Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jesus is the reason for the ... what, now?

I know, let's talk about why I reject Christianity - -that'll surely be fun for all and sundry, if admittedly a bit off the subject of China. Today I got a hymn stuck in my head, thanks to someone's Facebook post. I will do you the favor of not getting it stuck in your head, too, but let's just say it was one of the many, many hymns that reference how Jesus loved me enough to die for me.

Now, I could cite a lot of reasons, actually, as to why I've severed my ties with church/religion/belief. Let's see, there's ... the logical inconsistencies, the sexist patriarchy, the inability to appreciate the Bible -- a work of literature -- as literature, the !@#* creationists and abortion clinic bombers (yes, I know, they are the extremists, but quick: name three ways their churches try to put a stop to their actions), the sheer unmitigated boredom of the hours and hours and hours of my childhood and adolescence wasted in church ... yeah, there's all that, but I'm here for a much more fundamental (see what I did there) reason today, to wit: the whole "Jesus died for me" thing.

 I mean -- what the hell? So to speak.

And no one will explain it to me. (Believe me, I've asked.) They like to say things like "You have to take it on faith."  But they miss my point. This isn't about the impossibility or possibility of it, no, nor is about the (totally respectable) question so many have asked as to why exactly their loving, omnipotent, etc. God-the-father would send His Son to be savagely butchered and all that. No, I ask a much more to-the-simple-point question of how exactly one dies "for" another.  Like, OK, you put this guy (sorry, this Guy) on a cross and pounded in the nails and he ascended to Heaven and -- this was for my sins?  What's the connection? I'm pretty sure I never asked for all that. And this atones for my sins how exactly?

I mean, it's clearly like all the other barbaric, old-school, ritualistic, like-so-many-cultures, pagan, animism, Aztec, whatever, bloodthirsty animal sacrifice just amped up a bit, like if the people who wrote the New Testament were sort of the Quentin Tarantinos of their day. But everyone has totally fallen for it. I find it to be no small coincidence that many of these same people are convinced that the young men and women who are routinely slaughtered by savage, institutionalized, government-led butchery in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Germany, Japan, Bull Run, Valley Forge, etc. are also said to have died "for me."  It's as if that argument is too powerful for anyone to resist. Oh, this terrible sad awful tragic deplorable thing .. oh, wait, it was for me? Oh well, then it's so powerful! Oh, I'm so moved!

No, dude. Someone was murdered. How does that help you? What does that have to do with you? Nothing.

But government leaders who convince you of that get to be rich(er) and (more) powerful because your powerful belief enables their slaughter. And so it is with the Christians. You can almost hear a warmongering council back in the day: "How can we really get this Roman Empire off the ground? Hey, what about those wacky Christians -- remember that guy we killed? He said, 'Greater love hath no man than this...'  Sure, maybe he was talking about running in front of a car chariot to push an innocent child out of harm's way, but let's say instead he was laying down his life for the sins of his friends - of his people - wait, I've got it! ALL humanity! Then everyone has to believe in us! Let's put a Holy in front of our name."


I will give a hundred dollars, straight up, to the first person who can explain (actually explain) just exactly how the f**k (even ostensibly) Jesus died for us. What does that even mean? It is the absolute most basic tenet of Christianity, I mean, that is the WHOLE THING, and no one can explain it.

No, thanks! say I.

OK, but it really was boring going to three hours of church every week, too, though.


Max said...

Well, I could use $100 but it's not THAT much money so I'm not going to grab all the verses to support this stuff but, anyway:

First off, the God of Abraham is as bloodthirsty as they come but is pretty picky about the blood He likes. It needs to come from sinless, untainted creatures. Lambs without blemish and pretty birds and stuff. Second, sin can be covered by the application of this blood, as evidenced by the first thing God does when Adam and Eve are trying to cover their sin of nakedness: kills a couple of animals and dressed A&E with their skins (veggies, as the first couple were trying to use, cannot be used for this purpose. Later, Cain slew Abel because Abel's gift of blood was acceptable to God while Cain's gift of farm fresh parsnips or whatever was not). Little sins covered by little birds and bigger sins covered by lambs or bulls.

Then, in Exodus, this got a major new level to it when the Angel of Death passes over the houses of the Jews because they marked their doorways with the blood of a lamb. In this way, the Angel of Death was paid in blood and didn't take the souls of the first born living in the marked houses. So blood can pay for souls. That's all established.

Along comes Jesus. Human sacrifice was a big no no because no human is untainted by sin and, thus, the blood ain't good enough to sate the refined palate of God. But Jesus was without sin and, since he was God, his blood fountains out forever and ever. And it's not only sin free, it's spiritual and everlasting and all you've got to do is sign on the dotted line and you get it sprayed all over you. Some Protestant sects symbolize this by immersing you in water and Catholics do it by wiping some water on you but take it a step further by having you infuse your body with the literal blood and flesh of Jesus via transubstantiation. Either way, you get your sins both covered by pure blood and paid for (like with the angel of death), presumably because God would rather suck down some of that delicious super pure blood than bother with your tatty little soul afterwards. This source of the purest of the pure, grade A blood, BTW, is the reason why animal sacrifice is no longer good enough.

Then, for an extra twist to the whole thing, Jesus proved that he overcame sin by overcoming death. This last bit, BTW, is the main reason why young earth creationists do their thing: if death predates humans, then sin didn't bring death into the world and Jesus rising from the dead doesn't have anything to do with defeating sin.

linda said...

See, but, exactly: "sin can be covered by the application of this blood, as evidenced by..." So you prove that the Bible says (often!) that blood sacrifice covers/atones for/washes away sin. HOW? Goddamn everyone and everything, how?!?! How does someone's freakin' blood get rid of another person's sin? What if I just decided that all these Chinese toddlers urinating all over the streets and sidewalks and planters (true story) were washing away Communism? It makes about as much sense. WHAT IS THE CONNECTION???

Max said...

Because God has decreed that the only currencies he'll take as bribes to overlooking his other arbitrary rules are blood and death. You can either pay with innocent blood or with your own death.

It's also consistent within the story because A&E were vegetarians until they became more Godlike by eating of the fruit that had been arbitrarily denied them. After that, they were meat eaters. But the Jews decided they weren't THAT close to God so they make sure to keep all the blood out of what flesh they devour so they don't cut into His stash.

You wanted to know the mechanism of how it works within the story. That's it. The wage of sin is death but, even more than death, God craves certain kinds of blood, Jesus blood being the best of all. It doesn't so much wash away the sin as distract God long enough that you get away with it.

Asking why that's the case is like asking why a "Wingardium Leviosa" spell will fail if you don't flick your wand just right. That's how things work within the paradigm of the story.

Anonymous said...

Okay, i'm probably not going to provide any insight whatsoever, but i do appreciate your question, because it is ever so important to understand what you believe to the fullest you can.

. . . and i'll expound upon what max said. so you've heard ad nauseum (latin sp?) i imagine, that the wages of sin is death, right?

probably, in our world, we no longer see it this way. if your sister steals your Hanson CD, you're not going to have her slaughtered (although their music is really good, so that's questionable). in fact, according to our law, like, she should be punished, but it would never be with death. that just doesn't make any sense.

but the thing is, is that the judaic civilization, and pardon my lack of history knowledge, abode by the "rules" that God set forth. now, more often than not, i think these "rules" were set forth for our own good . . . like, is eating pork really a good idea to begin with? pigs don't sweat, so they have no way of releasing toxins and other stuff, which we just end up eating. thou shalt honor your father and mother. i mean, if your mom and dad have given life to you, have cared for you all your life, given you a place to live and food to eat, it makes sense then that honoring them would be, if nothing else, a nice gesture.

Anonymous said...

that was a tangent, but anyways. God gives us all these "rules" and i mean, if He has "created" the world, then why couldn't he establish some "rules." like, should he have just left us alone after having created humanity? that might have sucked. i feel like it would have gotten pretty lonely. at any rate, He decided to give us the bible, which was totally His call. and so if He calls for there to be death when destructive behavior was going on, then, isn't it sort of His call? i mean, He can sort of do whatever He wants, right? if that's what you believe. so then, the fact that He would even allow JC to come here, into this world which was rampant with bad behavior is kinda cray. but He does. and had JC not surrendered Himself, fulfilled the many prophecies written about Him in the OT, we would just continue down the same path as the other followers of the OT . . . and i mean, have you ever looked at the judaic law? aren't there over 600 of them? i feel like every step i take would be in contrast to one of the judaic laws, so the fact the there was this one chap, JC, to come and be that sacrifice (and i realize i'm using religious language here, which is probably not effective-you're never supposed to define a word by using that same word), the one who would be the one who would have to pay the wages of sin . . . that's heavy. aren't people always trying to do stuff to benefit other people? like mother teresa. she lived her life for others, yeah? the whole building up of her life was to take care of the poor. so if you can use the phrasal verb "live for," why not use the one "die for?" if you try to fulfill a certain purpose in your life, one might say you live for it. likewise, if you try to fulfill a certain purpose in your death, one might say you die for it. JC's purpose then was to pay for everyone's sin. and yeah, that's impossible to fathom, because "sin" is determined by God . . . whom we'll never understand, even if we want to. so JC knew that the only way God would allow us to continue is relationship with Him was through doing away with this penalty for sin. JC then had his purpose in mind . . . He wanted us to spend more time in relationship with God . . . so, purpose in mind, and in accordance with OT prophecy, JC went on the path of dying, so as to achieve his purpose of taking away God's anger and disappointment with us, getting rid of any junk that stood before us and God, and in essence "died for us."

i have to go to work, lol, so i am out of time to offer my opinion.

i hope that wasn't just me saying a lot about nothing-which it probably was.

sorry for any religious cliches or verbiage used without serious and contemplative intention!

hasta luego. bye.

this is michael g, by the way . . . i just didn't have time to make a googleaccount

Anonymous said...

I think there's no doubt that you have to cough up that 100 bucks Linda, if not literally then academically. Both these guys answer the question, provided you accept the logic contained within the doctrine.

Perhaps a wider point is: why can't your other Christian friends provide the coherent responses that Michael and Max have? Should they just take it on faith?


linda said...

Unfortunately, it appears I might have been misunderstood a bit, because Max says "You wanted to know the mechanism of how it works within the story" but no, I actually didn't. I know the story. I probably spent more hours in church than all y'all put together, but I've rejected the story, you see. I want some Christian who swears this is a real thing to tell me HOW.

On here, you're all still telling me WHY, so no one gets $100.

The closest thing I can compare it to right now is a kid who falls and scrapes knee/elbow/whatever and cries and then Mommy/Daddy "kisses it to make it better" and the kid magically feels better and goes back to playing. This lasts until you are four, or maybe even three, because then your brain might actually ask, "How does Mommy/Daddy kissing the boo-boo make it better? Oh, right, it does absolutely nothing actually" and then you abandon the fantasy and move on. We could say a lot about WHY the love of a parent makes a child feel safe and then stop crying and then those good feelings take over the bad feeling of the cut or something but to actually ask How does the kiss heal the wound? you would never get an answer because - it doesn't.

Ditto, here.

Why does a placebo work? Because we are susceptible, all of us humans, to psychological things, sure. But how? This is a medical mystery! I guess Christianity is like a giant placebo.

There has been no explanation provided as to how JC's or anyone's blood takes away another's sins. Saying "God wants blood" is just a reason for JC or someone to offer it.

I have no idea what a Wingardium Leviosa spell even is, but maybe I am asking how it works. And if there's no answer beyond "that's just how it works," then my question has not been answered, you see. It's OK. I'm very well aware that no one can answer this question -- because the whole concept is nonsensical and not possible.

Anonymous said...

Well that's a bit mean asking a question when you have already decided, out of hand, that you will not accept any answer as logical... Why only a hundred bucks? Why not two million?

If I say that I have a hard time understanding, oh I dunno, let's say, the climate of medieval northern Italy and how it led to the renaissance, and I ask someone to explain this to me, I won't insist that this person's explanation only consider modern, post-renaissance, post-industrial, post-Marxist thought, and totally ignore the mores and mentality of medieval Europe.

The Bible is literature, as you say, and it is also a historical document. To understand any historical document, you must look at the time and the context in which it was written. This is, I understand, what my venerable colleagues Max and Michael have attempted.....

linda said...

It's mean to ask a question when you have already decided you will not accept any answer as logical? Well, good thing that's not what happened here then.

I am asking how it would work for someone's (or someOne's) blood to wash away/forgive others' sins. How does that work?

People have offered a lot of comments about the fact that it works and a whole lot about Who says it works. They have shown that it works over and over in a certain book.

Well, that's fantastic. But you can't get mad at me if I ask how something works, and you tell me that it works, and then I let you know that you haven't told me how it works.

Anonymous said...

Just the rules. Blood is just the penalty (H)e set out at the beginning: Commit a sin, and blood must be shed, whether it's the blood of the "sinner" or a convenient sacrificial animal to appease the offended God.

Max had it right saying it's a "bribe" to have God look away from those sins. That's it. Why God would get off on slaughtering animals (besides it's what those iron age nomads were good at) is beyond me, let alone his own "son" being slaughtered by the same people who are already pissing Him off some...

No, it doesn't make sense. A truly forgiving God would just say, "You know what? Keep your lambs and your scapegoats. Just don't ever do that thing again. Oh, and leave my boy alone, huh?"

Anonymous said...

Clearly, clearly these guys are explaining how Jesus died for us. As you say, it's a central tenet of Christianity. Given the amount of writing, studying and talking about Christianity that's gone on over the last two thousand years, it was a bit bold of you to state that no-one could answer this question....

Now, when you say they're not answering you, I can only understand that your enquiry was not really an academic one, and that you are sticking by your preconceived ideas (which it's completely right to do....) but then what about the hundred bucks!!! This was a bet, which makes it serious! You can't just Welsh on it!

Anonymous said...

Wait, wait, wait... I just reread this line from a previous comment:

"you can't get mad at me if I ask how something works, and you tell me that it works, and then I let you know that you haven't told me how it works."

So these guys give you an answer to your question, explaining God's rules and tastes and how Christ operated within them, and you reject this because they don't explain the HOW.... what you want is an explanation of HOW God works? As in, not His rules but HOW He applies and enforces them. And for this answer, you're offering.... 100 bucks? How much will you give me if I throw in the elixir of eternal life? Another 50 dollars? And while we're answering the questions that, you know, define life and existence for millions of people, I'll give 5 bucks to the first person who can make nuclear fusion power a reality!! The offer is there people!

linda said...

Anonymous (who *are* you , btw?) says: "So these guys give you an answer to your question, explaining God's rules and tastes and how Christ operated within them, and you reject this because they don't explain the HOW..."

Uh - yes, Anonymous! Way to pay attention there. The question was how it would possibly work, how someone getting murdered cures another person's sin. So in fact, they have not answered my question by "explaining God's rules and tastes." I didn't ask that. It's all well and good for you to wish I had asked another question and offered a hundred bucks for its answer, but I didn't do that.

Also, do you think I'm ignorant about Christianity or something? (For all I know, you do, since I don't know who you are). What I said was that Christianity, which I know all too much about, doesn't make any sense, partly because how would it even work that someone dies and then magically I'm forgivable/forgiven?

It's not as if it's the only religion that doesn't make sense, or the only thing in the world that doesn't make sense, or the only thing about Christianity that doesn't make sense. It just haappens to be one large gaping hole of a question that so many people seem to just swallow: "Jesus died for my sins." I ask, how the fuck exactly does that work?

Anonymous said...

Well then why write about Christianity, and ask pompous questions (nobody in 2000 years has been able to answer you, right) if you think it's all a pile of shit?

You're a good writer, stick to things you respect.

Max said...

But Linda, that IS how it works. God is the judge and punisher within the story. God has set a law that you're bound to break and the punishment is either death or a sacrifice of innocent blood.

You're asking for some kind of thermodynamic mechanism of entropy of sin. It's as though you're conflating laws within a legal system and laws within a scientific system and demanding how a prisoner going to prison for a certain period of time serves as an acidic solution for washing away his crime. Of course it doesn't but that's not the correct context or the claim being made.

This is why your "kiss it make it better" and placebo analogies fail. Neither the context of the story nor the answer to how someone dies for you works like healing or anesthetic. Or like literal washing.

It works more like how you will serve out your punishment when mommy has gotten upset because you hit your sister. She gives you a choice of saying sorry to your sister or standing in the corner. Either one satisfies the judge's requirement to make amends for the crime.

In this case, I used a currency analogy because it is a similar situation. You might as well be demanding to know by what mechanism my dollar magically transformed into a delicious candy bar since it was just a piece of paper infused with some cloth and ink and didn't contain any of the same ingredients as that chocolate bar. You might want schematics for the nanotechnology or giant matter transformation machine I used and insist that I am not answering your question when I tell you I don't have any such thing but the simple fact of the matter is that I gave the dollar to a guy who will use the dollar for something else and he gave me a candy bar in return.

Similarly, the how of the sacrifice and salvation is payment and punishment for having committed a crime. No one claims, other than poetically, that sin is some kind of chemical that is dissolved by the blood of Jesus and, thus, ceases to exist. It's just that the blood of Jesus is the currency to pay the fine you're due for sin. The other option is to not pay the fine and suffer everlasting imprisonment.

linda said...

Max, I see what you're saying about the parental punisher. But I think it would be fair for the 4-year-old to ask, "Mommy, how does my standing in the corner solve the problem of my having hit my sister?" I mean, maybe Mom will say, "It gives you time to think about what you have done removed from the chaos of the moment and taking time to stop and think will help you make better choices in the future." Or she might say, "I want you to be as miserable for five minutes as your fighting with sister makes me." Or maybe just "Because I said so." Hey, different parents make different choices, right? But the 4-year-old can totally ask. And if Mom says, "Because I said so" then, quite simply, she has not really answered the question of how this helps.

You're telling me that blood sacrifice, up to and including brutal murder, is simply the price to be paid for sin. And I'm all over here like, "Well, that sure sounds like a bunch of hooey. But I am curious: how would that work? How is it that we (humankind) were fallen and hopeless until this Dude stepped up to be slaughtered for us? How does that help?" Nope, sorry, we don't get to know how. "Oh, OK. Well, I guess I'll pass on Christianity."

I mean, the reality is that we do in fact understand how the dollar helps the guy who sells you the candy bar. You said it yourself - he can use it for other things. He needs to buy things, we all need to buy things, we trade and sell and make and distribute things, that's how (how!) an economy works. What can God use all the blood and murder for? It doesn't make any sense.

It's interesting that this has also now evolved into a discussion about crime and punishment because I am definitely happy to jabber about that alllllll day long, with well-informed, well-reasoned opinions. Crime and punishment = fascinating! The prisoner doesn't in fact go to prison just to "wash away his crime"... but we can have this argument :) another day, I suppose.

crudeculinarian said...

Well, It's simple. God is a drunken abusive father and Jesus is the big brother who taunts him so that he takes the beating instead of us. Solved.

Elisabeth Kinsey said...

I've always thought that the atonement meant we were only half forgiven. To be fully forgiven, you have to sit before a bishop and confess you touched a penis. To me, it never felt like I'd been freed from my sin. I only felt that a bishop got his rocks off. I am sorry Jesus had to be brutally killed but it seemed he was just a martyr. Lots of stuff happened like this in Rome, too, with other very important people.