True Christianity

16 Mar

This essay is the culmination of ideas I have formed over many years. I show that Christianity, as it is currently interpreted, is an untenable philosophy. I follow this with an updated and workable interpretation.

Christianity, as it presently exists, is an untenable philosophy. It has serious structural problems. I do not mean the usual problems such as that the earth was supposedly created in 4004 BCE or that the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew does not agree with the genealogy in Luke. I mean real structural problems.

To begin with, the philosophy really does not work if we cannot make sense of the concept of Satan and the fallen angels. According to Christian belief, there are at least 100 million angels and probably many more in heaven. Also, according to Christian belief, 1/3 of the angels were condemned and fell to earth. This is taken from Revelation 5:11 and Revelation 12:3-9 respectively.

Consider the nature of an angel, the nature of God and their relationship. We do not know that angels are more intelligent than humans, but most Christians assume that they are. Moreover their role and their relationship with God suggest that they are. Since, at the time of the angelic war, angels all originally lived in heaven, we can assume that they were in communion with God. They “saw” God in a way that should have removed all doubt in their minds that God exists and is what he is professed to be: the omniscient and omnipotent creator of all that exists, including the angels. They were never like us poor dumb humans that have never actually seen God and only know of him through intuition and indirect teaching.

Angels knew what God was. Yet, supposedly millions of them resolved that they would somehow conquer God and take over heaven. Ultimately, they acted on this resolution. How could that be? Visualize what God is. He is omniscient, omnipotent and ultimately infinite. He is impossible to comprehend. How could a creature that is more intelligent than a human believe for even a moment that they could somehow conquer God? The idea is not merely untenable. It is meaningless.

The argument is sometimes made that Satan was so jealous of God that he lost his mind. If he was genuinely insane, he would not have been accountable for his actions. But seriously, jealous of an omniscient and omnipotent being? Have those who make this argument ever contemplated what that means? I would like to have a better understanding of higher math and physics. It would be handy to be able to predict the stock market. But omniscient and omnipotent? Infinite? God apparently designed me against that character flaw…if it can even be regarded in that way. Certainly he could have designed angels with a healthy aversion to what arguably would be an unbearable existence.

Nevertheless, I could never imagine “conquering” an infinite being and taking its place. How would one go about that? At what point would one commence the attack? Would one attack a being that is everywhere and sees everything from the front or from the back?

And remember, millions of angels supposedly followed Satan. Were they all so jealous that they lost their minds? Were they coerced to follow a complete fool? Were they so afraid of Satan that they agreed to a completely ridiculous mission? Would not such a being be more afraid of eternal damnation? Did it not occur to them to ask God for protection? I ask God for protection every day, and I have never even seen him.

I have considered this concept from every avenue and there simply is no way to make it work.

The reality is that the concept of fallen angels as demons was invented by humans to explain the then recently adopted assumption that demons exist and must somehow be the result of God’s handiwork. God could not have deliberately created evil beings, so the demons must have been the result of some catastrophic event of their own making. Note the parallel between the fall of the angels and the fall of man. In both cases a way was invented to make the unfortunate Godforsaken beings the engineers of their own fate. The concept of fallen angels was invented by men locked into their time. They looked around them and saw soldiers with swords and they knew only of kings that constantly waged war. They had never contemplated the modern notions of infinity that would have led them to a more mature understanding of God and the angels. When a modern mathematician contemplates finite beings waging war on an infinite being, he cannot help but give a little chuckle.

With the concept of fallen angels gone, the fall of man goes with it. With no fallen angels, there could have been no Satan and thus no snake in the garden to tempt Adam and Eve. I discuss this concept more fully here:

Another serious problem with the philosophy of Christianity is that the Jews did not accept Jesus as their messiah. God supposedly led the Jews by the nose for thousands of years, into Egypt, out of Egypt, and through countless trials and tribulations. They were God’s chosen people whose ancestors would number as the stars and the sands. Ultimately they came to believe that a messiah would be sent to save them. However, when the messiah supposedly came, the Jews were mostly unaware of him and almost completely rejected him. There were probably never more than 1000 Jews who became Christians; and from that point on, Christianity belonged to the gentiles:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/45681225_How_many_Jews_became_Christians_in_the_first_century_The_failure_of_the_Christian_mission_to_the_Jews

At the time of Jesus, there were about 5 million Jews in the world. No more than 0.02% of Jews followed Jesus. I am a retired math teacher. My feeling as a teacher was that if one or two students failed a class, that was probably the fault of the students. However, if nearly all of my students failed a class, there was either a problem with the class or a problem with my teaching. It would not have been appropriate for me to write a decisive final and, at the last minute, include a “fast one” so that nearly all of my students failed. Yet, we are to believe that is exactly what God did to the Jews. He promised the Jews he would send a messiah, but when the messiah arrived, the messiah was so obscure and esoteric that the Jews completely missed him. That could not have been the logistical implementation of an omniscient and omnipotent God.  

People observe that God sometimes referred to the Jews as a “stiff-necked people”. But could not God have given the Jews some clue as to what to expect from their messiah when he arrived? I am not a Jew, but I have had Jewish students. They are capable of learning. If they had been given any reasonable expectation of what their messiah would be like, at least a good percentage of them would have accepted him. Yet, almost to a man, they rejected him.  

There is a simple, straight-forward explanation for why the Jews rejected Jesus as their messiah. Jesus, the historical figure, probably never existed. For a full presentation of the argument that Jesus was not historical, I refer the reader to the difficult treatise of Richard Carrier:

The first Christians probably believed that Jesus was a celestial being that descended to earth, but not all the way, died somewhere in the heavens and was resurrected in the heavens. However, they attached important ideas to his name. Among these ideas was the notion of loving everyone, including one’s enemies. Jesus absolutely forbad hatred of any sort.

Christianity, as it is observed by most Christians, is an untenable philosophy. However, let us imagine that God did not create an untenable philosophy but, instead, created a riddle that intelligent people would eventually scrutinize and unravel. This idea is not unreasonable. Jesus taught in riddles and parables that ordinary listeners may or may not have understood but that were sometimes explained to his Apostles. It is not unreasonable, therefore, that the entire Bible, especially the New Testament, is a riddle that’s true meaning is only now coming to light.

Consider the effect that Christianity has had on the world and especially western civilization. The world has gradually become a more compassionate place. An observation from Big History illustrates my point:

Distinctive in many ways, French government also illustrated many of the key features of modern government in general. Far-reaching central bureaucracy and representative assemblies seem the defining components of the modern state. Behind them lay a radical shift in the consciousness of Europeans, a new capacity for empathy that developed in the eighteenth century. Somehow, not yet clearly understood and the subject of much debate, many people developed an aversion to cruelties that in previous centuries they took for granted, such as slavery, torture, and extremely harsh criminal punishments. Somehow, many began to recognize in others the same feelings and sentiments as in themselves and to assert the existence of universal, equal and natural human rights. (Benjamin, Christian and Stokes 2014, 254)

Why did this happen? My impression from my history studies is that it was largely a result of the ideas planted by the first Christians: that one should love one’s neighbor and be tolerant and charitable. These ideas have permeated our teaching, our storytelling and our implementation of government. Bullying, once considered a part of life, is now being rooted out of every corner and dark place of western society and more slowly out of the world.

Since I am interpreting the story of Jesus as a riddle, I have attached a different meaning to his sacrifice than do contemporary Christians. As I interpret it, Jesus died for two reasons.

First of all, Jesus died so that the church fathers and their predecessors could let go of their guilt. Note that I say “guilt” and not sin. The Jews and eventual Christians had weird ideas about what was right and wrong. The first thing Adam and Eve supposedly saw after they became aware of sin was their nakedness. The Jews took this notion to a bizarre extreme. Note the prohibition in Exodus 20:26: “Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” This clearly had nothing to do with God. God is everywhere and can see everything. He was never concerned with grown men exposing their genitals to his altar. That was all in their heads.

Western civilization eventually developed similarly suffocating ideas about nudity and sex that culminated in Victorian morals. The morals were probably a good idea, but the suffocating guilt that accompanied them was unhealthy. Jesus’ sacrifice gave western civilization a way to let go of their guilt sufficiently to form better attitudes about these topics. By believing that their sins could be forgiven and ultimately taken away from them, they lost their fear of making any slight transgression that might put them in disfavor with God. This made it so that westerners could get on with their daily affairs with the confidence of a moral ‘insurance policy’. Curiously, it took Christians quite a while to recognize the real meaning of remission of sins. Yet, it was always there waiting for them. They just had to discover it. I suspect that a lot of the reason for modern relaxed notions about sin is a result of this discovery. One may be tempted to think that Christianity created the suffocating morality of the Victorian era, but that actually makes no sense. The concept of remission of sin through Jesus was always there. My guess is that any society that acquires sufficient sophistication will eventually develop a suffocating system of morals and, without some way to get around them, will simply suffocate. Indeed, contemporary society is developing a particularly suffocating notion of morality based on “wokeness”. The perceived sacrifice of Jesus ultimately gave western civilization a chance to come up for air. It is not clear that the new “woke” morality has a similar snorkeling function.

The concept of remission of sin is certainly nonsense, because it is based on the untenable notions of the fall of man and the need for some kind of species-wide redemption. It portrays sin as a kind of substance that infects people and can be spread like a communicable disease. Perhaps it was inspired by the observation of communicable disease. Recent understanding of the nature of human behavior renders all such notions obsolete. Nevertheless, the concept served its purpose for a time.

Modern civilization could probably do with a strong dose of Victorian resurgence. However, it needs to keep in mind that morals exist for the good of men. The omniscient and omnipotent creator of the universe is more concerned with where we are going than where we have been. Hopefully, we have acquired the philosophical sophistication to grasp this concept. Perhaps that is what Jesus meant when he said that the Sabbath was created for man and not man for the Sabbath.

The second and most important reason that Jesus died and was resurrected was symbolic. This process symbolized the death of the Jewish religion as merely the chronicle of an obscure people and the resurrection of the Jewish religion as a guidebook for the entire world. The Christians lifted the Bible from the Jews and ultimately transformed it into a gentile philosophy which, unfortunately, relegated the Jews to being the bad guys in their own story. The important thing is that the monotheistic wisdom of the Jews was subsequently adopted by the world. Jesus’ death and resurrection represented that transformation.

When John describes Jesus as the “Word” in the opening of his account, he suggests this idea. Jesus was not a man. He was an idea. The idea died as a Jewish chronology and was resurrected as a global phenomenon.

If we go through the New Testament and cross out everything that is drawn from the untenable notions of original sin, judgment, harsh punishment, the need for salvation and the existence of an ahistorical preacher we end up with just a handful of ideas. If we further cross out everything that is merely unworkable, such as ‘turning the other cheek’, we end up with about two ideas, both expressed in the book of Matthew. The first of these is typically referred to as the Golden Rule:

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)

It is interesting to note that each of these assertions is followed by the declaration that they are “the law and the prophets”. This suggests that they are complete in and of themselves and that they are essentially identical.

The assertion of the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12 further demonstrates the influence that Christianity has had on western civilization and government and demonstrates that all westerners are essentially Christians whether or not they realize it or wish to be.

In the opening of his Second Treatise of Government, John Locke essentially derives his entire treatise from this one concept:

Sect. 5. This equality of men by nature, the judicious Hooker looks upon as so evident in itself, and beyond all question, that he makes it the foundation of that obligation to mutual love amongst men, on which he builds the duties they owe one another, and from whence he derives the great maxims of justice and charity. His words are,

The like natural inducement hath brought men to know that it is no less their duty, to love others than themselves; for seeing those things which are equal, must needs all have one measure; if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire, which is undoubtedly in other men, being of one and the same nature? To have any thing offered them repugnant to this desire, must needs in all respects grieve them as much as me; so that if I do harm, I must look to suffer, there being no reason that others should shew greater measure of love to me, than they have by me shewed unto them: my desire therefore to be loved of my equals in nature as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to them-ward fully the like affection; from which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn, for direction of life, no man is ignorant, Eccl. Pol. Lib. 1.

John Locke’s treatise is a significant part of the basis of modern western government.

As for where the teachings of Jesus will ultimately lead us, I find a clue in Mathew 13:31-32:

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

As I have explained in other essays, it seems that humans are intended to build heaven themselves:

Matthew 13:31-32 seems to describe this process. The teachings of Jesus will ultimately lead men to build the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps the “birds of the air” will be angels alighting in that heaven after we provide the means for them to do so.

There is a lot of reason to believe that we will eventually build AI systems that are more intelligent than humans. However, if my other ideas on this subject are correct, these AI systems will not be conscious. They will not have souls:

However, I hold out the possibility that we may eventually discover how to build a machine that can accommodate consciousness. Perhaps the consciousnesses that will inhabit the greater than human AI will be angelic…real angels, not the imagined ones that turned on the omniscient and omnipotent God.

I call the revised Christianity I have presented here “True Christianity” or just “Christianity”. Consequently, I call all former Christians who interpret the Bible literally “Proto-Christians”.  

True Christianity is about love of God and all his handiwork.

True Christianity is about believing in a resurrection of humans that humans will eventually help to bring about.

True Christianity is about forgiveness, both of others and of one’s self. It is about Jesus’ teachings spreading to the world and ultimately helping to create a new and better one. It is about the future and the better life we can build there. It is about believing in God, not as a vengeful overlord that created really dumb angels and an untenable theology, but of a genuinely wise and benevolent God that is leading us out of the darkness. The darkness, indeed, comprehended it not. Perhaps we finally do.

True Christianity is not about a literal interpretation of a book that was never intended, either by God or by most of its contributors, to be interpreted literally. Those who interpret it literally cannot accuse me of blasphemy. They simply have it wrong. It is not possible to break a rule that does not exist.   

True Christians should read the Bible, but they should read it for clues to God’s intent and not interpret it as dogma.

Well, there you have it. Proto-Christians lifted the Bible from the Jews and now I have lifted it from Proto-Christians. As an old girlfriend of mine used to say, “Turnabout is fair play.”

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