Monday, April 19, 2010

Pure Religion

There is no such thing as a “categorically pure” religion. It is simply a myth and a potentially dangerous one.

Many streams of my own faith state that they are either the first and true church (Roman Catholics and all the various Orthodox claim this) or a return to the true faith of Christ (which is everyone else). Jesus’ faith was based on a Jewish worldview at a time of oppression. Jesus’ followers went global after his death and what resulted was their own interpretation of who Jesus was coming into conflict with Greco-Roman philosophies (hence the strong Aristotelian and Platonic emphasis) or North African faiths and philosophies (Origen, Augustine, Tertullian, and ecstatic prayer/worship practices). So Christianity wasn’t pure from the on-set! Paul’s letters really expose the diversity of Christian thought and practice as he wrote so much about how one can be Gentile and uncircumcised over against those who disagreed (aka the Super Apostles), and against the Gnostics. So it is my basic assumption that religions adapt, change, and cross-pollinate.

We see this in all major religions, divergent belief systems as the faiths grow and change and meet new contexts.

This changing and adaptation is nature and should be embraced. What doesn’t change in nature soon goes extinct. There are some notable exceptions like the horseshoe crab and alligators and crocodiles that haven’t really changed since they were hanging out with the dinosaurs, but for the most part everything is influx and adapting to new situations. Thus all religions reflect a lived reality. The best and most popular religions are ones that are both pragmatic and metaphoric. These religions seem to give people words for their experience of the world, and the ritual and theology that follow these stories work in the believer’s every day context.


Al said...

I think there is one core matter that is not subject to the adaptation of culture or philosophy--love. As James says, James 1:27 Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

But, we tend to sidestep that and create a whole system of rituals that are very culturally determined, which we will fight to the death to uphold.

Potentially dangerous indeed!

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Al
It is the corruption of the god-deluded people that we need to worry about to. Why make it a god-less vs. god-deluded?

-- A god-less person

Anonymous said...

"We see this in all major religions, divergent belief systems as the faiths grow and change and meet new contexts. This changing and adaptation is nature and should be embraced." (Luke)

I have to agree - I seek the church to change as well. I guess I also don't see too much with growth in the way churches function and think.

I am all for contextualization and making faith manageable in a 21st century. The world got a lot more open in the past 30 years - we have a somewhat knowledgable and multi-ethnic community in the world now. One type of faith experience is just not going to suffice...not everyone from every culture is the same.

Sabio Lantz said...

I agree that there is not "categorically pure" religion. But your solution to those who think they know the true religion seems odd to me. You rightly observe:

religions adapt, change, and cross-pollinate.
-- Luke

But then your apparent contradictory cure is:

This changing and adaptation is nature and should be embraced.
-- Luke

Remember, Luke, exclusive we-are-the-true-faith religions evolved that way for some reason. So by your logic we should just embrace them too. See the contradiction?

It seems you are saying, "We should tolerate all sort of variety in religion -- well, except those who say we should not tolerate others." Likewise, some churches also say we should isolate and limit homosexuals, but you disagree with them and don't want us to tolerate those who attack homosexuals. So you have a whole list of things that have naturally evolved that you think are wrong.

So your solution -- tolerate evolution's biproducts -- seems wrong to me. Remember, evolution does not have our best in mind, all it cares about is survival and reproduction.

So though we agree on much of what we want, I don't see this post offering any real useful suggestion for solution to the problems out there.

Swing for the Fence. said...

Remember, evolution does not have our best in mind, all it cares about is survival and reproduction.(Sabio)

Im not sure how you "know" what evolution cares about, that phrase seems almost god like or delusional in itself. Also when it comes to adaptation of cultures for the best, who gets to decide what it will be?

Sabio Lantz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sabio Lantz said...

* Sabio resists replying for obvious reasons

Anonymous said...

There was only one true Christian, and he died on the cross.

Luke said...

Anon: are you Nietzsche back from the dead to post on my blog? if so, cool! if not, cite your sources.

Luke said...


here's a post that may be of some help: Let's Not and Say We Did

but maybe not. i don't think this post was supposed to offer a solution, just a statement that all religions are cross-bred in ways we can't understand as they are enmeshed with other philosophical and cultural practices. it kinda takes the claim of "pure religion" and intolerant rhetoric of said adherents right out at the knees, don't ya think?

Luke said...

Al, i hear ya. James uses "godless" to mean "aimless and moral-less" in context, so i'm buy'n it.

SVS: the world is pluralistic and becoming more and more so everyday. i'm with ya in helping make a new way to live with one another.

Sabio Lantz said...

An Atheist's Bible Lesson

James 1:27 (the last part)

Here is what James wrote:

ασπιλον εαυτον τηρειν απο του κοσμου

Here is word for word stuff:

ασπιλον -- Without spont, stain or blemish. unsullied
εαυτον -- himself
τηρειν -- to watch over, take care of, keep an eye on, to keep in safety, preserve
απο -- from
του -- the
κοσμου -- kosmos (World)

Here are how different versions translate it:

New International Version
to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

King James Version and American Standard Version
to keep himself unspotted from the world.

New Living Translation
refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Revised Standard Version
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

So, I am amazed that Luke (a self-declared inclusivist) defended the language so unthinkingly to support his fellow Christian. And even if the writer did use Greek that was like that, I would have hoped you jumped in saying we should indeed flee from such old hate filling words used for centuries to persecute nonbelievers.
But no, you jumped right to his defense. My last post was on Tribalism -- it is indeed often very blinding. I was tempted to do a post on this, but ...

Hope you enjoyed the bible lesson from the GODLESS !

Sabio Lantz said...

More "Godless" goodies:

Here is how many places it can be found in the various translations. Oh, and by the way, casually looking, I didn't find James translated once that way (but I may have missed it):

0 - King James Version
0 - Wycliffe New Testament
2 - DBY
10 - American Standard Version
19 - New American Standard Bible
20 - New International Version
20 - Net Bible
22 - Revised Standard Version
25 - Amplified Bible !
30 - NLT

Courtesy of the GodLess

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Luke

I don't think you are tired of being the "thought police".
You want people to behave better and bad thoughts can lead to bad actions.
You want to change (thus police):
- haters of homosexuals, women, races etc
- you want to change exclusivists

You can't have it both ways. You can't do the California Conversation where you always say, "Hey, we all mean the same thing -- peace !"

The religions you criticize are wrong. They evolved to be that way.
They won't hear you when you give your evolution speech. The only ones who will nod their heads are those in the choir.

It was sermons like your last post that made no sense to me that helped me to see through the rhetoric of Christianity. All images but no logic. Hoping that no one catches and everyone walks home on Sunday feeling good. You can ignore the things I am trying to point out if they are of no use to you.

Luke said...

Sabio, WTF are you talking about? aren't you doing tribalism when you labeled yourself "godless"? and what meaning are you deriving from the term "κοσμου" because i have no problem with that phrase from James. i don't think we're arguing about phrase'n or a "plain sense" reading, i think we're arguing on what it MEANS to be unsullied by the world. and i don't see me jumping to the defense of my fellow christians, so.... where did you get that?

touchy today?

"You can't have it both ways"

sure i can!! i can believe anything i want, i can choose the images i want to keep and have no logic behind them at all. so ;-P

however, i have both logic and images and a very clear coherence on both. i am against fundamentalist doctrine and yes, i am after hurtful beliefs, but i also recognize that i gotta create something instead of pointing out the mite in one's eye and ignoring the log in my own... btw, thanks for pointing out that log, but i feel like i know it's there. maybe attacking belief with "facts" is the wrong way to go based on this video... there's gotta be a third option. that third option is only if i get some removal, some objectivity (knowing i can't get total objectivity), and some how get a little less sullied by the world.

your God-Deluded friend.


Al said...

After all of this (maybe even because of it)....
I still think love is very important.

Luke said...

Al: i believe you're right, although not because you're Christian, just because you're right.

oh, and i just realized the irony of this post and the one that was scheduled for today! THOUGHT POLICE! hahaha!

Swing for the Fence. said...

Sabio doesnt do Tribal. He's an atheist and the godless dont form groups. ;)

No need to answer Sab.........Just trolling

Anglican Boy said...

I like this post and it really helps me hold your view much better. Anglicans are both a mix of Catholic and Protestant ideals, yet we are way different from the church described in Acts or even Paul's letters.

As for Sabio, I found this interesting: Why make it a god-less vs. god-deluded? -- A god-less person

You ask the question and then put yourself in your "tribe" so to speak. If anyone is sacrificing themselves on the altar of exclusion, it would be you doing it to yourself. Luke nor any one else here is doing so. It also stands to reason that Luke is not saying tolerate everyone just thinking on his posts on atonement. I think his goal is understanding. I am hoping to get there myself, but I have plenty of baggage to let go of before that happens.

Sabio Lantz said...

I will leave you boys to your theist-fest. Enjoy

Anglican Boy said...

You can dish it but not take it. Your true colors come out. After all the crap you gave me, and this is your response? I was expecting a little bit more, you disappoint.

Sabio Lantz said...

OK Anglican Boy, I will repeat:

(1) Trying to convince people to be tolerant by arguing that "we all evolve and the mix is beautiful" is nonsense. But you all let the sloppy logic go by because you like Luke and you like what he is saying.
Fine, do as you wish.

(2) "Godless" is a word that I would hope Progressive Christians should stop using because it is packed with: "Those who don't believe in God are immoral" which is an idea that has persisted for centuries and still oppresses people. I was just at a large professional meeting talking to a Jewish physician when he asked me if I was Christian, and I said no and he said, actually I am an atheistic Jew and I said, "I am an atheistic non-Jew".
At which point the ditsy drug rep blurted out "My God, Sabio, you mean you are an ATHEIST!" with huge distain in her voice. I said yes. She was shocked. Because atheist means IMMORAL, UNTRUSTWORTHY and much for. For after all, they are the godless.

Go ahead, use nigger, fag, spick, godless -- I thought I was speaking to someone who listened. But you boys jump into SAVE THE TRIBE mode.

I don't care to argue, the points are simple. All of you are side stepping the obvious.

For as Luke said:

"i can believe anything i want, i can choose the images i want to keep and have no logic behind them at all"

And by the way, "WTF" has always struck me a incredibly rude. But then I am an old guy. Maybe I am too sensitive at the ditsy drug rep blurting out, "My God, Sabio, are you an ATHEIST?"

Words and logic matter. Well, to me. If you want to continue the conversation, I have to know you don't want to just be defensive and jostle words -- not time for that. You boys are too busy patting each other on the back. It is typical in such conversations. Atheists do it to Christians who visit their sites too.

I have said what I wanted, if it falls to deaf ears, fine.

Swing for the Fence. said...

But you all let the sloppy logic go by because you like Luke and you like what he is saying(Sabio)

Ah, and here we have the issue. If its faulty logic then of course we shouldnt like someone. You sir may have brilliant logic, but youre still a Shithead. By the way, maybe you should take up the game of golf, it may help you with your ego.

Sabio Lantz said...

Laughing at the Fence:

No, ironically, your logic is off too, Mr. Fence. I gave two conditions that his readers can use to let Luke off the hook:
(1) Readers like Luke
(2) Readers agree with what Luke is trying to accomplish

Such an audience will often sacrifice logic and swallow demagoguery when both those conditions are fulfilled. My point is that for those who don't agree with Luke's intent -- fundies and such, they will probably not ignore the lack of logic whether they like Luke or not.

Now, to your point, those who don't like Luke may also refuse to believe him even if he is logical. But I like Luke AND I am partial to his conclusion, but I am trying to discourage the type of rhetoric used by preachers and politicians when they encourage their crowds to follow them throwing aside logic.

Also I have written to Luke before about pulling science analogies into his preaching to cover the multitude of logic sins. He hope to legitimize his rhetoric with the prestige that goes with science -- or at least to the crowd he speaks. But Luke disagree with me on this too and is unrepentent. ;-)

Luke chastises me saying he can do whatever he wants, it is his party! Which is fine. It is his party but I thought he enjoyed such checks on a public blog.

Luke also contends, perhaps, that I miss the big picture. Well, I guess that is our contention. But our contention is not over whether I like Luke or like his goal (in this case).

Does that help you, Fence?
*Sabio repents for feeding troll as an excuse to summarize emotional side of discussion.

@ Luke:
May I strongly recommend NOT calling your new blog "Rev Luke"-- a few posts ago you said you were contemplating this. Also, don't use "The Holy Luke" or "His Majesty Luke" or "Pastor Luke" or "The Honorary Luke"... any title that makes it seem like you think your three years of seminary make you a different person. I see people put Dr. in front of their name on web sites and Pastor and much more. To me, it seems very insecure and contrived. It may work with the flock though. But then, I just wrote about what I think about the flocks mentality above.

Luke said...

WOOT THEIST PARTY! did y'all bring a potluck dish? no? WHAT?! if church people can agree on anything, it is that you bring a dish to the party!!! ack! ;-)

boys, boys, settle it down. AB you've been looking to jump on good ol' Sabio from the get... please hold your horses. you still haven't replied to my question on the last atonement post, i'd love to hear you're non-tongue biting response. let me have it, i'm a big boy and i can handle it.

now for the topic at hand: Sabio: you did bring logic back into my beautiful rant. it was my assumption that there are obvious paths that are invalid, like neo-nazi's, westboro baptists, and the like. i am beginning to see value in things like substitutionary atonement and other theological positions i used to find abhorrent, but now i see how they can be useful and pragmatic. so i'm still struggling with that.

i am also struggling to live up to your logical standards. i'm more metaphoric in mind and word choice, and i do, as a prof once told me, have the view from 30,000 feet and i do need to bring it down and look at the particulars. i think you're absolutely right there and i thank you for pointing it out. it took a lot of time and yet you slowed it down and explained yourself. that is not something i have done in this particular conversation because i was going on the previously stated assumptions up yonder.

and you're right, i'm not tired of playing the thought police, however, i'm wondering now if that's the right way to go about it. so this is partially thinking out loud and stating a conclusion without showing how i got there... and that's not cool. so i gotta slow down, logically spell it out, and stop assuming so much. this is why i have a goddless, heathen, "shithead" around here as a good blogging buddy. so Swing4thefences; cut down on the name-calling. Sabio is as welcomed here as you are. in fact, he may be helpful on your last post, i would love you to take a feminist/LGBTQ critique of your post and see how it would stand. i maybe more PC than you think, yet not enough to put WTF in my posts ;-)

as for the next blog title... yeah i dunno. i like wordpress better, but i'm struggling with the name. toothface no longer fits me and yet i still have no nickname.. i've always been just Luke. pastorluke is already taken... revluke sounds too official.. plus it would miss the fact that i'm often irreverent and cavort with logical atheists immune to my beautiful poetic prose, who see right through it and put up "slow down" or "stop" signs, which are much needed once explained in a way i can hear it. so maybe the irreverentreverend? nah... i dunno. i don't want to do "toothface.wordpress" but i do need a good title. any suggestions?

militant inclusion? COEXIST or die? ;-)

until then: let's slow down and hear each other and explain. this is something i need to do as well as in the comments. it is helpful and good to discuss, even when we disagree.

Al said...

'just luke' might work. It has an air of humility without being particularly folksy.

Anglican Boy said...

You may be right about me wanting to get at Sabio. I do not enjoy feeling pushed, nor how you affirm him often times. Jesus was also accused by hanging out with "Godless" people as well, so you're living out the gospel much better than I. I still struggle. I am operating on the assumption that if you do not have anything nice to say, then don't say it. So that is what I am doing. I am happy you have a cohesive view as well as an understanding of other views.

For your new blog: why not just continue on this one? If not, how about The Poetic Pastor? Thoughts and Images? Progressive... something?

Yael said...

My take on these comments is in between. Sabio mentioned about the women being shocked about his being an atheist, but I notice there was no mention of her saying anything about the Jewish atheist. No surprise there, the usual attitude is what difference does it make if a Jew is an atheist or not, they lost God long ago anyway.

I'm a religious Jew who has spent many hours, months, years studying Torah, yet I have quite a number of people who can't tell an aleph from a bet, whose only use of the OT is as a source of proof texts, trying to tell me what Torah really says and when I point out the Hebrew they tell me rabbis long ago tampered with the original text so that what I'm reading is inaccurate. Then they run off to some Jews for J site for affirmation that they're right and I'm wrong. Next they're off to their little church's celebration of Hanukah or Passover, which of course are now their celebrations since they know the 'real' meaning behind them that we deluded and blinded Jews do not. I've heard it all, read it all so I can understand some of Sabio's frustration with how he is sometimes treated. I don't see that treatment happening here, however.

And the thing is, I have read enough on atheist's blogs to know they also dismiss us followers of Judaism as nothing, they also assume Christianity has the only reading of Tanakh, that all the rest of us must view God the same as Christians. They also make a mockery of Torah yet most can't tell an aleph from a bet either. Their beef is with Christianity; I wish they'd leave it with that and stop using their own broad brush strokes. It's a tough thing to learn to do, I struggle with it myself, but I just don't see atheists even trying to avoid the broad brush. They might not like my religion either, although I know a number of Jewish atheists who are active in shul, but it would be nice if they disliked it on its own terms rather than on their assumptions about it.

I also get tired of the constant refrain on everyone must think the same, i.e. by my logic, if they don't they are being illogical. Many people have questioned Christian teachings and gone any number of directions as a result. There is no 'one way' whether we are speaking of God or of no God. Our brains are not all wired the same, some people understand best through words, some through images, some people are sensitive to sound, some to sight; we're all different. Is one way superior to all others? Must everything be concrete, black and white, or are we allowed to have shades, colors, fluidity? And as far as holding to contradictory views? Who cares! It's called being human.

So, I'm with AB when it comes to being tired of Sabio's pushing people around and playing the control card. My father was really good at that game; looks like the same technique to me. And yes, the arrogance does get really annoying. Obviously we religious types are inferior beings with limited, weak, reasoning capacity. Whatever. My IQ is 140, I attend a shul filled with people with multiple advanced degrees; we're not stupid.

I don't get why atheists want to spend their time talking about religion when they could spend time on things they believe in, but to each their own. I don't like Christianity, yet I still hang around Luke and Jason so go figure. Like Sabio, however, I think as Luke begins his life as a pastor he will become less and less 'radical', too bad from my POV but I will hope we can still find a common place to meet now and then.

I just hope he doesn't call his new blog 'Coexist'...I'd rather see it named after a favorite book or movie character, a favorite place, anything but...coexist is just too much mush IMO.

Hit me with your best shot.


Sabio Lantz said...

@ Luke
Thanks. Glad my re-writing has helped.

@ Yael
I agree that they just dismiss the Jewish boy as living in another world and not worth bothering over. But he was an atheist like I and thought the Tanakh was not the record of authors touched by a god. So I had much in common with him on that point. BTW, he and I plan to go to synagogue sometime in the future. That was the first time I met him. And for your info:
On leaving Christianity, I attended a Reformed Synagogue for a year, studied Hebrew, did Shabbat and Schule and for 2 years was in an Israeli folk dance club with aspirations to live on a Kibbutz. But I decided Judaism was not for me either -- but I gave it a fair shot. Well, for a Goy.

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Anglican Boy:
As you feel Luke is being Christ-like in hanging with us godless, I hope you do understand that I am being Buddha-like in hanging with you god-deluded.

Anglican Boy said...

Sabio, you stated " I am being Buddha-like in hanging with you god-deluded." and you may be right. I have no knowledge of that religion.

Sabio Lantz said...

Oooops, but I forgot, for Christian readers like you AB, all righteousness except for that which comes through Christ is but dirty rags. So my Buddha-like qualities amount to nothing since I will burn forever in hell with them.
[We know Luke does not believe that]

Yael said...

Interesting. I used to want to live on a kibbutz as well, until I found out they just want young people. Their loss...

Judaism definitely isn't the end all and be all either, it's just different, not at all the same as Christianity. I spoke in general of the atheist blogs I once read, I haven't done more than glance at yours since I just don't see any reason to spend time reading atheist blogs, no time, nothing gained. We could no doubt relate in many ways, but long ago I realized the God the average wordpress blogging atheist doesn't believe in, I don't believe in either, yet I did not see any allowance for any other understanding of God. Not much of interest there for someone like me who finds the idea of God quite fascinating.

Hope you enjoy your synagogue visit. I always considered Reform to be too much like church for my liking, but that's just me, much more drawn to the traditional in many ways. I like that people come to shul for whatever reasons and it's OK. If we all had to meet certain belief standards, or pretend to meet them, it wouldn't be the same. Too sanctimonious for my liking! You will remember I like to be the one setting the most religious standard. My own arrogance. :)

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Yael
I see no purpose for you to visit my site either. Please, just stay here and bless Luke's site. :-)

My site, as opposed to some atheist sites, is not allergic to all forms of gods (but most of them). Instead, it is what people make their gods do that I debate. Well, and I also debate any sneaky methods they use to make their gods do things even if I agree with the goal.

Abstract, comforting, meaning-binding concepts don't bother me, it is what people do with them.

But then, I can't help myself, I am an Atheist (and the worse kind -- an ex-Theist).

Sabio Lantz said...

"WOOT THEIST PARTY! did y'all bring a potluck dish? -- Luke"

How about if I bring Hot CROSS Buns and some Holy Swiss Cheese?

Yael said...

LOL, yeah, Luke loves me blessing his site when I tell him what I think of Jesus; my views being just slightly different from his, although I don't usually air them here since I see little point. He knows my views, it's his place. Besides, he and I do seem to have similar views on how we want to live our lives even if the models we use are quite different, Jesus for him, mitzvot for me.

As for your blog, your audience isn't me and anyway, I can only read so many men's blogs, guys being so full of themselves so often. You do know I'm a man-hating lesbian, right? Or so I've been told (by controlling men who dislike women who won't do as they're told of course).

And with this blessing to all male bloggers I will check out for the weekend! :)

Luke said...

for an anti-Jesus, unChristian man-hating lesbian, you're pretty awesome ;-)

in fact, you RAWK!