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Deconstructing Religion Book Recommendation


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Passing this along because this book blew me away. 

The Book of Separation: A Memoir

This is a memoir by the novelist, Tova Mirvis. Mirvis wrote The Ladies Auxiliary

In her memoir, Mirvis tells about leaving Orthodox Judaism and divorcing her husband. It really spoke to me. It's a quick read. 

I appreciated that Mirvis' issues with Orthodox Judaism were not just limited to feminist issues. It was also due to a lack of belief. 

I think her experience will ring true to any woman also leaving a "high intensity" religion. Although she doesn't dwell on the fear of hell like those of us coming from a Christian sect would. It's more about disapproval from the community and being "bad." 

One thing she wrote about that struck me was the description of the Mikvah. She wrote that in her world it was described as beautiful but she did not find it to be beautiful. As I was reading that chapter, I thought about all of the "women" rules in my faith tradition and how they are so often described in similar ways. Women can't be priests but that's not misogynistic because the Virgin Mary was a woman. Or how natural family planning is sold as helping promote intimacy in the marriage or makes sex more enjoyable. Or how they tell kids wait for marriage so the first time with your spouse will be amazing. 

 

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33 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

One thing she wrote about that struck me was the description of the Mikvah. She wrote that in her world it was described as beautiful but she did not find it to be beautiful. As I was reading that chapter, I thought about all of the "women" rules in my faith tradition and how they are so often described in similar ways. Women can't be priests but that's not misogynistic because the Virgin Mary was a woman. Or how natural family planning is sold as helping promote intimacy in the marriage or makes sex more enjoyable. Or how they tell kids wait for marriage so the first time with your spouse will be amazing. 

 

Yes, as someone who moved from Catholic-raised to (very briefly, in my late teens) evangelical to somewhat-liberal Baptist (American Baptist) to searching-desperately-for-any-church-that-worked-for-my-family (won't bore you with the details) to a None to now an Other (non-Abrahamic tradition), the inherent misogyny of much of what I was originally immersed in is still somewhat triggering, esp. since it is so heavily displayed in this culture & this culture's politics.

I don't know how you *don't* end up with misogyny when the foundational religion(s) establish a rigid, gender-based hierarchy, with the man *always* above the woman. Hierarchy = those who are 'above' have all the decision-making power that counts & those 'below' don't. That's what a hierarchy *is*, no matter how many pretty words might be used to whitewash those realities.

Misogyny exists outside of religion, of course, but it's very difficult to escape once it's seen as the "Word of God".

 

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Thank you for posting this podcast! Listening to her was so cathartic for me as I come to grips with what "middle" or concessions I am willing to make to maintain a level of drama free relationships with my mother, mother in law, brother in law, and aunt and uncle.

Ordinary shoes, I 100% agree with you about the misogyny. It has been codified as the edict of an all powerful deity with eternal damnation as the consequence for not going along with it which of course makes accepting abuse the default for females. It is the logical outcome of tying the hierarchy to consequence from a supernatural being. 

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7 hours ago, Happy2BaMom said:

Yes, as someone who moved from Catholic-raised to (very briefly, in my late teens) evangelical to somewhat-liberal Baptist (American Baptist) to searching-desperately-for-any-church-that-worked-for-my-family (won't bore you with the details) to a None to now an Other (non-Abrahamic tradition), the inherent misogyny of much of what I was originally immersed in is still somewhat triggering, esp. since it is so heavily displayed in this culture & this culture's politics.

I don't know how you *don't* end up with misogyny when the foundational religion(s) establish a rigid, gender-based hierarchy, with the man *always* above the woman. Hierarchy = those who are 'above' have all the decision-making power that counts & those 'below' don't. That's what a hierarchy *is*, no matter how many pretty words might be used to whitewash those realities.

Misogyny exists outside of religion, of course, but it's very difficult to escape once it's seen as the "Word of God".

 

Yes. I think you see the truth behind the pretty rhetoric when you see how women are treated in patriarchal faiths. Look at how Beth Moore was treated. In the Catholic church, look at "woman saints" and "saints." They don't act like they like women very much. 

I think I'm pretty deeply in heretic-land by this point because I'm to the point of believing all of this is man-made. Civilizations create religion, the myths and the rules, to serve a purpose. When it doesn't work anymore, they change the rules and myths. We're in one of those times where the old fashioned rules don't work anymore. Every church is struggling with how to address LGBT issues and women. 

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6 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Yes. I think you see the truth behind the pretty rhetoric when you see how women are treated in patriarchal faiths. Look at how Beth Moore was treated. In the Catholic church, look at "woman saints" and "saints." They don't act like they like women very much. 

I think I'm pretty deeply in heretic-land by this point because I'm to the point of believing all of this is man-made. Civilizations create religion, the myths and the rules, to serve a purpose. When it doesn't work anymore, they change the rules and myths. We're in one of those times where the old fashioned rules don't work anymore. Every church is struggling with how to address LGBT issues and women. 

I agree with this. The more I study religion the more convinced I am that it is man made for the purpose of explaining what is not understood until it is understood and then suddenly it is okay to move this goal or that rule, etc etc. It struck especially in her description of why she was taught that David did not sin with Bathsheba. Of course my first thought was that if David did not sin because of this dubious explanation that Uriah and Bathsheba were technically divorced, then why was Nathan the prophet sent to admonish David and the bastard child sentenced to die as punishment? It is a million things like this argued over by every stripe of believer world-wide, theologians for thousands of years unable to come to agreement that really shines a light into how human created religion is. And well, when it doesn't serve this purpose or that purpose, meh, no worries, it can just be changed to suit the latest fancy.

That is where I am at the moment. Yet sometimes I still feel a little bit spiritual if that makes any sense at all. I still feel connected to something through nature, to my natural awe of the universe. It is definitely weird, but not something that even hints at there being a deity involved in the daily lives of humans. It is odd. I still love hymns. I still like to listen to Plainsong, and Brahms and Mozart's Requiems still move me.

 

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Not sure if you'd be interested in this or not, but this book made an impact of me.  (The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey)

https://www.amazon.com/End-Religion-Encountering-Subversive-Spirituality/dp/1600060676

Cavey is a pastor at a church in Canada (called The Meeting House) -- and is a Christian, but the book's main message is that Jesus came to destroy religion.  (Religion itself being man-made.)  I saw that he recently came out with a newer version of this book, with extra chapters.

 

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3 hours ago, Faith-manor said:

I agree with this. The more I study religion the more convinced I am that it is man made for the purpose of explaining what is not understood until it is understood and then suddenly it is okay to move this goal or that rule, etc etc. It struck especially in her description of why she was taught that David did not sin with Bathsheba. Of course my first thought was that if David did not sin because of this dubious explanation that Uriah and Bathsheba were technically divorced, then why was Nathan the prophet sent to admonish David and the bastard child sentenced to die as punishment? It is a million things like this argued over by every stripe of believer world-wide, theologians for thousands of years unable to come to agreement that really shines a light into how human created religion is. And well, when it doesn't serve this purpose or that purpose, meh, no worries, it can just be changed to suit the latest fancy.

That is where I am at the moment. Yet sometimes I still feel a little bit spiritual if that makes any sense at all. I still feel connected to something through nature, to my natural awe of the universe. It is definitely weird, but not something that even hints at there being a deity involved in the daily lives of humans. It is odd. I still love hymns. I still like to listen to Plainsong, and Brahms and Mozart's Requiems still move me.

 

I'm currently reading a book about who wrote the Bible. I was never a Bible literalist and never knew much about the Old Testament anyway. Mirvis says in her book that she avoided any Bible criticism classes when she was at Columbia. Learning about the modern understanding of the Bible would be very threatening to someone in a faith like hers. 

I knew that there were different theories about who wrote the Old Testament and the different Gospels. I don't think I had ever believed that the first 5 books were written by Moses. But it's still a bit shocking when you come to understand what the Bible actually is. It was written by multiple people long after the events it describes. Now people read it as if it's the literal word of God. It's kind of crazy when you think about it. 

And then there are the people believe that one translation is the literal word of God. As if the ancient Hebrews spoke English? Weird. 

I watched a snark video yesterday about a so called prophet who claims to have visited heaven. They were snarking on what she said heaven was like. It was basically middle America white heaven. People eat pizza and cinnamon rolls but not other kinds of food. 

 

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9 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I'm currently reading a book about who wrote the Bible. I was never a Bible literalist and never knew much about the Old Testament anyway. Mirvis says in her book that she avoided any Bible criticism classes when she was at Columbia. Learning about the modern understanding of the Bible would be very threatening to someone in a faith like hers. 

I knew that there were different theories about who wrote the Old Testament and the different Gospels. I don't think I had ever believed that the first 5 books were written by Moses. But it's still a bit shocking when you come to understand what the Bible actually is. It was written by multiple people long after the events it describes. Now people read it as if it's the literal word of God. It's kind of crazy when you think about it. 

And then there are the people believe that one translation is the literal word of God. As if the ancient Hebrews spoke English? Weird. 

I watched a snark video yesterday about a so called prophet who claims to have visited heaven. They were snarking on what she said heaven was like. It was basically middle America white heaven. People eat pizza and cinnamon rolls but not other kinds of food. 

 

Yes, and Bart Erhman's deconversion story has been helpful to me. True, deep scholarship of the gospels and Epistles of Paul doesn't bode well for the word of god idea, much less literalism.

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17 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

 

I knew that there were different theories about who wrote the Old Testament and the different Gospels. I don't think I had ever believed that the first 5 books were written by Moses. But it's still a bit shocking when you come to understand what the Bible actually is. It was written by multiple people long after the events it describes. Now people read it as if it's the literal word of God. It's kind of crazy when you think about it. 

And then there are the people believe that one translation is the literal word of God. As if the ancient Hebrews spoke English? Weird. 

I watched a snark video yesterday about a so called prophet who claims to have visited heaven. They were snarking on what she said heaven was like. It was basically middle America white heaven. People eat pizza and cinnamon rolls but not other kinds of food. 

 

The crazy thing is that the idea of the Bible as the literal word of God is historically BRAND NEW.  Literalism didn't emerge until the mid 19th century.  

I found a book by Phyllis Tickle called The Great Emergence:  How Christianity Is Changing and Why to be super enlightening.  She talks about how every 500 years or so, there is a great revolution in the Church.  This cycle actually started around the time of the Civil War and began with slavery and now is about the role of women and LGBT issues, but the real issue is how we read the Bible.  Do we read it more literally, or do we read it in light of Micah 6:8?  

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Another book I found extremely helpful is The Jesus Legend by Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy.  They spend a lot of time delving into understanding oral history and its reliability, which I found absolutely fascinating.  Boyd also wrote a condensed version of it called Jesus: Lord or Legend.  (But I'd really recommend The Jesus Legend over the two, if you have the time and inclination.)

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1 hour ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I knew that there were different theories about who wrote the Old Testament and the different Gospels. I don't think I had ever believed that the first 5 books were written by Moses. But it's still a bit shocking when you come to understand what the Bible actually is. It was written by multiple people long after the events it describes. Now people read it as if it's the literal word of God. It's kind of crazy when you think about it.

It's my understanding that all of the New Testament books were written somewhere between 45 to 90 AD. That's within the lifetime of people who walked with Christ. I'm not sure what is surprising about it being written by different people? It is, after all, a collection of letters to churches and summary accounts of Christ's life. 

I don't know as much about the dating of the Old Testament, but I find the prophecies alone very convincing with regard to it being the Word of God. 

The Bible contains poetry, parables, figurative language, etc., so it that sense it can't always be read "literally." We were just doing a Bible study with my parents and DD13 yesterday and we discussed the verse from Romans that says, "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips." It's figurative, but still true. 

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1 hour ago, Terabith said:

The crazy thing is that the idea of the Bible as the literal word of God is historically BRAND NEW.  Literalism didn't emerge until the mid 19th century.  

Hmm. Not too sure about that since Jesus quoted the Old Testament as if it was the literal word of God. 

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The gospels all draw from a Q source as has been admitted by nearly every well educated, fluent Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek scholar for many many decades, and that source is not in existence today, has been lost since the writings of the gospels. The inconsistencies between the gospels despite drawing from a single source are immense. The OT gets even murkier as it is very clear the Torah was not written by Moses but by scribes hundreds of hundreds of years after the events had supposedly taken place.

But it doesn't really do a lot to tell those who reject the old and new testament as divinely inspired that the bible proves if is divinely inspired, or literal because a character in the collection quoted it as literal. That is a lot of circular reasoning that we have rejected.

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3 minutes ago, Faith-manor said:

The gospels all draw from a Q source as has been admitted by nearly every well educated, fluent Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek scholar for many many decades, and that source is not in existence today, has been lost since the writings of the gospels. The inconsistencies between the gospels despite drawing from a single source are immense. The OT gets even murkier as it is very clear the Torah was not written by Moses but by scribes hundreds of hundreds of years after the events had supposedly taken place.

But it doesn't really do a lot to tell those who reject the old and new testament as divinely inspired that the bible proves if is divinely inspired, or literal because a character in the collection quoted it as literal. That is a lot of circular reasoning that we have rejected.

Not John, I don’t think.  Just Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Matthew was an original disciple, and an eye witness.  He writes the same material but in light of the OT prophecies.  Mark was Peter’s nephew and did the ‘condensed, impatient’ version.  Luke was half Jewish/half Greek, a physician, and was a disciple and frequent companion on lengthy trips of Paul, and he writes the same material in a linear fashion that speaks well to those with a Greek education, the literati of the day.  He also wrote the Acts of the Apostles, in the same way.

John, of course, was a disciple, and very much his own man.

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11 minutes ago, Faith-manor said:

The gospels all draw from a Q source as has been admitted by nearly every well educated, fluent Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek scholar for many many decades, and that source is not in existence today, has been lost since the writings of the gospels. The inconsistencies between the gospels despite drawing from a single source are immense. The OT gets even murkier as it is very clear the Torah was not written by Moses but by scribes hundreds of hundreds of years after the events had supposedly taken place.

But it doesn't really do a lot to tell those who reject the old and new testament as divinely inspired that the bible proves if is divinely inspired, or literal because a character in the collection quoted it as literal. That is a lot of circular reasoning that we have rejected.

I disagree strongly with much of your first paragraph.

As to your second paragraph, fair enough--but I'm not trying to convince you or anyone who has publicly and decidedly left the faith to return. I'm sorry if you thought that was my intent! I am posting another perspective to consider for others who might read this conversation now or in the future. 

Edited by MercyA
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re Tova Mirvos "rhymes with nervous LOL"

19 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Here's a Q&A with Tova Mirvis about her memoir on the Mormon Stories podcast. 

 

 

Haven't read the new book, but thanks for this. She is so... compassionate... in her responses.  I was particularly moved by her simultaneous recognition of non-reciprocal relationships and the weariness with them, while also making space for them nonetheless.

 

 

2 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

I'm currently reading a book about who wrote the Bible. I was never a Bible literalist and never knew much about the Old Testament anyway. Mirvis says in her book that she avoided any Bible criticism classes when she was at Columbia. Learning about the modern understanding of the Bible would be very threatening to someone in a faith like hers. ...

 

Friedman's, by chance?  If so - one of my fellow congregants became quite deeply engrossed with it a few years ago, ran an adult ed series on it, and now whenever he leads Torah study he literally passes out (or screenshares, in the Zoomtimes) color-coded versions of the text showing which lines are attributed to which author.  It is very fascinating, often compelling, and after so many rounds of reading through that lens, the discontinuous passages and apparent insertions become quite evident.

And -- here's the thing -- it does not render the practice of Torah study any less valuable.

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But, it had been determined by scholars that none of the disciples actually wrote the gospels. The authorship of the gospels are actually up for grabs. Matthew and Mark in particular did not have the education in Greek to write them.

At any rate, I don't really have a dog in the fight anymore. I simply do not believe, and I am convinced of the evidence against. So the struggle then is to, like Tova Mirvis, figure out how to navigate life as one who is deconverted, while dealing with all of the offensive proselytizing of relatives determined to get us back into the fold, while not hopefully giving up and cutting out those said relatives for good or the converse, getting shunned for good. It is all very complicated and not something that those still on the inside can actually understand.

So back to the original post, I found the Q and A helpful. I am still digging into what all this means for me. I know it has meant a 100% loss of friendships, of being called wicked, apostate, bad, untrustworthy, etc. And for the most part I can handle that. I think what sometimes gets me is the absolutely glee in the voices of many Christians when they proclaim I am going to burn for eternity, and they are really happy about it. Like if I actually believed that was true, I would expect them to show to this burning with the ingredients for Smores so they could maniacally roast marshmallows over me. That is the thing I wrestle with today.

It is a very good thing we leave tomorrow for a week of camping. I need a break from my mother in law and her fundie nuttiness, as well as from my mother's passive aggressive attempts to reel in her wayward daughter. Emotionally, this last week they have rubbed me quite raw, and it is just so disgusting because I do not EVER belittle them in anyway for their faith. Why do I always have to take the high road while they get to be horrible to me?

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Just now, Faith-manor said:

But, it had been determined by scholars that none of the disciples actually wrote the gospels. The authorship of the gospels are actually up for grabs. Matthew and Mark in particular did not have the education in Greek to write them.

You state this as a fact. There are a great many highly learned, Greek and Hebrew reading scholars who would disagree with you. 🙂 

But--as to the rest of your post--I am so sorry that you are being treated in that way. It makes me very sad. I don't know anyone who would experience anything resembling maniacal glee over someone's deconversion, and I don't understand efforts to proselytize those who have left the faith.

I hope you have a relaxing time camping.

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2 hours ago, Faith-manor said:

The gospels all draw from a Q source as has been admitted by nearly every well educated, fluent Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek scholar for many many decades, and that source is not in existence today, has been lost since the writings of the gospels. The inconsistencies between the gospels despite drawing from a single source are immense. The OT gets even murkier as it is very clear the Torah was not written by Moses but by scribes hundreds of hundreds of years after the events had supposedly taken place.

But it doesn't really do a lot to tell those who reject the old and new testament as divinely inspired that the bible proves if is divinely inspired, or literal because a character in the collection quoted it as literal. That is a lot of circular reasoning that we have rejected.

Just Matthew and Luke.  “Q” (from the first letter of the German word for “source”) is the hypothetical reconstruction of the source of the material that is identical in Matthew and Luke but not Mark.  The theory being that Matthew and Luke were written independently of each other but both authors had access to Mark and another source (or sources) dubbed “Q.” (No relation to any modern sources tagged with the same letter.)

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2 hours ago, MercyA said:

It's my understanding that all of the New Testament books were written somewhere between 45 to 90 AD. That's within the lifetime of people who walked with Christ. I'm not sure what is surprising about it being written by different people? It is, after all, a collection of letters to churches and summary accounts of Christ's life. 

I don't know as much about the dating of the Old Testament, but I find the prophecies alone very convincing with regard to it being the Word of God. 

The Bible contains poetry, parables, figurative language, etc., so it that sense it can't always be read "literally." We were just doing a Bible study with my parents and DD13 yesterday and we discussed the verse from Romans that says, "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips." It's figurative, but still true. 

I actually meant the Old Testament, not the New. 

2 hours ago, Pam in CT said:

re Tova Mirvos "rhymes with nervous LOL"

Haven't read the new book, but thanks for this. She is so... compassionate... in her responses.  I was particularly moved by her simultaneous recognition of non-reciprocal relationships and the weariness with them, while also making space for them nonetheless.

 

 

Friedman's, by chance?  If so - one of my fellow congregants became quite deeply engrossed with it a few years ago, ran an adult ed series on it, and now whenever he leads Torah study he literally passes out (or screenshares, in the Zoomtimes) color-coded versions of the text showing which lines are attributed to which author.  It is very fascinating, often compelling, and after so many rounds of reading through that lens, the discontinuous passages and apparent insertions become quite evident.

And -- here's the thing -- it does not render the practice of Torah study any less valuable.

Yes, Friedman's book. 

 

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2 hours ago, MercyA said:

Hmm. Not too sure about that since Jesus quoted the Old Testament as if it was the literal word of God. 

Yes, I don't mean to sound flippant here but how do know those "quotations" were accurate? There is no recording. 

Also, the ancient world had a different understanding of "history" than we do today. The Gospels were not intended to be newspaper articles describing exactly what happened. 

Jesus would have believed that the Torah was written by Moses but no scholars believe that today. Can these documents written by several difference sources be the "word of God?" 

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4 hours ago, Terabith said:

The crazy thing is that the idea of the Bible as the literal word of God is historically BRAND NEW.  Literalism didn't emerge until the mid 19th century.  

I found a book by Phyllis Tickle called The Great Emergence:  How Christianity Is Changing and Why to be super enlightening.  She talks about how every 500 years or so, there is a great revolution in the Church.  This cycle actually started around the time of the Civil War and began with slavery and now is about the role of women and LGBT issues, but the real issue is how we read the Bible.  Do we read it more literally, or do we read it in light of Micah 6:8?  

I've heard of the 500 year cycle before. Year 500 (approximately) was the fall of Rome. 500 years later, the Great Schism. 500 years later, the Reformation. And we're due for another change. 

I can understand the primary struggle today being about the Bible and how to interpret it. The idea that it's the literal word of God is a reaction against modern Biblical scholarship so it is just as modern as other side. 

I'd never been a Bible literalist and I've believed in an old earth. I've never taken Genesis as if it's literal. But I was surprised to learn that there is no historical or archeological evidence of the exodus. Who were the ancient Hebrews? Where did they come from? It's strange when you consider how much impact these few hundred thousand people had on world history. If there was no exodus and no Mt. Sinai then the Jews weren't the chosen people so then who was Jesus? 

I used to think it was silly that people thought evolution and a new earth was worth fighting about. Now I get it. It is the basis of 'orthodox' Christian beliefs. The fact that all scientists (yes, I know I'm generalizing) agree as do most educated people undermines the entire system. 

 

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Hugs, Faith-manor. I can sadly relate. 
 

Our friends and most family have acted much the same. They need to “other” us because they need to cling to the certainty of their world view. Anything that threatens that threatens their own identity. So, seeing us happy and well is threatening to their notion that there is no safety or happiness outside of the church. If we are happy now, then certainly we must be going to burn in hell for eternity. Their attitudes certainly aren’t the “love thy neighbor as thyself” stuff I thought we had all believed in. 

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13 minutes ago, prairiewindmomma said:

Hugs, Faith-manor. I can sadly relate. 
 

Our friends and most family have acted much the same. They need to “other” us because they need to cling to the certainty of their world view. Anything that threatens that threatens their own identity. So, seeing us happy and well is threatening to their notion that there is no safety or happiness outside of the church. If we are happy now, then certainly we must be going to burn in hell for eternity. Their attitudes certainly aren’t the “love thy neighbor as thyself” stuff I thought we had all believed in. 

On the thread I began about hell, someone provided an example of a Sunday school program that scared little kids about going to hell. Most of us agreed that was terrible. 

But if you actually believe in hell, wouldn't we support scaring people about hell? Wouldn't we be willing to do anything to protect people from hell? How could we go about our lives if we honestly believed in an eternal hell? 

There's a famous story in the Catholic church from the 19th century of a young Jewish boy who was taken from his parents because his nurse had secretly baptized him when he was a baby. It was in Rome and the baby had been sick so the nurse baptized him. When the Church found out, they took him from his parents. It caused a huge outcry. A few years ago, a conservative Catholic magazine revisited the case and justified what the Church did. Many other conservative Christians were appalled. But is it so terrible if it saved that child from hell? 

This leads me to believe that people don't actually believe in hell. 

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We studied ancient history last year. When I was preparing to teach about ancient Egypt, I tried to determine where Moses and the exodus fit in to ancient Egyptian history. I was surprised to learn that it's not mentioned in Egyptian history. There is no consensus about which pharoah is mentioned in the Bible. 

I learned about the work of Israel Finkelstein. I've been gradually making my way through these interviews with Finkelstein. 

 

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9 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

On the thread I began about hell, someone provided an example of a Sunday school program that scared little kids about going to hell. Most of us agreed that was terrible. 

But if you actually believe in hell, wouldn't we support scaring people about hell? Wouldn't we be willing to do anything to protect people from hell? How could we go about our lives if we honestly believed in an eternal hell? 

There's a famous story in the Catholic church from the 19th century of a young Jewish boy who was taken from his parents because his nurse had secretly baptized him when he was a baby. It was in Rome and the baby had been sick so the nurse baptized him. When the Church found out, they took him from his parents. It caused a huge outcry. A few years ago, a conservative Catholic magazine revisited the case and justified what the Church did. Many other conservative Christians were appalled. But is it so terrible if it saved that child from hell? 

This leads me to believe that people don't actually believe in hell. 

I do think you're right, that a lot of people who believe in hell in theory don't truly believe in practice - I think much of the Western world has this gut assumption that the alternatives are a good afterlife or no afterlife - that most Westerners don't believe, at a gut level, in the possibility of a genuinely *bad* afterlife.  Because, yeah, once you can feel, at a visceral level, the genuine possibility of an eternity of badness (whether hell or any of a host of other options) - it's terrifying.   (I'm a lifelong Christian, and it wasn't until recently that the mental blinders came down for me.)

But, addressing the bolded, from a Christian perspective, I think there's substantial Biblical support for "not doing evil to prevent evil" - that, for a Christian, we can only be willing to do anything *good* to protect people from hell.  We cannot be willing to do evil to protect people from hell - the ends don't justify the means, no matter how high the stakes. 

But "anything good" leaves a lot of room open, that most Christians (including me) don't take advantage of.

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42 minutes ago, prairiewindmomma said:

Their attitudes certainly aren’t the “love thy neighbor as thyself” stuff I thought we had all believed in. 

Whenever there is a conflict between "love thy neighbor" and some other phrase in the Bible, "love they neighbor' will lose, just about every time. IME.

I had a minister once who did an 8-week series on the first 300 years of Christianity. Ever notice how you never hear about those first 300 years at any church? Yeah, there's good reasons for that. It's because there were a lot of competing narratives about Jesus & who he was & what he was / stood for / said. Now, of course, Christians believe that THE correct story is the one that was adopted during the Council of Nicaea, and that's the basis of their faith, and there's all sorts of reasons given why the other narratives were rejected.

However, I was shocked by what I learned. And I really didn't agree that there was one "right" version. I had had no idea of what went on during those 300 years....300 years!...for the uninformed, I'll just summarize by saying that those three centuries were full of hideous politics, power-grabbing, brutal silencing, and every other form of human ickery you can think of, as various factions fought for who's version of Christ would win.

And I remember being really sad at the end of the course. Thinking how the last 1700 might have played out differently - for women, for the earth, etc - if some of the very different, competing narratives would have been included.

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24 minutes ago, prairiewindmomma said:

Hugs, Faith-manor. I can sadly relate. 
 

Our friends and most family have acted much the same. They need to “other” us because they need to cling to the certainty of their world view. Anything that threatens that threatens their own identity. So, seeing us happy and well is threatening to their notion that there is no safety or happiness outside of the church. If we are happy now, then certainly we must be going to burn in hell for eternity. Their attitudes certainly aren’t the “love thy neighbor as thyself” stuff I thought we had all believed in. 

Boy, can I relate to that part about being well. There is a certain fury from the previous church "friends" that we are thriving, and brimstone was not rained down our family. But the thing they are most upset about is that all of our kids went to secular universities, and none of their dire predictions of unwanted pregnancy, drugs, alcoholism, failing classes, etc. came true. They have been steeped in this worldview under their new pastor, and apparently it is very, very upsetting that ours kids have been successful.

I think they have left the world of mainstream Christian belief and slid down the chute to cult. The progressive mainstream attitudes from Methodists and Episcopal believers has not been like that, and are generally positive. So I am willing to concede that within Christianity it is absolutely a spectrum, and many followers do NOT act like the church down the road! But living so close to the vitriol has hurt exponentially.

 

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1 minute ago, Faith-manor said:

Boy, can I relate to that part about being well. There is a certain fury from the previous church "friends" that we are thriving, and brimstone was not rained down our family. But the thing they are most upset about is that all of our kids went to secular universities, and none of their dire predictions of unwanted pregnancy, drugs, alcoholism, failing classes, etc. came true. They have been steeped in this worldview under their new pastor, and apparently it is very, very upsetting that ours kids have been successful.

I think they have left the world of mainstream Christian belief and slid down the chute to cult. The progressive mainstream attitudes from Methodists and Episcopal believers has not been like that, and are generally positive. So I am willing to concede that within Christianity it is absolutely a spectrum, and many followers do NOT act like the church down the road! But living so close to the vitriol has hurt exponentially.

 

I think so many of us really do believe in a version of the prosperity gospel. It is really hard to come to terms with the idea that we have very little control over so many things. 

I sometimes find myself frustrated that COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers don't get sick. But that's not how the world works. 

What I see in our former circle is the fear of children leaving the fold. Each time a kid leaves, I watch everyone trying to find something to blame. If they can figure out what went wrong, they think that they can keep their own kids from leaving. 

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I’ve had family members accost me with absolute vitriol for raising my kids in the church that they themselves left.  Maybe it’s not the coming or the going that’s the problem, it’s the doing something different from what they have chosen to do.  

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6 minutes ago, Lawyer&Mom said:

I’ve had family members accost me with absolute vitriol for raising my kids in the church that they themselves left.  Maybe it’s not the coming or the going that’s the problem, it’s the doing something different from what they have chosen to do.  

That is definitely a possibility.

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18 minutes ago, Lawyer&Mom said:

I’ve had family members accost me with absolute vitriol for raising my kids in the church that they themselves left.  Maybe it’s not the coming or the going that’s the problem, it’s the doing something different from what they have chosen to do.  

But the glee about damnation is horrible.  I can’t even imagine feeling that way, let alone expressing it.

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2 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Yes, I don't mean to sound flippant here but how do know those "quotations" were accurate? There is no recording. 

Also, the ancient world had a different understanding of "history" than we do today. The Gospels were not intended to be newspaper articles describing exactly what happened. 

Jesus would have believed that the Torah was written by Moses but no scholars believe that today. Can these documents written by several difference sources be the "word of God?" 

There were qualifications that needed to be met before a book was considered part of the Canon. The men that recorded and disseminated those books either knew Jesus or were close associates of those who did. They were willing to die for Jesus and many did. I trust that the New Testament contains an accurate record of Jesus' teachings.

Sure, the Gospels were summaries of what happened and what was said, like most historical documents.. As you say, no video recordings. 🙂

Conservative scholars do believe that Moses wrote most of the Torah, or perhaps dictated the books to Joshua. It's just not true to say that no scholars believe that.

Yes, I believe Scripture was "God-breathed," not written down by God but inspired by Him. There are many reasons I believe that, including fulfilled prophecy, but mostly because I "know Whom I have believed." 

Sorry, have to get ready for a meeting and run!

You don't sound flippant. 🙂 

ETA: I see quickly skimming that I've missed a lot of the conversation--just jumped back in to reply to Ordinary's quote. Will come back later and read the whole thing. 

Edited by MercyA
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1 hour ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

used to think it was silly that people thought evolution and a new earth was worth fighting about. Now I get it. It is the basis of 'orthodox' Christian beliefs. The fact that all scientists (yes, I know I'm generalizing) agree as do most educated people undermines the entire system. 

As an old earth creationist, the evidence of an old earth and evolution undermines nothing for me. It only increases my awe of God.

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26 minutes ago, Carol in Cal. said:

But the glee about damnation is horrible.  I can’t even imagine feeling that way, let alone expressing it.

I think maybe in the more fundamentalist sects, it is because they are desensitized to it. They are in the club, they are better than everyone else, and the glee is a certain amount of what my grandmother would have called "gettin' your up and commins". I think is is an idea that the others deserved it, and isn't god good because they got it. Something like that.

I don't get it at all. Even when I was a Christian I never felt like that about those that were not. It just didn't compute with me.

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1 hour ago, Happy2BaMom said:

I had a minister once who did an 8-week series on the first 300 years of Christianity. Ever notice how you never hear about those first 300 years at any church? 

You just said that you heard this at church.

I mean, I get it.  You didn’t mean literally never or literally any.  And I agree that a lot of churches do a poor job of teaching, and a lot of Christians know very little about the history of Christianity.  But . . . it also depends a lot on what church you’re attending.

 

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1 hour ago, Danae said:

You just said that you heard this at church.

I mean, I get it.  You didn’t mean literally never or literally any.  And I agree that a lot of churches do a poor job of teaching, and a lot of Christians know very little about the history of Christianity.  But . . . it also depends a lot on what church you’re attending.

 

The Orthodox certainly hear a lot about the first 300 years of church history...

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3 hours ago, Danae said:

You just said that you heard this at church.

I mean, I get it.  You didn’t mean literally never or literally any.  And I agree that a lot of churches do a poor job of teaching, and a lot of Christians know very little about the history of Christianity.  But . . . it also depends a lot on what church you’re attending.

 

Of course it depends on the the church you are attending, but you can't tell me that teaching a full, unretouched version of those first 300 years is standard practice in nearly any Christian church or denomination (other than perhaps some of the very liberal ones). Out of the literally dozens of churches I attended throughout my life, in a range of denominations, I never heard about those 300 years, unless it was an overview, and *always* with the emphasis that God guided the process to ensure that the "true" books were selected at the Nicene Council. Churches teach on the Bible as it is written, not cover the fact that there were originally multiple factions, each with their own version on what Jesus meant/taught, and how only one version eventually made it's way through the Empire-approved process. 

The church where the referenced series was held was was eventually kicked out of its conservative denomination for not toeing the line formally enough; the series I spoke of was one of the things cited. It was a very small and very unique church, the minister had a PhD in Christian history & mystical traditions (or something to that effect). Despite searching for years afterward, in multiple cities in which I lived, I never again found a church like it. So, um, very much not typical. And, no, I was not trying to be scientific in my post.

 

 

Edited by Happy2BaMom
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1 hour ago, Terabith said:

The Orthodox certainly hear a lot about the first 300 years of church history...

Well, I was never Orthodox, but, based on what I know about the Orthodox Church, I'm gonna guess everything but the (now) Bible was taught/viewed as "heresies" and that God's Word came through as it should have in the Bible which we have today. Which is a different viewpoint than a strictly historical undertaking. But perhaps I'm wrong.

 

To be clear - I'm not trying to tweak people who hold to the Christian faith. But this discussion started with a Deconstructing Religion book recommendation, so I'm under the impression that the subject for this thread is the deconstruction of religion (& the series I mentioned was a part of my own deconstruction journey), but it seems like we're getting into defending religion / certain denominations here, which seems like it should be a separate thread.

 

Edited by Happy2BaMom
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Happy2BaMom said:

Well, I was never Orthodox, but, based on what I know about the Orthodox Church, I'm gonna guess everything but the (now) Bible was taught/viewed as "heresies" and that God's Word came through as it should have in the Bible which we have today. Which is a different viewpoint than a strictly historical undertaking. But perhaps I'm wrong.

 

To be clear - I'm not trying to tweak people who hold to the Christian faith. But this discussion started with a Deconstructing Religion book recommendation, so I'm under the impression that the subject for this thread is the deconstruction of religion (& the series I mentioned was a part of my own deconstruction journey), but it seems like we're getting into defending religion / certain denominations here, which seems like it should be a separate thread.

 

I was Orthodox and Catholic. I heard about the first 300 years of the Church in both churches. However, no one ever discussed how messy it actually was. It was taught that there were disagreements but 'orthodox' belief was always there and prevailed because of the Holy Spirit. 

ETA thanks for your earlier comment. I think you raised a very important point. Most people do not know how we got from the death of Jesus to 'orthodox' Christianity. There is a 300 year time period that is murky. Most Christians, even Orthodox and Catholics, don't know much about that time other than the persecution of the early Christians. 

 

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1 hour ago, Happy2BaMom said:

Of course it depends on the the church you are attending, but you can't tell me that teaching a full, unretouched version of those first 300 years is standard practice in nearly any Christian church or denomination (other than perhaps some of the very liberal ones). Out of the literally dozens of churches I attended throughout my life, in a range of denominations, I never heard about those 300 years, unless it was an overview, and *always* with the emphasis that God guided the process to ensure that the "true" books were selected at the Nicene Council. Churches teach on the Bible as it is written, not cover the fact that there were originally multiple factions, each with their own version on what Jesus meant/taught, and how only one version eventually made it's way through the Empire-approved process. 

The church where the referenced series was held was was eventually kicked out of its conservative denomination for not toeing the line formally enough; the series I spoke of was one of the things cited. It was a very small and very unique church, the minister had a PhD in Christian history & mystical traditions (or something to that effect). Despite searching for years afterward, in multiple cities in which I lived, I never again found a church like it. So, um, very much not typical. And, no, I was not trying to be scientific in my post.

 

 

Well since teaching that history is one of the things that gets you tagged as “very liberal,” sure.

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