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Ship of Fools

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

The ship of fools is an allegory which depicts a vessel populated by humans who are confused, frivolous, or deluded, and often ignorant of their own course or destination. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the ship of fools concept also served to parody the 'ark of salvation' as the Catholic Church was sometimes called.

Ship of Fools
Ship of Fools (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In some ways, the Titanic could be seen as a “ship of fools.” The designers of the ship, its owners, and its captain and crew were all fools in one way or another, leading the doomed ship to a watery grave. Following the disaster, two official inquiries, US and British, reached similar conclusions; the number of lifeboats aboard was inadequate, the Captain failed to take proper heed of ice warnings, many of the lifeboats were only partially loaded when launched (due to inadequate crew training), and the ship was steaming through a dangerous area at too high a speed. The whole enterprise appears to be a matter of leadership by fools.

The Christian religion is similar in many respects. Many of its primary movers and shakers, the architects of much Christian dogma, were – if not downright fools – decidedly odd individuals. Below, I offer, in their own words, some of their own foolishness. I give extra space to Paul because he is widely considered the chief architect of Christianity - and because he said so darned many foolish things.

Paul of Tarsus:

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.“ - Letter to the Romans 13:1.

This is the principal of the “Divine Right of Kings.” Here, Paul is saying that one should always agree with one’s political leader, even a Hitler or Stalin.

In 1 Corinthians 1: 17, Paul claimed that God was anti-intellectual:

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.”

So, to be wise in the ways of the world is foolish? And, science, the process by which we learn how the world works, is a foolish undertaking? My life was saved several years go by colon surgery. I’m sure glad that surgeon ignored the “wisdom” of Paul.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect (complete, adequate, competent), equipped for every good work.” - 2 Tim. 3:16-17.

So, if all scripture is inspired by god, then we can be sure that god really wants us to stop eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics, and to kill homosexuals, adulterers, and people who work on Sunday? Could it be that Paul didn’t know what was in scripture quite as well as he thought he did?

"Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior." - Titus 2:9-10.

Apparently, if you’re a slave then that is god’s will, so you should just shut up and enjoy it; easy to say, if you’ve never been a slave.

“I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” - 1 Tim. 2: 9-15.

Thus, women are inferior because Eve was scammed by a talking snake. Is that a good enough reason for you?
“I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none. . . For the present form of this world is passing away. - I Corinthians 7: 29.

Here, Paul is suggesting that men abandon their wives because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. His timing was off by over 2,000 years. Was he a tad deluded, do ya think?

Tertullian (c.160-c.225 - has been called "the father of Latin Christianity" and "the founder of Western theology."):

Speaking of the Resurrection of Christ, Tertullian wrote:

“I  believe because it is absurd.”

So, according to this great thinker, if something, anything, is utterly preposterous, then it must be true? Maybe I just lack imagination, but I can’t think of a dumber reason to believe in something.

Augustine (354-430 C.E. - was a Latin philosopher and theologian from whose writings were very influential in the development of Western Christianity.):

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”

This reminds me of that other fairy tale where Peter Pan says that if you really believe, then you can fly. I particularly like Dan Barker’s take on this: “Faith is a cop-out. . . With faith, you don't have to put any work into proving your case. You can ‘just believe.’ “

Augustine also wrote, “There is no possible source of evil except good.” And I’m sure you all know exactly what he meant by that.

Like many Christian writers, Augustine had a talent for confounding the Bible’s teaching. In one place he wrote, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” And in another place he wrote, “He that is jealous is not in love.” Now, one of these statements MUST be false, for Bible-god admits to being jealous.

Anselm (1033-1109 - is most famous in philosophy for the so-called “ontological argument,” and in theology for his doctrine of the atonement):

In the ontological argument, Anselm defined God as the greatest possible being we can conceive and argued that this being could exist in the mind. He suggested that, if the greatest possible being exists in the mind, it must also exist in reality. Numerous writers since Anselm have shown that the ontological could be used to prove the existence of anything, thus the argument has absurd consequences. After all, Anselm is basically saying that if you can think it, then it must exist, which is silly. Anselm seems to have confused imagination with reality.

“I have written the little work that follows . . . in the role of one who strives to raise his mind to the contemplation of God and one who seeks to understand what he believes.”

We could paraphrase thus: “There’s stuff here I don’t understand, but I believe it anyway.” Hardly the mark of a deep thinker, I’d say.

Aquinas (1225-1274 – considered by some to be the Catholic Church's greatest theologian and philosopher):

“If forgers and malefactors are put to death by the secular power, there is much more reason for excommunicating and even putting to death one convicted of heresy.”

So, if one doesn’t believe as Aquinas believes, then he should be put to death. Clearly he was a man of great morality and compassion. Don’t believe me? Well, Aquinas also said, “That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell.” Who would have guessed that hell was a spectator sport? And how do you suppose Aquinas knew this, anyway?

“It is necessary to posit something which is necessary of itself, and has no cause of its necessity outside of itself but is the cause of necessity in other things. And all people call this thing God.”

Aquinas is speaking here of what is usually termed a first cause: i.e., the only cause which is not also an effect of a prior cause. But, even if we granted that a first cause must exist, why must it be a god and not just a property or law of nature? Further, even if we granted that a first cause must be a god, why must it be Aquinas’ god and not some other god? Aquinas’ conclusion here appears to be nothing but hand waving.

“We can't have full knowledge all at once. We must start by believing; then afterwards we may be led on to master the evidence for ourselves.”

Again, he wants us to just believe, regardless of evidence. Interestingly, the Buddhist, the Muslim, and the Hindu all say pretty much the same thing. They all want us to just believe. Most people take their advice and this is why we have hundreds of religions with millions of followers and none of them can prove a damned thing. And none of them thinks that matters. If science worked that way, we would still be living in caves dreaming of creating fire.

Martin Luther (1483-1546 - was a German monk, priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation.):

“Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding. “

Should we ever follow one who defames reason? Could that ever be reasonable? Luther is also credited with saying, “Reason is the enemy of faith.”

“I feel much freer now that I am certain the pope is the Antichrist.”

Did you get that? He is “certain!”

“You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you.”

So, if the “word” the Lord preaches to me says homosexuals should be killed (Leviticus 20:13), then I should just ignore my conscience? If I “feel” that killing people who work on the Sabbath is wrong, then I am in error because the “word” of the Bible preaches otherwise? This sounds like the philosophy of a guy who thinks reason is the enemy of faith.

John Calvin (1509-1564 - was the leading French Protestant Reformer and the most important figure in the second generation of the Protestant Reformation.):

“Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart from the heavenly science of Christ.”

Right. And Jesus thought disease was caused by demons. Curiously, the Harvard Medical School course catalogue no longer lists a course on demon possession.

“Yet consider now, whether women are not quite past sense and reason, when they want to rule over men.”

So, Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Queens Elizabeth I and Victoria, and thousand of other women leaders all lacked sense and reason? Calvin certainly gives Paul of Tarsus a run for his money when it comes to misogyny.

These men are all widely considered by Christians to be great thinkers. They are in large measure those who made the Christian religion what it is today. But isn’t it obvious, from their own words, that each of them was foolish in one way or another?

Ah, you say, but what matters most are the teachings of Jesus Christ. Surely Christ never said anything foolish? Think again.

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.”

The people of Europe should not have resisted Hitler?

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.”

This is where the profane is mistaken for the profound. Isn’t this the kind of advice you hope no one takes? If people really believed this nonsense, wouldn’t there be a whole lot more one-eyed, one-armed people in this world?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink . . . Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

Jesus says, don’t plan ahead, god will provide. Even squirrels know this is foolish advice! And so does everyone else who seeks a good education, buys insurance, or has a retirement plan.

“For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it”

Well, there you go men, if you can handle it, just cut ‘em off. This is clearly sick, dangerous, nonsense advice which no one in his right mind would take, and deserves no further comment.

And here’s the bottom line, Jesus sometimes didn’t even take his own advice. He said, “But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Then he proceeds to call people fools. “Ye fools and blind.” (Matthew 23:17). Was he confused, or what?

Now, here is the elephant in the living room that Christians try their best to ignore: even a casual reading of the New Testament proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that neither Jesus Christ nor Paul had any god-given inside knowledge of how the world works. Both stated over and over that the “Kingdom of Heaven” was coming SOON, but, 2,000 years later it has still not arrived. That is not “soon.” Clearly, they were not relaying the wisdom of a god – so they had to be making it up! Reverend Harold Camping twice predicted the end of the world in 2011, would you follow him and his teachings? No? Then how does it make any sense to follow Jesus or Paul, who made the same mistake multiple times?

Why book passage on a ship (or religion) designed by the deluded and steered by the confused? I can think of no better real life example of the ship of fools motif than the Christian religion.