianity came along. Hades, anyone?

That's what Felix is saying. The Greeks had their own eternal torments. He is reasoning that because they have them, then Christians are being quite reasonable.

I think that hell can only be tracked back as far as human writing. There was one religion I can't remember the name of that claimed to have it a few thousand years BC. Could have been a precursor to Zoroastrianism.
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Offline jeremy0

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Christians have always been scumbags who believe in 7 day creation and eternal hellfire. Quit with this post-revisionism.
Ah - I stand corrected.  I didn't know that..
Why don't christians see this err when it's so easy for them to see the errors in Muslim religion, for example?  This eternal hellfire was another reason I left Christianity.  The story you gave looks like some writing at the time to try and paint up the christians of the time as the better of the bunch, which is lame on their part. 
This would explain why I had so much trouble with christians all this time - they don't want me in their heaven, and they see it as correct to 'burn me'.  Just the other day I overheard a guy working at starbucks asking one of the other people if he could 'innocently hate on ___'.  I'm sure that the endless torture of people who don't happen to believe in Christianity are automatically damned to hell and that is completely innocent...
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Online ParkingPlaces

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I'm sorry I brought it up guys. I forgot that we had all the answers. My bad.
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Offline screwtape

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The book I was reading was an old book on the history of Judaism.  I believe I was reading about the Canaanites, because they have a reference to 'El Shaddai', which was another worshipped god. 

yeah.  They had a lot of Els, the plural of which is "elohim"[1].  "El of this place", "El of another place", "El of my grandma".  And they were distinct Els, not different names of The One True El.  Lots of little gods.  But, when the israelites and judaeans mixed into one people, Josaiah consolidated all of the Els and yhwhs into one guy, in one place, where he could control him.  He put god in a box.  Or, a tabernacle.

But the book I read said they believed heavily in magic, like controlling the forces of nature.

They still do.  It is called "kabbalah".  When I was religious, I was very interested in the occult.  I found a book called "a dictionary of angels"[2]. It had all sorts of spells and weird magic incantations in the back, mostly from kabbalah.  I tried them.  They didn't work. 

It also had instructions for making a magic carpet.  I didn't try that.  Give it a shot.  Let me know if you can get it up and running.  I'd like to have one.


 1. not coincidentally, one of the "names of god"
 2. http://www.amazon.com/Dictionary-Angels-Including-Fallen/dp/002907052X
cool book, actually.  I think I still have a copy somewhere...
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Offline jeremy0

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The book I was reading was an old book on the history of Judaism.  I believe I was reading about the Canaanites, because they have a reference to 'El Shaddai', which was another worshipped god. 

yeah.  They had a lot of Els, the plural of which is "elohim"[1].  "El of this place", "El of another place", "El of my grandma".  And they were distinct Els, not different names of The One True El.  Lots of little gods.  But, when the israelites and judaeans mixed into one people, Josaiah consolidated all of the Els and yhwhs into one guy, in one place, where he could control him.  He put god in a box.  Or, a tabernacle.

But the book I read said they believed heavily in magic, like controlling the forces of nature.

They still do.  It is called "kabbalah".  When I was religious, I was very interested in the occult.  I found a book called "a dictionary of angels"[2]. It had all sorts of spells and weird magic incantations in the back, mostly from kabbalah.  I tried them.  They didn't work. 

It also had instructions for making a magic carpet.  I didn't try that.  Give it a shot.  Let me know if you can get it up and running.  I'd like to have one.
 1. not coincidentally, one of the "names of god"
 2. http://www.amazon.com/Dictionary-Angels-Including-Fallen/dp/002907052X
cool book, actually.  I think I still have a copy somewhere...
sweet.  magic carpet.  I wish i could have one...  Thanks for the backtrace.
"If you find yourself reaching for the light, first realize that it has already touched your finger."
"If I were your god, I would have no reason for judgement, and you have all told endless lies about me.  Wait - you do already. I am not amused by your ignorance, thoughtlessness, and shallow mind."

Offline jaimehlers

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Think for a moment what it must have been like for the earliest civilizations, at the mercy of nature, having to fend off wild animals, having no defenses against illness and no real understanding of why people got sick except for purely empirical evidence they could find with the five senses.  They must have been truly desperate to try to find some way to feel like they weren't completely helpless in a world which sometimes seemed to be doing its utmost to kill them, and other times seemed to love and care for them greatly.

Think about why people came up with fairy tales.  Think about the "moral of the story".  Think about the way many of the Biblical stories read if taken as metaphorical, cautionary tales against human traits rather than literal instructions on how to act or not act.  I could go on and on, but I think the point is clear.

I am not trying to suggest that modern religion fulfills much of a meaningful purpose today.  And religion has led to a lot of problems for people as a whole.  But understanding why it came about and that it had an understandable purpose, one that made sense at the time, makes the argument against it far stronger today.

Offline Tero

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Joseph McCabe died 1955 and wrote this sometime before that
http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/joseph_mccabe/religious_controversy/chapter_02.html#2

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In point of fact, it is false that all nations or peoples believe in God. I have just quoted a most experienced and devoted missionary saying that the Yabgans had no religious belief whatever, and missionaries never err on the side of Rationalism! We shall see that not one of the peoples described in this chapter believe in any kind of God, and even higher peoples, whom we shall describe later, have no God or gods. The human race does not begin with Monotheism, or a revelation, and degenerate from it. On every strict test of facts, it begins without religion, then believes in spirits of the dead, next in Polytheism, and finally in Monotheism.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2012, 10:15:02 PM by Tero »

Offline gonegolfing

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Quote from: jeremy0
Did you know yahweh was actually started with the jewish sect that believed in magic and worshipped things like trees?  I read this while studying past religions..

Do you have a source?  I am very interested in the origins of judaism. If you can torpedo judaism, xianity falls with it.

It was from a book in the library.  You can probably find it by looking up the history of Christianity or something, or the history of the Christian or Jewish God.  I read it so long ago, so I don't remember the author or the title, sorry.

I read this book last year and it's give some ideas on Judaism and its roots. It's a tad dated but quite informative as it stands. The book clearly indicates that judaism has very strong roots taken from the religions of Persia and India and Egypt.......Mo was after all a schismatic Egyption.

It came at it from the idea of sex in religion and it's a chick that wrote it, so I just had to see what it was all about.

A fair to good read  ;)

It's available at Gutenberg:
http://gutenberg.org/ebooks/639

 
The God-Idea of the Ancients (or Sex in Religion) By Eliza Burt Gamble

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliza_Gamble

« Last Edit: April 16, 2012, 10:01:41 AM by gonegolfing »
"I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism"....Penn Jillette.

Offline jaimehlers

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Joseph McCabe died 1955 and wrote this sometime before that
http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/joseph_mccabe/religious_controversy/chapter_02.html#2
However, shortly earlier in that text, McCabe alludes to their belief in "phantoms" which can harm them in this life.  This may not have been a religion in the sense of worshiping/propitiating something, but it certainly was the precursor of what could easily become a religious belief.