Saturday 9 April 2016

Why religion causes brain damage


  1. I saw this when you posted it on Facebook and thought at the time that it might apply to the American evangelicals and similar fundamentalists, but not to a majority of nominally Christian British people, who are generally pretty casual about their religion. Research has shown that most nominally Christian British people don't believe in the literal truth of stuff like the virgin birth or the resurrection, but think of themselves as Christian because they associate it with being good.

    I bought Alice Turner's 'History of Hell' some time ago, but haven't read it yet. From what I've read, hell seems to have been invented by religious leaders to frighten illiterate and ignorant people so that they'd accept whatever they were told they had to do. In other words, like all the monotheistic religions, a form of social control. It's surprising that belief in hell persists into the 21st century, but that's due to poor education, I suppose.

    Websites like this make me wonder whether people who believe such nonsense were bonkers anyway, or whether they were sane before they started believing in it.

    1. It depends what is meant by 'religion' doesn't it? I suspect the great majority of those cultural Christian you describe, including possibly some Anglican priests, wouldn't call themselves as religious.

      Maybe people who are 'bonkers' to start with can only be made worse by religion.

  2. Just read this:

    1. Yep Spong has seen the light. Sounds like he's a deist. a fairly unassailable position.

  3. C.S. Lewis said there was no other doctrine which he would rather do away with than that of Hell. But he couldn't reject it because we have Christ's own words on the subject. Bertrand Russell said Christ's warnings about the reality of Hell were his one moral failing. Tom Wright has suggested that Hell is really about eternal death rather than some form of misery and despair in perpetuity.
    One does rather side with M Nelson in her above comment. But supposing we are wrong? 'It is appointed that a man dies once and after death judgment.'
    There is a bonkers blog asking 'Is Anne Frank in hell?' which makes me despair of some American fundamentalist Christians, but not them all.
    I was alarmed when reading the biography of John Stott. He thought that people who had never heard the Gospel would have a second chance to accept Christ after death. But those who had really heard it and rejected it would go to Hell.
    Am I a theological noncognitivist or just a closet universalist?
    Some people can only be frightened into belief by being warned about the reality of eternal punishment. We live in a world where people dishnour God every day of their lives. There has to be a reckoning and only Christ can be the just judge.

  4. Why would anyone want to frighten people into a particular belief? To gain control perhaps?

    1. We do not wish to frighten people into a particular belief, but to remind them that after death they face judgment.
      We want to bring them to new life in Jesus Christ. It is the sinful world that controls them.
      When we die we take our whole biography with us into eternity.
      Not just all the wrong we have done, but all the things we did not do and ought to have done.
      And we will also be judged by everything we have ever said, everything we have ever thought. Try to imagine it even if you are an atheist. Imagine standing before the Jesus of the New Testament.
      A man of the fifth or sixth century had a near death experience. He said that he was reminded of sins he had long forgotten. These sins barred him from entering the gates of heaven. There was no place for him there, he was forever excluded.
      Many years later he would tremble visibly as he recalled the experience. By how he had repented of his old life and was 'in Christ'.
      Dostoyevsky wrote a chapter in his novel The Possessed in which a man rapes a little girl, and then watches as she hangs herself. His publisher insisted that he cut the passage.
      Now child pornography is widespead, I am told.
      It is the duty of Christians to tell sinners (whether their sins are terrible like the man in the Dostoyevsky story or whether their sins are small) that they face judgment and possibly hell.

      Of course this will make no sense to you if you do not believe that Jesus Christ is the saviour of the world and the only saviour.
      Christ said, 'This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world and the darkness did not comprehend it.'
      Read the journal of John Wesley. He was pelted with stones in Preston and then ignored in Winchester for two or three days, as he preached outdoors.
      Then some poor elderly people stopped to listen. Many of them wept as he told them of Christ's free offer of salvation.
      Listen to the online sermons of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones under whose ministry I was converted from hardened atheism.
      J Haggerty

  5. There has to be a reckoning? No, there doesn't, and certainly not for people like me, who don't subscribe to the beliefs. As for Christ being a just judge: the Jesus of the Bible is based on previous mythological figures, such as Hercules, Prometheus, Dionysos and Osiris, not a reliable judge of anything. There may have been a real man but the stories about him, told at different times by different people, are like Chinese Whispers.

  6. "We do not wish to frighten people into a particular belief, but to remind them that after death they face judgment."
    Who says and why should we believe them?

  7. To Margaret: No, there does not have to be a reckoning. But the very possibility does change everything. Christianity is counter cultural.
    Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot went to their graves without thinking for a moment that they would have to answer for the deaths of millions of innocent people. Stalin and Beria cursed the God they didn't believe in.

    The dealers in illegal arms and the gangsters who trade in human flesh do not think they will have to answer for their crimes before a holy God.
    A Scottish preacher of the 19th Century, Robert Murray McCheyne, said that when Christ entered Jerusalem he caused an uproar, and that he causes an uproar when he enters the human heart.
    That Jesus was based on mythological figures is problematic. Read 'Jesus and Horus' by Dr James F McGrath on the Patheos website, and you may be surprised.
    The 20th Century Bible scholar Rudolf Bultmann spent twenty years looking for a figure like Jesus before Jesus. It led him nowhere. Bultmann doubted a good deal but he never doubted this.
    There is absolutely no figure in Sumerian, Egyptian or Babylonian mythology like Jesus of Nazareth - I knew this to be a rock-solid fact long before my conversion.
    The dying and rising gods have no name or real personalities; they are vegetation myths. Men dreamed of rising gods before Christ's resurrection because men have always dreamed of beating death.

    To quedula: No, you shouldn't just believe. Jesus said, 'No one comes to the Son unless the Father sends him.' Conversion is the work of God.
    I spent many years reading books such as Hyam Macoby's 'Paul and the Invention of Christianity', 'The Passover Plot' and the scholars of the Jesus Seminar in California who are sceptical about a good deal of the New Testament.
    But there are other Biblical scholars such as N.T. Wright (he also writes as Tom Wright) who see no contradiction between belief and academic learning. Wright is perfectly correct in asserting that Paul did NOT 'invent' Christianity.
    The transcendent experiences of men and women do not prove the existence of God, but they are an integral part of the Western canon.
    The Pulitzer Prize Winning novelist Marilynne Robinson has a new book of essays in which she confesses her belief in Jesus Christ as her saviour, lord and king.
    Look at the skyline of any town or city and you will see church spires. Our recent ancestors believed in Him too, or longed to believe in Him.
    'The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing,' said Blaise Pascal.
    Pascal was not rejecting reason for without it he could not think or write. But there were questions in his heart which reason could not meet.

    J Haggerty

  8. You're quite right btw. It makes no sense. What does "saviour of the world" mean?

  9. To Ms Nelson: This is off topic. But I took the liberty of reading your blogs. We agree about climate change, global warming and the depredation of rainforests. And I am delighted at your opposition to the proposed expansion at Heathrow; I am saddened that our pseudo-Blairite MPs are in favour of it, but then I always disliked Blair who, as Ken Loach said, destroyed the Labour Party.
    As to your conviction that Jesus of the New Testament is a pseudo-mythological figure. Yes, I can see why you arrived at such a conclusion. I tend to agree with C.S. Lewis who said Christianity is a myth that actually happened.
    Lewis knew that there were dying and rising gods because human beings have always dreamed of beating death. But none of them have the personality of Jesus in, say, the Gospel of John. I only saw this when, as an agnostic, I went to a church where the very erudite minister (a former cardiologist) was preaching on John.
    The idea that the early church constructed Jesus from mythological figures such as Horus is itself an invention. By the Theosophists of the 19th Century. One of my mates goes to the Theosophy Centre in the city where I live but I can hardly persuade him to come to church.
    Saul of Tarsus knew a good deal about the pagan world, its fears and its longings, since he was surrounded by pagan cults in Asia Minor.
    But it is hard to believe that he would have stolen from pagan figures since as a strict Jew he would have found these figures abhorrent.
    It is the same with the early fathers of the church. We know a lot about the fathers from their writings.
    In front of me I have a couple of books, 'Jerusalem As Jesus Knew It - Archaeology As Evidence' by John Wilkinson (Thames and Hudson 1988) and 'Finding the Historical Christ' by Paul Barnett (Eerdmans 2009), Visiting Fellow of Ancient History at Macquarie University.
    I have scores of books by New Testament scholars; some of these scholars are Christians and some are not. I should be more troubled if they were all of the same mind on faith issues.
    To quedula: Saviour of the world suggests to me the universal nature of Christ's revelation. In plain terms, he is God's final revelation to mankind.
    Judgment is a central feature of Christianity. I do not like it myself. My pride objects to it.

  10. What is "the universal nature of Christ's revelation"? What is "God's final revelation to mankind"? Why do you find it necessary to use such arcane terminology?

  11. Answering my own questions:=

  12. Anonymous, you're right, it is off topic. I don't usually allow anonymous comment on my blog, so I think Quedula has been quite generous towards you.

    As for Jesus, and all that stuff. I'm not very interested in Jesus, the Bible, or religious beliefs in general, except when they impinge on other people's lives, such as when religious leaders or politicians attempt to impose their values on others, such as over same-sex marriage or abortion. None of it is relevant to my life. I've got better things to do than bother with it.

  13. Dear Nuts and Reasons, I am not expecting you to post this. But thank you for printing my comments.
    I only opted for Anonymous because I can never get systems to accept my email. It's not a real email, perhaps, because I don't know exactly how to receive or sent emails. I am hopeless with computers.
    However my name really is John Haggerty and I live in Glasgow, Scotland. I enjoy the themes on your blog and appreciate the humour.
    In Glasgow we laugh about everything including religion. Especially religion. Thank you for your tolerance, a tolerance Christians do not always extend to secularists.
    John Haggerty

  14. Why do you find it necessary to use such arcane terminology?