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Shaman? Savior? Myth? Inkblot? — Why Christianity’s Main Man Remains So Elusive

By Valerie Tarico ~

Was there a man behind the myths? -- Three approaches to the question.

To my mind, the only thing in the world duller than a graduation ceremony is a traditional wedding. Not long after finishing my graduate studies in psychology (and skipping the ceremony), I found myself in the pew of a Presbyterian church, staring at the back of a trailing white dress and fuming at my predicament. As the officiant droned on, I desperately searched for some distraction, but saw only the hymnal and a Bible. I chose the latter—why not—and began reading the gospel of Matthew—again, why not--and I was struck by something I’d never noticed before. The stories of Jesus at the beginning and end of Matthew seemed very, very different.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus might be compared to a guru or a shaman, a wandering holy man who imparts bits of timeless wisdom, offers spiritual encouragement to the downtrodden, and does random acts of (magical) kindness. Blessed are the poor, h…

Joy Unspeakable (part three) Theology 101

By undercover agnostic ~

These next few sections from my memoir, Joy Unspeakable (Part 1; Part II), help describe the shaping of my theology very early on. The pillars on which my Christian foundation rested, were formed between the ages of 5-12. I'm sure many of you can relate.

The B-I-B-L-E

My beliefs were starting to take root as I attended Sunday school each week and learned about God and his son Jesus. My teacher, parents and pastor informed me that the Bible contained the very words of God to mankind. They said that He authored this holy book by telling different people what to write down and they obeyed. So, my very first presupposition, installed by age five, was the notion that absolutely everything in the Bible was true. I would sing confidently each week, “The B-I-B-LE, yes that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, The B-I-B-L-E!” I don’t remember even once, questioning or challenging this idea. People in authority said it and I had no reason to doubt. So…

The Atheist's Defense (Volume 1)

By Ben Love ~

This post is specifically for you atheists out there.

Dear Atheist,

Unless you’re lucky enough to know a particularly loving Christian (as I do—I know a few, actually), you have no doubt been given a tough time for your atheism at the hands of these people who are supposed to be kind, loving, forgiving, peaceful, and filled with the living presence of their God. If you engage them in dialogue, however, you might find that lurking under the surface is anything but kindness. In fact, you might find that nothing resembling true love is to be found in your experience with the “Christian,” that his objective is not to show you love and kindness but to defeat you with his patented answers, which do not appeal to evidence, reason, rationality, or even common sense, but rather to faith, to fear, and to intimidation.

For instance, a woman who I have never spoken to in my entire life recently sent me the following email through my account on LinkedIn:

“I have been reading your post…

Imagining Your Way to Freedom, Again and Again

by Carl S. ~

In a letter to New Scientist magazine published Oct. 25th, Mr. Trevor Jones responds to an article in their Sept. 20 issue, “Daydream believers,” about “our endless capacity for imaginative thought.”

Mr. Jones quotes Friedrich Nietzsche: “We have art in order not to die from the truth.” He then follows with Maurice Bloch's notion of civilization and culture being made up of “arbitrary products of our creative thought.” Following this with examples of discovery, invention, and creativity, Mr. Jones concludes with:
“It is reassuring and life-affirming to realize that anything that isn't memory is imagination. It means forming new ideas, images or concepts is open to anybody, anytime, anywhere.” In the article referred to, by Catherine Brahic, she quotes Alison Gopnik , psychologist and philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, who sees imagination as our ability to consider possibilities that we know aren't true in the here and now - a definition …

Joy Unspeakable (part two) Adoption

By undercover agnostic ~

Here's a continuation of my story of early indoctrination to Christianity. It was at this juncture (age 5) that I discovered my rose-colored glasses.

Adoption

When Jill and I were five, the adoption process was complete and I distinctly remember Mama crossing out the name Hopper that was inscribed in ink on a hardback story book we owned and replacing it with our new last name Zimmerman. And though the courts had granted to us all of the rights and privileges of natural born children, our insecurities weren’t easily absolved. The abrupt way in which we had been displaced from everything and everyone we knew left us anxious and fearful. The people to whom we had formed attachments, from birth, Matt, Steve, Chris and old daddy were gone and the emotional ties were irreparably severed without any process of closure. Social workers now understand that by helping children keep their existing attachments they are better able to form healthy new ones. The questi…

The Moment of My de-Conversion

By Ben Love ~

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

―Thomas Aquinas
This quote from old Tom is meant to be one that believers can use and feel good about, something that helps them differentiate themselves from us terrible advocates of reason.

Actually, to be honest, I love this quote. It’s quite accurate. I feel as though Tom has nailed the issue right at its heart. No explanation is possible, in my opinion. Why? Because if you have to find a way to explain it, then the chances are pretty good that it’s not self-evident on its own. If you have to manufacture an elucidation, perhaps you’re connecting the wrong dots.


I bring this quote up because it’s an important part of my “conversion story.” (Yes, that’s right; believers do not have the monopoly on conversion stories.)

Let me tell you about mine. Although, to be accurate, I suppose we should really call it my “de-conversion story.”

You see, for many weeks I had been e…

It's Not Rape If He's a God -- Or Thinks He Is

By Valerie Tarico ~

Stories like the Virgin Birth lack freely given female consent. Why don’t they bother us more?

Powerful gods and demi-gods impregnating human women—it’s a common theme in the history of religion, and it’s more than a little rapey.

Zeus comes to Danae in the form of a golden shower, cutting “the knot of intact virginity” and leaving her pregnant with the Greek hero, Perseus.

Jupiter forcibly overcomes Europa by transforming himself into a white bull and abducting her. He imprisons her on the Isle of Crete, over time fathering three children.

Hermes copulates with a shepherdess to produce Pan.

The legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus are conceived when the Roman god Mars impregnates Rea Silvia, a vestal virgin.

Helen of Troy, the rare female offspring of a god-human mating, is produced when Zeus takes the form of a swan to get access to Leda.

In some accounts Alexander the Great and the Emperor Augustus are sowed by gods in the form of serpents, by Phoebus a…

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