Culture and Religion

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Origins of Christianity

In the last 60 years, there have been many authors studying archeological discoveries, ancient mythologies, recovered manuscripts. The chronologies of ancient Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia are being compared to the physical evidence of the period. The Bible with its history of the ancient Jews as well as the life and times of Jesus are being studied.  Typically their findings have been published in books and periodicals.  We continue to learn more each year about our ancestors and their religions.  Also, theories regarding geological and astrophysical processes continue their evolution; in recent years, these have been affected by knowledge gained from our space probes.  Our understanding of the ancient myths is now connecting with our understanding of the real world.  When all this information is taken together, a world-view is revealed that is different than that presented in our schools and by our news media.

Our ancestors endured several catastrophes. Their memories eventually became myths of the earlier time and often those myths were intended to be a warning of a possible repeat of a past catastrophe.  These myths were the foundations of many of our ancestor's religions, and some of those religions (as they evolved) have influenced our present cultures.

Our religions can be studied in light of the myths that formed their roots. Those myths that have common themes throughout humanity are being studied in light of the catastrophes that resulted in those myths. The catastrophes are reconstructed from studying both cultural histories (usually written) and the physical evidence (where available). Where sufficient physical evidence is not available, theories that follow sound scientific principles (for both geology and astronomy) try to match the cultural history.  The goal of these studies is a theoretical reconstruction of the events that leave us with the physical evidence that is available and that conform to the cultural record that is available.

In all the most ancient cultures, the god that is the oldest of the gods (matching the role of Saturn in Roman mythology) is also associated with the planet Saturn. Every church steeple with a cross at its top is a representation of the vision of Saturn, the father of the gods. The myths that involved those gods came about because our ancestors survived Earth's interactions with other planets.

Over the past 100 years or so, there has been much scientific research into the events in the Bible, including the stories of Jesus and James, his brother. The Bible says that when Jesus was crucified, a sign saying 'King of the Jews' was placed on the cross above him. If Jesus really was the King of the Jews (which is what the Bible itself (the 'Word of God') says he was) then that places his life and teachings in a new light. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which included several books that were written in the times of James, the brother of Jesus, add much to the picture of the life and times of Jesus, James and the Jews of the First Century. These writings are an interesting contrast to the Acts of the Apostles, a book of the Bible that apparently describes the same events but from Paul's perspective, not that of James. The early Christians, the non-Jews that followed the teachings of Paul the Apostle (who had never met Jesus), had to distance themselves from the Jews since they had to live under Roman rule. Therefore, the myth that the Jews had much more to do with the crucifixion of Jesus rather than the Romans was developed. Over time, Jesus came to capture several of the ancient myths, as the stories of his life were rewritten by those who did not know him. The Christian religions, that make up a high percentage of the religions practiced in the Western cultures, are based to a great extent on the teachings of a man born to be the King of the Jews, but over the past two thousands years the religions have often been anti-Semitic. The Islamic religions, also based on the ancient texts of the Jews (Abraham is a critical figure in all three of these Western religions), have also become very anti-Semitic in recent years, a change from the tolerance practiced in its earlier times.
If you want to know more of the connection of religion and science, click on continue with more detail.

One problem that I see, having been raised in a Catholic community in Wisconsin, is that the Bible is portrayed as 'God's Word' to his chosen people, the Jews. The Catholics believe that the life of Jesus changed the assignment of the 'chosen people' from the Jews to the Christians. The myths described in the books of the Bible are telling a story involving the Jewish people as they survived the global catastrophes. When 'God said this' or 'God said that' involves the same stories that are described in other ancient cultures, it quickly becomes apparent that the context is wrong. The Bible is not so much 'God's Word' as it is a story spanning several generations, and the writers, as prophets, are suggesting a direction on how to navigate future catastrophes. Those that try to interpret the Bible as the word of a supernatural being are missing the fact that all the books were written by ancient Jews. Other cultures have the same or similar stories to tell, having been recorded by other scribes in other languages and from within the context of that different culture. As the common myths and themes among the different cultures are brought together, we better understand our own past, as mankind rather than as just one religion among many. This global perspective also avoids the narrow view taken by those that only read and interpret the books of the Bible to the exclusion of all other ancient writings.

Once a person removes the blinders that come with the monotheistic religions, a very different perspective presents itself. Human beings are social creatures. A child develops based on his/her environment. A group of people working together can achieve more than one person can. Successful sports teams or productive work groups are excellent examples. History has so many examples of countries whose people united to achieve great accomplishments. Our social nature can transform our human condition - if we can come together with common morals and goals.

At the turn of the second millennium, our world is being torn apart by many social conflicts - all based on religious and/or cultural differences. The resolution of those conflicts will occur only when the participants can find a common ground. This commonality will not come when the participants turn to their current religions as those religions are divisive by their very nature. Each religion claims to be the chosen one by its god and all other religions are in opposition, to be overcome according to the will of its god. The discovery that all of these religious claims are groundless and that we can find our strength to overcome our conflicts within us (not in an unseen god) is a revelation that might improve our human condition in a way that no religion can. 
created - May 2000
last change - 2/07/2004

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