How Did “Do Unto Others” Become “Do What We Say”?

Ya know the game “telephone”? A person whispers something into the next person’s ear — who then whispers what they heard into the next person’s ear and so on until we get to the last person. Usually, the original message gets wildly corrupted into total gibberish which makes everyone laugh when they hear it — especially the first person. Their simple message has been turned into something totally unrecognizable.

Jesus would totally get how they feel.

“Do unto others”.

That was Jesus’s simple message. It’s actually one of the core messages of Judaism. Jews are obligated to fix the world. Not through proselytizing others — conversion really isn’t a thing for Jews and never has been — but through moral acts. Act morally toward others and, one hopes, they will act morally toward you. Act kindly, respectfully, helpfully, lovingly…

Nowhere in there is judgment. Jesus didn’t say “Do unto others — or else” or “Do unto others — the way I tell you to”. He didn’t even teach how to speak to Yahweh. He just taught his followers that they could speak to him directly; they didn’t need a temple or its corrupt priests to speak to Yahweh on their behalf. Also pretty simple.

So, how did it get so freakin’ complicated where — in order to speak to this supposedly loving god — you, first, have to subjugate yourself? How did “Do unto others” become a complicated story of a man-god born of a virgin who was put here to die for everyone’s sins? Where is THAT in “Do unto others”?

The problem is Jesus didn’t invent Christianity, Paul did. The bulk of the NT is made up of Paul’s communications with the burgeoning Christian communities forming across the Roman world. Paul didn’t know Jesus. Never met him. And, since Jews weren’t buying Paul’s version of Jesus (and his message), Paul took his message to the gentiles — all the communities he was writing to.

Paul was selling a way to beat death: believe in the story I’m telling you and you can, like Jesus, rise from the dead albeit in the afterlife where you’ll get to live happily ever after with everyone you loved. Sounds perfect! Who wouldn’t want that, right? Never mind that it’s nonsense. Never mind that it’s got nothing to do with Jesus, his message or even any sort of Jewish message. It’s pure invention — and genius. But it’s invention all the same.

There’s a gigantic difference between spirituality — how one relates to things larger than oneself — and religion — the codification of ritual designed (in theory) to help one realize one’s spirituality. It’s literally the opposite of what Jesus taught. That’s what made Jesus so radical — he taught reject the institutionalization of your spiritual quest, not dive deeper into the ooga-booga.

Paul, don’t forget, was relating a messiah story as the basis for how one was going to beat death. The messiah, the story says, was prophesied. It’s all “foretold” so there’s no point resisting it. If Jesus was the messiah, he needed to fit the prophesy to a “t” — even if the real Jesus didn’t. For Paul, the real, historical, “Do Unto Others” Jesus became both inconvenient and irrelevant.

And, so, Paul (and the church he was inventing) ditched Jesus. They kept his name (well, they kept the name they’d assigned him; Jesus’s real name was some version of Joshua ben Joseph per the culture’s nomenclature not “Jesus” which meant “savior”. Paul was pitching his evolving mythology to gentiles — unfamiliar with original texts he was talking about. Paul could twist what the texts said or meant into anything he wanted — no one was going to contradict him in the gentile world.

Jesus and “Do Unto Others” became mascots — early but clever marketing that had very little to do with the actual product being sold. Because “Do Unto Others” was too, too simple a message, the early church invented “original sin” to justify Jesus’s dying in their storytelling.

Quick — if Jesus’s purpose in being born to begin with was to die for every human being’s sins going back to Eve’s original sin in the Garden of Eden, then why is it a problem (from a storytelling point of view) for Judas to betray him? If Judas doesn’t betray Jesus and Jesus lives on, dying peacefully in his bed, an old man, doesn’t that screw up Jesus dying for humanity’s sins? Either Jesus is put here for a purpose (like the prophesy says) or he’s not. You can’t have it both ways.

Unless you’re making it up, in which case you can say whatever you want. Like believe what I’m telling you or die.

The history of the Catholic church especially may be the most un-Jesus-like story imaginable. The various Protestant churches haven’t done unto others any better.

But then, churches are all about self-preservation. They have to be. Churches are expensive to build and expensive to maintain. It takes money and to keep the money flowing to it, every church needs members — the more the better. And to make sure the church members donate regularly and adequately, it’s important to make them understand their choices. Give or die. Belong to the church or die. Follow the church’s rules — or die.

“Do what we say — or die”.

Jesus had the uber-religious pegged. If Jesus were to rise from the dead and come a second time, he wouldn’t last long. Take this to the bank: the churches would lead the charge to arrest Jesus, charge him with some sort of crime and put him to death — because his message is so dangerous.

Some things never change.

The More A Person Loves Their Church, The Less Spiritual They Seem To Be

I bet that lights a few fires.

First, let’s define “church”. We can’t define it the way Jesus would have defined it because Jesus never imagined “churches”. He was born, lived and died a Jew. He knew from temples. And — if you recall — Jesus preached AGAINST the temple and the temple authorities. They were corrupt. And anyway — after “Do Unto Others”, Jesus’s core message was “You don’t need the Priests, don’t need a Temple; speak directly to the Father — talk directly to God”.

Why, Jesus would ask, would anyone need a church to follow him when part of his core message was “Ditch the church”?

I know — logic, right? It has no place in religion. That’s the point. That’s why religion and spirituality are two separate things. Everyone — atheists included — experiences “spirituality”. Look it up. You can bring any god you want to the Spirituality Table. You can bring no god at all. Spirituality is just you and the fact that there’s something bigger than you — how’re you gonna deal with it?

“Religion” happens when people try to quantify spirituality. They try to define it specifically. But whose spirituality are they talking about? Fact: being sentient beings, all with our own particular way of seeing the world, experience existence differently. Ask ten theists what “god” is and you’ll get ten different answers. That’s not God’s fault. He is whatever we need him to be.

Jesus did not invent Christianity. If he were to actually return from the dead (something he never knew he could do) and see what’s been created in his name, his head might never stop exploding. How the hell did we get such a simple message — “Do Unto Others” — so completely and utterly wrong? The bulk of the NT is Paul’s work. It’s his noodling over this evolving concept in his head. The NT is Paul’s letters and epistles to all the far-flung gentile communities he was creating and building. It’s Paul inventing a mythology based on Jewish stories but adapted for a gentile audience who wouldn’t know how far Paul was departing from the source material.

This is in no way to diss the magnificent fiction Paul created. This is a testament to it. Paul turned Jesus into something he never was — a messiah. And he turned belief in that invented messiah into a literal “cure for death”. Believe in (Paul’s version of) Jesus and you, too can live forever!

Want to know why Christianity spread? It was selling a genius product.

There’s always been a huge dichotomy to Christianity. On the one hand you have Jesus — and his simple philosophy (“Do Unto Others”) that even an atheist can agree with and follow. On the other hand you have these massive church organizations. You have the monolithic Catholic church. You have politically active Protestant denominations here in America. You have televangelism and evangelicals who adore Trump — and NONE OF IT — not one bit — has the least relationship whatsoever with Jesus.

From the Church’s point of view, Jesus is the “Guy-On-A-Cross” mascot. He’s Ronald McDiedForOurSins.

Died for our SINS? As in Eve? As in The Garden Of Eden? That is integral to the Jesus story as the Church preaches it, right? If you want to buy in to what pretty much every Church wants to sell you, you have to buy that the Jesus THEY’RE selling you is the cure for what Eve did to Mankind by biting into the apple. What purpose in the Grand Story does Jesus serve if not to die for humanity’s (Eve’s original) sin? That, understand, is the Jesus that Paul (and, over time, the early Church fathers) invented. It’s the “Concocted Jesus” they concocted a church around.

But, again — Eve’s just the underpinning for the “beat death” sales pitch. Believe in Jesus and you can both overcome what that horrible bitch Eve did to us all AND get to live forever as the most idealized version of yourself that you can think of. Want to do all that? Then follow these rules “religiously”.

Or else.

People who love their churches — over their spirituality — they need their churches (with their rules & regs) because they don’t HAVE any spirituality. It must be so — because a person filled with actual spiritual feelings (which are expansive by their nature) would look at an institution built on reining in those feelings (do it OUR way) like they had ten heads.

The one thing of real value a Church could offer — and they do — is community. Ah, but there’s the rub. What is a community built on? A church built on common spiritual goals would be one thing.

Pretty much every Church though is built on self preservation — of the Church and the church. I’ve a dear, dear friend who’s a Presbyterian pastor. At present he doesn’t have a church; his mission — he works for the Southern California Presbytery — is to travel around to all the failing Presbyterian churches all across Southern California and help them as best he can into non-existence.

Every one of those church communities are dying (or have died) because the cost of the church building itself was impossible to bear. Buildings take money to construct and then maintain. The bigger they are, the more they cost. Who’s going to pay for it? God? Good luck with that.

To maintain a church building requires dues-paying members. Lots of them. And they have to be regular dues-payers. Got priests? They need salaries. God won’t pay their bills.

The reason more and more young people are abandoning organized religion is because organized religion does not satisfy their spiritual ache. The community is nice and all but they still walk out the door with their Big Questions unanswered. The reason is their church isn’t in the “Answer Big Questions” biz. It’s in the “Keep Being A Going Concern As A Church” biz. That’s not the same thing.

Churches are where spirituality goes to die — so its body can be sold off as relics.

Here’s What Happens When We “Pull Back The Lens” — And We NEED To Pull It Back NOW…

Lack of perspective kills.  A swimmer who sees only the immediate water around them – lovely and turquoise – but not the school of hungry sharks circling that lovely bit of turquoise?  That swimmer is chum. 

Religionistas will insist that their deity wants them to live according to the rules set down by ignorant (by our standards) iron age desert dwellers because everything anyone needed to know was “known” and set down in the texts those iron age desert dwellers produced.  But, what if those iron age desert dwellers, before they sat down to write, had had access to all the information we take for granted today? 

What if those scribes had known that microbes and pathogens cause most human diseases?  What if they knew what RNA and DNA are? What if they had a Hubble Space Telescope and every bit of its remarkable data flow to chew on?  Would they have written texts that killed people with magical plagues or put the earth at the center of everything?

If the men who wrote the OT had read Darwin or Stephen Hawking, if they had taken in a geology text book or a scientific paper on genetics, if they had ever gotten a chance to use the internet – would they have sat down and written the texts they wrote the exact same way?

Doubtful.

The people who wrote, edited and put together the canonical New Testament used significant portions of the old texts as the basis for their new texts.  The mythology Paul created leaned heavily on the Pentateuch.  The whole basis for original sin is Eve and the Garden of Eden.  If the men who wrote the originals never wrote those originals – because they were better informed about how the world really worked – the course of human history would have been radically different.

We may not have been any less self-destructive (homo sapiens are still homo sapiens) but at least we would have been denied that particular flavor of bullshit to use as an excuse. 

So – if the people who wrote the religious texts so many Americans say they rely on as the basis for their lives had been just a teensy bit more educated via access to modern technologies – had they been able to “pull the lens back” even a little — human history would have been spared the chaotic, illogical darkness that certain religions have repeatedly inflicted upon humanity.

By the same token — if our Main Stream News Media were able to find the widest possible lens they can find, they might finally be able to tell the story we’re all living through.  Nearly three years in to this nonsense, there are STILL reporters (like NBC News’ well-meaning but hopelessly feckless Kelly O’Donnell) who repeat back Donald Trump’s words as if he spoke gospel truth.  It never occurs to them to contextualize Trump by saying – before repeating his words – that nothing he says is reliable. 

They don’t.  They position their reporting lens inside Trump’s bubble – where bullshit is true just because Trump says so.  They report from inside the lie with the lie as their only apparent frame of reference.  Either they genuinely believe the lie is true or they lack the perspective to see and report the relationship between lie and truth.  Either way, they render themselves useless to We The People just when we need them most.

At the end of the day, when the smoke can finally clear and we see this story with whatever perspective we can before our generation literally dies off (and real perspective finally has a chance to flower), I bet we’ll post mortem the press this way: they failed on two major counts.  First – Lack Of Perspective. Too often, our press has turned a laser focus on a piece of the larger story.  While their focus was admirable, the fact that they lost perspective while focusing in so intently was not.  For all the detail a guy like NBC’s Steve Kornacki can tell you about how voters vote, he never places them in the context of their times.

We have never lived through what we’re living through now.  We have never had elections stolen by foreign countries before (at least not that we’re aware of).  We have never experienced one party tossing out the Rule Of Law in a desperate grab for permanent minority rule.  When these things happen, it kinda changes things.  It’s like someone shitting in the pool.  Is swimming in it – with turds bobbing around – the same experience?

No, Steve Kornacki, it is not.  Steve epitomizes this sort of “intense focus” journalism.  He can tell you everything you want to know about a particular grain of sand.  Ask him where the grain of sand IS – on a beach?  In the middle of the Sahara?  In some kid’s sand box in a suburb somewhere?

Steve has no idea.  That’s a problem where storytelling is concerned.

Second – Failure Of Imagination.  It’s directly related to the first problem – lack of perspective.  It’s kinda the “ouch” to lack of perspective’s “pinch”.  If you can’t really see what the problem (or the story) is, you can’t possibly solve it (or report it accurately). 

What happens when we pull back the lens on most of our Main Stream News Media is we see that they’re failing us – failing their Constitutionally mandated role as final check on power.  I suggest we keep the lens back here.  Their close up is really, really ugly.

People Who Believe In Magic Can Never Be Trusted — Because They Believe In Magic

Oh, look — It’s the SS Ooga-Booga!

You’re lying on a gurney, about to be wheeled into emergency surgery. The surgeon appears — big smile on his face — just before they put you under.

“Nothing to worry about,” he says (a little too loudly), “You’re gonna be fine — I just know it! I prayed as hard as I could and god said — ‘you got this!’ — so ya see? You’re gonna be okay!” Then he mentions that he’s never actually performed this particular surgery before. Hell — he’s never performed surgery EVER — he PRAYS instead.

He doesn’t have a “track record” of success per se but there’s a lot of road kill where his patients used to be.

As they go to squirt the anesthesia into you — how’s it feel knowing this is probably it for you because the guy performing your surgery BELIEVES IN MAGIC instead of reality?

The same goes for your airline pilot. As he rolls you out toward the runway, the last thing you want to hear is that he decided to forgo refueling the plane (fuel’s so heavy anyway) because he believes you can all get from where you are to where you’re going on faith alone.

People making policy decisions — or going to war — because their core value is magic are dangerous. In America, perversely, we encourage magical thinking in our public officials. Up until very recently, it would have been political suicide to even hint that you were an atheist — even as a mere constituent. The ironic assumption that people with no religious faith are automatically inclined toward violence and chaos is hilarious considering all the violence and chaos religious people cause.

Let’s be absolutely real here — if you tell me that at the very core of everything you believe — that the basis for what you think and do — is a fairy tale so absurd and illogical that a child could pick it apart — that’s so fragile a construction that they had to invent a word (“blasphemy“) to describe realistic reactions to the nonsense — then it’s going to be hard to take ANYTHING you think seriously.

If you deny evolution because it’s not mentioned in a text written by ignorant desert-dwellers 4000 years ago or insist that the earth is only a few thousand years old, that an actual man named Adam and an actual woman named Eve lived for a time in an actual garden called Eden where a talking snake screwed the pooch for humanity — your gullibility is shameful. So’s your lack of critical thinking skills.

If you honestly believe that the NT is literally true — that a sky deity named Yahweh had sex with a virgin human girl in order to produce a man-god that would have to die to forgive the “original sin” committed by an imaginary woman in an imaginary garden — then you’re going to have to understand why your opinion on how I might live my life is totally irrelevant. Your opinion about anything is meaningless because you think total bullshit is true.

We should know more do what you think as go into surgery knowing the surgeon’s an incompetent fool.

America has lived too long in Christianity’s thrall. We are not now and never have been a Christian nation. That was part of the point. But Christians — as opposed to followers of Jesus (a completely separate group of people) are a pushy lot. Proseltyzing is baked into their culture (going all the way back to Paul). “Have ya heard the ‘good news’?” they want to know.

If you haven’t, can they spew it at you? If you don’t want it, can they force it down your throat anyway?

I wish our leaders were deeply spiritual. I want them all to feel connected in every way to their real constituents — the people they represent. I want them to cast off their religion though — because the first has nothing to do with the second.

America is the place where Ooga met Booga and produced a mother lode of bullshit. Mormonism was created here. So was Scientology. So was Branch Dividianism and the cults of Jim Jones & Charles Manson. These are all religions that demand their followers surrender all reason — and accept the magic.

Maybe Nancy Reagan had it right — “Just Say No!” Her problem was she should have been talking about religion, not recreational drugs.

Want To Know How & What A Rapist Thinks? Just Ask President Donald J Trump

I’m biased as hell here — I’ll own it. Being a sexual assault survivor, I have a particular loathing for rapists that I don’t think I’ll ever “get over”. I know rapist code. I know how they use implied power to coerce or force you into submission and then silence. I know how a victim thinks, too (unfortunately). Wish I didn’t. Victims think: “How can I say anything? Who would believe ME over THEM? The Truth doesn’t matter…”.

It’s not unusual for the assault victim to then flip it — and the whole terrible episode becomes their fault — like they concocted this, wanting this thing to happen to them. It’s utterly irrational. But it becomes the accepted explanation — so that, in a very real way, the sexual assault or the rape continues. The victim feels the rapist’s brutal touch every minute of every day (even if only subliminally).

Yeah — I loathe rapists. I loathe people who enable rapists — though I will cut them a teeny bit of slack. Not everyone knows they’re enabling a rapist. I don’t think the conservative Jewish congregation my family belonged to when I was growing up outside of Baltimore in the 1960’s knew that the “ritual director” working for them was a pederast. If anyone in the small hierarchy knew or suspected what my attacker was up to — I have giant issues. But, in the absence of any such knowledge, there’s your slack. They didn’t know.

I especially loathe people who stand by rapists — who stand with them and refuse to either acknowledge that a rapist is a rapist or — far worse — see no problem with rapists raping. They seem to have a law of the jungle dynamic in their mind — a bully’s Garden of Eden. Put enough of these rape-loving thugs together and voila! Rape Culture is born.

Donald Trump is The Poster Boy for Rape Culture. He’s the Poster Boy for Toxic Male Culture & Entitlement. Donald Trump earnestly believes he should be allowed to stick his wretched pecker anywhere he wants to with absolute impunity. There’s no such thing as “rape” in Trump’s mind — unless someone of color is doing it. Then all bets are off & all charges are filed.

In response to E. Jean Carroll’s credible, richly detailed (and contemporaneously reported — to friends) account of Donald Trump RAPING her in a Bergdorf-Goodman changing room 28 years ago, Trump never says “I find rape abhorrent! I am mortified that Ms. Carroll feels that way about our encounter and I want to do everything in my power to make it up to her”, no, he says “She’s not my type”.

In other words — If she WERE my type — hell, yeah, I raped her!

A RAPIST occupies the White House. So does a TRAITOR. So does a CAREER CRIMINAL.

How the hell did we let this happen to us? If you really want to know? We let Rape Culture live. We let Rape Culture dictate to us. What was the Brett Kavanaugh hearing BUT a painful example of Rape Culture having its way with us — again. We had a RAPIST crying crocodile tears because HE felt victimized for being called out AS A RAPIST.

It was impossible not to feel raped (or at least assaulted) that day.

It is impossible not to feel assaulted when a rapist replies to accusations of rape with “You’re not my type”.

If you don’t feel assaulted by that? The rapists are winning.