Monday, July 20, 2009

Man vs. myth 3

I promised to post email comments I’ve received. A beautiful one came from Joy:
“Belief is very personal and developed by each individual through many different avenues of education, experience and reflection. A Sufi master once commented to me that there are as many religions as there are people in the world.”

Joy disapproves of religious faith if it unquestioningly accepts doctrine or dogma. Orthodoxy, she wrote,
“discourages independent thinking and often leads to extremes. There is fear of any outside influence or exposure to differing views. I believe all orthodoxy, and to a lesser degree, all specific religious faith, is harmful.

“I loved an article by Karen Anderson wherein she promoted the Golden Rule as the only spiritual guideline needed in the world....just think how different the world could be if all the "scripture studies" might be how to apply the Golden Rule in every situation in life rather than memorizing verses and words that often have little meaning to many (especially children) and are often interpreted and used to rationalize all kinds of harmful behavior.

“Could we learn to truly understand and respect one another? Could we learn how to resolve personal, individual differences? Could we eliminate war? I don't know, but I do believe that religion is not needed to resolve the problems of our world and oftentimes gets in the way. I also believe in the inherent goodness of humanity.”

Lance asked,
“What do you mean by ‘Jesus’ suffering and death contributed to universal salvation’? Salvation from what? Will that ever be universal?”

And Laura asked, “What the heck is salvation anyway?”

Jeanette again:
Great questions! The word "salvation" and the concept of hell come from pagan religions, but I don’t accept the belief that Jesus’ death saves us from going to hell. Often hell is experienced in this life. It can be an inner journey and we need salvation from personal demons.

I believe everything in the universe is so interconnected that every individual act has an effect on the whole. We can easily see the beneficial effects of heroic acts on society, but I take it further. When Socrates remained true to his beliefs by drinking the cup of poison hemlock, he advanced the whole evolution of human consciousness in an indefinable way. So it was a salvific death. In the same way, I believe, our individual acts of goodness promote the goodness and welfare—the salvation—of all.

But Jesus’ suffering and death attained mythic proportion in Western consciousness. The myth of Jesus Christ adds significance to his actions, a good example of the power of myth that Joseph Campbell was teaching us. As I explain in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky, religious myths have real effects. I think they are mostly beneficial, but I know many would disagree.

A quotation Laura saw in a nursing home provides a thought-provoking conclusion to this discussion:
"Religion is for those who are afraid to go to hell.
Spirituality is for those who have been there
."

6 comments:

Evelyn A. Guggisberg said...

There is contradiction here in thinking. On the one hand you seem to be concerned about problems in this world, & lack of peace & unity, but at the same time you deny that man has a need for salvation. You say that you believe in the inherent goodness of humanity. So if man is inherently good & in no need of salvation, where do our problems in this world come from & the lack of peace & unity???
It is also a position of pride, to think that we do not need salvation.
Just because you do not believe in hell, does not mean that there is no hell. Visionaries such as the children at Fatima were shown glimpses of hell. Hell is REAL!!! In the end there is either heaven or hell. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, & the Life, as He said. He does not lie!
Evelyn A. Guggisberg

Jeanette said...

"man has a need for salvation" is traditional Christian language for what I also believe, that humans need spiritual help.

"Hell is REAL!!!"
Certainly is. I've been there.

"Jesus is the Way, the Truth, & the Life, as He said."
Scripture scholars inform us that the historical Jesus didn't say it. The author of the Fourth Gospel wrote it. I discuss its mystical truth in more than one chapter of God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky.

Chase said...

Jeanette,
I've spent a bit of time poking around your blog this evening, and have enjoyed all I've read. I am Joy's grandson, and thank you for posting her comments.

I love her notion of promoting the Golden Rule above all else. Really, what else do we need? It reminds me of Jesus' words: "Love the Lord your God ... and Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:30-31)

He states all the laws and orthodoxies of religion, and his whole message center around this. How different would the world look if all those who called themselves Christians lived solely by these guiding principles?!
It's as if he said "the point of your life is in every way not about you."
(Sure does twist the "prosperity gospelists" messages of 'your best life now'...)

(On a side note, i would love to hear how you interpret the first half of that command.)

In part 2 of this series, you commented that Jesus did not found Christianity: What an important distinction! Especially in this age and culture of vocal, fundamental, American-nationalistic, Christianist Right.
Crucial.

In reference to the conversation happening in these comments: at this point, I largely reject the work of the Jesus Seminar, but admittedly need to study them and their findings more. I do admire them, and their effort to "resurrect" (excuse my expression :P) the historical Jesus from the muck of religion.

That said, I would caution the warning that "Some" Scripture Scholars would say those weren't Christ's words, while others have and do sustain that they were.

Thank you again for posting and writing. I look forward to reading more of your blog, and reading your book when I return home (in a month!) from my time in Taiwan.

In Truth's search,
-Chase
Joy's recovering-orthodox christian, Christ Following, Truth Seeking (and hopefully, thoughtful) grandson. :)

Jeanette said...

Thanks for your interesting comment.
a) How do I love God? Too much to say here! I don't love the god idol in Western religion; I love the Something you'll read more about if you "poke around" my blog and book some more.

b) Yes, the Golden Rule, which by the way unites all religions, is all that's needed for morality, but religion is more than morality. Does this statement pique your interest?

c) You "reject the work of the Jesus Seminar"? Hmmm, I wonder why. Hope we discuss some more in the future.

Chase said...

Jeannette, thanks for the response.

Through my poking (which is inevitably a lot more like clicking...:P), I assumed that's what you would say about "loving 'God'". That's great! Because this concept of "Something" is new(ish) to me, I didn't know/am curious to find out what "loving" looks like, or how "putting [that Something] first" works out. It was certainly a question of genuine interest.

Yes, the Golden Rule does string together all Faiths and Beliefs. That's why it's Golden :)
I believe my Grandma Joy would say at this point 'if that's the common denominator, and all we need, why not leave all the rest and just move forward in that?'
In many ways, I agree with her.

As I admitted, I know I need to do more research/reading on the folks in the Jesus Seminar. (any books to suggest?) I do know they are very much Scholars, and very much respected in both the secular and orthodox Christian communities (well, at least by those who respect scholastic work).
Maybe I should have stuck with that half of my comment, but my point was merely to say they aren't the only scholars.

Hopefully not in despair, but rather in pursuit of active conversation, I revert to Grandma Joy's Mantra as my view on biblical scholarship: "Nobody knows."

Also, I hope you haven't felt anything in my comment was an attack, but rather an attempt at common ground between my ever-molding worldview and yours and others shared on this site.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your writings, and am both excited and encouraged to find out more about what you have to say. By no means do I limit God to "Three Guys in the Sky" and believe the largest mistake of Westernized Christianity (and most religions) is thinking they've got God all figured out.

I'm encouraged there are some within those parameters who recognize that "God" is innately bigger than the monopoly on "Him" any of us try to claim, and are still searching beyond what we've been told "is".

Thank you for sharing, and please continue to do so. Also, I enjoyed part 5 of this installment. :)

From Taiwan,
-Chase

Jeanette said...

Again, an enjoyable comment. Thanks.

I suspect you'll like the Jesus Seminar's work as you examine it more because they lent authority to a new reading of scripture, one more independent of dogma. I recommend the authors I quote in God Is Not Three Guys: John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, and Burton Mack.