Friday, 18 May 2012

CS Lewis' World View

C. S. Lewis’ Ransom trilogy expresses not only Christian belief but also Lewis’ particular version of it:

Genesis 2 and 3 are essentially accurate history;
Darwinian processes do not occur;
all animals in an un-Fallen world are tame;
un-Fallen human beings do not die;
their population increases to a preordained number;
their first parents are divinely endowed with knowledge that we acquired only by scientific research;
the first male parent of a new race is, not by social convention but by divine intention, a “King” who will “judge” his descendants;
it is pre-ordained that their bodies will cease to be planet-bound.1


In addition, Lewis presents fictitious ideas that are consistent with his beliefs:

eldila (angels) formed the planets that they rule;
each planetary eldil has a terrestrial counterpart;
this explains the ancient belief in gods corresponding to the planets;
all newly created rational animals on Venus and elsewhere must now be humaniform because of the Incarnation on Earth;
the King of Perelandra (Venus) is green but otherwise resembles Christ;
the Lady of Perelandra stops addressing Ransom as an equal when she realises that he is not the King of his world. 

Even in fiction, this is hard to take. That Lewis applied the concept of the royalty of the first parents not only to his fictitious Venerian Tor and Tinidril but also to the real terrestrial Adam and Eve is evident in A Preface to Paradise Lost:

“Milton himself gives us a glimpse of our relations to Adam as they would have been if Adam had never fallen. He would still have been alive in Paradise, and to that ‘capital seat’ all generations from ‘all the ends of the Earth’ would have come periodically to do their homage (XI, 342). To you or to me, once in a lifetime perhaps, would have fallen the almost terrifying honour of coming at last, after long journeys and ritual preparations and slow ceremonial approaches, into the very presence of the great Father, Priest, and Emperor of the planet Tellus; a thing to be remembered all our lives…The task of a Christian poet presenting the unfallen first of men is…of drawing someone who, in his solitude and nakedness, shall really be what Solomon and Charlemagne and Haroun-al-Raschid and Louis XIV lamely and unsuccessfully strove to imitate on thrones of ivory between lanes of drawn swords and under jewelled baldachins.” 2
 
(Of course, if history and even prehistory had diverged completely from the beginning, then you and I as the individuals we are would not have been born. Someone else with different parentage, traditions, up-bringing and memories would have been here in our place.)

Lewis’ fantasy makes a good story but, to explain the world that we do inhabit, I find Darwin’s The Origin of Species and Engels’ The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State more convincing. Even in the Biblical account, Emperors arose after the Fall of Man (Gen. 10.8). Some of us now think that they arose after the transition from ape to man and after the production and appropriation of a store-able and possess-able surplus of wealth but Lewis projects our historically conditioned social divisions onto the structure of the universe.

Although James Blish’s post-Lewis trilogy, After Such Knowledge, addresses common themes, Blish could not have written direct sequels to Lewis’ interplanetary novels. Blish’s solar system is the one revealed by telescopes and space probes, not by a Classical literary imagination. His extraterrestrial “Angels” are energy beings, not, like Lewis’ eldila, both extraterrestrial and supernatural. When Blish’s characters do encounter real demons, they speculate that these also are composed of energy. Blish’s agnosticism enables him not only to consider the death of God but also to imagine its unexpected outcome.

There are at least four points in Lewis’ favour:

he describes other worlds imaginatively;
his juvenile and adult novels cleverly parallel each other – evil magician = evil scientist, magical worlds = other planets, the leonine Aslan = the cosmic Maleldil etc;
remembering his own period of unbelief, he imaginatively enters into other points of view, including those of the unbelieving characters, Weston and MacPhee;
in various works, and particularly in The Great Divorce, he depicts moral choices, for example about personal relationships or intellectual integrity, that everyone faces with or without Lewis’ faith.

  1. C. S. Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (London: Pan Books, 1990).
  2. C. S. Lewis, A Preface To Paradise Lost (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 118.
    C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (London: Fontana, 1982).

 

Philosophical Disagreements With CS Lewis



C. S. Lewis suggests that, if we dislike his ideas, the fault lies with us:

“Many of those who say that they dislike Milton’s God only mean that they dislike God: infinite sovereignty de jure, combined with infinite power de facto, and love which, by its very nature, includes wrath also – it is not only in poetry that these things offend.” 1

Thanks for the judgementalism but let’s consider “God.”

(1) The creator before the creation would be a self without other which is like a square without sides. Self is recognized only by contrast with other, thus with external objects of consciousness. Consciousness, a relationship between a subject and its objects, is negated by the negation of the objects. If there were a single being, then it would become self-conscious only by first appearing to itself as other, then realizing its identity. The creation of a perceived world of discrete objects separated by apparently empty spaces necessarily preceded self-consciousness, not vice versa.

The complete process would be: reality; appearance; illusion; realization. Realization is the ending of illusion, which is appearance mistaken for reality, but reality, even if single, must also be internally dynamic because a static unity would be unable to differentiate itself. Individuals perceive objects; scientists study dynamics; mystics realize unity; theists personify unity.

The problem of self-consciousness before the creation is not solved by suggesting that a timeless creator does not literally preexist his creation. He must exist independently of it and this is enough to make him potentially a subject without objects.

(2) God is believed to be bodiless. An embodied subject identifies itself with one of its objects and therefore can think “I perceive my body and other objects” whereas a bodiless subject without an environment would have nothing to think about. It would be a form without content. Mental properties like knowledge, wisdom, goodness etc, require a context. They are applicable to knowable objects and to discernible, i. e., embodied, other subjects but not to nothing. Goodness is a disposition to act in a particular way towards other beings who therefore necessarily preexist it.

(3) God is believed to be self-conscious yet timeless. However, external objects, necessary for self-consciousness, are conceived to be external only when they are re-perceived, recognized and regarded as having continued to exist even while not being perceived. “I saw that before” presupposes that “I” and “that” have continued to exist independently of each other since the remembered perception. This requires memory, thus the experience of having lived through a period of time.

A single moment of consciousness with no past or future would begin and end simultaneously, thus would be indistinguishable from unconsciousness. God is believed not to begin and end simultaneously but to be beginningless and endless. However, this implies infinite, not zero, time. Timeless consciousness, the temporal equivalent of a mathematically flat plane, is an abstraction whereas the Biblical deity is presented as a concrete individual, with specific characteristics, YHWH, not Baal, acting in history.

(4) Persons, self-conscious individuals, exist only in interpersonal relationships. The Trinity doctrine seems to answer this requirement. However, the doctrine was formulated in order to preserve monotheism despite the deification of God’s son and the personification of his spirit, not in order to explain pre-existent personality, and it raises the additional problem of differentiating between persons who are not spatially distinct. (Similarly, patriarchal monotheism precludes female deities so Mary became not a Mother Goddess but the Mother of God, which sounds like the same thing until it is elucidated.)

(5) Lewis thought that divine existence was logically necessary. However, existential propositions, like “God exists,” are contingent, not tautologous. God’s properties can neither include nor entail existence because existence is not a property but the instantiation of properties. If perfection did entail existence, then a perfect example of every kind of thing for which there is a criterion of perfection would necessarily exist. Empirical research would locate the perfect person, poem, potato etc.

(6) The omnipotent creator of all things other than himself would create all the determinants of our choices and us making those choices and therefore could not consistently condemn us for making such choices. If choices are not determined, then they are random, therefore not morally significant, and God does not create all things other than himself. Because interacting dispositions and circumstances determine  behavior, we are morally accountable to fellow creatures who try to influence our  behavior, but not to a hypothetical creator of all our dispositions and circumstances. Fellow beings can advocate courage or honesty. Our creator could have made us brave or honest.

A father (or ruler) can either allow or prevent his child’s (or subject’s) freedom of choice because he is a more powerful being sharing a common environment governed by regular laws which neither of them created. However, the infinitely powerful creator of us and our environment has already made us the people we are, making the choices we do. He neither allows nor prevents freedom of choice but determines choices. Many theists are, consistently, predestinationists.
 
People are most predictable when unconstrained. A careful man is one who usually acts carefully. He can act uncharacteristically and unpredictably because we do not know all the factors determining his behavior. God not only knows but creates them. He need not even predict because:

“…God did not create the universe long ago but creates it at this minute – at every minute.” 2

Thus, he creates us doing whatever we are doing at every moment.

I agree with Lewis that:

divine omniscience would not negate human free will because merely knowing what someone does does not make him do it;
eternal omniscience is not temporal prescience;
even prescience would not make anyone do anything.

If a man does A, then it would have been foreknown that he was going to do A. If he does B, then it would have been foreknown that he was going to do B. Foreknowledge that he was going to do B if he in fact does A is logically impossible as is subsequent knowledge that he did B if he in fact did A. However:

eternal omniscience is timeless consciousness, which I do argue is impossible;
I have also argued that omnipotent creation prevents creatures’ freedom in relation to their creator.

(7) Lewis’ defense of theism is invalid. He argues that merely caused beliefs are true only by accident whereas valid inferences are reasoned, not caused, and that an act of knowing must be determined only by what is known, not by past events. He infers that a beginningless “Reason” frees our inferences and acts of knowing from causation. Natural thoughts are at best associative whereas inferential thought is divinely illumined, thus “supernatural.” 3

Reason preceding language and an environment sounds like a square preceding its sides. If an apparent act of knowing is caused only by a series of events acting directly on a conscious being, then there is not necessarily any external object or state of affairs corresponding to what that being seems to know, but, if the series of events brings the subject and object of knowledge into contact, then it does cause the act of knowing.

Conscious organisms are not, like inanimate objects, mere passive recipients of causal determination. Animals process sensory inputs and act accordingly. When our pre-human ancestors began to manipulate and thus to experiment with their environment, their cerebral capacity increased accordingly. Lewis writes:

“…expectations are not inferences and need not be true. The assumption that things which have been conjoined in the past will always be conjoined in the future is the guiding principle not of rational but of animal behavior. Reason comes in precisely when you make the inference ‘Since always conjoined, therefore probably connected’ and go on to attempt the discovery of the connection.” 4

But an environment-manipulating, data-processing, language-using animal, competitively compelled to learn, possessing greater cerebral capacity than other species and already capable of associative thought would be able to make the qualitative leap from mere expectation to attempted discovery. It would begin to anticipate the outcomes of its actions and to adjust its expectations to experience.

Lewis rightly argues that improved vision is not knowledge of light and that improved curiosity or expectation are not inference but ignores the roles of manipulation, cerebral data-processing and qualitative transformation:

organismic sensitivity quantitatively increased until it was qualitatively transformed into conscious sensation;
processing of immediate sensations quantitatively increased until it was qualitatively transformed into perception of discrete objects;
the transition from passive expectation through active curiosity to experimental manipulation is another such qualitative transformation.

The  brain evolved with the hands, reflection with action, theory with practice, mind with body.

When Lewis criticizes his philosophical opponents for being unable to explain how a thought can be both caused by previous events and grounded in another thought, he argues that it is insufficient to suggest that the grounding thought is one of the previous events because no thought causes all the thoughts that can be inferred from it. This is because, when we think a thought, not being mere intellects, we have more to attend to than tracing all its implications. We attend to what concerns or interests us if we are not distracted by more urgent sensory inputs. Once, I was so disturbed by a particular event that it took me two days to realize one of its obvious implications.

Lewis distinguishes sharply between causally determined rationalizations and timelessly valid rationality but surely they are almost inextricably entangled in practice? Many influences prevent most people from reasoning systematically though not from drawing common sense inferences about everyday events. When we do achieve circumstances that enable us to attempt systematic reasoning, then our premises, procedures and probable conclusions are strongly influenced by economics, education etc. A skeptical theologian informs me that, because British University Theology Departments are mainly staffed by people who already accept the tenets of Christianity, they continue to accept evidence for the Resurrection that would not be accepted in History, Sociology, Philosophy or any other academic discipline. Wider recruitment to the study of Biblical texts would change the theological consensus.

A billionaire’s social circumstances and self-interest usually cause him to rationalize capitalism but, in order to do this, he pays experts to analyze relevant evidence and to generate arguments that some regard as valid but others as invalid and that must be considered as arguments, not dismissed as rationalizations. Controversy and experience force the intellectually honest to test and change their ideas and some agreed truths have emerged.

 I know that 1+1=2 not because I have been caused to believe it whether or not it is true but because biological and social causation have produced in me a level of consciousness that can apprehend simple mathematical truths when they are presented to it. Systematic rationality and abstract understanding in logic, mathematics and science have been won in struggle against concrete nature and scriptural authority.

Any process of reasoning is expressed in a set of mutually consistent propositions, at least some of which should be testable against experience. When we want to discredit someone’s reasoning, we try to show that his propositions contradict experience, each other or both. Our wish to discredit him may be irrational. Prejudice may blind us to the truth of his statements. We may respond emotionally to a single word instead of listening carefully to an entire sentence. We may interrupt and simply not hear out a valid argument to its conclusion. We may either not understand an argument or continue to disagree with it even when we do understand it. However, we at least pay lip service to rationality whenever we criticize inconsistency. Consistency between propositions, necessary for communication, is the basis of the “reason” which Lewis argues preceded communication.

Lewis argues that a thought resulting from anything other than an earlier thought has no rational basis. However, my thought that the sun is hot follows only from my experience of the sun and my ability to think. The latter has not always existed. Lewis’ conclusion that its existence depends on an ability to think that has always existed does not follow from his mistaken premise that rational thought must be beginningless first because an ability to think is not a particular thought and secondly because God’s thoughts are not mine. An additional argument is necessary to show how thoughts of mine that do not follow from earlier thoughts of mine can instead follow from earlier thoughts of an invisible being. This is not obvious. My thoughts follow from yours only if you tell me them and I agree with them.

Lewis’ philosophical opponents have not “…given an account of what we thought to be our inferences that suggests that they are not real insights…” or treated reason as a mere phenomenon. 5 Intellect was naturally selected because it enhances life by enabling us to understand natural processes. We do not first find that our insights are useful, then have to prove that they are insights. Inferential ability selected for survival can now be used for more dispassionate research just as opposable thumbs selected for grasping branches can now be used to write philosophy.

Lewis is simply wrong to imply that human loves are valueless if they are biological by-products. They remain human loves, whatever their physical basis. An electric bulb is not valueless because its light source is natural. Why would human ideals be illusions if they had not, somehow, preexisted humanity? 6

Lewis approvingly quotes Haldane:

“If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” 7

Atomic motions in my brain are a scientifically detectable aspect of me as perceived by others. My mental processes are my perceptions of everything else. Of course atomic motions and mental processes differ qualitatively and neither simply causes the other. Dialectical materialists recognize emergent, irreducible levels of being linked by qualitative transformations but Lewis replies only to mechanistic reductionism. (See Zen Marxism) Dialectical materialists say not “Only atoms exist” but “Atoms and reason are two levels of being.”  Lewis mentions the concept of emergent deity but confuses the emergence of new qualities with reduction to previously existing qualities, thus does not really consider “emergence.” 8

He concludes that “…the human mind…is set free…” from causation.

“And the preliminary processes which led up to this liberation, if there were any, were designed to do so.” 9

There were natural processes that led up to human mentality and they explain it. Any design argument for theism needs to be empirical, not a priori. An evolutionary account of the origin of human reason is no more an absurd or nonsensical proof that there are proofs than is the theistic account. We do not prove that there are proofs but explain how there are beings that can understand them.

If God exists, then he is another rational subject, not objective rationality. The latter comprises facts such as that, whenever there are countable items, then one plus one always equals two. 1 + 1 = 2 need not have been thought before the creation and, even if it had been, that thinking of it would not have been what made it valid.

References


  1. C. S. Lewis, A Preface To Paradise Lost (London: Oxford University Press, 1942, 1967), p. 118.
  2. C. S. Lewis, Miracles (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1947; London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002). P. 288.
  3. ibid, pp. 17-60.
  4. ibid, p. 30.
  5. ibid, p. 32-332.
  6. ibid, p. 54.
  7. ibid, p. 22.
  8. ibid, pp. 45-46.
  9. ibid, pp. 34-35. 



Thursday, 17 May 2012

Faith as Trust

Reflections on faith and action:

Faith is trust in God or life.
Life requires action, not trust.
However, manual/mental action differentiates homo sapiens.
Therefore, trusting human life means remaining active.

Collective action can prevent economic deprivation by ending competitive accumulation.
Trusting life prevents mental suffering by ending unwarranted apprehensions.
Faith addresses personal attitudes, not political action.
However, karma yoga facilitates individual participation in collective action.

Karma yoga is attention to action without attachment to outcomes.
Theists dedicate nonattached action to God.
Krishna is both god and guru of karma yoga.
Buddhist working meditation is nontheistic karma yoga.
 
Addendum, 10/7/12: This is one of several attempts on my part to express thoughts and reflections in the form of Indian philosophical sutras but I am not sure whether the result is helpfully clear or unhelpfully cryptic.

Atheology


If, as some say, the object of religious experience is neither a being nor even the supreme being but being itself or the ground of being, then it is not a person. It cannot be prayed to and should not be addressed, certainly not as "Father" which implies, if not a biological relationship, then at least a close relationship with another person. Being is the source of life and love but only because it is the source of everything. Maybe Jesus, while alive, was one with being but not uniquely so (and is not still alive in the meaning of being!)

Being becomes conscious by dividing into subjects and objects. Consciousness occurs neither in the unity preceding subjects and objects nor in objects but in subjects. Religious experience is of inner oneness or outer transcendence but consciousness is in the experiencer, not in the oneness or transcendence.

The Biblical deity is "holy." Holiness synthesizes awesomeness with moral goodness. Goodness is a personal attribute but awesomeness is not. The Grand Canyon is awesome but not a person. Theists, discerning awesomeness in their object of worship and goodness in at least some of their fellow worshipers, project both attributes onto the personified object.

Natural forces are personified or regarded as God at work but are impersonal. Gravity, electromagnetism and nuclei function unconsciously. Some organisms become conscious. One species becomes self-conscious, then projects self-consciousness or personality onto the heavens. A person is a single subject of consciousness whereas the transcendent-immanent-omnipresent reality (ie, everything) knows itself through every subject, thus is not a single person.

Wrong Actions


I have done something wrong. What can I do about it? Apologise to someone if possible and appropriate. What else?

Apologise to God? No. He doesn't exist and, if he did, he would be responsible.

Confess to a priest or find salvation in Christ? No.

Think about it? Necessary but insufficient.

Avoid past mistakes? Yes but this is easier said than done and doesn't resolve guilt.

Say that the past doesn't matter? I think it does. See that there is a level on which the past doesn't matter? Maybe, but I am not at that level of perception yet.

Meditate? Yes, but that doesn't resolve the issue immediately. What will it be like to resolve it? Past actions either will not recur to memory or will somehow be perceived differently. Zazen moves us towards that different perception but on an uncontrollable time scale. Since the process cannot be hurried, in fact since it requires and involves patience, I cannot think of anything else to be done.

Early Christian Psychology


Spong illuminates probable early Christian psychology. (1) Peter experienced an intolerable contradiction between Jesus' entirely God-centred, God-affirming life and his God-cursed death by execution. This was the theological Problem of Evil and the theme of the Book of Job writ large. Peter must have experienced intensely the problem which Christian theology sometimes poses very abstractly as a contradiction between omnipotence and infinite goodness on the one hand and suffering on the other hand. Peter's solution was, first, to re-interpret the death as expressing the life, as somehow an ultimate expression of unconditional love, and, secondly, as far as possible, to deny the death by affirming a Resurrection that at that stage was spiritual, not physical, and believed to have occurred in Galilee, not in Jerusalem. Jesus was risen in God, not, as described later, walking around in Jerusalem. That makes sense of the texts and of Peter's probable psychological processes.

However, Spong interprets all the accounts of Jesus' ministry as neither history nor biography but "midrash", meaning scripturally-based stories written to proclaim a Messiahship that had not yet been claimed or recognised while Jesus was still alive. Thus, all we know about Jesus is that he made a big impression on Peter and on some others. For Spong, this is enough for us now to proclaim Jesus' Messiahship and spiritual Resurrection. For me, it is not. I do not worship the Hebrew deity and find spiritual meaning in another tradition. Jews, Muslims and Sikhs worship the One God but do not identify Jesus with him. A Spongian creed would contain the unconvincing affirmation: "I believe that it would be fair to say that in that moment Peter felt himself to be resurrected." 

(1) Spong, John Shelby, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? New York, 1994.

 

An Extended Metaphor


The sun rises above a wide, deep ocean. Facing the sun, we stand on the shore of a still darkened continent. In the darkness behind us and below the horizon, the continent on which we stand joins the ocean that we now confront. Our preconscious ancestors came from the ocean and traversed the continent, their sight growing as the light increased. We explore the ocean and continent, knowing little about either.

The sun: the growing light of consciousness.
The ocean: the water of life; the objective universe that pre-existed our subjectivity.
The darkness behind us: preconscious organismic responses and unconscious mental processes without which we would not be conscious.

Statements about the "darkness", the origins of consciousness, are experiential, evidenced or traditional. Buddhist teaching is mainly experiential although it receives the rebirth idea from tradition, unless, of course, the line between experience and tradition is not drawn where I think it is. By contrast, the religious teaching in which I was indoctrinated was merely traditional and thus, I suggest, perpetuated the darkness. People continued not to understand how they had become conscious. 

Did human consciousness result from increasing organismic sensitivity to environmental alterations or from the infusion of souls into already conscious animal bodies - or indeed into mechanistically unconscious animal bodies, according to Cartesianism? The idea of souls may be remotely derived from the experience of dreaming, thus from the experience of (apparently) leaving the body temporarily in sleep and permanently in death, but it is contradicted by later evidence that dreams result from sleeping brain activity. Buddhist meditation, direct experience of psychological processes, generated a no soul teaching.

Some explorers sail the ocean. Others shine light into the darkness from which we emerged. Our ancestors originated from the environment that now confronts us. Eventually, those exploring in opposite directions will meet.   

 

What Does The Pope Know That We Do Not?


What do I know about religion?

(i) Indoctrination

I was indoctrinated in Catholicism. "Indoctrinated" is correct. Catholic beliefs are called "doctrines". A Jesuit was quoted as boasting that, given the boy from an early age, he could answer for the beliefs of the man. My primary school teachers were lay, then Marist; secondary teachers were Jesuit. We were neither told what anyone else believed nor encouraged to think about it. A primary teacher said that there was only one god so I believed that. Later, she said that people elsewhere had their own gods. I thought that this was a revised doctrine so that now there were many gods after all. I would have continued to believe that if I had been told it. She said that it was difficult to understand how there could be three persons in one god. I thought, although not in these words, that if "god" were defined so as to allow for tri-personality, then there was no problem whereas, if "god" were defined so as to exclude tri-personality, then the Trinity was impossible. I vaguely visualised the Trinity as a large white container with three small objects lying at the bottom of it. Years later, I realised that these objects were three purses. The usual plural of "person" was "people". 

Seeing pictures of dinosaurs and caveman, I wondered which was true, this or Adam and Eve.
Given rosary beads, I showed them as something special to a Protestant friend who, possibly mistaking the beads for a necklace, said that they were just for girls. Quoting this as a matter of interest to my mother, I was angrily told not to heed the friend. I realised that there were contradictory social pressures with no obvious way to choose between them. Growing up in the aftermath of World War II, I "knew" that Germans were bad and identified them with "germs".
I knew what the second member of the Trinity looked like but not the first. I thought that this was just because I had not seen a picture of him yet. At the Marist school, there was a picture of the founder in the hall. I wondered if that was the Father and realised that, if that was what he looked like, then I did not like him.

The enemy in a comic book set, I think, during the Korean War were called "Reds". On asking what this meant and being told "Communist", I instantly "knew" that they were bad. A man interviewed on television, describing himself as a Marxist-Leninist, might as well have said "Devil-worshipper" or "evil". Atheism was not just disbelief in God but opposition to him. Since atheism and Communism were bad, God and capitalism must be good but I did not know what capitalism was. A Jesuit told us that a suspected Communist Party member addressed a committee meeting that he attended "...and there he was, trying to stir up hatred." I really thought that Communists were committed to hate in the same way that Christians were supposed to be committed to love.

I had no sympathetic understanding of Protestantism and thought that it was obviously heretical. "Heresy" meant not mistaken belief but wilful picking and choosing between the doctrines of an acknowledged revelation. I was contemptuous of the multiplicity of Protestant sects as, much later, a Communist Party member whom I met on a picket line was contemptuous of the multiplicity of Trotskyist sects. Which, if any, is the right one? We must think for ourselves, not accept an answer from a Pope or a Central Committee.

We were told that Thomas More was beheaded for his faith but not that he had condemned others to burn for theirs. When, recently, I raised this with an older Catholic relative, she resented being asked the question, then replied, "Maybe it was the law? Maybe More had to do it?" When I was shown around a Catholic Cathedral, my guide knew of Thomas More's execution and canonisation but not that he had had Protestants executed. In 1961, at the age of twelve, I read a text book which said that the number of people burned by the Inquisition had been exaggerated. One victim, while being burned, called out the most shocking heresies, even denying the existence of God! I then thought that it was not so bad that he was burned.

I was concerned when a comic book super hero origin story (the Golden Age Hawkman) involved reincarnation. A friend thought that it might be a mortal sin to read such a comic. Mortal sin meant instant damnation on death unless the sin was confessed before death. Venial sin meant a period in Purgatory. Indulgences gained by prayers or devotion lessened the time in Purgatory. A Plenary Indulgence, granted by the Pope, removed all the time in Purgatory. One order of nuns did nothing but gain Indulgences to transfer to the souls already in Purgatory: supernatural foreign aid. An acquaintance who had attended the same secondary school joined the Knights of Malta because membership conferred the "spiritual privilege" of "certain Indulgences". For Catholics, non-attendance at Sunday Mass was a mortal sin because the Pope had decreed this. Not only did they believe that God had given them this power but they decided to exercise it. We were sometimes warned to toe the line just in case Hell did exist.

A Jesuit quoted a character in a novel who, when told that he could believe Catholicism if he wanted to, replied that he did not want to. So belief was a matter of wanting it, not of evidence or reason. Superstitions abounded within Catholic practice. There was a miraculous medal, some alleged supernatural benefit from tracing the letters INRI on the forehead and a belief that Christ in a vision had guaranteed salvation to anyone who practised a "First Friday" devotion: something like Confession and Communion on the first Fridays of nine consecutive months.
Evangelicals oppose faith to reason but Catholics tried to connect them. We were told that basic doctrines like divine existence and the historical Resurrection could be reasoned to. Having reasoned that Christ had founded an infallible Church, it was obligatory to accept those of its teachings, like the Trinity, that transcended reason. One argument for divine existence was: 

every event is caused;
an infinite regress is impossible;
therefore, there was a first cause, which everyone calls God. 

Comments:
in quantum mechanics or just in logical possibility, every event is not caused;
in this argument, neither premise is proved, the premises contradict each other and the first contradicts the conclusion;
a first cause would be a past event, not an eternal person.

A Jesuit told my class, "That then is the argument and the mind accepts that." No one else seemed to be listening to what he said. I knew even then that it was an argument, not the argument, that it was not the most convincing and that, if all minds had accepted it, then there would have been no atheists and thus no need for an argument.

Another argument in a text book was: 

there is a moral law;
wherever there is a law, there must be a law giver.

However, if God forbids murder, it must be because he knows that it is wrong, not because he arbitrarily decides to forbid it. When I told a Jesuit that I did not see how morality proved God's existence, he replied that it didn't. A similar argument but about natural law began with the premise that, wherever there is order, there must be an orderer. However, that is the conclusion to be proved so it cannot also be the premise. Empirically, we see watches ordered by watchmakers but the Solar System ordered by impersonal Newtonian laws. Theistic arguments, even if valid, fall short of verifying Catholicism. Analogously, a scientist claims direct contact with Martians, then resorts to arguing that there must be life on Mars because there are seasonal changes and canal-like lines on its surface. Years later, when my father converted to Catholicism, he was apparently told that it is not possible to prove God's existence.

A more philosophical Jesuit said, "A peasant woman knows that her faith is a divine gift. I am in danger of thinking that my philosophy gives me mine." Surely she believes that her faith is a divine gift? Thus, it is an article of her faith that her faith is a divine gift. Faith seems to be a closed system that it is impossible to get into or out of. The divine gift of faith was apparently bestowed at baptism when we were unconscious of it. Thus, it does exist independently of reason. How does this differ from indoctrination? The Church relies on indoctrinating children, not on persuading adults by obvious rationalisations like the first cause argument.

Because faith is a divine gift, it is a sin to risk losing it. Thus, there was an attempt to control beliefs and behaviour by internalising the Inquisition. The less philosophical Jesuit said that someone with faith, hearing sceptical arguments that he is unable to refute, retains his faith that these arguments can be refuted. A Protestant or a Muslim could claim the same. An apologetics text book refuted Islam by claiming that that religion had not been confirmed by a single miracle. Another Catholic text book argued, "Catholics believe because Christ claimed to be God and proved his claim by the miracles he worked." Christ, a Law observant Jew, did not claim divinity. That claim was attributed to him in the Gospels. If the miracles were proved, then Christianity, although not necessarily Catholicism, would be a matter of historical knowledge, not of faith.

I thought that natural selection explained plants and animals but that the divine infusion of a soul was necessary to explain humanity.

(ii) Education

In addition to Catholic conditioning, I also had a strong interest in philosophical enquiry. The latter was initially expressed by attempted rationalisations of Catholicism (replacing the first cause argument with an argument from contingency and defending mind-body dualism) but also by wider reading, then by wider practice:

CS Lewis, Christian but not Catholic;
Aldous Huxley, mystical but not Christian;
Jiddu Krishnamurti, challenging all received beliefs;
analytic philosophy of religion - conceptual criticism of monotheism and miracles;
Marxism, secularising prophecy (urgent social interpretation and intervention) and presenting a materialist account of history;
Buddhism, meditation without theistic belief;
popular science writing - a lay understanding of scientific cosmogony and Darwinism;
Biblical criticism, showing that the texts are not factual accounts;
neo-Paganism, reviving seasonal festivals suppressed by Christianity.

Krishnamurti's teaching clarified that, if I had not been indoctrinated in Christianity, then I would not have been converted to it so I had no reason to stay with it. I think the basic difference between me and the Pope is that early interest in philosophy.    
   

 

Consciousness


It is argued either that consciousness is different from unconscious processes, therefore independent of them, or that it is dependent on unconscious processes, therefore reducible to them. Both premises are true but neither conclusion follows and both are false. Thus: 

consciousness is different but dependent;
difference does not entail independence;
dependence on unconscious processes does not entail identity with them;
consciousness is neither independent nor reducible.

Consciousness depends on brains which depend on mostly unconscious bodily and environmental processes. It, consciousness, is a sensitive interaction whose sensitivity has quantitatively increased until it was qualitatively transformed from unconscious sensitivity into conscious sensation. That consciousness involves conscious sensation is a tautology. However, a non-tautologous definition of consciousness is both impossible and unnecessary. We are conscious, thus conscious of consciousness. 

Consciousness exists only in specific conditions but is not identical with its conditions because causality is not identity. The objective description of an observed brain state differs qualitatively from the subjective description of an experienced mental state. An observed brain is an object of its observer's consciousness whereas the brain-possessing organism is not only an object but also a subject of consciousness. A description of its consciousness must refer to the objects of that consciousness, not just to its brain states. A brain as perceived by a neurologist is not the world as perceived by the brain's possessor. However, neurology and psychology, addressing causes and effects, might converge. 

Several unconscious processes do not add up to one conscious process but consciousness emerges from many neural interactions none of which is individually conscious just as the quality of liquidity emerges from many water molecules none of which is individually liquid. 

Thesis: emphasis on the difference between conscious and unconscious processes encourages dualism.
Antithesis: emphasis on the dependence of consciousness on unconscious processes encourages reductionism.
Synthesis: emphasis on both is dialectical materialism.
   

Strengths and Weaknesses


Each of us is born and grows up with unique strengths and weaknesses. Maybe a few have only strengths or weaknesses. Society would be better if everyone had only strengths and impossible if everyone had only weaknesses. Interactions between individuals with different weaknesses and blind spots can be lethal. We have god-like powers of procreation, productivity and creativity. The combination of personal weaknesses with god-like powers can also be lethal.

An immature response is to despise those perceived as weak whereas maturity tolerates or helps weakness. A guy I worked with had two weaknesses: he was very low ability in the job and so worried about whether he was ok with other people that he kept putting it to the test, "trying the patience of a saint" of whom there were none in that work place. A confident and out-going colleague commented, "People like him latch onto people like me."

Why are some entire lives spent without any reflection or growth in self-awareness? Since zazen is the practice of awareness, Zen trainees can become aware of their weaknesses but usually not fully aware in the time left between starting to meditate and dying. Major blind spots can remain. I used to disregard anything that I did not see as important even though it did concern the people around me. Pondering ultimate issues brought me to zazen and to a Marxist understanding of society. I now give more attention to immediate social interactions but can still get them wrong to say the least. We need more time but can only use the time that is given. 

What Is The Problem?

Natural selection both generated and impedes consciousness:

organisms were naturally selected for sensitivity to environmental alterations;
sensitivity became sensation because pleasure and pain enhance survival;
thus, consciousness was a by-product of natural selection
but self-preservation and pursuit of pleasure distract attention from mere awareness.

However, these motivations originated with consciousness
and, like it, express pre-conscious processes.
We have not "sinned" by initiating selfishness.
Some societies encourage selfishness

but others discourage it
and we can transcend it.
Zen meditation is practice of mere awareness
with consciousness as an end-in-itself. 


Not Stages But Levels?


Dogen's Rules for Meditation say that zazen, just sitting, is not something that is done in stages. Maybe not but it does seem to have levels or layers not all of which are experienced simultaneously:

(i) uncontrolled surface thoughts that everyone perhaps is familiar with;
(ii) stillness when attention, undistracted by thoughts, is focused on the present moment;
(iii) deeper issues arising from or within the stillness;
(iv) resolution of deeper issues.

When I started to meditate twenty seven years ago in 1985, I experienced only (i), wanted to experience (ii) and did not understand references to (iii). Now, I have glimpsed (ii) and (iii) but have not come close to experiencing (iv). Meditation is worth doing but can take a long time. Dogen wrote, "If you want to find it quickly, you must start at once..."  

Faith and Tradition


Christians claim that their faith is a divine gift but how does it differ from a human tradition? They believe as they do either because they have been educated in a particular tradition or because they have converted to a belief transmitted to them by a tradition. How is this one tradition differentiated from all others as a divine gift?

I was brought up to believe that monotheism could be proved philosophically and that the Resurrection could be proved historically. They cannot and, if they could, then Christianity would be knowledge, not faith. Evangelical Christians merely tell us to believe or be damned, apparently not realising that, if we do not believe, then we do not believe we will be damned. They rightly argue that a statement may be true even if we do not believe it but do not give us a reason to believe it.

Christianity was established in the Roman Empire and maintained in the Middle Ages with a great deal of political force. If history had taken a different course, then this particular faith would not now be with us. I do not see the hand of God in the course of history.   

After Judgement


English literature contains at least two classic statements about pre-judgement. One is the title of a novel by Jane Austen. The other is in Alice in Wonderland when the King of Hearts asks the Jury to consider its verdict before it has heard the first witness. If pre-judgement, prejudice, judging before the evidence, is wrong, then "post-judgement", judging after the evidence, must be right. But "post-judgement" can instead mean just what comes after the judgement, in particular its consequences.

The Day After Judgement by James Blish is the sequel to the same author's Black Easter which ends with the demons winning Armageddon. Despite their fantastic content, these  works address us. The Goat says:

"WE WILL DO WITHOUT THE ANTICHRIST. HE WAS NEVER NECESSARY. MEN HAVE ALWAYS LED THEMSELVES UNTO ME." (1)

Later, as the last magicians approach the demonic fortress, the white magician says:

"One thing is surely clear...We have been making this journey all our lives." (2)

I have argued that judgement is part of life, not its end. It may be that I am particularly aware of this. I was continually judged and found wanting by both elders and peers because I did not conform to their ideas of acceptable behaviour or personality. And I now see that I was insufficiently attentive to many aspects of social interaction. But condemnation was unhelpful. The conflict remained unresolved because we do not choose to be who we are so we cannot change our personality as easily as we can change a garment. And much of the condemnation was unwarranted. On a Sunday afternoon, I preferred to read HG Wells in the attic than to watch Z Cars in the kitchen so I was guilt tripped for not spending time with my family. I was made to feel in the wrong for reading comics instead of books, for reading about Hinduism instead of about Catholicism, for reading science fiction instead of something else and for reading instead of doing something else. It was then learned that neighbours who were a Judge and a Colonel also read science fiction. I have certainly learned how not to saddle children and teenagers with unnecessary guilt and resentment.

Making a virtue out of a necessity, I became more adept than many fellow students and work colleagues at accepting and heeding criticism and was even commended for this by an otherwise hostile Manager who, I am pleased to say, was moved out during a re-organisation. More recently, I have felt lousy when got at by an acquantance only to find out that many others regard him as arrogant. I think the problem is with me. They see it as with him.

The word "criticism" has a highly negative value and is apparently taken to mean hostile judgement or condemnation. I tried to tell a fellow student, "If you are criticising me for taking too long to do that job, then that is alright," but was interrupted after "...criticising..." with "I AM NOT CRITICISING YOU!" I gave a colleague advance warning that some criticism was coming towards his College Department and thus sparked an uproar, involving the College Principal, that was immediately traceable back to me.

I know that there are acts that it is right to feel bad about and others that I feel bad about only because of my upbringing but I cannot locate the dividing line. In the unlikely event that some higher power does judge us, he or it knows the score.

(1) Blish, James. Black Easter and The Day After Judgement, London, 1981, p. 111.
(2) ibid, p. 200.


 

Non-Christian Lutheranism?


We are Lutherans because we protest against ecclesiastical authority and insist on private interpretation of scripture. However, we read all scriptures and can interpret them critically and sceptically. Thus, we are "Lutherans" but not Christians. Catholics of the Counter-Reformation would argue that Lutheranism must lead to this and they would be right. Private interpretation must be informed by Biblical criticism and modern science but remains private interpretation, not a church- or party-line.

A former Catholic at University remarked that the only good features of Protestantism were those differentiating it from Catholicism. Another University student remarked that the progression from Judaism to Catholicism to Protestantism to secularism is a move away from the family towards the individual. I am happy to live at the secular end of that progression. The family can be a small community of related individuals, not an entity subordinating individuals to it.

In Judaism, God's covenant is with Israel and the latter is propagated through the family. In Catholicism, God's new covenant is with the Church and the latter is propagated through the family. In Protestantism, God's new covenant is with each individual. In secularism, there is society and the individual. In a large well to do Catholic family, the eldest son inherited the family business, the second son entered a respectable profession like medicine or law and a third son, not needed for inheritance or to produce further heirs, could enter the respectable profession of the celibate priesthood. Brought up as a Catholic, I now respect Luther's rebellion against the sale of Indulgences and Papal interpretation of scripture.  

Judgement


There is a Biblical myth of a Day of Judgement. I used to believe that it was literally true. In 1962, when I was thirteen, two Catholic priests met over dinner at my parents' house. When they parted, one said, "Well, we will meet at the Day of Judgement if not before!" Did they believe that? I mean, did they just take it for granted that they were really going to meet? Even when I was a few years older, I still thought that petty wrongs and injustices would be righted on that Day because everyone would then see what had really occurred during the most trivial of conflicts and misunderstandings at a secondary school. I now hope that, if consciousness does survive into an indefinite future, it will then build a better reality. Meanwhile, I now judge the absurdity of my belief then.  

Does the concept of a Day of Judgement correspond to anything in our experience so far? Someone who meditates might find that he sees and assesses his whole life to date at a profound level - his basic motivations and their limitations. The conditions that generate consciousness also impede its development. I am a self-conscious individual capable of meditation only because I am a member of a society and this particular society has done its best to discourage meditative self-awareness, not least with its myth of our accountability to a divine Judge. In our tradition, we were encouraged to confess our sins, receive absolution and not to look any deeper, unless we wanted to become priests. And did the priests look any deeper? Some at least just made it their job to perpetuate the tradition. Apart from social conditions, a lot of us have had merely personal limitations to our insight and understanding from an early age. You can only be self-conscious if you are a particular individual and particular individuals can have every kind of fault, failing, blind spot, obsession, idiosyncrasy etc.

CS Lewis' fictitious demon Screwtape gloats that one of the damned has realised that he spent his whole life doing neither what he should have done nor what he wanted to do. It seems that this man has had at least a partial realisation or understanding about the course of his life/karma/action. Lewis imagines an absurd situation in which the man was blind to this realisation while he could have acted accordingly and has the realisation only when it is impossible for him to act. A more efficiently managed universe would allow for continued spiritual/moral development after death, as Lewis implies in The Great Divorce. In that work, each ultimate choice, or "judgement", is individual. There is no universal Day.

Recently, an Evangelical said that she would like to see my face on the Day of Judgement. I am damned because I do not share her belief. Her salvation is assured so she need not concern herself about the morality of gloating at the fate of the damned. Is God a bigot? Bigots think so. We make our gods in our own image.

If faced with immediate death, we might review our whole life there and then. With meditation, it can happen at other times and well in advance of death. I heard of an elderly man in a Hospice who, presumably because his documentation described him as Catholic, was asked whether he wanted to receive the Last Rites. There are two correct answers to this question, either "Yes, please" or "No, thank you." Apparently, however, he was incapable of articulating either because, despite his condition and situation, he was just too freaked by the suggestion that he was that close to death. A Buddhist acquaintance who had worked in an operating theatre commented that he could tell the difference between those who were in some way prepared for death and those who were not, even if the way in question was not "our way". 
 
Meanwhile, every day is our Day of Judgement if we can see it that way.

 

The Spirit of Truth


John wrote that Jesus said that the Father would send the Spirit of Truth. Some Christians have written that this Spirit is present in other religions. From Christian premises, this must follow. How could the omnipresent not be everywhere? How could a Spirit of Truth be absent when Truth is sought? How could God willing the salvation of all not work for that salvation where people are? Understandings differ but recognition of a common spirit facilitates dialogue.

In Zen meditation, we are open to the Truth insofar as it manifests to us. It does not usually manifest as a vision of Jesus or the Buddha but nor are such manifestations ruled out a priori.

A believer who can think about his beliefs and discuss them with non-believers on the basis of mutual respect and equality is a philosopher, a "lover of wisdom". In such discussion, it is necessary to: 
 
state our beliefs and reasons for them;
address hearers who do not share our beliefs;
attend to criticisms and alternative beliefs;
respond to criticisms and disagreements;
be prepared to learn during a discussion or by subsequent research;
not expect to persuade anyone in a single discussion or series of discussions;
be able to summarise an alternative view in terms acceptable to those who hold it;
state reasons for disagreeing with other views and respond to whatever is said in reply.

Such dialogue is impossible with many Christians as a Presbyterian Minister and philosophy graduate acknowledged when I pointed this out. Some Evangelicals are capable only of stating their belief on the assumption that it is true and without stating any reasons for it. Is this a fault in Christianity or just in some Christians? All Christians are not irrational but there is a lot of irrationality in that religion. Disputes about the Trinity etc could be resolved neither empirically nor rationally. They could only be ended by invoking the Spirit, imposing doctrines and condemning "heretics", the antithesis of recognising the Spirit of Truth in different beliefs. John's mystical language about Jesus' Father and the Spirit became a formula to kill for. Because doctrines were formulated irrationally, much adherence to such doctrines remains irrational.

I think there is scope for a myth based on John's words without the later Trinitarian formulation. The Spirit seems to be a distinct being. If there is a Father and a Spirit, then who else might there be? Concepts would have differed if history had diverged. Let imagination be unconfined.

 

Where Do We Come From, Where Do We Go?


Complex, sensitive psychophysical organisms interact with their natural and social environments. Organisms start to act as they start to develop. How could their action pre-exist their existence and what mechanism would transmit action into a newly conceived organism? Organismic and social interactions preceded and produced individual activity. Some consequences of our actions will continue after our deaths but the action itself will cease when we do. Any actions occurring after our deaths will not be ours.

Zen meditation is transmitted by a tradition whose teaching includes individual rebirth, a refinement of reincarnation. Some people argue that Zen synthesises Buddhism and Taoism. Taoist teaching did not include rebirth. Zen, present practice of immediate awareness, need not presuppose acceptance of rebirth teaching. Consciousness is here and now.

Jesus, Christianity and Other Religions


(Appendix 5 of Zen Marxism)


Jesus:  was reportedly initiated by baptism, vision, fasting and temptations (Mk.1.9-13);
preached that the kingdom was at hand (Mt.4.17), i.e., that God’s rule was imminent;
thus, taught that a new consciousness and a new society were possible;
preached the same message as John the Baptist (Mt. 3.2; 4.17);
but preached independently after John’s arrest (Mk.1.14);
healed (e.g., Mt.8.2-3);
at least once, used a healing technique that was not immediately successful and had to be repeated (Mk.8.22-25);
had less healing power in Nazareth where he was known (Mk.6.5) and therefore lacked mystique;
initially refused to heal a foreigner (Mk.7.25-30);
attracted popular support (Mk.3.7-9);
wondered about his own role in the kingdom (Mt.16.13);
attributed Peter’s identification of him with the Messiah (Mt. 16. 16) to divine revelation (Mt.16.17), not to Peter’s documented impulsiveness (e.g. Jn. 13.8-9);
interpreted scripture (e.g. Mt.13.14-15; Lk.21.22);
referred to God as his father (Mt.26.29);
advised others also to address God as their father (Mt.6.9-12);
identified with the Suffering Servant (Mt.16.21; Is.53.1-5), not with the Davidic monarch (Is.9.7; Is.33.17-24);
thought that vicarious suffering, not military leadership, would initiate the kingdom (Mk.14.24-25);
deliberately provoked the authorities (Lk.19.37-40; Mk.14.61-64);
was executed (Mk.15.24-37);
possibly died realizing that this approach to the kingdom had failed (Mk. 15.34);
after crucifixion, would normally have been buried in a common grave;
had expected to return soon (Mt. 10.23; 16.28; 24.34);
but may  have inaugurated a memorial meal (Mk. 14.22-24) as if anticipating a longer absence.
The disciples: suffered disillusionment (Lk.24.21), bereavement and, in Peter’s case (Lk.23.54-62), guilt;
but were consoled and inspired by a stranger en route to Emmaus (Lk. 24. 13-27);
accepted the stranger’s scriptural argument that the Messiah had to suffer (Lk. 24.26-27);
may have been reminded by this of Jesus’ scriptural interpretations;
later, identified the stranger with Jesus (Lk.24. 31);
accepted Peter’s traumatic vision as an appearance by the risen Jesus (Lk.24.34);
met to re-interpret scripture;
believed that Jesus was present, confirming their new understanding of Messianic prophecies (Lk.24.45);
publicly proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 2.24);
mentioned neither an empty tomb nor a tangible resurrected body but, primarily, prophecies and, secondarily, witnesses (Acts 2.14-36);
interpreted prophecies in order not to understand the prophetic texts but to rationalize their experience and re-formulate their expectations;
quoted Ps.16.8-11 which anticipates deliverance from death but not the resurrection of the Messiah (Acts 2.25-28);
argued that this passage referred not to its author, David, who had died, but to his descendant, Jesus, who was risen (Acts 2.29-32) (whereas alternative interpretations would be that it had referred to David but had not been fulfilled, that it was fulfilled in heaven, that it merely expressed an aspiration towards immortality etc);
also quoted less relevant passages, e.g. Ps.110.1 (Acts 2.34-35);
worshipped in the Temple (Acts 2.46);
began "breaking bread in their homes" (Acts 2.46);
expected Jesus to return soon to lead the Jewish conquest of the Gentiles (Acts 1.6);
thus, founded a new Jewish sect that could not indefinitely survive the destruction of Jerusalem.
Peter: preached the first Christian sermon (Acts 2.14-36);
spent most of the sermon interpreting scriptures regarded as prophecies (see above);
incidentally claimed that the disciples present were witnesses to the resurrection (Acts 2.32);
but did not describe any resurrection appearances.
(If it was the disciples’ reinterpretation of scripture that had convinced them of Jesus’ continued presence, then they bore witness neither to the doubtful sighting later reported by Matthew nor to the series of physical encounters differently described by Luke and John but only to their own inner conviction, as Evangelicals do now.)

Paul: initially opposed the new sect (Acts 9.1);
accepted Jesus’ spiritual resurrection (1 Cor.15. 35-44) after a visionary experience (Acts 9.3-6);
ridiculed the idea of physical resurrection (1 Cor. 15. 35-59);
rationalized Jesus’ death as a perfect sacrifice, superseding all previous sacrifices;
believed that this sacrifice saved men from sin (Rom.2.24-25; 1 Cor. 15.3), not Jews from oppression;
taught that men were saved by faith alone (Rom.3.28);
thus, contradicted the Matthean account of salvation through merciful acts (Mt.34-46) and his own statement that God "…will render to every man according to his works…" (Rom.2.6) (Added, Jan 2012: I now realise that there is no contradiction in Paul - the idea is that the saved can be punished but not ultimately lost);
taught predestination (Rom.9.13-22; 11.5-8);
thus, contradicted the later Christian doctrine of free will;
taught that salvation came to the Gentiles because the Jews had rejected it (Rom. 11.11-12);
propagated his new belief beyond Jerusalem (Acts 13.4);
was ejected from synagogues (Acts 13.50);
took with him Gentiles attracted by Jewish monotheism and morality but repelled by circumcision and dietary laws (Acts 13.45-48; Acts 17.4);
quoted the "poets" when addressing Greeks (Acts 17.28);
baptized without circumcising (Acts.15.1-2);
organised "churches" by appointing elders (Acts 14.23), revisiting the churches (Acts 15.36) and writing to them (1 Corinthians etc);
affirmed Jesus’ sacrificial death and spiritual resurrection but dismissed his life and teaching as irrelevant (2 Cor. 5.16);
thus, founded Christianity as a religion distinct from Judaism, from Jesus’ teaching and from the Petrine Jewish sect;
advocated abject subservience to state authorities (Rom. 13.1-7);
subordinated women (1 Cor.11.3-9; 14.33-35);
had to assert that his visions of Christ were superior to other versions of Christianity (2 Cor.11.12-15);
but was arrested making an offering in the Temple (Acts 21.30);
expected Jesus to return as soon as he, Paul, had completed his mission to the Gentiles
(1 Cor.7.29-31; Gal.1.16).

The oral tradition: proclaimed the resurrection;
preserved collections of miracle stories and parables for preaching and teaching;
may have added the story of a decent burial in an unused tomb.

Converts: accepted the Pauline teaching that Christian salvation entailed freedom from ritual obligations;
but asked questions about the nature of the resurrection.
The Evangelists: were members of early churches;
wrote not biographies of Jesus but propaganda for the belief that he was the Messiah;
presented John the Baptist as the forerunner of the Messiah (Mk.1.7-8);
added original texts to an adapted oral tradition;
addressed their period, not posterity;
exaggerated the miracles;
usually presented Jesus’ acts of healing as effortless and immediately successful (e.g., Mk.1.40-42);
tried to settle disputes about the nature of the resurrection;
described an empty tomb and a visible, tangible risen Jesus;
disagreed about the location of the resurrection appearance(s);
wrote inconsistent accounts of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection;
misrepresented the Pharisees (whose teaching agreed with Jesus’), the Sanhedrin (who could have stoned Jesus for blasphemy and would not have handed him over to the Romans), Pilate (who would not have vacillated, defended Jesus or consulted a crowd), the Jewish population (who would have been preparing for Passover, not gathering to pressurize Pilate), Jesus (who did not claim divinity) and the law (which did not allow for the release of a prisoner);
blamed the Jews for a Roman execution (Mt.27.22);
initiated Christian anti-Semitism (Mt.27.25);
had begun to realize that Jesus would not return soon;
therefore, characterized his kingdom as not of this world (Jn.18.36);
reinterpreted "Son of God" to mean neither a collective adopted son, like Israel, nor an individual adopted son, like the King of Israel, but both a miraculously conceived individual (Lk.1.34-35) and, later, a second eternal person (Jn.1.1), still later re-named "God the Son";
thus, completed the transition from Judaism to Christianity.
Mark: wrote the first Gospel decades after the events described, possibly in Rome;
was a source for Matthew and Luke;
added darkness at noon (Mk.15.33), possibly following Amos 8.9;
received the tomb burial story (Mk. 15. 42-46) from the oral tradition;
but added that the women "…saw where he was laid" (Mk. 15.47) in order to forestall the objection that they may have gone to the wrong tomb on the Sunday morning;
did not describe Jesus’ resurrection appearance but implied that it was in Galilee;
described a young man saying, "…he is going before you to Galilee…as he told you" (Mk.16.7) (see "Matthew" and "Luke" below);
wrote that the women told no one of their experience at the tomb (Mk. 16.8) although the other Evangelists later contradicted this (e.g., Mt.28.8);
possibly wrote this to explain why converts had not previously heard of an empty tomb.

Matthew: added Joseph’s dreams (Mt.1.20 etc), the wise men (Mt.2.1), the star (Mt.2.2) and the slaughter of the innocents (Mt.2.16-17);
interpreted Jer.31.15 as prophesying the slaughter;
quoted a prophecy that is not in Hebrew scripture (Mt.2.23);
added the virgin birth (Mt. 1.18) because of a mistranslation (1sa. 7.14) of a passage that had not, in any case, referred to the Messiah;
located the nativity in Bethlehem (Mt 2.1) because of a supposed prophecy (Mic. 5.2);
described the holy family as fleeing into Egypt (Mt. 2.13-15) in order to fulfill a supposed prophecy (Hos.11.1) that had in fact referred to God’s call of Israel from Egypt;
added John the Baptist’s initial reluctance to baptize Jesus (Mt.3.14-15);
thus, expanded Mark’s account (Mk.1.9-11) in order to affirm Jesus’ sinlessness and superiority to John;
made Jesus’ private vision (Mk. 1.10-11) a public apparition (Mt.3.16-17);
presented Jesus as a greater and more authoritative Law-giver than Moses (Mt. 5-7);
wrote, "Blessed are the poor in spirit…" (Mt.5.3), not "Blessed are you poor…" (Lk. 6.20);
quoted the positive Golden Rule, "…whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them…" (Mt.7.12) (see "Confucius" and "Marxists" below);
increased the number of miracles;
made one demoniac (Mk.3.1-13) two (Mt.8.23-34);
added Peter walking on water (Mt.14-31) and finding a coin in a fish (Mt.17.27);
changed Jesus’ inability to work miracles (Mk.6.5) into refusal (Mt.13.58);
added Jesus’ empowerment of Peter (Mt.16.18-19) after Peter’s recognition of him as Messiah (Mk.8.29; Mt.16.15-16);
added miraculous events at the time of Jesus’ death (Mt. 27. 51-53);
added the guard on the tomb (Mt. 27. 66), the earthquake and angel at the resurrection (Mt. 28.2) and a resurrection appearance near the tomb (Mt.28.9);
described the angel as saying, " …he is going before you to Galilee…Lo, I have told you" (Mt. 28.7) (see "Mark" above and "Luke" below);
following Mark, described a resurrection appearance to the disciples in Galilee but added that some of the eleven "doubted" even as they saw the risen Jesus (Mt.28.17).

Luke: added Gabriel (Lk.1.26), census (Lk.2.1), manger (Lk.2.7), shepherds (Lk.2.8-20) and an angelic choir (Lk.2.13-14);
alleged a family relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist (Lk.1.36);
added a meeting between their pregnant mothers when John leapt for joy in the womb (Lk.1.44);
described Joseph and Mary as taking the newly born child to Jerusalem (Lk. 2..22), not fleeing to Egypt (Mt.2.13-14);
added Simeon (Lk.2.25-35) and Anna (Lk.2.36-38) prophesying over the child;
added the trial before Herod (Lk.23.6-12), the man on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24. 15-16), a tangible risen Jesus (Lk. 24.39) and the ascension (Lk. 24.51);
described resurrection appearances only in Jerusalem, not in Galilee;
described two men as saying, "Remember how he told you when he was still in Galilee…" (Lk. 24.6) (see "Mark" and "Matthew" above);
described the ascension as immediate (Lk.24.51) but also as after forty days (Acts 1.3).

John: identified the Greek philosophical Word with the Hebrew scriptural God;
adapted "In the beginning, God…" (Gen. 1.1) as "In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was God" (Jn.1.1);
presented Jesus not, like Peter (Acts 2.24) or Paul (Rom. 1.4), as a man raised up by God but, for the first time, as God becoming a man, the "Word made flesh" (Jn. 1. 14);
put long discourses into his mouth (e.g., Jn. 14-16), instead of short parables (e.g. Mk.4.1-32);
represented John the Baptist as proclaiming that Jesus was the universal sacrificial victim as soon as he saw him (Jn.1.29);
represented Jesus as beginning his ministry by talking to individuals (Jn.1.37-38), not by preaching to crowds (Mk.1.14);
replaced Jesus calling Simon and Andrew (Mk.1.16-17) with Andrew introducing Simon to Jesus (Jn.1.40-42);
emphasized immediate "eternal life" (e.g., Jn.3.15), not an imminent "kingdom" (Jn.3.3);
placed the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Jn.2.13-17), not at the end (e.g., Mk.11.15-17);
personified the Spirit (Jn.16.13);
replaced the trial before the Sanhedrin (e.g., Mk.14.55) with an interrogation by the High Priest (Jn.16.19);
made the crucifixion (Jn.19.31), not the Last Supper (e.g., Mk.14.12), simultaneous with Passover;
introduced the water into wine (Jn.2.9), the raising of Lazarus (Jn.11) and doubting Thomas (Jn. 20.24-29);
called Barabbas a "robber" (Jn.18.40), not an insurrectionist (Mk.15.7; Lk.23.19);
adapted appearance stories from Mt.28.9-10 (Jn.20.14-17) and Lk.24.36-49 (Jn.20.19-22);
presented the disciples neither as going to a Galilean mountain in order to witness Jesus’ resurrection (Mt.28.16) nor as remaining in Jerusalem in order to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1.4, 14-24) but as returning to the Galilean lake in order to resume their former work (Jn.1.3);
added not an expected resurrection appearance at a Galilean mountain (Mt.28.16-17) but an unexpected appearance at the Galilean lake (Jn.21.1-14);
thus, like Matthew, contradicted Luke’s accounts of appearances to all the disciples only in Jerusalem (Lk.24.36-51; Acts 1.3-9);
did not mention an ascension.

Gnostics: interpreted Christianity as esoteric contemplative cognition, not as exoteric credal conformity;
thus, replaced historical prophecy with timeless mysticism;
thus also, propagated a Christianity more consistent with Hinduism.

Marcion: compiled the earliest Christian canon;
included only "Gospel and Apostle" (Luke and Paul, minus Old Testament references);
modelled this canon on the Jewish "Law and the Prophets";
but counterposed the Mosaic and Christian deities;
therefore, saw Jesus as overthrowing, not fulfilling, the Law and the Prophets.

Constantine: adapted Christianity to the Roman Empire;
thus, adopted it as the ideology of a slave-owning society;
thus also, institutionalized a scriptural canon beginning with the Hebrew "Moses and the prophets", not with the classical "Homer and the poets";
but accepted Christian freedom from the Mosaic Law;
thus, initiated the distinction between church and state laws;
convened a church council to impose doctrinal uniformity;
divided the Empire between East and West;
thus, laid the basis for a schism between Orthodox and Roman Churches.

Greek poets, referred to as "Homer and the poets" (an epicist and some dramatists),
were anciently regarded as divinely inspired authorities on theology and morality.
Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey,
came instead to be regarded as the beginning of secular literature.
"The poets": re-told and reinterpreted Homeric myths;
reflected on moral responsibility and divine will.
Aeschylus, the greatest Greek dramatist,
believed that Zeus was just but transcendent;
explained Prometheus’ suffering as a consequence of hubris.
Euripedes, also a fifth century tragedian,
expressed scepticism about traditional religion.
Virgil: wrote the Roman epic, the Aeneid;
modelled it on the Odyssey and the Iliad;
re-told the myth of the Trojan ancestry of the founders of Rome;
thus, presented the Roman Empire as the culmination of Homeric myth;
referred, in Eclogue 4, to a virgin, a golden age and a new progency from heaven.
The Apostles: were (male) witnesses to the resurrection;
were originally twelve of Jesus’ disciples;
then came to include Paul;
founded and led particular churches;
appointed assistants called (i) overseers (bishops) or elders (presbyters/priests) and (ii) servants (deacons);
were each succeeded by a single bishop elected to lead a particular church and thus to control several priests and deacons;
thus, appointed two levels of assistants but bequeathed three levels of "holy orders".
Bishops: are successors of the Apostles;
had each originally known a particular Apostle;
but, after two thousand years, no longer have any privileged access to evidence for the resurrection;
instead, can only read the New Testament like everyone else;
as a group, in the early church, canonised documents affirming the Apostolic message of prophesied resurrection;
thus, authoritatively defined the New Testament;
therefore, did not regard its contents as inherently authoritative;
included contradictory accounts of the nature and location of the resurrection;
thus, affirmed the resurrection without being able to present a consistent history of it;
therefore, cannot have believed that every part of the New Testament was historically accurate;
were and remain based in cities and enthroned in cathedrals (Latin: cathedra = throne);
based church organisation on imperial provinces, not on Jewish tribes;
joined the political establishment;
have exercised temporal power, e.g., in the Papal States and the British House of Lords.
Theologians:  incorporated the deified Jesus and the personified Spirit by trisecting God;
adapted Greek philosophy but condemned Platonic reincarnation because it contradicted Pauline resurrection;
accepted Hebrew God-world dualism, Greek body-soul dualism and a modified Zoroastrian good-evil dualism;
interpreted resurrection of the body as its reunion with the soul;
rejected both the Mosaic idea that God was the single source of good and evil (Ex.10.27) and the Zoroastrian idea that God’s opponent was an independent source of evil;
preserved monotheism by regarding God as tri-personal and the Devil as a rebel angel.
Christians: replaced gods with saints, sons of gods with the only son of the one God, presiding deities with patron saints, deification with canonisation, the Mother Goddess with the Mother of God, Perseus and Thor with Saints George and Olaf, idols with icons, sacrifice with sacrament, cyclical mythological with unique historical resurrection, Mithras’ birthday on 25 December with Jesus’, temples or synagogues with churches, the Pontifex Maximus or chief priest of the Roman state religion with the Bishop of Rome or Supreme Pontiff and the Roman Empire with both the Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire;
originally regarded the teachings of all apostolically founded churches as equally authoritative;
later, invested supreme teaching authority in a council of all the bishops;
adapted their beliefs to reflect feudal society, e.g., with knights, military religious orders and episcopal landholders;
condemned surviving pagan practices as witchcraft;
persecuted heretics and Jews and fought Muslims;
regarded Virgil’s Eclogue 4 as a pagan prophecy;
regard Abraham as the recipient of the promise of salvation (Gen.12.3) (see "Jews" and "Muslims" below).
Monks: preserved the scriptures and classics;
pray and meditate;
practise a spiritual alternative to secular society.
Arians: were Christians who denied Christ’s eternal status;
therefore, also denied the Trinity;
converted Northern European tribes to Christianity;
forced the Western Church to convene a council to re-affirm Trinitarianism;
thus, indirectly, intensified East-West schism because Eastern Churches accepted neither the authority of a merely Western council nor its particular formulation of Trinitarianism.
Luther: adapted Christianity to reflect bourgeois individuality in emerging capitalist society;
therefore, replaced the teaching authority of bishops with private interpretation of the Bible and replaced priestly sacraments with faith alone (Rom.3.21-24);
expressed views that had existed previously but had been suppressed;
translated the Bible so that it could be read in the vernacular;
excluded Old Testament books that are not in the Jewish canon;
excluded James because it taught that faith without works is dead (Js.2.20-26);
also excluded other New Testament books;
presented doctrines that were consistent with the Bible.
Calvin: the second most important Reformer,
presented only doctrines deduced from the Bible, including predestination (see "Paul" above).

Lutheran churches: returned to the traditional New Testament canon in the seventeenth century.
Evangelicals: accept Pauline-Lutheran belief in salvation by faith alone;
think that believers cannot be lost, even if they commit serious sins;
urge others to accept their belief;
but state no reason for the belief ("It’s in the Bible" is not a reason for the truth of a belief; "The Bible is the word of God" and "You will be damned if you disbelieve this" are parts of the belief);
thus, are fundamentally irrational;
compound their irrationality by regarding mere unbelief as morally culpable;
think that those who remain unconvinced by Evangelical propaganda freely reject their own salvation, not that they are simply unconvinced by the propaganda;
thus, confuse honest disagreement with discreditable choice;
claim that the Bible is inerrant despite its inconsistencies and inaccuracies (see "The Evangelists", "Bishops" etc above);
claim to encounter Christ but not that he is visible, tangible or audible;
thus, possibly reproduce the earliest Christian experience: the sense of a personal presence that is associated with the historical Jesus through an uncritical reading of scripture, disregarding contradictions, uncertainties and alternative explanations;
reinforce and propagate their belief through preaching (Rom.10.14-17);
read as scriptures not only the prophetic books that are held to prefigure Christian experience but also the New Testament that is held to confirm it;
claim to experience the risen Christ only after they have started to believe that he exists;
thus, acknowledge that, in this case, experience reflects belief, not vice versa;
dismiss non-Christian religious experience as at best inadequate and at worst valueless or even demonic.
Christian fundamentalists: interpret the entire Bible literally, even its two mutually inconsistent creation myths (Gen.1.1-2.4; Gen.2.4-25);
thus, are close to Evangelicals.
Other Christians: do not necessarily claim personal acquaintance with Christ;
accept contact with Christ through sacraments rejected by Evangelicals;
read the same scriptures but critically;
acknowledge that scriptural historicity is problematic;
sometimes, following Paul (2 Cor.5.16), differentiate the historically known Jesus from the spiritually risen Christ;
may acknowledge the validity of other traditions and cease to be Christians in the traditional sense.
Catholics: regard the bishop of Rome (the Pope) as the direct successor of the chief disciple of the incarnation of God;
therefore, invest him individually with supreme teaching authority;
believe also that he can decide whether, e.g., non-attendance at Mass should be punished by damnation (Mt.16.18-19);
do not regard the exercise of such power as morally reprehensible;
emphasise priestly re-enactment of the Last Supper (Mk.14.22-23; 1 Cor11.23-25), not general proclamation of the resurrection;
excommunicated Luther;
convene "ecumenical councils" excluding bishops not in communion with Rome;
at one such council in 1870, defined the Pope’s teaching authority as infallible;
but avoid invoking infallibility on controversial issues like contraception;
have invoked it only to add to their doctrines of the supernatural status of Jesus’ mother;
focus entire religious orders on doctrines like Jesus’ presence in communion, Mary’s assumption into heaven and the Spirit’s role in the Trinity;
resisted a campaign to proclaim Mary the "Mediatrix";
thus, preserved Jesus’ uniqueness as the "one mediator " (1 Tim.2.5);
preserved liturgical Latin until the 1960’s;
ordain only celibate men;
describe their faith as a divine gift, not a reasoned belief;
thus, acknowledge that there is no reason to believe it;
but have sometimes contradicted this by trying, unsuccessfully, to prove theism, resurrection and specifically Catholic doctrines like Papal infallibility and the immaculate conception;
claim that the gift of faith is usually received not by adults at their conversions but by babies at their baptisms (thus, its receipt is not only irrational but even unconscious).
Eastern Orthodox Christians: trace their origins back to particular Apostles;
did not accept papal authority when it grew in the West;
accept the teachings only of the early church councils;
but share the Catholic emphasis on liturgy;
ordain only men.
Anglicans: rejected papal authority, thus becoming Anglicans, under Henry VIII;
became doctrinally Lutheran, thus Protestant, under Henry’s successor, Edward VI;
now claim to unite Anglo-Catholics (effectively English Orthodox), Evangelicals and liberals in a single Church;
lead an international communion of Episcopal churches with large Evangelical memberships;
now ordain women;
might split over homosexuality because liberalism contradicts Biblical texts (Lev.18.22; Rom.1.27).
Methodists: were Anglican Evangelicals;
ceased to be episcopally controlled;
became a separate denomination after their founder’s death;
ordain women.
"Christian Socialists":  adapt their beliefs to reflect socialist or social democratic politics.
Old Catholics: were Catholics who did not accept papal infallibility in 1870.
Liberal Catholics: were an Old Catholic Mission to England, taken over by Theosophists.
Theosophists: were founded by a former spiritualist medium, Madame Blavatsky;
claimed esoteric contact with superior beings;
prepared Jiddu Krishnamurti to be the Vehicle of the World Teacher;
regarded Krishna and Jesus as previous Vehicles;
wrote accounts of Krishnamurti’s previous lives as an Atlantean priestess etc. (The British writer, Alan Moore, described religions as "higher fictions". Fiction requires willing suspension of disbelief. Religion requires willing belief. Sometimes, the contents are similar. Therefore, Moore’s description is appropriate. Even believers in a particular religion usually regard others as false and, to that extent, fictitious.)
Krishnamurti: had mystical experiences;
left the Theosophists;
taught the value of self-awareness without reference to a World Teacher;
applied his ideas to school education.
Anthroposophists: split from Theosophy over the role of Krishnamurti;
interpret Christianity esoterically;
apply their ideas to school education.
Rosicrucians: claim occult knowledge and abilities.
Latter Day Saints: add the Book of Mormon to the Christian canon;
believe that the lost tribes of Israel colonised North America and that Jesus appeared there after his resurrection;
practised polygamy because they converted more women than men.
Christian Scientists: instead add Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
Rastafarians: apply Old Testament prophecies to Haile Selassie, not to Jesus.

African religions: refer to one supreme and many subordinate gods.

The Cuban Santeria: identify African gods with Catholic saints.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: are Biblical fundamentalists;
emphasise the Biblical divine name (Ex.3.14);
interpret the Biblical prohibition of eating blood (Lev.17.10-14) as also a prohibition of blood transfusions;
reject Trinitarianism, Incarnation, sacraments, souls and Hell;
regard denominational Christianity as pagan;
like Jesus and his disciples (Mt.10.23; Mt. 16.28; Lk.21.32), expect the kingdom in current life times;
in fact, expected it in 1914 and had to re-interpret Biblical prophecies accordingly;
expect believers to survive or be resurrected and unbelievers to die or stay dead;
expect 144,000 (Rev.7.4) of their number to reign with Christ in heaven while the rest inhabit a paradisal Earth;
originally expected only 144,000 to be saved and had to revise this interpretation when they had recruited more members.
Neo-Pagans: seek an alternative to Christianity in the past, not in the East.
Samaritans: accept the Law but not the Prophets or Writings.
Jews: were allegedly led from slavery by an Egyptian prince (Ex.2.10; Ex.5.1);
claimed that he had been born a Hebrew (Ex.2.1-10);
worshipped only one god (Ex.22.20; Deut.5.7);
denigrated other gods as powerless to the point of non-existence (1 Kg.18.27-39; Is.44. 9-20);
thus, came to believe that there was only one god (Deut.6.4);
preserved anthropomorphic references, e.g., to God’s "face" (Ex.33.20; Deut.34.10) and "back" (Ex.33.23);
but came to regard him as invisible and omnipresent;
described him as making barbaric laws, e.g., Ex.22.23-34; 23.3-4;
but also summarised morality as love of God and neighbour (Deut.6.4-6; Lev.19.18);
claim descent from Abraham (Gen.12.2);
may have been influenced by the monotheist Akhtenaten (a former Pharaoh) or by the priest Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) (Ex. 2.16-21);
regard Abraham as the recipient of the promise of the land (Gen.15.18-21) (see "Christians" above and "Muslims" below);
regard the Prophets as applying the Law, not as prophesying Christ;
were unable to continue animal sacrifice after the destruction of the Temple;
closed their canon with the Law, the Prophets and the Writings in order to differentiate it from the then new Christian canon;
ritually read the Law in synagogues;
therefore, now organise worship through rabbis in local synagogues, not through priests in a single Temple.

The Jahvist epic: celebrated the Davidic monarchy as the culmination of God’s plan;
became a source for the early Biblical books;
thus, was incorporated into a longer history.
Moses: is said to have met God "face to face" (Deut. 34.10), to have worked greater miracles than anyone else (Deut. 34.11), to have died at 120 still physically fit (Deut. 34.7) and to have been buried by God in an unknown grave (Deut. 34.7);
is identified with the Law, the first five books of the Bible;
in the New Testament, appears with Elijah at Christ’s Transfiguration (Mk. 9.2-7), thus confirming the latter’s fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets.
Zoroastrians: were Persian prophetic monotheists, founded by Zarathustra;
called the supreme being Ahura Mazda;
accepted as scripture a collection of treatises, poems and hymns called the Avesta;
formulated dualist responses to the problem of evil;
later, adopted the sun god Mithras as the eye of Ahura Mazda and ruler of the Earth;
transmitted concepts of the Devil, a historical saviour and the resurrection and judgement of the dead into post-exilic Judaism, thus into early Christianity.
Plato: was a disciple of Socrates;
initiated written European philosophy;
wrote philosophy as dramatic dialogues;
reinterpreted myths;
argued for the immortality and reincarnation of immaterial souls.
Aristotle: was a disciple of Plato;
addressed his readers directly in prose, not indirectly through dialogues;
defined the categories of European science and philosophy;
systematised logic;
was less mystical and more scientific than Plato;
defined the soul as the form of the body.
Mystery religions: coexisted with Roman state polytheism;
each focused on a particular deity;
offered revelatory experiences through sacramental rituals;
included Mithraism.
Mithraists: were an off-shoot of Zoroastrianism;
regarded Mithras as supreme;
but recognised other deities;
believed that Mithras had conquered evil and fertilised nature by sacrificing a bull;
were baptised in the blood of a sacrificed bull;
also consumed sacramental bread and wine;
inculcated military virtues;
spread through the Roman Empire;
gained imperial patronage;
did not historicise their mythology or initiate women;
thus, did not become universal prophetic monotheists;
therefore, failed to provide a world religion for the Roman Empire.

Mani: was raised as a Christian in the third century;
had a visionary experience;
like other prophets, received an angelic order to preach;
founded the syncretic Manichaean religion;
preached it in the Persian Empire;
taught by writing and painting;
compiled a pictorial scripture, the book of Images;
claimed to synthesise the teachings of Zarathustra, the Buddha and Jesus;
taught dualism, reincarnation and the coming of a Saviour;
was killed by the ruling Zoroastrians.
Manichaeains: were regarded by Christians as Christian heretics;
were persecuted in the Persian and Roman Empires, the latter both pagan and Christian;
replaced the Acts of the Apostles with Acts of John, Paul, Peter, Andrew and Thomas.
St. Augustine: converted from Manichaeism to Christianity;
like others, synthesised Christianity with Platonism.
Aquinas: synthesised Christianity with Aristotelianism;
founded one school of Medieval Christian philosophy;
came to be regarded as the authoritative Catholic philosopher;
said that only believers in Jesus could see him risen
(although: some doubters (Mt. 28. 17) and one opponent (Acts 9. 1, 5) did; Catholics teach physical resurrection, which implies a resurrected body visible to all; the Gospels confirm physical resurrection; Aquinas implies that other travellers on the Emmaus road would have seen two disciples apparently conversing with no one. However, it is plausible that: the disciples met a stranger; their bereavement and Paul's hostility to the recently executed Jesus became vivid experiences as of contact with a living Jesus; thus, psychological, not perceptual, processes generated talk of a risen Jesus; believers, stating the unverifiable, claimed to be witnesses, telling us what we would have seen if we had been there; converts, accepting this, invented empitical evidence, an empty tomb (Mk. 16. 6) and a tangible resurrected body (Lk. 24. 39; Jn. 20. 27)).
Parsees: are Indian descendants of Zoroastrian refugees from the Muslim conquest of Persia.
Muslims: regard the prophets as including Jesus but culminating in Muhammad;
replace Judaeo-Christian scriptures with the Koran;
agree with Jews that there is one unincarnated transcendent creator;
regard Abraham as a man of Islam (submission to God’s will) (Gen.22.1-18; Koran 19.39-44) (see "Christians" and "Jews" above);
preserved significant Greek philosophical texts and transmitted them to Europe;
transmitted "Arabic" numerals from India to Europe.
Sufis: are Muslim mystics;
regard God as immanent.
Sikhs:  were persecuted Muslim-Hindu ecumenists;
survived as a group by differentiating themselves from both traditions;
accept one unincarnated God from Islam and many reincarnating souls from Hinduism;
accept as scripture a collection of hymns by Muslims, Hindus and Sikh Gurus.
Bahais: are an eclectic Muslim off-shoot;
regard other religions as earlier stages of revelation;
believe that there have been prophets since Muhammad and will be more;
accept some later writings as scriptures.
Subud: is a spiritual practice initiated by a Muslim but open to all;
is mentioned here because I have some experience of it.
Hindus: accept as scriptures the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Gita etc;
regard their epics as scriptures, not as secular literature;
were originally polytheist ritualists;
came to regard all gods as different forms either of a single personal God or of the one impersonal reality;
thus, transformed polytheism into both monotheism and monism;
assimilated tribal beliefs;
also incorporated an atheist, soul pluralist yogic tradition;
synthesised Vedic theism or monism with yogic theory and practice in the Upanishads;
thus, interpreted yoga not only as control of thoughts but also as union with the transcendent;
interpreted the goal of yoga not only as liberation but also as union;
conceive of God as creator/preserver/ destroyer and as either male or female;
can regard Rama, Krishna, the Buddha, Jesus and others as divine incarnations;
also envisage animal divine incarnations;
philosophically systematised logic, atomism, soul pluralism, yogic practice, Vedic ritualism and Upanishadic teaching;
thus, systematised yoga both as a distinct tradition and as part of the Upanishadic synthesis;
classify these philosophical systems as Vedically orthodox;
canonise the authoritative texts (sutras) of the six orthodox systems;
write original philosophy in the form of commentaries on the sutras;
classify Jain, materialist and Buddhist philosophies as unorthodox;
integrate theistic practice into Yoga philosophy by classifying it as devotion to a perennially liberated soul;
use divine names as mantras;
describe Upanishadic philosophy as "the end of the Veda", Vedanta;
formulate theistic, monistic and intermediate interpretations of Vedanta;
write Vedantist commentaries on the Yoga Sutras and commentaries on commentaries;
claim to experience not only a personal deity but also an impersonal absolute.
Krishna devotees: are a Hindu fundamentalist sect;
regard atheism and "impersonalism" as serious errors;
thus, are uncompromising theists;
regard Krishna alone as the Supreme God;
believe that he is not bodiless and invisible but humanoid and blue;
believe that, in this form, he visited Earth without needing to be incarnated (I am not making this up but someone please tell me if I am getting any of it wrong);
emphasise scriptural accounts of Krishna’s life in the Srimad Bhagavatam and of his teaching in the Bhagavad Gita;
claim that one divine name, "Krishna", is particularly efficacious;
thus, contradict the inclusive Vedic principle: "To what is one, sages give many a title…" (Rig Veda, 1.164.46);
practise bhakti - mantra yoga;
thus, claim to experience a personal relationship with the one God in human form;
but promote Krishna and Gita, not Christ or Gospel;
were possibly influenced by Christianity.
"St. Thomas" Christians: are ancient Indian Christians;
claim to have been founded by Thomas the Apostle.
Jains: are atheist ascetics;
believe that the universe is humaniform with this world at its waist, hells below, heavens above and liberated souls rising to the top of the head;
regard karma as a material force weighing down souls, thus preventing their liberation;
regard souls as immaterial but also as expanding or contracting to fit bodies and as affected by material karma;
thus, preserve an ancient quasi-materialistic view of spirit;
regard liberated souls as permanently distinct, not as united with the transcendent, and as superior to gods dwelling in the heavens;
conserve the yogic-meditative tradition that Hindus incorporated and that the Buddha reformed.
Maskarin Gosala: followed the Jain hero, Mahavira;
then claimed to have surpassed him ascetically and magically;
founded the fatalist Ajivika movement;
died of self-starvation c. 487 BC.
The Ajivikas: believed that every soul, however virtuous or ascetic, must traverse 8,400,000 lives;
eventually merged with Jains or Vaisnavas (worshippers of the Hindu god, Vishnu).
The Buddha: was raised in isolated luxury;
first saw sickness, old age and death as a young adult;
thus, realized the universality of suffering;
became a religious mendicant;
sought the way to the end of suffering;
investigated existing spiritual practices;
experimented with extreme asceticism;
realized that asceticism requires rigid self-control, not relaxed attention;
stopped fasting and regained his physical strength;
thus, lost the respect of fellow ascetics;
practised meditation as immediate awareness and relaxed attention;
inwardly ended the psychological cause of suffering;
thus, became able to teach the way to the end of suffering;
could have remained in passive contemplation;
but continued to be motivated by compassion;
when asked, "are you a god?", replied, "I am awakened (‘buddha’)";
is said to have converted the ascetics who had left him when he stopped fasting;
criticised established religious ideas and practices;
replaced reincarnation of souls with rebirth of dispositions;
regarded the ending of rebirth neither as the liberation of an independent soul nor as union with a transcendent being but as entry to a transcendent state;
but discouraged metaphysical speculation as unconducive to enlightenment;
founded a monastic order;
taught rulers and laity;
died aged 80.
Buddhists: maintained the order;
orally transmitted the Buddha’s teaching for centuries;
then wrote it as "sutras";
also developed the teaching by writing original sutras;
attributed the latter also to the Buddha;
made compassion and wisdom more explicit than they had been in the earlier teaching;
apply the term "Buddha" to a historical individual, to a cosmic principle embodied in that individual and to the potential for enlightenment in all beings;
envisage many past, future and extra-terrestrial Buddhas;
can acknowledge deities but regard the Buddha as superior because of his enlightenment;
were reabsorbed by Hinduism in India, where the Buddha came to be regarded as a divine incarnation;
spread to Tibet, Sri Lanka, China etc;
adapted to different cultures;
developed diverse traditions and practices;
formulated monist, idealist and dialectical philosophies;
but can de-emphasise philosophies, doctrines and concepts by focusing on present awareness;
meditate;
experience transient interconnectedness, not permanent substance.
Pure Land Buddhists: invoke the ahistorical Amida Buddha;
believe that he has created another world that is conducive to enlightenment;
seek rebirth there;
thus, practise devotion to Amida, not attention to the present.
Confucians: are Chinese moralists;
accept as scriptures the Five Classics, including the I Ching, and the Four Books;
became a state cult;
used their Canon as the curriculum for imperial civil service exams;
focused ritual on their founder, Confucius.
Confucius: claimed to know Heaven’s decree;
according to tradition, edited four of the Classics, wrote the fifth and founded the movement that produced the Four Books;
delivered teachings collected in the first Book, the Analects;
taught the importance of relationships between fathers and sons, elder and younger brothers, husbands and wives, the old and the young and rulers and subjects;
also taught the negative Golden Rule, "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others" (see "Matthew" above and "Marxists" below).
Mencius: wrote the fourth Confucian Book;
introduced meditation into Confucianism.
Hsun Tzu: was a pessimistic and religiously sceptical Confucian.
Fei-tzu: was a legalistic Confucian.
Mo Tzu: diverged from Confucianism;
preached universal love in opposition to Confucian emphasis on specific relationships.
Taoists: reject Confucian formalism and conservatism;
accept as scriptures the Tao Te Ching and later works;
resemble Buddhists in both mystical philosophy and meditative practice;
developed an elaborate religion incorporating their original philosophy;
deified their legendary founder;
represented him as teaching both Confucius and the Buddha;
imagine a heavenly hierarchy comprising the Jade Emperor, Tao Chun (controller of yin and yang), Lao Tzu and lesser deities serving the Three;
inspired utopian rebellions;
sought inner peace through meditation when the rebellions had been suppressed;
sometimes replaced government services through religious organisation;
practise magic and alchemy as well as spirituality;
seek physical longevity as well as oneness with the eternal;
influence and are influenced by Chinese Buddhists.
Shih Huang Ti, Emperor of China,
burned Confucian books;
is said to have sent a sea expedition to find the Taoist Isles of the Immortals.
Chang Tao Ling: had a vision of Lao Tzu;
received from him the title, Heavenly Master;
founded a new Taoist religion;
bequeathed his title to his descendants to the present day;
claimed to possess a life-prolonging elixir.
Ko Hung: wrote the Pao Phu Tzu on Taoist alchemy, medicine and magic.
Shintoists: are Japanese polytheist nature mystics;
worshipped the Emperor as a descendant of the Sun Goddess;
accept as scriptures the Records of Ancient Matters and the Japanese Chronicles;
interact with and influence Japanese Buddhists.
Spiritualists: claim to prove survival.
Humanists: ritualise secularism.
Some secularists: wrongly regard all religious leaders as conscious deceivers.
Marxists: apply a materialist analysis of society;
do not impose atheism as a condition of membership of the revolutionary party;
understand that theistic beliefs are materially based in social alienation;
therefore, understand why such beliefs often cannot be dispelled by mere argument;
respect the values of theistic workers;
regard phenomena as transient and interconnected;
regard ultimate causes as impersonal;
regard the Communist Manifesto (1848) as significant though not scriptural (in fact, Marx and Engels recognised in their 1872 Preface that the Paris Commune of 1871 had demonstrated that their earlier assumption that the working class could use existing states was "antiquated");
practise collective struggle, not individual spirituality;
advocate the fullest development of human potential;
therefore, might come to recognise that some spiritual practice expresses self-realisation, not alienation;
argue that elimination of class conflict will facilitate implementation of the Golden Rule (see "Matthew" and "Confucius" above).
 
Conclusions: Experiences differ and are variously interpreted.

Christianity is not Jesus’ teaching but beliefs about him formulated after his death.

A belief about his resurrection could only have been formulated after his death.

The first Christians were believers in a spiritual resurrection, not witnesses to a physical resurrection.

Converts to Christianity imagined the physical resurrection.
 

(The stages of development were:
 

Jesus love ethic


faith healing


vicarious suffering

disciples spiritual resurrection

Paul sacrificial death

oral tradition tomb burial

Mark empty tomb


silence of witnesses


predicted Galilean appearance

Matthew virgin birth


guard on tomb


doubtful Galilean appearance

Luke road to Emmaus


tangible Jerusalem appearance


ascension

John incarnation


Lazarus


doubting Thomas
 

(Re-arranged chronologically, the list becomes: incarnation, virgin birth, moral teaching, miracles, sacrificial death, burial, resurrection and ascension, which are the familiar Christian beliefs.)
 
Conclusions, continued: The kingdom was not at hand but a new consciousness and a new society remain possible.

It had long been possible to approach selfless consciousness through individual meditation.

Since the industrial revolution, it has become possible to approach a classless society through social revolution.

Jesus, expecting neither continued historical development nor an eventual industrial revolution but imminent divine intervention, advocated repentance and acceptance of the good news (Mk.1.15).

Buddhists and Marxists, expecting continued psychological and social conflicts, meditate and prepare for revolution, respectively.
 
(Unorthodox Trotskyist organisations develop and apply Marxism. Individuals, who are not necessarily ordained lay Buddhists, meditate.)

I have summarised Christianity at greater length first because its particular synthesis of mythology with history makes it more complicated and secondly because the purpose of this Appendix was to consider Christianity’s specific claims to veracity and relevance. Other religions are summarised for comparison. The comparison shows the diversity not only of religious experiences but also of religiously authoritative texts. There is no central authority to adjudicate on the veracity of such texts. The Pope speaks authoritatively, even infallibly, for Catholics and the Dalai Lama speaks authoritatively for one Tibetan Buddhist sect but there is no super-Pope or –Lama to resolve disagreements between them. In fact, their worldviews are so different that there could not be such an agreed superior authority. We can study scriptures for their inherent value – spiritual, philosophical, literary or historical – if any, but should not accept scriptural propositions as authoritatively valid merely by virtue of their traditional status. Unquestioning acceptance of the Bible alone as "scripture" is unwarranted and increasingly inappropriate.

Main sources:

Smart, N. The Religious Experience of Mankind New York 1969
Marx, Engels Manifesto of the Communist Party Moscow 1971
Armstrong, K. The First Christian: St. Paul’s Impact on Christianity London 1983
Smart, N.
Strange, R.
The World’s Religions
The Catholic Faith
Cambridge 1989
Oxford 1996