Friday, August 22, 2014

A Biblical Tempest...

This got me thinking (seldom a good idea):
Ancient Bible in Aramaic dialected Syriac rediscovered in Turkey
This discovery turns modern Christianity on its head! This bible, dating as far back as 2,000 years, details the Gospel of Barnabas, a disciple of Jesus Christ, which shows that Jesus wasn’t actually crucified and doesn’t claim him to be the son of God, but instead a prophet. The book charges that Apostle Paul was “The Impostor.” The story is completely different. In the Book of Barnabas, Jesus wasn’t crucified, but ascended to heaven alive, and Judas Iscariot was crucified instead.
What could ever be the actual, real, concrete consequences of such a debate? Even if PAUL was an "impostor? " So fucking what?

Since there are no contemporaneous records of EITHER "His" alleged birth or the the alleged death of any such person as "Jesus"--the rebellious, miracle-working, dead-raising, leprosy-curing, water-into-wine-changing, mystic carpenter, and his jolly band of devout catamites, in Roman Judea of that period, or any OTHER period--yer ol' perfesser regards the manner of "His" alleged demise is just as spurious a concern as the manner of "His" alleged birth.

This prompted a further thought, not consequential, but possibly explanatory: 
Christianity did not persist in the West and become the dominant cult for all those centuries because of the soundness of its doctrines, or the generosity of its institutions, or the wisdom of its saints.

It persisted because of its utility in keeping peasant hordes pacified (usually; though there were lapses) from the fall of the Roman empire until the beginning of the 19th Century, Common Era.

Marx famously observed that religion is the opiate of the masses. Christianity indeed is. Opiate's don't dull pain, they relieve mental anguish and anxiety ABOUT pain...Which was what the "pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die" rhetoric of the Church, and still all its scion cults proclaim (except the prosperity preachers). Be patient, endure, offer your suffering up for the souls in purgatory, and when YOU die, there's gonna be the Baby Jeebus waiting at those pearly gates.

This was an extraordinarily persuasive epistemology for 1500 years, in the west.
And the West was where they had perfected, and then linked together, metallurgy, gun-powder, and square-rigging, and set out to conquer the world. Christianity, as interpreted in Rome in the Middle Ages onward, provided the 'ethical' justification for the conquests which the emergent technologies permitted and eventually demanded.

Evangelizing the Word, while collecting slaves, booty and territory? Who could complain with that?

Just as, at the end of the 'Christian" era, and the beginning of the Industrial Age, Utilitarianism appeared--via Bentham and Mill, partly Jevons-- to rationalize and give 'spiritual' weight to--and a priori, to excuse, to shreve--the emergent demons of Capital.

Utulitarianism seeks the "greatest good for the greatest number."
Which really DOES "beg the question": What is "good?"
What counts as the "greatest number?"

In the 1970s, John Rawls, the Harvard philosopher, proposed a theory by which behavior would not be evaluated by the standard of the "greatest good," but that of the "least harm." A sort of social equivalent to the Hippocratic oath: First do no harm!; or the Precautionary Principle, in science. Both are analogous.

It is the same sort of argument which would urge that, if you can discern the lesser evil, and there is no OTHER way to assure the least harm, there would be an affirmative 'duty' to, e.g., vote for it.