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Barriers to Truth

MIRE - 4 Major yet erroneous ideas that are Barriers to Truth 

Mysticism – God is the source of the mystical experience.
Immortality – Physical degeneration and death are inevitable.
Revelation – A lineage of designated authority or scripture is the Word of God.
Equality – The transcendence of the Creator precludes our being equal with that person.

First some thoughts about criteria.

How do we determine the truth of an idea, concept, proposal, postulation or theory?  Do we not always use criteria?  If we don’t use criteria isn’t any postulation as true as the next one?  The whole discipline of science is designed to separate out what is true and valid from superstition or falsity by using sound criteria.  The fundamental criterion for the discipline of science is coherence with the facts and logic, which involves previous knowledge, experience and mathematical constraints. Truth never asks to violate our rationality, logic and reason; truth never asks us to be intellectually irresponsible.

One quite important criterion is the one involved with predictability.  Does the postulation predict what its application produces?  If it does, this is taken to be the strongest evidence for its validity, especially if the predicted result is unusual. In relation to this in the realm of spiritual experience and growth some words of wisdom are, “By their fruits shall you know them.”

1.  Mystical or Supernatural Experience

In certain circles in Christendom 20-30 years ago, the mystical experience was equated with demon possession or demonology. Today, in many of those same circles, it’s the fashionable new frontier and considered to be the experiential validation of the Christian Experience or having the Holy Spirit.

What do we mean by the mystical experience? The mystical experience ranges from feeling the presence of god, to hearing voices, to visions, to channeling, to feelings of ecstasy, to swooning, and to speaking in tongues, to heavenly visitations, to altered states of consciousness, and so on.  In Christendom this means the Holy Spirit is conceived in any other way except an indomitable attitude and one of loving the truth.

What are the reasons to question the mystical experience being involved with God?  Let us count the ways:

(1) There is a sensible and plausible alternate explanation for each one of these phenomena.
(2) Nowhere in the gospels does Jesus encourage us to have a close personal relationship with God; rather he encouraged us to seek the truth and to have close, loving relationships with each other.
(3) Their is no unifying theme applicable to people claiming to have the God Experience, and they are all over the map in what they believe.
(4) Those that have these experiences inevitably see themselves as favored by God and thereby special, and tend to use their "God Experience" as grounds for relating to people from a position of imagined superiority and enlightenment. They also assume this to be a divine endorsement of their set of beliefs.
(5) It places God in the position of cruelly and capriciously playing favorites, for instance, answering the prayers of one woman who needed help finding the baking powder to finish baking her husband a cake (which would help contribute to his having a heart attack). She felt she needed to finish before the sun went down for the legalistic Sabbath observance. On the other hand we have God failing to answer the prayers of another young woman who had been kidnapped by a psychotic couple who kept her head clamped in a head-box that nearly suffocated her, and they subjected her to depraved sexual abuse and many other manners of horrific treatment for years. Incomprehensible!
(6) The mystical experience is generally used to override or trump logic and reason.
(7) The derived instructions, sentiments and/or concepts are mutually exclusive and often outrageous and ridiculous, even savage and dangerous.
(8) The strongest reason to disassociate the mystical experience from God is that it is a pitifully inadequate endowment in the context of our plight. We desire and need ever so much more than the occasional dream, vision or voice in our head. This is the best that God can do for us? And what do these occasional experiences have to do with anything that Jesus said? Where does he tell us to be satisfied with this level of coping?

The derived contributions to human understanding and improvements in the human condition and in human relationships from these experiences are singularly unimpressive.

Immortality – Physical degeneration and death are inevitable

Our experience is totally consistent in this regard: We accept that we are born under a sentence of degeneration and death; all men must decay with age and die.  This is part of the greater message of relentless indifference from the physical universe and our experience in which we are constantly and consistently immersed.  The great psycho-analytical philosophers understood that this alone is enough to keep us in a state of psychological unsoundness, a state of denial and insecurity.  What else can we then do but cope, devising schemes of belief that somehow make this human condition more acceptable?

Is there any significant, credible message or demonstration that gives us grounds to challenge the grim reaper? Well, yes! That is the emphatic message of the J-person reiterated and relayed by this site.

Revelation – Scripture or appointed earthly authority is the Word of God

From a critical thinking perspective the Old Testament has no element to recommend it to be considered as the word of God except tradition.  It paints a schizophrenic picture of God and careful scholarship has shown that it has been extensively edited and redacted.  All ancient people worshipped the planet Saturn—generally as the chief God—and every term in the Old Testament (including Yahweh, El Shaddai, El Adonai, El and the plural Elohim) was a name or title for that ancient Sun-God, as were the terms and names of Saturn given by the gentiles, such as Moloch, Chemosh, Dagon, etc.  It is replete with impossible and nonsensical activity and can be considered as the mythology of the Hebrew people right alongside the other cultural mythologies.  Indeed a careful study of comparative mythology shows the tremendous overlap with the common themes of all ancient mythology.

The word "canon" means measurer or ruler.  Both the Old Testament canon and the New Testament canon came to be regarded as special through a historical process, involving only the collective wisdom of the Hebrews over some 1200 years for the Old Testament, and involving only the collective "wisdom" of the errant Christian community over some 335 years for the New Testament.  Evidently, since Jesus disagreed with part of the Old Testament scriptures and quoted authoritatively from literature outside the canon, the process to canon was an earthly one only approximate in validity at best, and apparently God was minimally or not directly involved at all.

Much has been written about how the Tanakh (Old Testament) is divided up into the Torah, Nevi’im and Kethuvim, (Law, Prophets and Writings).  The Old Testament canon or Tanakh was apparently solidified by approx. 400 BC and consisted of these three categories of books.  Only the Pentateuch or Torah, represented by Moses on the mount of transfiguration, was considered to be authoritative and infallible.  The Prophets or Nevi’im, represented by Elijah on the mount, were considered to be "inspirational" but not infallible. The Writings or Kethuvim were significant romantic and cultural literature, which included hymns of praise, other songs, war chants, poetry, and adages. The Song of Solomon, included in the Old Testament canon is even considered to be pornographic by some Jewish believers.  Strangely enough, Jesus may have fulfilled more carefully and specifically some prophetic sections (note Psalm 22) of the Writings than of the other two categories.

The New Testament canon was solidified by 370 CE primarily by Roman "Christians" who were firmly entrenched in some of the major concepts of Judaism borrowed from Zoroastrianism, and who were allied with the civil, political and military authorities.  The New Testament writers are NOT presenting the same message as Jesus did and we should have no concern for the New Testament canon because Jesus presents himself as the VOICE OF REASON and LAST REVELATION, and HE told and showed us everything we need to know, in the context of claiming to fully represent and reveal God's purpose, plan, values and character. The life and message of the J person stands on its own, and doesn't need validation from the prophecies.

Notwithstanding its value as a source of historical information about the early believers and their experience, and its value to attest to the factual reality of Jesus, his experience, and his follower's response to that reality, the non-gospel balance of the New Testament is no basis for building our understanding of God, our theology.  That objective basis must ALWAYS AND ONLY be the words, message and actions of Jesus.

Modern English Bibles and translations have evolved from a bad scholarship start with the King James, in the context of erroneous traditional concepts of Christianity. Out of reaction to the religious authority of Rome and its commensurate political influence and meddling, King James I of England in 1604 commissioned 54 men to produce the Authorized King James Version of the Bible.  This version was not really a valid translation but was purposely designed to pander to the Church of England and to especially not offend prevailing medieval religious sentiments.  Indeed the commission reported that,

"Neither did wee thinke much to consult the translators or Commentators, Chaldee, Hebrew, Syrian, Greeks, or Latine, nor no the Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch."

Outside of its highly touted literary quality the most important thing for the people of that time was that it was AUTHORIZED BY THE KING, but its extremely poor quality of translation, egregious errors, and outdated wordage make it a document that effectively obscures much of the meaning intended by the original authors of the various books included in this particular canon.

The other source considered by some as revelation is paranormal experiences such as visions, dreams, automatic writing, and audible messages (The voice of God).  Clearly these can be generated internally between the left and right brains, especially under stress, and therefore are NOT reliable as revelations or foundations for conclusions about truth as an external source or revelation.

Equality – Transcendence of God precludes equality with him

The idea that God is transcendent, other than human, is the cornerstone of essentially all formal religions while being the cornerstone of evil, the original lie, the proton pseudos (fundamental mistake). This is the source of more theological craziness than any other idea in that it forces us to look to mysterious, non-understandable aspects of God in order to explain him and his workings. Not only does it make God into some kind of megalomaniacal alien, but, when we say “thy ways are past understanding”, it leaves us without a basis to apply good logic and reason. This in turn concedes the field of influence to those with the most charismatic, tricky, political, enthusiastic, emotional, or aggressive style.

All in all, not so good, is it?

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