I get a letter from a prestigious Mississippian

I got a letter from a professor at the University of Oregon in response to my last post. He and I are both from Route 4, Bogue Chitto, Mississippi, only he turned out better than I did as can be seen from the fact that he makes money as the head of the White Ebonics Department, whereas I stay home and write on my blog for nothing. Here’s his letter. He wrote to me in the simple language of our people.

Dear Snowy,

So what if God did order them Old Testament Jews to murder thousands of babies; and what if he did drown all but two of the worlds population of kangaroos and armadillos (and everthing else too) because Middle Easterners sinned back in Noah’s day; and what if he did say that if a man raped a woman, then that man had to marry that woman and listen to her bitch about it for the rest of his life? What you overlook is that God did a lot of good stuff too. Like there was that story about the man what God told to be a preacher, and that man didn’t wanna be no preacher, so God had a big fish (it weren’t no whale, it was a big fish) swaller him for three days after which the man decided he rather preach than to have to smell fish-breath everday. Now, that’s a good story.

Another story I like is that one about the man who got off his mule and beat it with a two by four (it was really just a stick, but I always picture it as a two by four) because the mule wouldn’t move, and that mule turned around and looked at him and said, “You dumbass. There’s a angel with a sword up ahead, and he’s waiting to chop you up into buzzard kibbles, so instead of beating me this way, good mule that I am, you oughta be thanking me for saving your sorry life.” Yessir, I’m partial to them animal stories, but they’re all in the Old Bible. In the new Bible, God got in touch with his softer side. For example, God said to love everbody else just as much as you love yourself. That means that if you have a toothache, and your neighbor’s wife has a toothache, and she can’t pay to get her toothache fixed because her husband’s job got sent overseas to Chiner, then you have to take her to the dentist with you unless you’re like Mitt Romney and need a new car elevator so you get all your vehicles in and out of your basement without having to put a hole through the foundation.

That loving your neighbor as yourself part of the Bible, that’s good, that’s real good because it cuts down on all the suffering in the world. For instance, if your neighbors are hungry, then you can’t go out and buy yourself no new TV until they’re all fed because you sure the hell wouldn’t go out and buy yourself that TV if you was hungry. No, sir. You would buy groceries first and maybe eat ‘em right there in the parking lot if you was real hungry, and this means that you’ve got to do that for other people too because if you don’t, you can’t very well say that you love them as much as you love yourself, and if you can’t say that, then you should be ashamed to show your face in church on Sunday. Like Jesus said, “By their works will you know them,” and in another place, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” and in a third place the Bible says that faith is okay, but it ain’t as good as love.

But you don’t never talk about none of the good stuff that the Bible says, and what I mean by that is the kind of stuff that Christians live by. You just make out like God’s worst than Hitler, and that don’t wash. So what you need to do is, you need to be damn happy that us Christians love everbody else as much as we love ourselves, cause what kind of a mess would this world be in if not for us making sure that everybody has got enough to eat, and everbody can go to the doctor when they’re sick, and poor kids have a chance to go to college if they want to? You answer me that, Mr. Athiest because that’s the kind of stuff that we Christians stand for, but I can’t tell what you stand for other than attacking those who spend their lives doing without luxuries because they’re so filled with love that they can’t stand to see no one going without the necessaries.


Dear Leroy,

I’m going to talk to you like you talked to me which was like one Mississippi boy to another, and what I’m going to say is this. When I was a kid, I too liked them animal stories, and I especially wanted me one of them talking mules—or maybe it was a donkey, I’m not too sure no more because I don’t never read the Bible no more. Anyway, when I got a little bigger, I got to thinking seriously about what it would mean to love my neighbor AS MYSELF, and I thought, holy shit, I don’t know nobody what does that, or even tries to do that because all the Christians I know live just like everbody else except that they go to church even when nobodys dead.

I asked my preacher about it, and what he said was that Jesus didn’t mean that everbody in the whole world was your neighbor. He just meant the people what you interacted with everday. I went away and I pondered about that for awhile, and it seemed to me that since poor people mostly interacted with other poor people, and rich people mostly interacted with other rich people, that his interpetration put all the responsibility for helping poor people onto the backs of the poor. I also reflected on the idea that most of the really poor people around where I lived was niggers, and everybody said that niggers didn’t need no help because niggers didn’t mind being poor. Of course, there was poor white people too, but everbody said they was lazy, so nobody helped them either except for taking them a basket of food at Thanksgiving, and that was only if the man and woman was married and had children. For these reasons, all the Christians I knew got to keep most of their money, which is pretty much how it is today too.

I sort of didn’t quite buy all that about nobody needing or deserving help because even if it was true, I thought you should still help their children even when it weren’t no holiday. Everbody I asked about it said that, no, it was up to their parents to do that, and if you did it for them, you would be encouraging their laziness. It occurred to me that when you added all of the reasons for not helping other people together, it pretty much meant that what Jesus said didn’t really have no effect. I went back to the preacher again to try to understand what the hell Jesus was talking about then, and what he told me was that what was true in Palestine way back in Jesus day wasn’t true in America today, because, unlike back then, America was the Land of Opportunity, and everbody who was willing to work for money could get all the money they needed. I doubted that Jesus would see it that way, but I also knew that I didn’t want to give my money away neither, and this meant that I never could be no real Christian, but then it struck me that that’s why faith is so wonderful. You don’t have to do nothing to get into heaven except to say, “I believe in Jesus, and I’m sorry for my sins,” and you will probably come out okay if you hold off on saying that until youre so sick that you didn’t feel like sinning no more no how.

I sort of liked salvation by faith because it gave me a crack at heaven that I wouldn’t have otherwise had, but it sure didn’t seem fair that one person could live like a sack of shit for eighty years and get into heaven on the basis of saying a single sentence during his last second of life, whereas another person could do his best to love everbody everday of his eighty years, and then go to hell because he was a Jew or a nonbeliever or else didn’t have time to say the necessary sentence before he died and therefore went to judgment without his sins being forgiven. I found such thoughts worrisome, but I sort of noticed that nobody else seemed to worry about them because the other Christians I knew seemed downright convinced that they was right with God. As they saw it, it was Communists, liberals, atheists, humanists, and godless professers who was going to be mighty sorry on judgment day, whereas they themselves was going to be glad to see Jesus, and he was going to be glad to see them too. That just didn’t set right with me, and it still don’t.

Truth is, them Christians struck me as being like the old time Pharisees that Jesus was always calling hypocrits, only they was worst than that because at least the Pharisees thought that they needed to do more to please God than to say they had faith and apologize for their sins. What I’m trying to say is that I didn’t see no conviction behind the Christian love for other people. All that Jesus meant to them so far as I could see was an insurance policy against hellfire, and that’s still how I see it, although I can’t hardly say what’s true for every Christian in the whole world, and no doubt some of them really do try to love everbody the way Jesus said, and I have no problem with that. But it don’t change the fact that almost ever last Christian I ever knowed took care of themselves first, and then if there was anything left over, they might give a little of it to church, but after the preacher took his cut, the rest of what little they gave ended up paying for air conditioning churches, attaching big old gyms to little old churches, putting teensy-weensy steeples on great big churches, and other such luxuries that had nothing to do with loving their neighbors as much as they loved themselves. Now, I can just hear you saying that Christians aint perfect, just saved, but its one thing to make any number of mistakes and then do your best to correct 'em, and its quite another thing to live your whole life through without ever making a serious effort to do what you say you believe is right.



Charles Gramlich said...

I know a lot of professors. That doesn't sound much like a professor to me. Just saying. :)

ellen abbott said...

if the letter you received is real, and I have no reason to doubt your word even though you aren't a christian (hee hee), I believe you rebutted it beautifully. it seems to me that christianity has, in this place, day and age, become exactly what you describe...a get out of jail free card. there must be some christians out there who try to live by Jesus' teachings, who take their neighbor to the dentist or buy groceries for the family who are living just above starving but I think they are rare. at best they tithe a little money to their church and expect the church to take care of it for them through their 'good works' while they pat themselves on the back and ignore the need around them. if this was truly the christian nation that they all keep claiming it to be there would be no need for the social safety net those self-proclaimed christians are so intent on getting rid of, you know, the ones that all those freeloading moochers are getting fat and sassy on. I'm not a christian and I don't have an inside line to Jesus but I'm willing to bet that all those people who rely on their faith in Jesus as their personal savior and little else to get them into heaven are going to have a rude awakening. I know there have been some good christian people in Houston who would make sandwiches and go out among the homeless and pass out food without judging those people in any way or requiring anything in return (like attending religious services like the Salvation Army does) and the good christian people in the city government passed a city ordinance making it against the law to do that. I really don't think Jesus gives a shit whether you pray and praise in his name or give the glory to god but I think he does care a whole lot about how you act, not only toward your fellow human but also the way you treat this planet and all the other creatures that live on it. and just for the record, I was raised episcopalian with church, sunday school, confirmation and the whole nine yards. I stopped going to church around 16 and by 21 had walked away from christianity altogether.

rhymeswithplague said...

Hower you fine Ah hope.

Ah kin hardly wait fer yer new book The Leroy 'n' Snowy Papers" to git published and make it to my neighborhood Barnes & Noble Bookstore, as I am one hooked reader of your stuff, I tell you what.

Ah don't think no true Christian would use terms like "You dumbass" and "holy you know what starting with an S" however, so Ah'ma gone pray fer the botha you fellers that you will git right with Jesus, but then you never claimed to be no Christian in the first place, did you, so Ah will jest pray fer yer perfesser frind Leroy and let it go at that.

Also, Ah wouldn't use the "n" word too much iffen I wuz you, Snowy, becuzz even in jest it can get a feller in a whole heap of trouble these days, plus it ain't in the least bit politically kerrekt, and we must all strive to be that no matter what else is being pushed on us by the folks in charger things up air in Washington Dee Cee.

Other than those coupla crittisizms Ah think you might be on to something big. Maybe you are one-a them closet Christians in yer hort and don't even know it.

Thanks fer the chanct to git to say my piece and keep up the good work.

Snowbrush said...

"if the letter you received is real, and I have no reason to doubt your word even though you aren't a christian"

Ellen, I hate to harm your faith in the integrity of atheists, but I made that letter up.

"I really don't think Jesus gives a shit whether you pray and praise in his name or give the glory to god but I think he does care a whole lot about how you act...

That would be my guess too. Of course, if he even lived, no one knows what Jesus said and what he didn't, but I like to think he was more fair-minded than he's made out to have been.

Rhymes, you're much better at dialects than I, and I envy you that. In fact, I would say that you have a gift for dialects, which makes me wonder if you have a gift for music too, since I somehow think of the two going together.

rhymeswithplague said...

Thank yew verra much, Snowy, fer them kind words. Ah shore hope I have a gift fer music or them Methodist folks have been pourin' money down a rat-hole fer the pass coupla years, and all the years before that when them babdists and them pennycostlers raved over my talents they must notta knew whut they wuz talkin' about, well it prolly wouldna bin the first time. But please do tell me more about the connection you see between a gift fer music and a gift fer dialects; Ah cain't say that Ah see it uh-tall except maybe fer that feller that rote that Porgy and Bess.

The Elephant's Child said...

Loud smiles here.

ellen abbott said...

Ha! I'm extremely gullible you know.

kylie said...

this is hands down the best post i have read in a very long time and i'm loving the comments too!!!!

lotta joy said...

Well, since we's all talkin' in ourn dialick, I'll do mah hillbilly stuff.

Mah husband's church preacher was hollerin 'bout trustin dah lawd with all yourn heart and soul and not worryin 'bout payin no bills cuz gawd would pervide.

And did the lillies of dah field worry? And every sparrow whut hits dah dirt is counted jest like dah hairs on mah head.

So...dah letter arrived today sayin as how we should give ourn money to dah church....not til it hurts, but til it 'feels good' is whut he said.

Seems the church has bills tah pay and they ain't too fond of expectin' gawd to pervide.

Just call me cornfused.

Snowbrush said...

Hi, Child. Ellen, I shouldn't think you would necessarily be the only one. I never meant to fool anyone, but I have often succeeded in doing just that without even trying.

"Ah don't think no true Christian would use terms like "You dumbass" and "holy you know what starting with an S"

That's what I grew up believing, but I had this girlfriend in junior high, and her mother took the ban on profanity up a notch to include words like shoot, darn, heck, dang, and so forth, which I thought was silly, but didn't dare to say so, of course. I cuss a fair amount in normal conversation, so the cussing that I do in my writing is actually a step down, and I always do it judiciously. I think of your attitude toward profanity as a quaint and charming idiosyncrasy that I do my darnedest to honor on your blog, although I have to make an effort to be careful about it. By the way, would you describe yourself as more of a Biblical literalist, or do you take most of the stories as more true on a metaphoric level? I have wondered this for some time and really would like to know.

"tell me more about the connection you see between a gift fer music and a gift fer dialects"

It has to do with the ability to hear nuances. I don't know if there's anything to it, but it's something that I think might be true.

"this is hands down the best post i have read in a very long time and i'm loving the comments too!!!!"

Wowser! Thank you.

"Well, since we's all talkin' in ourn dialick, I'll do mah hillbilly stuff."

I wonder how all this American dialect is being received by Australians, English people, and Canadians. Maybe most of them don't know how much speech differs from one part of America to another.

kylie said...

we certainly do know how it differs! maybe we dont recognise as many variations but when my brother wants to imply redneck attitudes its no coincidence he chooses a southern accent (sorry!)

Snowbrush said...

"he chooses a southern accent (sorry!)"

It's bad enough to be a bigot, but when you go around advertising the fact by mocking people, it suggests callousness as well. What surprises me in your brother's case is that he lives in Australia. It never would have occurred to me that an Aussie would know enough about American accents to do such a thing, but then I guess you're exposed to American culture through movies and maybe TV shows as well.

kylie said...

well we know some of the stereotypes and my brother just uses the stereotype to comic effect.

i'm a little disappointed you chose to go in so hard on your assessment. after all you didnt see the south as a place you wanted to stay

rhymeswithplague said...

"I guess you're exposed to American culture through movies..."

In our parents' generation it was Tobacco Road. In our generation it was To Kill a Mockingbird. In this generation it has been O Brother, Where Art Thou?. I suppose we dare not mention all the stuff Tyler Perry has done or people might say we are bigots when all we really are is gifted when it comes to dialects.

rhymeswithplague said...

"would you describe yourself as more of a Biblical literalist, or do you take most of the stories as more true on a metaphoric level?"

I would say yes and yes, or possibly at times and at times, but never always and always. It depends. What does that tell you? Probably that I'm a Methodist. An aging Methodist. There aren't too many around like me. I'm one of a kind. Just like everybody else.

Snowbrush said...

"i'm a little disappointed you chose to go in so hard on your assessment."

I can see why you would feel that way, and I apologize. After I wrote, I thought about Larry the Cable Guy who uses a redneck persona for humor, and I don't feel offended by his use of it, and I would probably feel the same if I heard your brother.

"In our parents' generation it was Tobacco Road. In our generation it was To Kill a Mockingbird. In this generation it has been O Brother, Where Art Thou?."

I've never seen O Brother, Where Art Thou?, so I will have to look it up. When I think of movies that had a powerful cultural impact on me, Easy Rider easily heads the list.

"I'm a Methodist. An aging Methodist. "

I have the idea that Methodists are suffering through a tiny amount of what Episcopalians have been going through for a long time due to some people wanting the church to be inclusive of homosexuals at every level and others hanging back, some of them waaay back. So, the fact that you are Methodist really doesn't tell me much. So, if you will allow, let's take the story of the Exodus. Did the ten plagues literally happen? Did pharaoh and his army literally drown? Did the Israelites wander in a literal desert for 40 literal years? By the way, I'm not looking to challenge you, but rather to understand.

kylie said...

apology accepted :)

Strayer said...

You guys are both high on something. You should smoke weed together and laugh.

lotta joy said...

Who'd have thought that a comment on dialects would open a can of worms as large as your old comments on religion used to.

rhymeswithplague said...

"Did pharaoh and his army literally drown?"

I cannot answer your question until you explain what 'figuratively drown' might mean...The footnotes in my Bible say Moses led the children of Israel through the ankle-deep Reed Sea (Hebrew, Yam Suph), not the Red Sea. So those mean Egyptians may have only figuratively drowned, I suppose. But Mrs. RWP, a registered nurse, tells me a person can drown in a cup of water. Literally.

Did you know that someone has published a photograph of a chariot wheel found at the bottom of the Red Sea?

I'm not being cagey. Some days I believe one thing and some days I believe another, just like Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland, who said some days he believed six impossible things before breakfast.

"I don't know." That's my final answer, Regis.

Deb said...

Ok, I is bypassing all dem talk 'bout dialects n'such.

I will say that it does raise a few questions when you think for years and years, somebody does all the good works as Jesus did, and never goes to heaven because they didn't receive Christ as their savior, and just by one sentence from a born again Christian right before dying says, "I receive Jesus Christ as my savior" and viola --- they go to heaven after years of struggling with sin. But, then keep in mind what the bible says about 'good works'....

In Romans 7 it states, "The law no longer holds you in its power, because you died to its power when you died with Christ on the cross. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, you can produce good fruit, that is, good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died with Christ and we are no longer captive to its power. Now we can really serve God, not in the old way by obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way, by the Spirit."

All the good deeds in the world will not get you a ticket into heaven no matter how much someone claims they are a Christian. It is by faith alone. And when you have faith alone, that produces a seed of *desire* to want to do good for your 'neighbor' and help others - love others as you would yourself. It's not even a matter of obeying a law --- it's more about the joy and peace of the actual meaning of "love"; by doing things for people without the law ---- as it says that we are no longer bound to the law, because when Jesus died on the cross, the laws were abolished. So when the Spirit works within us, it's just this freaky power of spiritual nature that makes us want to help everyone. There are many corrupt "religious" people and those who don't fit the "Christian bill" -- they only want to claim they go to church every Sunday like a good soul, but never do anything for anyone... That's not what God wanted. If the Spirit was truly within that person, it would be different. Sadly, the Spirit isn't even found in some of our most prestigious Christian/Catholic leaders.

I can see why so many Christians get discouraged. I enjoyed reading this, especially in that dialect. You painted an awesome picture for me. Thanks again for another well written and thought provoking post!

Snowbrush said...

Deb, I first became aware of "salvation by faith" from listening to a Methodist teenager on a church outing debate three Church of Christ preachers (my old church, The C of C believed that both faith and works was necessary). No one can win such debates because you can pull out verses in abundance to support either side, although it does seem to me that the legalism represented by works is actually superior to the legalism represented by faith because under the latter, you just have to say the correct sentence, which still comes down to being saved by what you do rather than what is in your heart. You might respond that, well, one has to BELIEVE the sentence, but what does this mean, actually? Does a person have to believe it 100% or will she squeak by if she's just hurting and scared out of her wits after being run over by a truck?

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

As always, very insightful Snow.

Snowbrush said...

"I cannot answer your question until you explain what 'figuratively drown' might mean..."

How about drowning in grief or drowning in alcohol?

"But Mrs. RWP, a registered nurse, tells me a person can drown in a cup of water. Literally."

Or less if that person has a small nose.

"Did you know that someone has published a photograph of a chariot wheel found at the bottom of the Red Sea?"

I know nothing about that. Maybe it fell off a passing ship.

"Some days I believe one thing and some days I believe another"

Then I think it would be safe to conclude that a literal interpretation of many Biblical events isn't important to you, which is what I was trying to get at. Would you say that the same is true of the miracles performed by Christ? Again, I'm not trying to challenge you but to understand what your thoughts are.

"As always, very insightful Snow."

Thanks, Hiker.

Snowbrush said...

Deb, another problem with salvation by faith is that it excludes non-Christians, which means that most of the population of heaven will be composed of Caucasians who had the good luck (and luck it would have been) to grow up in Christian countries. Hitler, a Catholic, might very well be in heaven as I write while Gandhi, a Hindu, is certainly in hell, and this is the work of a deity that is all-wise, all-just, and all-merciful? Another problem is that Jesus never said that faith was the preeminent virtue; he said that love was, and this sentiment was repeated by Paul. However, when I hear most Protestant Christians talk, it seems obvious that the tantamount virtue in their minds is faith because, as they see it, it is faith and only faith that insures personal salvation. Love and every other virtue is thus subjugated to one's private desire to do that in heaven which you're not supposed to want to do here on earth, which is to be surrounded by gold and jewels. And what do we have to do to get all that gold and all those jewels? We have to get our final sentence right. Call on Buddha, and you'll be damned for all eternity. Call on Christ, and, wham, you're saved. If that's not legalism, I don't know what it is. To refer to this "scheme of salvation" as having anything to do with spirituality is really quite appalling to me, not only because it's selfish, but because it's utterly lacking in depth and beauty. Rather, it portrays God as being like some silly rich man who will give a million dollars to everyone who says that she believes that he will give her a million dollars. Okay, so someone believes without ever having seen that rich man or even having solid reason to believe that he exists. Would that belief count as virtue in your mind?

rhymeswithplague said...

I think you have it all upside-down and inside-out and backwards, Snowy, but you sure make a strong argument. It's just that you're not calling the shots even though you would like to be. There is a loving God whether you want to believe it or not. Who will be in Heaven may surprise some people. And salvation by faith doesn't exclude anyone except those who refuse to have faith. But a person saying he's saved by faith is not the same as being saved by faith. We do need to remember that the book of James in the New Testament says faith without works is dead. That's the part where we get to show love to our neighbor. Works without faith gets you nowhere (Ephesians), and faith without works gets you nowhere (James). I'm saying this poorly, but I hope what I mean is getting across.

God is not a monster, despite what you write over and over on your blog. That Book tells us His ways are higher than our ways, but basically you are saying that you know better, that your ways are higher than His ways. (If one child dies we can write God off, and so forth.) So besides contradicting God, you are just plain wrong. All the bad things demonstrate our fallenness and need of a Savior, not God's cruelty.

I can't convince you, Snow, and you can't convince me either. And since insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, we should stop trying. But let's be friends anyway.

Snowbrush said...

As soon as I hit the orange button, I saw errors, so I'm redoing that last comment.

"God is not a monster, despite what you write over and over on your blog."

Hark and alark! I don't write about God but about the imaginary deity of a tribe of Bronze Age sheepherders, and I only write about him because he's still accepted today. He inspires our wars and our social policies, and he has done these things since the beginning of our country and even before that if you consider the behavior of the Dutch, English, French, and Spanish, explorers. Rational people who can easily spot the sickness of a Jim Jones, or a David Koresh, or a Sun Myung Moon, are blind to the evils of the Biblical deity because he is ancient, accepted by millions, and has a grand edifice on every street corner that testifies to his reality. Yet, having the trappings of reality doesn't prove that the substance of reality is present.

"insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, we should stop trying."

Hark and alark again! Then I (at least) am not insane because I don't expect different results. I write to inform others and to refine my own views. If my words should change anyone's mind, I would be delighted, but I don't expect it because I recognize that, while I'm writing to rational people, I'm not writing about a subject in which rationality has much influence. Just as you would hold, I suspect, that a person must abandon reason to an extent before he can embrace what's called religious faith, so must a person allow cracks to appear in the wall of his religious faith in order to embrace reason. If religious people were amendable to this happening, I hold that there would be no religion. I would be arrogant indeed to imagine that my small efforts have much chance of success, but I don't need success. I write about what comes to me to write about, and I enjoy writing it. I also enjoy dialoguing about it.

Anonymous said...

What a great post! Had to smile a bit too...

Winifred said...

Love this post. The dialect reminded me of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn where Huck & Jim are pontificating about the bible. I can remember laughing myself silly when I read it.

You two ought to get together & write a book. You'd sell millions!

All Consuming said...

Blimey guvnor. T'all made me laugh, n arll go t'top of are stares if it'int true.

lotta joy said...

Snow, you might not want to print this, since it's a question from one athiest to another, but I've been at a loss to answer ONE THING from the bible: WHY did the apostles continue to 'spread his word' after he died and swear they 'saw him' arise after death? These guys supposedly were killed due to that 'belief' of theirs. I know I wouldn't continue a lie if I was going to get killed for it. Have you ever wondered about that part? It's kind of bugging me.

Snowbrush said...

I exceeded the "character" count, so I'm going to have to do this in two installments.

Thank you, ladyfi and Winifred.

All Con, I loved your accent.

"Snow, you might not want to print this"

I would never print anything that someone asked me not to, but since you seemed to leave it up to me, I decided to go ahead.

Snowbrush said...

"WHY did the apostles continue to 'spread his word' after he died and swear they 'saw him' arise after death?"

I'm just going to throw out a few points here.

(1) You have only the word of the Bible to take for this, and having rejected Biblical authority in every other significant regard, I'm a little lost as to why this particular point appears to ring true for you. The fact that Jesus was a real person isn't attested to by any document near the supposed period in which he lived other than the New Testament. The part of the New Testament that contains the story of his life (and was supposedly written by those who knew him) didn't appear until decades after his death and was authored by unknown persons. Inasmuch as I can recall, the New Testament only mentions one Christian martyr, Stephen. Although there are legends regarding the deaths of the apostles, these cannot be verified.

(2) Jesus' resurrection didn't win him the special status that the Bible claimed. Some other resurrected deities were Horus, Osiris, Attis, Krishna, Mithra, and Dionysus, and these were only the famous ones. In fact, nearly all of the notable events of Jesus' life occurred in the lives of earlier gods. This is why Joseph Campbell believed that a single ancient myth gave birth to many deities.

Snowbrush said...

Make that three installments.

(3) If a miracle may be defined as the setting aside of the laws of nature, then the probability that a miracle has occurred must always be less than the probability that it hasn’t unless one can show evidence that it is possible to set aside the laws of nature.

(4) The fact that large numbers of people believe that a miracle occurred doesn't meant that a miracle occurred. The following account is from http://catholicfundamentalism.com/mary-fatimathe-only-explanation-of-the-miracle-of-the-sun-at-fatima/1655:

"What occurred was witnessed by over 70,000 people including representatives of the media, reporters from all the principal daily newspapers in Lisbon. It was a very wet morning on 13th October, 1917. It had been raining all night. At noon: "Suddenly the rain stopped. The clouds were wrenched apart and the sun appeared in all its splendour. Then it began to revolve on its axis like the most magnificent firewheel that could be imagined, taking all the colours of the rainbow and sending forth multi-coloured flashes of light producing the most astounding effect.” (Dr. Formigao, Professor at Santarem, Portugal.)

The following is an Italian newspaper account of the event.

"The sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic law – the sun danced.” Dr. Almeida Garrett of Coimbra stated: “The sun, whirling wildly seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation was terrible.” The incident was repeated three times lasted eight to ten minutes. It has since come to be known as the Miracle of the Sun. There can be no doubt that this actually happened as it was well documented by reliable sources. It was not of natural origin as it was not recorded by any astronomical observatory. Neither was it a case of collective hallucinations as it was seen up to 30 kilometres away by people going about their normal duties unconscious of what was happening at Fatima.” (from Seculo)

(5) Everyone believes that their religion (or even their version of a version of a religion) is the one true religion, and many of these people are ready to die for it because doing so will win them entry into paradise. Religious "truth" is ever a matter of emotion, which is in most cases preceded by enculturation.

(6) If there's one thing that can be said for our species, it's that large numbers of us stand ready to rush out and die for questionable causes. Within decades or less of its inception, people were indeed dying for Christianity, but it is important to look at their deaths in the context of that part of the world at that time in history. Life was short and brutish, and most people were provincial and ignorant, and this made them easy marks for someone who promised everlasting happiness in exchange for martyrdom. I doubt that the motivating forces in the lives of the early Christians were really that different from the motivating forces in the lives of those from that same area who die as suicide bombers today.

Snowbrush said...

The following information is from the latest Pew polling results regarding religion in America. You can find the rest of the report at: http://www.pewforum.org/Unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise.aspx

"The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

"In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%)."

If you're not religious, this is good news. If you are religious, it points to a future in which faith will no longer be the default position. This will result in more open challenges to religion as opposed to our society's current attitude that everyone is supposed to show respect for everyone else's religious beliefs for no better reason than that they are religious beliefs. The only discouraging part of the report (from my point of view) is that atheists and agnostics still only comprise 6% of the population. I had thought that atheists alone number that high. It is also true that atheists don't generally like being lumped together with agnostics because they tend to view agnosticism as irrational, and if there is one thing that most atheists hold in high esteem, it's rationality.

rhymeswithplague said...

"And by rationality are you saved, through intellectualism, and that not from anyone else, it is the gift of your own mind, not of others, lest any man should think himself equal to you." (an atheist's version of Ephesians 2:8-9, perhaps?)

I'm sorry; I couldn't resist.

C Woods said...

Wow, Snowbush, You sure know how to stir up a hornets' nest.

I enjoyed your post, and, for the record, knew immediately you had written the initial letter. Hemingway said, "The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector." Somehow I have it ---and that is one thing that may have convinced me "religion is all bunk" (to quote Thomas Edison,) I have a friend who is a Mensan who was always passing on emails to me as if they were fact ---yet, I knew immediately, when they were urban myths/legends. I finally convinced him to check several myths/legends websites before passing those lies onto others.

I bet that if we had websites checking up on word-of-mouth stories when the Bible was written, most Biblical stories would be judged as false, but there would still me thousands of people who would pass them on to all their friends, and most people would believe them ---because they wanted them to be true.

Also enjoyed the banter and your responses.

Joe Todd said...