Monday, February 28, 2011

…Religulous

***continued from Part One***

2. “Jesus is just another in a long line of mythical dying and resurrecting gods like Horus and Mithra.”

I’ve never heard this argument coming from people I actually meet, but it is very prevalent amongst the intelligentsia and ‘professional’ skeptics. And I’ll admit, the very first time I heard it I was taken aback and had to do a bit of study in order to find out about it. It’s part-truth and part-bunk.


First, the bunk part. In the years since I first came across this argument, I’ve seen it used numerous times and each time, the person employing it (in this case, Bill Maher) draws very specific parallels between the story of Jesus and those of older pagan gods. However, I have never once seen any research or notes to back these claims up. Not once. The people making these claims simply expect you to believe their word at face value—without any evidence (or awareness of the irony). Hmmm, where have I heard that complaint before…..maybe somewhere in Part 1 of this review?

There is, however, plenty of evidence that these gods do NOT parallel the Jesus story as closely as they claim. Check these places for a debunking of:
  1. Jesus as Mithra
  2. Jesus as Horus
  3. Jesus as Krishna (and Buddha, and and and....)
Those claims really don’t carry much weight anymore, and what weight they do carry actually helps the Jesus story rather than hurts it. Because although the particulars may be made-up and overblown, there is a general sense in early tribal and pagan belief systems of gods dying and rising again. I’ve dealt with this in a prior post. To recap, the fact that there seems to be an ingrained, archetypal sense that we need God to die and rise again in order to save us actually proves the point. We know deep down in our core selves that this is true. Jesus is the reality, the actual historical happening and fulfillment of the myth. As C.S. Lewis said:
We must not be nervous about ‘parallels’ and ‘Pagan Christs’: they ought to be there—it would be a stumbling block if they weren’t. (God In The Dock)
The true story of Jesus is myth become fact.

3. “Why does it always seem to be one guy alone in a cave getting a revelation?”

This is another excellent question for which, again, faith in Jesus has an excellent response. The wonderful thing about the Bible as compared to other holy books is that it is unique in that it was NOT revealed to just one man alone in a cave. The Bible was written by 40 different people over the course of thousands of years, and yet remains thematically consistent with itself, telling the grand story of God’s redemption from start to finish. Someday I’ll write more on the uniqueness of the Bible, but for now just know that anybody who uses that argument against the Bible really has no idea at all what they’re talking about.

4. “Religion is behind most of our wars and humanity’s evils throughout world history.”

Whenever someone bashes religion, they invariably tend to completely forget about all the good that religion has brought to the world. Hospitals, caring for the poor and downtrodden, the scientific method…there is at least as much good that religion has caused as all the evils that get expounded on. Declaring that religion needs to be exterminated because of its evils is just as stupid as demanding that we eradicate science from the world because of nuclear weapons, factories polluting our waters, global warming and lead paint.

Indeed, religion is capable of spurring man to his worst evils, but it is also what drives him to reach for the highest good. This is because religion touches the very core of our beings.

Now will religion save your soul? Absolutely not! No person has ever been redeemed through religion—not even through Christianity—but that does not mean that religion is utterly useless and evil, any more than sick Nazi experiments condemn all of science as a whole. And do we really, seriously think that getting rid of religion would turn the world into a peaceful place? No, of course not—we’d just find something else to fight wars over. Religion is not the problem. Religion has never been the problem. The heart of man is the problem.

"It's what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness—all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution." (Mark 7:20-23)

Bill Maher's thesis is all wrong. Like so many others before him, he utterly misses the true source of the problem. Us. The "evils" brought about by religion are merely symptoms of the real sickness that needs to be eradicated, the evil which emanates from the heart. We have dual natures, us earthen vessels. We are shining beings, filled with creative life-generating power, but we've become broken, each one of us in our own way, and fall prey to twisting the innumerable blessings of God into misshapen things of darkness and death. Deleting religion from the face of the earth would do nothing, absolutely nothing, to change this. It is a futile endeavor, destined for failure, to try and dam up the evils of the world downstream whilst ignoring the fountainhead.





In the end, the purpose of any review is to answer the question: should you see this movie? This is a tough one to answer for me. On the one hand, I believe firmly in seeking out opposing viewpoints. I think it’s vitally important that you hear directly what your opponents have to say, and not have it be filtered through your own lens (thus why I rabidly oppose cable “news” networks that have a built-in ideological agenda). Doing this also sharpens your own thinking and may reveal flaws in your ideas that need to be addressed.

In general though, I would say No, I do not recommend watching this movie. Not because it’s anti-Christian, but because it’s anti-intellectual honesty and anti-integrity. There are far, far better opponents out there to sharpen your faith with, and I cannot suggest that anyone spend two hours of their life watching babyish antics, trite arguments and outright deception. James Holding over at www.tektonics.org reveals some disturbing facts about the process in which the movie’s producers contacted their interview subjects, going so far as to baldly lie about the purpose of the interviews, and then sneak Maher in through back doors so that nobody would know that he was the one conducting them until he walked into the room and sat down for some 'gotcha!'s.

Religulous is a cowardly, dishonest comedy purporting to be a serious documentary about the most important of subjects. Every issue it raises can be found elsewhere in much more coherent, intellectually honest fashion. The reason it makes me angry is not the subject matter, nor Bill’s thoughts on it. It’s because he is really a highly intelligent man and he knows better. He’s too smart to be able to claim ignorance. He is willfully and consciously being superficial and disingenuous. If you feel like watching it, more power to you. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. As for me, I’m glad this review is over so that I can start focusing on real challenges to the faith again.

--Jeremy
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
likewise Falsehood aptly defended loses not it's falsity.

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