the blood of Jesus, superstition, and magic

the blood of Jesus, superstition, and magic October 1, 2013
mosquitoes in the arms of jesus cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“Mosquitoes in the Arms of Jesus” (drawing by nakedpastor David Hayward)

Have you read Joan Didion’s remarkable memoir, “The Year of Magical Thinking”? It is about the year following her husband’s unexpected death. She noticed how her mind played tricks on her as she went through the grieving process. An amazing read.

There was or is nothing magical about the blood of Jesus. I know it is almost impossible for some of you to let go of that because the church has taught it, defended it and enforced it for millennia. Superstition dies hard because there is so much invested in it, and its guard is fear.

I hear people say all the time, “I want to let go of my stupid superstitions, but I just can’t. They seem to have more of a grip on me than I have on them. Please help me!”

I understand. Deconstructing our beliefs is one of the most painful things we can endure. But I’m watching people do it in healthy ways.

It is necessary if we mean to grow.

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  • TiggyTiger

    Do you mean some people actually take it literally? I’ve only ever come across it as a metaphor for his death.

  • klhayes

    Looking at most of the Bible in a metaphorical way has allowed me to find deeper meaning in it. People get obsessed with proving every detail is correct and lost the bigger truths.

  • Apparently there were a bunch of people in the British Isles that took it literally but they hopped on boats and went across the pond to the Americas. Additionally, a bunch of people in continental Europe who took it literally did the same. Will you take them back? 🙂

  • Fantastic — beautiful heretical grafitti

    David, you said: “There was or is nothing magical about the blood of Jesus.”

    Wow, be thankful for atheists — if not for the people that threw off the silliness of religion, this world would not be safe for you to say that David. Many liberal Christians have no idea how grateful they should be to non-believers being “militant” and saying “bullshit” over the centuries.

    David, you said “it is almost impossible for some of you to let go of that…”

    Heck, it may only be “some” of the people reading this post, but it is the vast majority of Christianity that would consider this heresy.

    As you said, the Jewish scriptures (like many other Iron Age religions) felt their gods LOVED the smell of blood and burning fat. The magic of blood is deep in Christianity.

    You are trying to change that — I admire that.

    But to keep the title “Christian” you somehow have to disagree with me and say, “No, Jesus was really about ……” right? You just keep showing us that you are comfortable with your inner Atheist!


  • Looking at the Celtic myths, the Qur’an, the Mahabharata, and Mark Twain in metaphorical ways can help you find deeper meaning there too.

    Yeah, if we stop believing this stuff. The whole world is ours to enjoy!

  • LorenHaas

    I remember watching the movie “Ben Hur” in the theater with my family when I was 7 or 8 years old. What an exciting movie! Rowing warships, bloody chariot races, people with gross leprosy. The scene that really messed me up was where the blood of Jesus from his crucifixion mixed with rainwater and ran into a cave where lepers lived. The touch of the diluted blood was all it took to turn them “white as snow”.
    They should not show stuff like that to kids!

  • Michael

    Neither magical nor superstitious, but belief. I never expected to find one of your usually excellent cartoons offensive.

  • Michael

    It was Eire ( Ireland ) and nothing to do with the ‘British’ or their invaded and captured and subdued islands.

  • Michael

    What a pile of total rubbish!

  • Michael

    There is a real danger for the religious man – and indeed all men – of living their lives by responding merely to propositions rather than by deepening their own awareness and apprehension of and commitment to living and self-authenticating truth.

  • Which part, Michael? Here are two of my points:
    (1) Atheists helped make the world safer for non-orthodox believers.
    (2) What David wrote here is heretical to the vast majority of Christians.

  • Michael

    You answer your own question, though I doubt #1 really works. And of course, David is fully entitled to his own beliefs.

  • ?? I did not have a question that I just answered.
    So it seems you are withdrawing your “What a pile of total rubbish!” claim. I thought so. It sounded more like a reflex than a thought.

  • “living and self-authenticating truth” — yawn
    theological hogwash for “whatever I believe”

  • Michael

    Your reply has a question mark in it, therefore I perceive it to be a question. No, not a reflex but a statement. You answer your own response, and I have neither time nor inclination to provide a lesson in English grammar.

  • Hey “Michael” — you ought to consider adding a last name (fictitious or otherwise), so we can keep you separated from all the other Michaels out there. Its not like your name is “Sabio” or “Jesus” ! 🙂

  • And certainly not in logic, reason or empiricism.

  • Michael

    Clearly you are not a religious person, in any shape or form. That is not a theological statement. Like most non-believers, or superstitious believers for that matter – little or no understanding of the meaning of the word ‘theology’.

  • Michael

    For the record – Wilson. I might change my profile, then again, I might not. Have a nice day.

  • I was once a true believer, but I ran back to the devil — and all the blindness, stupidity and foolishness came right back with his demonic embrace.
    Alas, poor ignorant, sin-hugging me.
    At least you see my predicament.

  • Michael

    Your choice brother.

  • Gary

    For one who promotes “deepening their own awareness and apprehension of and commitment to living and self-authenticating truth”, the fact that you are offended by this seems odd. Apparently this “commitment” you speak of is so shallow it needs to be jettisoned when confronting tough questions.

  • Michael

    It isn’t a question for me, it’s a matter of belief. And before you jump to it, not blind belief. I see, therefore I believe.
    Am I not allowed to be offended?

    Michael Wilson

  • Gary

    You see what exactly?

    And I did not say you were not “allowed” to be offended. I merely pointed out that taking such offense to David’s post is inconsistent with your stated commitment to truth.

  • Michael

    I see my belief all around me – every moment I open my eyes and my ears.
    “Am I not allowed to be offended?” – a rhetorical remark, and not directed at you.
    Michael Wilson

  • Gary

    So you see nothing that every other person does not also see. Odd that so many “see” and yet come to such radically different conclusions.

  • Gary

    Since you claim to see your “belief” all around you…I would really like for you to explain to me how your faith is not blind.

    Let me explain…

    As I sit at my desk and type I see my computer. I look to my left and see a 2nd monitor and to my right a phone. Scattered among these items is miscellaneous pens, papers, a stapler, a coffee mug, an orange, etc. I look beyond my desk and see some office chairs, a closet, my diplomas on the wall. In the hallway I just saw a coworker walk by my door. What I “see” are physical, tangible objects in my world which I interact with. As I go through my day I see countless hundreds if not thousands of tangible things I encounter and interact with. Not one of them represents my “faith”.

    It is empty hyperbole when one claims they “know” because their faith is based on what they “see”. It is an empty appeal to substance which is not present. You are going to have to let go of such silly statements if you expect to be taken seriously.

  • Michael

    I am not altogether sure I understand the first half of your response. Then maybe you answer that in the second half.

    I think I can only respond to your succinct comments as: I cannot always see what my fellow human being sees, but I can accept their belief, or none, and respond with love and respect to their human right to see and hear what they see and hear.

    As a Catholic I must acknowledge the universality of each and every human being. That of course does not mean I cannot/should not be offended by some things that I see or hear. ( And yes, I am not one of those Catholics who believes it is the true and only church ).

    Michael Wilson

  • Gary

    Please see my clarification in my follow up comment.

  • Michael

    “You are going to have to let go of such silly statements if you expect to be taken seriously.” Your thoughts, not mine. Having open eyes and open ears is as much a spiritual existence ( perhaps more ) as it is a physical one.
    May I send you a poem?

  • Gary

    You made the claim that your faith is not blind but based on what you see. This is meaningless hyperbole. The cartoon is about the belief some have in some sort of magical or supernatural properties in the physical blood of Jesus. You took offense to the cartoon and stated it is “belief” , and not a blind belief because you “see”, therefore you believe. I asked a simple question…you see what specifically. I am pretty sure you do not “see” the physical blood of Jesus or have seen the blood do magical things…therefor I am forced to challenge your declaration that you “see”.

    Now you allude to some sort of spiritual form of seeing and hearing. Yet many seekers also believe in a spiritual existence and come to very different conclusions than you do. Claiming some sort of super faith which you declare is based on sight is disingenuous at best. Your faith is based upon how you interpret what you “see”. There is nothing wrong with that of course. But your taking offense at David’s post included an appeal to some self evident form of faith based upon not just interpretation, but observation. This is a false claim.

  • It was truly a hilarious cartoon 🙂

    I really think we need to challenge the irrational beliefs dominating the largest part of Christendom.
    Actually, this is one of the main reasons which prompted me to start a blog
    because it is probably the most important part if one generally wants to defend progressive Christianity.

  • Well, Michael Wilson, the important question to me is:

    Why should anyone here care that you were offended? Why should David care.”

    Offending someone can sometimes be the best strategy in the world.

    “I am offended” only works as rhetoric when the listener:

    (a) wouldn’t want to be thought of in general as “an offensive person” or

    (b) if they didn’t want to offend anybody.

    David makes it clear in his drawings that he doesn’t care about (b). As for (a), very few people want to be thought of as “an offensive person” — but then generalizing from offending one or some people to making the offender GENERALLY offensive is a cognitive mistake. But it is a mistake people make and it is one that the claim “I find that offensive” is trying to capitalize on. So say, “Sniffle, David, I find that offensive.” Can have the undertone of “David, I thought you were above being an offensive person.”

    OR, you could have been just calling him a heretic indirectly.

    OR, more innocently (not your MO), you could have just been reporting your emotional state for all to hear. But if so, why the heck should we care?

    A bomb on the head of Mohammed is offensive — so what? My post on Ur(ine) Personal Relationship with Jesus, was offensive. So what? Offense as art, as literature, as a communication style can sometimes wake folks up.

    OR, it can piss people off who then try to use the “that was offensive” rhetoric. Which we will promptly see through and respond: “Who cares?”

    David was recently upset that that Rick Warren “And was very offensive to Asians.” But he was not upset because it was intended as a constructive offensive to bad thinking, but it was a “… not just a shitty joke, but a shitty joke that HURT people.”

    He was upset because it was not intended to offend but out of stupidity and stubbornness did offend and the offended did not even apologize.

    Are you asking David to apologize for an inadvertent offensive? Are you trying to tell him he is a heretic? Are you trying to tell him, “Shame on you, you are offensive.” Or are you just letting us be privy to your diary where you say, “Poor me, I’m offended.” ?

  • Michael

    Your thoughts, not mine.

  • “Wow, be thankful for atheists — if not for the people that threw off
    the silliness of religion, this world would not be safe for you to say
    that David.”

    I am afraid we don’t need atheists for that at all. Deists and Agnostics can also perfectly do the job 😉

    “As you said, the Jewish scriptures (like many other Iron Age
    religions) felt their gods LOVED the smell of blood and burning fat.
    The magic of blood is deep in Christianity.

    You are trying to change that — I admire that.

    But to keep the title “Christian” you somehow have to disagree with
    me and say, “No, Jesus was really ABOUT ……” right? You just keep
    showing us that you are comfortable with your inner Atheist!”

    Surely, you are aware of critical scholarship about Jesus, aren’t you? If you look at the Gospel of Mark and the two other synoptic ones, how many percent of the time did Jesus spoke about his blood being shed?

    “As you said, the Jewish scriptures (like many other Iron Age religions)
    felt their gods LOVED the smell of blood and burning fat. The magic of
    blood is deep in Christianity.”

    Even if they were dead wrong about that, it does not follow that there is (are) no god(s). After all, most humans have been wrong in significant ways about moral values during most of history. Does it entail moral values do not exist?

  • Lothar: Do I understand correctly? Did you say:

    Look, most of Christendom is wrong.
    Progressive Christianity is right.
    I did a website that does a perfect Progressive Christianity.
    My website gets it right — come visit me and learn Real Christianity.

    Or something like that?

  • Gary

    What are you, like in the 3rd grade or something? This response is about as mature as a school kid putting his fingers in his ears and seeking to drown out the one who is speaking to him by repeatedly declaring “I can’t hear you”.

  • Michael

    Sorry, but I am not going to get into frivolous name calling et al. I came here for serious debate.
    Michael Wilson

  • Of course I did not mean this part:

    ” perfect Progressive Christianity.
    My website gets it right — come visit me and learn Real Christianity.”
    My thoughts are constantly evolving and tentative.
    I am a (small) part of a great project.

    And great theologians such as Hans Küng
    defend progressive Christianity in a much more sophisticated and precise way than I can.

    But I do believe I could be a good starting point for lay people :=)

    And I have never pretended not being extremely flawed (like most human beings).

    2013/10/1 Disqus

  • Gottcha. So you send folks to your site to learn of systematic progressive Christianity based on the assumption that “God” is Love.
    Got it.
    Another sect. So many to keep track of.
    I’m satisfied with the world about me without tying it into theological knots.

  • I don’t think this cartoon is busting just on Catholics. Plenty of Protestant denominations do the “drinking of blood” and “eating of flesh” as part of worship ceremonies. I’ve munched down on quite a bit of bread dipped in wine or grape juice in Protestant churches. Granted the ceremony is more pedestrian. I think the point of the cartoon was that there is a belief among most Christians (Catholic and Protestant alike) that there is something special about Jesus the man that is other-worldly and goes far beyond just a man with a good message – and if you “take in” Jesus then you get certain special privileges (like going to heaven). It is this idea that is like magic. Just believe or do certain things in your life and you get infinitely rewarded in an afterlife for all eternity. Magic magic magic.

  • Cyndy Lavoie

    I believe in the power of the blood of Jesus but now this leaves me afraid to admit it, for I’m already pegged as superstitious and into magic – seems no different than the boogyman stories my once conservative church tried to lay on me, that my protection is in their oversight, that if I leave them my life would be destroyed, and more – we must be careful in our ernest seeking after truth that we don’t become what we have despised and that we don’t put on others our perspectives and understandings. I normally love this blog, this one I’m disagreeing with, but of course that means I am now backward and without sense.

  • PS, Michael Wilson:

    This talk of “offense” reminds me of the last line in this fantastic, intentionally, pointedly offensive Tim Minchin song/video “Storm”:

    And if perchance I have offended, think of this and all is mended: We’d as well be 10 minutes back in time, for all the chance you’ll change your mind.

  • Gary

    OK – My BULLSHITOMETER went through the roof on that one. Serious debate my ass!!!


  • Not from my perspective Cyndy. Just because we don’t agree doesn’t mean I think you’re backward or without sense. It just means we see things differently. The point of the cartoon is that the physical difference between the blood of Jesus and yours is nil. There was nothing magical about the physical blood of Jesus. What it signifies is another matter that this cartoon doesn’t address at all.

  • Cyndy,

    But what is the difference with what you said from someone who said,

    I believe in the truth of Astrology but now this leaves me afraid to admit it, for I’m already pegged as superstitious and into magic.”

    Should a nonbeliever in the divining power of astrology be afraid to say so to astrology fans — no matter how they have built their life, their holidays, their friends and family around it? Sometimes ya just got to speak out. Even if, as a pastor, you will probably get kicked out of your church and have your livelihood taken away. Sometimes offense is OK. Don’t you think?

  • Cyndy Lavoie

    alright – I’ll take you at your word and heart. and from how you explained it here, I agree with you completely – thanks for responding and for showing me more of your heart – I’m pretty quick to spot manipulation and it surprised me to see it (from what it appeared) coming from you

  • Hello, it is certainly a sect and I am hardly alone to believe that God is love and that this is the center of everything.

    But I don’t see the problem with sects. After all, there is also an enormous diversity between atheists all over the world.

    When I look at all the injustices around myself, I am not personally satisfied with the world.

    And I am hardly the only one in that situation.

  • Cyndy Lavoie

    If you mean that when we state our stance on something we are in danger of offending, then for sure offense is okay, it is when we build into our argument accusation of the motives of others right alongside our belief that we cease to operate in the spirit of Christ

  • By the way nobody should reject a progressive Christian theology based on God’s perfection just because he or she feels underwhelmed by what I’ve written.

    As I said, there are people out there who defend these ideas in much greater details and more rigorously than I do.

    2013/10/1 Disqus

  • I agree, that there is not problem with “sect”, which is the religious studies word for what Protestants call denominations or in German you may say:

    “eine christliche Konfession” which is the same as “eine christliche Sekte”.

    I know no one who is “satisfied with the world” — either the religious or those free of religion. Coming up with complicated theological formulas when we have plain talk that can do the exact same. But that is just me.

    Perhaps your site will serve Christians who are seeking a different flavor of Christianity so they can go on calling themselves “Christians” with all the benefits they feel that gains them. Have you had many folks do that yet on your site?

  • You said: “As I said, there are people out there who defend these ideas in much greater details and more rigorously than I do.”

    Oh, I am very sure there are — people make careers out of this stuff. Knot tying is an honored profession — in every religion.

  • If what Sabio said is a “pile of rubbish” then David’s article is also. But your emotion doesn’t help any of the rest of us understand what you mean. I’m sure you are as ‘Christian’ as the rest of us but you aren’t contributing anything of substance.

  • So, Cindy, was it in the “spirit of Christ” when Yeshua said:

    You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

    “‘These people honor me with their lips,

    but their hearts are far from me.

    They worship me in vain;

    their teachings are merely human rules.’”

    Or when he supposedly said,

    Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

    Sometimes you’ve got to analyze motives to see what drives the rhetoric. The image of Jesus and a peace-loving, lamb-hugging, non-offensive, motive-non-doubter seems mistaken — to keep the argument in your arena.

  • Gary, I agree with your views but think we have to be careful when talking about what we ‘can’t see.’ Much of the business of science is in imagining stuff we can’t see (representational for all of our senses), then going forth to prove our hypothesis. IOW, your point is really, like our atheist friends, that much of the above is about not being able to prove the assertions religion makes. And literalists not only believe that modern translations of scripture are accurate, but literally true, without the need to interpret as we might great literature. In the case of religion, it is as important to accurately understand the meaning and truth of great literature as it is to explain the realities of the universe. If we believe in a God, it should be based on our God-given reason and the same joy we experience when alone in nature, reading a poem or listening to Mozart. Those are the source of our knowledge of the Universe and true mysticism. That ‘magic’ is better than ‘blind faith.’

  • Michael

    “and if you “take in” Jesus then you get certain special privileges (like going to heaven).” Goodness, does anyone really believe that? Certainly not any Christian I know.
    Michael Wilson

  • Actually in French and German the word “sect” means a cult, unlike in English.

    Most people who wrote me positive things about my blog had already a progressive theology and found some of my ideas useful while disagreeing with others, like I did on their blogs.

    We all complement each other in one way.

    I think I have really helped one individual, tough I don’t know if I was the only one.

    Everyone who sincerely believes that Jesus was the revelation of God can and should call herself a “Christian”.

  • I could care less about who is qualified to “call herself a ‘Christian'”. If they feel they are, that is fine enough with my anthropological mind.

    As for the word “sect”. Protestant scholars have long called all the various flavors of Buddhism and Hinduisms “sects” but call their own “denominations” — I won’t grant them that exceptionalist rhetoric.

    I was speaking English, of course, so “Christian sect” is perfectly fine — no matter what it means to Germans and French. But I must say that I am suspicious and wager German and French religious studies scholars may say “christliche Sekten” also. Call me skeptical. If not, it is time for the Germans to catch up and stop the exceptionalism.

  • If we believe in a God, it should be based on our God-given reason and the same joy we experience when alone in nature, reading a poem or listening to Mozart. Those are the source of our knowledge of the Universe and true mysticism. That ‘magic’ is better than ‘blind faith.’

    Well said — we admire the same magic.

  • TiggyTiger

    Plenty of people left England, Wales and Scotland for America. What are you on about?

    No way would we have them back, at least, not until they deepen their theological understanding. And even then they’d have to improve their dress sense and stop putting cheese on everything.

  • Gary

    John I agree with you completely. The point I was attempting to make with Michael is that his claims of some sort of visual (substantive) evidence for his particular brand of faith is baseless. I suspect he believes me to be an atheist based on my questioning though…grin.

  • Lord forbid he suspects you to be an atheist — you are so much more! If only he realized that, perhaps the conversation would have gone better.

  • Gary

    Actually I was enjoying the discussion without the disclaimer.

  • Well, I’d imagine your imagination about your God is rather different than his. So since your imagination about your theos is different than his theos, you are an atheist to him.

    Welcome to the club — a name only won by not being someone else!

  • Michael

    I was referring to the first wave, Celts, long before the Pilgrim Fathers et al.
    Actually, I have found Americans who have left their home-land to be very nice people. I could say more, but I wouldn’d want to offend.

  • Michael

    I was referring to the Celts, many years before the Pilgrim Fathers et al.
    Actually, I have found Americans who have left their home-land to be very nice people. I could say more, but I would not want to offend.

  • What about Ketchup? 😉

  • Heather McCuen Dearmon

    Hi David. My friend sent me a link to your Etsy store, which had a link that sent me here. I like your cartoons very much, and have responded to many with, “oh yeah, I know how that feels!” and “wow, so true!”

    This one, however, has made me pause. Below you replied to Cyndy Lavoie, “The point of the cartoon is that the physical difference between the blood of Jesus and yours is nil. There was nothing magical about the physical blood of Jesus. What it signifies is another matter that this cartoon doesn’t address at all.”

    I’m not sure I agree, or quite understand. In my studies, I have learned that Jesus was God in the flesh, who never knew sin and was holy, as the Bible states. If this is true, how could his actual blood be like ours –we who are mortal and born into sin? All the lambs sacrificed in the OT were spotless and clean, but not enough to redeem ALL of creation. Jesus was God, holy, knew no sin and was the perfect sacrifice. I wouldn’t call His blood “magical” but certainly “holy” and “powerful”. Have I been believing a lie?

    Now if you are referring to communion where Catholics believe the wine actually turns to blood, then I agree and understand your point.

    I would really appreciate a response from you, David!

    Thank you!

  • To soften my deconversion, I started out just being quiet, then I stated things a little different than my fellow-believers (but still orthodox), then I started being vague (hinting at unorthodoxy), then finally, I was able to come out fully — both to myself and others.

    Believers may tell you they admire questioning — but only up to a point.
    Go beyond that point and you lose friends, family and readers.
    But the loss is not as horrible as you may think:
    the world opens up and you see your echo chamber was tiny.

    Graffiti is Art, Graffiti is Freedom, Graffiti is for Everyone

  • Livin

    “There was or is nothing magical about the blood of Jesus.”
    If this means Jesus was not God then this blog is not Christian progressive or otherwise. It is Atheist or Secular Humanist.
    If it just means we need to look at the spiritual realities that God (whom Jesus is) operates in and that it is not cut and dry. That is ok as a progressive thought that is still Christian.

  • Livin

    A good book to try is “a year of living biblically” by A.J Jacobs. It is progressive but dose not put down people who have faith either. It is well balanced.

  • Gary

    Still believe you have the right to define Christianity for all of us I see…


  • Livin

    Questioning is fine,having different theology is fine, but if you do not submit to basic doctrine such as the ressurection,Jesus as God, Afterlife then don’t say you are Christian.
    If you do not believe in life after death just say you are a Humanist,Atheist, etc…. Nothing wrong with that and it helps avoid confusion.

  • Let’s not confuse people.
    Definitions are Definitions
    Truth is Truth
    And on Right Belief lies Our Salvation

  • Livin

    Amen bro 🙂

  • The spotless lambs’ blood of the OT was no different in quality than the spotted lambs. If we could have cut Jesus open he would look like any other human being. His blood physically was human, normal, and no different than yours or mine. I believe the bible story attempts to describe, in its ancient mythological way, how the spiritual is totally enmeshed in the material. Jesus, as “man”, was “God”. So “God” is “man”. Jesus illustrates the perfect unity of humanity and God. So he was fully man, fully God, as you are, as I am. Your blood is just as human, just as holy, as his was. Nothing magical or more powerful about the physical blood.

  • Gary

    Face Palm…Talk about being played.

  • There are ways to test if Jesus’s blood is any different than other peoples. All we need is a test tube of the blood and then run a battery of tests. Oh wait…

  • Livin

    If I ever decide to stop being a Christian and follow a natural philosophy is the day I become a Atheist Mechanist. I will not say I am a progressive Christian.

  • Livin, I just wanted to point out that being a “mechanist” presumes things over and beyond merely being an atheist. You sometimes seem to blur those definitions.
    In the Venn diagram world, think of two partially overlapping circles, one for the population of atheists and one for the population of mechanists. They do overlap but they don’t totally coincide. Some atheists are mechanists but not all. It is a false dichotomy to say that either one must be a mechanist or believe in God. There are ways to envision the world “beyond mechanism” that does not include a belief in a supreme being.

  • Livin

    That is why I said Atheist Mechanist not just Atheist.
    I am saying I believe that those are my only options after reviewing all options. Those to me are the only rational options.
    I understand many will disagree.

  • @Jeff P:

    Consider a third circle on your Venn Diagram containing people who can see the wonder in the vast complexity spun from simples; containing those who don’t demean the brilliance of what is. Now I won’t tell you how that third circle fits in your diagram — that is to be discovered.

    “mechanist”, “reductionist”, “godless” : we shouldn’t let others teach us their vocabulary and their definitions.

  • Gary

    So you see more validity in atheistic mechanism than in progressive Christianity? You do realize don’t you, that the color spectrum includes a veritable potpourri of diversity well beyond the stark contrasts of black and white?

  • Livin

    Yes I realize that. I just do not understand the utility of a quasi worldview. I found progressive religion(which I spent years in) to be a dry desert only scratching the surface of deep thought.
    It was about who could be more open to more things or who could be the most progressive, not digging deep down as to why things are believed or not.

  • So, Gary, you see your progressive Christianity as more “valid”, less “black-and-white” than those who have fallen out of the “veritable potpourri of colorful diversity” into dismal “atheistic mechanism”?

    Maybe I misunderstood you, but your rhetoric against Livin gives away a hidden habit shared with Livin: Exceptionalism. But I may be mistaken.

    See, what I heard was Livin says “I won’t ever fall as low as progressive Christians.” And you reply “But you’d choose Atheistic mechanism which is far below us?”

    @Jeff P: see what can happen when you let others define terms.

  • Gary

    You would be completely incorrect as to the intent of my statement. I was in no way implying atheism was dismal or attempting pass judgment against it in any fashion. You do seem to carry round an awfully big chip on your shoulder sometimes.

    My point (which was made quite clear by my 2nd sentence) was a challenge to the stark contrast of Livin’s thinking. He drew the contrast and indicated he would never allow his thinking to be anywhere but on the polar extremes of thought. This is a typical mindset of fundamentalism. “You are either with us or against us”. “You either agree with our doctrine or you are bound for hell”.

  • Gary

    Whatever you spent “years in”, the fact that you have judged an entire movement as “not digging deep down” is a clear indication that you really did not dig deep yourself. Your characterization of those who call themselves “progressive Christians” would not be true of any that I know.

  • Great, then my misunderstanding.
    I didn’t want “Mechanist Atheists” put on the “extremes of thought” side, which is kind of what I heard. Point being, fundamentalists drawing “exceptionalist” lines that are narrow vs liberal Christians making them a bit wider, exceptionalism is the something I don’t want hiding under a bushel — let the world see it.

    And, as always, ignoring the psychotherapy.

  • Gary

    When you quote me please either stick to my actual words.or remove the quotation marks. While your quote “veritable potpourri of colorful diversity” does not necessarily change the meaning…it does change the specific wording and therefor renders it NOT a direct quote. (And rendering only a partial quote is much like biblical proof texting in my opinion) I am kind of a stickler on such details, as a sloppy portrayal of another’s words often leads to inaccurate representation of their intent. I often have to be careful in this matter myself.

    And your comment about psychotherapy aside, I do believe you carry a chip on your shoulder which often causes you to read into other’s posts an intent or motive beyond their meaning.

  • Livin

    Around 7 years between
    Unitarian Universalism, Wicca,Buddhism,Baha’i and a free thought group.

  • Brigitte

    The way Jesus’ blood is “magical” is very simple. Look at one woman on Youtube who was caught int he Nairobi mall massacre. She was lying on the floor where a teenager was bleeding profusely and expiring right in front of her. She took the blood and smeared it all over herself, so she looked like she was dead. — It is like the blood of the lamb at the first Passover. The killer comes along and passes you by. In the same way, Christ’s blood will keep you safe. The “magic” is in the eye of the avenger and the hope and courage that you own.

  • @Sabio, 100% agree.
    On the one hand, there is the question whether the world really works (at a fundamental level) as one big mechanism (with randomness thrown in). Then there is the other issue of some people selling the mechanistic view short and claiming it somehow cheapens our experience of the world. Much of the criticism of the mechanistic view comes form people with an agenda (to argue for the existence of a supreme being). I was merely pointing out that it was possible to criticize the mechanistic view without arguing for a supreme being. I in no way meant to infer that people who subscribe to the mechanistic view could not experience the same level of wonder and fascination as those that don’t subscribe to it. For me the mechanistic/non-mechanistic argument is not in any way about supreme beings or my personal experience of wonderment. It is more of an abstract philosophical intellectual exercise. I haven’t chosen a side nor predict I ever will. I merely like thinking about such things.
    I also get a bit riled up when people imply that atheists (and yes mechanists too) can’t experience love, joy, happiness, or wonder. That is such a common claim (propaganda) by those engaging in religious apologetics.

  • Sarah

    Does “Magical” equal “Divine” ?

  • Hallelujah! I get it now.

    So if we smear Jesus’ magic blood over us, the nasty terrorist (Yahweh) won’t pointlessly slaughter us. He is dumb enough to get tricked by that.

    Wow, I have never had it so clearly explained.
    Thank you.

  • PS – Brigitte: David’s previous post was on that very same trickster God. But your explanation was so much enlightening.

  • It is legit to put quote marks around a sentence if preface it with “I heard you say”.

    When someone puts out thoughts that are long or indirect or vague or twisted or all those, paraphrasing is a good way to clarify. And If I state that I am paraphrasing and checking in if it is accurate, it is considered normal communication.

    We’ve been through this before. I am not trying to direct quote — I was trying to clarify something unclear. So be a stickler for details. It is a common accepted communication method — syntax and all.

    [Again, ignoring your psychotherapy. I will continue to ignore it.]

  • Gary

    I do not believe using quotes for a paraphrase is commonly accepted or normal at all. I believe it is literary dishonesty.

    As for ignoring my “psychotherapy”, whatever makes you happy big guy. My observation could be beneficial if you had an inkling to be introspective at all. But you can certainly continue to ignore it. I will point it out in the future if I believe it is once again relevant to our communication thread.

  • Brigitte

    Take it or leave it.

  • Brigitte

    We don’t need tricking into sin. For one thing it was the snake that tricked. We can run into it quite well by ourselves.

  • @ Jeff P,

    Very well put and I can’t agree more.

    Well, I lied a bit:

    Even our present quantum theories are mechanistic in a sense (a dance of algorithms with unexpected surprises for breadbasket-common sense). So I am not sure what a non-mechanistic view would be but a puff-god who everyone is comfortable leaving unexplained.

    So are you saying you know of non-theistic, non-mechanistic views of reality?

    As I wrote in a post here, I am agnostic about a magic-undetectable-non-interfering creator god, but that is just plain boring — a mechanistically amazing world is far more alive!

  • Michael


  • Michael

    It worries me not who cares, only that I care.

  • The ontological argument basically has us follow the Aristotelian causes back in time to some ultimate first cause (God) and stop. One possible alternative view is that the Aristotelian causes at some level form some kind of hypercycle with a closed loop without needing a first cause. This idea would be an example of a non-mechanist view. There may be others as well.
    Another possibility is simply that the causes go back to a point in which we can’t deduce the earlier cause. Although this doesn’t take one out of the mechanistic view, one can’t then necessarily jump to the claim that a God must have started it all.
    It is all very interesting but we will probably never get definitive answers.

  • Michael

    And I am not going to engage in childish 3rd grade language either.

  • Gary

    I think it is so cute when you fundy types get all pissed over the use of profanity. For the record…I use it often simply to reveal how irrational you are. Nothing makes a fundy’s head spin like a good shit or fuck in the dialogue. 😉

  • Gary

    “I also get a bit riled up when people imply that atheists (and yes mechanists too) can’t experience love, joy, happiness, or wonder. That is such a common claim (propaganda) by those engaging in religious apologetics.”

    I may be a theist (with a healthy dose of agnosticism about it) but I agree with this statement 100%.

  • Michael

    fundy – ? I am not familiar with this word.

  • Michael


  • But Jeff P,
    The “hypercycle” model is mechanical.
    Why is that non-mechanical.
    You haven’t shown me a non-mechanical view without spooks or gods (even gutted ones).
    Maybe I am missing something.
    But in my experience, “mechanistic” and “materialistic” are just theist code words for saying “dirty atheist” — do try and disclaim these words is to buy into their game.

  • Michael

    Not an equation or parallel I would make.

  • Michael

    “That is such a common claim (propaganda) by those engaging in religious apologetics.”
    I have never met a religious person who thinks that way.

  • Michael

    “I suspect he believes me to be an atheist based on my questioning … ”
    I have no such suspicions – nor judgements – merely here to engage in open and honest debate.
    Michael Wilson

  • Michael

    What about ketchup? – other than real ketchup is one really good thing that comes out of the USA. No burger or fish meal should be without ‘real’ ketchup.

  • Gary

    My usage of the term follows fairly closely with what is found in the online urban dictionary…

    “People who follow fundamentalist Christian ideals. “In comparative religion, fundamentalism refers to anti-modernist movements in various religions.Carries a negative connotation because of the association with extremist views.”

  • Michael

    Seemingly a very interesting seven years.

  • Michael

    That’s mumbo jumbo – not Christianity!

  • Michael

    A friend suggests fundy = fundamentalist ? In which case you most certainly have me wrong. I am not that – nor do I hang a label other than ‘Christian’ on me. Progressive Christian maybe, but even that I question.
    Michael Wilson

  • Michael

    Not me!

  • Gary

    No you’re not…or you would respond to questions or challenges with more than “Your words, not mine”. That’s not honest debate, it is merely sidestepping those questions or views which you have no answer for.

  • Gary

    Glad to hear it.

  • Steve

    This is an idiotic straw man argument. Did you giggle to yourself when you made this?

    And I really gotta say “progressive” Christians (two words that should never go together, the Gospel is timeless and therefore cannot be progressive) have much more in common with atheists and secular humanists than they do with other actual Christians. Am I the only one who has noticed this?

  • Michael

    If you so wish.

  • Gary

    Actually I am beginning to smell a troll here.

  • Michael

    I suspect that one response of mine was lost in transit. Suffice to say: I was offended, a personal response. Alas the debate now bores me. Take no offence, but enough brother. Enjoy the wonderful world out there – the wonderful creation that makes me believe. Go well!
    Michael Wilson

  • Michael

    Whatever that means? Nice meeting you. Bye!

  • Wait, Michael.
    Doesn’t one of the main soteriological inventions go like this:
    (1) Yahweh loves sacrifice of animals for sin
    (2) Yahweh says, “Enough, thousands of years and no progress — I’m bored. I’ll send my own baby and let him be killed as the perfect sacrifice. That will finally satisfy my blood thirst. And if you don’t believe that, damn you!”
    (3) “Oh yeah,” Yahweh adds, “drink wine and eat bread in a special ceremony remember how I gave my boy to you, free of charge. And if you don’t, well ….[denominations vary here]”

    If so, Brigitte bizarre story is pretty bloody close, no? [pun intended]

    BTW, Michael Wilson, you are a pastor, aren’t you?

  • oooooh, Steve called David a bad name!
    [Steve, I think David is very comfortable with those labels too — he is beyond caring about labels, I think. Could be wrong.]

  • I didn’t mean the hypermodel that you are thinking of. I meant something akin to hypersets. A hyperset is a set that can contain itself. I find these concepts interesting and a cosmology developed using hyperset ideas would be non-mechanical. That is just an example.

  • And how would it be non-mechanical?
    What is your understanding of “mechanical”?

    Another pejorative term is “reductionistic” — again, said by people that do not understand the complex beauty of systems defined by a minimal of simple rules.

  • Oh yes, what a terrible insult ;-.)

    It is probably much worse than being described as a Mormon…

  • It would be interesting to know if you mean this as being:

    A) the unequivocal Biblical teaching on the topics
    B) One of many interpretations of contradictory Biblical texts

    To my humble opinion, B) is much more likely than A)

  • Thanx for playing, Lothar.

    Of course I don’t mean that — but I assume your question was cleverly rhetorical.

    You forgot (C)

    The Bible is an amalgam of different writers with different agendas (no Spirit or Spook guiding their thoughts or hands). There are contrary theology in them, just as there is contrary theories of government in the US constitutions (not sure of Germany’s). Thus, it is easy to get lots of theologies out of it. And it is boringly generic for everyone to thing their interpretations are “the unequivocal Biblical teaching on the topics”

    Like I said, I wager you intentionally left that one out.

  • Gary


  • Gary

    Steve and his insulting closed minded dribble is back…sigh.

  • Hello I totally agree with C) but fail to see why it is different from B) unless I did not correctly express myself.

    2013/10/3 Disqus

  • By the way, as I explain on my introductory post
    I am not German but a Frenchman from Lorraine/Lothringen, a region where a strong ethnical minority speaks a German dialect besides French. This is/was the case of my father and the mother of my mother so that I have grown up under both French and Germanic influences.
    Sadly our culture has been destroyed by the French government over the years, as was the case for every European ethnic minority in the French territory.

    I don’t know if you also have interest for such things but I am going to write about the ethnic German culture in Lorraine and how it was/is persecuted.

    Neben dem progressiven Christentum ist es auch ein Thema, das mich sehr bewegt.
    A cote du Christianisme progressive c’est aussi un sujet qui me travaille beaucoup.
    Besides progressive Christianity, it’s also a topic I deeply care about.

    Liebe Grüße aus Lothringen.
    Meilleures salutations de Lorraine.
    Lovely greetings from Lorraine.

    P.S: I do know (now) that it clutters a blog 😉

    2013/10/3 Lothar Lorraine

  • BTW, last summer I spent a week with my 12 year-old son in the town of Rouffach, near Colmar in a similar area of France where there is a local German dialect. We couch surfed there. My German was much more helpful to me then my French while there. As my French is non-existent!

    I loved the area and the people — wish I could live there.

  • I believe that, French people (British call us “froggies” – frog-eaters) have a terrible English everywhere, even in Alsace.
    But for someone bilingual French/German, learning English is relatively easy because strong Latin and Germanic bases are already present.

    2013/10/3 Disqus

  • Steve

    Yes. Because I make a ridiculous cartoon contemptuously mocking something I clearly didn’t understand, and this makes me insulting and closed minded. Roger. Gotcha.

  • Brigitte

    That is a content-less non-statement.

  • Brigitte

    The great exchange is what it is all about. My sin for his righteousness. My death for his life. Those have real love who lay down their lives. — I told this once to a young woman from Japan over an outing with another Japanese woman who was going to Bangladesh as a missionary. This first woman was from a family who were Shinto priests and owned a temple and Kindergarten. It must be possible to have this as a family run organization or business. Anyhow. She blanched and was silent. It was quite stunning. She had not heard this before: that love is willing to lay down your life to redeem another. You can push it away Sabio or mock it. It is still the profoundest thing that can happen.

  • Gary

    One thing I have learned. If someone’s Christian faith makes them into a complete asshole…they aren’t doing it right!!

  • Wow! Did anyone else sense the irony there?

    Truth can be an unruly pet, turning around and biting the hand that feeds her.

  • Gary

    You’re so cute when you try to be clever Sabio.

  • Gary

    Wait…so you DO believe in eternal damnation?

    Your logic can be so hard to follow.

  • Because I have only a little (“o”) wisdom (“sabi”), the best I can hope for is cuteness. I leave burden of profundity to others.

  • There are two important principles in deductive logic:

    — validity
    — soundness

    Theology, since it is always made up, at its best can only hope for validity.

    So I imagine you are encouraging Brigitte to improve the validity of her theology. For both you and Brigitte can have valid (internally consistent) theologies and yet totally contradict each other.

  • Steve

    That would apply to pretty much all of us here, not just me.

  • Heather McCuen Dearmon

    Thank you very much for replying, David! I am simply trying to understand you correctly.From what you stated, I am wondering about your take on the virgin birth, the miracles and healing Jesus performed and his resurrection?

  • Michael

    I suspect nothing!

  • Michael

    Pastor, small p, yes – pastor large P, no!

    Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.
    Michael Wilson

  • Brigitte
  • Brigitte

    “I want to believe there’s a heaven. But I can’t not believe there’s a hell.”

    Vince Gilligan’s (Creator of “Breaking Bad”) girlfriend.

  • Tom Estes

    Seriously, only a lost person would say this about the blood of Christ.

  • Brigitte

    “The doctrine of original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.”

    Reinhold Niebuhr

  • Gary

    Boy getting a straight answer out of you is damn near impossible.

  • Brigitte

    That’s hillarious, Gary. I am usually accused of being way too clear and boring. If you are not sure what I believe, remember that I subscribe to the Book of Concord and the Ecumenical Creeds, as well, as the Bible, all of which are clear that there is a place of torment prepared for the devil and his kind. Thankfully, I am not in charge of judging human beings, at this point, only proclaiming the power of Jesus’ blood.

  • I’ll take H.L. Mencken over R. Niebuhr (both contemporaries)

  • Brigitte

    I’m not particularly familiar with either of the men. But Wikipedia gives this little Niebuhr gem: “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”–Interesting.

    What do you like or dislike about either, Jeff?

  • Gary

    Sad that you are so blinded by dogma that you cannot even comprehend …

  • Tom Estes

    Care to explain what I’m missing?

  • I’m familiar with H.L. Mencken from reading his book
    Treatise on the Gods
    written in 1930 which I read over 30 years ago while back in high school. I think this book had a lot of impact on how I view religion.

    I don’t really know much about Niebuhr but was a bit puzzled about his quote about the empirically verifiable doctrine of original sin. Was he just saying that the doctrine was “empirically verified” because it could be shown to have been written down in certain writings from 2000 years ago?

  • Brigitte

    That’s interesting. “Treatise on the Gods” is read in High School. Never heard of it before. Different culture, alright. And this is how students are influenced. Hm. My very little research shows that he is very much influenced by Nietzsche.

    The “empirically verifiable doctrine of original sin” should really not need any further elucidation, also in light of the other Niebuhr quote.

  • Brigitte

    Gary, if you didn’t vote everything up or down, we wouldn’t have as much mess in the threads, maybe. Thanks.

  • LOL

  • Brigitte

    Sabio, did you read “Treatise on the Gods” in school, too?

  • It wasn’t assigned reading. I just read it on my own when I was in Highschool.

    If it was assigned reading, I’m sure the villagers would have grabbed their pitchforks and torches and stormed the castle. 🙂

  • Brigitte

    I see. That’s America for you. We are talking about America, I presume?

  • Yes it was Merica. The best country between Canada and Mexico and don’t you forget it! 😉

  • No — should I?
    I did read:
    Heinlein’s: “Stranger in a Strange Land”
    Hesse’s: Siddhartha
    Merton’s: The Desert Fathers and many more
    CS Lewis: almost everything
    Abbott’s: Flatland
    Voltaire’s: Candid

    Were some of my favorite in my early days. Why do you ask?

  • Brigitte

    Jeff mentioned it just above (or below, whichever direction you have going.) I have been thinking that I need to read Nietzsche (and that in German since his German is good.) He appears to be the father (Father) of a whole lot of others. (But really, I want to read more G.K. Chesterton and Herman Sasse.) Siddhartha is sitting on the shelf, and Lewis I have only read some. My favorite is Luther. He is so funny and hard-hitting and right on (when he is not completely wrong in political advice, which is not his expertise, or loosely quoted in table talks.) He also makes me happy in the gospel in practically any sentence, or two, or a paragraph. He is so anchored. Anyhow, because of our different reading lists, we have some very different foundational ideas. We should try to get at the very bottom. A lot has to do with sexual freedom, and we have that with Nietzsche, too. I did read some quotes, ironically, he seems to have hated women through and through. But this could be because his true love ended up spurning marriage, supposedly on ideological grounds… Complicated.

  • Brig:

    You said:

    “Anyhow, because of our different reading lists, we have some very different foundational ideas.”

    And you’d be very wrong: I have read bookshelves full of Christian books — tons of them. I am a former Christian and very prayerful, reflective and informed. So, the reading lists have nothing to do with our “very different foundational ideas.” — so what is your next guess as to why our ideas differ?

  • Brigitte

    Explain it to me Sabio. If you are committed atheist, as you keep saying what is prayer as in “payerful”? And what ideas do you hold, in a positive sense, as opposed “not” hold? Mostly, I have seen you in your own particular brand of logic categorize other people. — But who are you? You love your family, try your best for your patients, and so on. But we all do that.

  • I didn’t follow that, Brig,
    You can learn all you want about me at my blog.

  • Brigitte

    I tried that. It was not pleasant.

  • Well, you can read there. Dialogue is a two way street. I won’t be clogging David’s thread with too much unfruitful exchanges here.

  • Brigitte

    I know how it goes, Sabio, the endless so-called “dialectic” with someone always hiding in the bushes not wanting to reveal his own thoughts. I’ve been through the mill with someone whom both you and NP banned from your blogs.

  • I won’t pretend to understand that either Brig.

  • Gary

    Brigitte…why in hell would you choose to make such an irrational statement and direct it solely at me? Thanks my ass. You can blow it out yours.