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Sceptic or Cynic

By Jamey Massengale, Author of Renegade Gospel The Jesus Manifold ~

I have watched the RTS videos and read many of the articles and comments on Ex Christian; and I found people going through much that I also grappled with. I think that while I pursued a vigorous skepticism I never became cynical. Of course I could enjoy George Carlin but I didn't find that Carlin or Hitchens or Dawkins made any compelling arguments. What I found early in my life to be the problem with church is much of what Marlene describes.

I would disagree from a purely intellectual standpoint about what the actual toxic effects are. It is obvious that anyone leaving a "religion" which they believed would go through Kubler-Ross's stages of grief; but that doesn't argue the validity of a religion or that it is toxic.
What I did find Marlene speaking about, that caused me to make the most critical examination of religion per se is the conversion phenomena itself, and this whether it may appear spontaneous from upbringing or incited by life experience.

I had watched the Bill Murray movie Stripes, and at the end of basic training he convinces the troops to complete graduation with an emotional appeal to "Ol Yellar", "everybody cried when Ol Yellar died". Fascinating! the Jesus on the cross story was my Ol Yellar! I coined the name at the time "Ol Yellar Syndrome". This merely allowed me to see how the "preachers do it". Then another problem arose, why should human's incur Ol Yellar Syndrome in response to sacrifice. Why should sacrifice be heroic, for heroism is the legacy of sacrifice that makes us unite under "I am Spartacus", not only is the completed tale called heroic because the sacrifice is completed, those who first followed the one who would be hero did so because they perceived that he would sacrifice.

Then I encountered a statement by Napoleon who would not allow the Pope to crown him, but instead crowned himself; therefore he did not appear to suffering Religious nearly as much as he would Waterloo. Napoleon said that he new greatness and Jesus was the greatest man who ever lived. Of course that doesn't prove Jesus was great, but why should Napoleon think so? I think I know, and perhaps I can illustrate, it's called the psychopath test: You are near a train track train headed toward a break in the track, if the train hits the break it will wreck and kill many people; there is a man standing beside you and you can save all those lives if you throw him onto the tracks and stop the train, of course he will be killed. Would you do it to save lives? A psychopath would have no problem doing it or not doing it; but normal people would, the lives of the many or the life of the one? Of course there is another solution, you could jump onto the track yourself. Now if you threw the man over your a psychopath, but a hero to the people on the train. If you jump your a hero to both the man and the people on the train. If you do nothing your just a witness to a tragedy. I believe Napoleon saw himself as the one who wouldn't flinch to throw the man over and win the gratitude of those on the train, but he saw Jesus as the one who would jump. It is seeing Jesus as the man who jumps that causes the Ol Yellar Syndrome to work. But why see what Jesus did as heroic? Why Jesus or anyone think he was making a sacrifice?

There is a detailed explanation of why what Jesus did has real personal significance today, and this is the significance of the scapegoat as it is analyzed by Rene Girard. An example he gives is two children fighting over a toy, then an innocent “fat kid” walks up and says can I play, the two who were fighting then unite and take out their aggression on the “fat kid”, and after they run him off go back to playing share their toy and talk about how gross the “fat kid” was. The “fat kid” is the victim of the Scapegoat phenomena which is so common to everyone, and to societies on all levels that it would be proper to call it the “original sin.” Girard clearly outlines not only the Scapegoat phenomena but how Jesus turned it inside out in such away that it destroyed a majority the religious toxicity in Jewish and Pagan culture all over the world where the “gospel” is preached. This occurs only for two reasons, first that it is obvious from the story that Jesus is innocent (that is why the the Ol Yellar syndrome works at all); and second that this innocent died in a heroic context, Jesus is Spartacus because he is opposing injustice in the religious establishment, the enslavement of religious toxicity at all levels of society. He is thrusting violently in everyones face “I am the Scapegoat, and scapegoating ends here and now with me if you believe I'm the Lamb of God! With my bloody sacrifice it's finished forever!” Jesus is the ultimate “fat kid” for us, our children, and society, and religion, and politics. Freedom from the sin of scapegoating is found in the cross. Historically this is true on a massive scale and is why world religion and politics appeal to Jesus for validity; not because the majority of the world is christian but because the Ol Yellar Syndrome is common to all men except psychopaths. The Myth is that powerful! Even if Jesus was not God.

Now suppose Jesus was not God, but he was “enlightened” enough to perceive this was possible because he was born at a unique period of history in which he could fulfill Old Testament prophecy. Suppose he studied Daniel's 70 heptads (in Daniel chapter 9), and understood that if he learned magic, of the David Blaine and Chris Angel type, he make himself appear to be God and fulfill those prophecies which could be interpreted to end scapegoating. Jesus is then doubly heroic to the atheist for he sacrificed himself, using his deception for the most noble end in history. Is this what Napoleon saw? So if Jesus was a liar he is a hero. But suppose Jesus was a lunatic, and a magician, and it just worked out that it solved the scapegoat problem, maybe God did it maybe he didn't, then Jesus is a hero even to the agnostic. That is the power of the Ol Yellar Syndrome!

If this unique confluence of events had not occurred in Jesus atheism would have never had a chance, for it had always been a minority, and it's philosophers put to death as scapegoats. But because of Jesus being preached to the world the enlightenment and renaissance and scientific revolution were possible, and they did occur in the “nominally” Christian west.

Now my point is that nominal Christianity should be deconstructed, religious toxicity should be healed, but this cannot be done by making nominal Christianity a new Scapegoat to oppose. If you are separating from Christianity, use the stages of grief constructively and don't be sucked into an atheism that is religious, and does have scapegoat agenda. Learn from Jesus even if you don't believe he is God to let scapegoating end. Honest skepticism is not a sin, dishonest cynicism prevents you from realizing your potential.