Thursday, 17 May 2012

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;
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


John incarnation


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


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