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The choice influential people must make

In any organization, leaders and other influential people must make a very important decision. That is to decide how honest they are going to be with their group. Will they tell the truth as they believe it to be? Will they admit they don’t know everything, research the subject, and honesty present their findings? Or will they choose option three, which is to twist the truth and lie to accomplish their goals?

In the case of religion, I’m referring to Christianity because that’s the only religion I know well enough to comment on. Clergy and Sunday School teachers must make that choice. Do they teach others what they know to be true based on solid evidence? Or do they just pass along what they were taught without determining whether it’s correct. If they’re caught being dishonest they could sabotage their entire organization. But that’s only if that organization demands honesty.

Honesty or Dishonesty

If teaching what they were taught without validating it gets Christian leaders closer to their goals of gaining converts and fringe benefits, that could be very tempting. Maybe they desparately want to control the lives of others (power), live a comfortable life (wealth), or be admired (fame). Because of those temptations it’s not unusual to see people chose the path of partial honesty or intentional dishonesty.

Many of those who chose a career in the clergy eventually realize that they aren’t being honest with themselves or their congregations. When priests and ministers realize that there is a lack of evidence for what they are teaching they increasingly are joining the Clergy Project. Once in that organization, they have access to others who feel the same way. They discover that they’re not the only ones caught up in a web of dishonesty. The Project can help them transition into other careers that better suit their talents.

My pastor’s revelation

One of my breakthroughs in understanding dishonesty in Christianity came during a talk I had with my pastor about thirty years ago. He was honest with me when he said that he didn’t believe the first five books of the Old Testament were historical. He saw them as myths woven together to provide a common identity for a group of people, in that case, the Jewish people. Those stories taught tribal origins and established a foundation for their culture. Since the overwhelming percentage of those people were illiterate, memorable stories were often the only way to teach lessons.

My pastor didn’t say what he thought about the rest of the Bible and I never asked. His admission that the “books of Moses” were myths was enough for me that day.

What he said confirmed what my skeptical mind had suspected all along, so I realized I could trust the skeptic in me. I wasn’t the only one who had legitimate doubts, but it’s hard to find other Christians who are willing to talk about their’s.

Why so much misinformation?

As I became more fascinated with how Christianity was being marketed to potential converts I began to see more deceit. It wasn’t just through my own experience, but throughout history. Don’t get me wrong. I think most clergy men and women probably truly believed what they taught. In the early days of Christianity it wasn’t unusual to believe that myths were real and that dreams predicted the future. But now, after all the knowledge that has become available in the last two centuries we know more about biblical times than the people that lived in them. They may have had a good knowledge of the customs, history, and geography of their particular region, but they couldn’t put it into the context of what was happening in the rest of the Roman Empire at the same time.

The basis for the religion

The very core of Christian belief begins with the god-man Jesus. In order for the theology to work, Jesus must have lived and he must have died. If he didn’t die, he wouldn’t have been able to return to life and demonstrate the power of his god.

Just so there is no doubt about my personal viewpoint, I do believe that the prototype for the biblical Jesus existed somewhere in Galilee around two thousand years ago. That’s my conclusion based on everything I’ve read and heard from both sides of the debate. My opinion is also based on the assumption that if anyone was influential enough to name a religion after, he must have existed.

But there are interesting books that present evidence to the contrary. One speculates that the Romans manipulated Jews into believing in the peaceful Jesus of the Gospels. The Romans may have done that to pacify the Jewish people who had recently revolted against them. In an effort to present both sides, this link addresses the idea that the authors of Creating Christ: How Roman Emperors Invented Christianity were way off base. You can decide.

From all available historical evidence–that outside the Bible itself–Jesus didn’t seem to be well known outside of Roman Palestine. No other historian wrote about him until the second century. That was except for one controversial comment by the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

As Christianity progressed, people came to believe that Jesus was not only real, but he was almighty God himself.

What can we really believe?

There are so many issues that Christians debate, it makes me wonder if any part of the Bible or Christian doctrines are accurate. I had to wonder about what Christian doctrines were being “adjusted” to appeal to certain targeted audiences. It was obvious that there was a tremendous amount of disagreement in a religion that has produced more than 33,000 denominations worldwide. None of them agree with each other on every doctrine and some even occasionally refer to others as heresies. To me, there can only be one truth, not 33,000 versions of it.

Back to my main point. Any religion or philosophy can be based on either honesty or dishonesty. Next I want to address a specific issue and how it was presented on the internet. That issue is how we know the Bible originated with God and not humans.

The post that was so full of propaganda that I couldn’t believe it. Even though I am not a trained historian or theologian, I felt compelled to counter the dishonesty that’s was being presented. Even if no one reads my next post, I’ll feel that writing it has been very therapeutic for me.

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