Monday, May 15, 2006

An Explication

Okay, even though, currently, the only people reading this are also reading the other blog...but in case readership eventually picks up here: Go to this entry, and try to read as many of the comments therein as you can (or skim), to get the gist of why this particular post exists.

We'll start off with JJ's last question, as usual:

Why is it that you choose to engage Christianity in some level of discussion at all? What was your intent or goal with the original post?

I guess I just want to bring it back through 66 levels of argumentation and ask what your point was originally.

Not that I can't see one, or in fact many, but I'd like to hear the author of the original text weigh in with intent.

There are many reasons I wrote the piece. Primarily, I wrote it because I have a fascination with items like the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other things of that nature...The few facts gleaned from the DSC generally point to a much different interpretation of the stories anyone who has read the Bible are familiar with.

And so, here comes the Judas Gospel, laying waste to the notion of Judas as the biggest traitor in Western thought--an aspect of the Jesus story that I have always had problems with; and, to me, this is a watershed moment. I wanted to share.

Why? Because these items are rarely talked about. Over the last week, I did a random non-scientific polling of various people (around 20, mostly during cigbreaks) here in the hospital, to see if they had any knowledge of this new gospel. These people are educated, some align with Christianity, others don't adhere to anything, most called themselves holiday religious (go to church only during the major holidays, if that, or for special occasions like weddings), or someone who dabbled in many different forms of religions.

Seven out of ten had no idea. This despite several big stories over the last few months. When I asked them what they had thought/knew of Judas in the story, the response was generally "he betrayed Jesus and killed himself." After I told them what the contents of the new gospel were, they seemed to want to think about things a bit more.

I mean, the notion that Jesus and Judas worked together on the betrayal bit may have been hypothesized in The Last Temptation of Jesus Christ, as Lyam noted, but it was treated as a piece of fiction, by those who weren't mobilized into banning the movie...No serious thought was put into it, particularly because there wasn't anything to support that notion.

So, there's the primary reason. In the process of writing it, I included other examples of things that don't jibe with me (providing fodder for the "why you hatin'?" arm of the discussion); but really, I think the last two sentences of the entry itself exemplify the reasoning best:

I don't think the teachings of Jesus are irrelevant, though a lot has been done to distort those teachings over the years...Hopefully, this discovery will cause some reflection and redefining of what that life was about.

That's it. That's the whole kit and kaboodle.

What followed between the entry and Ly's "Nature of Chaos" post was a series of increasingly didactic versions of "what about this (aspect of a major religion's philosophy)?"* and my replying with essentially "yeah, fine, but is that spread? How well has it been expounded?" I take full responsibility for my part in the escalating nature of these trades.

JJ assures me that there are schools of thought that approach Jesus' teachings and the nature of God in the way he'd like for it to come across, though I haven't heard or seen anything from these people (which means please produce it, if you could, when you have time), Stine's assertion that the Mormons teach something about your being able to become a God in your own right, is offset by Miss Uz J's pointing out that it's contingent on a number of things and that it's somewhere down the line (nothing about it happening in this lifetime, or today, or right this minute)...

Here is the trade that sparked the argumentative portion of the commentary, I believe. My bits are in italics, Ly's in plain text:
If you believe in the interconnectedness of all things, then even
events that seemingly have nothing to do with us have everything to do with

But can we truly control them, or can we only recognize our part in them
and take responsibility for any behaviour that results from them?

Lastly, just are we are responsible for our own happiness, we are just
as responsible for our misery, anger, jealousies, etc.

Yes. But that doesn't negate the assertion that we have limited control
over the circumstances that surround those, if unlimited control over the way we
respond to those circumstances (within reason). All questions have a finite
number of applicable answers.

The desire to have something greater than us is partly a desire to have
something that lets us off the hook.

Not necessarily. One can accept responsibility for living in hurricane
alley and not having insurance, but that don't mean the storm was bigger than
the little speck of you. Apply that metaphysically: the universe has a destiny
of which you are a part, and even the failures you meet in pursuing your values
are in turn a part of that picture. You're responsible for all things, but that
doesn't mean you control all things.

We might be overwhelmed into thinking otherwise, but we are never
powerless. Never.

Like I said, you're never necessarily powerless per se, but you you're
powerless over certain things. What you have, what belongs to you, are your
choices, and the rewards and consequences that result directly therefrom. All
else, IMO, is chaos.

Because Lyam made mention of the "something to let us off the hook" bit later on in the commentary, I wonder if this is where things got conflated from the theoretical to the personal; because I was strictly speaking in the general sense here, an admitted blanket statement. I mean, can you tell me that people don't use higher power in that sense? Not you, the person reading this; not you, Lyam or Stine or Fuckwad or Miss Uz J, in your day to day life; but those teeming millions out there...Can you tell me that they don't (without the necessary and ever present exceptions to the rule)?

Not pointing that out to wiggle out of anything, because I'm just as guilty in the act of becoming pig-headed over this topic as anyone else; but is this where it started?

Needless to say, Ly and I went on and on over the whole "We have control over everything" (me, simplistic as always)/"Chaos has a bigger role than you'd care to admit" (Lyam, pardon me if I'm misrepresenting your side of the argument) dichotomy.

Then Stine brought this up:

Relation - The interrelationship between indirect causes and internal causes.
Indirect causes are various conditions, both internal AND external, that
enable the mechanism of internal causes to produce an effect.

This reads to me as an understanding that there are some external causes over which we have no control.

Latent Effect - the effect produced within a life entity when an internal
cause is activated through its relationship with various conditions.

It would seem that this also refers to conditions, both internal AND external.

I skimmed the discussion, so pardon if I jump into the deep end without a paddle, but it would seem that Nichiren Buddhism does acknowledge that there are influences,
factors, conditions that do exist outside oneself, and do exert force, influence, and energy into our lives. In addition, you add these "factors" into how they interact with the 3000 realms in a single moment of life, and I don't think there are any cut and
dry dogmatic or dialetic answers for anything.

This essentially wipes away the argument, in a sense. It also spurred some study into these matters on my behalf, the result of which I will further explicate in the next entry.

*Honestly, I was surprised the Fuckwad didn't jump in with something about Zoroastrianism--tbo


Blogger thelyamhound said...

Interesting thing about Zoroastrianism--it perfectly reflects the belief of some gnostic sects in a dualistic universe, particularly the Manichees. I don't know a lot about it in and of itself, but I've run across the term a lot in my studies of Valentinus, Mani, Liebniz, Voltaire and de Sade.

5:12 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

Because Lyam made mention of the "something to let us off the hook" bit later on in the commentary, I wonder if this is where things got conflated from the theoretical to the personal; because I was strictly speaking in the general sense here, an admitted blanket statement. I mean, can you tell me that people don't use higher power in that sense? Not you, the person reading this; not you, Lyam or Stine or Fuckwad or Miss Uz J, in your day to day life; but those teeming millions out there...Can you tell me that they don't (without the necessary and ever present exceptions to the rule)?

Oh, sure. Just as some--like our old friend "corn"--may use absolute self-determination as a way of "letting them off the hook" with regards to accountability for the effects their actions may have on others. ALL ideas are dangerous in the wrong hands . . . and most human hands are pretty wrong. The "teeming millions" are a famously problematic lot.

True questions of origin are always going to be either experiential or speculative, the former through revelation and observation, and the latter through various lines of reasoning and study. There's probably some crossover, but few of us will truly KNOW, in this lifetime, what made us, whether there's a God or a soul or any of the above. So we make our best guess and go.

That's why I think any works or practice based religion--like SGI, like Sufiism (which, BTW, even if it seeks to empower the individual, most DEFINITELY worships a single, immutable higher power)--that tends to measure intent, action, and compassion, rather than adherence to cosmology, escatology or the picayune details of a creation myth, will serve best that individual who has experienced no divine revelation.

5:20 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

Interesting footnote to chew on: the Christians with whom I argue over in the Fray feel that my failure to adopt belief in an anthropomorphic God (if I believe in too much God for you, I surely believe in too little God for them) actually lets me off the hook in that I'm no longer accountable to the notion of sin, as defined in the Bible. Funny that no matter how much responsibility I'm taking on, someone always thinks I'm slackin'.

5:23 PM  
Blogger the beige one said...

I'mah show you a mean hook if you keep comparing what I've been doing with those of fundamentalist christians, bubbah.

5:45 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

My contention is in no way that you are "like" the fundamentalists; I just thought it was interesting that I, I, was in the position of displeasing both camps because I have, if anything, a decidedly Darwinian view of humanity. Thass all.

6:55 PM  
Blogger JJisafool said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:07 AM  
Blogger the beige one said...

Oh sweet friggin jesus (Do I need to put a winky after the ironic use of the guy's name in a religious blog?).

I mean, I know how things got to this point, and I know my own nerves have been frayed, but still.

"I'mah" "hook" "bubbah"

That's a comedy "I'mah" (the purposeful misspelling denotes comedy), a pun on the word "hook", and "bubbah" is always funny. Always.

I can see how it came across differently, especially under the circumstances, but please, a little credit?

Before I go and put out these fires via private email, the purpose of moving this discussion to this blog is not so we could continue in the exasperating fashion we had been.

Clean slate? Can we at this point?

And, if not, am I really the only pigheaded one here?

10:47 AM  
Blogger the beige one said...

JJ's inflammatory entry is missing, whaddup, fool?

10:49 AM  
Blogger Stine said...

Cheese. That is all.

11:17 AM  
Blogger JJisafool said...

Decided I didn't want to go there. Believe in the sentiments, but decided it wasn't right for the venue.

I guess I just generally believe that one should engage a religion on its terms, with a willingness, or not at all. I don't see much willingness, and so I think I'd rather not have the conversation. At least not on-inflectionless-line.

And, I also understood that some of the force of my reaction (which I'm sure comes off waaayy more intensely than I feel it) came from my own subjectivity, and the fact I lost a close friend who happened to be a Buddhist for expressing exactly that thought - I told him he was making a point like a Christian, really referring to his rhetorical choices, and he flipped.

11:25 AM  

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