Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The ‘Savior Motif’

Here is a quick ‘Pop Quiz’ for you… What do the following fourteen historical figures have in common?

Vishnu of India
Osiris of Egypt
Mithras of Persia
Baal of Phoenicia
Alexander (the Great) of Greece

Indra of India
Tammuz of Syria
Attis of Phrygia
Caesar Augustus of Rome
Adonis of Greece
Hercules of Thebes
Thor of the Scandinavians
Fo of China
Jesus of Palestine

Rather than make you guess, let me tell you… They were all said to have been ‘born of a virgin.’ Not only they but hundreds and hundreds of other Kings, leaders, warriors and rulers hold the same distinction. They were all said to have been ‘born of a virgin.’ Moreover, it has been written in documents through out the ancient world that most of them have been labeled with the entire ‘Savior Motif’, as I call it.

The ‘Savior Motif’ consists of eight specific points;…
1. Born of a virgin,
2. Said to be the ‘Son of God’,
3. Said to have performed miracles,
4. Died a cruel death,
5. Said to have died to save humankind from sin,
6. Said to have arisen from the grave,
7. Said to have been seen by many after he arose,
8. Said to have been seen ascending into heaven.

As one can easily see, with the exception of number four, the elements of the motif violate natural laws in ways that make it impossible for a person of average intelligence to fathom. And yet millions do believe it to be literally true with regard to Jesus of Palestine.

My second question – directed to those who believe – would be… If it can be believed to be true for one ‘savior’, then why not the hundreds of others?

Truth is… most believers are probably not aware that there were hundreds of so called ‘Saviors’ in ancient history. They do not realize that the eight elements of the motif were not intended to be taken literally. Historians explain that these things were said about a person (long after they had died) to indicate that they were important, extraordinary, exceptional, special.

Unfortunately, believers , through the centuries, have insisted on literalizing these stories as they relate to Jesus and thus have destroyed the beautiful prose that it was intended to be.

Why is this so?…

Could it be that the average believer is not a student of ancient history?…

Could it be that the average believer is not inclined to question what the church has told him/her?…

Could it be that the church has been negligent in explaining this truth to its adherents?…

I am inclined to say that all three are true.
But then… I could be wrong……………………. barry e

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Does it matter --- what people believe?

At the end of my blog entry of July 26th, I ask the question….

Does it matter??…. Does it make one ‘hoot’ of difference what the masses believe? Should we who profess a more progressive and intelligent understanding of religion just shut up and go away… or… Does it matter??

I told you I would give you my opinion later. Well, whether you want it or not, here are my thoughts on the matter…..

As you might guess, yes, I think it matters.

It is a well known fact that ‘what a person believes will affect how he acts.’ If one believes there is a supernatural being, ‘up there’ or ‘out there’ who will hear and answer prayer, it lessens one’s feeling of personal responsibility. “I will pray for the hungry, the homeless… and God will care for them.”

If one believes that his or her ‘Holy Book’ contains the inerrant word of God, and the moral law(s) for all time, then all debate over moral issues is dead.

If one believes that his or her ‘Holy Book’ contains the inerrant word of God, he or she might be persuaded to strap on a vest full of explosives, walk into a crowd of innocent people and blow one’s self up.

If one believes that his or her ‘Holy Book’ contains the inerrant word of God, he or she might feel compelled to bomb an abortion clinic, or to suggest ‘taking out’ the leader of a foreign country.

Belief in a God and/or an ancient book, is a belief based on ignorance. Knowledge of the 21st century that explains where those Gods and Goddesses and those ancient book came from, and renders such belief systems impotent. Facts, evidence, reason and just a little bit of logic must prevail if the human race is to mature beyond it’s current state.

Yes, I know all the arguments about leaving room for the spiritual and the transcendent and not wanting to disturb Granny and her comfort zone… but such ‘right brain (emotional) thinking’ is bringing the world closer and closer to the brink of disaster.

Richard Holloway, Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, in his book ‘Godless Morality’ Canongate Books Ltd., 1999, writes, …”it is better to leave God out of the moral debate and find good human reasons for supporting the system or approach we advocate, without having recourse to divinely clinching arguments. We have to offer sensible approaches that will help us to pick our way through the moral maze that confronts us.”

It is time for all religions to become honest… and first of all, honest with themselves.

But then, I could be worng………………………..barry e

Friday, September 7, 2007

John Martin from Adelaide, South Australia writes:

This week, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television program Compass, hosted by Geraldine Doogue, ran a production on Interfaith Ministry. It was based on a book written by Peter Kirkwood and published by ABC Books in Sydney, Australia. Now I am reading the book — The Quiet Revolution — and it is an inspiring story indeed. I had never heard of the Parliament of the World's Religions, so I am moving into a set of stories completely new to me.
Despite the glamorous report presented through the television lens, the movement may have much goodwill building to do. Given that I live in a far-flung part of the world, I feel the need not to invest too much hope in it yet. On the other hand, this is no time in the life of the planet to be timid and doubtful. Perhaps you might comment on the movement and provide some guidance to those of us unfamiliar with, but not averse to, this approach?

Dear John,

The Parliament of the World's Religions is a reputable organization, developed by competent people, one of whom is The Rt. Rev. William Swing, retired Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop of California. Whether it is now or will be an effective organization is still a question. Only time will tell. The direction in which it seeks to move is quite obviously the correct one.

Transcending a cultural faith tradition in the name of a vision of a world religion is not easy. It demands that all religious systems sacrifice their claims to possess exclusive truth or to be the sole pathway to God. It invites people to live in the insecurity of uncertainty and to embrace the fact that we are creatures bound by time and space talking about a God who is not.. True religion is not about possessing the truth. No religion does that. It is rather an invitation into a journey that leads one toward the mystery of God. Idolatry is religion pretending that it has all the answers.

Will the Parliament succeed? All I know is that every new movement begins with a new idea and a single step. This organization seeks to bring about a conversation where none has previously existed. Unless we find a way to transcend tribal limits and the religious systems (including our own) that have their origins in tribal thinking, I do not believe that there will be a realistic hope for the future of humanity. Far too many human beings have already been killed by others in the name of their God.

So I support this initiative and I hope others will also.

- John Shelby Spong