Crucified Literalism Resurrects Gnosticism
The Parable of the Sacrificial Lamb
Easter is the climax of the ancient historic Christian calendar. It is the day God's only begotten son, Jesus Christ (anointed messiah), was crucified to death under Roman Judge Pontius Pilate, for preaching to be the 'Son of Man'. This man had future knowledge of every human being to live in the next two millennia. And, since Jesus loved each one of his future human images so much, he willingly sacrificed himself so that we could be forgiven for the sin of our ancestors, Adam and Eve, having eaten the one fruit that was forbidden for consumption by the God that had created a paradise for them. Humankind was evil from the beginning, sampling an inkling of knowledge that damned its offspring until God felt so bad about tempting the original humans that he sent his own offspring to be slaughtered for the possible redemption of the sinful humans that disobeyed him.
But that was just the beginning; Jesus/God was only giving us a preview. He plans to float down from heaven some thousands of years later to judge the whole of those future people he envisioned and loved enough to sacrifice himself for (not to mention all those who lived before). He will take those that believed in him (raising the bones and ashes of those dead for thousands of years) to a physical paradise somewhere in or beyond the cosmos. Those without the capacity to comprehend the fate of the world or those who turned to other forms of belief (science, meditation, humanism, etc.), will be cast into a scorching underworld filled with eternal horrors and torture. This torture chamber, known as hell, is controlled by a formerly angelic being that disobeyed God and now prides itself in seducing us innocent human beings to turn against God. However, this demonic creature does not recruit people for its rebellion; it tortures those who rebel, similarly, as the creature itself once did. Apparently logic is not a faculty readily available in the realm of the divine.
Easter is the celebration of this ‘historical’ story according to over a billion people worldwide. I wonder if anyone lost in history had ever pondered the question: why?
This seems like a logical question. Why should I not touch a burning stove? It causes me pain. Why is eating at McDonald's bad? The food is fattening and causes health problems. Why should you change your engine oil? A car needs clean oil to properly move the parts in your engine. Why did God create us to worship him as a means to reach our personal salvation? ... Was it boredom? Creativity? Slavery? What the hell was it?
The God Factor
I cannot understand how people can believe in a God. Well, at least not the sentient omnipotent God known to the Christian community; the God that creates a microscopic sphere of clueless pawns roaming around; pawns which must pick up on God’s rare clues of his own existence in order to free themselves from eternal agony. However, the pawns must not only recognize God’s existence, they must worship him too. This God requires every single ounce of strength that can be mustered by his believers. How do people buy this sort of invisible end-in-itself argument that is attached to a historical term for an unverifiable phenomenon? There is no defining purpose to the story of the Christian God; there is absolutely no rationale justification for why that kind of God would create us or create this sort of Doomsday scenario out what seems like a split decision.
Of course the typical response to this problem is that since we are not God, we cannot understand his reasoning (forgive the male connotations for it simply makes the writing flow more easily). Since we cannot fully comprehend God or his intentions, we must believe based on faith. That is the same as saying that Aliens from another planet have created us as unknowing slaves. These Aliens are so advanced in comparison to us that we cannot understand how or why they created us. Shouldn’t there be some way to confirm the existence of these Aliens you ask? Yes, many gifted people have been blessed enough to have been abducted by our galactic creators – however the Aliens wish to remain mostly elusive, escaping recognition by the great majority of human beings. Therefore, since we cannot understand or comprehend the aliens ourselves, we must believe the stories that the alleged Alien abductees tell us – based on faith.
Sure there are thousands of historical documents attesting to the existence of Yahweh (God of the Christians); sure there are millions of people claiming to have a personal relationship with both God and his son Jesus; sure some of us may intuit the existence of a higher power or purpose. But this evidence does not necessarily suggest that the sum of these personal experiences is the experience of the same phenomenon. We assume that our personal experiences are of the same substance experienced by Abraham, Moses, Ezekiel, David, Jesus, and so on and so forth. We assume that all of the biblical writers are speaking of the same God or revelation. We assume that the history of Christianity is the clear and linear plan of God. Some brief historical research will show you that Christianity had to viciously slaughter uncountable thousands in order to have the bragging rights to the dominant form of revelation. So now today, like the past two millennia, we are being told what authoritative revelation is. There is no freedom. Christianity just sued most of the other brands of belief out of business. Something feels divine? It must be a creation of the Christo-Cola Corporation. Speaking otherwise spurs a whole infantry of theo-lawyers salivating at the opportunity to pounce with a dust-laden library of references to Christo-claim on any particular recipe for revelation. They can sometimes pose a convincing argument because their preceding henchmen eradicated most of the conflicting evidence.
I want to get back to the intuition argument briefly. Many people believe in God (more specifically the Christian God because of cultural influences) because they intuit the existence of some higher power. Therefore, as the argument goes, their intuitive experience of ‘God’ can be equated with the culturally standard God represented in ancient writings they have been exposed to. Now, as opposed to the Christian view that such intuition is divinely inspired, this equation of personal intuition with the bible is created by a lack of options; people turn to Christianity for an explanation because it is readily available. Why is it so readily available? Because its engineers wiped almost everything else off the revelatory map. Of course there are many different options for belief available these days, but the sea of divinity is overpoweringly saturated by Christian theology (at least in western culture).
Since Christianity is faith-based, it is essentially a belief system based on the suspension of disbelief. Ergo, you suspend your disbelief until there is justification for your belief. One can picture a schizophrenic suspending disbelief in the reality of his or her hallucinations until supporting evidence for the hallucinations is presented. At least a schizophrenic is basing beliefs on immediate experience. ‘God’ tells you how to live; ‘God’ tells you what you can and cannot do; ‘God’ tells you that he is what you must dedicate your existence towards. Why you ask? For a future reward that you cannot possibly comprehend! You take orders like slaves given a vision of freedom as justification for imprisonment. Perhaps the world will indeed come to an end…But that will be because you ended it! You Christians will have carried out the subtle orders of your superiors to bomb the planet in faith that you would be saved – faith not in yourselves, but faith through trusting some sensational external vision. Democracy is molded from within; Authoritarianism is molded down along a filtered hierarchy. Each hierarchy serves to filter the motivation(s) of the prime mover – the defining reason for action – some mysterious shadow that keeps us mesmerized in its ineffability.
So what is the connection between intuition of a higher power and the Christian story of salvation? If God and his mystery can be known intuitively then what purpose does the bible serve? Does it clear things up for you? Does it give you a specific interpretation of personal intuition? What purpose do ‘god-given’ rules have when the realm of God can be realized in contemplation? If intuition is our primary source of knowledge for the reality of God then aren’t the Gnostics the most authoritative source for God’s mystery? Doesn’t intuition imply a personal knowledge of God without the need for an intermediary such as the church?
Gnostricism and the Abominable Literalist Swine
A long time ago, in an authoritarian state far far away, there lived the ancestors of today’s literalist Christian Church. These ancestors pushed for the idea that they alone were the inheritors of Jesus Christ’s true message and story. They, like their Roman counterparts, were well-organized and hierarchal in structure. While the teachings of Jesus were divergent and extensive, this literalist group had a vision for the future. The teachings of Jesus Christ were undoubtedly brilliant; more and more people converted everyday. Finally this force became so powerful that the Romans had to bow to the whims of the people; they would incorporate the story of Jesus as authentic to Roman belief. However, consolidating such a vast and contrasting belief system would not be easy. The Romans were clever however, and structured this new belief system around something that already worked: the dictatorial pyramid.
Of course this meant everyone else that considered themselves Christian was officially banished from Christianity if they did not follow this new Roman-approved system. Gnosticism was repressed because it was enticing; it was extraordinary; it gave rise to the message that each person can escape the imperfect world of physical existence by oneself and not through orders. Gnosticism offered the opportunity to gradually make life and the world better through constant effort. Literalist Christianity suggested escape from the imperfect world as well: but escape through hope of some future event as prescribed by a caste of authority. Literalism allows you to sit back and assume all will be well because it has been preplanned; it allows you to trust that things have already been entirely deciphered so that you won’t ever need to personally worry about it. Gnosticism requires responsibility, conscious effort, and a life-time of hard work. The Christian Coward – The Godly Gnostic.
If you listen to modern ‘scholars’ discuss the issue of Gnosticism then you will notice the obvious emphasis on the dating of Gnostic manuscripts. Their logic goes something like this:
1) The canonical scriptures (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Letters, etc) are the most historically reliable because they are the oldest in age
2) Since these literary works are the primary evidence for literalist Christianity, literalist Christianity must be the most historically reliable.
3) Since literalist Christianity is the most historically reliable, Gnosticism must have been a later ‘heretical’ creation meant to undermine the authority of the established church
4) Since Gnosticism is heretical and undermining, it cannot contribute any truth about Jesus Christ and is basically a fabricated lie with the intention of creating turmoil for the church
Now why are the canonical gospels the most historically reliable? Well this gets quite mucky but the gist is that the canonical manuscripts are older than the rest (even though they are copies of copies of copies from the originals), according to scientific dating methods. Additionally, they refer to events which coincide with other historical documents from earlier works. In other words, the greatest number of educated guesses establishes those works were composed earlier than say, the Gnostic texts. Here’s the problem: once literalist Christianity flourished under Roman rule, the vast majority of Gnostic texts were destroyed. The Literalist Church sought out all competing beliefs and attempted to quash any evidence of their existence. They came pretty damn close too. We are very fortunate that some Gnostic texts were hidden from reach in what is now known as the Nag Hammadi Library. While Literalist Christianity had the luxury of being protected by the Romans and thus had the means to preserve hundreds of manuscripts, Gnosticism was lucky to survive at all! Literalist Christianity is like the mob killing off murder witnesses to discredit any case against it.
The majority of Gnostic texts do not aim to retell historical events and are therefore difficult to compare with other historical works. Although, many Gnostic texts contain what appear to be direct quotes from Jesus and therefore may be copies of much older manuscripts. There is simply not enough remaining Gnostic evidence to create a nonpartisan case for Gnosticism based on discovered manuscripts. However, the quintessential characteristic of the canonical literature is that it defies the logic of eyewitness account. One would expect historical documentation to be increasingly specific and precise with the increase of proximity to the described events. Literalist literature is the opposite. As you trace the canonical works chronologically, they go from the vaguest description of Jesus’ life to the most detailed. Paul describes practically nothing of Jesus’ life besides the resurrection – while John talks about the virgin birth, star of Bethlehem, John the Baptist, satanic inspiration of Judas, vivid miracles, etc.. Did everyone suddenly suffer from a severe case of amnesia? Did Jesus reappear to clarify the story? Theologians argue that corroborating testimony furthered the detail of the ‘authentic’ Jesus story. But if the Christian community was so dedicated to their beliefs, and the apostles were so close to each other then why did it take over 30-70 years (probably 2-4 generations based on life expectancy) for them to straighten out the story? Or perhaps they checked with the well-documented legal records of the Romans? Wait a minute; the Romans do not have any legal records of Jesus.
If we date the Gnostic texts in comparison with the literary styles of other Christian writings then we find the most similarity between Paul (the most historically reliable) and the Gnostics: little emphasis on the life and details with strong concentration on the teachings and message. Jesus appeared personally to Paul in a vision, like the Gnostics describe of their own revelations. It was not Gnosticism that arrived later in the history of Christianity to undermine the true beliefs of Christianity – it was literalist Christianity that hijacked the teachings of the Gnostics. Literalism refined, organized, and later imposed a strict set of beliefs in order to gain influence. It is hard to merge the humble, vegetarian, and secluded Gnostics of history with the dark Satan-inspired heretics painted by the literalist church. They (Gnostics) taught the perfection of morality, self-improvement, and humanistic responsibility. Literalism has taught the perfection of obedience.
When I think of the treachery, judgment, slaughter, and ultimate resurrection of the Easter story I think about the Gnostics. They were betrayed by one of their own kind (the literalists), judged by the Roman leaders to be heretical, slaughtered for their beliefs to the point of extinction, and then miraculously resurrected at the dawn of the 3rd millennia to dramatically shift the beliefs of humankind. One only has to briefly consider the Nag Hammadi Library, the Gospel of Judas, and the explosion of discussion on the Da Vinci Code to grasp a humble appreciation for the potential implications of this resurrection. As the popular saying goes: God works in mysterious ways…