Christianity: an Alternate Perspective! P A R T II
Note:This is the second part of Pamplanil’s article: ‘Christianity: an alternative perspective’ published in CCV on 28 Feb. 2018. Being a research scholar he is sharing with CCV readers, his independent findings, different or in conflict with what the credulous folks are indoctrinated by the clergy through their Faith based – not reason centred — teachings.
In matters religious we are all products of our environment from cradle to grave, hardly ever feeling the need to question, change or improve the rational basis for our religious beliefs imbibed together with our mothers’ milk. Had we done that in other fields of worldly activities, we would be still riding on bullock carts and cooking with fire wood even now.
In spite of living in an internet world of fast communication where change of views for the better happen too often, one area that is too resistant to change is our traditionally-held religious belief systems. Rational search for finding solid grounds for blind beliefs is still considered wrong, sinful, “anathema” and not tolerated. Hence all the war of words leading to murderous conflicts, still so rife in India especially in the context of ‘Hindutva’ trying to impose their belief system all over India, by hook or crook.
Christian missionaries never go that far, but some can’t distinguish evangelization from proselytization which Pope condemns with severe words.
Faith vs. Reason?
Conflict between faith and reason is active in all belief systems including Christianity. For clear proof look at the thousands of churches who claim Jesus as their Man-made God or God-made Man (God getting born and dying?) even when Jesus himself never claimed to be God almighty asking followers to pray to him to make impossible things possible.
So the demand today is to make the theologically illiterate laity literate, so that they believe and practise what they do on solid rational grounds. In this context I recall the Great first Indian Cardinal Valerian Gracious, calling the laity ‘Theologically illiterate’ being the reason for not understanding the “Humanae Vitae” on Birth control in the 1960s.
Church in India Seminar
He was speaking at the “Church in India” seminar in Bangalore and this youngster at that time listening as a Journalist, participant had the temerity to write an editorial in the then “New Leader”, “Like the Pastor so the faithful” because he himself had said even he and others could not clearly understand all the theological implications.
It was an honest prank from a childish Me, questioning my most admired and loved patron and promoter, of course without naming him in the editorial, still it unleashed on me a hornet’s nest for daring to think and raise honest questions. Even now that encyclical is questioned or discarded.
This history is recalled just to stress the importance of the service, writers like Pamplanil, both a research scholar and fearless critique, does to blind believers. Since all of us are ignorant on many things religious. One important thing to note is that our readers should also become bold to raise counter questions to Pamplanil or to any one of us, without fear or favour but for the sole purpose of becoming more enlightened and rational in what we believe and practice.
But the wonder of it all is, even none of our Indian Catholic bishops either respond or react to inconvenient questions, although CCV regularly sends every week a bunch of 6 to 8 articles to their personal emails for their consideration. If they don’t react, either they don’t have time to read them, busy that they are with money and mundane matters, or consider themselves to have ‘hot lines’ with ‘God almighty’ or consider us like ‘barking dogs that can’t bite them’.
But to tell them what we honestly believe frankly and forcefully, is our right and duty which we are bound to do till our last breath. Besides acting as a ‘watch man’ alerting masters in the house of ‘danger signals’ on the horizon, around the house and within the minds of fellow humans is one of the important duties of a journalist.
Our columnist Pamplanil is doing such a precious, though thank less job. We need more such writers to shake and wake us up to think and act rationally, instead of flowing with the current like dead corpses. Those alive and kicking will be swimming against the current.
Editors and writers are faulted for jumping to conclusions as their only exercise and pass time. While appreciating such a critique, we all should realize, we are living in a fast changing today, not in a bygone era, knowing fully that we can’t do today’s job with yesterday’s know-how and much less tomorrow’s with today’s knowledge. So we have to update ourselves responding to too many of today’s vexing questions to make our lives meaningful. Thank you, our questioning readers for your constructive service and thanks to our provoking columnist, Pamplanil. james kottoor, editor ccv.
Please read Pamplanil below
as he exposes his findings on the roots of Christianity
The message of Jesus was preserved by James (The Just) and the Ebionites. With the martyrdom of James in CE 62 and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Romans in CE 70, the Ebionites escaped to Pella in the modern day Jordan just below the lake of Galilee (which the Christian hyperbole calls the “Sea of Galilee”) and dissipated in course of time.
Incidentally there are conjectures that Jesus belonged to a sub-sect of Essenes called Nazarenes. Some of them could have taken refuge in Malabar Coast when the Jerusalem Temple fell and many Jews escaped from the city on account of Roman prosecution. Incidentally, the followers of Jesus in the Malabar coast are known as “Nazaranees”. One surmise could be that the forefathers of Nazarenees of Kerala were Nazarenes.
Paul being a Roman citizen and a businessman (he was engaged in making tents out of cured animal skins for the Roman army) and having extensive contacts through out the Roman Empire, could travel freely and propagate his brand of religion which the true followers of Jesus lacked. From the late 40s to the early 69s of the Common Era, he travelled through the Diaspora, Greece, Turkey and other parts of Asia Minor and Italy (except Rome) and organised congregations, taught and issued letters exposing his viewpoints and ironing out problems that arose among his followers. Paul’s Christian religion does not seem to have spread outside the Roman Empire.
Paul’s Christianity or PAULINITY was the most prominent outfit at the time of Emperor Constantine’s adoption of Christianity, as a political expediency, as the religion of the Empire. Pauline ConstantIanity is as different as chalk to cheese to Jesus people; Constantine continued to be a pagan calling himself Pontifex Maximus. He was a devotee of Sun God, the “Sol Invictus”, the “Unconquerable Sun”. That is why the Christian Church opted for Sunday devoted to Sun, as the Sabbath Day, in the place of Jew Jesus’ traditional Sabbath day Saturday. Constantine was baptised in his death-bed. In the meantime, he killed his wife by boiling her and also murdered his son.
Emperor Constantine bestowed immense wealth and other privileges on the Church that attracted the senatorial and others of rank to Christianity. The soldiers became Christians to avoid excruciating drills at least for one day of the week, Sunday. The Emperor busy in military campaigns, entrusted civic administration and collection of taxes and rents to the bishops. Bishops of Millan and other places grew immensely rich and powerful. Those who joined the new dispensation in the hope universal salvation were pushed aside.
The struggle to occupy the positions of power and pelf led to all sorts of skulduggery, bloodshed, corruption, sycophancy, nepotism and other ills. Bishop John Chrysostom condemned the corroding of the integrity of the churches by the crazy pursuit of the Ecclesiastes for excessive wealth, enormous power. He pertinently pointed out that clerics were infected with the decease of “lust for authority” and fighting for candidates for positions in the church on the basis of family prominence, wealth or partisanship. The craze for money and wealth by the clerics may have come out of the “Original Sin“ – greed.
Emperor Theodosius, the “butcher” from Spain, by a series of edicts from CE 380 banned all other religions from the Empire, destroyed pagan temples or converted them to Christian Churches. But within a short span of time, Christians reverted to the practices and way of worship of the pagans with a vengeance. The numerous gods and the shrines of the pagans were replaced by saints, their churches and chapels dedicated; after all, old habits die hard. The ruthless murdering Emperor had also turned against other Christian groups such as Ebionites, Gnostics, Arians etc.
For the dirty work done for the Church this monster was elevated by it to sainthood and was conferred the title “Great”. This is not surprising: the Church had also elevated Helena, one of the early Christians and the influential mother of Constantine. The former bar girl had seduced Constantine’s father, a common soldier then , became his wife to be sidelined later by her disillusioned husband. Generally whoever does a henchman’s job for the Church are rewarded by it by “sainthood”.
At the time Christianity was born and established itself, people lived in a threatening universe. Along side the real world was another, parallel but unseen one of spirits, good and bad. The bad spirits predominated and from them one needed protection. The security of a religious belief which projected itself as having the ability to lay hold of the God’s favour was an enormous attraction. The claim that Christian magic was much superior to that of non-Christians attracted many to it. The Christians told the credulous that the Eucharist also has magical properties. (cf. Michael Walsh – Roots of Christianity ).
Even if one pores over the Bible diligently, it is crystal-clear that Jesus was no theologian. There is not even a strand of theology in the book. Jesus was a freedom fighter and a social activist, not any one born to save the human kind from the sin some mythical character Adam, supposed to have committed. The Christian theology has been solely built upon Greek thought. Edwin Hatch points out the telltale difference between the Sermon of the Mount and the Nicene Creed; the former “belongs to the world of Syrian peasants, the other to a world of Greek philosophers”.
Hatch has suggested that “Christianity, from its pure and simple origins in the New Testament world deteriorated into complexity on contact with Hellenistic thought. The change in the centre of gravity from conduct to belief is coincident with the transference of Christianity from Semitic to Greek soil”. This move from ethics to doctrine is seen as a move from “original simplicity to later complexity and from individual spontaneity to group association and assimilation to existing structures”.
Christianity was allegedly made into the complicated doctrinal structure from the 2nd century onwards by the Church Fathers. They were “great admirers of Plato and accordingly while showing outward profession to Christ — in heart they did not put off Plato”(John Biddle). From the high-flown language of the Councils of the Church to the language needed to transmit Jesus’ message intelligibly to the third world peasants (eg. the so called buffalo theology), has travelled a long way. “Jesus proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God but what came out was the Church” (Alfred Loisy – French modernist theologian).”
God, for the Western man is the God of Israel. If metaphysicians for the first two millennia after Christ have drawn on non-Jewish tradition, above all on Plato and Aristotle for talking about God. What relationship does an intrinsically hierarchical and bureaucratic organisation bear to a Galilean preacher and a handful of his followers? The Christian Churches have tended to hold on determinedly to their structural organisation, while losing much of their vitality.
With the fall of the Western Roman Empire in CE 496, the Popes assumed the role of rulers of Rome. In the subsequent period known as the “Dark Ages” stretching from the 5th to 11th centuries, papacy spent its energies and resources to reinforce its temporal power vis-à-vis the rulers of Europe especially that of Germany. German antagonism towards the Italian dominated Church of Rome still persists. By the 11th century the temporal power of Rome was on the decline. The struggle for supremacy between the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople resulted in a vertical split of the Church between Western and Eastern wings..
Era of Reason
After a period of unrest (1500-1650), emerged the era of Reason, Revival and Revolution (1650-1789). The unification of Italy in 1870 and the seizing of the vast papal estates deprived the Church of its vast land holdings; the popes became the “prisoners of Vatican”. The popes from Pius IX turned their faces against democracy and modernity. The Church did not suffer any prick of conscience in making the Lateran treaty in 1929 with the Fascist Mussolini in terms of which the Italian State recognised the suzerainty of the Pope over the Vatican City in addition to 750,000,000 lire in cash plus consolidated bearer bonds with a coupon rate of 5% and nominal value of 1, 000,000,000 lire as compensation for the loss of the papal estates in 1870.
Over the years the promise of universal salvation was turned on its head by the Church. It has been ruling in a milieu of exploitation of the inherent fear of death and hell afterwards. In the Syro-Malabar Church, the clerics have become predators; their focus is money making and pushing the believers into the whirlpool of superstition and meaningless rituals, in order to keep the clerics, bishops who call themselves princes and lords of the Church and an army of Monsignors, chancellors, vicars and others in comfort if not in luxury. It is beholden for the deprived proletariat, the Cattle Class to struggle really hard like draughts animals to sustain an institution with no intrinsic value.
Roman Catholicism as of today is western religion totally shorn of its Asiatic moorings. The Syro-Malabar now is a hydra of indeterminate character. It is neither Western or Eastern. It’s way of worship and rituals, is a hocus-pocus of inanities. The people who opt for priest in it generally hail from intellectually and economically poor. They may have chosen this profession as they were uncertain of their role in society.
Linda Woodhead of Oxford University in her `Christianity: A Very Short Introduction’ observes: “Looking to the future, we are likely to see a continuing decline in support of Christianity in the West, so long as a majority continue to embrace the turn to subjective-life. For those who do not, particularly those value ‘traditional’ forms of community and family life, Christianity may continue to serve as a cultural alternative. In less affluent parts of the world, by contrast, Christianity is likely to enjoy continuing success – unless such countries begin to develop their own versions of turn to subjective- life.”