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For any goofy new age belief, there is at least one goofy Bible story as you have demonstrated. This stuff gives atheists plenty of material to work with. From what I've seen, there is no religion without such content. For instance, what is the purpose of a future resurrection if souls just go to heaven when they die? Why would you want to go back to earth? I don't think Christians think about this stuff much at all, for good reason. Personally, I think reincarnation makes logical sense, but what do I know?

The evidence we have for reincarnation may be quite real but the way we interpret it may be quite wrong. Something else entirely may be going on. It may have a whole lot more to do with the connectedness and oneness of the Universe and the fact that our minds work like radios or receivers and transmitters of information rather than our souls being forced to return to Earth as some kind of punishment for past sins.

Children may simply tune into the memories of other lives simply because they haven't developed their own sense of self. Once they are 7 or 8 years old they often times lose those memories and start to develop their own sense of self and become their own separate unique individuals.

And as far as those physical signs of reincarnation? They may simply be "thoughts are things and consciousness creates reality." If everything we see around us is made of consciousness our minds may be creating our reality as we simply live our lives.

I agree with your points, French doesn't know a thing about psi research and mixes up many things.
I grew up catholic but I was never satisfied by the answers provided, despite many interesting aspects I found some parts really lacking. Eventually I did find the answers by studying for myself and abandoning what I believe are some theological errors. Now I find Christianity fully satisfactory but also I don't feel belonging to any specific official church. I learned to have understanding for people that turn away from it because old errors have gravely damaged its image and effects. Very hard to undo them.

I have some doubts about the claim that non-religious people have tendencies toward strange beliefs, although that's just based on personal experience. Plenty of people believe in UFOs AND God, amongst other things. Perhaps a number of religious people (Christians or otherwise) would be less inclined to believe in subjects that fall under the New Age banner, but that's just because their faith specifically excludes those things, not because they themselves are more "rational". There may be no evidence for elves or trolls, but nor is there for demons or angels. I actually found his comment about "post-Christian Europeans" really funny, since belief in elves comes largely from the Medieval period, if possibly originating earlier.

Incidentally, since I mentioned "The Day the Earth Stood Still" as an example of benevolent aliens coming down from the sky to save us (a variation on the Second Coming), it might be interesting to note that the original movie clearly makes many allusions to the Christ story.

Klaatu swipes a uniform belonging to a Major Carpenter, he performs a miracle (the temporary cessation of all motive power on Earth), he is hunted and killed by government authorities who see him as a threat, he is laid to rest inside a sealed structure (spaceship = tomb), he is resurrected, and he delivers a sermon to the multitude before ascending to heaven. There are probably other parallels.

"Perhaps a number of religious people (Christians or otherwise) would be less inclined to believe in subjects that fall under the New Age banner, but that's just because their faith specifically excludes those things."

That's a very good point. In fact, it relates directly to one of French's examples of irrationalism, namely the belief in witchcraft. Many Christians actually do believe in witchcraft; they just don't practice it because they regard it as demonic. Unlike the New Agers cited by French, churchgoers might never venture into a witchcraft store or try to cast spells, but only because they fear unleashing dark supernatural forces.

Similarly, they may believe that children do apparently remember past lives or that mediums communicate with supernatural entities, but they chalk it up to Satanic deception. They accept NDEs if they are "Biblical," but reject them if they aren't.

One thing about organized religion that strikes me is that it generally tends to require a lot more work or inaction than New Age. I don't have anything against New Age beliefs (many of which I think actually are derived from religion), but there's not much work or inconvenience involved, is there? As a Catholic, I'm required to go to Mass every Sunday and on every Holy Obligation Day, go to confession once a week, fast before communion, tithe, give to the poor, do works of charity, and pray daily. From what I know of other religions, there's also lots of work and dedication involved: services, praying, fasting, and charity. Muslims are required to go to Mecca, Jews can't work on Saturdays, Buddhists take vows of silence, etc.

Of course, not all religious people fulfill these requirements, but the requirements are still there.

Maybe today a lot of people just don't want to bothered with all of that.

Michael, and where in this paradigm shift does salvation fit in? Where stands forgiveness?

\\"Perhaps a number of religious people (Christians or otherwise) would be less inclined to believe in subjects that fall under the New Age banner..."//
--------------

My wife and I are members of and attend a Church of Christ which is a fundamentalist christian church. My wife was raised in the Church of Christ and I was raised Lutheran. I like to sing and we sing a lot a songs. What is interesting to me is how much New Age Spiritualism has crept into the Church, especially in the songs. We sing about the Summerland and the Light etc.

"Oh happy summerland of bliss. Lies the summerland of bliss...."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy7Itq8krbw

Kathleen said:

"One thing about organized religion that strikes me is that it generally tends to require a lot more work . . . than New Age."

Is "more work" necessarily a good thing?

"As a Catholic, I'm required to go to Mass every Sunday and on every Holy Obligation Day, go to confession once a week, fast before communion, tithe, give to the poor, do works of charity, and pray daily."

Maybe acts like these are meaningful if we perform them joyfully and from the heart. But if we do them because we *have* to, are we acting spiritually? Or are we merely doing our chores?

I notice that when speaking of their life reviews, NDErs never report looking back fondly on successfully meeting the requirements of their church or synagogue. They revel instead in reliving small acts of kindness carried out spontaneously, in the moment, out of love.

"Where in this paradigm shift does salvation fit in? Where stands forgiveness?"

I think those are essentially Christian concepts. Not all religions include them.

To the extent that these concepts are valid, I think the life review reported by some NDErs offers a lead to an answer. We must experience both the pain and the comfort that we've brought to others, internalize it, and recognize where we've gone astray. This seems to involve communion with the higher self, though some people prefer to think of it as communion with God. (I'm not saying the higher self is God, only that it can be mistaken for God in an NDE.)

I find this more meaningful than being forgiven by a priest after making confession (who is the priest to offer forgiveness?) or attaining salvation by reciting a creed or participating in a ritual. However, these approaches cleariy are meaningful for some people.

The gnostics may have been on to something when they held that ritual and dogma were fine for those who needed them, but unnecessary for those who had greater understanding (gnosis). Admittedly, there's a danger of succumbing to arrogance when taking that position (gnosis can morph into hubris), and the gnostics were definitely not immune from that danger.

Finally, I agree with what was said about churchgoers having more social connections and, often, a greater sense of obligation to the community. This is an area where traditional religion has an advantage over "spirituality." There are pluses and minuses to having an established institutional structure.

Bruce, I think I used the wrong word when I said religion requires "work" - I think "discipline" is more apt. It's easy to tell one self that one "wants to be a good person," and then forget about it. The positive thing about many organized religions is that they require certain, concrete things of the person to this end. It's a reminder to keep doing those good things. (Not that everyone listens of course.)

BTW, relating to Michael's previous post, according to the Hindu religion, humanity is now supposedly in the Kali cycle - a cycle characterized by selfishness, violence, lust for power and money, and generally BAD - which might explain a lot of things today. We have to wait until the year 2025 for the Kali cycle to end and things to improve.

I lean toward reincarnation but I don't know. However, one thing I find odd. If I say that I had a dream and a deceased friend in the dream told me that I would find my long lost wallet under the bed then why would I need to find other explanations ? I have the wallet and I had the conversation. But, instead I said "Well it's just a universal connection that everyone has." In other words I don't like the explanation that the dead can still communicate so I pull something else out of my butt. No offense but that seems to be how some people treat reincarnation. If you can't accept the evidence of children recalling past lives then simply deny it and pull something out of your own butt. Oh, it's not reincarnation (which is the most straight forward answer) It's the universal connectivity of the human race and they are just picking up signals. Really? Kind of like Super PSI. It sounds very "logical" to some but really often makes less sense and is more unlikely than the most simply and straight forward answer.

Kathleen writes: "The positive thing about many organized religions is that they require certain, concrete things of the person to this end. It's a reminder to keep doing those good things. (Not that everyone listens of course.)"

In his book, 'The People of the Lie', M. Scott Peck explains how and why the Church is often used as a cloak of respectability for evildoers. All of which puts me in mind of the old adage, 'The nearer the church, the further from God.'

"Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
Now there's a fish story.

Julie, I've read "The People of the Lie," and quite agree. Sociopaths will often use piousness as a cover (the BDK killer, for instance, was a deacon at his church). I still think organized religion can be helpful for many people though.

He's me orating about a lot of beliefs. Sometimes I think that religion started as a given, planted in people's minds to help them. Other days I see it as a means of control, as religion ruled in those days- culturally, as well as infiltrated government. Natural disasters etc., were seen as omens, as they didn't know any better. Just some influential people's words put to paper to become organised religion.

We often revere what occurred in the past, old habits die hard. If someone today said I had images or the word of god spoken and will form a religion, it doesn't have the same world emphasis- or though a few have managed. It's like the Paleo's, I'm damn sure Neanderthal's didn't go out and kill a dinosaur for brekky, for the most part science says we lived on sedges, or grasses. I'm sure if they had more resources and knowledge back then they would have lived another way. It wasn't the best of times. Lyn x.

"I still think organized religion can be helpful for many people though." - Kathleen

Yes, so do I. For those who need a sense of belonging and a source of social support I think the church is a godsend (pun intended).

Lynn: I agree with everything you wrote in your last post (the one below Kathleen's) and I think you put things very well.

Lynn:
"I'm damn sure Neanderthal's didn't go out and kill a dinosaur for brekky"

Lynn, you are on safe ground with that observation. I'm pretty sure that 'Fred Flintstone' and 'Dino' never existed in the same dimension.

Kathleen,
"I've read "The People of the Lie," and quite agree. Sociopaths will often use piousness as a cover (the BDK killer, for instance, was a deacon at his church)."

Kathleen, I doubt that sociopaths often use piousness as a 'cover.' Like anyone else, they occupy all walks of life. Mechanics and Dentists come to mind as likely candidates.
Apart from the 'BDK killer' who else can you recall? Not all sociopaths are killers. Likewise psychopaths.

"Sometimes I think that religion started as a given, planted in people's minds to help them. Other days I see it as a means of control, as religion ruled in those days- culturally, as well as infiltrated government. Natural disasters etc., were seen as omens, as they didn't know any better. Just some influential people's words put to paper to become organised religion."

Lynn, the most incredible fact about religion, is that its true! All of it!
The most amazing truth in the universe is that, God is real!

||"Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”||

Roger Knights: "Now there's a fish story."

Roger, nothing fishy about it. Its a true story.

Roger, nothing fishy about it. Its a true story.
Are you certain?

Roger: "Are you certain?"

Is my name Stuart?

Stuart I have my beliefs about god. But whether any writings are the whole truth we don't really know. Or added to by a person or person's vivid imagination. Lyn .

There's various testaments Stuart, even Muslim tenements have a basis in Christians beliefs, various tribes forming different ideologies based on each ones concepts of religion. Human figments formed from their imagination. Lyn.

Nice post! I have been late to the commenting party on this and the previous, as I have been doing a new 8-5 (oh the horror!) and have been most fatigued. So, some comments on this:

French sounds like an idiot. At least on this topic. "Conservative writer" is perhaps all one needs to know. No, not because Conservative writers are wrong in all dimensions, but, when it comes to social changes, there is just such a *longing* for how things supposedly used to be: when everyone was a good Christian sitting in the pew with a nice orderly family, etc. etc. It's all just an image.

I will say this with confidence: the Christianity he describes and is advancing is not the real religion of Jesus or anything that may reasonably be imputed to him but instead the well-scrubbed churchgoing of the 1950s: utterly orthodox (religiously and socially), safe, and templated. It's a very thin gruel of myth completely lacking in wonder and potential for change. Why can't people just be NICE like that any more? is what he's thinking. Well, it's a better religion than the genuinely hateful, othering fundie-ism of 2017.

That 1950s Christianity wasn't really all that different from atheism; it doesn't really *believe* in its own myth. Let me give you an example. My mother was raised in some sort of Protestantism but converted to Catholicism when she married my father (and now she doesn't go to church at all, having rejected the Church because of its sex scandals, one of which happened at her own church. Can't say she's wrong on that.). But I talked to her about ghosts one time, told her about some phenomena I had experienced, and she just treated me as though I was crazy. She just *knew* what I was saying was *known* to be wrong. Not because the concept of ghosts violated the tenets of her religion per se, but because believers from her generation don't believe in the stories of their own religion. Miracles, whatever. Not really. The myth is perhaps a comforting holding pattern, but one is not to extrapolate therefrom into the "real world."

One thing you wrote, Michael:

||While the current spirituality movement undeniably lacks the intellectual heft of Christianity, with its legacy of world-class thinkers like St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, it is still in its early days.||

As syncretists, we keep whatever is true from the past from any religion or philosophy or any other source. We are not trying to create a religion or a brand, and thus we do not have to get our tenterhooks into anything or anyone from the past and convincingly call it our own. We are simply trying to know what's true. Thus, Augustine and Aquinas, both of whom I've studied, are just as much ours as anyone's.

Andrew L, great comment.

Stuart Certain, are you doing some fundie witnessing here? What's your agenda?

It ain't necessarily so.

Not sure if Stuart was serious or joking about the fish story being true. The reason I picked that one is that it's one of the less familiar Jesus stories and one of the more obviously fairy-tale-like. This doesn't mean that other stories are necessarily any more plausible, but familiarity has given them a certain veneer of authenticity or gravitas. If you think about it, turning water into wine at a wedding is just as silly and trivial as the fish story, but because it's far better known, people are more likely to treat it respectfully.

The fish story can be seen most clearly for what it is if the Bible-specific details are omitted. Like this: One day a poor fisherman came to the wisest man in his village and said he needed money to pay a heavy tax. The wise man told him to cast his line in the water, and the first fish he caught would solve his problem. The fisherman did as he was told and drew out a large fish. When he opened its mouth, he found a shiny gold coin inside, and with it he paid the tax!

Told this way, the story fits seamlessly into the genre of Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, and Aesop.

Michael,

That's a great point about the Jesus myth!

To elaborate on my point via yours, you say,

||familiarity has given them a certain veneer of authenticity or gravitas.||

Right. And that familiarity makes possible a kind of nominal belief without extrapolation. Moses and Jesus did this and that, miracles *did* happen, but they're not really a part of the "real" world--just go to church and be a good little person.

That's why French can decry superstition while longing for the old days. On one level, he knows that that style of Christianity isn't about anything paranormal, supernatural, etc.

More and more I've come to think that belief can take on many different forms and levels--but we don't talk about these. If someone says s/he believes something, we simply acknowledge that s/he does. But we don't know how belief "works": what is actually changing in the brain/mind when someone *really* believes something? Like so many things relating to the mind and consciousness, we end up having to go by the words and behavior of others and our own introspection.

Michael Prescott:
"Not sure if Stuart was serious or joking about the fish story being true."

Well, Michael, I do like a joke sometimes, although I always keep to what I believe is the truth.
Let's take this fish story and examine it a bit more closely:
I think one should keep in mind the fact that scribes were not following Jesus around with quill and parchment, eager to get everything recorded. Noteworthy stories of the time would have been verbally remembered and retold. Knowing how meanings can become added to and twisted over time, metaphors would have been used by his followers. This makes things easier to remember and the meaning less likely to be altered.
In that light, the story takes on a different colour. This is one of the mysteries of the Bible. Let us consider then: Peter is a disciple of Jesus. Jesus has taught his disciples to be 'fishers' of men. In answer to his question, Jesus tells Peter to go to the lake. This would have been a place chosen by Jesus to which they were familiar, not for fishing, but as a place where his message would have been spread. He tells Peter to cast his line. In this he is telling Peter to go and preach. In preaching, it would be understood that salvation would be offered to those who believed. The waters of the lake, may well have been used for baptismal purposes. Those attending and asking for salvation, would be given baptism and, probably, some wine to drink. Upon rising from baptismal immersion, it is natural to take in a deep lungful of air. Almost, to gasp, in fact. Therefore; the act of immersion would have been seen as; opening a believers mouth.
A contribution of four drachma, would be asked for.
So, as I said, there is nothing 'fishy' about this story. It is a sequence of metaphors, to relate a tale and keep its meaning.

Roger Knights:
"It ain't necessarily so."

Roger,...oh, but it is. It's a 'real' psychic name.

Matt Rouge:
"Stuart Certain, are you doing some fundie witnessing here? What's your agenda?"

No agenda, Matt. I view religion as supernatural, both in its concept and execution.

Matt said:

"As syncretists, we keep whatever is true from the past from any religion or philosophy or any other source. We are not trying to create a religion or a brand, and thus we do not have to get our tenterhooks into anything or anyone from the past and convincingly call it our own. We are simply trying to know what's true. Thus, Augustine and Aquinas, both of whom I've studied, are just as much ours as anyone's."

I like this! It certainly describes how I feel about my own beliefs. When I look at the lot of them and how they fit together, I'm reluctant to attach a label of any sort.

As you say: no religion or brand, please. Just the facts.

To be frank, this is why I sometimes even object to your being so apparently comfortable with the designation "New Age." It just doesn't work for me.

Interesting exegesis, Stuart. I suppose any sort of fable can be made to mean something deep and profound if you work at it hard enough.

Certainly the "water into wine" story has been worked over by generations of theologians to represent the coming kingdom of heaven, which will be like a joyous wedding party in which the wine (thanks to Jesus' miraculous intervention in human affairs) can never run out.

I doubt that the original stories carried this heavy load of meaning, however. They were simple stories told by and for simple people. Leaving aside the complicated theological ruminations of St. Paul (which may or may not make much logical sense), there doesn't seem to have been a lot of intellectual sophistication in the earliest decades of the Christian movement. The Gospel of Mark, for instance, is well known to have been written by someone with a shaky grasp of colloquial Greek, a person who was probably only semi-educated.

Later, more erudite thinkers came along and gave the movement an intellectual facelift, reading new meanings into familiar stories.

It reminds me of a scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian in which some people are having trouble hearing the Sermon on the Mount.

"What did he say?"

"I think it was 'Blessed are the cheesemakers.'”

"What’s so special about the cheesemakers?"

"Well, obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products."

Michael said:

"One day a poor fisherman came to the wisest man in his village and said he needed money to pay a heavy tax. The wise man told him to cast his line in the water, and the first fish he caught would solve his problem . . . Told this way, the story fits seamlessly into the genre of Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, and Aesop."

Interesting, Michael! Do you have much familiarity with fairy tales in general? I ask because for the past several months I've been reading the collections compiled by Andrew Lang, and enjoying them on many levels.

It's remarkable that some of these stories are, as he says, among man's oldest possessions—some dating back 5,000 years.

Michael, (cheesy joke's aside) the fish story is not a lampoon.
It conveys a message on how to deal with issues that affected people of the time. And still does. Namely; paying taxes. Agreed, the message is a simple one, yet; applies not only to simple minded people but to anyone who has difficulty with the concept of paying tax. The amount of concern over this issue is evident in the fact that Jesus gave further direction, elsewhere.
I'm speaking here of 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's.' This is a concept that even clever people people have trouble with. And, it forms some part of the reasoning behind the phrase; 'A rich man will find it easier to pass through the eye of a needle, than to enter the kingdom of Heaven.'
There is nothing deep and profound about the message. I do not think that the message; 'Dont worry, pay your taxes and God will provide' is a fable. It's a matter of faith.

Thanks, Bruce! You wrote,

||To be frank, this is why I sometimes even object to your being so apparently comfortable with the designation "New Age." It just doesn't work for me.||

It works for me because a lot of the core beliefs that those so self-labeled tend to believe in I believe in as well, but then the movement (or whatever it is) isn't dogmatic, so one is compelled to believe in nothing in particular. There is no catechism.

It's just a convenient shortcut to explain how I think in general.

Of course, I misquoted; for I should have said: 'It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.'

Apologies, but you get the drift?

Stuart, I think I get the drift, but I have less faith (so to speak) in the historical provenance of these tales.

I'm not even convinced Jesus really said, "Render unto Caesar..." I find it doubtful that any messianic candidate could have made such a statement in Judea during the Roman occupation.

Right now I'm reading S.G.F. Brandon's "Jesus and the Zealots," which puts the extremely volatile political situation in high relief. Paying tribute to Caesar was a hot-button issue, and I'm skeptical that Jesus could have endorsed such payments without immediately losing all popular support. It seems unlikely in the extreme that anyone hailed as the messiah (whose appointed role was to liberate Israel from the pagans and restore the theocratic kingdom) could possibly tell the people it was okay to pay the high taxes imposed by the Romans. I think it's far more probable that the story was a later invention intended to whitewash Jesus' anti-Roman message in a way that would increase the religion's appeal to gentiles and combat Roman persecution.

In any case, the tax in the fish story is a Temple tax (imposed by the Jewish priesthood), not a secular tax imposed by the Romans, so it's a different issue.

Bruce, I've read my share of fairy tales, though I haven't made a study of it. The Grimm tales really are grim! I don't like them. For a real shock, read "The Wizard of Oz" - an astonishingly violent book. I always include that one in lists of movies that were better than the books, along with Jaws, The Godfather, and Double Indemnity, to name just a few.

Jesus's message was that it's not about this life it's about the next. He was telling his followers that what happens here isn't all that important. When he was talking to Pilate he asked Jesus if he were the King of Jews. Jesus answered him "My Kingdom is not of this world." He kept saying that over and over again and they just didn't understand.

All those parables he told he was trying to tell them what the Kingdom of Heaven was going to be like. When he said not to worry about food or clothes he was saying that what happens to us here isn't all that important.

In fact what Jesus wanted was for his followers to experience here the oneness and connectedness that he had felt when he was in Heaven - here on Earth. The Church was supposed to be like a little piece of heaven here on Earth. Or like a little bubble of heaven had broken off and floated down to Earth. That is what he prayed in the garden about right before he was caught by the Jews. "Father I pray that they may be one as we are one, me in you and you in me."

At it's very heart heart Christianity is a Near Death Experience religion and the New Testament is a highly embellished and out of sequence Near Death Experience religion and Jesus was a highly articulate and intelligent little Jewish Rabbi that had a very deep and profound near death experience while he was up on that cross. His story got told and retold and written and rewritten and told out of sequence and become embellished with tales from other religions that were common during the first century but at it's very heart, which is obvious to me, is an obvious near death experience story.

"The things that you're liable to read in the Bible —they ain't necessarily so." —Porgy and Bess
Not literally, that's for sure.

Michael:
"I'm not even convinced Jesus really said, "Render unto Caesar..." I find it doubtful that any messianic candidate could have made such a statement in Judea during the Roman occupation."

And why not? The entire message of Jesus, in those times, was controvertial to many. That was the point. He represented a challenge to the system of things at that time.

"I'm skeptical that Jesus could have endorsed such payments without immediately losing all popular support."

"In any case, the tax in the fish story is a Temple tax (imposed by the Jewish priesthood), not a secular tax imposed by the Romans, so it's a different issue."

Firstly; Jesus was not looking for 'popular support.' He brought a message to the people that required belief and faith. It was never about popularism.
Secondly; the fish story is not a seperate issue. It enhances the issue. It leads by example. The Temple tax was an extra burden, over and above the secular tax. That would have been understood by many, if not all.
The fish story shows oneness with the people and how to deal with it.

Art:
"He was telling his followers that what happens here isn't all that important."

That cannot be so. His was an important message and it concerned life in the here and now, as well as the next dimension.

"When he was talking to Pilate he asked Jesus if he were the King of Jews. Jesus answered him "My Kingdom is not of this world." He kept saying that over and over again and they just didn't understand."

Art, which version of the bible are you referring to? As far as I'm aware, the only response Jesus gave to Pilate was; "Thou sayest it." Meaning, I think; "You yourself have said so."

"Jesus was not looking for 'popular support.'." He may not have been looking for it, but he is said to have found it, according to NT claims that large crowds followed him, he was greeted with Hosannas when entering Jerusalem, etc. He would have been unlikely to win such support if he had endorsed the Roman occupation or even called it unimportant. It was *the* big issue of the day for the Jewish people. Hosannas were traditionally offered to the newly anointed king; the likelihood is that Jesus had declared himself King of the Jews (the specific crime for which he was executed, we are told). The king was universally understood to be God's instrument for liberating the Jewish people from their oppressors.

In any event, my view is that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher, one of many in that period (John the Baptist was another) who gained a reputation as a healer, exorcist, and wonder worker. He probably believed that God would miraculously intervene to rescue Israel from Roman occupation, and that he and his inner circle of disciples would then rule over Israel as an enlightened theocracy. His hopes were not realized; he was seized by the Romans and executed for sedition. After his death, some of his followers became convinced that he had only temporarily withdrawn from the scene and would soon return to set things right. The gospels, written a few decades later, are polemical writings aimed at downplaying Jesus' Jewish roots and anti-Roman sentiments in order to speed the conversion of gentiles. By that time his original message had been recast in nonpolitical, "spiritual" terms heavily influenced by the Hellene mysticism of Paul, who never knew the living Jesus and relied on revelations for his insights.

I don't think the afterlife played much, if any, role in Jesus' original message; the kingdom of God was understood as an earthly revival of the Davidic monarchy, and redemption meant the redemption of the Jewish people, not of the individual soul (individual salvation is a concept more at home in the Hellenistic mystery religions than in Judaism, though some Hellenistic elements had crept into Judaism by this time).

That's my view, but of course no one can agree about Jesus. He is endlessly controversial.

One thing I'd point out is that this blog is not a very receptive place for traditionalist religious testimony.

One thing I find really interesting is that many people who report having NDEs state that they're met by Jesus. And it's not just Christians who report this, but also atheists, which is even more interesting (Youtube has a ton of these testimonials).

Why is this occurring? I could see Christians reporting that they meet Jesus, because perhaps they expect that, but atheists wouldn't presumably expect that.

Some have said that these people are just meeting a being who they mistake, or assume, as being Jesus. But why would self-avowed atheists report meeting Jesus?

The really interesting thing would be if non-Westerners who haven't been exposed much to Christianity also report meeting Jesus.

Roger:
"The things that you're liable to read in the Bible —they ain't necessarily so." —Porgy and Bess

"Not literally, that's for sure."

Actually, Roger, I'm well aware of cynicism regarding these matters. In fact, one could say that cynicism is a tool of the Devil.
It is my opinion that this mindset comes about through an inability to take on board the truth of the message. It's an age old viewpoint that Jesus himself faced.

"One thing I'd point out is that this blog is not a very receptive place for traditionalist religious testimony."

Michael, I am not seeking to preach. I am not on a mission. We all have our opinions and I am as respectful towards those of others as I am towards my own. I am not subversive to the cause of free speech. Some of us do not sing from the same songsheet. Well, thats OK; that's what makes these discussions interesting, is it not?

Kathleen, Hindus often report meeting Hindu deities, so it seems that cultural background and expectations play a large role in NDEs.

I'm not actually that familiar with atheists saying they encountered Jesus. To the extent that it happens, it may reflect ideas held over from childhood. Many atheists seem to have begun as deeply religious Christians before reacting against their upbringing and going to the opposite extreme.

"I'm well aware of cynicism regarding these matters. In fact, one could say that cynicism is a tool of the Devil."

Is critical thinking a tool of the devil also?

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