On Tue, 22 Dec 1998 19:05:45 -0800 Danielle Ni Dhighe
<[log in to unmask]> writes:
>At 12:32 PM 12/22/98 -0800, Bruce L. Jones wrote:
>>however earnestly one might seek validity in some invented religion
>>outside the mainstream Judeo-Christian pantheon it will always seem to
>>those people as foolish at best, and blasphemous, at worst.
>Isn't that what people said about Christianity at one time? . . .
At a time when the known civilized world was held in the grasp of heathen
emperors and kings, yes. The Jews were a bothersome group on the far-off
fringes of empire and when they began to splinter into this new sub-sect
following this Jesus person they became even more bothersome. These
rabble rousers' attempts to convert all of their fellow Jews over to this
new Rabbi's teachings only served to create a schism among the Jews and
provide the empire with an excuse to quell some perceived unrest.
> . . . All religions were invented at one time or another. . . .
Only from the point of view of a non-theist. Take the example of
Christians for the sake of discussion. To a "true" believer (tm) religion
is the earthly result of man's having received guidance from God himself.
Man has been directed - ordered - by God to follow and obey His divine
guidance or suffer the most dire of consequences; eternal damnation.
Thus, religion was not invented by man - indeed could not be. Religion,
the only possible true religion, was invented by God. He revealed himself
to Moses and compelled him to lead his people to follow His teachings, to
swear the eternal devotion of their people and their descendants for all
eternity. These teachings are there for all to witness in the Torah, the
Pentateuch, the first five books of the Holy Scriptures. They are called
God's covenant with man. The Jews received them, set into writing by
Moses, and placed them into a Holy container called an Ark for safe
keeping; the Ark of the Covenant. In return for this devotion of these
people, God would make them uppermost in importance in heaven and on
Earth and provide them with a homeland for all time; the Holy Land.
God eventually taught these people that their troubles would all end when
He, God, would send someone to save them from those troubles. This
rescuer, or "savior", would be the "chosen" one to lead the Jewish people
to rule the earthly world and heaven. Someone so important was said to be
"anointed" because such anointment (rubbing the head with oil) was
usually a part of instilling someone into an important office, like the
priesthood (yes, the Jews once had priests). In Hebrew the word "anointed
one" is "Messiah"; in Latin it is "Christus", or simply "Christ".
Well, eventually a group of Jews thought they had met this "anointed"
one. The problem was that the person they thought filled the bill didn't
quite meet all of the criteria they found in pouring over their
scriptures. The "messiah" was supposed to engage and defeat the forces of
evil in a great battle, providing tangible proof of his power over the
world. This person they thought they found wasn't a warrior at all. He
was something of a wimp.
Still, people began to reason and rationalize that perhaps there was a
way this good person might be the one they were looking for. After all,
they were desperate now, being under the rule of the Romans. The more
learned men among them began to "see" a way to interpret the scriptures
that might mean there would be two messiah's, each coming at different
times in history. They rejoiced in this "finding". This man, this poor
carpenter, could be the first messiah - a religious "savior", after all.
They began to call him such. People noticed. The Romans noticed. The
powers in office didn't like the idea of a powerful new rival, so they
came up with some trumped up charges and drug the poor unfortunate into
court. Since the charges and the evidence were constructs he had no
choice but to admit guilt. He was found guilty, condemned and put to
death in a manner reserved for vulgar trash. The Romans who condemned him
and the common citizens who wanted to see it done also mocked him on his
way to his place of death. They called him king of the Jews. They
fashioned a crown of sharp thorns for his head. This had to be an insult
coming from the Romans as the Jews were a subjugated people. They had no
king, but calling someone that must have been the equivalent of calling
someone king of the bums. They made a sign for his execution, to further
the joke. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews", but was, of
course written in the language of the Romans, Latin: "Iesus Nazarenus Rex
After the death of this poor workman his "followers" began to defiantly
spread the ideas of His very slight modifications to classic Rabbinical
teaching. They explained that He had been resurrected from the dead and
had spoken to them before he went up into heaven to meet his father, God.
Many people believed what these followers of this Jesus person were
teaching. They now openly called him by the titles the Holy Scriptures
had reserved for this savior. The Messiah, the Christ - the "anointed
one". These followers - disciples - traveled far and wide talking about
this person they called Jesus, the Christ. He *was* the savior of the
Jews. And, more importantly, he *was* openly inviting even non-Jews to
join him in heaven if they too would follow the laws of God. The laws
were, after all, still written down in the Torah - the Holy Scriptures -
so they could be easy to learn and to follow.
Unfortunately, some of the Jews did not believe this Jesus person could
have been the Messiah. They refused to accept it, so they still followed
the old ways.
The other Jews, those who decided this person was - indeed - the Messiah,
began to subtley change the way they worshipped. After all, such a
momentous thing in man's history, such an occurrence handed down by God
needed to be recognized and treated with appropriate respect. These new
followers of the Christ were still Jews, after all, they just recognized
the arrival of the savior as it had been prophesied by the Scriptures.
This brought a new dimension of joy into their lives. They began to
celebrate. Importantly, they began to celebrate events from the life of
"their" savior, Jesus, the Christ. His birth, his death and other things
took on new meanings. Now, the day after tomorrow, most of the Western
world will come to a measured halt to celebrate this one man's birthday.
This has become a very important holiday to billions of people. It began
more humbly though. Priests just used to gather together their
parishioners and celebrate a special Mass in his memory. The Mass for
Christ; the anointed one. Eventually this became shortened to
"Christmas". The celebration has left behind the humble rite of the Mass
into a worldwide celebration of one whom some call the Prince of Peace.
The great mass of the world's people hardly thinks of these events as an
"invention". If true, it was the design of God leading mankind to His
> . . . All dominant religions were once outside the mainstream. . . .
True, but irrelevant. We really haven't even discussed the other major
religions, but I'm sure you get the idea. Most of the members of these
organization have similar stories to tell. None of them think of their
beliefs as an invention, either.
Neo-paganism, on the other hand, seems to have evolved in the opposite
way. Most of the practitioners I run into - and there have been a number
of those - lack the glassy-eyed fervor of - say - latter day evangelical
Christians, for example. Instead, they seem to have invented some
hodge-podge of semi-spirituality that is part, very small part, history
and a larger part modernistic metaphysical invention; designed to make
them feel a certain way they want to feel. I have been places and heard
quite many of them make up things on the spot. Seeing this, it is damn
hard to place any credence, let alone the "respect" you mention, on their
"belief system". I can't get past the feeling that most of them are only
grasping at some free-spirited barefooted spirituality du jour that will
most annoy the mainstream they don't seem to feel a part of.
> . . . I would go so far to say that the teachings of
>Jesus are still outside the mainstream. How many mainstream
>Christians really follow his example?
Nearly none. Few understand the depth of what the scripture attempts to
teach, let alone understand it and follow the laws of God and obey His
guidance. Most "Christians" I encounter have only a thin veneer of
knowledge about the faith that should be the most paramount thing in
their lives. Most never get past a few Sunday school lessons they barely
understand and fear questioning. Many, if not most, are no less
blasphemers than the neo-pagans many of them despise. I have encountered
very few who have actually studied it in any real depth. I have to keep
telling myself this is not my problem . . .
Have a happy holiday season, whatever you choose to think it means.
Bruce L. Jones
The Mojave Desert - The Geographic Center of Nowhere