Sunday, October 29, 2006

Defending Morality

Morality, at its base, is centered upon the happiness or suffering of sentient beings and the realization that some actions are more conducive to ones own and others happiness or suffering. Actions and behavior can be deemed either ethical or unethical due to the natural consequences which they necessarily produce.
Moral relativism is an absurd obfuscation of this reality not to mention absolutely hostile to a true moral calculus. Moral relativism is, essentially, the ideology that all forms of morality are the product of culture and of society, which they are, but further that there is no foundation for which to measure the justification thereof, hence all morality is equally viable. At the heart of this ideology is a rather obvious contradiction: the claim that all forms of morality are equally viable, that all forms of morality should be respected, this is not a relative but an absolute claim and one which certainly runs into trouble when a cultures morality consists of negating other forms of morality; for if all forms of morality are true and one form of morality claims that all other forms are untrue then a conundrum is created for the relativist. Furthermore moral relativism neglects the science of humanity, psychology, wherein we learn that there is a human nature characteristic of the human species. What I find most repulsive in moral relativism is the notion that because it is the custom of a specific culture to degrade and devalue their women and allow what is essentially rape that this is permissible because it is their agreed upon morality. These relativists are either ignorant of or hostile to the reality that all women, all human beings for that matter, respond to rape and degradation negatively, the effects of rape and degradation of human beings is equally nefarious across the human spectrum regardless of ones specific culture. Moral relativism is the product of a perverse philosophy, which, in many ways, compares to nihilism.
Worse than the moral relativist is the religious moral absolutist who has received a morality from an alleged supernatural source. With religion one usually finds morality stood on its head, one finds a false morality, immorality. What many religions do with morality is separate questions of morality from true questions of happiness or suffering, they present hysterically absurd falsifications of morality, many of which are utterly immoral. Within the bible, both old testament and new, it is a moral proposition, commanded by god, that homosexuality is an abomination and carries with it the penalty of death. This moral proposition is a clear falsification of morality, there is no discernable suffering, homosexuality does not harm other people, it does not cause others to suffer and despite what fundamentalists claim homosexuality does not destroy “natural” families. However this moral proposition does cause suffering, it causes and justifies the degradation of homosexuals, it goes even further, it calls for the mistreatment of homosexuals, it calls for immorality. Religious morality is replete with such falsifications, such immorality, within its set of moral propositions; what a euphemism, what a true blasphemy, it is to even use the term morality in such an instance.
Whenever you hear the name “god” mentioned within the same breath as morality rest assure it stands for either a vacuous and superfluous platitude or the name by which one justifies the perversion of a true moral calculus.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Revisiting the Jesus Myth

Viewing the story of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels as heavily influenced mythology is, essentially, the only legitimate understanding thereof. The historicity of Jesus can be debated and will likely be debated for years, however, there is absolutely no evidence suggesting that the accounts of the life and times of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels is anything other than a parsed together story, heavily influenced by the common mythology of the time and written with a concerted effort to align the story with the “prophecies” of the old testament.

As I said in my last post, Jesus allegedly died around the year 33 CE and Mark wrote the first gospel no earlier than 65 CE which leaves a three decade gap, in which the only documents in existence pertaining to Christianity are Paul’s writings. It is a very striking fact that in not one of Paul’s epistles does he make any mention of what we would consider the story of Jesus save for the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus into heaven. Paul makes no mention of the virgin birth, Mary, Bethlehem, John the Baptist, any of the miracles of Jesus – you would think that Paul would have mentioned a few of these alleged miracles in his attempt to convert new Christians – Pontius Pilot, any Jewish mob or any trial. I concede that these omissions do not imply, implicitly, that Paul was unaware of the story of Jesus as later portrayed by the NT gospels. However, these facts are suggestive and must not be overlooked.

In the three decade gap between the alleged death of Jesus and Mark’s writing of the first gospel the story of Jesus was kept alive and spread through oral tradition, a method which is exceedingly susceptible to convolution. It is very likely that while the story of Jesus was spreading it began to accumulate the characteristics of the common mythologies of the time. It is very likely that Paul either came before such an evolution in the story or was simply unaware of it. One must keep in mind that we are considering the first century and the archaic communication which is inherent therein. It is not a stretch of the imagination to conclude that the oral tradition of Christianity gave birth to a greatly exaggerated, added upon and altered story – the gospels were written between thirty and fifty years after the alleged death of Jesus, plenty of time for the evolution thereof – it is really almost impossible to believe that the oral tradition kept perfectly intact the entire account of the stories later relayed in the gospels, which differ amongst even themselves.

As I mentioned in my last post it is a very striking fact that Jesus, as portrayed in the gospels, shares twenty or so characteristics with the common heroic figure, mythic figures such as: Oedipus, Theseus, Romulus, Hercules, Perseus, Zeus, Zoroaster, Thor, Tammuz, Orpheus, Mithras, Krishna, Horus, Hermes, Dionysis, Baal, Attis, Adonis, etc. I have already indexed the shared characteristics and will avoid redundancy here.

Having illustrated the shared mythological characteristics I will now endeavor to bring to the fore the theological and symbolic similarities.

Mithraism was a pagan religion which viewed the mythical Mithras as the mediator between humanity and the unknowable god who created all of existence. Mithraic communities expressed fraternal and communal spirit, their creed insisted on moral conduct, demanded abstinence and self control and postulated a heaven and hell; they sanctified Sunday and December the 25, Yule, this date was also a day referred to as Saturnalia – a dedication to Saturn’s temple – and it is widely believed that this date was chosen as the day to celebrate the birth of Christ, by Pope Julius I, in order to make it easier to convert the Roman pagans, Jesus was allegedly born in September. In any case many of the rites and sayings in Mithraism are similar if not identical to the sayings later attributed to Jesus. The Madonna and baby cults share their relation with both the Tammuz and the Egyptian Isis and Horus. The Christian celebration of easter also shares its origins with the Tammuz and their god Ishtar – pronounced “easter” – which is why easter is replete with fertility symbology.

With Apollonius Christ, the theological similarity is virtually identical. He preached “we cannot hate our fellow man” he created miracles, healed the sick, was accused of sedition in Rome and his followers, after his death, claimed that he had ascended to heaven and came to them in spiritual form afterwards. In fact the theology of Apollonius was so similar to that of Christianity there are records of early Church fathers mentioning and arguing against Apollonius’ divinity, again, using the argument that Satan used Apollonius as a way to deceive:

"How is it that the talismans of Apollonius have power over certain members of creation, for they prevent, as we see, the fury of the waves, the violence of the winds, and the attacks of wild beasts. And whilst Our Lord's miracles are preserved by tradition alone, those of Apollonius are most numerous, and actually manifested in present facts, so as to lead astray all beholders?" – Justin Martyr, early Church father

Apollonians, those who were followers of Apollonius, believed in the immortality of the soul and that upon death they would ascend to heaven. In fact, there is debate on whether or not Jesus had been conflated with Apollonius due to the similarities.

There are also striking similarities between Christianity and Zoroastrianism, the later predating the former. Many scholars credit Zoroastrianism with influencing the eschatology, angelology and demonology of Judaism. Judaism, of course, then influencing Christianity and Islam:

“it was from this very creed of Zoroaster that the Jews derived all the angelology of their religion... the belief in a future state; of rewards and punishments, ... the soul's immortality, and the Last Judgment - all of them essential parts of the Zoroastrian scheme.” – from The Gnostics and Their Remains (King and Moore, 1887).

Zoroastrianism had abstract concepts of heaven and of hell, personal and final judgment and even contains the concept of a coming messiah-like figure referred to as the “Peshotan.”

In light of all of this, viewing the story of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels as heavily influenced and convoluted by the common mythology of the time appears to be the only legitimate and firm contention. It seems abundantly clear that the gospel stories of Jesus have been parsed together, influenced and convoluted by various myths and written with a concerted effort to align the story with the “prophecies” of the old testament.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Mythology of Jesus

Jesus lived in the first three decades in the first century, allegedly dying somewhere along the year 33 CE, although there were groups of ancient Jews and Jewish Christians who believed that Jesus was killed a century before. The Gospels, beginning with Mark, were written after 70 CE That’s a four decade gap, the only information we have in the gap comes from Paul who claims that Jesus came to him and told him to spread the word. Paul wrote around eighty thousand words about Christianity, Paul’s documents represent, essentially, all we have with regards to the history of Christianity during this four decade gap. What’s further is that Paul was unaware of the “fact” that Jesus allegedly lived as a human on earth, he was unaware of the story of Mary, of Bethlehem, John the Baptist, any of the miracles of Jesus, Paul never quotes anything that Jesus allegedly said, Paul never mentioned the ministry of Jesus, Pontius Pilot, any Jewish mob, any trial; Paul was unaware of what we would consider the story of Jesus save for the last three events, events which Paul did not even place as having happened on earth. To Paul Jesus lived, died and ascended all within the confines of a mythical realm. I find it interesting, rather suggestive, that the only link we have between the time frame given for the life of Jesus and the appearance of the first gospels, Paul, never even believed that Jesus was a human being, he was actually unaware of the idea altogether.

When looking at the Gospels one must be aware of the fact that allegorical literature was very common at the time, many of the gospels – the apocryphal – were thrown out due to their being too unbelievable and based on folk lore stemming from a plethora of various other myths; there has been a concerted effort – the Jesuits being an example – of people actively attempting to demythologize the bible, trying to take away the folklore (such as the “virgin birth”).

The folklore inherent in Christianity was nothing new or original. Jesus shared some twenty odd characteristics with other mythical heroes, heroes such as Oedipus, Theseus, Romulus, Hercules, Perseus, Zeus, Zoroaster, Thor, Tammuz, Orpheus, Mithras, Krishna, Horus, Hermes, Dionysis, Baal, Attis, Adonis, etc. the shared characteristics being: the heroes mother is a royal virgin, stars appear at his birth, visited by Magi from the east, his father is a king, the circumstances of his conception are unusual, is reputed to be the son of a god, at birth there is an attempt by his father to kill him, but he is hidden away, is raised by foster parents in a foreign country, we are told nothing of his childhood, on reaching manhood he returns and goes to his future kingdom, after a victory over a king, a giant or a dragon, marries a princess, turns water into wine, heals the sick, performs miracles, becomes king, reigns uneventfully, proscribes laws, later losses favor with subjects, is driven from the throne of the city, meets with a mysterious death, death is often at the top of a hill, killed on a cross or a tree, his children if any do not succeed him, his body not buried, etc.

It is a staggering fact to note that Jesus shares the majority of these common hero characteristics with other heroic figures such as Oedipus, Theseus, Romulus, etc. There are other similar savior figures during the same time period such as Apollonius Christ and Osiris, however, nobody takes these stories as anything other than mythical despite the congruent similarity. I find it further revealing that those whose job it was to spread Christianity used the similarity it shared with all other mythology as an advantage:

“When we say that Jesus Christ was produced without sexual union, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended to heaven, we propound nothing new or different from what you believe regarding those whom you call the sons of Jupiter.” – Justin Martyr, church father.

What’s even more is that many pagans, after being proselytized to by the early Church fathers, claimed that what the Christians were saying about Jesus had been what they claimed about Dionysis for years and they didn’t actually believe in such myths either anymore. To which the early Christian apologists would respond with the claim that the difference being this time, with Jesus, the story was true, for it was Satan who counterfeited in advance the other stories with the foreknowledge that this day would come and wished to subvert it.

“For when they say that Dionysus arose again and ascended to heaven, is it not evident the devil has imitated the prophecy?” – Justin Martyr, church father

This is clear evidence that the early church was well aware of the fact that their story, their mythology, was perfectly similar to others which came before and in response to this had to resort to claiming that these other similar mythologies were the work of the devil, a sorry argument if there ever was. It is important to keep in mind that the first celebration of easter was in 2400 BCE long before any alleged existence of Jesus.

For thousands of years humanity has been obsessed with blood sacrifice, it is no coincidence that the story of the crucifixion of Jesus gave Christians a suffering and tortured hero whose flesh they could eat and whose blood they could drink – this is the absolute height of religious sacrifice - and for all those who claim that modern Christians are no longer obsessed with blood sacrifice I submit to them that they watch The Passion of the Christ, the most bloody, gory, violent movie of Jesus ever made and also, far and away, the most popular; many Christians claim this movie is the most profound ever made and it is centered around nothing other than blood sacrifice.

In summation of all of this I find it more than fair and logical to question even the very idea that Jesus ever existed. It seems far more plausible to me that the story of Jesus, the Christian faith, is nothing more than a parsed together story, incorporating the common characteristics of a heroic mythology with a concerted effort to align it with the “prophecy” of the old testament, and nothing more. Thus is, the mythology of Jesus.