Author Topic: Gnostic Christianity- Somewhat reasonable nswers to your questions. [#1360]  (Read 1179 times)

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Offline DL


My religion is Gnostic Christianity. It has some changes to the normal Christian beliefs:

1) No H*ll, no Satan.

2) Bad people go to Heaven. Bad people that hate God, even if they knew he was real, after death, go straight into a fetus and become reborn.

3) We plan out our lives before we are born. In heaven, we plan out every aspect of our life (our looks, our family, our friends, jobs), it's just how you play out your life. So, if your arm gets cut off, you planned that, if you get Cancer, you planned that, if you get Cancer and get healed, you chose for it to get healed. God is there to help you along the way throughout each life.

4) The Bible is outdated, changed over time, and written by biblical characters that interpreted God's words (I think.) Now-a-days the things in the Bible can mean a number of things. Give a scripture to 100 people, you're sure to get many different ways to explain the scripture. I go by the Ten commandments only, not that will effect where I will go in my afterlife, we just come here to learn lessons and try to become a better person, and the commandments help me do it.

Along many other things. Please ask me questions and I will try to the best of my ability to answer without leaving things like "Because God wants it that way for some mysterious reason" or something along those lines.

Offline Hermes

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Really?  A Gnostic Christian?  I was under the impression that;

1. The Gnostics were wiped out.

2. The Gnosticism was a religion based on the introduction of answers to mysteries that an initiate would not immediately learn but would be allowed to learn only after they were considered worthy.

3. Those mysteries were never written down.

If I'm off the mark, feel free to offer corrections.

I'll address your comments in another message.

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The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline Hermes

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My religion is Gnostic Christianity. It has some changes to the normal Christian beliefs:

1) No H*ll, no Satan.

Satan as an evil demon was probably borrowed from the Zoroastrians, Hell from the Greeks and Egyptians.  Many more connections beyond those, of course.

2) Bad people go to Heaven. Bad people that hate God, even if they knew he was real, after death, go straight into a fetus and become reborn.

Question: How can someone hate an entity they don't think is real?  (I take it as implied from your comment "even if they knew he was real".)

That said, there is no such thing as an afterlife or reincarnation, because there is no such thing as a soul.

If you don't think I am being serious, or that I am mistaken, I would be glad to provide details and we can talk about them.  If you show that I am mistaken, even if not definitively, then I will go with what is most probable.  Why deny reality?

3) We plan out our lives before we are born. In heaven, we plan out every aspect of our life (our looks, our family, our friends, jobs), it's just how you play out your life. So, if your arm gets cut off, you planned that, if you get Cancer, you planned that, if you get Cancer and get healed, you chose for it to get healed. God is there to help you along the way throughout each life.

See the above comment on souls.

As someone who writes fiction, I can assure you that even fictional characters don't always plan what they will do next -- and if they are worth consideration they don't even follow orders!

4) The Bible is outdated, changed over time, and written by biblical characters that interpreted God's words (I think.) Now-a-days the things in the Bible can mean a number of things. Give a scripture to 100 people, you're sure to get many different ways to explain the scripture. I go by the Ten commandments only, not that will effect where I will go in my afterlife, we just come here to learn lessons and try to become a better person, and the commandments help me do it.

The Decalogue appears in multiple places and is only part of Hebrew law.  It has decidedly negative aspects to it, and is not a very good moral guide.

Two commentators said it better than I can;

1. George Carlin: The Ten Commandments

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkRYaMiP4K8[/youtube]

2. Sam Harris;

Quote
"You and I both know that it would take us five minutes to produce a book that offers a more coherent and compassionate morality than the Bible does."

Source: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Secular-Philosophies/Is-Religion-Built-Upon-Lies.aspx?p=3

Along many other things. Please ask me questions and I will try to the best of my ability to answer without leaving things like "Because God wants it that way for some mysterious reason" or something along those lines.

It's appreciated.  If you don't know, saying 'I don't know' is perfectly valid and sometimes greatly preferred.
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Online Nam

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I've never heard of a Gnostic Christian such as yourself, I've heard of this kind: Gnostic Christian -- but not your kind.

-Nam
This thread is about lab-grown dicks, not some mincy, old, British poof of an actor. 

Let's get back on topic, please.


Offline Ashe

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Maybe the OP is a True Gnostic Christian.  ;D
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Offline GotMooo

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Quote

My religion is Gnostic Christianity. It has some changes to the normal Christian beliefs:

1) No H*ll, no Satan.

2) Bad people go to Heaven. Bad people that hate God, even if they knew he was real, after death, go straight into a fetus and become reborn.

3) We plan out our lives before we are born. In heaven, we plan out every aspect of our life (our looks, our family, our friends, jobs), it's just how you play out your life. So, if your arm gets cut off, you planned that, if you get Cancer, you planned that, if you get Cancer and get healed, you chose for it to get healed. God is there to help you along the way throughout each life.

4) The Bible is outdated, changed over time, and written by biblical characters that interpreted God's words (I think.) Now-a-days the things in the Bible can mean a number of things. Give a scripture to 100 people, you're sure to get many different ways to explain the scripture. I go by the Ten commandments only, not that will effect where I will go in my afterlife, we just come here to learn lessons and try to become a better person, and the commandments help me do it.

Along many other things. Please ask me questions and I will try to the best of my ability to answer without leaving things like "Because God wants it that way for some mysterious reason" or something along those lines.

Sounds like you believe life is just a big reality show, or video game.  If you are up to standard, you get to live in paradise for eternity, otherwise you have to start all over again and try to achieve perfection (completion).

Offline velkyn

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My religion is Gnostic Christianity. It has some changes to the normal Christian beliefs:

1) No H*ll, no Satan.

2) Bad people go to Heaven. Bad people that hate God, even if they knew he was real, after death, go straight into a fetus and become reborn.

3) We plan out our lives before we are born. In heaven, we plan out every aspect of our life (our looks, our family, our friends, jobs), it's just how you play out your life. So, if your arm gets cut off, you planned that, if you get Cancer, you planned that, if you get Cancer and get healed, you chose for it to get healed. God is there to help you along the way throughout each life.

4) The Bible is outdated, changed over time, and written by biblical characters that interpreted God's words (I think.) Now-a-days the things in the Bible can mean a number of things. Give a scripture to 100 people, you're sure to get many different ways to explain the scripture. I go by the Ten commandments only, not that will effect where I will go in my afterlife, we just come here to learn lessons and try to become a better person, and the commandments help me do it.

Along many other things. Please ask me questions and I will try to the best of my ability to answer without leaving things like "Because God wants it that way for some mysterious reason" or something along those lines.

congratulations, you've done no more than make up your own religion like every other theist.  You want heaven because it makes you feel good, you don't like hell so *poof* it doesn't exist. 
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Offline chiefy

"congratulations, you've done no more than make up your own religion like every other theist.  You want heaven because it makes you feel good, you don't like hell so *poof* it doesn't exist."

Okay, listen you stupid sons-of-a-bitches, this so called "fake religion"has been around since the "fake" times of "Jesus", so it's not made up at all. Making up a religion is about as stupid as making a fucking sculpture of shit and praising it. This form of Gnostic Christianity just seems to make more sense than normal Christianity (and not made by me, you fucktards).

Offline Hermes

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Chiefy, welcome to the forums.  Are you the person who sent the original letter? ("My religion is Gnostic Christianity. It has some ...")

If so, I hope that you see my comments as thoughtful and not abusive, even if they are blunt and not completely supported.  I will be glad to support anything I've written, and will retract anything I can not properly support or discover I was mistaken on.

My first reply was one of shock, not sarcasm, and from what I know of Gnostic Christianity would mean the chain was broken at the point that the Gnostics were prosecuted.  Yet, I don't consider what I know about Gnostics to be definitive at all.

My second reply was specifically in response to your comments, and were posted in the spirit that you would be open to being challenged and to correct, clarify, or (as necessary) challenge any comments I made.
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Offline GotMooo

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Quote from: chiefy
Okay, listen you stupid sons-of-a-bitches, this so called "fake religion"has been around since the "fake" times of "Jesus", so it's not made up at all.

You just validated all other ancient religions.

Offline DaBungalow

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Wow. This guy's gonna be fun.

Offline deconvertedone

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I noticed the OP doesn't have full confidence in his answers as they are only "somewhat" reasonable.
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Offline jedweber

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No, Hermes, I think you're right. The original gnostics were wiped out, and their mysteries and "secret knowledge" were lost. So I think some people today just make stuff up and call it "gnostic". For example, the scam psychic Sylvia Browne has her own church which she calls "gnostic Christian."

There do seem to be some serious people around who are trying to revive gnosticism, though. Like the guys who run this site:

http://www.gnosis.org/eghome.htm

They use authentic gnostic texts as scriptures and apparently have a few churches on the west coast.

Offline Cycle4Fun

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Okay, listen you stupid sons-of-a-bitches, this so called "fake religion"has been around since the "fake" times of "Jesus", so it's not made up at all. Making up a religion is about as stupid as making a f**king sculpture of s**t and praising it. This form of Gnostic Christianity just seems to make more sense than normal Christianity (and not made by me, you f**ktards).

I agree.  Making up a religion is as stupid as making a sculpture out of poo and praising it.  Unfortunately, man has been making up religion since pre-history.  Your religion is no different.  Unless you have evidence to the contrary of course.

As to Jesus, the son of God.  There is no evidence he ever existed.  All we have are copies of copies a hundred times removed of writings by people who lived well after the guy's death.  There really is no evidence that there ever has been a time of Jesus, the son of God.
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Offline Operator_013

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"congratulations, you've done no more than make up your own religion like every other theist.  You want heaven because it makes you feel good, you don't like hell so *poof* it doesn't exist."

Okay, listen you stupid sons-of-a-bitches, this so called "fake religion"has been around since the "fake" times of "Jesus", so it's not made up at all. Making up a religion is about as stupid as making a f**king sculpture of s**t and praising it. This form of Gnostic Christianity just seems to make more sense than normal Christianity (and not made by me, you f**ktards).

chiefy,

I suggest that, before you make another post on this forum, you familiarize yourself with the forum rules. Excessive vulgarity and flames are not appropriate. If you are not prepared to abide by the rules, your welcome here will be curtailed.

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Offline screwtape

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"congratulations, you've done no more than make up your own religion like every other theist.  You want heaven because it makes you feel good, you don't like hell so *poof* it doesn't exist."

Okay, listen you stupid sons-of-a-bitches, this so called "fake religion"has been around since the "fake" times of "Jesus", so it's not made up at all. Making up a religion is about as stupid as making a fucking sculpture of shit and praising it. This form of Gnostic Christianity just seems to make more sense than normal Christianity (and not made by me, you fucktards).

I love it when the "jesus is love" types lose their shit.  It shows that beneath the phoney-baloney facade, they are obnoxious apes, like the rest of us.
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Offline Odin

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My religion is Gnostic Christianity. It has some changes to the normal Christian beliefs:

...Please ask me questions and I will try to the best of my ability to answer without leaving things like "Because God wants it that way for some mysterious reason" or something along those lines.

From what I've read, the Gnostics practiced some secret rituals which helped reveal the spirtual world to them.  Have you praticed any of those rituals, and if so, what were the results.

Odin, King of the Gods

P.S. - Ignore these other obnoxious "sons-of-a-bitches."

Offline velkyn

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"congratulations, you've done no more than make up your own religion like every other theist.  You want heaven because it makes you feel good, you don't like hell so *poof* it doesn't exist."

Okay, listen you stupid sons-of-a-bitches, this so called "fake religion"has been around since the "fake" times of "Jesus", so it's not made up at all. Making up a religion is about as stupid as making a f**king sculpture of s**t and praising it. This form of Gnostic Christianity just seems to make more sense than normal Christianity (and not made by me, you f**ktards).

my my.  And how could I possibly doubt someone like you.   &)
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Offline chiefy

Anyways, I found out there are Biblical contradictions to this religion, though the Bible itself is so muddled it contradicts itself for some parts, so for now, I'm reverting back to Non-denominational Christian.

And sorry for swearing back there.   :P

Offline chiefy

And please do show me definitive proof that souls cannot possibly exist. If you have proof, then why don't atheists use that a lot to try and disprove religion? At least, I have never seen them have.


And just wondering, why did you pick the name Hermes? The Greek god messenger...? Why?

Offline Hermes

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Chiefy, looking at your posting style so far on the forums, I expect a change if you want to carry on a conversation.

I expect that you will limit the number of questions you have to me to a minimum.  I also expect that you will spend some effort to answer your own questions before burdening me with the task.  If you have nothing but unexamined questions for me, then expect terse answers if any.  OK?

And please do show me definitive proof that souls cannot possibly exist.

Proof?  No.  That's for math and abstract logic only; systems that are self-referential and closed.

If you have proof, then why don't atheists use that a lot to try and disprove religion? At least, I have never seen them have.

Let's get something clear: some atheists do indeed believe that there are souls and/or that an afterlife of some sort is possible.  So, what I say is not universal.

Of the atheists who think there is no such thing as an afterlife and/or souls, I'm sure most of them  haven't written down what they know since such things are not worthy of consideration in day to day life.  I didn't even bother till this last year, and then only because of being annoyed with the whole carrot and stick Pascal's Wager nonsense.

Now, to the issue of effectiveness when presented to theists (usually Christians, though this applies to any beliefs that require dualism between a body and a spirit, including those who believe in reincarnation).

I usually get no responses when I post it.  Even though there are some flaws I'm aware of, and some gaps that need concrete examples, someone could spend the time to focus in on those issues if they wanted to.  Yet, when someone does respond they either start to tackle it and give up in a rant or incoherence, or they say something like 'You're still wrong even though I agree with everything on your list'.  To show that I'm wrong isn't that hard.  That is, it shouldn't be that hard if I am indeed wrong.

Yet, to be blunt, I think most supernatural spiritualists -- afterlife or reincarnation believers -- have loads of doubt about an afterlife and/or souls.  Regardless of confidence, to most of them, it wasn't the reason why they came to their religious or social beliefs.  It's icing.  It's marketing.  It's a carrot.  It's a stick.  It's cheesy like a pink flamingo on the lawn, or a year-round lawn creche.

Additionally, and to be practical, would you only use an argument that is long and potentially demanding, even when presented in a condensed headline version?

See the attachment below for a condensed version.

And just wondering, why did you pick the name Hermes? The Greek god messenger...? Why?

Oh, so you are talking to me.  I almost didn't reply to your message because it seemed like you were writing a general comment.

As for Hermes, why should I use a pseudonym?   ;D



How can anyone get to an afterlife if there is no such thing as an incorporeal soul?  You can't; even if Heaven exists, nothing that ever was alive will ever get there.

Consider my more modest wall of words that I never get a complete answer to;

===========================================

"Where will I go when I die?"

I know the answer to that.  When I'm alive, I am -- when I'm dead, I am not.

Here's the long version;

Summary: There is no such thing as a soul.  Because of that, there is no existence for us after our lives are over.  That's why it's called death.

How can I write that with any confidence?

Think about what we know -- what we can actually check and examine.  Think about what we do not need to speculate about -- on both life and death.

1. Death is not a clear line; on one side alive, on the other completely dead.

Death happens in stages as individual cells no longer retain integrity for a variety of reasons, often because of oxygen starvation from organ failure or trauma that prevents the blood from circulating.  Parts of us are dying and new cells are being made all the time.

2. Organ transplants.  Even when 'we' cease to be, parts of us are still coherent, allowing organ transplants.  There is even a method of blood extraction from corpses that is used occasionally.

3. All of our thoughts while we are alive are contained in a structure of neurons.  This can be seen in a variety of well documented cases from Phineas Gage through to the impacts of severing the corpus colosum and the impacts of traumas such as strokes and alzheimers as well as the structures found that map nerves to a variety of tasks and thoughts.

4. When people start to die, the brain is frequently one of the last organs to be starved of oxygen.

5. The 'tunnel of light' is caused by the visual cortex losing oxygen and the remaining parts of the brain attempting to deal with that.  The same 'tunnel' can be simulated.  Pilots experience this when they use a centrifuge under high G forces for training or to test new gear.  Both these are documented and can be duplicated with the proper equipment and/or circumstances.

6. People who live after being through this oxygen starvation tell stories based on their brain's attempt to deal with the stress.  They talk about 'flash backs', they talk about 'stepping outside' of themselves and seeing themselves.  The same thing the pilots in the centrifuges report.

7. The more time the brain or any organ is starved, the more damage.

8. People don't act any differently from more damage (that brings them closer to complete death and thus an 'afterlife') then other victims of brain damage.

9. When people 'come back' from 'the dead' their bodies have not suffered complete cell death; they weren't completely dead.

10. When cell death is complete, there is no place for 'us' to stand; there is no way to 'see the other side' and return to talk about it.

11. Think back to #3.  Now, with that in mind, where do 'we' go if our brains suffer a stroke or other damage?  Are there surpluses of souls hanging around, waiting for brain damage before they can be inserted into a live body?
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Offline tunghaichuan

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Really?  A Gnostic Christian?  I was under the impression that;1. The Gnostics were wiped out.

True. The Church systematically and brutally tortured and killed many Gnostics after Constantine made Christianity the state religion of Rome. The Church also had a nasty habit of burning their "heretical" books. In fact up until the Nag Hammadi library was discovered in 1945 the only things known about Gnostics and Gnosticism was from criticism written by opponents in the Church.

2. The Gnosticism was a religion based on the introduction of answers to mysteries that an initiate would not immediately learn but would be allowed to learn only after they were considered worthy.

Gnosticism was based on the idea that God could be known through immediate direct experience, IOW, knowledge. The analogy that makes the most sense to me is that you can know that fire will burn you. You can measure the heat, and measure the temperature which burns flesh. You can also measure the pain response of others who have been burned. But until you are actually burned you have no direct knowledge of it. The Gnostic Christians didn't care about faith, they cared about knowledge. They didn''t care about the writings about Jesus, they wanted to be like him, knowing God in an immediate, personal way.

3. Those mysteries were never written down.

Hard to tell. The early Church burned a lot of their writings as heresy. Later when the Nag Hammadi library was found, the shepherd who found the scrolls burned quite a few of them for heat, so much of their history and beliefs have been lost forever.

One example that comes to mind is the Gospel of Thomas. It states that it is the secret teachings of Jesus and anyone who reads and understands it "will not taste death."

There is some debate as to whether the Gnostics referred to themselves as "Gnostics." They certainly used the word "gnosis" in their writings, but there is no evidence that there was an organized group who called themselves Gnostics.

tung
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Offline tunghaichuan

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My religion is Gnostic Christianity. It has some changes to the normal Christian beliefs:

1) No H*ll, no Satan.


Some of the Gnostics believed that the God of Abraham, i.e., YHWH was Satan, the Cathars in particular. At the very least, most of the ancient Gnostics believed that the creator of the world was not God. They believed the true God was above and beyond and had nothing to do with the creation of the Earth. They believed that the creator was a blind, capricious, malicious, and/or malevolent being and that the Earth was created out of his arrogance. They called him the demiurge, Saklas, Yaltaboath, and Saklas among other things. This is how the Gnostics explained the sheer evil written in the Old Testament.

Many of the Gnostics believed that the Earth was Hell. Human beings were created by a semi-divine being (the demiurge) and were spiritual beings (the "divine spark") trapped in corrupt human bodies.  Humans suffered and died and kept being reincarnated into corrupt bodies, trapped forever until they could escape through gnosis. They believed this was the only escape, faith was not enough to accomplish this.


2) Bad people go to Heaven. Bad people that hate God, even if they knew he was real, after death, go straight into a fetus and become reborn.

See above.

3) We plan out our lives before we are born. In heaven, we plan out every aspect of our life (our looks, our family, our friends, jobs), it's just how you play out your life. So, if your arm gets cut off, you planned that, if you get Cancer, you planned that, if you get Cancer and get healed, you chose for it to get healed. God is there to help you along the way throughout each life.

I've never heard this of classical Gnosticism.

4) The Bible is outdated, changed over time, and written by biblical characters that interpreted God's words (I think.) Now-a-days the things in the Bible can mean a number of things. Give a scripture to 100 people, you're sure to get many different ways to explain the scripture. I go by the Ten commandments only, not that will effect where I will go in my afterlife, we just come here to learn lessons and try to become a better person, and the commandments help me do it.

The Gnostics only considered gnosis to be truth, that is direct experience with God. Their "scripture" was never meant to be taken as anything but transformative myth. In fact, they were critical of the Old Testament and gave a reversed interpretation of the Garden of Eden story. God trapped Adam and Eve and forbade them knowledge. The serpent (who was associated with either Sophia [greek for "wisdom" and the mother of the demiurge] or Jesus) was actually the hero of the story. The serpent showed Eve that she could attain knowledge through eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (gnosis).

tung


« Last Edit: May 16, 2009, 10:35:00 AM by tunghaichuan »
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Offline Hermes

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Tunghaichuan, welcome to the forums, and thank you for the information.  Usually I don't learn much from these discussions in one big chunk, so it is good to have an opportunity to get a summary of a whole area I haven't researched in any detail yet.  I appreciate your insight and knowledge.

I have a few highly loaded questions that may require complex answers to properly address.  If you could take a look and provide some kind of response or pointers to good resources where the answer can not be briefly provided, I would appreciate it.  (Feel free to restate/mangle my questions or answer something more appropriate if I'm too wide of the mark to provide a proper reply to my original questions.)

Is it true that Gnosticism in general is broader than just that one religious group?  There seems to be quite a bit of bleed through between the regional pantheon and religions starting from around Turkey through to Egypt in the south and Iraq in the West.  Specifically, the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and the Zoroastrians (their prime demon seems to be closer to the Christian Satan/Devil (evil intent) than the Hebrew Satan (adjudicator and servant)).  These religious groups -- with Gnostic characteristics or not -- are much muddier than the western pantheon and religious groupings that were regional (different areas in Northern Europe) or Mediterranean (Greek to Rome and some back to Egypt).

Getting back to Gnosticism, the mystery part seems to have partially transfered to Christianity, just as the demon has transfered from the Zoroastrians.  (Agree/disagree/clarify-or-tweak?)
 
Note: I'm differentiating between Gnostic (a formal group or belief system with a capital G), as opposed to gnostic (lowercase g) from the Greek which is a claim to knowledge as opposed to agnostic (not Huxley) meaning no claim to knowledge.

Really?  A Gnostic Christian?  I was under the impression that;1. The Gnostics were wiped out.

True. The Church systematically and brutally tortured and killed many Gnostics after Constantine made Christianity the state religion of Rome. The Church also had a nasty habit of burning their "heretical" books. In fact up until the Nag Hammadi library was discovered in 1945 the only things known about Gnostics and Gnosticism was from criticism written by opponents in the Church.

Interesting.  The Dead Sea Scrolls get plenty of press, but not the Gnostic texts, even though they were discovered around the same time.

(The last part -- criticism and other commentary -- can be interesting from a cultural anthropological point of view, though it is better to have the texts as well to see what the fuss was about!)

2. The Gnosticism was a religion based on the introduction of answers to mysteries that an initiate would not immediately learn but would be allowed to learn only after they were considered worthy.

Gnosticism was based on the idea that God could be known through immediate direct experience, IOW, knowledge. The analogy that makes the most sense to me is that you can know that fire will burn you. You can measure the heat, and measure the temperature which burns flesh. You can also measure the pain response of others who have been burned. But until you are actually burned you have no direct knowledge of it. The Gnostic Christians didn't care about faith, they cared about knowledge. They didn''t care about the writings about Jesus, they wanted to be like him, knowing God in an immediate, personal way.

Hmmm.  So, why are they often referred to as a "mystery cult"?  The "cult" part can be seen and discarded as slander.  Can the "mystery" part be described as slanderous or (less harshly) an intentional bit of politicking?

3. Those mysteries were never written down.

Hard to tell. The early Church burned a lot of their writings as heresy. Later when the Nag Hammadi library was found, the shepherd who found the scrolls burned quite a few of them for heat, so much of their history and beliefs have been lost forever.

Damn.  So much has been lost over the years.  If I invent a time machine, I'll have to remember to pack a case of chemical logs!

One example that comes to mind is the Gospel of Thomas. It states that it is the secret teachings of Jesus and anyone who reads and understands it "will not taste death."

There is some debate as to whether the Gnostics referred to themselves as "Gnostics." They certainly used the word "gnosis" in their writings, but there is no evidence that there was an organized group who called themselves Gnostics.

Thank you.
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

Offline tunghaichuan

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Tunghaichuan, welcome to the forums, and thank you for the information.  Usually I don't learn much from these discussions in one big chunk, so it is good to have an opportunity to get a summary of a whole area I haven't researched in any detail yet.  I appreciate your insight and knowledge.

Thanks for the kind words, but I do not claim to be an expert. There are huge gaps in my knowledge. I'll try my best to answer your questions.

Is it true that Gnosticism in general is broader than just that one religious group?  There seems to be quite a bit of bleed through between the regional pantheon and religions starting from around Turkey through to Egypt in the south and Iraq in the West.  Specifically, the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and the Zoroastrians (their prime demon seems to be closer to the Christian Satan/Devil (evil intent) than the Hebrew Satan (adjudicator and servant)).  These religious groups -- with Gnostic characteristics or not -- are much muddier than the western pantheon and religious groupings that were regional (different areas in Northern Europe) or Mediterranean (Greek to Rome and some back to Egypt).

I believe that is true, it is broader than just one religious group. Remember that at the time of the formation of Christianity, there wasn't one central body controlling what was written about Jesus. There were many groups with many beliefs. If we are to believe that Jesus actually existed, then he addressed many groups of people and said many things. This is born out in that there were many "gospels" floating about. The four that were canonized said Jesus was divine. Some some groups (not necessarily gnostic) denied the divinity of Jesus and produced their own accounts of his life.

Gnosis can be considered a larger term for any religion or philosophy that espouses knowledge over faith, but a special kind of knowledge: direct experiential contact with God, which  is the only truth, so there is  no use for "scripture." As I pointed out in the previous post, there is no evidence that their writings were anything more than transformative myth.

Some of the groups believed in Jesus, some didn't. Some believed in the divinity of Jesus, some didn't. The way I think of it is that what we now call "Gnosticism" is the mystical branch of Christianity. Likewise Kabballah, the mystical branch of Judaism and Sufiism, the mystical branch of Islam, could rightly be considered gnostic.

The best place to start is the Nag Hammadi library:

http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhlalpha.html

In fact, the whole site is a treasure trove of information:

http://gnosis.org/welcome.html

Getting back to Gnosticism, the mystery part seems to have partially transfered to Christianity, just as the demon has transfered from the Zoroastrians.  (Agree/disagree/clarify-or-tweak?)
 
Note: I'm differentiating between Gnostic (a formal group or belief system with a capital G), as opposed to gnostic (lowercase g) from the Greek which is a claim to knowledge as opposed to agnostic (not Huxley) meaning no claim to knowledge.

From what I've read of the formation of early Christianity, it seems to me that some Gnostic sects adopted Jesus as their savior. Gnosticism may have started out as pagan and there is evidence that it predates Christianity. As Christianity became more and more popular and accepted, these sects adopted some of the Christian beliefs. I do not know this to be true, but history is muddied due to the Catholic church burning much of the writings as heresy.

Here is some basic information

http://jordanstratford.blogspot.com/2008/01/gnosticism-101.html

http://jordanstratford.blogspot.com/2008/01/gnosticism-102-gnostic-world-view.html

But it also could have been that some Christian sects adopted Gnostic ideas and incorporated them into their beliefs as you stated. It is not clear to me.


Interesting.  The Dead Sea Scrolls get plenty of press, but not the Gnostic texts, even though they were discovered around the same time.

(The last part -- criticism and other commentary -- can be interesting from a cultural anthropological point of view, though it is better to have the texts as well to see what the fuss was about!)

Hmmm.  So, why are they often referred to as a "mystery cult"?  The "cult" part can be seen and discarded as slander.  Can the "mystery" part be described as slanderous or (less harshly) an intentional bit of politicking?
My feeling is that the victors write history. The Catholic Church persecuted most of the Gnostics out of existence over the last 1500 years or so. The Gnostics became the heretics, and the Church became orthodox. Also, the Gnostics were not followers. It was up to each individual to guarantee his/her own salvation. They did not take anything on faith. The Church did not like this as they could not control the Gnostics.

There are lots of neo-Gnostic churches these days. Gnostic thought is enjoying a resurgence. However, many of them have adopted Catholic trappings with a "gnostic" message as a lot of knowledge has been lost. They use the Nag Hammadi Library as their scripture, although there is no evidence that it was ever meant as such. There are even fellows going around calling themselves "bishops."

All these so called "Gnostic" churches that are springing up give me a bad feeling. Organized religion gives me the willies, no matter what the content of the message is. My feeling is that it is just a matter of time before their teachings become dogma which, IMHO, is counter to what the Gnostics believed.

For further reading I recommend:

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels

(Pagels is a Catholic and Biblical scholar who was among the first to translate the Nag Hammadi scrolls.)

When Jesus Became God by Richard Rubenstein

HTH,

tung

There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. - Kurt Vonnegut

Offline velkyn

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Anyways, I found out there are Biblical contradictions to this religion, though the Bible itself is so muddled it contradicts itself for some parts, so for now, I'm reverting back to Non-denominational Christian.

And sorry for swearing back there.   :P

"Non-denominational Christian"  AKA I pick and choose what I like out ofthe bible and claim that what I don't like God didn't "really mean". 

now, as for the posts from Tunghaichuan, it may be that the victors write history, but if one actually believes in a God that takes action for its followers, I would think that the default position is that those "victors" were the "TrueChristianstm" since they "won".   
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Offline tunghaichuan

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now, as for the posts from Tunghaichuan, it may be that the victors write history, but if one actually believes in a God that takes action for its followers, I would think that the default position is that those "victors" were the "TrueChristianstm" since they "won".   

I would say that to the orthodox Church, this is correct. They believe that they are the "TrueChristianstm" because they were able to persecute their detractors out of existence.

To the Gnostics, however, the god of the orthodox Church was either evil, blind, capricious, the devil, or any combination of the aforementioned and did take action on behalf of his followers. Their "One God" did not take action on behalf of his followers. Some of the Gnostic Christians believed that the "One God" sent Jesus to show humanity the way of gnosis, but other than this, the One God did not interfere. My understanding of it is that some of the Gnostic Christians believed that Jesus had two sets of teachings: the "outer" or public teachings for the masses which were easy to grasp and the "inner" or secret teachings that would enable a follower to experience the Divine/God personally. They would have thought of themselves as the "TrueChristianstm" as they understood the secrets of gnosis.

The "orthodox" Church fixated on the outer teachings and were able to effectively enslave a large number of followers. Then they were able to wipe out anyone who was not one of the "TrueChristianstm."

The victors may write history, but that doesn't make them right.

tung
There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. - Kurt Vonnegut

Offline jedweber

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I think Tung makes many good points. We label different groups as "gnostic" today because they shared some basic ideas, but I don't know if the gnostics really saw themselves as a single unified movement. They consisted of many different sects which were often known by the names of individual leaders. Thus we have the Valentinians, Carpocratians, followers of Basilides, Sethian gnostics, etc. Some people count Marcion as a gnostic, too, even though he differed with the others in some big ways. These groups peaked at different times and in different places. I don't know how much contact they had with each other, though they must have had some. (The Nag Hammadi library contains texts from different groups, so they must have recognized their common ground.)

The gnostics' lack of organization and diversity of teachings is probably the main reason why they lost out to the orthodox church. Organization defeated inspiration.

In the Middle Ages, groups like the Bogomils and the Cathars of France had gnostic teachings. They must have descended from the earlier gnostics somehow, but we can't trace the line back to the earlier groups because so much has been lost or suppressed.