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Lithium for Jesus

For me, Jesus symbolizes two widely disparate ideas: profound, selfless love and soul-crushing shame and fear. The compassionate, endearing side of Jesus gets a lot of press, so please excuse me if I don’t mention that part of the story. I want to mention why I have a few problems with the idea that Jesus is kinder, gentler son of cranky ol’ Jehovah of genocidal fame.

First, Jesus symbolizes hell for me. No one mentions Hell in the Hebrew Bible, at least not in the sense of endless torment for the wicked. Prior to the arrival of Jesus, the Bible is actually pretty vague about the state of the dead. The word translated as hell in the Old Testament (שאול or sheol) is also often translated as grave. For the ancient Hebrews, Hell and the grave were synonymously defined as the place of all the dead, not just the wicked dead.

Between the Old and New Testaments as the Greeks were spreading their culture throughout the ancient world, it seems that some part of the Jewish culture adopted the idea of a place of torment for the sinful dead. Jesus introduced the idea of hellfire into Abrahamic religion. (e.g. Matthew 5:22; Mark 9:45,47; Luke 16:19–31)

I doubt that we can truly blame a single man named Yeshua of Nazareth for introducing this idea into Jewish culture, but he is emblematic for me of the adoption of the idea of hellfire because his followers made Hell the nightmare it is today: an eternal punishment for sins committed during the finite span of mortal life—a punishment out of all proportion to the crime.

And then there’s Satan and his minions. Though Christianity didn’t create the idea of malevolent unseen spirits, it did nothing to quell its spread. Christianity in my life taught me to fear the temptations of legions of demons.

Jesus also introduced the idea of thought crime. He was the first totalitarian. He declared that simple bodily appetites and emotions were sinful. (Matthew 5:22,28) Jesus could have been the leader of Eastasia punishing people for crimethink. I waged war on myself in Jesus’ name. He taught me to hate myself because I couldn’t control the stray thoughts and desires that crossed my mind. I spent my years as a Christian trying (but never quite succeeding) to feel Jesus’ love. At the same time I lived in fear and shame because of his cruel teachings and the doctrines of many of his followers. He has never apologized for the unnecessary pain he put me through.

In short, I’m much happier now that I’ve diagnosed Jesus as having bipolar disorder. Now if he’d only take his meds.

[bipolar jesus]

[This post was inspired by Eddie Lee's recent comment.]

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Original Sin

[This was originally part of a comment on a post about original sin at The Slapdash Godliness of a Good Girl.]

We can blame Augustine of Hippo for the idea of original sin. As such, it is one of the most hellish inventions of mankind.

Let me recap. God wanted to show everyone how infinitely loving he is, so he created Adam and Eve and put them in a paradisaical garden knowing that they would break his rule about eating of the fruit one particular tree. When they broke his rule (just like he knew they would), he cast them out of paradise into a torture chamber inhabited by a malicious demon he refuses to rein in. Adam and Eve and all of their children suffer at this demon’s hands. He creates earthquakes, floods, plagues, famines, pestilences, and all manner of suffering to punish Adam and Eve’s family for the time back in paradise when their first parents dared to eat that fruit that God tempted them with. Before the demon can do this, however, he must get God’s approval to make sure that no one who believes in God’s love suffers more than necessary, such are the protocols of the heavenly bureaucracy. Satan is on God’s payroll, doing all the dirty work God doesn’t care to do.

Millions upon millions upon billions of people are tortured and killed in this torture chamber with God’s approval. God’s sense of justice demands that God punish all of humanity for Adam and Eve’s sin of which they had no part and for choosing evil themselves, just as he created them to do. He couldn’t show his love if people didn’t suffer, so his plan from the beginning was to create humanity in such a way that they would certainly sin, torture humanity when they sinned according to his plan, and come to their rescue.

Seeing his plan was going well (what with all the suffering and dying going on), it was time for God to show his love, so he took on a mortal body. After being tortured for a day or two, he gave up and died. (Or even worse, he tortured and killed his own Son to make up for his own actions.) This made God feel better about the suffering of all the billions of people who he’s banished to his torture chamber.

If God let all those tortured souls live forever in paradise, it would probably make up for all his hellish sadism. Yet he still put a condition on humanity’s relief from suffering. They had no choice to come to this nightmare chamber in the first place. He never asked them their preference beforehand, yet they bear the final responsibility for getting themselves out. They must first believe—while still being tortured—that he loves them. Not only that, they must love him in return. Anyone who can’t muster the credulity necessary to believe that, anyone who doubts his love in the face of all his sadism, anyone who doesn’t thank him for the chance to suffer and die at his behest will go on suffering forever in an even worse torture chamber reserved for the skeptical and the ignorant.

God sounds like one hell of a cult leader.

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Blind Obedience

I never realized the origin of the idea that if you follow the counsel of your Mormon priesthood leaders, even if it’s wrong, you will be blessed:

President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident, which happened to him: I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home….Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” [In Conference Report, October 1), p. 78]

This is as quoted in Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet which was quoted from during last Sunday’s sacrament meeting. I was actually shocked to hear someone say that. The idea is so bass-ackward that I thought I had just imagined it. “People couldn’t be that wrong headed. I must have been dreaming that up.” Never underestimate the power of religious fundamentalism, I guess.

Combine that with the belief that priesthood leaders of all levels are inspired and the following gem (via Talking to God) and you have a perfect recipe for blind obedience and another Mountain Meadows Massacre.

What’s the point of personal revelation then? Just follow the prophet. He knows the way.

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Burning Bosoms

I’ve been spending a good chunk of time at Clark Goble’s blog, Mormon Metaphysics. He posted about the problem of evil. I spent a little time over the past month challenging and examining some ideas that people proposed to overcome the problem of evil.

Things got more interesting (and more verbose all around) when Blake entered the fray (I believe this is Blake Ostler). The discussion has veered to the topic of the validity of “spiritual” experiences as a foundation for knowledge and a philosophical attack on naturalism.

Interesting, wide-ranging discussion.

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The Love of God

(via Pharyngula)

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