I blame monotheism. Anything that puts the voice of the creator of everything into a person’s head is playing with fire. Take your average “religionista” (be they Christian fundamentalist, evangelical or other True Believer). They’ll tell you proudly: they have a personal relationship with God that you probably don’t. That means when God talks, they listen to him. But, even more – when God talks, they hear him. They get him completely. When they speak, God himself might as well be in the room. That’s really the bottom line. Religionistas don’t believe IN God, they believe they ARE God. See the difference?
Polytheism doesn’t have this problem. It’s the rare polytheist who gets it into their head that THEY are one of the gods. Even the crazed polytheist who does believe they’re a god can only believe they’re a god – not the God since there is no “The God” in polytheism. The Greek and Roman gods – for example – lived different lives from human beings but weren’t essentially different. They weren’t anything like Judeo-Christian angels working for the boss man; they had their own agendas, intrigues and peccadilloes. And, they certainly didn’t offer anyone a way to beat death.
Christianity’s genius – the Apostle Paul’s genius, really – was in how he synthesized core Jewish ideas into a radical new form that supercharged monotheism and made it accessible to non-Jews. Remember – the Roman world was polytheistic. To Romans, Jews were atheists because they didn’t believe in the Romans’ gods.
Cultures had toyed with monotheism before Abraham accepted Yahweh’s terms. “Yahweh” is God’s name. “God” is Yahweh’s job description as in “What does Yahweh do for a living?”, “He works as a god”. Yahweh never says of the other gods that they don’t exist. He says Abraham must have no gods bigger than Yahweh. And – here’s the important part – if Abraham will do what Yahweh says, Yahweh will do great things for Abraham and his descendants.
See how that works? Whereas the polytheistic gods really didn’t do much of anything for humans, Yahweh was willing to do something really important for humans – so long as they believed in him above all the other gods. Quid pro quo with the divine. It’s the basis for religionistas believing they’re God.
Skin In The Game
The Romans tolerated the Jews because the Jews didn’t proselytize. The Jews in Jesus’s time saw Judaism as strictly tribal. One had to be born a Jew, one couldn’t “convert” into it. So, there was no point in spreading “the good news”. To drive that point home, Jews marked their men via circumcision. Think of that from a convert’s perspective. In order to fully “be” a Jew, a male must put literal (fore)skin in the game.
Fact: Jesus was born, lived his whole life and died a Jew. He only ever preached Jewish thoughts to other Jews who understood every one of Jesus’s references. They all knew Jewish mythology as well as well as Jesus. And those who lived in Jerusalem, they knew Jesus or knew of him from first-hand accounts. Paul never knew Jesus. Never met him or heard him speak a word. His knowledge of Jesus was entirely his own creation. That’s why the Jews in Jerusalem rejected Paul’s version of Jesus.
And that’s why Paul took his version out to the Gentile world. To the polytheists. There, Paul was free to twist the mythology any way he liked. No Gentile was going to push back, saying, “Hey, that’s not how the mythology works!” Whatever Paul told them about Yahweh – and Yahweh’s son, born of a virgin – either they were going to accept it or reject it. Those that accepted it expected something.
Here’s where Paul’s genius really plays – and pays. Paul had zero use for a living Jesus. Dead Jesus was essential to Paul’s evolving mythology. That is, a Dead Jesus who stopped being dead. Paul didn’t know for a fact that Jesus rose from the dead. He didn’t see pictures of it or interrogate anyone who’d witnessed it. He simply accepted that it happened – and then went on to explain what this non-event meant. If Jesus could “defeat death” then so could anyone who believed in Jesus exactly the way Paul was teaching.
The church then becomes “the way” and its worker bees – the priests, deacons, bishops and popes – become facilitators. Each and every facilitator has that same “special relationship” with the divine. Having gone through seminary of one kind or another, they feel “trained”. Whereas Jesus said you don’t need a corrupt temple or its corrupt priests in order to speak to Yahweh, Paul’s church said the opposite. You couldn’t possibly speak to Yahweh without them.
The Perils Of Popery
Hmmmmmm… Is the church speaking for God here (I’ll use the name the church uses)? Or is the church speaking for itself – because it thinks IT is “God”? Considering the Catholic church’s odious history? They definitely believe they’re God. Wanna tell me popes don’t think they’re God? Protestants will tell you – popes think they’re God, though (even atheists would agree) they absolutely aren’t.
Atheists can be arrogant as hell – holding science up as the true arbiter of what is. At least the facts compiled in a scientific paper are things we all can agree on. No one can really agree on what the voice of God sounds like. They can’t even accurately describe it.
Now, I’m sure plenty of God-believers start off separating the two voices in their head: their voice is their voice and Gods is… Hmmmmmm… whose? How do they know the voice of God is God’s and not a variation of their own? What proof do they have? Oh, right – no need for proof: faith! If they have faith the other voice in their head is God’s then it must be God’s!
Fact: no one is God. That includes God-believers who think they’re God. It’s just a feeling. Nothing changes! Paul only had feelings about Jesus. He denied the facts about Jesus in order to found a religion based on him.
Voices In Their Heads
Paul denied the Truth because he preferred his imaginary version. And he began the habit of confounding the voice in his head as the voice of God – and himself as God’s spokesman. With no one to check his work, a poor, defenseless religionista can’t help himself.
Want a perfect example? Here’s Evangelical preacher Kenneth Copeland explaining why he must fly private, not commercial. See that mad glow in Kenny’s eyes? Trust me: Kenny believes right down to his mitochondria that he’s God
Yeah… Religionistas don’t believe IN God, they believe they ARE God.