Christianity not belief, but poetry

Belief has always been at the heart of Christianity. The problem with belief is that it can be false. It is necessary to have the correct belief, or you will go to hell, and lead others there too: that is the idealistic justification for burning heretics, to save their souls. We use the word “creed” as a metonymy for religion because the creed- including such things as “born of the Virgin Mary”- is so important. The Church of England is defined by the 39 Articles, additional essential belief; and the Church of Scotland by the Westminster Confession. Now Fundamentalists believe in the “inerrancy of Scripture,” which creates innumerable impossible things requiring Belief.

This makes Christianity impossibly fragile. If Noah could not have taken four million different species of beetle into the Ark, then Christianity cannot be true. Still, creationists attempt to argue that the World is less than ten thousand years old.

It also makes Christianity pernicious. If a child is brought up to believe in Adam as a historical figure, such that they refuse any evidence to the contrary, they make it difficult to function well in the world: any university degree should confront them with evidence refuting it.

If people were inspired to write about the nature of the world, I doubt anyone before 1800 could have comprehended that the local galaxies are moving at a thousand kilometres per second towards the Great Attractor. I had not heard of the Great Attractor before idly googling to get a link for this paragraph. I see the first article is from 1998 and may have been superseded- don’t take this as gospel: I was only looking for some figures to bamboozle.

Instead, we have stories. Gordon wrote on facebook this morning, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18.20).
This is not dogma, or doctrine, or theology, or magical or ‘supernatural’. It is a poetic expression of the realisation of the experience of coming together in community to share our lives with one another
. I agree. It does not matter whether Jesus said these words, and it is not necessary to imagine the Presence in the Midst literally. What matters is the experience of being together with this intention.

For me, Christianity in the 21st century has to get rid of belief entirely. The beliefs are so often impossible or ridiculous. Though when Hosea realised I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings he realised a better way for people to be together. Job suffered, purely because the world is like that; it does not mean he was bad; he is impossibly small, within the workings of the World; he realised this, stood up, and by his own efforts regained what he had lost. It is a story, and a worthwhile one.

the-serpent-satan-temps-eve

21 thoughts on “Christianity not belief, but poetry

  1. I guess details in a religion or religious teachings don’t need to deter one from believing – to me belief means faith and whether Mary was virgin when she gave birth to Jesus is less important than the belief in God, in powers of the unseen and unknown to living man – living man/mortal made up details as in Bible but really we can believe them or not and still fave belief in God – in the power of good

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    • For me, it is not belief but experience. I know my experience. I interpret it. I feel the power of the unseen, I do not need dogma to tell me it exists. I test the spirits: this is Paul’s instruction, not as an arbitrary rule but as good advice on living well. We have a relationship with God.

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  2. I find it amazing that do much has happened/been discovered in science since I left school! Thanks for the links to the Great Attractor, made fascinating reading. I think, as you said on James’s, you are indeed an extremist Christian: a laid-back, tolerant one, who chooses to believe in love and goodness,meeting beauty and positivity. That’s as far removed from the brimstone and hellfire scaremongering of the literalists as one can get.

    And yet, I’m left wondering, if one day, all Christians woke up without religion, it had been erased from their minds, you would all be the same people, you would be Clare with your views and attitudes towards others and our world, and the literalists would still discriminate against homosexuality and favour guns.

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    • I am peaceful. I desire closeness and reconciliation above everything else. Yes I would be the same person, faced with the same problem: that the rational mind with its apparatus of words does not fully comprehend the unconscious relationships and the history of primate evolution. I would probably find something like these cuddle workshops: I have been a couple of times, but it is not worth going into London for that. If I were not inveterately single it might be different.

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      • There is something odd going on with WP. I had to look for your blog, it did not come up on reader, nor did your reply.

        However. To take the hypothesis further, if you were the same person, with the same values, desires, and ethics, why is there even a need for a god or a belief as you have clearly formulated principles on which you base your life?

        As for being single, never bothered me when I was. I’d miss my partner now. There is being alone, and being lonely.

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        • I am lonely. My neediness frightens me, and others.

          A “belief”, you say, when I write of rejecting belief in favour of response to the world and others, ways of coming together in community, ways of perceiving the world. I gain a great deal from my Quaker meeting. It is my community within the wider community. Here I find friends, for deep sharing, chatting, sharing problems, support, and the woman I desire. Our common aim is living well, and I feel aided in living well by our community.

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          • Lonely. Don’t you think that is a personal view? Alone and lonely are so different. One can be alone yet not lonely. Or be both. Surely the point of your Quaker involvement is to avoid loneliness?

            At some point, many of us will all be alone, and possibly lonely. Alone is not bad. We need to live within ourselves.

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            • Well, yes. And now I feel impossibly tantalised by the possibility of closeness never realised, and I yearn. I was weeping in my friend’s kitchen, then in her arms. Yes I would value self-sufficiency. Life would be considerably less painful at the moment. The love I feel tortures me. If I could get over it, I would.

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            • I think we all wish for the ideal. Walking alone and seeing a couple makes us feel lacking. Been there done that. I have no answers. I read a blog and her partner developed Alzheimer’s. She wrote about how she looked after him. And suddenly, he died. Now she writes about her grief. So sad. And never, did she complain about him. Is it better to have loved? I don’t know.

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  3. That’s interesting. I’m not sure I get all the subtleties in your thinking, as usual. If Christians had no beliefs, would it not just be deism? What do you think the Bible is, and the life of Jesus?

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    • You cut to the heart of the matter, but ask huge questions. It would not be deism, but its opposite. In deism God is the primum mobile, taking no interest in the World now. In my view God is Wrath and Love together, the best way I know of relating to reality.

      I think the Bible is the record of the development of human understandings of God.

      I find the death of Jesus is our example of non-retaliation: if we live by an eye for an eye the whole world will be blind, and Jesus shows the alternative. I find the demand that we recognise Reality and treat each other well at the heart of Jesus’ message. I find enough in it to challenge and inspire me to make it continually worth my consideration; perhaps I could get similar inspiration from Four Quartets.

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    • Thank you for that. I liked the cat photos, and am interested in the different concepts of Sheol, Gehenna and Hades being in Jesus’ words. My last vicar, quite conservative in some ways, said that there had to be a Hell- a place where humans could escape God- but he did not believe anyone was there. I find the eternal conscious torment to come from the time when Christianity was an arm of the state, used for governmental control: how better to keep the populace obedient? However, looking at the world, I see evidence of God’s wrath on the innocent- as in sins of the fathers visited on the innocent children. There is love wherever Love is possible.

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    • Ah. That’s where it was, on the Comments I’ve Made page, from that post where I first read you: you commented Nan, after viewing the vid you posted, I can honestly say I chose to follow; my parents were not Christian, and I was a skeptic for many years. As a teacher used to research, I did lots of pro and con and came to my own conclusions. I guess I’m lucky I didn’t have years of indoctrination to slough off.

      Having said that, I cling tightly to the words and intent of Jesus; he changed the paradigm of religion. He rebelled at religious rules and dogma. As a flower child of the ’60’s, his entire perspective makes sense to me.

      Yes. This is close to where I am. I value my Quaker ritual and practice, and ideas on living well, and the words and example of Christ.

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