"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Aug 17, 2010

Against Christ (I)

I don't believe in God. What follows, though, doesn't proceed from my rather general and mildly antiseptic godlessness. I offer, for however long it interests me, a critique of the text. As for faith, it has nothing to do with me or the eye I've turned on the text, except that I find it pointless and self-defeating.

Faith, if it has an object, negates itself. The assertion of an object of faith negates the premise of faith itself, that of believing without knowing, of fidelity without certainty - so that any faith in some thing, entity, cause or purpose acts as a declaration of the end of faith (and this applies as equally to the faith -isms, rooted in a perfect or perfectible futurity, which so afflict the human gnosis).

A person cannot have faith in a thing declared or known. If a person knows a thing to exist, he does not have faith. He has knowledge. The patterns in his memory conform to and represent an actual set of events which do not obtain solely in imagination. If he has faith, he cannot know. Faith occurs within the symbol logic of the brain, and has no object outside of it. I do not doubt the actual experience of faith, for the record. Faith, as experience, rather obviously occurs. A Pentecostal adherent, in the repeating instants of glossolalia, has a demonstrable faith in the meaning of this experience. She just cannot prove it. The moment she proves the object of her faith, she has no faith.

Seen this way, any faith must exist without certainty of its object, and therefore either deprive itself of all doctrine (and all religion) about that object, and right conduct with regard to it, or negate itself by those declarations, by assuming the pose of knowledge and certainty. You can have faith in God, but never certainty. You can have an absolute certainty in the existence of God, and right conduct, and in doing so lose all claim to faith.

Faith, as a self-defeating feedback loop. 

Which has nothing to do with its utility, or the pleasure any number of people derive from "fiddling with it," to paraphrase Heinlein in one of his finer literary moments.

For mine own, I quite enjoy religion, so long as it has lots of ceremony, and little in the way of doctrine, belief, moral assertion or need of proselytes. A solemn midnight Mass, in Latin, by candle light and trained chorus, can provide no small measure of real fun and enjoyment. As can group prayer of the sort Coleman Barks envisions, when he muses on Rumi, in Coleman's brand of hills and forest Islam. Or in the intoxicating asceticism of the Shaivite sadhu.

Anyways, as to the text...


We meet the biblical Jesus in a genealogy. The first words of the New Testament declare, "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ..." He has a lineage. He arrives, in the words on the page, as the Christ. Already deified. Already God. This happens immediately, in the Gospel storyline. Matthew does not introduce Jesus as the boy. Nor as the man, on the verge of his anointing. He exists, for the reader, as the Christ, the son of David and Abraham. He descends, as Christ, through a family tree of kings and prophets.

He possesses, in his person, legitimacy. Right there from the beginning, the authors, redactors and editors want their readers and listeners to understand a core belief. Jesus the Christ has a claim to human kingship. A big damned deal. If you have the inclination to believe anyone has the right to claim sacred dominion over others, Jesus has the pedigree. And the Gospels let you know it right away. No subtle build up of dramatic tension, revealing the wandering healer as a lost or hidden king at the crucial moment in the narrative, just as evil verges on triumph.

Nope, not for this religion.

You don't get any bigger or better than Abe and Dave, when it comes to Lions of Israel. The founder and the exemplar, the first prophet and the prophet king, most beloved.

Big mojo, these gents; or so the Tanakh tells us in its tale spanning generations of bloody handed holy war.* God so loved Abraham, and the sons of Abraham, that he killed and killed and killed. He slaughtered their enemies with plague, fire, heavenly assault, ghostly death, flood, war, great kings up from the East, traitorous wives, spying whores and trumpets sounding. You name a kind of killing, and God has done it for Israel. Often enough, in his nastier snits, to Israel.

Jesus arrives as the legitimate, genealogically sound heir to this. As the foretold final king, descended verily from God himself, he inherits these deeds of his Father. He inherits this in his flesh, in his incipient claim to dominion. A son placed on a throne, the way to which paved with blood and bone. A throne gained by sacrifice, by bloodshed and murder, consummated in his own. Of infants ripped from wombs and whole towns put to the sword to make straight the way of Israel, and its so-called successor, Mother Church.

That birthright, Jesus inherits.

We should remembers this, perhaps, as we proceed...

* - archaeology seems to differ; see The Invention of the Jewish People, Shlomo Sand


davidly said...

Great one, and on the nose, of sorts.

Of course, within the depths of mushroom-like rumination, I swear my knowledge is nothing more than an illusion. Perhaps a sense "greater" than faith. There must be a term for an atheist who doubts existence altogether.

Who was it who originally said that we can know nothing?

fwoan said...

There's two genealogies for Jesus in the new testament and, surprise, they don't match.

Jack Crow said...


Je ne sais pas.


I'm trying to treat with the text literally.



Duncan Mitchel said...

Noting that the two genealogies don't match is treating the text literally. And the genealogies contradict Jesus' own claim that the Messiah would not be a 'son of David.'

Jack Crow said...

Je comprend, TPR. What I'm saying, though, is that I'm taking the text literally, as I proceed. Along the linear narrative arc of the storyline, itself.

This is not a holistic endeavor, wherein I wonder aloud at inconsistencies in a religious text. I don't know any holy writ that is entirely consistent, because almost none of it is conceived by a single hand, guided by a single mind, with a single purpose to fore. The nearest approximation of that beast is the Book of Mormon, and it has its own problems, on that account.

The Gospels and the larger New Testament were arranged and redacted with a narrative in mind. Lots of people died - especially Gnostics and Arians - to ensure this point.

So, I'll take that bloody narrative at face value, on its own terms, in order to offer my commentary.



Duncan Mitchel said...

Well, the whole "taking literally" thing is a problem. Fundamentalists do not take the Biblical text literally -- they believe it is inerrant, and in order to preserve the illusion of inerrancy, they engage in a lot of nonliteral interpretation. And I don't know of any non-holy writ that is entirely consistent.

I'm also wondering about the remark that a lot of "Gnostics and Arians" died in connection with the arrangement of the NT. Of course, a lot of "orthodox" Christians also died. What's that got to do with it? I think you may be confusing the often-bloody doctrinal (not biblical) disputes over (say) the nature of the Son with the formation of the canon, about which we know very little.

If you have access to a university library, you might want to look at Dennis Nineham's paper on the genealogies, in his Explorations in Theology.

I like your basic approach here, so I'll keep watching to see where you're headed.