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Michael:
"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."

Well, thats debatable. Personally, I think that the message was more important than earthly aspirations.

"By that time his original message had been recast in nonpolitical, "spiritual" terms heavily influenced by the Hellene mysticism of Paul,"

My view is that the message was always a nonpolitical and spiritual one. The Jews expected a 'Warrior King.' However; God does not bow to anyones wishes, regarding his will.

"I don't think the afterlife played much, if any, role in Jesus' original message;"

I agree.

"the kingdom of God was understood as an earthly revival of the Davidic monarchy,"

Again, I agree.

"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)."

Here, I have to disagree. I believe that the message was always about individual salvation, yet; was becoming lost within the machinations of political thought. It could be argued that; if the message had taken hold against the political backdrop, then we would have no need of a new Testament. However; the power of the Testament meant that the message would be there for all eternity. So, the will of God, played out upon an earthly plane.
To me, this whole issue is one of the supernatural.

"Is critical thinking a tool of the devil also?"

Well, of course not.
Rogers' comment was about the cynical viewpoint of 'Sportin' life' from 'Porgy and Bess.'
He is aligning his views with those of that character.
As far as cynical thinking goes; we are all, surely, capable of such. I don't claim to be immune from such, myself.

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

Kathleen; indeed, that would be interesting. Although, I'm not sure that those having 'little to none' exposure would recognise the character of Jesus?

Kathleen, then again, maybe they do? If the message is universal, and/or an inherent truth; then they may well recognise the inherent truth, in another form.

"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."

Yes, that exact same thought crossed my mind as I read Kathleen's words. If we suspect we might be in the afterlife then, presumably, the natural impulse is to place matters in a familiar context?

I think the problem for many people in the West is that Christianity doesn't make sense but materialism doesn't make sense either for a lot of people.It doesn't explain sincere experiences people have had and it seems to make humanity valueless. I tend to consider myself on the skeptical side but I cannot deny NDEs, Reincarnation cases etc. It looks like something is going on. I cannot deny the fact I experienced ghost one time in my life. These things happen and yes my experience happened. So I simply cannot be a materialist. I don't know what to be and many people in the West have the same problem.

\\"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."- Kathleen//
---------------

In the Tibetan Book of the Dead it tells the newly departed to not be afraid of the demons it encounters because they are only projections from your mind. They are spirits projected from our own psyche.

What we say we are or how we label ourselves is irrelevant. It is what is buried deep down in our subconscious that matters. Howard Storm, the famous atheist near death experiencer, who claimed to be an atheist when he had his NDE but yet he somehow conjured up some demons that were attacking him and when he finally called out to God, surprise the Light appeared.

Storm said that when he was young that he was raised in a pentacostal fundamentalist Kentucky Christian family. Another words those images were ingrained in his psyche. If you are a cucumber and you are immersed in a jar of pickle juice you will eventually turn into a pickle. If you grow up and live in bible belt believing culture, even if you claim to be an atheist, some of it will eventually make it's way into your consciousness.

Let me tell you what I think happened. Storm was an atheist but upon finding himself still conscious and "alive" even though his body was essentially dead - his terror and fear caused him to conjure up demons - because that is what he expected having been raised early in a fundamentalist Kentucky Christian household. And when he called out to the Light, the Light appeared.

Heaven appears to be a place where thoughts are things and consciousness creates reality. Where thoughts are things and matter is an epiphenomena of consciousness.

We are the product of the sum total of our upbringing, not just who we are now but instead everything we have experienced in our lives. Remember time and space aren't quite as real as we believe them to be and according to physics everything is actually happening "right now" at once. So while we experience time and space and separation "here" - on the other side that isn't quite how physics works. The other side instead seems to have the physics of holographic film as described by Michael Talbot in his book The Holographic Universe.

And after we get back this reality we sit around and stew on what we saw and experienced and think to ourselves "well that being of Light sure did seem to have the attributes that Jesus is supposed to have" so maybe it was Jesus....

Or it was a holographic projection from the light and thusly it was everyone and everything and you saw what you expected to see? Because in holographic film everything is infinitely connected to everything else and everything interpenetrates everything and nothing is truely separate and those feelings of oneness and connectedness that are so often mentioned in NDE descriptions are because the place we call heaven is actually the original holographic film that our universe, the place we are now, is projected from?

The Universe as a Hologram, by Michael Talbot
http://www.earthportals.com/hologram.html

Stuart Certain wrote,

||Some of us do not sing from the same songsheet. Well, thats OK; that's what makes these discussions interesting, is it not?||

Not really. I don't go to Conservative blogs to tell them they are wrong. I don't go to Muslim blogs to tell them that they are wrong. It's pointless and would be uncool to the participants, as I don't believe in their underlying assumptions.

It's boring for both Skeptics and religious people to come here and say, "You guys are wrong." Or to just sit around and witness to a point of view, as you are. What's the point?

It's great when people with differing perspectives come here, as they *do*, who at least take the phenomena we discuss seriously and seek to understand what's going on.

Now, if a Skeptic or Christian came in here with someone truly original to say, then I would be all ears. It's all straight up boilerplate, no chaser. Lame. I would also have more respect for such interlopers if they commented under a real name!

My $0.02 as an individual commenter.

"Storm was an atheist but upon finding himself still conscious and 'alive' even though his body was essentially dead - his terror and fear caused him to conjure up demons..."

I'll probably always be amazed by how people who's bodies are essentially dead can have these NDE experiences, how a brain in the midst of shutting down can be busy conjuring up demons, Jesus, or Hindu deities. I understand that being dead isn't a black-and-white thing, but it still boggles my mind that a dying or essentially dead brain would be spending energy conjuring up fantastic visions of an afterlife, or why this would be a priority at such a critical point. I can't see how it would serve any evolutionary purpose and the survival of the species. If the brain is trying to "soothe" the person in his death throes (and I don't see what evolutionary mechanism could be there to do that), why wouldn't people report pleasant things like lying on a yacht in the ocean, lounging on a field of flowers or a cloud, etc. - not meeting one's God or having a life review.

Art:
"If you are a cucumber and you are immersed in a jar of pickle juice you will eventually turn into a pickle."

That, Art, is the funniest comment I've seen in a long while.
I think it maybe true to say that a lot of people can get themselves into a pickle over these matters. And, they don't need to be a cucumber, to do so.

Art, thanks for the link. I've had a quick look at the site and it makes for interesting reading. However, for me at least, something about the Hologram theory doesn't sit well.
It may be that the theory suggests one other dimension; something that you allude to yourself when you talk about; 'the other side?'
Personally, I'm more comfortable with the idea of many other dimensions, rather than just the two (this and the other.) I'll get back to you on this, when I've read and digested more of the theory.

Stuart if you read the online essay "The Universe as a Hologram" and then go and read Mark Horton's NDE the corroboration between the two can not be a coincidence. The reason I keep referring back to Mark Horton's NDE is because it is the most "holographic" NDE I've read, and #2... it is my favorite NDE description. But (big butt) I have read many other NDE descriptions that also have that same "holographic" flavor to them.

It can't be a coincidence that so many NDEs seem so holographic. Michael Prescott once referred to the concept of consilience, where a whole bunch of weaker evidence can add together to strong conclusions. Something amazing is going on. Quite a few physicist talk about and study the idea of us living in a holographic universe or some kind of weird holographic projection, and many near death experiencer's descriptions sound very "holographic."

It sounds like to me that it is very simple. While we are here we are living in the holographic projection and the other side, the place we call heaven, is the original holographic film that our Universe is projected from. Upon the death of our so called physical body (which is also a holographic projection by the way) the soul or consciousness simply transitions to that original holographic film that our universe is projected from. Which means that everything that is "here" is also "there" but the physics of "heaven" is quite different from the physics we experience here. Instead it is the physics of holographic film which means that time and space don't quite exist there like they do here and everything is connected and "one" and everything interpenetrates everything else.

Mark Horton's NDE description,
http://www.kuriakon00.com/celestial/nde/mark_horton.htm

"'it ain't necessarily so', certainly not literally" isn't cynicism, it's realism, or suspended judgment, or critical thinking. You (SC) conceded the fish story wasn't literally true after earlier saying that it was true without any such qualification.

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 could say that unbelievable folk-tale marvels and far-fetched apologetics are a tool of the devil, because they are what alienate the audience from the message.

More generally, one might say that orthodoxy is the tool of the devil. Scott Peck, in his book The People of the Lie, whose highlighted portions I am now rereading, does an inspiring job presenting (his version of) The Christian Message. But he does so by ditching the orthodox notion of God's omnipotence, and replacing it with a vision of his weakness. I.e., that God hopelessly agonizes over man's evils along with the rest of us. That makes more sense to me than what orthodoxy says, which is that God is In Charge and that there is no conflict between his omnipotence and his benevolence.

Peck retains the notion that God created the universe. I think he should have gone further, like the gnostics, and said that the creator-god (the demiurge) is not the real God. If that's close to the truth, then it's correct—and Christian—to be cynical about most of the Bible.

Matt Rouge:
"I don't go to Conservative blogs to tell them they are wrong."

Nor do I.

"It's great when people with differing perspectives come here, as they *do*, who at least take the phenomena we discuss seriously and seek to understand what's going on."

This is what I do.

"I would also have more respect for such interlopers if they commented under a real name!"

Thats a matter of individual choice.
Is your name a real name? Who knows?
Do I care? Not really.
I'm more interested in what people have to say.

Kathleen said:

"why wouldn't people report pleasant things like lying on a yacht in the ocean, lounging on a field of flowers or a cloud, etc. - not meeting one's God or having a life review."

I agree, Kathleen! For a variety of reasons, life reviews are particularly hard to explain away from the materialist standpoint. Besides the rigors of the process and its profoundly transformative nature, how do we explain the incredible detail with which long-forgotten incidents are suddenly remembered?

And all this within the context of a body that shows no vital signs?

Roger, well...it was you who used the example of the song: 'it ain't necessarily so.'
As that song is sung by the cynical 'Sportin'life' I assumed you were using it to illustrate your own cynicism on the matter.
I refer you to your remark:
"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."

That comment, from you, was in response to Michael's earlier observation that; in his opinion, the story is nothing more than a fable.
So, taken together; I think it's quite reasonable to assume you were being cynical.
For my own part, yes; I did say it was a true story. But, I soon qualified my remark by illustrating the metaphorical aspects of the tale.
Personally, I think I made a solid case for why the story was based upon fact.

"One could say that unbelievable folk-tale marvels and far-fetched apologetics are a tool of the devil, because they are what alienate the audience from the message."

I don't believe that analogy. The more colourful the story; the more people are likely to remember it. Your disbelief shines through; like a beacon.
Don't worry; I'm not calling you the Devil!
We can all be cynical at times. I don't exclude myself in that.

Kathleen:
"I'll probably always be amazed by how people who's bodies are essentially dead can have these NDE experiences, how a brain in the midst of shutting down can be busy conjuring up demons, Jesus, or Hindu deities."

Kathleen, the field of 'Quantology' may offer an explanation. Apparantly, scientists involved in this have discovered that the brain has a fractal quality in its formation.
Therefore; there is a real possibility that the brain contains other dimensions, within itself.
It is suggested that everything we do outwardly, is an expression of that fractal quality. This is most noticable in art and architecture; Gothic arcitecture being the most obvious example.
So; if that is correct, and knowing the endless nature of fractals, then it could be that the universe itself is fractal in it's formation. Therefore; the possibilty of other dimensions without, becomes very real.
It could be, then, that upon reaching the point of death; the mind naturally gravitates towards the complete oneness of the universe, and the realm (dimension) upon which that oneness is most exemplified. The realm of God?

Stuart wrote,

||This is what I do.||

Oh? If you're a Christian, then you believe that God has all the answers and has provided them to you already. You don't need to come to this blog searching for answers, so why are you here?

||Is your name a real name? Who knows?||

Funny, a Skeptic said the same thing to me here recently when I said he should post under his real name. Yes, mine is real, and people here know that it's real.

||Do I care? Not really.
I'm more interested in what people have to say.||

I care because it helps prevent various types of trolling, and I take what someone says more seriously when I know they are putting their name and identity behind it.

Michael is there any chance you can block Stuart Certain from posting. This is the same person behind the MU trolling. He also used the name Waller Joel and many others. His agenda is to confuse and troll. Sometimes he impersonates a skeptic, his latest account even claimed he was himself a poltergeist.

This user has had his comments deleted on Robert McLuhan's paranormalia blog. Robert even had to lock his latest blog post because of Stuart. The way to win is to not let this guys comments through. He will go away if he has nowhere to post.

Here are the pages in Scott Peck’s People of the Lie, (1983 edition) where he describes the Christian Message (in part) in impressive terms:
10–11, 37 (last paragraph), 39 (1st paragraph), 40–41, 43–45, 67 (ftn.), 69–75, 123–25, 129, 205, 256, 262, 267–69.

"Michael is there any chance you can block Stuart Certain from posting. This is the same person behind the MU trolling."

Thanks for the heads-up, David. I will do my best to block him from now on.

Hallelujah! I was waiting for the truth of Stuart Cretin to be revealed. He/she/it is one of the worst trolls I've ever encountered online. A clever but hideously twisted prankster. Thanks, Michael.

Stuart is a poltergeist??!!??

LOL! That's a good one.

It is said that poltergeists can infect electronic devices. Too bad he has to go because we could ask him about life on the other side and how it is that he is able to move physical objects and so and so forth. Then again, a poltergeist probably can't be trusted to give an honest answer.

When you think about it, even if he's not being truthful about being a poltergeist now, he is still that type most likely to become a poltergeist (I could see his senior year high school class voting him that).

Go into the Light Stuart Certain. Go into the Light.

A good example of Mr. Certain's approach to discussing these subjects is found here:

http://forum.forteantimes.com/index.php?threads/the-enfield-poltergeist-extracted-posts.60956/

He drives the other commenters and the moderators increasingly crazy with his evasions, insinuations and conversational tangents until he is banned. Then it appears he promptly shows up again under a different name presenting "research" that he has done into the "fascinating" Stuart Certain persona.

In all this, the actual topic (the Enfield poltergeist) is nearly forgotten.

Typical troll. This is why I have to use comment moderation. As I recall, MU was the troll who first made this necessary.

Voted "Most Likely to Become a Poltergeist" by his senior class - I like that, Eric! 😄

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

I'd say, rather that the Devil is a tool of cynicism. He was created as a means to frighten the credulous into proper behavior while simultaneously giving them a scapegoat for their misdeeds.

Some folks will tie their minds in the most astonishing knots for a belief that tells them that it wasn't really their fault.

I remember hearing that in a survey of Iceland's youth a few years back, 0% reported belief in God, yet they still carefully build around sites supposedly claimed by elves and report runs of terrible luck if they disturb these sites. I don't know how much of that is true because I don't speak any Icelandic so I can't check at the source.

"I remember hearing that in a survey of Iceland's youth a few years back, 0% reported belief in God"

I think that the actual story was that 0% of Iceland's youth believe in the story of creation as espoused in the Bible (i.e. they don't believe in Creationism) rather than that they didn't believe in God.

However, the story got misrepresented as "0% of young Icelanders" believe in God - those promoting such a spin on it ignoring the fact that not having a literal belief in the Biblical account of creation doesn't mean someone's an atheist. I think there are young Icelanders who believe in God, they just believe that life came about through evolution and the universe came about through the Big Bang - but there are also many Christians all over the world who think the same.

That's useful to know. I do know they and the Irish still exercise caution around supposedly fae-haunted areas; I don't think many people outright declare belief in them, but there's still a definite "just in case" undercurrent.

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