Thursday, June 11, 2009

There are no Christians, only Meta-Bibleists

No Christians actually follow Jesus. In fact, nobody even follows what the Bible "actually" says, since it doesn't actually have any specific, coherent, and determinable doctrine that can be unambiguously derived from it. My purpose here will be to elaborate on this contention, and to maintain that there are no real Christians; in fact, the whole concept of "real" Christians is utter nonsense. There are only people who worship and follow what they think the Bible says: Meta-Bibleists.

Nobody knows for sure whether or not Jesus Christ existed as an historical figure. While it is certainly possible there was someone upon which the mantle of the magic Jesus of the Bible was placed, the fact remains that little, if anything, of this person is known, and it is not completely out of the question that Jesus was, in his entirety, a manufactured myth.

None of us have any records whatsoever of his actual birth, or his death. The whereabouts of his body are unknown, and the only way we know about are from copies of collections of his sayings and stories about his life compiled by mostly unknown people who may have known some of his direct followers, along with a few mentions of what his followers believed about him in dubious histories that are likely to have had fraudulent insertions added to them by his followers. In other words, we have no direct historical evidence of his existence, only evidence that there are people who claimed he existed.

The Bible has gone through dozens of translations. We have no original copies of any of the original texts. Much of the Bible may not even be original texts – some of Paul’s letters are probably fraudulent insertions, and some of the synoptic gospels are likely composites of an original source text. Much the same is true of the Old Testament.

Furthermore, barely a third of the bible books we do have were included in the “official” canon, which sought to distill which books went together best according to internal consistency and according to their own beliefs (maybe it had something to do with their political agenda, that’s not relevant. The point is, it was regular, mortal, unguided-by-god people making these decisions, unless Christians want to continue to insert the heavy and direct hand of God in every process of the Bible’s formation. Perhaps God inspired the translators, too?), and, out of all of these, what percentage of Jesus’s actual teachings and recordings were written down, even if he did exist? Practically none, no doubt. We actually don’t have much in the way of information or teaching from Jesus at all. An embarrassingly small amount, in fact, and much of it is ambiguous, confusing, and even contradictory, as are the stories about his life. It is, at this point, next to impossible for us to untangle the truth about who the real Jesus was.

All we have to go by is the Bible, and, in fact, Christians simply use the Bible as their Truth, their guidebook for what’s right and wrong…sort of. Most of the Bible isn’t even about Jesus. You have vast portions of writings by Paul, Revelation, the Old Testament, various letters and stories that are outside of the Gospels, and so on. It is from this plethora of texts that Christians derive their doctrines, but, more to the point, only indirectly. Christians do not, as a whole, give a direct and literal reading of the Bible, and follow its teachings. Instead, they rely on interpretations, often ones they did not derive themselves, and on dubious and varied translations, on the preachings of pastors and ministers, who derive their “Christian” views from a synthesis of exegetical treatises and the accumulated ruminations of various Christian thinkers over the centuries.

One could also floor the argument that the specific doctrines of Christians have consistently morphed to suit the zeitgeist of the times, and are really just deformed reflections of local ethics derived extra-Biblically. The constant revisions and updates to “core” Christian beliefs are so dramatically different today than they were even 200 years ago, much less 1500 years ago, that the religions would be as unrecognizable as the same one to each other as English would be today to someone centuries ago. They are no longer the same religion. If the Bible is so malleable that we can still be convinced that our beliefs are derived from it even when the beliefs of different people in different times were also supposedly derived from it but which are completely different, then really what we have is a book that can mean next to anything, to anyone, and all that leaves us with is a book that really means nothing; it is simply amorphous enough to suit anyone’s needs and confirm anyone’s prior inclinations about what principles we ought to hold.

It is from this last fact that I argue that, not only do modern “Christians” not actually follow Jesus, since they don’t know what his actual teachings were and must rely entirely on the Bible, but the “truth” of the Bible is so ephemeral, so plastic, that nobody even knows what the Bible means. It has been said, not without justification, that the Bible doesn’t say much mean what you say it does, but it says you mean. In other words, it is not that you read something in the Bible, believe it to be true, and then go out and practice that, but that you believe something to be true, find a way for the Bible to confirm this, and then go out and practice what you wanted to anyway. Susan B. Anthony recognized this when she said,

“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”
-- Susan B Anthony.

The point has been elsewhere, but it’s a rather powerful point against Christians: they do not derive their ethics from the Bible. Their ethics are derived from society, and then imposed on the Bible. Thus, not only do Christians not follow Jesus directly, they do not even follow him indirectly through the teachings he actually approves of in the Bible. What they actually follow is a menagerie of mismatched interpretations pooled from a variety of sources than foisted upon the Bible. They are Meta-Bibleists.

Christians may respond to this dismissively, saying, “I don’t follow the Bible! I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ himself, and it is the guidance and wisdom I receive through prayer, by directly communing with him that I derive the truth from.”

But isn’t it interesting that for each individual Christian, the Jesus they have a relationship with always shares the exact same interpretation of the Bible that they do? I’ve never once met a Christian who said, “I was convinced the Bible told me so and so, but when I spoke with Jesus about it, he said no, the Bible was wrong or my understanding of it was wrong, and instead to do something else”. No. Jesus ALWAYS says EXACTLY what they think the Bible says. Every single time; which is odd, since there are thousands of interpretations of the Bible between different Christians, all of whom insist Jesus directly informs them in their personal judgments concerning what it means. They cannot all be correct. In fact, most of them must be wrong. And what criteria do they attempt to use? Their interpretations of the Bible! What this all comes down is, in reality, they just follow whatever the particular views of the Bible they’ve been convinced Jesus approves of and, when they pray or ask Jesus for guidance, they are really just asking themselves, and, of course, they virtually always confirm their own beliefs, since the “Jesus” they have a relationship with is their own damn psyche.

Suppose this is not true. Suppose some really are communicating with Jesus. Which ones are, and which aren’t? And how can we tell? Throw the possibility that Satan is contacting individuals and convincing them he’s Jesus into the mix, or that Jesus was Satan to begin with, not to mention that they cannot provide any evidence whatsoever that any sort of communication is going on, and never mind that their claims are mutually exclusive and thus it’s logically impossible that any more than a fraction of them are actually communicating with Jesus. No, the personal relationship bid does not help the Christian; it only mires them in even more problems, problems from which they can never hope to escape because they can never provide any plausible evidence that could convince any reasonable person that they have a relationship with Jesus, nor do they really have any justification for believing so themselves.

Christians cannot escape this problem. In fact, Christian is really a bogus term entirely, since none of them actually follow Christ. They follow this or that metainterpretation of the Bible. There are no Christians, just meta-Bibleists.

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