Saturday, August 20, 2005

The God Who Wasn't There

I ordered the DVD and soundtrack from the official website
and it arrived a couple of days ago. I think it was put together very well altogether--the soundtrack, visual effects, and content are all very good.

It starts with the question that if the church was wrong about the solar system, could it be wrong about something else, namely Jesus?

Next there is a brief overview of the story of Jesus, making use of some footage of dramatizations of the gospels. A brief, but thorough and accurate overview, as I remember it. Except for the comments that Jesus mysteriously "disappeared" for most of this childhood and then from when he was 12 to when he was 30, this bit could have been put together by a Christian.

Next he deals with how the history of the early church came together. He makes the point that there is a few decades gap between when the Gospels were supposed to have taken place, and when they were written. Also, he talks about Paul and how we know nothing about the history of Christianity other than the letters of Paul in those decades. And that Paul only saw Jesus in a "vision" and that he appears not to have even been aware that Jesus was ever a flesh and blood human being. I dunno if this is accurate, I'd have to check the sources.

The only complaint that I can think of is a verse from Hebrews (8:4) that was ripped from context to be used as evidence that Paul didn't know Jesus was ever an actual human. This is problematic for me since I've heard that Paul didn't even write Hebrews (I think no one knows who did, which is problematic in itself.) Anyway, this point was the only bit of the movie that I objected to. Mainly because any evangelical Christian who watches this movie would probably latch onto that objection and simply not see the rest of show . . .

Because the rest of the show is great! My favorite bit is the comparison of the story of Jesus with the conventions of folklore hero stories, and with the stories of pagan god-men that came before him. Even stuff like being a son of a God, having virgin birth, being crucified, and being raised from the dead, and then ruling with a God figure are found in mythologies of pagan god-men like Dionysus. As far as I can tell, this is the best evidence that the story of Jesus is mythological. For more information try the Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth link (in the sidebar to your right).

The rest of the movie is mostly an inditment of the fundamentalist church in America. Things like fundamentalist rants by people like Pat Robertson about how America must be brought back to God, and by someone else about how homosexuals ought to be put to death, and a book burning are shown. There is also an interview with the webmaster of, and one with the principal of the fundamentalist Christian school in which the director of this film was taught to love God and fear hell.

This was a great film! For it's controversial subject matter I even found it to be very well reasoned and respectful. This is no ranting diatribe against Christianity, just an expose of historical evidence and the personal experience of the director which is contrary to what the teachings of fundamentalist Christianity.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Coincidence? Who cares!

I've taken quite an interest in Buddhism lately. Dunno yet if this will be a long-term thing for me, or if it's just another one of my tangents. But so far, it really looks like it could stick.

While I was in the public library about 3 weeks ago, I was just browsing the religion/philosophy section. I happened upon a book called Beginning Mindfulness: Learning the Way of Awareness by Andrew Weiss. It looked interesting, and I had a bit of time on my hands, so I picked it up and took it over to the reading area to have a look at the intro. It is a sorta 10 week guide to meditation. I've been interested in meditation before but never had very good guidance. So I decided to give it a try and checked the book out. Anyway, this was the start (and least I can mark it as a starting point . . .)

Much of the stuff in the book comes from a a Vietnamese Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. I'd not heard of him before (or so I thought) had a bit of trouble with the name because I had no clue how it should be pronouced. Anyway, while I was sitting in the hospital with only my Aunt Dee and Uncle Harvey in the room (see my previous post), Dee was talking a bit about her spiritual leanings and such and made a comment that a friend of her's had said that maybe she's a Buddhist and didn't know it. At this point I commented also that I'd been thinking the same of my self (at this point I'd been reading BM and following the instruction for a couple weeks). Then Harvey mentioned something about Thich Nhat Hanh and a book he was reading by him called Living Buddha, Living Christ. The name recognition got my attention--I'd heard of the book but never paid attention to who wrote it.

On Saturday the family was all over at Grampa's house. Probably due to the previous conversation, Dee brought a book she had (actually a compilation of sorts) by Thich Nhat Hanh to show to Harvey. I was interested and asked if I could borrow it for a few days and she said that I could.

Anyway, now I'm finally getting to the interesting coincidence that I mentioned in the title. This morning I was reading a bit of the book that I borrowed--a section called something like "call me by my real name." I was very touched by it--I'll post more about it later--and sorta got the urge to go to the Unitarian Church that I'd not been to for a couple months. I supposed I just decided I wanted to go to a church, and that was the only one that I had any desire whatsoever to go to. I didn't even look up what the sermon would be about before I left, like I usually do.

When I entered the sanctuary, I accepted a hymnal and order of service, and sat down to look over the order of service. I was rather amazed by what I saw. The readings were all from Thich Nhat Hanh! A couple of them were even ones that I'd read from the book. Now, it's nothing unusual in this church for the readings to be taken from the writings of a Buddhist monk. But the timing of it, and the idea that I had just gotten the urge to go after reading stuff from the same monk.

This may be an exceptionally odd thing for an atheist like me to say, but do you ever just get the feeling you are being led?
My Grandma died about a week ago.
It's been in interesting couple of weeks . . .
She had a massive stroke on Wednesday the 3rd this month, and it was soon known that she was very unlikely to wake up. And that even if she did wake, she would not be the same person, so to speak. When I saw her, the only reason she was alive was the ventalator--she was not breathing on her own at all. After all of the family had arrived and gotten a chance to come to terms with the situation, the decision was made to turn of the ventalator on 1pm Friday. According to what I heard (as I was not there), she died instantly.

I've known for a few years now that she may not live much longer, but it was still a shock to find out about it. I was in the hospital all day Friday as family members came in from as far as Oregon and Arizona--it was quite a family reunion. My sister even flew in from Oregon, and I got to meet my baby neice for the first time. :)

This was a sad time for me, especially since this is the first time that I've been though the death of anyone who has played a big role in my life. I do feel a sort of peace about the whole thing though. For one thing, is this not the way it is supposed to happen? She was 89, she lived a full life, and had a sharp mind all the way to the end. She had just arrived at her 64th wedding aniversary the day before her stroke, and I am very glad that I decided to visit her along with my parents. When someone has lived a good life, right up to a ripe old age, and then dies of natural causes, I can't quite think of it as a tragedy. But I will still miss her greatly.