Religious Symbolism, A Book I Forgot, Marcel Cairo & a note to Believer Michael:
Once again, I love all the comments. I guess - after turning it over in my mind for a day - that I am thankful that Mulan does not have any references to Jesus at school. Even though I also hate it. Cause I guess I want it both ways. I want to enjoy the myths as myths and I am tired of rejecting the symbols of those myths because some people think they are real.
But leftdog said something wonderful and I think true: Leftdog wrote, "Sure, it's a good story. I understand that, but it needs to be discredited before it can be reclaimed. Think Norse Mythology or any other similar; great stories, but only acceptable now because they have been defanged." Defanged. I like that word in regards to the Christ story. Sheldon said this too -- we need space and time before this story can be indulged in as a good story.
Plus, it's true - Jesus is everywhere, on every church lawn, inside churches, and it's only in the public areas where it's absent - or should be absent. I dream of a day when Jesus is as interesting and weird as Persephone or Eros. And I want that day to be NOW.
Austin Cline: thanks for all your wonderful research and writing. I read everything you linked to at your site. But still, even though I agree that it was the Christians that killed Christmas to a large extent -- how do we account for Europe, who have state sponsored religions and yet seem to be highly non-religious (at least at the moment, and in regards to Christianity.) They seem to be able to slip into secularism without a war with the fundamentalist Christians. Do they ban the creche from the government lawns? I don't know. I'm looking into it.
Maria: thanks for reminding us about Mithra. It's true. And the Mithra story is rawer and I think, better in lots of ways, over the Jesus story. See, Christians are plagiarists! Or, as I heard at a recent Skeptic lecture at Cal Tech, "Ingenuity is simply a matter of masterfully concealing your sources." Or maybe he said "Creativity." In any case, you get the drift.
Norma: I wasn't suggesting that the Jesus story be taught as another way of looking at the world, I like it as one of the myths that is part of our culture. In answer to your question: You are unduly cranky and cantankerous, but that is what I love about you. ONE of the things I love about you. But I don't think you have to be perpetuating fraud to enjoy a Sader meal or a Passover meal or Easter or the story of Jesus being born at Christmas. But I do agree, we aren't there yet. It's weird to enjoy the Jesus birth story amongst a group of people who actually believe that story is true. It feels condescending and wrong, but still, I'm going to do it. I want my daughter to feel what it's like in church on Christmas and the songs and the candles and all the rest. And if my experience last Christmas is an indication (I was told by my fellow pew-mates that they had seen my show and agreed wholeheartedly with my view of Catholicism and God...) I'm not sure that most of the people in that church won't feel just like I do.
Ben Turk: You are absolutely right about Donohue when you wrote: "Donohue's attempt to paint himself as a victim of exclusion by straw-man 'multi-cultural gurus' is an attempt to 1. reaffirm the dominant culture's symbol set. 2. make that dominant culture feel threatened and incite a backlash." And for that alone, I revise what I said. I wish we could have Jesus and the songs, but we can't at the moment. Maybe in my lifetime but probably not.
Okay. There is another book I totally forgot from my 17 and is almost the most important!
18. The Moral Animal, Robert Wright.
I am still recovering from this book. As I said to Robert Wright, when I met him at the TED conference last year, "Your book totally f**ked me up!" It's so hard to accept that even those qualities that I strive to perfect in myself: compassion, love, sacrifice and so forth, stem from the most unwily and advantage-seeking impulses. Also, this book made me truly admire Charles Darwin, the man. Wright analyzes Darwin from an evolutionary psychological standpoint. And this book made me realize that if you were to put Darwin the man, and Jesus, the maybe-a-man side by side, Darwin -- outside of his scientific research and what he contributed to the knowledge of our species -- was truly admirable, much more so than Jesus. Darwin was an exemplary family man, devoted to the needs of his community, he stood up for animal rights and even took two neighboring farmers to court over their mistreatment of their animals. He was conservative in his advice to others, kind and compassionate. He was not damning anyone to hell for not "believing in him." He was not frightening people into thinking the world was about to end. He was not counseling others to abandon their families. Wright doesn't make these comparisons, I am making them. But it was impossible for me not to think about Darwin's life this way. In any case, I recently reread the Moral Animal. When I first read it, I had to go lie in the fetal position for what seemed like months, just to recover from it. I gave it out as a Christmas gift to the entire Sex & the City writing staff. This book is so important to me.
And now we come to Marcel Cairo. Yes, I agree, our discussions of God on this blog have been childlike in that they are referring to the God that most Abrahamic religions believe in. And i would like to take you seriously, but it is hard when you make statements like you do. You say you believe in the afterlife BECAUSE you are a spiritual medium. What does that mean, exactly? This is what a spiritual medium is to me - a person who takes other people's money by playing on their weaknesses. I think what you must mean is that you feel you have communicated with people who are dead?
What do you say, gang? Should I engage this fellow? I went to look at the research that you mentioned in your blog responses and none of it looked terribly legitimate to me. The thing is this: I have a biological and natural view of the world. My understanding about consciousness, which was opposed to my inclinations - is that it is an evolved adaptation that our species has in order to help us survive and reproduce. Why would that survive death? The whole idea that this organ would survive death, just because I like my brain so much, seems narcissistic and silly. My critical thinking tells me that the chance of the brain having some special otherworldly-function is so highly unlikely that it is not worth pursuing. Do you think animals brains survive death too? What about insects? Anything with a brain? What about people with Alzheimer disease, whose brains have atrophied? Do they have some other brain, their healthier brain, that survives out in the universe after they die and is just hanging in purgatory until they do?
Why do you discredit James Randi and Richard Dawkins? Those of us who admire them are admiring them because they strictly follow the scientific method and are willing to speak out about their findings and are willing to expose people who do not. This is not adulation, but respect. I can't believe you would put Randi and Sylvia Brown in the same category. They are completely different. I am suspicious of engaging with you based on that alone.
If you say your experiences with those who are dead are not able to stand up to the scientific method, then I don't know what we have to talk about. I reread the recent research on near-death experiences and I don't see anything revolutionary about it since I was reading Susan Blackmore.
Believer Michael (If you are reading this...) I just saw that you posted an answer to my question to you from a couple of days ago. I am going to read it later today and write about it tomorrow. Thanks so much for writing back. I appreciate it.