Dangerous Religious Cults

jesus christ

Religion becomes a dark and dangerous tool in the wrong hands.

I visited a website called  Do What’s Right today and was saddened by the reception to some comments I made.

I believe, very strongly, in the better aspects of religion. I am interested in other points of view and although I am an atheist (or perhaps pantheist might be more accurate) religion has done much to soothe my soul. Assuming I have one of course.

But what I do believe in, most strongly, is inclusivity. I read the Psalms now and then and attend church (occasionally!) for beauty and inspiration. I am currently practicing Vierne’s Messe Solennelle for a concert in March at a local Catholic Church (even though I was brought up as a Protestant in the Church of England).  The historical Jesus ( at least as reflected in the Christian Gospels) is my idea of a good egg. A very good egg.

But I am also a modern man. A strong believer in science and looking forward. I do not believe it useful to look backwards to a non existent golden age. I do not believe in Jean Jacque Rousseaus Noble Savage.  Or was it Dryden’s? I do not believe in nonsensical dogma. The Fall! The Trinity! The Divinity of Christ! It was a very different era, first Century Rome. We should not be bound by the superstitions early Christians chose to amuse themselves with.

Goodness, decency, right thinking yes. The Lake of Gehenna, The Fall, Eternal Damnation – get a life.

I detest extremism in any form. Be it in Islam, Christianity or indeed in any sector of our fractured global society.

I was at an evangelical wedding in the Summer and was disturbed by the exclusive nature of some of the guests and clergy. “We Christians” seemed to be their attitude and they even used their own curious language, in that they attributed non standard meanings to many words they cared to use in their sermon.   A wife had to obey a husband apparently – although the clergyman argued that in their interpretation “obey” didn’t mean “obey” at all. Curiouser and curiouser cried Alice.

The last of my comments was deleted by the over zealous website “pastor” but hey, that’s his privilege and his loss.

AG

My mission in life is to behave better and be kinder to those around me. I do not need an external god to do that nor do I need his approval or benediction. Nonetheless the sentiments expressed in religious writings can be of great use. The Book of Psalms for instance.

Response:

All that means is that you are an outsider to us

AG

I do not believe that any human is an outsider and nor did the historical Jesus. He managed to turn the other cheek and invite the outcast into his inner enclave. Many problems have resulted through religion and each particular faith’s exclusivity and determination that they and only they have the “Way”.

The teachings of any half decent religion are identical once you discount the dogma and the requirement to believe in a supernatural entity.

I too am a pastor in a sense but an inclusive one. In my “Book” any decent human being is welcome and entrance is denied to none. In my book nobody is an outsider – we all struggle with the same issues and the same existential and physical anxieties.

Response

This is not a forum for scholarly debate. You are mistaken about a great many things, missing the point on what Jesus actually said. He willingly died on the Cross because mankind is fallen and incapable of arriving at truth and God’s favor without God’s help. We are designed to know the truth, but we come into this life broken by the Curse of the Fall. The human reason is simply not up to the task. You remain an outsider until you accept the teachings of Jesus as they stand in the Bible. Your “historical Jesus” is a man-made lie.

AG (but the following was deleted by the website owner)

With the greatest of the respect, Jesus taught tolerance and inclusion. I am merely saying that I believe exclusion to be a misinterpretation of what the historical Jesus was all about. He was a good man, a great man and the Beatitudes are a fine framework on which to build one’s life. I believe the world has a very great need for tolerance, peace and understanding and this can only arise if all sects, all cults can come to understand each other and embrace each others views.

I have studied religion for many years and happen to find the most peace, meaning and solace in Eastern religion. That does not mean that I do not appreciate Christian teachings even though I do not believe in the Christian God or the divinity of Jesus. “We are designed to know the truth” – with that I can concur. But we will find it in Teilhard de Chardin or Frank Tipler.

Learning, wisdom, knowledge, sagacity and, importantly, science are what will bring a better world.  And there was no “fall” – merely an evolutionary process which has resulted in a very imperfect species of ape we call humanity. So please accept my comments in the spirit in which they are written – a spirit of helpfulness and inclusivity.  Christianity is all about tolerance and helping the lion to lie with the lamb. Or at least that is what many or even most modern Christians feel, including our English archbishop and our next British King – who describes himself as a defender of “Faiths”.

16 Comments

  1. Yep, these religions are dangerous indeed. The door to the church manages to entice the unwary with some deepity or other, or a nice sing-song and loving kindness, but the preaching gradually gets more and more insane. Those who fall into the trap don’t notice this, or find ways to believe their objections must be invalid. Eventually, they seem able to talk utter nonsense. This post reminds me so much of a very very long email conversation I had with a lay preacher, who also has a PhD in philosophy, but who made it clear time and time again that when faced with religious dogma, he could make all manner of cognitive errors he certainly knows about: false syllogisms, wishful thinking, non sequiturs, arguments from authority, you name it. I keep intending to write a post about it. So, like your unfriendly pastor, whom I might answer thus:

    ‘The human reason is simply not up to the task.’

    How can you judge that, using your human reason?

    (Conversely, if I said you were “unreasonable” or “irrational”, why would you consider that an insult?) My PhD friend also said we were “natural knowers”, but “flawed ones”. These are mind games: you have to make up the idea of being “designed to know the truth”, or a “natural knower” to shove your dogma down people’s throats, and you have to be mentally incapable of judging the truth of statements so that you can overturn your logical objections. As long as you don’t let one bit of your brain talk to the other, it’s fine.

    ‘You remain an outsider until you accept the teachings of Jesus as they stand in the Bible.’

    Okay, fine. It’s clearly the best place to be.

    ‘Your “historical Jesus” is a man-made lie.’

    Quite possibly, but it’s obvious that the doctrinal Jesus is…even to children and idiots.

    Incidentally, my partner is an Anglican Christian, but I can honestly say she embraces your inclusivity, and agrees with you that Jesus didn’t have any “outsiders”. Personally, I’m not so sure. Even if there was a historical Jesus (arguable either way – see Richard Carrier for some in-depth, but approachable, study of the religion), there are plenty of examples of subtle or blatant exclusivity in the surviving Gospels, and there were also redacted ones the early Church didn’t like. He is supposed to have preached that the only way to god was through him, for example, so that discounts everyone not in the immediate vicinity as damned to Hell, which he also made pretty explicit was a one-way ticket. I dare say he might have said the inside is open to anyone to join, but so might that rude, censorious literalist online. He kind of did – you were only an outsider because you didn’t accept the teachings of Jesus as they stand in the Bible, so that’s no different really. In that sense, he’s right, there is reason in his thinking: there is just one inside, as defined, and you have to go out of your mind to get there. Trouble is, all manner of nutters are saying the same thing with different teachings.

    1. Ah, yes I was totally forgetting the Gnostic Gospels for instance. And “Acts”. I find almost anything in Acts ludicrous and cultish. And horrible. “St” Paul must have been a madman.

      I am of course guilty of choosing what I please from the synoptic gospels and discarding the rest. I do very much the same with the Old Testament and the Psalms. There is both great beauty and sense there as well as insanity and insane cruelty.

      I am as guilty as the next man of interpreting “stuff” in a way I find personally agreeable and acceptable!

      Frankly the only lesson I should learn from my discourse with that bigoted nutter is to avoid people like that. I’m not naturally pugnacious and certainly don’t look for a fight.

      But somehow when I see bullies and nutters and tyrants I feel compelled to call them out!

  2. Ha ha ha…yes indeed. i guess because it was a sleepy Thursday morning and I was in the mood for debate. But of course these cults never understand the value of debate.

          1. Well funny you should say that but as you know I have ceased to be a believer in many senses. I am very un-convinced by Quantopian’s efforts: I can not for the life of me see how their approach is not begging to be curve fit. Take the cashflow stuff I have been looking at: yes, free cashflow is an excellent valuation metric. And yet once it has been mulched through the mill and mixed with other factors as practitioners seem to be doing, I reckon it becomes pretty well worthless. But hey, I am wrong about pretty well everything.

            I have spent many years prospecting for Eldorado but now find myself in the same position as Candide.

            1. After a few years I have found a working algo once again. It does not fit the Quantopian model, that’s why I’m looking for another buyer.

              1. How easy is it to find a buyer? I guess it would be a hedge fund? Or some private individual trader? Trouble is they always always seem to go wrong in the end. Or have I simply become too cynical?

                1. Yes you’re too cynical. As HFT and thousands of algo traders trade away all their targeted market inefficiencies most algos die. Then again there are new inefficiencies appearing. You can’t change human nature.

                  1. Am I not right in thinking HFT relies on the bid offer spread and the flow of orders? That kind of market inefficiency I can live with!

                    1. They definitely do more than that. But that is besides the point. There is still money to be made. But by now I don’t see it as the search for El Dorado or the Holy Grail but sifting through cubic miles of manure for diamonds.

                    2. Do you look at technical, fundamentals, both? Some other factor? I certainly agree on the cubic miles of shit…..

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.