SALVATION THROUGH PHILOSOPHY ?

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A deliberately provocative title.  Salvation, after all, is the heart and soul of Religion, not Philosophy.  Religion offers us the possibility, in an imagined afterlife, of being saved from the eternal punishment which a supposedly merciful God has decreed for those who disobey Him and the laws He is believed to have revealed. It is a “possibility” only, because salvation depends on our choices, notably to obey or break His commandments – or, in a notoriously incomprehensible and revolting Protestant version of Christian doctrine, on whether or not we belong to God’s chosen elite, the “predestined”.  Philosophy, on the other hand, has to do, in the popular understanding of the word, with thinking about the big questions of life – the meaning of “Being”, “Truth”, “Justice” – not saving us from Hell.

The question in the title makes sense only when we define exactly what we mean by “Philosophy”.  My children all had an advantage I didn’t, which is a French High School education.  (Later their University studies, different from mine – although theirs and mine were all pursued in France – taught them useful, marketable skills.  None of them is a … theologian.)  Readers of this Blog – in their vast majority from countries other than France – may not be familiar with the French Exception, which includes Napoleon’s decree in 1809 that adolescents should study “Philosophy” in their final year of High School, to equip them to be able to … vote intelligently.  French children ever since have been taught in “Philosophy” classes to be able to compare different opinions, to reflect, to analyse critically and to express their convictions in a structured argumentation.

A distinguished contemporary French philosopher, himself a former Minister of Education, has recently insisted on the difference between this concept of Philosophy taught in High Schools and the true meaning of Philosophy as the “Love of Wisdom”.  Luc Ferry’s most recent publication is a series of no less than twenty slim volumes (100 pages each) entitled “Mythologie et Philosophie” (Le Figaro-Plon,Paris, 2015).  In his final volume, entitled “Mythologie, Religion et Philosophie”, he develops the differences between Philosophy and Religion, but also how Psychology and Art differ from Philosophy, and examines the question of a so-called “Christian Philosophy”.  Few non-French readers would ever have the occasion to read this – for French readers – eminently readable book.  The following offers a unique but limited access for many of my other readers.

For Ferry, Philosophy is nothing less than a “lay spirituality” (p.15).  Beyond mere morality, the rules of which “serve essentially to pacify life among the egotistical, lazy and often malevolent beings that humans are” (pp.11-12), there is the quest for “the good life”, including the serenity based on the “lucidity” of accepting death as the human condition of mortals, rather than the “mirage of a supernatural promise”.  All the ancient philosophers, writes Ferry, agreed on one point : Philosophy is a “doctrine of salvation”, a practical effort to attain the good life, to save ourselves BY OURSELVES (not by God) and BY OUR REASON (not by faith) (p.9).  For the Greeks, it consisted of a reflection on three major questions :

1.  Beyond the scientific observation and analysis of the world around us, the contemplation of cosmic harmony leads us to wonder what sort of a Universe we live in, and how to achieve in it the harmony of a “good life” (pp.22-23).

2.  The ethical question : “How to organize, respecting justice, the communal life of humans in the city ?” (p.24).

3.  The existential question : What meaning can we find in life ? (p.24).

In distinguishing Religion and Philosophy, Ferry contrasts supposed “philosophical pride” with Religion’s “humility” which accepts salvation by Another, and underlines the “rupture” with reason that revelation and faith represent (p.25).  He exposes the “sophistry” that deduces a “First Cause” on the supposition that the Universe is, in effect, an effect.  Mere thought, he affirms, cannot cause such a Being to exist (p.27-28).

Ferry does not hesitate to spell out the disastrous results Religion has wrought on society throughout history, including wars like that of ex-Yugoslavia where the “holistic” sense of community of Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniacs led to an inter-faith slaughter where individuals in the opposing communities had no personal value (p.30).

Our author’s whole treatise argues that Greek Philosophy secularized ancient Mythology, and that modern-day Philosophy has secularized Christianity, offering us “a new form of transcendence” (p.82).  French readers should spend 9.9 euros to buy the final volume of the 20-volume series (which includes a CD of his original lecture).  Others will just have to wait for a translation, devoutly to be wished.  I fear, however, that it might be similar to waiting for Godot.

DELENDA   RELIGIO

PAUSE FOR THOUGHT

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78 is a respectable score, even in cricket.  Not spectacular, but better than average.  After living for eight decades, my time is running out.  If I live one more decade, people will accept my death as that of an old man who had a long and lucky life.  If I last another decade after that, it will be time to relieve my loved ones of the burden I will have become (and, they may say, which I have always been …).

I could spend the time I have left watching the world and my life go by, but I prefer, when I am not enjoying the company of family and friends, to devote a large part of my time to reading and especially to writing this Blog for Believers on the Brink.  I have the arrogant pretension to think that what I write could be interesting and even useful to browsers who ask themselves the same questions that have kept me thinking and blogging.

The question right now is : What have I done with my life ?  O.K.  Who cares ?  I do.  But it’s just possible that my introspection, my “examination of conscience” (!) and life-review might inspire others to ask the same question.  Have no fear : this post will not be an autobiographical True Confession; for that you can read the first three chapters of my book, “From Illusions to Illumination”.  This will be just a glance in the rear-view mirror, not only to reassure myself that I have not wasted my life (I damn near did …), but perhaps to trigger decisions to make the most of what’s left of it.

Let’s start with a question inspired by one of Jesus’ parables : What did I do with my “talents” ?

False humility has no place here.  Nor does the self-deception born of pride.  I often speak of my “luck”.  Indeed, I could have been born physically or mentally handicapped.  I could have been born at a time and in a place and in a milieu which condemned me to hunger, poverty and misery.  I could have been deprived of a family environment and an education that made it possible for me to be equipped to face life’s challenges and to seize its opportunities.  I could have missed out on the joys and fulfillment of being a husband and a father (I damn near did …).  I could have been demolished by misfortune, sickness and tragedy.  I could have spent my life in a meaningless, boring job.  I could have received a salary (and for a very long time did) that would make a decent retirement impossible.  I could have failed to use whatever “talents” I had to lead a life that has been both rewarding and fulfilling.

But instead of contenting myself with badly disguised self-satisfaction, I must ask myself some other more challenging questions :  What difference did my life make for others ?  How many suffered because of my indifference, cruelty, injustice ?  What did I do to bring joy and comfort, encouragement and enlightenment, love and … liberation, into the lives of others, my family, my friends, my students, my professional colleagues and others in the milieux in which I have lived ?  What legacy will I leave ?

I am not going to indulge in either self-flagellation or self-congratulation.  But questions like those highlight why I should be grateful to so many for making my life the joy it has been and still is (far more often than not), but also why I must carpe the diem ahead of me, however long – or how short – that “dies”, that “day”, may be.

VIVENDA   VITA

YOUR CHOICE : THE BIBLE OR BRYSON

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Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar – his pedagogical compression of the history of the Universe into a 24-hour day – was the inspiration for Bill Bryson’s history of the Earth reduced to a single day.  Bryson’s model is worth recalling here so as to underline that the Bible’s accounts of Creation are at best charming children’s stories which people have either naïvely believed to be true or have vainly tried to reconcile with proven scientific data.  Sagan and Bryson have both shown us why divine Creation is not only a childish fantasy but a stretching of the imagination contradicted by both scientific evidence and common sense.  Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, “Laudato Si”, hailed as a breakthrough appeal to protect our fragile environment, is explicitly based on belief in God as Creator.

I will leave you to check out the detail in Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” (Doubleday, New York, 2003), p.297.  I will content myself with just one (obvious) comment.  Either you accept God in the fast-track : “Let there be light, and (BINGO !) there was light !” (Gen.1:3), and His messing about with mud to make a man on the spot (Gen.2:7), or you take seriously the scientific data behind the “day” of our planet’s history.  In the model of  4.5 million years of Earth’s history compressed into a normal earthly day, life began very early, about 4:00 am, with the rise of the first, simple single-celled organisms, but then advances no further for the next sixteen hours.  Humans emerge one minute and seventeen seconds before midnight.

Theologians and Popes have tried valiantly to reconcile traditional doctrine with Darwin and Mendel’s data, the former establishing the fact of evolution and the latter explaining how it works.  In its revised godological explanation, the Church has God deciding to set the whole process in motion – He made the Big Bang happen 13.8 billion years ago – and presumably determining in advance the moment for the appearance of microbes, the first sea plants, the first jellyfish, trilobites and later the first land creatures.  Evolution, in current Catholic dogma, is simply God’s tool, and further evidence of His power, wisdom and, no doubt, divine … patience.  Amazingly, the faithful are ready to swallow this, along with anything else Rome decides to decree.

Bryson’s book is not only a mine of information but a unique collection of scientific insights and historical anecdotes expressed with a pedagogy and a style of writing the rest of us can only admire and envy.  The following sampling will, I hope, inspire you to read his eminently readable masterpiece :

1.   Jack Haldane was the genius son of the brilliant scientist John Scott Haldane.  “At the age of three, he was overheard demanding peevishly of his father : ‘But is it oxyhaemoglobin or carboxyhaemoglobin ?’ “.  He went on to become the world’s expert on depression chambers for submariners and divers.  (p.215)

2.   “If you shrank the Earth to the size of a standard desktop globe, (our atmosphere) would be only about the thickness of a couple of coats of varnish.”  (p.225)

3.   “The simple amoeba, just one cell big and without any ambitions but to exist, contains 400 million bits of genetic information in its DNA – enough, as Carl Sagan noted, to fill 80 books of 500 pages.”  (p.265)

4.   We “have a herd of about one trillion bacteria grazing on (our) fleshy plains … Our digestive system alone is host to more than 100 trillion microbes, of at least 400 types.”  (p.266)

5.   “It is a natural human impulse to think of evolution as a long chain of improvements, of a never-ending advance towards largeness and complexity – in a word, towards us.  We flatter ourselves.  Most of the real diversity in evolution has been small-scale.  We large things are just flukes – an interesting side-branch.  Of the twenty-three main divisions of life, only three – plants, animals and fungi – are large enough to be seen by the human eye, and even they contain species that are microscopic.  Indeed … if you totalled up all the biomass of the planet – every living thing, plants included – microbes would account for at least 80% of all there is, perhaps more.  The world belongs to the very small – and it has done for a very long time.”  (p.274)

6.   “99.99% of all species that have ever lived are no longer with us.  For complex organisms, the average life-span is only about four million years – roughly about where we are now.”   (p.302).  (I leave you to draw your own conclusions about “Intelligent Design” from this history of life which is one primarily of … extinction !)

7.   “Life just is.  As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point…  Life, in short, just wants to be.”  (p.297)

Believe the Bible if you wish.  I’ll back Bryson.

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

UNTOUCHABLES

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Politicians aren’t.  Doctors aren’t.  Teachers aren’t.  Judges aren’t.  But religions and their representatives very often are.  Declare yourself a religion, like Scientology, and in some countries you can get away with it.  “Established” churches and religions, and sometimes even sects, not only get tax-breaks, funding for schools and special privileges, but command widespread politically correct respect.  The downside is that scandals touching them are particularly delicate and dangerous, forcing the guilty to spare no efforts to practise a too-often effective “cover-up”.

One may ask why the unique aura of religion ?  The answer may seem obvious to some.  But I suggest that non-believers hesitate to criticize religions and their personnel, beliefs and practices, for two reasons : not only fear of alienating friends, family and the powers that be, but also a suppressed fear that maybe “God” would not like it.  There is a part of Pascal in all of us : maybe, just maybe, there is some truth in religion after all.  Cowardice in non-believers is as pathetic as blindness in believers.

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

“HISTORY : A LIE WHICH IS NO LONGER DISPUTED”

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A provocative statement with a clear if cynical message.  All “historical” accounts are at best imperfect, at worst based on blatant lies.  In between, there are honest attempts to reconstruct the past, which, like all scientific endeavors, remain open to new, complementary and sometimes conflicting evidence, which, however uncomfortable or unwelcome, must be taken into account.

The application of the title’s principle to the sources of religious belief deserves reflection.  Traditional convictions, especially religious, have a unique resilience.  To question them is far more threatening to one’s comfort zone than, say, new revelations about the Napoleonic wars and the history of the brief reign of the Emperor.  Napoleon was himself largely the creator of his own legend, and people still read “The Memorial of Saint Helena” as though it relates purely objective, unadulterated factual events.  It is, however, far more “historical” than those more ancient “Memorials” which are the four Gospels.  Though much of the content of the latter is clearly pure fabrication and myth, most people would hesitate to call them lies.  They are generally considered to be true as “history” – privileged because religious – “no longer disputed” by billions of believers.

Unshakeable in their faith, they will be happy and relieved to dismiss the provocative title of this post when I reveal to them that its words are those of Napoleon himself.  (Prejudice against the “despicable despot” is such that if he stated that 2 plus 2 equals 4, some would cast even the axiom into doubt.)  Nonetheless his epigram, worthy of Wilde, should continue to challenge the credulity of religious believers.  Though billions refuse to dispute the “historical fact” of the Resurrection and the wishful thinking of our own afterlife, both remain illusions, and I would dare say, lies.

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

GETTING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF JESUS

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He is, as we know, ensconced in a divinely comfortable Lazyboy recliner at the right hand of His Father.  Sometimes He’s a bit distracted by that damned dove fluttering over their divine heads.  Neither the Gospels nor the godologians tell us whether He and His Dad are watching “Star Trek” or enjoying closed-circuit TV with Hell.  Is that a chess, or a ouija, board on the coffee-table between them ?  On the lower shelf there is a Galactic TV Guide, but also some serious reading : Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”, Darwin’s two major works and a slim volume entitled “From Illusions to Illumination. The Itinerary of a Franciscan Priest from Catholicism to Atheism”.  (Curiously there is not a single copy of the Bible, though there is a beautifully bound Koran.)

The question that interests me here, however, is not the seating arrangements in Heaven, but how to get on His, Jesus’, right side ?  Christians claim that He loves everyone, but the Gospels reveal He loved some (like the Apostle John at the Last Supper) more than others, and that – as Thom has recently pointed out – He preferred to snub His Mum rather than His clients.  More important, we discover that He tended to pick and choose the sick people He was willing to cure.  One cannot but wonder about His xenophobia in the story of the Canaanite woman (Mt.15:21-28).  Initially indifferent to her being “tormented cruelly by a demon”, insisting that He had been sent exclusively for the lost sheep of Israel, and referring to foreigners, non-Jews, as “little dogs”, He finally made an exception and cured her.

But the larger question cannot be ignored : If He could cure anybody He chose to, why did He not choose to cure everybody ?  Apparently you had to come from the right side of the tracks to be on His right side.  Many are sick but few are cured.

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

MORE FISH STORIES

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Whatever else He was, Jesus was not a tax-evader.  But while not actually cheating, He did find a dubious way of coming up with the necessary.  As we saw in the previous post, he got Peter to find, in the mouth of a fish, a coin to cover both their tax-bills (Mt.17:27).  OK, it’s a fish story.  But it was meant to be taken seriously as proof of Jesus’ miraculous powers and His claims to be both the Messiah and the Son of God.  The evangelist is affirming that it actually happened.  Today’s believers cannot be let off the hook (!) by saying it was somehow allegorical, symbolic or whatever.  But if it was meant to prove that Jesus was who He said He was, why the choreography, why the elaborate, surprising staging of an “event” to impress Peter and the rest of us ?  It would have been equally effective had Jesus pulled the coin out from behind Peter’s ear . . .

In the same vein, I thought you might appreciate the ten following fish-stories (albeit fish-less) all from the first ten chapters of the Gospel of Mark.  Pick the three you think are the hardest to believe and put their identifying numbers in a comment.  If you pick the right ones (i.e. my choice) you win a plenary indulgence.  (Protestants are forbidden to participate)  :

1.   Heaven opens up and a dove flies down and flutters over Jesus after His baptism by John (Mk.1:10).

2.   Angels provide cave-service and take care of Jesus for forty days in the desert (Mk.1:13).

3.   Demons are transferred from a possessed man into 2000 pigs which then plunge over a cliff and drown in the lake (Mk.5:13).  (While one may wonder about the market for pork in Israel, now and then, there is no mention of reimbursement to the pig-farmer although we are told that he and his neighbors were not too happy and Jesus was “asked”, no doubt in no uncertain terms (“Hit the road, Jack” ?), to leave the area.

4.   Jesus feels a force being drained from His body when a hemorrhaging woman was cured just by sneakingly touching His cloak (Mk.5:30).

5.   Jesus walks on the lake, scaring the daylights out of His disciples out boating who thought He was a ghost (Mk.6:48-49).

6.   Jesus pokes His finger into the ears of a deaf-mute and then puts a dob of His own saliva on the poor guy’s tongue – and bingo !  (Mk.7:33).

7.   A blind man gets the same disgusting treatment on his eyes.  Re-bingo ! (Mk.8:23).

8.   Jesus is “transfigured”, His clothes become “whiter than white” (as later ads for detergent will say), and shoots the breeze with two dead biblical characters, Elias and Moses, all three covered by a talking cloud which says :  “This is my beloved Son : listen to Him” (Mk.9:2-7).

9.   Jesus, who had a soft spot for kids, cures a deaf and dumb child who since birth has been frothing at the mouth, rolling on the ground and throwing himself into fires and ponds, trying to kill himself (Mk.9:17-29).

10.  At Jericho, famous for an earlier, noisier miracle (“when the walls came tumbling down”), Jesus restores sight to a blind beggar, who then becomes one of his followers (this Blog, did I tell you ?, now has forty-eight !) (Mk.10:46-52).

Find the right three (fish-stories not followers) and you not only win the plenary but get your name published world-wide in the best blog there is.

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

FISH – STORIES

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It is no doubt unfair to fish to associate them with what we also call “tall” stories.  It would seem that from time immemorial, fishermen have not been able to resist adding to the length of the fish they claim to have caught.  No one ever boasted of catching a sardine.

The Bible is a collection of fish-stories, some of which actually concern fish.  The biggest in both categories is, of course, Jonah and the Whale, a literary classic perhaps less gripping, more difficult to … swallow, but far more readable than “Moby Dick”.  Jesus Himself made reference to it (Mt.12:39-41) and presumably believed it actually happened.  (He saw it as a model for the miracle of His own Resurrection, so He must have thought it was more than pious fiction.)  He chose as His Apostles a bunch of fishermen, establishing His credibility by offering them a miraculous, net and record-breaking, catch.  He told one of them, Peter the future Pope, that he would be a “fisher of men”.  When a crowd of 5000 and later another of 4000 forgot to bring a picnic lunch with them to His open-air rallies, He fed them all with a few loaves and … fishes.  Some unknown early Christian, who was into acronyms, wanted to find a clever secret code for members of the persecuted sect.  He came up with “ICTHUS” – “I-esous CH-ristos TH-eou U-ios S-oter”, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” : the Greek word for … fish !  Better still, it was enough to use two simple intersecting curves to draw a stylized fish, the prototype of a collection of centuries of Christian art.  (Humankind is descended from fish; so is Christian iconography.)

(Just for fun  :  “F-aith  I-s  S-imply  H-allucination !”   Anyone for acronyms ?)

Both Testaments have their fish-stories, but the one I like best is in Mt.17:27 : Jesus has the I.R.S. on His back, so He sends Peter fishing.  From the mouth of the first fish he catches he pulls out a coin, just enough to pay Jesus’ – as well as his own – taxes.  And you thought money grew on trees !

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

FAITH : THE NECESSARY EXTRA INGREDIENT

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—   “Be it done unto you according to your faith”  (Mt.8:13)

—   “Your faith has saved you”  (Mt.9:22)

—   “Be it done unto you according to your faith”  (Mt.9:29)

—   (To Peter, who had a sinking feeling …)  “Man of little faith, why did you  doubt ?”   (Mt.14:31)

—   “Woman, your faith is great.  Be it done unto you according to your desire”       (Mt.15:28)

—   “In truth I tell you, if you have faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mountain ‘Move from here to there’ and it would move : nothing would be impossible for you”   (Mt.17:20)

—   “If you do not become like little children (‘who believe in Me’ – Mt.18:6), you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven”  (Mt.18:3)

—   “If you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what was done to this fig-tree, but if you say to this mountain ‘Go back and throw yourself into the sea’, that will happen.  Everything that you ask for in prayer, you will receive”  (Mt.21:21-22)

Those eight quotations are what Jesus said about faith in the Gospel of Matthew.  He kept repeating Himself, apparently afraid people might miss His point or not take Him at His word : if you believe enough, you can do anything : get your cancer cured, walk on water, move mountains, you name it !  You just have to believe, like a child.

We all know about the Placebo Effect.  And we have all practised wishful thinking.  But Jesus is telling us solemnly, without hyperbole or rhetoric … “YES, you CAN !”   It was bad, and sad, enough that He believed it Himself; it is worse, and more pathetic, that many people still do.  Naturally they need a back-up explanation when things don’t work out quite the way they hoped and expected : “God works in mysterious ways.  He must have known it would have done me (or my dead baby …), more harm than good.  I not only believe Him; I believe IN Him – I trust Him; He knows best.”  (Don’t forget to pick up your brain from the cloak-room.)

No way one can argue with such a closed (empty ?) mind.  If your prayer is answered, “Hallelujah !”  If it’s not, “Thank you, Jesus, for doing what’s best for me”.  Such iron-bound credulity makes attempts at rational discussion pointless.

But this naïve confidence, charming and touching in a child, is shared by adult believers who take Jesus seriously and “become as little children” (Mt.18:3).  An engineer and would-be Catholic apologist, in an attempt to counter my attacks against credulity, recently told me, in writing :  Our reasoning is “imperfect”; “faith is additionally needed”.  The expression is clumsy but the thought is clear.  Echoing the nonsense in Pope John Paul 2’s encyclical “Faith and Reason”, he seriously suggests not only that faith can move mountains but that it is a necessary source of truth, to complete that which we acquire through reason.  Luckily Jesus told us what we must believe.  And He is God’s Son, isn’t He ?  He told us so Himself.

I know a catechist in Sydney who is planning on relocating Australia’s highest, albeit modest, mountain from Kosciusko to Katoomba.  Melbournites won’t be happy (it’s halfway between the two capitals), but my friend feels it’s all in a good cause.  He wants to organize Bible-camps in the snow-country but finds Mount Kosciusko too far.  It would be so much more convenient, and economical, at Katoomba, just 100 kms from Sydney.  Moreover, he feels the best time would be January, during the long Summer school holidays.  So he is not only going to get Jesus to move the mountain; he is going to get Him to make it snow, heat-wave or no heat-wave.  The kids will have fun in the snow as they learn about the fires of Hell.

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

” DO YOU LOVE JESUS ? “

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I thought I did once.  Now I realize I don’t even like Him.  He was one crazy, mixed-up, dangerous megalomaniac, notoriously hung-up about sex and opposed to even heterosexual marriage, a manipulative magician, a deluded religious fanatic, a mixture of sado-masochism, violence, vengeance and xenophobia, with illusions not only of being the Savior of Mankind but of incarnating God Himself.  On the other hand, many see Him as a great story-teller, kind to kids, fallen women and even His executioners, a crowd-pleaser, something of a poet, a dreamer, a mystic – in all, these people feel, one really nice dude and probably the Most Unforgettable Character anyone ever met.

If you think I’m exaggerating or just being nasty, take a look at the Gospels.  Telling people not to care about tomorrow, where the food and the money are to come from, how to feed the kids, pay the bills and make ends meet, was irresponsible enough to send Christopher Hitchens up the wall.  Jesus was a doomsday prophet who thought the world would end some time soon, real soon, so He advised people to down tools, abandon their fishing nets (and presumably their families) and follow Him, though He had nowhere to lay His head or they theirs, knowing they would all have to depend on handouts to survive.  (Later St Francis of Assisi would take Him literally and make mendicants of mugs like me.)

He was, no doubt about it, a gifted magician.  Those miraculous cures, those resurrections of dead folks, those mass-feedings of 5000 then 4000 hungry people with a few loaves and fishes !  The trick I liked best was walking on the water before conning Peter to do the same and so make a drowning ass of himself – Laurel and Hardy biblical slapstick – and then pulling a coin out of a fish’s mouth to pay His and Peter’s taxes (Peter’s Pence ?).

He waxed eloquent, especially when He was scaring the bejeebies out of folks by threatening them, if they refused to believe in Him, with non-stop weeping, gnashing of teeth and the fires of Hell.  He was pitifully vulnerable (and, in His own mind, no doubt noble), when He accepted His inevitable arrest, torture and execution, convinced that even if His Dad would not make that damned chalice of pain and distress disappear and rather let Him suffer and suffocate, abandoned on the cross, He would rise from the dead before returning to sit next to His Father, as apparently He had been doing from all eternity until His Old Man sent Him to earth to die so as to pay the debt we owed Him (you work it out !).

As principal character in a gruesome, godawful novel (in serious need of editing, if only to eliminate the embarrassing contradictions and mindless repetitions), He lives out a tear-jerking tragedy with a Happy Ending.  His imagined biography became the Best Seller of All Time.  The extraordinary thing is that people believe that the story is true, factual, and worse, believe in Him, dedicate their lives to Him and His message, and die convinced they will enjoy the eternal bliss He promised them.  The writers of the “Good News”, the Gospels, had no idea how successful they would be.  They got billions of people to believe the story, to believe in their Hero, to love Him – while I find it hard even to like the poor guy.                                     

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

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