Today we examine the next “argument” advanced by BEattitude again God. As we have seen from past posts, his claims aren’t really against God so much as they are against a form of Christianity that appears to be the only type he is familiar with.
This next issue, is no different. It depends on one adopting his fundamentalist mindset in order to make it an issue at all. He presumes that to be Christian, one must adopt the premise that the bible is the actual word of God.
Of course, most Christians don’t assert any such thing. The more I have thought about it, the more this discussion is perhaps not worth the effort, but to point up some issues to discuss. Refuting the claims of BEattitude is just too simple, given that he harbors such a very predictable and limited understanding of either the bible itself or Christianity. For what it’s worth, we continue:
Bloody animal and human sacrifices are illogical demands by a divine god as payment for petty wrong doings. These actions are no different than the rituals of archaic pagan religions. Not to mention the bizarre ritual of symbolically drinking human blood and eating human flesh.
Today, of course, we would agree with the first two sentences. But we are looking at things from a modern 21st century position, and we cannot attach two thousand years of learning to our more primitive ancestors. We must attempt to see the world as they did.
Many people falsely assume that monotheism erupted full blown into the Middle East to the Israelites. In fact, any short perusal through the scriptures gives plenty of credence to the conclusion that this was an ongoing process. The Israelites adopted one God, Yahweh, and argued his superiority over all other gods. They in fact have God himself alluding to their being other gods in the admonition, not to place any other god before him.
Of course, if the belief was that there were in fact no other gods to place before or below God, then such a statement would be unnecessary. In fact, most scholars, so I am informed, believe that the early Israelites were polytheistic, at least giving credence to other gods, if indeed they didn’t revere them in the way they did Yahweh.
Long before the coalescence of the Israelites into a viable tribe, in hunter-gatherer societies, gods were considered as human in most ways, just having extra powers. For this reason, sacrifice was considered appropriate. Human sacrifice was the norm no doubt early on. We have our own relationship to that on this continent in the Aztecs, reported long after such behavior had ceased on the European continent.
The Israelites, like their Caananite counterparts engaged in animal sacrifice, “feeding” gods food as humans would require. This was a vast improvement over human sacrifice no doubt, but still, god was envisioned as more human that transcendent. This was also true of those who followed Yahweh.
I’m told that the practice among the Jerusalem Jews was waning at about the time of Jesus. Of course we know that it was ongoing in Greek and Roman religious rites during that period. In fact, sacrifice went beyond feeding the gods, but including the examination of the carcass for signs of how to proceed with political or economic issues.
Of course, as BEattitude rightly points out, the Jewish practices were no different in kind than those practices of other religious cults. He calls them archaic pagan practices, belying in some sense that he still has some sense of Christianity being “real” versus the pagans who were deluded. I find that amusing, but let us move on.
This proves nothing about Christianity of course, since animal sacrifice ceases for that group that is called the Jesus followers. In fact, it gets turned on it’s head by John’s Gospel, where, having to ponder the failure of Jesus to return as Paul and the other Gospel writers allude to, John moves the Last Supper up a day, and then creates the theology that Jesus in fact is the “sacrificial lamb” of Exodus fame, offered in atonement for the sins of all.
In some sense, those who eat the “flesh and blood” of Jesus are now akin to those who smeared the blood of the slain lambs across their lintels to prevent the angel of death from taking their first born as was done in Egypt. That is the theology at least of John.
BEattitude calls the communion a “bizarre ritual.” That may be. But it is a powerful reminder, whatever you actual belief about it, of the sacrifice made by a man who tried so desperately to get his fellow humans to understand that they were approaching God wrongly. Roman Catholics believe that there is an actual transformation of the wafer and wine into the body and blood (BB) by a process known as transubstantiation. It is an explanation, but not provable of course.
The Episcopal Church prefers to believe that there is an actual transformation, but that as to how it occurs, it is pure mystery. Many other mainstream Protestant fails also believe in the real presence. Others believe it is symbolic.
In any case, we are talking about what humans have concluded about what Jesus meant. We are not talking about what God ordained, unless of course you are part of the religious right who take these things quite literally. I think of Eucharist as a privilege, wherein I encounter Christ in a real way. I don’t spend time speculating beyond that. It is enough that I feel a powerful renewal of dedication to live my life in a way that is conducive to human betterment. I think that is enough.
It is easy to poke fun at that what we don’t understand and are frankly to lazy to learn about. But frankly, the one who points and giggles, says a bit more about their own lack than the shortcomings of believers. They certainly make no argument against God’s existence whatsoever, and frankly make no important contribution to biblical understanding, pro or con, since their arguments are those of the novice. To call believers names for believing in an ”imaginary friend,” is akin to throwing dirt in the faces of such giant intellects as Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, C.K. Chesterton, Teilhard de Chardin, Diedrich Boenhoffer, and tens of thousands others to say nothing of the likes of Gandhi, and some of the great Jewish minds. Yet some think they know more than these.
God of course needs no defense, and at least in my estimation, no danger is incurred to the misguided “atheist” who should at least have the mental acuity to realize that they can be no more than an agnostic. I think we all return to our source, saint and sinner alike. After that? I have lots of ideas, but no answers, but I expect I’ll be surprised.