Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ten things Jesus still can't say in church

This essay contains ten 'common sense' interpretations of some of the most cryptic and provocative sayings attributed to Jesus which exist in New Testament scripture.  These interpretations are actively suppressed within institutional Christianity in order to maintain fundamentalist Christian orthodoxy, which in turn supports oppressive political power world-wide.

Jesus lived in a time and place where speaking truth concerning religion or politics in mixed company was not just 'impolite' but perhaps the best way to ensure an immediate death warrant.  Therefore, Jesus hid his most scathing commentary of religion and politics within very carefully crafted allegorical sayings - 'for those with ears to hear'.  Jesus described his cryptic teaching as seeds, concise packets of allegorical information which after the metaphorical code is cracked and the sometimes equally mysterious topic of conversation is deduced, then bloom into insightful 'common sense' understandings of the nature of reality - particularly concerning religion and politics.  If you have ever read a saying of Jesus that seemed 'out of character' or left you simply scratching your head then chances are you have missed out on some of the most significant and self-empowering teachings of Jesus.

Like many who have experienced traumatic life-altering spiritual experiences I once sought to better understand my own experience through the lens of traditional religious teaching.   While traditional religious institutions provide the invaluable benefit of a supportive, like-minded community, these same institutions are often guilty of instilling dogmatic, irrational beliefs in the minds of young people ill equipped to foresee the grave danger embracing these beliefs can pose to their future mental health and their ability to acquire a fully informed, accurate and self-empowered world-view.

Fundamentalist denominations of Christianity, Islam and Judaism teach their followers to believe everything written in Scripture is truth - completely inspired texts which contain no error, contradiction or falsehood - books which speak as one voice - the voice of God.

This singular religious belief, more than any other religious belief, has the power to transform a person, once endowed with the virtue of common sense, into an irrational and disturbingly delusional individual, susceptible to all manner of psychological manipulation and mental illness.  No mind retains the ability to read and judge scripture soberly after embracing as 'insight' the belief that all scripture was inspired by the voice of truth and the voice of falsehood was somehow magically prohibited from the commentary.

Scripture contains wisdom and truth.   But scripture also contains contradiction and falsehood (both intentional and unintentional).  Those unable or unwilling to attempt to discern the difference and who spend a great deal of time studying scripture develop a distorted understanding of the nature of reality and are in danger of becoming enemies of themselves as well as enemies of truth.  Those who lack the benefit of a sound education in the history of world religions and the history of the creation of canonized scripture are at a particular disadvantage.

The promotion of the belief in scriptural inerrancy has always been institutional religion's greatest gift to sociopaths, hucksters and self-serving political manipulators - as well as the lessor angels of one's own mind.  No one who fully embraces this particular religious belief escapes the negative consequences and no one abandons this belief later in life without significant psychological scars.

Insight - Definition:
A small piece of information used by the mind to lead one to greater information and greater understanding.

Delusion - Definition:
An altered state of consciousness induced by embracing as 'insight' a false belief concerning the nature of reality.

Side effects include:
1.  Inaccurate perceptions of reality.
2.  Diminished ability for sound reasoning.
3.  Mistrust / fear of those not holding the false belief.
4.  Strong mental bias for thoughts supporting the false belief.
5.  Strong mental bias against thoughts opposing the false belief.

Below are ten 
Common Sense Interpretations of some of the more cryptic sayings attributed to Jesus found in the New Testament.

These interpretations have been derived from the following set of metaphor pairings - (Which can prove useful when attempting to interpret other allegorical sayings attributed to Jesus in the New Testament).

1. Eye:  'One's perception, one's understanding of something'
2. Body:  'One's conscious and unconscious mind'
3. House:  'The beliefs governing one's mind, one's world view'
4. Kingdom:  'A philosophy or theology - a collectively held understanding'
5. Son of Man:  'The enlightened or evolved individual, future humanity'
6. Demon:  'Delusion, Consciousness controlled by falsehood' 
7. Angel:  'Benevolent Consciousness controlled by truth'
8. Unclean Spirit:  'Consciousness controlled by evil/unholy beliefs about God'
8. Devil/Satan:  'Malevolent consciousness controlled by falsehood'
9. Hell:  'A delusional state leading to mental and physical torment'
11. Heaven:  'The world as it should be, the future perfect world, the afterlife'
12. Kingdom of Heaven:  'The philosophy of the perfect world'
13. Kingdom of God:  'The philosophy of God, One's awareness of higher consciousness'

1.  Mark 4:24-25
Be very careful if you attempt to interpret cryptic sayings attributed to me.  The reasoning you use will be the measure of your success, and even more. Those who have sound reasoning will embrace rational assumptions and conclusions about me and my teaching, which will lead to deeper understanding.  Those who do not use sound reasoning will embrace irrational assumptions and conclusions about me and my cryptic teaching, which will lead to diminished understanding - and even more - will ultimately nullify the value of the teachings of mine they did understand.

NIV -"Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them."

2.  Matthew 23:15
Woe to you who teach that God is the author of scripture, that scripture is God's Word. You hypocrites. You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have finally succeeded, you make them twice as delusional as you yourselves have become. 

NIV - "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

3.  Matthew 16:11-12
How can it be possible that you don't understand I was not talking about bread when I said, be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees?  Then the disciples understood that Jesus was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but instead to guard their minds against the many falsehoods taught by religious leaders who believe scripture was authored by God - which gives rise to delusional thinking, hypocrisy and political oppression.

NIV - How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

4.  Matthew 6:22-23
How you see the world illuminates your mind. If your perception of reality is correct your whole mind becomes exposed to insights. If your perception of reality is wrong your whole mind becomes exposed to fallacies. Embracing a fallacy as though it is an 'insight' makes the mind delusional. 

NIV - "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

5.  Matthew 5:29-30
If your spiritual understanding confuses or disturbs you, better to approach life with a world-view which is void of any settled spiritual understanding, rather than have your whole mind thrown into delusion, and torment.  If your first hand spiritual experience confuses or disturbs you, it is better to reinterpret or ignore that spiritual experience than to have your whole mind enter a state of delusion and torment. 

NIV - If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

6.  Mark 3:22-29
Prominent religious scholars explained, This man dispels demons by Satan's power.  So Jesus called them and answered using symbolic language: How can a delusion be dispelled by falsehood?  Theology that contradicts itself has no solid foundation.  If your world view contains contradictions your mind becomes unstable.  And if a falsehood is demonstrated to contradict itself this brings to an end that falsehood's power to delude the mind. The fact is you can't affect anyone's strongly held religious world view without first forcing them to examine their current understanding of God, then you can pick apart the various delusional elements of their world view.  The truth you need to know is this: The psychological consequences of any sin can be alleviated. But while one holds a false belief concerning the nature or will of God the psychological consequences of holding that false belief will always remain.

NIV - And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man's house.  Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin."

7.  Matthew 12:43-45
When the evil nature of a person's God becomes exposed that person feels the heat of inner conviction and goes searching for valid evidence to support their wicked beliefs concerning God, which they do not find.  Because of their lack of intellectual integrity they soon abandon their self-reflection and evidence seeking, desiring to return to their old way of thinking about God.  A close examination of their world view reveals their entire mental life has been consumed by their obsessive thinking about God, because once you extract their thoughts and beliefs concerning God there is nothing left, they are empty headed people whose minds are a clean slate.  To distract themselves from their intellectual dishonesty these individuals double down on their ignorance by embracing other false beliefs concerning the nature and will of God - each one more evil than the next.  The mental health of these individuals deteriorates over time as they become more and more delusional, self-righteous and hypocritical.  So it will be with this generation of intellectually dishonest religious people, the moral crusaders who embrace false beliefs concerning the nature and will of God - those who envision God as an instrument of judgment, oppression and destruction against others and use scripture as the voice of God to validate their wicked beliefs and actions.

NIV - When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it passes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' on its arrival it finds the house vacant, swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and dwell there; and the final plight of that man is worse than the first."  So will it be with this wicked generation.

8.  Matthew 5:17-20, Matthew 16:19
Don't just assume that I have come to abolish scripture because you have heard me contradicting scripture and exposing the delusions and hypocrisy of those who teach you that God is the author of scripture.  I have not come to abolish scripture but instead to fulfill scripture's apocalyptic expectations. Because the sad truth is until there becomes no distinction between heaven and earth in the minds of those who have become delusional reading scripture those poor people will continue to live in obedient fear of the wicked God of scripture, constantly attempting to establish even the most trivial minutia of scripture as the law here on earth - that is until they have become convinced that the messiah has come and the foundations for a new world have been established.

Because of this sad situation, if an enlightened person attempts to abolish scripture by setting aside one of the least significant of the commands existing in scripture and teaches others to do the same, that person will be labeled by religious zealots as someone who is an enemy of God, someone who has little understanding of how God's perfect world should operate.  But the person who practices and teaches all the irrational and burdensome commands of scripture will be labeled by the same zealots as someone who is a visionary who has great understanding of God and how to live and act in a perfect world.   

What I have been telling you is this, unless your intellectual integrity surpasses that of those who believe and teach that God is the author of scripture you will certainly not acquire any real understanding of the philosophy of the perfect world.

I will give you the foundational principals of the philosophy that will establish God's government on the earth - the perfect world.

Note: (i.e., Love your fellow man as you love yourself, treat others as you yourself want to be treated, demonstrate your love by doing good for even your enemies, don't fear and envision God as an all-powerful judge but instead envision God as love, the father of benevolent consciousness, capable of only good) 

The philosophy that governs human behavior, the laws and institutions that you yourselves establish on earth will determine whether or not heaven is established on the earth.

NIV - "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom.  Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

9. Mark 14:61-62
But Jesus remained silent and did not answer.  Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the chosen one, the son of the blessed one?  And Jesus said, I am, and you will see other enlightened individuals securing first hand knowledge of established power and coming to shine their light on those things that keep people from understanding the world as it should be.

NIV - "But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One? And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."

10.  Matthew 24:27
For as great flashes of insight become understood around the world, so will be the evolution of humanity.

NIV - "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."


Final thoughts:

Peace, prosperity and enlightened democratic government will never be fully realized without meaningful intellectual reform within institutional Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  As long as churches, mosques and synagogues continue to promote the belief in scriptural inerrancey institutional religion will continue to unwittingly inspire self-destructive apocalyptic world-views in believers and retard the progress of positive social and economic change.  Corrupt political power will continue to utilize scripture and the fear of God as a weapon of choice to maintain control of the political thinking of those who have already been captured by the destructive power of religious fundamentalism.

Author's notes - for those with ears to hear

Voices other than the voice attributed to Jesus found in New Testament scripture teach that we are sinful fallen creatures (rather than evolving creatures) who must be saved from the coming wrath and judgment of God.  However, Jesus clearly taught in New Testament scripture that both he and his father (His God) judge (condemn) no person. A clear contradiction.  

For this reason (and others) I believe, as did early Gnostic Christians, that the fundamental 'salvation' teaching of Jesus could be summed up in this way: People do not need to be saved from the wrath of a jealous, judgmental and vengeful God, but instead need to be saved from a perverse understanding of the nature of God - to become self-aware of the destructive psychological consequences of attributing false and negative attributes to one's God.  The mind - and by extension your life - manifests and is subject to the God you yourself have envisioned or been taught to believe in.

Fundamentalist Christians who embrace Jesus as a savior (as I once did and do) believe they have been delivered from the wrath and judgment of a wrathful and judgmental God - a round about method for coming into a state of believing God is no longer one's enemy nor one's judge but instead a friend.  This is a positive change of mind but not an accurate understanding of the true nature of one's condition.

The convoluted doctrines of fundamentalist Christianity offer only a partial cure for the mental illness that fundamentalism inspires in believers by teaching followers to envision God as an entity with negative and false attributes. 

If God is 'Good' as Jesus declared in New Testament scripture then God is clearly not all powerful and God is clearly not the creator of all things. Historically, religions with ties to government have defined God with false attributes to attempt to control human behavior - by instilling a fear of God in believers. The question of whether or not an all powerful God exists is a moot and unproductive question.

A more productive question is whether or not all our thoughts are our own - and if not what is the significance of that fact?  Do all our experiences of consciousness originate from within our own brains or is human consciousness an electromagnetic phenomenon residing at the quantum level and therefore entangled with other consciousness?

In America a majority of those who embrace the God of religious fundamentalism in their youth fall away from fundamentalist faith later in life out of their need to secure and maintain a modicum of intellectual integrity.  Most all who leave fundamentalist faith leave confused and alienated and still haunted occasionally by the voice of the God of fundamentalism they have betrayed.

The God of Jesus is perhaps best described in modern terms as 'benevolent consciousness' - traditionally known as the Holy Spirit - a God that Jesus described as a loving father, an observer of mankind, capable of only good - a God which passes no judgment on mankind.   

Old Testament scripture makes the claim that the fear of God is the beginning of spiritual wisdom.  I myself would say the loss of fear of God is the beginning of spiritual wisdom.  Even the atheist greatly benefits psychologically from having no fear of God.  The wisdom of Jesus says, those who fear God do not know God and those who do not love God do not know God.

The God of Jesus described in scripture does not seek fearful servants bound to obedient belief in scripture.  The God of Jesus seeks like-minded friends to share in the trans-formative experience of fellowship with benevolent consciousness.