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Deconstructing Jesus

I’ll preface this blog by saying that the Christian belief system is a very mature one, in that it’s doctrines have become a panacea and comfort for countless people. It provides security for our eternal future, a safe haven from our darkest struggles, hope for a better life, loving communities and a way to navigate the complexities of life. The writings of Paul in the New Testament are powerful observations of human nature and methodologies for navigating our failings. For most Christians however, it all comes down to “relationship with Jesus”.

In my own life, through all the years of crap, it was my relationship with Jesus that kept me going!

We claim that whatever people say and do and whatever claims about God people make, Jesus is real and loves me more deeply than I could ever imagine. When we experience the “living Christ” we know that we know he’s real and alive in us.

Atheists and critics tend to focus on all the absurdities of the bible and the mythical anthropomorphic god, the hypocrisy of the church and so on – all the really obvious stuff. But for those of us who have experienced the reality of Jesus none of that matters, in fact we may even agree with a lot of it! When we “know” Jesus, nothing is going to shake that belief because we experience him everyday and every way in our lives.

When everything fell apart for me, the only thing I had was Jesus. I could rest in the fact that he was there for me, speaking to me, telling me it was OK and he’d look after me. But as I began to dismantle the theology and doctrines, the historicity and veracity of the bible, church history, other religions and philosophies and especially psychology, I had to take a second look at this “relationship”.

As all the external beliefs slowly crumbled I was left wondering what this relationship actually was. What exactly was my heart “hearing” when we talked? Where did these words of love and comfort come from? It wasn’t until I had the honesty and fortitude to let go of my security in that voice that I could see it for what it is. It was me all along!

Yes, it was my deep longing for love being voiced by my subconscious desires. It was my own heart telling me I’m loved and good and to hang in there. I had taken my “innermost thoughts” and ascribed them to a deity. I had separated my heart into “me vs god”. The core doctrines of Christianity told me that my heart was deceptive and there was nothing good in us, and that the only way we could grow was to nurture our relationship with Jesus, so this inner voice, that the bible said was the Holy Spirit (which is the same as Jesus, which is the same as God, or not), was the only thing to be trusted. However, we could only trust it if it aligned with scripture!

But that opened the door for Jesus to be able to say anything to me as long as it could be backed by scripture. This was beginning to become rather a mess, because there are millions who claim to hear Jesus say all sorts of stupid stuff, backed up by scripture. So the only thing that I could say for sure was Jesus voice were the words of love and acceptance, because without that, I had nothing. I was already nothing more than a piece of shit saved by grace, God didn’t have to remind me of that all the time, so his love was the only thing that made sense to me.

But as I said, when I finally had nothing left to lose, I discovered that my own heart – desperate for love and acceptance – was really this “Jesus in me”. I decided to accept that as the reality, instead of all the complicated twisted theology of the trinity and human nature, and how God lives in us.

My heart, in it’s deepest place, is pure and loving. I’m not intrinsically broken and sinful. None of us are! We certainly lose sight of that however, as we blunder on through life, and completely lose sight of that deep perfect love, but it’s there none the less.

So I no longer talk to Jesus, or listen for his words of love and comfort. I don’t wait expectantly in prayer for that still small voice to whisper to me, or his passionate embrace of my soul. I open the depth of my heart to hear what’s always been in me – that part of me that is beyond ego, that existed before our paradigms were formed by life’s interactions and expectations. My heart knows me better than any deity, better than my scrambled thoughts, better than my deluded ego. It’s my own deepest voice that speaks love, and that is a power and strength that no deity can ever match!

What is God?

Religious people believe in God – Atheists don’t. Simple really – until we ask what we mean by “God”.

Here’s a little summary from Wikipedia. Have fun getting through that!

If you come from primarily Christian, Jewish or Islamic backgrounds, God is an all powerful being. He is “omni” everything and predominantly masculine, especially in Christian and Islamic beliefs. Other religions are a little more generous with their idea of God and many have a whole heap of them.

Then there are those who prescribe to a less humanised type of God, who see God as a power that exists in everything. Some see God as nothing more than the power of love. Others see God as consciousness. In fact there are so many definitions of God that when we say “I believe in God” we could really mean anything! Image result for my god is better than your god

Most traditional views, especially in the big 3, offer an anthropomorphic view of God as a single Deity who has complete control over everything. Others prefer something along the lines of Hinduism, where God’s are still anthropomorphic but there are millions of them, representing every aspect of life through metaphor and allegory.

I’ve found that when I talk to people as an “ex-Christian” they assume I no longer believe in God. They assume that there is only one type of God – their God. The same for all other major religions.

So when we enter into discussions, even outside of the traditional Christian/Abrahamic beliefs, we must remember that we all see a different God/gods. An atheist will scorn your belief in any god, but most assume you are talking about a type of Abrahamic God.

Many people who leave traditional religions recognise that there is the possibility of a power/force/whatever that is beyond our understanding. This relates to ideas such as:

  • We are all part of God
  • We are all gods
  • God is pure love
  • God is the innate consciousness of the universe
  • God is nature
  • And countless other variations on the theme

The thing is, no one is right OR wrong. We simply don’t know.

However! We owe it to ourselves, and the entire human race, to consider what our particular God is really good for.

Does our God:

  • Contribute to a better world, promoting peace, love and tolerance?
  • Teach us to accept others unconditionally?
  • Help us tend for the planet in all it’s beauty and bounty?
  • Give us real empathy for all people?
  • Fight for injustice and abuse without an agenda? and so on…

When I was a Christian I would have answered yes to all the above, but with the overall condition that Jesus must be at the centre of it all and you had to accept him as Lord and saviour. Only then could you truly love. I know many Christians (and Muslims and Jews etc) who genuinely don’t have an agenda, but the majority do. The genuinely loving ones hold a different foundational belief in the nature of God, often far more “mystical” – seeing the bible as metaphors, and doctrines as less important than inclusive love. This is also true of the other religions.

In summary, it comes down to what God have we created in our own minds? How have we shaped our beliefs to encompass something that includes all humanity in a way that brings unconditional love to all? We can’t simply say “there is no god”, because we don’t know. We can’t prove one way or the other. But we can look for beliefs that on the one hand, satisfy our need for love, acceptance and security, and on the other, are rational and not elitist/exclusive dogmatic systems.

If genuine, unbiased love is the “fruit” then go for it. Just don’t pretend that YOUR god is THE god.

Popper’s Paradox

Free speech,

Tolerance,

Unconditional love…


How do these things work in reality?


In 1945 the philosopher Karl Popper proposed the paradox of tolerance.

In a nutshell he said “if a society is tolerant without limit, their ability to be tolerant will eventually be seized or destroyed by the intolerant”, or to paraphrase that: we can only survive by being intolerant about intolerance.

As we all know, white supremacy and all it’s ugly variants are making headlines and empowering those who secretly embrace those views to speak out. There’s also the current political mess in Australia over gay marriage, where conservative christians are doing all they can to stop it.

So where do we draw the line on free speech and religious freedom?

We have to draw it somewhere, or our society will become victim to it and we will loose those very freedoms!

The balance is in how we confront them. If we use “violence” (physical, vocal or in any form) we are playing the same game, and when confronted in this way, the intolerant simply dig their heels in and use the opposition to fuel more intolerance.

Respect for their humanity is key. To recognise that we could be the same if we’d been raised in a different environment is a sobering thought. It’s a learned trait, something we aren’t just born with. So compassion and empathy is the key to any communication, bypassing the rhetoric and reactionary thought processes and focussing on understanding why people are like this.

At the risk of being overly simplistic, it comes down to a lack of love. They never experienced the type of unconditional love themselves that breeds self worth and empathy for others. They are broken and angry, but instead of looking within, they are lashing out at the rest of us.

But they still have to be stopped from spreading this disease, and that’s where we have to draw lines. Although love is the only “cure” for these people, we still have to deal with the affects they are having on our society.

The alt right issue is pretty obvious, but the christian right style of bigotry, especially towards LGBT people is more complex because of the religious freedom problems. And that opens a very large can of worms because it will eventually confront all religions on issues of bigotry and tolerance.

Perhaps it’s time we stop being afraid of challenging people’s belief systems?

We can do this with love and patience without compromising our stand. They believe they are doing the right thing, so we have to talk to their hearts, bypass the religious rhetoric and present compassion and empathy for the broken as our motivation.

We also have to remember that for most christians it’s a case of “the bible says so”, and that’s a tough nut to crack. But with the same level of compassion we can help them to understand that their views are in error, as have been so many christian opinions over the centuries, that had to be adjusted and morality, ethics and science outgrew the ignorance of ancient culture.

We must be strong but loving – compassionate but without compromise – draw the lines but help them gently step over them. It’s hard work, but if we can step back from our own reactionary thought processes we will be able to exercise the love they need to see in action.

 

 

(Originally published 24/8/17 on Jim’s Awesome Blog)