Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What is a Devout Skeptic vs. Cultural Christian ?

I ran in to a comment via e-mail that mentioned something in terms of not being PC for a Cultural Christian or a Devout Sceptic.

Devout Skeptic? What’s that?

Never heard that one before. And believe it or not, Wikipedia does not have a small article of explanation for the phrase. Rather odd.

Needed to do some Internet research.

I did run into the British spelling of skeptic as sceptic.

Apparently there was a Brit radio show for many years by that name which is a possible answer to the question of what is a devout skeptic?

Bel Mooney

She was a regular presenter on BBC Radio 4 from 1982 until 2008, notably as presenter of Devout Sceptics, a programme devoted to public figures' private beliefs, not necessarily agnostic or atheistic, as the name might suggest.
A quote from Theo Hobson, a British “post-Anglican” theologian:

Confessing Evangelical

…this: a certain dishonesty and laziness of mind, and a certain pretentiousness. The Devout Sceptic wants to lay claim to the glamorous depths of religious tradition, without the embarrassment of actually identifying with it. Do not confuse me with a common atheist (he says), like that brash chap Dawkins, who is blatantly ignorant of the controlling passion of Western culture. Consider me to have the integrity and depth of a believer, yet also the searching mind and defiant heart of a Romantic.
And going back to Mel Mooney:

Devout Sceptics

… Ever since, at the age of sixteen, I rejected the idea of God - believing that no God of Love could preside over a world so apparently lacking in that commodity - the longing for him/her/it has been like a guilty secret inside me, with no curtained confessional in which to whisper. When a bereavement left me bleak and bitter, I skulked around lighting candles for comfort yet hurling insults at a God I steadfastly denied….

Devout Sceptics are seekers who won’t trust the maps they have been given, but know there is a destination towards which to stumble. Even if it proves to be the place they began at, and (to invoke T.S. Eliot) they know it for the first time.

It is not atheism, not quite agnostic and a phrase that I think in some ways has an affinity with the term cultural Christianity.

So in conclusion, a Devout Sceptic is, in my opinion, is one in a personal comfort and at a certain distance amid the sea of many religious beliefs and practices.

Birther and Sedevacantist Movements - Similarities

Is the Oval Office truly empty???

Doing my hobby of researching the millions of pages of faith, Christian and otherwise, a thought occurred to me (I do have them on occasion) (and they are not all eccentric).

It struck me that the whole birther movement, in the denial of legitimacy of the 44th POTUS (a god of sorts with a small g) is not unlike the Sedevacantist (empty chair) movement in the RC church.

That aside from the Clinton campaign starting this whole birth certificate thing in 2008, the ferocity of this continued meme/myth/urban legend thing has overtones of religion all over it as much as it has coded racism.

Just looking at the flash mobs at the White House, Times Square and the Phillies/Mets game on Sunday night reminds me that the super patriotism thing is a tribal, almost secular religion thing. Every recognizable country has at the base of its identity this “we are great” “we are the only true ones” “we are first” tone of things.

As such I wish I had the time and money to follow through on this theme. I see a parallel between the Birther movement and the “Sedevacantists” in the RC church who believe that the Chair of Peter has been empty (Sede Vacante) since the death of Hitler’s pope Pius XII – the Great Appeaser.

John XXIII and his Vatican council thing ticked off a lot of traditionalists and their worship of the Latin mass thingy going in favor of the vernacular service. Modernism and democracy are both sins/depravities in the eyes of the RC dogma.

I have to wonder if the birther movement is a pure redneck populist movement. I have to wonder if big bucks behind the scenes from the likes of Mel Gibson and his more catholic than the pope Dad, along with Opus Dei justice Scalia and Sen. Santorum etc., have not been bankrolling this insane belief that the Oval Office is empty?

And all this birther religious like fervor or insanity is not being funded by church tax free money that should be otherwise taxed and put to better use?

When were the Gospels written / 120 -140 A.D./C.E. ?

Following my own timeline thing and in my personal quest of a better truth of the founding and evolution of the Christian faith, I am saying, I am believing that the four Gospels were assembled somewhere between 120 and 140 A.D. of the common western era.

I say this in my own Jesus seminar styled search. I say assembled above which a little is bit different than written. I believe that the sayings of Jesus in a Gospel of Thomas like format got expanded into metaphoric descriptive fashion.

As in Jesus, if he said this, he probably said it to a crowd and or to a select few. The elusive “Q” document of nineteenth century Christian scholarly fame was no doubt a bunch of quotes on the back of a lot of envelopes from possible eyewitnesses to the event of that great moral teacher’s life.

Of course they did not have envelopes back then but I think you get the idea and image from what I just said.

The other thing that makes me think that the three synoptic gospels were written between 120 and 140 A.D/C.E. is the fact that Jesus is still Jewish in them. He is folksy and short in speaking style.

Going back to my own blog

Trajan’s demonization of the Jews

and the Kitos genocidal Roman war against the Jews and Semites of North Africa and the Middle East, I see the dividing line between the Jews and Christians in real form if not in written form about this time.

In fact while reading about that holocaust, that it started in Cyrene, present day Libya, North Africa, I went on to see that the first three Gospels mention a Simon of Cyrene, a tourist and or refugee of sorts in Jerusalem on the first Good Friday.

To refresh your memory here are those Simon of Cyrene quotes from the first still Jewish Christian gospels.

“And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.” (Mark 15:2).

“And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.” (Luke 23:26).

“As they went out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross.” (Matthew 27:32).
Researching the Internet for this common thread/reference to Simon of Cyrene led me to this interesting article and quotation.
Gospel Mysteries – Gospel of John
Similarly, many of the stories found in the other gospels, but not in John, probably came from sources known only to their authors. Thus, the use of different sources can easily account for many of the differences between John and the other gospels.

But that explanation doesn't work very well for some differences, especially the difference in how Jesus is depicted. The first three gospels portray him as a teacher, healer, and prophet whose main concerns are the problems of society and the need for people to live more virtuously. In these gospels he shows great compassion for poor, oppressed, and outcast people, and he heals many disabled and demon-possessed individuals. When he teaches, he talks in simple language, draws images from everyday life, and uses parables to make his points.

But the gospel of John depicts him quite differently. In this gospel he talks in a different style, and often uses words and ideas not found in the other gospels. Instead of making short penetrating statements about how people should live, he gives long speeches about why he came to earth and why people must accept him as their savior. He rarely uses parables, and he doesn't cure any cases of demonic possession.
Putting the above quote aside for a few moments, I had already decided that this reference to Simon of Cyrene in the three gospels had some real significance and was possibly in fact a little bit of propaganda and or proselytizing of early Christians toward the surviving Jews of the Kitos War 115-117 C.E..

That is, you have an executed Jesus, you have a crucified Jesus, why not build on it as a recruiting tool to many Jews who survived the recent genocide and show empathy in the way of death. No doubt there were thousands of Jews crucified along the Roman roads that connected North Africa to Jerusalem and onto Syria and Turkey (Asia Minor) after the Kitos War.

Now getting back to the recent quote above, the whole article was quite interesting. From that article I get the sense that the original three gospels are written in a Jesus is a common man mode with simple parables and messages. That the original Christians were survivors of the Great Jewish Revolt 66-70 C.E. and living in rural areas all over the Middle East.

That the reference of Simon of Cyrene sharing a cross with Jesus occurs in Mark and is copied into Matthew and Luke. By this I see that Simon of Cyrene was not haphazardly added to already written gospels but was part of original text. As such, I speculate that the first three synoptic gospels are assembled/written in post 117 A.D. after the Kitos War.

That the scattered communities across the middle east and in perhaps Rome as well were living off legend, oral tradition and the Letters of Paul and were coming together, in a still recruiting from the original Jewish cult thing, and turning into a new sect different than the original Judaism.

In fact I think that the historian Suetonius’ quote of fellow historian Tacitus in the persecution specifically of “Chrestiani” is a retroactive cut and paste job of history. That after the Kitos War, the more sophisticated Jewish Christians in Rome were doing a sudden Public Relations blitz and press release thing to say that their history as Christians (sans the Jewish in Jewish Christian thing) went back many decades before the recent unpleasantness in the African and Middle East provinces.

That to say you were persecuted by a hated dictator like Nero was a positive and not a negative in the early propaganda of the church. That and you were retroactively and consciously separating yourselves from the traditional Judaism thing.

In a way, while a rural populist thing is going on outside of Rome, the urbane, sophisticated Roman Christians came up with an Urban Gospel in the form of John. That these changes within the same movement occurred simultaneously or close to it.

In fact, I see the rural country bumpkin preacher of Jesus transformed into this polished Gnostic like god (small g) in the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John I see as the urban guide to the new Christian cult for the largely Gentile only city dwellers from the Mid East, through Greece and into Rome. This, especially after the final Jewish war by Hadrian 132-135 blew all Jews into definitive and seemingly eternal Diaspora.

I find it incredible that I cannot find much on the last two of these three Jewish wars, that they don’t get much mention on the Internet. It is possible that Jewish scholars have not yet put history from books onto the Net. It is also possible that Judaism prefers to forget the whole matter. That the only much quoted writings of the history of the Jews is from Jewish/Roman writer Josephus Flavius and centering on the destruction of Herod’s greatly altered/remodeled Second Temple is enough to address that period in religious/political history.

In any case, my studies and research continue. I hope in the very least that this crazy theory of mine makes some sense and will in time make more sense as bloated, vested Christian theologians die off and the true spirit of Jesus in the early real Christian church evolves back to not a local pagan level but to a truly first and global belief system.