The following post is the result of not being able to sleep well this past weekend. I think it's best for the world that I do sleep well. There's no need for my brain to work on overtime.
Regardless (or even better, my favorite bullshit word, irregardless), it happened. This time was unusual - what my brain managed to create during the wee hours of the morning actually made sense the next day. This particular night I also came up with the new blog title. I guess you could call it a sort of Christmas miracle.
I tend to think a lot about religion while at the inlaws', which is where we were on the aforementioned night. My sleepless mind came up with this rationalization of how I feel about religion (Christianity, to be specific, since I know little about other religions - something I plan to work on). This conclusion appears after years of thought, reading, and learning more and more about it. Okay, deep breath. Here goes.
1. I believe Jesus existed. He was probably a normal, wonderful person who helped the downtrodden and brought happiness to many. Or maybe he was just a precursor to David Koresh, some fanatic guy running around spewing cultish ideas. Either way, he managed to have some sort of effect on humanity at the time. Do I think he walked on water, or turned water into wine, or was resurrected from the dead? Most likely not. If he claimed to do these things, he was probably a nut job. I prefer to think humanity had a way of embellishing the truth into what we read now as the Bible. More below.
2. I took a folklore class in college. I thought it bullshit at the time, as my advisor failed to tell me I had to take that as a requirement to graduate right before my last semester, therefore forcing me to take 18 hours. Lucikly I was going for an English degree, so it wasn't exactly brain surgery. I digress. This does relate to my thoughts on the Bible.
The Bible is entertaining reading. Do I think for one minute that we should take it as reality? No. A lot (or most? or all? I don't really know) of the new testament was written some time after Jesus died. Stories were passed down from generation to generation, and ultimately written. What happens when you line up a group of people, tell the first one a sentence or two, and pass it on from person to person? What are those sentences like once they reach the last person? Usually they're at least somewhat different than the original sentences, if not significantly different. With stories, these changes usually include embellishment as they travel from person to person. Why not? No one wants to tell a dull story. I feel that's what happened with the Bible. I think the basic elements are probably true. Jesus existed. He was a good man who fought for the little guy, and gave hope to many who were probably hopeless at the time. If he was killed, that probably helped make him more memorable. But when it comes down to the immaculate conception, and the things mentioned above, it's just too much. How can I be expected to believe these things?
Plus, there are passages written about Jesus that weren't included in the modern day Bible. I googled 'lost books of bible' and found this oh-so-inspiring passage from a religious website called Got Questions.org:
Question: "What are the lost books of the Bible?"
Answer: There are no "lost books of the Bible" or books that were taken out of the Bible. There are many legends and rumors of Âlost booksÂ but there is no truth whatsoever to these stories. Every book that God intended and inspired to be in the Bible is in the Bible. There are literally hundreds of religious books that were written in the same time period as the books of the Bible. Some of these books contain true accounts of things that genuinely occurred (1 Maccabees for example). Some of them contain good spiritual teaching (the wisdom of Solomon for example). However, these books are not inspired by God. If we read any of these books, the Apocrypha as an example, we have to treat them as fallible historical books, not as the inspired, inerrant Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The gospel of Thomas, for example, was a book written in the 3rd or 4th century A.D. as a forgery, claiming to have been written by the Apostle Thomas. It was not written by Thomas. The early church fathers almost universally rejected the gospel of Thomas as being heretical. It contains many false and heretical things that Jesus supposedly said and did. None of it (or at best very little of it) is true. The Epistle of Barnabas was not written by the Biblical Barnabas, but by an imposter. The same can be said of the gospel of Philip, the apocalypse of Peter, the book of Enoch, etc. The Bible is the complete Word of God. Why would God allow a book that He inspired to not be included in the Bible for 2000+ years?
Interesting. Why indeed? I'd like to know how these early church fathers knew which gospels were 'inspired by God' and which were crap. What was the criteria? That's my point. There's no way to prove which are true and which aren't. I'd wager to say that what we know of Jesus' life is only a small percentage of what was written.
3. Now don't get your panties in a bunch. Most of what I've written doesn't actually matter when it comes to my conclusion, which is this: why can't we focus on Jesus being a good person, someone who helped the sick and poor, who cared for everyone no matter what, who inspired so many? Why do we have to focus on the so very strange things in the Bible? Does his life have to be spectacular and dazzling to be worthwhile?
I think he'd be so much more inspiring and attainable if he was a normal person who went out of his way to help and love others. I'd much rather my kids were inspired by that Jesus than the one who was immaculately conceived, turned water into wine, walked on water, was murdered, then rose from the dead (in no particular order). I almost think we've focused on these things for so long that we've lost the true meaning of living like Jesus and taking him into our hearts. Bottom line, I wish we'd spend more time focusing on his admirable human qualities and less on the Bible and the fantastic.
Moreover, I don't think I have to accept Jesus and religion to go to heaven, if such a place exists (I'm more inclined to believe in reincarnation, but that's really beside the point). Because if God turns us away because we weren't 'saved' or 'reborn' no matter what kind of person we were or how we lived our lives, I don't want to go there. If God won't let in a baby that hasn't been baptized then that's ridiculous, and anyone who believes that is missing the point entirely. I prefer to think God and Jesus would focus on us being good, caring people, doing our part to help others and our world, rather than on whether we went to church or read the Bible. The God and Jesus I'd choose to believe in would love everyone no matter what color, race, religion, sexual orientation, species, and so on (I could go on forever).
Wow, that was a scary brain spill. See? We're really in trouble if I start having problems sleeping. Here's a great link, by the way, to a blog entry about the history of Christmas and how it's been horribly overdone in our modern society.