Republicans Have Achieved “Peak Magical Thinking”

The Republican Party could run a master class on magical thinking. That’s a measure of their absolute expertise on the subject – from imagining it to propagating it to accepting it. In essence and in fact, magical thinking is a safe space for tender, snowflakey feelings. Facts are anathema. They simply don’t get along with the magic. Facts keep trying to burst magic’s gossamer bubble. At its core, magical thinking rests upon a wide beam of fear. Fear of death. Fear of Black people. Fear of Jews. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. The need for magical thinking makes sense on a certain level. It provides the perception of security. Sheer faith in a story being true is all one needs to “make it” true. When that story answers the question “What happens after I die?” in a way that satisfies (regardless of its veracity), magical thinking has just claimed another adherent. And reality just got a little harder to sustain.

Magical thinking has turned the GOP into a perverse joke. They’re like characters in a Monty Python sketch racing for the ledge just to prove they’ll do anything if “an authority” tells them to. That authority can be a politician or a businessman. But the “real” magical thinking authority flows from religion, the Mother of Magical Thinking.

It’s no coincidence that Trump looked for and found fellow travelers in the evangelicals. Evangelicals are magical thinking on steroids. Virtually everything they think begins as magical thinking – whether it’s stuff they believe or only pretend to. It takes zero magical thinking to “Do unto others” or “Turn the other cheek”. It takes being in touch with your humanity. It takes having real courage and the courage of your convictions. Jesus didn’t invent Christianity. Paul did. Jesus was born, lived his whole life and died a Jew preaching Jewish messages to other Jews. While Jews do have their mythologies and magical thinking, the magical thinking doesn’t wag the dog the way it does in the other Abrahamic religions. Any Jew’s goal – per her religion’s admonitions – is to make the world a better place just for having been in it. Christianity on the other hand is built upon a complex bargain. If you believe in Jesus the exact way the church tells you to, like Jesus, you too can defeat death and live forever in a beautiful place called “Heaven” with everyone you love.

The blood libel that’s haunted Jews for almost two thousand years? Pure magical thinking. Even as a story it doesn’t make sense. If God knows all from the start (how magical!) then he knew before magically impregnating Mary with Jesus what Jesus’s fate would be. If, per the church, Jesus’s entire reason to exist is to die for humanity’s sins (caused by Eve in the Garden of Eden), then it’s not a tragedy that Jesus dies, it’s the whole trigger for salvation. And, since Jesus is spiritual rather than flesh, he can never really “die” anyway – so what’s death to Jesus? If Jesus doesn’t get betrayed by Judas (as the story says), and never gets crucified and lives to a ripe, old age and dies in his bed surrounded by loved ones, then no one gets saved. Or, if that’s how it works, it’s kinda lame having an old guy rise from his comfy death bed instead of from a cold, dark cave.

Paul, of course, was trying to align real Jesus (who he never met in person!) with the invented Jesus he needed to make his new religion work. Everyone who actually knew Jesus or heard him preach rejected Paul’s version of Jesus. That’s why Paul took his version of Jesus – and his growing bubble of magical thinking – to the Gentiles. Having lived their whole lives in a polytheistic world where the gods didn’t care about them one way or the other, Romans and Greeks were intrigued by monotheism and its “loving God” who wanted to grant humans eternal life – provided they did things his way. All they had to do? Buy, believe and proselytize what this God character was selling. Oh – and don’t forget to kick the living crap out of anyone who doesn’t buy it.

Once you’ve framed your entire worldview from magical thinking’s perspective? All magical thinking is possible including the magical thinking you think is stupid. Imagine though how you look from the non-magical thinking point of view. The irony? Magical thinkers, as a rule, never step outside their magical thinking perspective because that would suggest that theirs isn’t the only way to think. And that would burst the whole gossamer bubble.

What is The Big Lie but “magical thinking on steroids” on steroids? What is the story of Donald Trump – a man genetically predisposed to greed, corruption, incompetence, bigotry, racism, misogyny and lack of character – if not a terrifying tale of magical thinking’s potency? Trump a great businessman and master negotiator? Magical thinking. Trump a patriot? Magical thinking. Trump anything but a criminal? Say it with me: “magical thinking”.

You can’t honestly blame a rat for being a rat. You can’t blame a thief for stealing you blind if you knew he was a thief and opened your pockets to him. You can’t blame a traitor for continuing to betray the nation when all ever gets for doing it is richer. Letting this happen without actively doing something to stop it (because we think good people with power will fix it for us)? Magical thinking, I’m afraid.

Democracy is a contact sport. Self-government is entirely DIY. It’s messy by nature but better for human beings (if our goal for humans is for them to live together peacefully). Though America has yet to live up to its full promise, the more E Pluribus Unum we become, the more we prosper – there’s data that proves it. Take it from a professional writer – there’s nothing wrong with re-writes. Re-writes are where we get the message more right than the first draft got it. “All men are created equal” was good – but it wasn’t exactly perfect. Especially not in the context in which those words were written.

Marx only got it half right. Religion may be the opiate of the people, but magical thinking is its meth amphetamine. People who believe in people want to empower people and make them the future. People who believe in magic want to preserve the magic – even if that means destroying people. There is no future for magical thinking because it’s committed itself to living entirely in the past. As the white, racist Republican Party keeps demonstrating, the belief that a white, racist past trumps a diverse, open-minded, open-hearted future? Pure magical thinking.

There’s A HUGE Difference Between “Christians” And “Followers Of Jesus”

Question: How do you get from “Do unto others” to “Onward, Christian Soldier!”? The truth is you can’t. Even a humble atheist can “do unto others”. A Christian soldier? They do unto others before others can do unto them. That’s their idea of Jesus. In other words, they have no idea of Jesus or, whatever idea they do have of Jesus? That ain’t Jesus. I bet Jesus would be shocked (if he actually did pull off a second coming) by all the people claiming to follow him who, in fact, hate everything about him. Is there anything less Jesus-y than a horde of culture warrior Christians?

Jesus preached a simple, confident message that even an atheist can embrace, follow and find happiness in. How we got from there to, say, the Catholic church (or, even further afield, the Mormon church) is a story (and blog post) unto itself. But, that is what Christianity did — it turned a simple relationship between creator and created into a dogma-heavy obstacle course light on logic but heavy on complications. In Paul the Apostle’s defense, when you set out to found a new religion (as Paul did among the Gentiles), you have to do everything you can to cement your brand.

Paul was very definitely a Christian. As to was he a “follower of Jesus” — no, he wasn’t. Jesus, if anything, was an impediment to Paul because of his very Jewishness. Remember: the Christian movement in Jerusalem faltered because it wasn’t Christian, it was Jewish. Radical but radical Jewish. When the Romans finally sacked Jerusalem and banished all the Jews, the diaspora created was entirely Jewish. Paul meanwhile (about half the New Testament is Paul’s writing) spun his mythology further and further away from its Jewish roots and more toward something that he was inventing on the fly — a faith based entirely on “the death, resurrection, and lordship of Jesus.”

That, right there, is Paul’s brilliant innovation. It’s his true genius: he pitched a deity to the Gentiles that cared about them (polytheistic gods didn’t really care about humans the way Yahweh seemed to), who even produced a son tasked with dying for humanity’s benefit just so that they — like Jesus — could defeat death and live forever in a magical place called Heaven along with all their loved ones. That’s Christianity’s real sales pitch: believe in Jesus the way we tell you to (no questions asked) and we’ll “guarantee you” a happy eternal afterlife with your loved ones. Can the church really guarantee such a thing? Does that really matter? Of course not!

Death makes human beings irrational. We’ll cut any deal we can to try and get out of having to die. That is, some people will. To them, religion is a kind of ongoing negotiation with the universe. It’s a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card they’ll take with them to the grave where it will rot and fall apart just like they will. But, hey — why not cover that angle, right? The early Christian church slowly evolved a mythology based on a thousand years of Jewish messiah stories radically re-imagined for a Gentile audience (who didn’t care that it didn’t conformed to the original Jewish mythology since they had no knowledge of it).

Let’s be real: the Christian origin mythology is a hodgepodge of ideas that don’t add up (unless you accept all of its illogical premises). If Jesus’s whole purpose — the reason universe-creator Yahweh mates with a human virgin — is to fix the mess Eve made (according to the early church fathers, Eve daring to eat the apple and causing humanity’s fall from grace was humanity ‘s original sin). Plus — it’s by Jesus dying for humanity’s sins that God opens the door to eternal life. If Jesus never gets betrayed by Judas and never gets crucified and never dies for humanity ‘s sins then there is no resurrection.

If God created Jesus for this specific purpose then God (being all knowing) wouldn’t have zigged because Judas Iscariot zagged. God would not only have known and anticipated Judas, he’d have relied upon it — because that’s the trigger for everything else that follows. If Jesus, instead, lives to a ripe old age and dies in his bed surrounded by his loved ones then we’re not having this conversation. Judas isn’t a villain, damned for all time, he’s a story mechanism.

And, hey — blood libels are flat out stupid. It is stupid and offensive to use a poorly constructed story as a justification to hate Jews. But then Jews have never viewed the world as something to be converted into their way of thinking. Judaism is virtually non-dogmatic compared to Christianity. Yeah, sure — there are ten commandments. There are dietary laws out the wazoo and pretty much rules for everything. But Jews didn’t imagine a hell the way Christians did. There’s “Sheol” but that’s just a place where all dead people go. It was the equivalent of the Greeks’ “Hades”. And, while Jews imagined a few less than honorable divine creatures. There’s the “Dybbuk” — a malicious, possessing spirit usually associated with a dead person — but Dybbuk’s aren’t invented until the 16th century.

Jews simply don’t rely upon the heavy weight of eternal after-life punishment to motivate Jews to do anything — like follow the ten commandments. Being good is simply one’s obligation. In fact, every Jew is obligated by the core Jewish concept of “Tikkun Olam”. Every Jew is responsible for making the world a better place just for having been in it. How one accomplishes that? That’s up to you. But, once Paul and the early church organizers committed themselves to a whole after life mythology, they took it to its extremes. And the dogma piled higher and higher.

Followers of Jesus “do unto others” because that is what following Jesus actually entails. Paul and his church had no use for any sort of historical Jesus — so they quickly dispatched with that guy. Joshua ben Joseph vanished and Jesus rose in his place. Joshua ben Joseph was born lived his entire life and died a Jew (having spent his entire life preaching and teaching to Jews exclusively). If Paul could have sold the Jews in Jerusalem his version of Jesus, he wouldn’t have had to go outside Judaism. But he did — and one of the first things Paul’s new religion did was declare war on the old religion that rejected it.

It never mattered to the faithful if the mythology didn’t add up. The point of the exercise was defeating death! If the step-by-step includes hating Jews then the faithful will hate Jews because the prize is worth it.

Why does anyone take Jesus into their heart? It ain’t the same reason people succumb to a church’s song and dance. But then, all Jesus really promises his followers is a good way to live a life.

The church needs warm bodies to fill its empty space but also its coffers. It needs people willing to go along without questioning the church. It needs the “faithful”.

It needs “Christian soldiers”.

Michael Flynn Is The Poster Boy For Why Monotheism Is Dangerous

Michael Flynn speaks during a protest of the outcome of the 2020 presidential election outside the Supreme Court on December 12, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Ever notice how it’s never Jews or Muslims or Buddhists or Native Americans or anyone other than Christians who think their religion should be the only religion practiced in America? What is it exactly about Christianity — okay, American Christianity — that makes it so easily taken in by megalomaniacs like Jim Jones and David Koresh and a thousand other mostly men who insist they are “God’s messenger” (and you better effiin’ listen to what they say!)? What makes a guy like Michael Flynn say out loud that America should have only one religion: his? What in his religious instruction when he was growing up made him equate “Do unto others” with “Do what I say or else?” How does a loving god become an authoritarian monster? Spoiler alert: it’s how monotheism works. Loving people having loving “God’s” inside their heads. Racist authoritarians have racist, authoritarian gods inside theirs.

Guess who’s better at imposing their god on other people — because that’s what their version of God is telling them too do? Hint — loving Gods don’t ever have to “impose” anything on anyone; they wait for people to come to them. So, it will always be the monotheist with the darker version of God who does the better job of marketing and spreading his version because that’s what his version is telling him to do (while the loving God’s followers preach patience — admirable but time consuming). The whole idea of forced conversion is ludicrous of course. If you have to force belief on someone? That’s probably because what YOU believe isn’t all that believable.

Polytheism itself didn’t produce empires the way monotheism produced the Holy Roman Empire. That’s not a coincidence. Polytheism by its nature diffuses divine power. There may be a “head deity” like a Zeus or Odin but they control the other gods mostly. Humans are incidental to their existence, not its focus. Monotheism flipped that on its head. Now, for reference sake, we should note that the Romans regarded Christians — who didn’t believe in the Roman gods — as atheists. For real! “Atheism”, ya see, is kinda relative. Judaism may have put monotheism on the map, but it was Christianity that took monotheism wide. Following Gods laws was the point of the exercise, not spreading them to people who didn’t believe already. That’s one of the reasons Jews don’t proselytize. In our heads, you have to come to God (or be born into the tribe); there’s no “good news” to spread.

And that “good news” — that’s the whole thrust of Christianity. It’s Paul’s true genius (and Paul invented Christianity, “Jesus” did not). Paul wove a thousand years of conflicting Jewish messiah mythology into a brand new religion that took monotheism itself to a brand new place. While polytheistic gods offered individual humans nothing in return for believing in them, the Hebrews’ Yahweh (itself a distillation of the Canaanite god El) took a personal interest in humans because, for starters, he created them and they epitomized him. Humans were a not-quite-exact-but-close-enough image of God himself. Somehow though, this perfect God creates a creature that can’t even remember who created it. Next thing ya know, these stupid creatures think there are thousands of gods!

In Genesis, Yahweh tells Abraham “Believe in me and me alone and I will make of you a great nation!” Think about that. A deity capable of creating literally everything has to negotiate with something he’s created just to get them to believe in him! But that’s part of what made monotheism so attractive — there’s only one deity and he’s emotionally fragile. And fluid. You can make of this deity what you like. The Apostle Paul clearly understood that. Remember: Paul traveled outside the teeny-tiny world of Judea and Samaria. Jesus (Joshua ben Joseph is how he thought of himself) — a guy Paul never met in the flesh — did not. Jesus was born, lived his entire life and died a Jew. He thought Jewish thoughts and taught Jewish lessons to other Jews who understood all his Jewish references and concepts.

When Saul of Tarsus becomes Paul, it’s because of a vision he has — INSIDE HIS OWN HEAD. He goes to Jerusalem and tries to sell that vision but gets rejected: by the people who knew Joshua ben Joseph personally and who had actually heard him. They reject Paul out of hand because, well, he wasn’t describing the real Joshua ben Joseph, Paul was describing an imaginary character that he himself had created: Jesus, the Christ. And Paul’s version of Jesus did something the real Joshua ben Joseph most certainly did not: he defeated death.

That’s it. That’s Paul’s whole sales pitch in a nutshell — and it’s genius. In a world where gods did nothing for human beings, Paul offered a deity who cared so much about individual humans that he 1) had a son who 2) died for their “sins” and 3) if they believed in him exactly the way they were told to, then 4) just like Jesus, they, too, could live forever! in a magical after life called “heaven”. Of course, if they didn’t accept “the good news”, they would absolutely go to another place Paul and the early church fathers invented: “hell”.

Jesus preached that one didn’t need the corrupt temple or its corrupt priests in order to have a relationship with God. Paul couldn’t preach that because it would cut him out of the relationship. So Paul inserted the very same corrupt temple and priests that Jesus had railed against. In place of a simple one-on-one relationship, Paul inserted complexity over-brimming with dogma. He also created a hierarchy where a direct relationship between human and God was impossible! It required training — or maybe just being “special” — to understand God.

Even the Catholic Church couldn’t always agree with itself what God wanted. During the 14th century, there were two Popes for a while (actually, for a short while there were actually three Popes!) Martin Luther didn’t agree with anything about the Catholic church. I wonder — has anyone ever tried to figure out exactly how many humans died because they disagreed about whether God was a Protestant or a Catholic? Or a Muslim?

Quick reminder: Jews don’t kill other people because they don’t believe in the exact same version of God. Israel’s Palestinian problems are all entirely political, not religious. Their solutions will be entirely political — not religious.

Guys like Michael Flynn are nothing new to non-Christians. Every evangelical is just as threatening because of utter nonsense they accept as “gospel truth”. Remember — in an evangelical’s head, all the Jews have to die in order for the evangelicals to get their final reward. Thanks anyway, fellahs! But, here’s the thing — if we were to sit down with Mike Flynn and go deep into his religious beliefs, we’d get to that place where Flynn has fused his ideas of God with the fact that he “hears God’s voice in his head”, telling him “do this” or “do that”.

When Flynn then “does this” or “does that”? Who does Flynn think he’s doing it for? Himself? He may insist that, no, he’s doing it for God but unless we can see or hear the other side of that conversation for ourselves? Sorry, Mike — that’s just you talking to yourself, telling yourself what you think “God” says. Take this to the bank and anticipate getting richer than rich: people like Michael Flynn have completely swapped their own sense of self for whatever they think “God” is. When they speak for God, they speak AS God.

And that’s because, really, they ARE God.

To be fair, this doesn’t happen inside every monotheist’s head. It doesn’t have to for it to be dangerous. But a monotheist who insists he speaks for God will always be able to sway plenty of other monotheists to go along because that dynamic version of God sounds more appealing than they’re undynamic version. And, so, off they go — a mutually agreed upon version of God in their heads — to attack people whose version of God isn’t the mutually agreed upon version.

Michael Flynn believes that his version of God (and that God’s “religion”) should be the only version of God and religion here in America. Hey, so does Steve Bannon. So does every single Republican member of Congress who calls him or herself “Christian”. They must feel that way about God because that’s how they act. To reiterate: a loving god doesn’t need to be shoved down peoples’ throats.

An angry god, on the other hand, relishes that form of delivery. Take Michael Flynn’s word for it.

How To Be A “Mensch”

In Jewish culture, there’s no higher compliment you can pay than to say of someone: “they’re a mensch“. A mensch has honor and integrity. They’re kind and compassionate. They don’t just feel a sense of responsibility toward others, they act on it. “A mensch is driven by an innate decency, motivated perhaps by a sense of values to live up to but not out of regard for recognition. They will act as a mensch at times when it may be hard to be one.” The thing about being a mensch is, the moment you try hard “to be one”, it means you’re almost certainly not one because the last thing a real mensch would ever do is seek praise or reward for being a mensch. How menschy is that?

Plenty of rich people aspire to be mensches. They think throwing their money at things makes them menschy — even if they created some of those problems. That disqualified them for mensch-hood right off the bat.

Joe Biden has always had mensch-like qualities — the result (ironically) of his deep Catholic faith. That makes Joe Biden exceptional. Catholic instruction turns a lot of people into thought zombies. You have to accept an awful lot of dogmatic shadow chasing in order to be a “good Catholic”. And the church has a long, long history of being cruel and as un-Jesus-like as an institution could be. That’s probably why Jesus railed AGAINTS having temples or churches or priests interceding between believer and God. “Speak directly to the father,” was Jesus’s message. That and “Do unto others” (which even a simple atheist can manage — so, why can’t most Christians?). “Do unto others” is a kind of shorthand for “how to be a mensch” which, itself, is the perfect encapsulation of the core Jewish concept “Tikkun Olam“.

Tikkun Olam obligates every Jew (well, every person actually) to make the world a better place simply for having been in it. That’s it. That’s the obligation. How any of us meets it is entirely on us.

Mensch-like as Biden has been all his life, he’s backed some policies that were completely UN-mensch-like. “Biden opposed school busing for desegregation in the 1970s. He voted for a measure aimed at outlawing gay marriage in the 1990s. He was an ally of the banking and credit card industries.” Still, it was Biden’s menschiness, I think, that made him a strong choice for Barack Obama (being a compassionate man himself — with plenty of mensch bona fides of his own).

Centrist though he’s been his whole life — trying to find common ground between Progressives and conservatives — Biden became Progressivism’s standard bearer, a thing I’m not sure any Progressive anticipated. Biden certainly wasn’t my first choice as the primaries ran along. I liked Kamala then Liz Warren. Biden, as he rose, Phoenix-like from the ashes, seemed like the compromise Progressives always have to make — which is to say they give up nearly everything. in order to appease the middle. But, that was when Biden either became a mensch or his menschiness was revealed. He saw that the majority of Democratic voters wanted what the Progressives did. Instead of digging in his heels, he listened. And heard.

That is what mensches do: they “hear”.

And then they do something to manifest their menschiness here in reality. And the world, instantly (even in some small way) becomes a better place.

Biden has already made the world a better place (just for having been the POTUS in it). He cut childhood poverty in America in half! And every other bit of the Build Back Better plan is geared toward transforming America from the great idea (“All men are created equal”) as yet unrealized into a nation where E Pluribus Unum blooms. America’s diversity is what makes us exceptional, not the whiteness of our money. The reason so many people from all across the globe have done everything they could to get here is because of the promise E Pluribus Unum holds.

America itself has always had the potential to be a mensch among nations (provided we cam disconnect ourselves from America’s racist past). In a sense, the world has come to rely on that potential. The Trump presidency, of course, burned all that accumulated trust to the ground — by design. The Biden presidency immediately set to work rebuilding it because America and Americans want our government to be the mensch we need when we need.

Electing Biden brought menschiness into the public square. Doing everything we can to help Biden enact every bit of his menschy legislative agenda is incumbent on us. Imagine an America where the playing field was truly level for everyone. Where opportunity smiles on all equally. Sounds like a mensch’s “Mission Accomplished”.

I Am Sick To Death Of People Who Literally Think They’re God

Personally, I blame monotheism.

We’ve got it in our heads that monotheism was a positive evolutionary step forward from polytheism. That is, “people who believe there’s only one sky deity are more advanced in their thinking than people who think there are more than one sky deity”. Can I tell ya? From an atheist’s POV? Less of the wrong idea isn’t really an improvement over more of the wrong idea — or vice versa. When looking around at the world and wondering where did this all come from and what is the point of it all, different people in different parts of the world answered those questions differently. In their defense, they were all working with a very limited knowledge base. If the men (they had to be men — would women write about women like this?) who wrote what became the Pentateuch had had telescopes and microscopes and the internet available to them as they sat down to scribble, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have scribbled out Genesis in the same way. For one thing, they’d have had a handle on geology and its very reliable data set.

They may still have written about the world being created in seven days, but, at least the metaphor would have been clear to everyone.

East of Eden — in the high, high mountains far beyond the Canaanite desert where El morphed into Yahweh (the biblical character we call “God”) — spiritual enlightenment meant finding an answer to suffering, not eternal life with all your loved ones in a magical sky-place. If this atheist suddenly felt compelled to “run for cover”? I’d run to Buddhism. It seems the shortest distance between two points by millions and millions of miles. Still, you can’t deny the radical forward progress monotheism presented over polytheism. From a polytheist’s POV, a monotheist is an atheist (because they deny all the polytheist’s gods). But then, polytheistic faiths didn’t work at all the way monotheism does. For one thing, polytheistic gods don’t really give a crap about humans or what humans do. They’re definitely not there to serve humans or larger human needs. They don’t even work as human wish fulfillers.

Right off the bat, Yahweh is different. Eden is literal perfection. Adam is Yahweh in the flesh. Eve, on the other hand…

Yahweh punishes man because he loves us so. But mostly because we disappoint him so. All he asks is that we behave ourselves — and worship him like he was the only god in existence. That is where the trouble begins.

Jesus didn’t invent Christianity, Paul did. If you brought Jesus back from the dead (for real) and asked him what he thought about “Christianity”, Jesus would have zero idea what you were talking about. He was born, lived his whole life and died a Jew (I’m going to assume someone like Jesus existed only because of Paul’s writing about Jesus). He preached Jewish teachings to other Jews who were equally familiar with all the same ritual and mythology. If Saul Of Tarsus doesn’t have his “Road To Damascus” moment (which he writes about forcefully — like he really experienced it inside his head), he never goes to Jerusalem to try and sell his version of Jesus to Jesus’s family and all Jesus’s followers. The reason everyone Jesus knew rejected Paul’s version of Jesus is because they all knew Jesus and had heard him actually teach. Paul’s version of Jesus was just that: Paul’s version of Jesus.

Atheist that I am, I consider myself a fan o’ Jesus. “Do unto others” is an amazing message for a religious faith to preach to the world. Every religion should be so humane in its purpose. But, to be fair, “Do unto others” isn’t radical, it’s a simpler expression of “Tikkun Olam” — a central tenet of not just Jewish faith but Jewish culture. “Tikkun Olam” obligates every Jew (every person, really) to make the world a better place just for having been it it. That’s it. That’s our mission, however we choose to fulfill it. Paul saw value in “Do unto others” but that wasn’t the hook he saw in Jesus. Resurrection — that was the hook on which Paul hung his version of Jesus and the brand-spanking-new religious faith Paul invented on the fly. Paul’s pitch to the Gentiles in a nutshell: “believe in this version of Jesus — in exactly the way I’m telling you to do it — and just like Jesus did, you, too, can defeat death.”

Oh, and by the way? This Jesus guy? He’s Yahweh’s son — that’s how we know his word’s good.

So long as you believe in Yahweh — and that Yahweh had a son with a virgin human being — and that son was imagined by Yahweh as a way for humankind to fix what Eve broke — then eternal paradise awaits! Just follow those rules to the letter. Jesus may have taught “Do unto others” but his churches (which is crazy since Jesus preached against corrupt temples and their corrupt temple priests) turned that into “Do what we say — or else”. And since the “we” is speaking for God (no longer Yahweh), who are little “you” to question? How exactly does a human go from being a fallible priest one moment to being an infallible pope the next? I mean, aside from inside his own head?

Polytheism didn’t concentrate the whole power of the universe into one pair of hands the way monotheism did. Also, it doesn’t put the voices of its gods inside human minds the way Abrahamic faiths put God’s voice inside every believer’s head. Christianity took the idea of a “personal relationship with God” and ran amok with it. It’s not hard to get why it worked. Imagine the “Voice Of God” inside your head. On the one hand, yeah — it could be terrifying. Like the worst acid trip ever. But, OTOH, if God liked you… if God saw that YOU understood him like few others…

That’s what priests are, in theory — people (usually men of course) who have a better relationship with God than you ever could. They feel God’s love better than you, see his intent where you see mysteries. When God really, REALLY needs to get his point across? He knows YOU are the guy to get it across for him. That, of course, is just you putting on a show inside your head — as we all do — and giving yourself the role of “God’s Favorite”. As you look at yourself in the mirror however, with the Voice O’ God in your ears, you convince yourself (what else can this be?) that you and God have an awful lot in common.

Show me a televangelist, I’ll show you someone who thinks they’re God…

Show me a Republican politician whose religiosity is tied to their brand, I’ll show you a fraudulent toad who thinks they’re God.

Yeah — I blame monotheism.

Personally, I Blame Monotheism For This Freakin’ Mess We’re In

The Monotheism School - Home | Facebook

A monotheist is someone who thinks his imaginary friend can beat the crap out of your imaginary friend. The problem is, the monotheist’s friend isn’t all that “imaginary”. This atheist absolutely accepts the sincerity of all his monotheistic friends (and he has many!) that they believe a creature far larger than themselves created everything. And I know that many of my monotheist friends imagine a God that really does represent love (or, at least, the possibility of love in a universal sense). Alas, as I look around at the world, I don’t see much evidence of theists following the teachings of a loving deity. Instead, I see and hear people who insist that they understand God and what he wants better than you — so you better get out of their way. I see people determined that they’re acting on God’s behalf. Are they? I have doubts…

It starts innocently enough on the believer’s part. They walk into a religious institution’s door filled with questions. It ain’t even remotely innocent on the religious institution’s part. Judaism doesn’t imagine the activist God that Christianity morphed Yahweh into. But, the Apostle Paul’s genius (and this atheist thinks he was a genius precisely because we’re still talking about his work product) was in refashioning Jewish mythology (going back a thousand years by the time Paul started refashioning it) into a whole different thing wherein God offered eternal life in exchange for devout belief. The institutional church also put it into everyone’s head (as part of its teaching) that every non-believer (everyone who doubted the absolute veracity of this mythology) threatened the entire belief structure — and therefore must be eliminated because they’re “heretics”.

Wait, what? How the hell did we get THERE from a loving “God”?

It takes zero dogma to “Do unto others”. To be a good, practicing Catholic? It’s nothing but dogma. That’s because the institutional church — regardless of denominational branding — has turned “Do unto others” into “Do what we say or else”.

This atheist — grateful to Hebrew School for making him the atheist he is today (well, it iced the cake on the atheism with which I dropped from the womb) — considers himself a “Fan O’ Jesus”. Jesus was born lived his whole life and died a Jew who preached only ever to other Jews about Jewish things and in a way that only other Jews understood. Paul (also a Jew) took his version of Jesus (and Paul never met Jesus or heard him teach) to the Gentiles where no one was going to check his work or point out how he was getting either the Jewish mythology or the Jesus mythology all wrong. Because the Gentiles knew nothing about Jewish mythology or Jesus that Paul didn’t tell them.

Thus Paul and the early church fathers began to construct a brand-spanking-new Christian mythology.

When Jews took to monotheism, they were relatively unique. Yahweh (which is really the Canaanite god “El” repurposed and still represented in place names like “Beth-EL” and “IsraEL”) represented a radical shift in how people thought about the divine. Polytheistic gods didn’t really bother themselves with humans or human concerns. Few polytheistic gods had any sort of “personal relationship” with humans in general. Why would they? What could humans do for them? What could they do for humans? Almost nothing.

Monotheism changes that dynamic. Right off the bat, Yahweh tells Abraham to move from Ur (modern day Southern Iraq, where he was from) to modern day Israel (Canaan then) with the promise that the Canaanite’s land was going to be theirs. Because Yahweh said so. Yahweh, unlike any god before, takes a very personal interest in Abraham but only so long as Abraham agrees to believe ONLY in Yahweh.

Think about it… When the Pentateuch’s authors finally wrote down the stories they’d been passing along orally for a thousand years, their monotheistic god didn’t say “Well, you can believe in other gods if you like but that’d be silly since they don’t exist!” Instead, Yahweh is petulant: “You better not believe in any other god!” That’s being competitive where, if Yahweh is the real deal, no competition ever existed; if no other gods made the world then they can’t exist (other than as characters in a story)! That makes Yahweh’s petulance even harder to comprehend. This mighty creature was powerful enough to create literally everything in existence — and out of nothing no less. He should be the epitome of confidence! Instead, like a whiney little bitch, he can’t bear it if his creations don’t toady to him! What kind of bullshit deity is this?

If Yahweh creating everything in existence is a fact of life from the outset, then where would any alternative way of thinking come from? It makes “free will” look like a design flaw since free will can invent bullshit out of nothing — just like Yahweh can. Or, it makes Yahweh look deranged, mercurial, bi-polar and off his meds. Only a human being could invent a deity as horribly neurotic as that.

Hey, this doesn’t mean “God” or god-like being doesn’t exist. Show me proof, I’m there! But, Yahweh (“god” is Yahweh’s job description, not his name) is a piss poor creation. Valdemort makes more sense FFS!

And while we’re on the subject, God — as imagined by way too many monotheists — and Valdemort — have way, way too much in common.

Put aside whether or not a “creator of everything” exists. What monotheism does is put “God” (a character it says is God and describes as God and quotes as God) inside its believers’ heads. “When you ‘pray to God’,” the institutional religion tells its followers, “Or talk to God or think about him and “another voice” answers you, trust that that voice IS “God”.

This is exactly the moment when trouble begins.

The believer now believes that this voice inside his head — the one speaking AS God — IS God. Except, it’s not God. It’s just a voice inside their head — it’s them talking to themselves. And if you can’t show the other side of the conversation in any way, shape or form? Then it’s a one-sided conversation. The other side is not going to reply because it can’t. So any “reply” you attribute to it is you replying and not it. The True Believer swaps themselves with the God character. Therefore, whatever thoughts occur to them are also occurring to God (especially since God, being omnipotent, sees and hears literally everything).

Now the True Believer is thinking like God and for God. Oh, come on already! Whether they know it or not, whether they accept it or not, they’ve made the leap. They may put it “God speaks through me” or “I understand God and what he wants” but the divine entity in their minds is none other than themselves cos-playing as Yahweh.

Think I’m nuts? Watch televangelist Kenneth Copeland explain how life works and tell me Kenny-Boy doesn’t think God’s divine light doesn’t shine from his anointed ass. “Anointed!” That’s code for “I made me God”.

Part of the institutional church’s genius (an extension of Paul’s) is their insistence that believers need the church in order to have a relationship with God. Unfortunately that contradicts one of Jesus’s core teachings — that no one needs a corrupt temple or its corrupt priests (even if they’re priests working for a corrupt church) in order to speak to “the father”. But, hey — that’s just Jesus talking and what does that effin’ hippie know, right?

Monotheism concentrates the power of the universe in one place and in one “brain” — “God’s”. That would be okay if everyone had a truly uniform idea of what “God” is. That’s a literal impossibility. Every human experiences Life in their own personal way as Life filters through their brain. Ask ten theists what God is and you will get ten different answers. That’s not because God can be “anything” (isn’t that a neat trick!), it’s because the idea of God can be anything.

Put that kind of “power” inside a flawed human mind and it’s a stone cold guarantee that only bad shit will ever happen. The history of human beings and their religious beliefs says so.

There’s No Such Thing As A “Fake Christian”; There Are Only “Christians”

Want to know what makes an atheist laugh? Hearing one Christian call another Christian “fake”. FFS, that’s what the whole Protestant Reformation was! One group of Christians calling the other group “fake“. From the vantage of point of non-Christendom? What are both groups talking about? Hey — ever Google “Protestantism sects”? There are more than you can count (if you count them all!) And then there’s Catholicism. And all the national churches and Eastern churches… And then there’s Mormonism — and its offshoots. From outside that tent, everyone INSIDE the tent is a Christian!

Look, I’m one of those Jews who’s always been fascinated by Christianity. Originally, I needed to know how and why tens of millions of people hated me and wanted me dead simply because I was Jewish.

Can we be honest? The answer you get back — why Christians hate Jews — it’s not especially satisfying.

Or logical.

Having grown up in the shadow of the Holocaust (I was born in 1959, fourteen years after the camps were liberated), I’m keenly aware where extreme anti-Semitism leads. That’s what the Holocaust was — Jew hatred taken to its most horrifying, industrial conclusion. This perverse, genocidal compulsion is based on a poorly thought-out story that was invented by Paul and the early church fathers. The former Saul of Tarsus never met Jesus. Never heard Jesus preach or teach. That’s why Paul’s version of Jesus didn’t play in Jerusalem or for anyone who knew Jesus or who actually did hear Jesus speak. That’s why Paul took his version of Jesus — and a thousand years of made-up Jewish messiah mythology — to the Gentiles (who had no background in it as Paul did and so accepted what the Jews in Jerusalem rejected).

It’s Paul — a real person — writing about Jesus — that makes me think someone “like” Jesus probably walked the earth. But, Paul revised Jesus to suit the needs of the newfangled offshoot-of-Judaism he was inventing on the fly. Paul was doing something else too — and this is where his real genius lies. The Roman world was polytheistic. Judaism was monotheistic; it rejected all of the Roman gods because, Judaism believed, only one god — Yahweh — existed. Roman gods, like most polytheistic gods, were very different in nature from the Jews’ Yahweh. They weren’t made of different material. Their lives only occasionally intersected with mortals’ lives. Though divine, polytheistic gods offered humans nothing of the divine.

Yahweh on the other hand was different. Not only was he divine, he (sometimes) liked humans (when he wasn’t flooding them out). He seemed to want to like us; we just kept disappointing him. Paul reinvents Yahweh by making Jesus Yahweh’s son. That’s not a big deal in and of itself. But then — here’s the genius part — Paul has Jesus rise from the dead, defeating death while also dying for humanity’s sins (the original sin being Eve’s)! Paul’s God (not entirely monotheistic since he can replicate by breeding with humans), unlike polytheistic gods, promises to actually DO something for humans other than just punish them. And that thing God will do for you is something only God can do — all you have to do is believe in Jesus exactly the way the Church (God’s now-infallible spokesman on earth) tells you to.

“Do unto others” has become “Do what we say — or else”. Not that the institutional church ever had the least interest in Jesus or any of his teachings. If Jesus were to return from the dead, the biggest enemies he’d have would be the institutional churches who’d race to the media to declare this “Jesus Guy” a total fraud. Oh, the irony — how it burns! Jesus taught that no one needs a corrupt temple or its correct priests in order to have a relationship with “the father”. “Talk directly to God,” Jesus taught. Anyone — atheists included — could “Do unto others” like a pro. And certainly better than any Christian.

There’s a clear distinction between “Christians” and “followers of Jesus”. My heart goes out to followers of Jesus because of what Christians have done to the brand.

Whoever Jesus really was, it’s simply a fact that he was born, lived his entire life and died a Jew. He preached Jewish thoughts to other Jews — even if Jesus’s version of those thoughts were somewhat “radical” (ignoring the Temple and its priests because they were corrupt). At the core of Jesus’s teaching — we all agree — is “Do unto others”. And “Do unto others” is a magnificent way to live Life. Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone lived that way — including (or especially) Christians. “Do unto others” is a very Jewish teaching. It’s a graceful distillation of a core Jewish concept: “Tikkun Olam”.

Every Jew (every person really) is obligated — according to Tikkun Olam — to make the world a better place for having been in it. One doesn’t have to accept this obligation (plenty of people don’t), but, if you want to live a good life, making the world better is how you’ll do it. Now, in all fairness to Christians, Christians don’t have a “culture” in the way Jews do where a way of life and a way of faith co-exist. While one absolutely can convert into the Jewish faith (a relatively rare things as Jews don’t proselytize), one can’t convert into the Jewish culture. Ashkenazis — European Jews — were excluded from European culture for 1500 years. They weren’t allowed to live with Christians. Weren’t allowed to marry them. Certainly weren’t allowed to make babies with them (though I’m sure babies made from male Christians raping Jewish women wasn’t a problem for them).

Consequently, Jews lived apart in their own villages or, as they first started to do in Venice in the early 1500’s — in “ghettos”. The word is Italian and first referred to the islands in the Venetian archipelago where the Jews were allowed to live. Living apart caused Jews to evolve a culture separate from white Europe’s. It caused Jews to evolve their own genetic disorder — Tay Sachs disease. Jews never set out to be “different”, that was something European Christianity made us.

Can we be just a little bit more honest? The way Christians have treated Jews across fifteen hundred years of history has not been especially “Christian”. Or maybe it has been — and every single person calling themselves “Christian” is, in fact, a “fake”.

Republicans Love Grievance Kabuki

Selling good ideas that people want isn’t nearly has hard as selling terrible ideas that no one except a privileged few would want. The majority of Americans have zero interest in what the Republican Party wants to sell them because the majority of Americans don’t want to live in the distant past — somewhere around 1850 — in what Republicans and white supremacists think of as their “Golden Age”. Regardless of their current political label (the Democratic and Republican Parties have swapped names; modern Republicans are Dixiecrats while modern Democrats philosophically are the “Party of Lincoln”), Republicans no longer stand for anything except racism and naked power lust. The demographic annihilation they’ve feared since the Reagan years has begun. White people — already a minority in states like California — are fast becoming a minority all across America. And that makes Republicans nuts.

What exactly did all those Trumpists mean when, marching in lock step together, they chanted “Jews will not replace us!” in Charlottesville? What did those armed thugs have in mind as they stormed Michigan’s capitol in 2020? Why do all those anti-vaxxers lose their shit when asked even to mask up (never mind vaxx up)? What outcome did the January 6 insurrectionists aspire to? And is there any grievance bigger than someone who cheated vigorously to win an election but lost anyway and whose tender ego still can’t bear it?

Quick side note: Donald Trump’s Grievance Kabuki may be inspired more by fear of treason charges than having lost the election he needed to win in order to never get charged with treason. But, I digress…

Grievance Kabuki is a bizarre pearl that forms inside the racist’s brain. The irritating grain of sand that starts this perverse pearl is an abhorrence of “the other” — anyone that isn’t exactly like him. They don’t believe for two seconds that E Pluribus Unum. But they’re all into “originalism” which is really a schoolyard bully insisting the rules are whatever he says they are. They’re down with the tacit understanding that “All men are created equal” referred only to men and only to white, Christian, land-owning men. No one else was equal to the white man and anyone who says or acts differently is challenging this bullshit orthodoxy.

A big reason evangelicals and other religionistas embraced Grievance Kabuki is because they embrace Grievance Kabuki’s cynicism. Jesus preached “Do unto others” (a good, tight distillation of the foundational Judaic concept “Tikkun Olam” — the obligation of every Jew to make the world a better place because they live in it) which the Apostle Paul (Christianity’s actual founder) and the early church fathers twisted into “Do what we say, or else”. Original sin looms large in this worldview. Regardless of whether they believe an actual Eve ever existed, these fundamentalists think that all human evil flows from women (to them, the lustful, it starts with lust). The whole point of Jesus is 1) to zero out the original sin’s negatives and 2) to give all these forgiven Christians a chance to live forever — just like Jesus is doing. The trick is you have to believe in Christianity’s version of Jesus in the exact, dogmatic way they’re telling you to. And woe is to you if you dare contradict their version of the world!

Feelings over facts. That’s the music playing in the Grievance Kabuki artiste’s head as he awkwardly shifts this way and that, white people having no rhythm. They think louder equals “more right” when louder only equals more loud. And, of course, there’s always their “Second Amendment Conflict Resolution” approach to solving their problems (like people who disagree with them, Black people too successful for their liking or women getting to do with their bodies what they want): you pick up a semi-automatic and the glorious spray of gunfire makes all those problems go away. Or at least, bleed out where you can see them. They don’t want to share power with “others”. It’s the part of democracy they’ve always hated on the down low. It’s the reason they voter suppress and gerrymander. It’s the reason they can shrug off Vladimir Putin being the leader of a crime syndicate with a corrupt government at its disposal as their ally in altering election 2016’s actual outcome (we will get to the bottom of exactly how Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin went red by 78,000 votes combined). Whether it’s violence to deal with personal issues or the political violence of an actual coup d’etat, violence is very much a part of the Grievance Kabuki toolkit.

And, ya know who else loves Grievance Kabuki? Our news media. They eat it with a spoon. Being acolytes of “both sides do it” brand journalism, most American journalists insist that all points of view are equally valid — the good and the bad, the true and the untrue (it’s not for them — journalists — to judge). But it also asserts that all points of view (even if diametrically opposed to each other) are equally valid. Therefore Hitler’s authoritarianism is equal to the Allies democracy. To be fair, that does correctly assert that authoritarian Germans had a point of view. Its mistake is in also asserting that their point of view was as valid as any other. As a Jew, I have big problems with that.

Our news media may have been taken aback by Donald Trump’s Grievance Kabuki when he began his presidential campaign in 2016 by announcing that “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing” is okie-dokie for rich guys like him, but they quickly jumped aboard Trump’s Grievance Kabuki tour bus when it started their “But Her Emails” act. Any other former president — having lost the White House, the House and the Senate — would have hurriedly faded into the woodwork to avoid being harangued by the press. But, Donald Trump needs to be in the White House because, according to that stupid Department of Justice rule that says you can’t indict a sitting president, being POTUS means Trump gets away with EVERYTHING. And that includes turning America from the greatest (semi-flawed) experiment in human self governance into the biggest shithole country in the world.

That, really, is the goal of Grievance Kabuki — an America that looks like 2021 but feels like 1850. I’ve some bad news for my Republican chums: aside from them and their bitches in the American news media — no one else is interested. We ain’t buying tickets to the show. And if the GOP thinks it can shove this show down America’s throat? They’re about to witness a whole other kind of “performance art” — one where America finally lives up to its “EVERYONE is equal before the law (and the law is applied equally”) potential. It’s called E Pluribus Unum. And it rocks.

As Texas’ New Abortion Ban Proves, Right Wing Religionistas Don’t Believe IN God, They Believe They ARE God

No words are more darkly ironic than “pro-life” when seen through the lens of American politics. It’s kinda like the southern states claiming — after the Civil War — that the whole thing was an argument over states’ rights rather than what it WAS an argument over, slavery. The Confederacy still lives, having lost the war but won the peace that followed. They literally rewrote history right in front of us. The most vehemently pro-life also are the most vehement when it comes to denying living, breathing people an iota of human sympathy. These institutionalist Christians have perverted “Do unto others” into “Do what I say — or else”. Not an ounce of Jesus in it. That’s because Jesus wouldn’t recognize the sentiments behind it. He was born a Jew, lived his whole life as a Jew and died a Jew, only ever preaching to other Jews about subjects Jews understood and non-Jews didn’t. His biggest teaching (aside from reminding his fellow Jews that they’re all obligated by “Tikkun Olam” — the responsibility to make the world a better place for having been in it; “Do unto others” is the genius ad slogan for that very human ideal — is anti-corruption. He taught that one doesn’t need a temple or its corrupt priests in order to talk to God. All one had to do is talk to him .

Jesus did not invent Christianity, Paul did — and Paul deserves most of the credit for modifying some old Jewish ideas into a new religion which offered its believers (gentiles with no knowledge of these old Jewish ideas) a way to beat death. If Jesus could do it, so could his followers. All one had to do, the early church said (as it slowly figured itself out) was believe in the Jesus story the way the church wanted you to — to the letter. Do that and, the church promised, just like Jesus, you would “rise from the dead” like Lazarus and live forever in a magical after-life filled with nothing but goodness and all your loved ones. To a world where polytheistic gods had little real impact on human lives — and really didn’t give a toss about humans — a monotheistic deity that cared about them personally was a revelation and a radical, new idea. That this deity could also give you immortality of a kind? It’s genius! But, that it’s still with us is, my opinion, more a testament to the underlying desire not to die than it is to the “truthfulness” of the dogma that gets a believer there.

Who gets to control life and death? Why, God does of course because that’s what God does. The fact that God — a being powerful enough to create literally everything — can’t put that simple idea into literally every human’s head (because aren’t facts facts?) gets tossed down the “free will” rabbit hole. The same institution that invented the idea of “free will” also insisted that the earth was the center of all creation until pretty much now. I’d stick a giant-sized pin in the institution’s hold on reality.

The history of the church itself — of any church — is a proof that the institution itself (and those running it) think THEY are God. Hey, why do you think God talks to them and not to regular people? Because they’re special, don’t ya know. They hear God better than the rest of us. They “understand” what he wants from all of us, but more specifically from them. God wants them to be the tip of his spear. His enforcer. His spokesperson. His raw intent.

Texas took a clever tack to get their law this far. They made all the peril civil. Now, literally ANYONE from anywhere in America can sue anyone they even suspect of helping a woman get an abortion in Texas. They’ve put a $10,000 bounty on literally everyone in Texas who doesn’t answer the accusation. Don’t appear for the shit show cos it’s a shit show? You lose. The fix is built right in. It’s a way for EVERYONE to play God with the bodies of any woman seeking or needing an abortion in Texas. And — count on this — the point of the exercise is to “lead the way” for other “pro-lifers” who think they’re God to force their Godness upon other people.

Personally, I blame monotheism. This kind of egomaniacal free association with the self as deity is baked right in to the architecture. Ask ten sincere theists what “God” is and you will get ten different answers. That’s not a function of the fluidity of God, that’s a function of the fluidity of the CONCEPT of God. It’s the “Get Out Of Logic Jail Free” card that religionistas always have up their sleeve. Magical thinking and their feelings will trump everything — especially facts.

Hey, when you’re God, you get to say what’s a fact and what isn’t. And, in Texas, you get to decide between life and death.

Every Church Has A Dirty, Little Secret: Jesus Taught You Don’t Need Them

Sometimes, atheist that I am, my heart goes out to Jesus. On the one hand, I see Jesus as a fellow Jew. The simple fact is Jesus was born, lived his whole life and died a Jew. He preached only to Jews. The ideas he taught were fundamentally Jewish. “Do unto others” is a graceful, eloquent, actionable expression of the Jewish concept “Tikkun Olam” which commands every Jew (every person actually) to make the world a better place simply for having lived in it. If not for Paul — and his complete repurposing of Jesus away from Jesus’s actual teachings and toward the teachings of an institutional church that Jesus could never have and would never have imagined — there would be no such thing as “Christianity”. According to the Jesus Seminar (a group of theologists and actual Bible scholars versus Bible college graduate,), Eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the gospels were not actually spoken by him. That’s 18% attributable to Jesus. For comparison’s sake, Paul himself wrote 28% of the canonical Bible.

Even by the numbers, Paul has a greater say in what we call “Christianity” than Jesus. Per Wikipedia, the Jesus Seminar “was formed by American group of about 50 critical biblical scholars and 100 laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk that originated under the auspices of the Westar Institute.[1][2]“. Westar Institute remains active today online. The Seminar’s goal (in addition to “Honest scholarship in religion for the public”) was to try and parse an historical, real Jesus from both the texts themselves and from the real scholarship that’s been done regarding Jesus, his time and his world. In other words, the Seminar wanted to strip out the church’s dogma while focusing on Jesus himself.

Being scholars equipped with actual analytical skills, the Seminar’s participants recognized that Christianity did not drop from the sky in one piece. The early church was the product first of Paul and the message HE took to the gentiles after the Jews in Jerusalem (including Jesus’s family) rejected it. Paul never met Jesus. Never personally heard Jesus teach. His vision of Jesus occurs AFTER Jesus physically dead. We have to believe Paul literally if we’re to believe Paul at all. What inspired Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus? Does it really matter? He experienced it. That’s what matters — and good for Paul that he did experience it.

But the fact that he “experienced” it doesn’t make it real. J. K. Rowling “experienced” Harry Potter. She made Harry and his world seem incredibly real to all of her readers but, as we all know, Harry and his world are NOT real. Same goes for Paul. Jesus (per the Jesus Seminar) “did not refer to himself as the Messiah, nor did he claim to be a divine being who descended to earth from heaven in order to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. These are claims that some people in the early church made about Jesus, not claims he made about himself.” Further, “Jesus did not hold an apocalyptic view of the reign (or kingdom) of God—that by direct intervention God was about to bring history to an end and bring a new, perfect order of life into being. Rather, in Jesus’ teaching the reign of God is a vision of what life in this world could be (emphasis mine).

So, if we go strictly by Jesus (avoiding Paul’s spin), we get a completely different teaching. What the hell is Paul talking about? The Jesus Seminar answers that question, too: “At the heart of Jesus’ teaching and actions was a vision of a life under the reign of God (or, in the empire of God) in which God’s generosity and goodness is regarded as the model and measure of human life; everyone is accepted as a child of God and thus liberated both from the ethnocentric confines of traditional Judaism and from the secularizing servitude and meagerness of their lives under the rule of the empire of Rome.” Though preaching exclusively to Jews, Jesus sees Yahweh (that’s the “god” Jesus believed in) as a universal god. As Jesus put it (per the Jesus Seminar), “Render unto God that which is God’s and render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”.

The God that Jesus imagines doesn’t seem to need that much help being generous and good. And whenever people do intercede between God and believer? Corruption ensues! The temple priests let money changers in the temple’s front door!

Nowhere does Jesus say — “But, after ‘doing unto others’, don’t forget to join my church!” There’s a reason. To Jesus, doing unto others is as universal as his idea of Yahweh. Anyone can do it — even a simple atheist (another thing Jesus probably couldn’t imagine). Jesus taught a simple, eloquent, very Jewish message. The church that Paul created in Jesus’s name teaches a far more complicated message that Jesus himself would find confounding if not entirely contradictory. Paul didn’t care so much what Jesus said as the fact that he died for having said it (regardless of what it was he said). Paul had latched onto Jewish mythology about a messiah that had percolated orally for a thousand years.

Let’s not rush past that. It’s MYTHOLOGY. Tribal mythology. There is zero basis in reality for any of it. That’s Paul’s starting point. When he tried to preach HIS version to the Jews, they rejected it because it wasn’t the mythology they knew. But, the gentiles had no such knowledge. To them, this monotheistic mythology was brand new. It was different — especially because it featured a god that (unlike most polytheistic gods) cared about humans having personally created humans. In fact, the god Paul was pitching offered something no other deity had ever offered a human before: a way to beat death.

That, ultimately, is Paul’s (and the early church’s) message: believe in Jesus the way we’re telling you to and, like Jesus, you too can defeat death. Can we talk “genius”? Can we talk “invitation to dogma”?

Can we talk corruption?

If Jesus never said he was any sort of messiah then any institution flocking such a thing is flocking bullshit. Any institution that says Jesus’s dying is more important than the fact that Jesus lived isn’t selling Jesus. They’re selling something they invented. To sell to you. Like a money changer in the temple forecourt.

Hell, even non-believers can tell you how Jesus felt about those guys.