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Beautiful post. Thanks, Michael.

I'm sitting here on a slightly funky Saturday morning, and after reading this post, the issue I was concerned about doesn't seem all that bothersome anymore.
Thanks Michael, I needed that! I'm sure I'm not the only one.

"jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father."

Statements like that me think that the story is a thinly concealed coded spiritual message. The Tibetan Book of the Dead specifically states that in the Bardo of becoming - before the deceased has been reborn in the next world - the deceased will be drawn toward grieving friends and relatives and that the grief can ground them and interfere with their spiritual rebirth. It's like Jesus knew exactly that and was cautioning Mary in that regard.

There are other spiritual parellels that most of us probably recognize in a story that, while beautiful, seems to have confused spiritual facts with concrete physical representations in its telling.


Great post.

I grew up Catholic and thus have gone from really believing in the story as fact to being ambivalent about it. I still think the Gospels have conveyed a lot of spiritual truth to a lot of people, including myself, but as for the facts on the ground... not sure. To me, it's the story of the Good Samaritan that still impresses and informs. I don't think a better explanation of morality/ethics will ever be devised. I think perfection was achieved.

One could just as easily argue that the Buddha must have been enlightened; otherwise his teachings had not spread so far and wide. Mohammad must have been the messenger of Allah for the same reason. For that matter, Joseph Smith must have been right too.

In the 21st century, it is hard to imagine so many people agreeing to believe the same thing with so much passion. It is hard to imagine creating a religion that could last 2,000 years. I do think a shift has occurred even in our own lifetimes. I remember going to church in the 1970s, and it all seemed literally true. Now, even my mom who used to make me go to church doesn't even go herself. People do not really seem to believe any more the way they do. Even evangelicals seem to believe *more* than they used to, as if by holding onto something with greater tenacity if not ferocity they will overcome the crisis of faith (though not of spirituality, in my perception) that is planetwide.

Great post, Michael. Thanks for filling this Jewish guy in on a story whose details are largely unfamiliar to me. I didn't know about mistaking Jesus for the gardener, for example, nor the exact sequence of events. And I certainly had no inkling of that tidbit about how women were not trusted as witnesses, and how that lends credibility to the events described.

But this might be a good time to come clean: the Bible leaves me cold. For someone who's as passionate about spiritually-oriented books as I am, it may seem odd, but I can't remember ever being moved or even slightly touched by anything whatsoever written in these volumes that are so precious to so many.

Not as a Hebrew school student reading the Old Testament in Hebrew, nor on the hundreds of occasions since then, like this one, that I've been exposed to text from the New or Old Testament.

On the other hand, I've seen a number of movies and documentaries about the first Christians and have enjoyed them immensely. Ben Hur, The Robe, and others.
It gives me great pleasure to imagine what it must have felt like to have been caught up in those events, to have known someone as beautiful as Jesus, and to have your life transformed through your relationship to him.

But it's never been the text itself that has drawn me in. For me, the words of the Bible are cold and dead.

Which is even more surprising, perhaps, given the fact that relatively late in life
I developed a passionate and transformative relationship with a different set of spiritual texts: the canon of Moody, Sabom, and Ring. (And later, many others).

So I do know what it's like to feel enormously grateful for the existence of certain metaphysical books, and to hold them, even, as precious. (Though not infallible, and certainly not sacred--not the books themselves.)

This morning at the farmer's market, my neighbor--who unlike me is chatty and friendly and knows the names of the vendors--said "Happy Easter" to a lady selling lettuce, then launched into a conversation about religion. The lettuce seller, it turned out, is Buddhist. I am, too, sort of. My neighbor is a former vehement Lutheran who is now vehemently non-religious. The thing is, as I commented to the neighbor, I basically ignore Easter.

Very interesting that after having that conversation I came home and found Michael's post at the top of my Google Reader. I was unexpectedly touched by the passage quoted--so much homely detail, like a movie script--and I found myself thinking how true the story is, and that it reflects my own experience. Yes, this from the person who ignores Easter.

How does the Easter story reflect my experience?

Well, I am someone who, since childhood, has occasionally experienced visits from spirits. This was something that just happened naturally, so I didn't think of it as a big deal. I didn't define the visits as "from spirits," but it was the case that I would suddenly feel a presence. This always entailed feeling suffused with love, and sometimes I would be given knowledge or a realization, and I just knew, as a child, that the things I found out that way were the truth. Sometimes I would try to get answers by mentally asking questions and waiting for the presences to answer, but it never worked that way. They seemed to show up only when I wasn't expecting it. These experience were a big deal in that they were wonderful, but I had no idea they were paranormal. And they didn't happen that often.

Then, as an adult, I've twice been visited by people I knew in this life after they died. In one instance, the visit happened in a very evidential way, which gave me the great gift of KNOWING there is no death. I have to pause here because there is no way to express this adequately. The experience changed my life. And this is where the Easter story comes in--because for me, knowing there is no death has made all the difference. Both the dead and the spirits that came to me in childhood communicated telepathically and via shared emotions. So having had the childhood experiences helped me to understand what had happened when the after-death communications occurred, and to believe my own experience.

Subsequently, meditation practice and such things as synchronicity, dreams and felt guidance have become things I rely on. I recognize them as the language used to reach me, and I'm increasingly aware of the constant presence of the unseen world in this one. How do I know? to echo Michael's recent post ("Hmm. Just what do I believe?"). Through experience. Reason played a part, and it was important. That was the evidentiary aspect. But experience was required.

In reading Michael's post, what struck me about the Easter story was how clearly it communicates the importance of breaking through our misconceptions about death. Jesus rising from the dead is like Manjushri slicing illusion with his sword.

But I see it that way because I've experienced it that way. As far as I can tell, breaking through misconceptions about death has to be done on an individual basis.

I can't resist in response to this post to recommend to anyone who wants to better understand the interactions and culture of the Romans, Jews and desert peoples during the life of Jesus to read The Sorry Tale by Patience Worth. Patience Worth provides minute details of the daily activities of these peoples as well as a poignant portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus and the penitent thief which may leave you in tears. I find it much better than the Bible in creating the feel of the daily life and times of Jesus. The original book is out of print but there are several recent reprints available at online bookstores.

Michael, I appreciate your perspective, but I'm also afraid much of your post simply does not make sense. At least not to a Christian. My comments to you and other commenters follow:

Michael said:

"Whether or not he was physically resurrected is, I think, somewhat irrelevant, since an apparition can seem convincingly physical and real, and can even be touched or embraced."

As described in the canonical Gospels, Jesus could not merely be touched but also could eat. The evangelists (not to mention the rest of the NT and other early Christian authors like Ignatius of Antioch) made it clear that Jesus experienced a physical resurrection. The vast majority of 1CE Jews believed in a mass physical resurrection that would occur at the end of time. Jesus turned this on its head by making the first resurrection the resurrection of one person, the Messiah. It makes no sense to affirm that Jesus taught, as the Gospels record (Matt 16:21), that he would experience the one kind of physical resurrection that 1CE Jews believed in (see the work of Biblical scholar NT Wright, especially his The Resurrection of the Son of God), but then actually experienced some quasi kind-of-in-some-ways-but-not-really-in-others deal.

"But these factual and historical issues are, in a sense, beside the point. As Aristotle put it, “Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.” What makes the Easter story great is not its factual accuracy, which can be endlessly disputed, but its enduring emotional resonance. Its truth is not literal, but allegorical; not a matter of objective facts but of subjective interpretation and meaning. 
Even if we were to assume that the story of the first Easter is entirely fictional, it would still remain one of the sweetest and most poetic stories ever told. In a few simple words, with a bare minimum of description and characterization, the basic tale still has the power to stir the imagination and to summon feelings of renewal and hope. And in the end, that's what the Easter season is about."

No. Easter is about Christians celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is like saying 2000 years from now that it doesn't really matter if the holocaust happened or not, because the recorded actions of it's heroes and villains teach us about evil and good, life and death. Any historical fact can be "endlessly disputed" if the skeptical are willing enough. What matters is who has the better evidence. I submit that Christianity has the better evidence. Someone may choose to disagree, but their counter arguments better be good ones.

It also only makes sense to the non-Christian to say, "It doesn't matter if the resurrection truly happened." See 1 Cor 15: 16-18. If it did not happen, Jesus was crazy. The first Christians were liars, and our faith is pitiful and stupid. There is no hope if the resurrection did not happen, at least for the Christian.

no one said:

"Statements like that me think that the story is a thinly concealed coded spiritual message. The Tibetan Book of the Dead specifically states that in the Bardo of becoming - before the deceased has been reborn in the next world - the deceased will be drawn toward grieving friends and relatives and that the grief can ground them and interfere with their spiritual rebirth. It's like Jesus knew exactly that and was cautioning Mary in that regard."

Your comparison is weak and far too vague to be of any use. All cultures deal with life, death and the afterlife. These common themes create overlap. There is nothing in your comment that makes it even remotely likely Jesus knew of traditions so far removed from his social-historical context.The NT and other analogous documents should be our context for understanding Jesus.

Matt said:

"One could just as easily argue that the Buddha must have been enlightened; otherwise his teachings had not spread so far and wide. Mohammad must have been the messenger of Allah for the same reason. For that matter, Joseph Smith must have been right too."

This isn't what Michael was saying. The Buddha's teachings were officially made standard in India by Ashoka some three-hundred years after their origin in him. But Buddhism did not fundamentally challenge the Hindu/Indian worldview like Jesus challenged both Israel's and Rome's. Muhammad lead armies to spread Islam and There have been scores of people who have abandoned Mormonism in the brief time it has been around. The point is, these three contexts couldn't have been more different than the one Christianity grew in. Michael is right when he says that the spread of early Christianity is a mystery that has caused historians and scholars of the ancient world to speculate for some time. Why did Christianity thrive when it's leader, who claimed to be the victorious Messiah, die in the most shameful and pathetic way? Why did early Christians risk association with heretics (to the Jews) and seditionists (to the Romans) so willingly? Especially when death was the penalty for both.

Again I submit, it is because Jesus lives. For those who are interested in scholarly resources from a Christian context see the works of Craig Keener, Craig Evans, NT Wright, and the resources at

Happy Easter!


Great post, thanks!

Amos Oliver Doyle,

Patience Worth is channeled writings, no?


I think your preaching is likely to fall on deaf ears here.

Thanks for commentng, Derek, and happy Easter to you!

For the record, I've read several of NT Wright's books, including his 800-page opus The Resurrection of the Son of God. But I'm afraid Wright's argument regarding a physical and not ghostly reappearance misses the point, at least for me. Wright seems to think that ghosts can be clearly distinguished from physical, embodied persons. My own reading on the subject leads me to believe this is not the case. Many ghosts reported by reliable witnesses, including a few people I know personally, are said to be as "real" and tangible as any living person, except that they are capable of what we might call transphysical behavior, like passing through walls. Actually they behave very much as the post-Resurrection Jesus was said to do. I don't know if there are reports of ghosts eating broiled fish, but in most other respects the Resurrection appearances would seem to be consistent with ghost phenomena.

If the tomb really was empty and the body had dematerialized, it would of course be different from any ordinary death, though perhaps not entirely inconsistent with reports of strange postmortem phenomena involving the bodies of holy figures in many traditions, including some of the saints. What I'm suggesting is that Jesus' experience may not have been unique, and that it may be more correct to view him as a very spiritually advanced person than as the one and only embodiment of God. Of course I realize this is contrary to the Christian view.

Regarding fact and legend, I'd speculate that 2000 years from now, perhaps it won't matter so much that the Holocaust was a real event, when what is remembered about it are semi-legendary stories of heroism or sacrifice. A rough parallel might be the revolt of Spartacus in Rome. Today we know few of the details, because the Romans largely expunged the event from their records. But the emotional meaning of the slave revolt remains potent enough to fuel a bestselling book, a major movie, and a critically acclaimed TV show, all of which are imaginative recreations of what might have happened or what we would like to believe.

My guess is that the postmortem appearances of Jesus were intended to show his followers that death had not defeated him and could not defeat them, and that the conventional view (at the time) of a resurrection that would be held in abeyance until the last trumpet was mistaken - that, on the contrary, the passage from earthly life to the afterlife is immediate and seamless. And that we should therefore concern ourselves less with earthly things and more with spiritual things. All of this message holds equally true even if there was no physical, bodily resurrection, and all of it is grounds for hope and optimism, which, to me, is what Easter signifies.

Enjoy the holiday!

Nice response, Michael!

Michael, what if Jesus had an NDE? Remember Dr. Rodonaia? He too resurrected after 3 days....
Happy easter,
Claudio from Italy

Claudio, anything's possible, but an NDE doesn't fit the reported behavior of the post-resurrection Jesus (appearing and vanishing at will, entering a locked room, etc.).

Michael (and other posters if they want to comment) how much of the bible do you think is true..Just wondering.

Bruce, another thing. Have you ever head of the "red face test"?

Quoting from the article:

There is an excellent self-assessment tool for ethical decisions. If a manager has some niggling doubts about a situation that, while she knows it's technically permissible, she's just not so sure it's morally right, she can use the Red Face Test. She simply takes a minute to picture herself explaining her decision in front of her staff, clients or constituents. If she believes she can do that without a red face, her decision is probably OK.

I am an MBA, and I first heard of the red face test in B-school in the context of marketing. It doesn't matter how many focus groups you do or what market research says, sometimes you just end up with a stupid idea for a product or promotion that you have to axe because it's just plain stupid. It prima facie violates common sense or common knowledge. It won't work--don't do it.

So here's the thing. You don't come to the conclusion that the Holocaust was a horrible, unspeakable, unacceptable thing as a result of cogitation and philosophical musing. Rather, that the Holocaust was a horrible, unspeakable, unacceptable thing is a first principle. That's where you start!

If you come up with a concept of God or a philosophy of how things work in which the Holocaust is considered an any way acceptable or beneficial, then you're doing it wrong! It's just that simple. FAIL. Start over.

And I'm a bit shocked by your case in particular, as most Jewish people I've met lost relatives in that horrible period and thus feel personally hurt by the Nazis and retain considerable animosity toward the perpetrators. I wouldn't counsel anyone to hold a grudge, and I don't think it's necessary to hate the Nazis. I pity them more than anything. But I sure as heck recognize them as consumed by evil and perpetrators of great evil.

Again, I try to stick as close to the phenomena as possible. Scotch tastes good. People see a being of light and experience life reviews in NDEs. People see ghosts. The Nazis were evil. You know, the basics. I try to stick to reality and not cogitate myself into a corner where I fail the red face test.

Crap, I posted that in the wrong thread! Sorry!

"Your comparison is weak and far too vague to be of any use. All cultures deal with life, death and the afterlife. These common themes create overlap. There is nothing in your comment that makes it even remotely likely Jesus knew of traditions so far removed from his social-historical context.The NT and other analogous documents should be our context for understanding Jesus."

Actually Derek, I wasn't saying that Jesus was aware of Buddhist tradition because he had been verbally exposed to it or had read some sacred text. Rather, I was saying that maybe there is overlap between what Jesus said and Buddhist tradition because the issue I mentioned is a spiritual fact.

Matt, >"I think your preaching is likely to fall on deaf ears here."< Not sure why you singled Derek out as "preaching" when he stated his opinion and you're mistaken that his post fell on deaf ears.
Derek, You said beautifully what I believe, too - thank you!
MP, Thank you for giving the most important and beloved holiday for Christians a platform on your blog. I appreciate and am pleasantly surprised by most of what you so eloquently said. Most. :) God Bless.

^^^PS Derek, Meant to add I'm a big fan of the tektonics site, too!

"In the 21st century, it is hard to imagine so many people agreeing to believe the same thing with so much passion."

Just a friendly point addressed to Matt Rouge.

I can never understand what people are getting at when they say...In the 21st this day and age..etc.

Surely, everyone that ever lived has said the same thing....and if everyone throughout history has said it..which they have of surely can't have any value. It's not as if we are at the summit of all knowledge and no further progress will be made, indeed I would say that we are probably not even at first base ! :-)

"how much of the bible do you think is true?"

Well, the Bible is a compendium of many books by many authors, in many different genres: mythology (Genesis), folklore (Samuel, Kings), poetry (Song of Solomon), prophesy (Isaiah et al.), history (Ezra, Nehemiah), even satire (Jonah), not to mention the world's oldest short story (Ruth). The purely historical sections, notably Ezra and Nehemiah, are surely true, and the words of the prophets have probably been recorded accurately. There is probably some historical truth underlying the folkloric accounts of Samuel, David, and Solomon, but it is akin to stories of King Arthur or Achilles. It's an open question whether the Exodus story has any basis in fact or was invented during the Babylonian Captivity to hearten the exiles; there are no extra-Biblical records of any such mass exodus from Egypt.

What's perhaps more important is that so many parts of the Bible assume the reality of paranormal phenomena that would be familiar today: trance mediumship (the prophets), materialization (angelic visitors), precognition, direct voice, automatic writing, psychic healing, even the "spirit lights" reported in some seances (Pentecost). It seems clear that such phenomena were sufficiently familiar to people of that age that they could be included in these stories without much explanation. Even if the particular stories are not true, they seem to imply a widespread acceptance of psi phenomena as part of everyday life.

"In the 21st century, it is hard to imagine so many people agreeing to believe the same thing with so much passion."

Well, it depends. In the Middle East there are plenty of passionate believers. In the West, organized religion has less influence than it used to, but perhaps people have merely switched to different (secular) beliefs that are held just as strongly. A lot of people believe passionately in certain political ideas or movements; look at the quasi-religious fervor that surrounded Obama during his 2008 candidacy, or the near-deification of Reagan by conservatives in recent years. Or consider global warming alarmism, which has many religious elements (apocalyptic prophesies, demands for spiritual rebirth to ward off disaster, appeals to cast off material comforts to serve a higher good, even the deification of the planet Earth as "Gaia"). Secular humanism in general has decided religious overtones, especially in its militant form. People like Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins are not (primarily) scientists stating facts, but preachers proselytizing for a faith.

I think people need to believe in something. If they don't believe in that old-time religion, they will believe in a politician or a party, a theory or a movement, or whatever floats their boat.

And remember that in the past, there was plenty of disagreement about religion, only it took the form of whose religion was better. Wars were fought over Biblical exegeses. So people have always believed and have always disagreed. Like ".", I'm not sure things have changed all that much. "There is no new thing under the sun ..."

Sorry, Michael,
Thanks for the reply but I was really getting at the...this is the 21 st century type of remark. Surely everbody that has ever lived has said that...this is the tenth century...this is the eleventh century...this is the twentieth century don't you you see. Not trying to be derogatory just trying to point out to Matt Rouge that it doesn't have any value as a statement.

All I really meant by my comments was that it's hard to imagine a world religion coming into being again.

I think Michael's response was pretty on-target. I agree that people need to believe in something. I just don't think we'll see the type of agreement we saw 2,000 years ago, unless, of course, it is based on objective fact (even that's difficult these days: e.g., evolution).

I don't normaly post comments here but I always enjoy reading the blog for the very interesting dialogue that arises, which you always contribute to very eloquently.

The point I was trying to make (forgive me for labouring it ) was...ONLY...about the often used statement...this is the twenty first century.

It's used by many along with...'in this day and age' if to claim (for the 21 st century) the summit of wisdom...but surely everyone in every century since year dot has said the same thing and therefore it doesn't have any value. We live in the moment of..'now'...

@ Bruce (kind of) I understand that the original New Testament was written in a form of Greek (Koine) and that a lot of what was translated later into Latin, lost much of it's poetic feel. For example, the Greeks had many different words for love, as I understand it, brotherly love, love between a husband and a wife etc, which when they translated the bible into Latin, the word "love" was used in all cases, regardless of the originally intended meaning.

I'm no scholar on the subject, but I remember reading about this somewhere, and I was thinking about Bruce's post about not being moved by the words of the bible because they were "cold". Of course, Bruce studied the Torah in Hebrew which was the original language in which it was written.

But I can see how you could be left with the feeling that it isn't all that moving. Like when you read a book that has been translated from another language and something seems slightly "off" about it until you realize, it is a translation. (This happened to me with Smilla's sense of snow, which I didn't realize had been a translation and I never got all that into because of the way it was written)

The other thing that bothers me about the Bible is all the faulty translations that have occurred to give us what we have now in English. Here is a good article on some of this.

I was born again for a time, and had a paraphrased version of the bible. It actually changed "Jesus wept" to "Tears came from Jesus' eyes". When you can change things that are that small and easily understood without translation, how much damage can they do to the original stuff?

Period (.),

I hear you on that. I meant, however, literally that, with the way things are in the 21st century. Not that we are the summit of wisdom or we've attained some new plateau of knowledge. But just that I think our era, around the world, is characterized by a sloughing off of traditional dogmatic religion, and I think in other dimensions as well we have less consensus on beliefs, and even where there was an explicit lack of consensus in the past (e.g., Democrat vs. Republican) we have rabid acrimony now.

Of course, in the past, we had people blowing each other up more than we do now: the Civil War, the World Wars, and so on. I think there is actually less real blood lust and that kind of conflict now. I think, perhaps because of the Age of Aquarius, we have a new style of thought coming into being.

This may provide a laugh - atheists' book of bible stories

One different between toddy's world and ancient times is the sheer amount of information that its available to so many people. Perhaps this massive supply of info helps prevent people from blithely assuming that their particular worldview is the only possible one. As our society becomes global, we're exposed to more and more perspectives, which makes it a lot harder to maintain a narrow parochial viewpoint.

Toddy's world? Damn you, automatic spelling corrector thing!

Should be today's world, natch.

Logging in with Facebook...

Michael, I think your observation about information is exactly correct? Could there be other cyclical/spiritual forces at work? I suspect there are.

It's interesting to speculate about. There does seem to have been a big shift around A.D. 1, when we went from a mostly pagan world and entered the era of world religions and eventually world political movements. Could we be entering a new era once again? Again, it's fun to speculate...

And that first sentence should not have a question mark at the end!

You have to put the rise of Christianity into the historical context.

To understand the rise of Christianity, you need to understand the Roman Empire.

Under Augustus and his successors, the empire's influence grew ever greater and the universal identity of the empire undermined the old local cults and essentially the old, localized way of viewing the world for many people.

With the rise of a universal empire, people started looking for religious ideas that reflected this more universal attitude. In answer to this, a whole flood of near eastern religions flooded into Rome and the rest of the empire, Christianity being just one - there was also the cult of Isis, and Mithras, Jupiter Dolichanos, and a host of other cults - many of the universal eastern cults were of the 'dying and rising' variety common in the near east, where the god would typically die and then be reborn, usually in conjunction with the spring lunar cycle.

Christianity has to be seen in the context of other mystery cults which were also in the rise in this time. Contrary to Derek's assertion that the rise of Christianity is a mystery, actually it is perfectly explicable when you look at the wider context of the period.

Christianity jostled for supremacy with a variety of near eastern religions and for a while, there was serious competition, with Christianity, Isisaism, and Mithraism in the top three.

Like Christianity, Isis was a cult favoured by the poor, and offered salvation to all, so it was popular, but Christianity had the upper hand due to its open door policy that outmatched its rivals.

Then in the later empire, political contexts must be taken into account. After 50 years of political and economic crisis in the mid third century, the later emperors, starting with Aurelian and then Diocletian, were looking for ways to unify the empire, and a new imperial religion was one way of helping to achieve this. Diocletian tried this by reinventing and reinforcing the traditional Roman religion (leading to Christian persecutions), but this failed - his successor, Constantine, continued with the idea but decided on Christianity as the religion of choice and from that point Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire - the rest as they say is history.

I don't like saying this but most people are dumb and need something to adhere to.

In the old days we had Christianity. We formed giant churches and got together to pray.

Now we have atheism. Atheists come together with other people to profess their non-belief in god. This was seen in the reason rally with Richard Dawkins.

Of course we are currently in the political era. Democracy is the king and everything not-democratic is evil. As seen with vietnam, iraq, afghanistan, libya, the middle east, etc. By stating that we are fighting for democracy, the term "democracy" somehow magically gives us the right to go and bomb other countries. Like how we wanted to save vietnam from we bombed their country to pieces, killed millions, and caused unknown war crimes on the population.

War is war. It's in our genes and shall forever be within us. You get rid of religion, we'll have a political war. You get rid of politics, we'll have a resource war. You get rid of resources, and we'll have a belief war. The only way for us to stop is for a giant meteor to come and crush earth into a fine powder

"The only way for us to stop is for a giant meteor to come and crush earth into a fine powder."

That is why I have endorsed the Sweet Meteor of Death as my presidential candidate:

I just got back from Vietnam. It was fascinating, and very, very poor. They are communists, but from what our guide said, many of the people themselves are not communist and not forced to be. They are one of the least oppressed communist countries, apparently.

They did show us a nice 1970 propaganda movie in which the "American devils came in like wild animals and killed our children with their death machines."

In all, the people were friendly, but you couldn't turn around without someone begging you to buy something, which is typical in third world countries.

@J9, remember why the vietnam war came to be.

Vietnam was originally a french colony in which the french pillage and raped whatever they pleased.

After WW1, Ho Chi Minh approached President Woodson and request freedom from the French. President Woodson denied such request.

During WW2, Ho Chi Minh led a group of gorilla fighters to fight the japanese. He was successful and seen as a great hero.

After WW2, Ho Chi Minh starting waging war with the French. Since the US and all western countries denied their call for help. Thus Ho Chi Minh asked the communist chinese for help. China, seeing this as an opportunity, shipped weapons and money to the gorilla.

The US got involved because 1) the french decided to leave and 2) because of the great evil "communism."

Thus began the Vietnam war. Originally a war to be freed from the French and later a civil war which led to million of dead Vietnamese. But hey it was for democracy so millions of dead vietnamese is acceptable.

Of course don't remember that upon becoming communist, the western allies blockade vietnam and prevented any and all trades with the country (like we do with cuba). It wasn't until recently that Vietnam was able to start trading internationally again.

@passenger, unfortunately, I cut an entire semester of Vietnam War History in high school, so I didn't learn much about it until we decided to make it part of our vacation. The history is fascinating. But as a lot of the Aussie's there pointed out, "All we Westernized countries have our skeletons in the closet when it comes to wars that never should have been fought."

They are very poor though. I lived in Mexico for a time, and this was way way way worse.

Thanks for the History lesson! I really enjoyed it!!

No problem J9, I'm just posting this because I find it absurd that people would think "if we get rid of reigion, crime and murder would magically disappear." This is the view taken on by many atheists including richard dawkins.

I find it strange that Richard Dawkins would make fun of people for believing in "imaginary things" but still adhere to the belief that people are naturally good and religion corrupts them. In my opinion, Richard Dawkins is extremely naive.

Hi Passenger,

I agree, in fact, the old 'religion started most wars' line is actually a myth, something you would think skeptics should be aware of.

In fact most wars have NOT been about religion. The Crusades, which is usually trotted out, is actually unusual for having an overtly religious basis.

Apart from that, the only wars are commonly said to be 'religious' come after the protestant reformation, but then protestantism was actually a method for various peoples to free themselves from tyrancial rulers, so actually the supposed 'religious' element actually was political in nature.

The Thirty Years War in Europe, perhaps the greatest 'religious war' we can think of, only kicked off that way, actually it was a dynastic struggle for power in Europe between Hapsburgs and Bourbons, both of which were catholic! Cathoic France sometimes aided protestant rebels against the catholic Habsburgs of the Holy Roman Empire!

Also William of Orange, the ultimate protestant hero, was partially funded by the Pope! This is because the Pope recognised that Catholic France was becoming too powerful and didnt want England to turn into a French satellite.

The major wars of the 20th century, which killed more people than all the wars in the rest of history, were nothing to do with religion, but plenty to do with political ideology.

Remember that the first suicide bombers were not islamists - they were athiestic communists freedom fighters - I'm not saying athiesm breeds violence, I'm just saying that religion played no part in these events but the death toll was higher than ever. We can see that political ideology is every bit as potent, or perhaps even more potent than any religious ideology in today's world.

Unfortunately, if there were no war or other ways we destroy ourselves or get destroyed, the world would soon over populate. World peace would destroy us, just as much as war does, unless we put measures in place to "control the surplus population"

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