Religion: Powerful and Dangerous Medicine

Religion: Powerful and Dangerous Medicine May 9, 2015

Religion side effects quote

The purveyors of religion insist that their product is so powerful it can transform a life, but somehow, magically, it has no risks. In reality, when a medicine is powerful, it usually has the potential to be toxic, especially in the wrong combination or at the wrong dose. And religion is powerful medicine!

– Marlene Winell and Valerie Tarico, in an article in Alternet.

I appreciate the fact that Winell and Tarico – critics of religion in general – recognize in the title of their article that not all forms of religion, nor even all forms of Christianity, create such effects.

I can remember in my teens, as a recent convert to Pentecostalism, that I sought to maintain spiritual highs in ways that made for mood swings; that I spent time worrying about which way God wanted me to ride my bike to school, and committing the unforgivable sin, and the Rapture. My born-again experience was life-transforming. But so too was moving beyond the kind of approach to religion that I adopted immediately thereafter, and finding instead a less dogmatic, less obsessive, less neurotic approach to Christianity.

Winell and Tarico refer often in the article to this movement as “Bible-believing” and the like. Yet that whole introspective and individualistic approach to faith is not actually found in the Bible. It is a modern phenomenon.

What are your stories of the positive and negative impact that religion – or the lack thereof – has had in your life?

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  • charlesburchfield

    Before I started getting old and fat and disabled I felt welcome & accepted in churches. My disability is of a failing mental health kind. Neurotic? Well I guess! Obsessive? You bet! Delusional? Just too too! I mainlined the pentacostal high for as long as I could. Then one day I became so dysfunctional I could no longer pay my rent let alone my tithe.

  • jjramsey

    Speaking as an atheist, I don’t entirely agree with the notion that religion is medicine. I suppose I might liken it to some herbal concoction that turns out to be a mix of both therapeutic and poisonous compounds, and the extend to which it is toxic depends how much of the latter there is. What would I consider poisonous? Well, at the vary least, the beliefs in things that are false. “Faith” may be poisonous as well, though that depends on how it’s defined. Take that for what it’s worth.

    (Personally, I prefer to just treat “faith” as a synonym of “trust” and to note that trusting in something on insufficient evidence is no virtue, but others have a somewhat different take on what “faith” means.)

  • Rust Cohle

    We have been born once and cannot be born a second time; for all eternity we shall no longer exist. –Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) Vatican Sayings #14

    Being “born again” is just another fable we tell ourselves to deny the reality of death.

    The 4 stories we tell ourselves about death
    Stephen Cave | TED Talk, December 2013
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB7xs7UpIfY

    • You are making a very generalized argument about very specific sorts of Christians. Your comment does little, if anything, to address to topic of the post.

      • Rust Cohle

        If you’ll notice, the post mentions being “born again.” And Jesus says you must be born again. Maybe Jesus is just a “very specific sort of Christian.” Who knows?

        • John’s Gospel attributes those words to Jesus, but the words attributed to Jesus in John are for the most part historically suspect. Of course, the particular saying you allude to could be a variant of the Synoptic saying about becoming like little children to enter he kingdom of God.

          Jesus was obviously not any sort of Christian, much less a very specific sort.

        • “Born again” is not a reference to life after death for most Christians, and hardly seems contextually correct for Jesus either.

          Are you one of those fundamentalist Christians posing as an atheist to make atheists look idiotic?

          • Rust Cohle

            Actually, “born again” does refer to living forever.

            1 Peter 1:23 For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever.

            >Are you one of those fundamentalist Christians posing as an atheist to make atheists look idiotic?

            Can I suggest you take a look in the mirror?

          • I see an atheist in the mirror.

            But now you look even more like a fundamentalist Christian, with their penchant for taking completely separate New Testament texts as proof-texts for the intentions of the other. Even most Christian scholars consider 1st Peter pseudepigrapha.

            Even so, most translations of 1 Peter do not take “incorruptible seed” as a trite reference to living forever.

          • Rust Cohle

            It doesn’t matter if 1st Peter is forged or not, it is still in the Christian canon, and informs Christian thought, which was often in direct contradiction to Epicurean thought. See the text “St. Paul and Epicurus” by Norman Wentworth DeWitt (University of Minnesota, 1954) for the many examples, including the “born again” (Epicurus said you couldn’t, Jesus said you could) story.

            >most translations of 1 Peter do not take “incorruptible seed” as a trite reference to living forever.

            Trite? Are you kidding? What do you think ” lives and abides forever” or “incorruptible” or “stands for eternity” means? It’s an immortality story.
            biblehub.com/1_peter/1-23.htm

            “Denial of Death” (Ernest Becker, 1973), by living forever, is the “medicine” Christianity offers people to alleviate their terror of dying. And there are now 400+ scientific studies to support this. It’s called Terror Management Theory.

            Terror Management Theory
            tmt.missouri.edu

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Hi1C4NNnV4

          • If you have the delusion that the Christian canon is internally consistent, you really are a fundamentalist. And if you think all Christians pine for immortality, you are even more poorly read in theology than you are in biblical scholarship.

          • Rust Cohle

            > If you have the delusion

            I don’t. Do you enjoy confabulating?

            > all Christians pine for immortality

            The term “born again,” along with much of the NT, addresses hopes of eternal life. And Christianity was, in part, a reaction against Epicureanism, which held that:

            “We have been born once and cannot be born a second time; for all eternity we shall no longer exist.” –Epicurus (Vatican Sayings #14)

            But then you’re so poorly informed of the historical context in which Christianity formed, you’ve never heard that before, except from me. Right? Now who’s really poorly read, hmmm?

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            now you just seem irritable & insulting. I think you have been posting too many agressivly negative argumenative posts producing adrenalin hits for too many
            Days. Take a nap.

          • Rust Cohle

            In reality, it is you who is reacting negatively, because your silly story about eternal life is threatened. Your hostile reaction is predicted by Terror Management Theory, for which there are now 400+ empirical studies.

            Terror Management Theory
            tmt.missouri.edu

            A great intro to Terror Management Theory:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Hi1C4NNnV4

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            What are you agraid of? Fear not! soon all our prayers abt you will be answered. the
            More you persist in posting the more of us are becomming aware of your need, the more some of us are interceding for you in prayer and loving you. I think that’s really what’s motivating all your postings and interactions w believers is isn’t it? Who loves ya bay-bee?

          • Oh stop pretending to be an atheist. You’re not very good at it. I know a fundamentalist when I see one.

          • Rust Cohle

            Your specialty seems to be confabulated non-sequiturs about my personal life. If you think derisive speculation about my personal life is appropriate to the blog topic, please tell us how.

          • Ah – a bit slow – but you’re starting to get the point now. Yes, making blanket assumptions about the people you are addressing doesn’t make for a particularly cogent argument does it?

          • Rust Cohle

            Are you still trying to maintain your illusion that Christianity isn’t about eternal life? Now that’s slow, my friend, slooooowww.

          • For some, religion is about never ending life. By the second century, much of Christian writing espoused it. I’d even argue that the original fast growth of Christianity was, in part, due to the egalitarian offer of paradise (something that was actually lacking in most other religions of the time – contrary to your rather dull generalized statement about religion). But, as in other religions, there have always been Christian sects and theologians for whom never ending life was not the goal or expectation; many for whom the word “eternal” implied a state of being, not a measure of time.

            For such Christians (and this blog often features them), your arguments are fairly meaningless. It would be like arguing “your religion is so stupid, you believe that angels dance on pins”. The answer is simply, “ah … no.”

          • Rust Cohle

            The Christian term “born again” refers to eternal life, as opposed to being born only once, with no eternal life, as taught by Epicureanism, which Christianity openly opposed.

            CHRISTIANITY:

            For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. 1 Peter 1:23

            EPICUREANISM:

            We have been born once and cannot be born a second time; for all eternity we shall no longer exist. (Vatican Sayings #14)

            The stark contrast is just that simple, despite all your rigamarole.

          • It’s amusing that you have to continue relying on your “New Living Translation” to keep making your obtuse assertion. That and your failure to understand that the theology of John is not the same as the theology of 1 Peter. Do you not even realize that theological difference is one of the primary reasons scholars mark the epistles of Peter and some of Paul as pseudepigrapha?

            Looking up the variant theological understandings of being “born again” is as simple as using “Google”, but, instead, you just keep insisting that you can tell the Christians on this blog what they believe.

          • Rust Cohle

            You’re ineptly avoiding the obvious. All the other translations convey the same thing: life eternal, but say it in different ways, that the soul or spirit, unlike the body, is “imperishable” or “incorruptible.”

            And the concept of “born again” and “eternal life” isn’t singular to 1 Peter, so your argument fails twice. 1 Peter, because it summarizes concisely what is in the rest of the New Testament, and contrasts so differently to Epicurus.

            Are you going to argue the rest of the NT that contains references to being “born again” and “eternal life” are also pseudepigrapha?

            > you just keep insisting that you can tell the Christians on this blog what they believe.

            No, that is your tired strawman. I’m not explaining what anybody believes, just what the Bible says, in the historical context in which it was written.

            Obviously, you’re not to well read on the philosophy of the time in which Christianity was formed, and can only keep repeating your tired cliches. Why not try reading St. Paul and Epicurus by Norman Wentworth (University of Minnesota Press, 1954) some time?

          • Inept? Tired Cliches?

            Apparently the ONLY thing you’ve read is a 60 year old book comparing Paul and Epicurus. You’re explaining “what the Bible says”? Good Lord, that’s a fundamentalist phrase if there ever was one! What the “Bible says” varies widely from author to author, as well as what different authors mean by words and phrases such as “faith”, “eternal”, and “born again”.

            And what on earth do you mean that other references to “born again” and “eternal life” are pseudepigrapha?

          • Rust Cohle

            No, it’s not the only thing I’ve read, and that is not in any way “apparent.” What is apparent is that you know so little about the cultural context in which Christianity evolved. So crank up your cliche-fest about everybody but you being “fundies!” You’re funny, but the same garbage over and over again gets really old.

            > other references to “born again” and “eternal life” are pseudepigrapha?

            I didn’t say that. You seem to either (1) enjoy deliberately misrepresenting what people say, or (2) have serious reading comprehension issues.

          • Ah, you said, “Are you going to argue the rest of the NT that contains references to being “born again” and “eternal life” are also pseudepigrapha?”

            To which the answer is, no. why would I? You suggested the idea – not I.

            If the cultural context of Christianity tells us anything at all, it tells us that Christianity very quickly diversified into a plethora of sects and theologies long before the New Testament was even completed. That’s why trying to proof text completely separate biblical texts against each other fails – they are inconsistent. And it is why trying to define Christianity by what “the Bible says” is impossible given that the Bible is an inconsistent collection of writings by disparate authors with a variety of view points and agendas. Which is a real problem for all the fundies who love to use the phrase “the Bible says!”

            When the blog author referred to his own personal “born again” experience, he wasn’t talking about never-ending life, he was talking about an experience of spiritual renewal, which is what quite a number of Christians mean by the phrase “born again”, and would argue the same meaning for the use of the phrase in John.

            And if you want to address the context of the Christians on this blog, you have to recognize that most of them do not subscribe to the old protestant precept of “sola scripture”. My original observation still stands: “You are making a very generalized argument about very specific sorts of Christians. Your comment does little, if anything, to address the topic of the post.”

          • Rust Cohle

            Wrong, bucko. You’ve been banging on your pseudepigrapha drum so hard about “born again,” that apparently you don’t realize that “born again” and “eternal life” are mentioned elsewhere; thus I posed you a question, asking if you thought it was all pseudepigrapha. Read what’s up there.

            >all the fundies

            You got a broad brush there; everybody’s a “fundie” but you, amirite? LOL You’ve got all the maturity of a 2nd grader tossing off insults.

            Try as you may to distract, “born again” in the Bible refers to eternal life, and I’ve provided evidence from a historical context that you simply are not intelligent enough to address.

            “sola scripture”

            Again, you’re trying desperately to assign negative beliefs to me I don’t believe in. That’s your whole game here. It’s really sad.

          • I read “what’s up there”, and there’s no reason to for me to suppose that it’s “all pseudepigrapha”. Obviously, “born again” is “mentioned” elsewhere. Lots of words are “mentioned” elsewhere.

            “Banging on the drum so hard”? I used the word pseudepigrapha twice before you posed your question. A little prone to exaggeration, aren’t you? It’s hardly the crux of the argument, though it’s still valid since it’s the only “Bible” verse you can come up with to assert that “born again does refer to living forever” (and only when you select a very particular translation of 1 Peter). The words “born again” being “mentioned elsewhere” hardly makes your case for you.

            Do you know one of main reasons scholars can tell that Paul didn’t write the pastoral epistles? He uses a different definition of the word “faith”; one that developed much later in early Christianity.

            No, everyone is not a fundie. Certainly not on this blog. Your arguments just seem to assume that they are.

            I didn’t say that you believed in “sola scriptura”; I said that most of the Christians on this blog do not. I would, however, say, that your oversimplifications of Christian theology based on what the “Bible says”, would only be a problem for those who do subscribe to sola scriptura.

          • Rust Cohle

            it’s “all pseudepigrapha”

            I never said that. You’re either bald faced lying or stupid or simply can’t read if you purport that I said that.

            Your arguments just seem to assume that they are.

            Nope. Your game is to twist and misrepresent everything I say.

            > your oversimplifications of Christian theology

            Nope. Historical context of the term “born again,” which you don’t seem to have the slightest inkling of understanding.

            CHRISTIANITY: For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)

            EPICUREANISM: We have been born once and cannot be born a second time; for all eternity we shall no longer exist. (Vatican Sayings #14)

            It doesn’t matter one whit if 1 Peter has been forged, which I agree it has; it still expresses extremely widespread Christian belief, no matter if there are or were some sects who might dissent.

          • Are you being purposely obtuse? I didn’t say you believed it was “all pseudepigrapha”; I said that “there’s no reason to for me to suppose that it’s all pseudepigrapha”, though you asked if I “thought it was all pseudepigrapha”. Try reading a little more slowly.

            The author of the blog is a New Testament scholar. I don’t claim to be, although I did study a year of koine Greek in college and mastered a number of biblical history courses. Bless your heart, do you really believe you’ve presented a challenging “historical context” here?

          • Yes, you’ve used these quotations before. And, yes, the Christian belief in an afterlife was and is widespread. But calling these two quotations from one academic idea the “historical context of the term born again” is, frankly, silly. Historical context is made up of all the historical facts and resources available to a historian.

            But the term “born again” is not exclusively about eternal life. In John’s usage it is uniquely about a present experience connected to baptism (a sort of symbolic death rather than an actual death). Many liberal Christians (including those connected to this blog) are far more concerned with the “born again” experience as it pertains to spiritual rebirth, and are unconcerned (if not completely unbelieving) in an afterlife. This is certainly the sense in which “born again” was used in this blog post.

            Let me give you one scholar’s explanation of the concept of being “born again”, which has little, if anything, to do with eternal life. This should be familiar to you. It is Norman W. De Witt, from “St Paul and Epicurus”:

            Paul and Metamorphosis

            We shall be further assisted toward apprehending the process of transition from philosophy to religion by spotting and correcting an error in translation. In Colossians 3:10 the Revised Standard reads in part: “and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of the creator.” The errors lies in the word knowledge. Knowledge is the state of knowing but the Greek word here employed is epignosis, which denotes the experience of passing from ignorance to knowledge or from the inability to understand to the ability to understand.

            This point may seem subtle but Paul is capable of subtleties. He is referring to the miracle of the religious experience. Simultaneously with the acceptance of the resurrected Christ the individual is declared to be born again to possess a new kind of understanding, spiritual insight, by which spiritual truths are discerned and judged. If this idea be kept in mind, we may now translate the whole verse: “having put off the nature of the new man, which is being renewed after the image of its creator to possess a new kind of understanding.”

          • Rust Cohle

            > context is made up of all the historical facts

            Again, you trend to the absurd, using “context” exactly like Fundamentalists use context, as if the whole Bible, or as if rows of books on history have to be quoted with “all the historical facts” to appeal to historical context.

            You’re a Fundamentalist with a capital F.

            > is not exclusively

            Never said it was exclusive. If you can cite where I said it was “exclusive,” show us.

            Of course, Christianity was primarily concerned with eternal life, as much as you try to proof-text and dance around the issue. One of “all the historical facts” you ignored:

            […]The concept of immortality that Epicurus derided has become outdated; a new concept of immortality has been launched, to which the old arguments
            will not apply. Of less importance, though helpful in any understanding of Paul’s mind and its working, is his conformance with the Epicurean practice of concluding with a paean of victory over death. […] Paul, who looked forward to eternal life […]Paul, who has been expounding the new doctrine of immortality[…] [DeWitt, 1954]

            Religion is about an immortality story. I don’t care if McGrath and progressives don’t believe it it, or how much you try to deny this simple fact, immortality is of primary concern, as evidenced by Terror Management Theory.

          • You have a very odd definition of “fundamentalist”, Rust, even if I did think that “historical context” was about quoting the whole Bible (frankly, the Bible is a sideline to the “historical context” of Christianity).

            It’s honestly hard to see what your point is anymore. “Religion is about an immortality story.” That’s it? So what? Religion is about all sorts of stories.

          • Rust Cohle

            If you want to admit that you can’t grasp the obvious point, that’s ok.

          • I think you think you have a point. Religion is about an immortality story. Wow. That’s deep.

          • Rust Cohle

            Terror Management Theory has done 400+ empirical studies on what you consider to be of no consequence. I think your opinion reflects rather poorly on yourself rather than on the research.

            tmt.missouri.edu

            But keep embarrassing yourself if you must.

          • Terror Management Theory does have consequence. Your bland interpretation of it’s implications does not.

          • Rust Cohle

            Aw, you hurt my feelings.

          • Rust Cohle

            Something
            you said
            a while back: “1 Peter do not take ‘incorruptible seed’ as a trite reference to living forever.”

            Wrong.

            DeWitt has a whole section on what “Corruption and Incorruption” mean, in both Epicurean and Christian language. An excerpt of that here:

            Unwittingly Epicurus had prepared the word incorruption for its role of denoting a blessed concept in Christian thought. We still pay him a backhanded compliment whenever this consoling chapter is read in our funeral services. If this thought is somewhat startling, Paul’s very first step in the argument by which he essays to demonstrate the doctrine of immortality may be even more so. [DeWitt, 1954] epicurus.info/etexts/stpaulandepicurus.html

            Yes, the word “incorruptible” does have to do with living forever, whether Paul uses it, or some hack posing as Peter.

            If you want to further embarrass yourself, trying to argue that Christianity isn’t about an immorality story, go on ignoring—how did you put it?—”all the historical facts.” And all the anthropological facts, as evidenced in Terror Management Theory .

          • Did you really need two comments, here? It’s the same three notes you’ve harped on all along: DeWitt from 1954, “Terror Management Theory”, religion is about immortality …

            All rather redundant and lacking in nuance; and your point is … ?

          • Rust Cohle

            Your point is what? That you can’t admit that you were wrong about what “incorruptible” means in a historical context?

          • That you don’t have one.

          • Rust Cohle

            Only if you say so, Beau. LOL

          • Doesn’t require my say so.

          • Rust Cohle

            How trite.

          • That makes about as much sense as most of what you say.

          • Rust Cohle

            Your point?

          • Again, that you don’t have a point. Your original post about the phrase “born again” in the context of immortality and TMT, had nothing to do with sense of “born again” being used by this post. And yes, you can harp on about what “born again” really means (as though metaphorical phrases can only mean one thing), but even your primary reference – DeWitt – treats the phrase with far more nuance than you do.

          • Rust Cohle

            Of course McGrath doesn’t use “born again” as it is meant. He’s a professor of New Testament Studies, a profession noted “for applying a variety of flawed and specious techniques aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today’s world” and for “being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account” as Hector Avalos shows in his text The End of Bible Studies. prometheusbooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=52

            You seem just as good at it. For instance, your proof-texting DeWitt, while ignoring his constant refrain that Paul (and hence Christianity) was offering a “new immortality” [DeWitt, 1954] story.

          • On the contrary, I am happy to concede that the phrase “born again” can have many layers of meaning, including a relation to an afterlife, but also a spiritual awakening in this life. It is also part of a larger emphasis (in both Paul and Epicurus) on two planes of existence.

            It is you who miss all the nuance of your own sources: DeWitt, Epicurus, and Paul.

          • Rust Cohle

            > including a relation to an afterlife

            Finally extracted that from ya. Now that’s progress.

          • I think you have trouble reading. I’ve been saying this all along:

            “For some, religion is about never ending life.”

            My whole point is that this is not the only meaning of the concept of being “born again”, despite your ham-fisted take on scholarship.

          • Rust Cohle

            >religion is about never ending life.

            TADA! Just like my “ham-fisted take on scholarship” /*chuckle*/ says:

            From a terror management theory (TMT) perspective, religion serves to manage the potential terror engendered by the uniquely human awareness of death by affording a sense of psychological security and hope of immortality.

            Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2010 Feb;14(1):84-94. doi: 10.1177/1088868309351165. Epub 2009 Nov 25.

            A terror management analysis of the psychological functions of religion.

            Vail KE 3rd1, Rothschild ZK, Weise DR, Solomon S, Pyszczynski T, Greenberg J.

            ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19940284

          • Good for you, you can quote studies about a purpose that religion can serve in TMT theory. Do you imagine that this is news? Do you imagine that it purports to define all religions, or all religious thought, or that it encapsulates all the nuance of meaning in religious concepts such as rebirth.

            The TMT studies are legitimate. Your silly attempt to use them as definers of theological terms is ham-fisted.

          • Rust Cohle

            Theological terms like these?

            For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever… 1 Peter 1:23

            > encapsulates all the nuance

            I’m stealing that. EATN!

          • That’s right, Rust. Everything you ever wanted a theological phrase to mean comes from this one translation of one letter in the Bible. (I bet you grew up with the Living Bible paraphrase – from which this Living Translation is derived).

            OK – I’m going back to my original theory: you are fundamentalist Christian posing as an atheist, trying to make atheism look stupid. That’s the only way to explain your Jerry Falwell-like “the Bible says” logic.

          • Rust Cohle

            You really get torqued when I bring up a translation you don’t like; therefore, you are fundamentalist Christian posing as an atheist, trying to make atheism look stupid. That’s the only way to explain your Jerry Falwell-like “wrong translation” logic.

          • Oh, I don’t mind the translation. I’m not the one claiming it as a proof-text.

          • Rust Cohle

            “For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever” is a passage that encapsulates all the nuance of meaning in the “psychological functions of religion,” according to Terror Management Theory (TMT, Vail, Rothschild, Weise, Solomon, Pyszczynski, Greenberg.)

            Thanks for helping me describe that so well. I love you, even if you’re cranky.

          • I didn’t know that TMT researchers quoted the New Living Translation of 1 Peter!

            Gee, you learn something new every day …

          • Rust Cohle

            Didn’t say they did. Why do you confabulate so often?

          • Yes, you did. And anyone who reads your comment can see quite clearly that you did:

            “”For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever” is a passage that encapsulates all the nuance of meaning in the “psychological functions of religion,” according to Terror Management Theory”

            The fact is, all that TMT research shows is that religious belief may have a measurable defensive effect against the fear of death. While TMT research might suggest one psychological function of religion, it does not define all the purposes, meanings, values, and ramifications of religion.

            It doesn’t even try to.

          • Rust Cohle

            Clearly, anyone can see you’re confabulating, again.

            > it does not define all the purposes, meanings, values, and ramifications of religion

            “Psychological functions of religion” is within the scope of TMT, if you’d just read the following title, just a wee bit closer, my dearest confabulator.

            Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2010 Feb;14(1):84-94. doi: 10.1177/1088868309351165. Epub 2009 Nov 25.

            A terror management analysis of the psychological functions of religion.

            Vail KE 3rd1, Rothschild ZK, Weise DR, Solomon S, Pyszczynski T, Greenberg J.

            You don’t even try to make sense anymore.

          • You really like the word “confabulating”, don’t you? I don’t think it means what you think it means.

            Oh, I read the “psychological” part Rust (though you certainly haven’t confined your meaning to the mere psychological anywhere else in this conversation). I also read the reflection on the verse from 1 Peter that you ridiculously attributed to TMT.

            So if all you’re are (now) saying is that TMT analyzes the “psychological functions of religion”, then what exactly is your point? That warding off the fear of death is the only psychological function of religion? That religion has no other function?

            And how, exactly, does a TMT study determine all the meanings of the phrase “born again”?

          • Rust Cohle

            No, I don’t like it, but if you keep confabulating, then we must identify the behavior. And you’re doing it again! Is confabulation as a way to misrepresent what a person wrote a long-time habit for you? Seems so…sadly.

          • What have I “confabulated”? Are you saying that you didn’t make this silly statement?

            ‘”For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever” is a passage that encapsulates all the nuance of meaning in the “psychological functions of religion,” according to Terror Management Theory’

            Or is “confabulation” just your stall when you find yourself incapable of answering questions?

          • Rust Cohle

            Oh, you’re not going to twist into pretzels what I meant this time? Why the change of heart? Guilty conscience?

          • This has gone on long enough. Please discuss something substantive, if you are so inclined.

          • I haven’t twisted anything, as your own senseless statement makes clear. But let me repeat my questions for you:

            So if all you’re are (now) saying is that TMT analyzes the “psychological functions of religion”, then what exactly is your point? That warding off the fear of death is the only psychological function of religion? That religion has no other function?

            And how, exactly, does a TMT study determine all the meanings of the phrase “born again”?

          • Rust Cohle

            I figured you’d be allowed to carry on and on, while I’m told to shut up. Because scholarship. LOL

          • I think the point of the original blog post is that religious experiences can lead to both valuable and harmful effects. One of the experiences reflected upon was the born-again experience. When the only meaning that a Christian takes out of born-again ideologies is after-life beliefs, it can lead to harmful obsessions such as end-times predictions and apathy over the environment.

            But I’ve noticed that for James, and most of the liberal Christians who comment here, the born-again ideology has to do with a spiritual transformation that occurs in this life, not an after-life. Such liberal Christians tend not to obsess about eternal life, and many dismiss the idea of an afterlife entirely.

            Now, I personally don’t believe in a soul. I think that all the qualities that humans attribute to the soul, are really just the effects of a consciousness derived biologically. But even when considering a physical consciousness, life-changing attitude shifts can occur that are better for individuals and for society; and I can see the “born-again” experience as a reasonable metaphor for such change.

          • No, because Beau has been a longtime commenter here and has shown himself time and time again to be genuinely interested in sharing what he knows, learning what he may not, disagreeing with others in a manner that leads to both parties learning, and in other ways contributing to the high standard of discourse I seek to maintain on this blog. You, on the other hand, have refused to do that even when asked to. Can you understand the difference?

          • D Rizdek

            My experience is that most of the time, Christians who talk of being “born again” consider it some sort of transformation that takes place within the person and doesn’t have the added connotation of meaning “born again into eternal life.” It seems to me that they believe being ushered into some sort of eternal life occurs with “resurrection” that some think is represented by Christ’s resurrection. IOW it’s the resurrection that leads to an eternal life, not being born again.

            Of course many teach that one cannot be given eternal life without being born again. The one might follow from the others.

            HOWEVER, I have read posts etc (see here: http://www.gotquestions.org/born-again.html) where some do believe that this being born again has implications of: “a
            spiritual transformation. New birth, being born again, is an act of God whereby eternal life is imparted to the person who believes…” and some scriptures are given in support. I don’t know how common this belief is throughout Christendom.

            But as you say, “who knows?”

          • Rust Cohle

            Being “born again” is primarily (albeit not exclusively) about an immortality story, because religion itself is primarily about an immortality story, according to Terror Management Theory. (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, Solomon, Rosenblatt, Veeder, Kirkland, & Lyon, 1990; Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991)

          • You remind me a lot of another commenter we have had here, for whom religion is a confidence trick, therefore every time confidence is mentioned, that is the connotation.

            But the meaning of words and phrases does not work like that. The question of whether religion is primarily a means of terror management does not mean that, within a particular variant of it, any phrase must be focused on that. Indeed, the phrase “born again” is itself a misnomer, choosing one of two possible meanings of the phrase from a story in which the double entendre leads to misunderstanding, and ignoring the one that was not the misunderstanding, which is “birth from above.”

          • Rust Cohle

            “Born again” or “born from above,” if that is a better translation, still refer to an immortality story. Do you deny that?

            P.S. You remind me of a typical theologian described by Hector Avalos in his text The End of Bible Studies, “applying a variety of flawed and specious techniques aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today’s world…. being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account…” prometheusbooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=52

            That does sound like a real confidence game.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            Tim hamner? Yes I too have noticed that it’s almost as if he is same person posting under a dif name. I have seen him on at least three other blogs making the same agressive arguments and assertions. He gets very abusive at times if one calls him on it. It’s too bad that he’s so obsessive compulsive bc the chap is probably very gifted in more tha one area of study and communication. I wonder why he persisists posting his disrespect. Is he just venting? No it’s more than that bc I seen others drawn in at length thinking perhaps they are haveing a convo w a healty person of intelligence and insight. All is well but if the person contradicts rusty even slightly he gets bitched out and called names. I think it’s a pattern of abuse easy to recognize in trolls. I think they are unloved, terribly alone, depressed, angry, have histories of being abused, have no support network to help them recover. The horrid thing is that they never process their pain so they project it on others. what they do mostly is get high on their own adrenalin hunting for victims. It may be a suconscious cry for help. Please pray for rusty!

  • John Thomas

    Totally agree with you. I am very much in admiration of the version of Christianity promoted by the likes of Marcus Borg, Richard Rohr, Mark Sandlin etc. They are inclusive in their language, less judgmental about those don’t hold to their views and promotes a version of Christianity which focuses on transformation of one’s lives based on teachings of Jesus and spiritual practices rather than insistence on dogmas of orthodoxy. I hope that this version of Christianity find more acceptance among Christians than current dominant version that is more in news for all wrong reasons.

    • ccws

      I haven’t read Rohr, but Borg is one of my favorite authors (along with the rest of the Jesus Seminar writers – especially Spong & Ehrman, & I’m just getting into Crossan via “Excavating Jesus”), and I read (and save) just about everything Mark Sandlin writes. I’m glad the message is finally starting to get out again that it’s not about pie in the sky by and by when you die, it’s about transformation of life in the nitty gritty now, as we used to say in the 60s. Meat & potatoes (& pie) for everyone! 🙂

  • ccws

    Third generation Social Gospel Progressive here…my dad went to an American Baptist seminary in the mid-60s when I was 10-13 years old. Bookworm that I am, I dived into everything he was reading & sort of got a seminary education by osmosis. Once you’ve read Tillich, Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, the Niebuhrs, and Rauschenbusch at age 12 or so, there’s no going back, LOL!

    I never had any close contact with the Evangelical side of things until I was in high school. It was a Very Strange Planet! The End Times “Late Great Planet Earth” pile of BS hit around the time I graduated from high school & went away to college. That was an even stranger planet! Spent a disastrous & totally alienating semester trying to hang out with the InterVarsity / Campus Crusade “born again & going to heaven” crowd (aka the “Me & Jesus Happy Club”) & came out basically an agnostic after I was told in so many words that [1] it was a sin for a Christian to be depressed and [2] “God doesn’t need thinkers!” (A real double whammy for someone who’s battled depression since age 8 – it runs deep on both sides of the family – and spent the years when “kids are starting to figure out what THEY believe” in a thoroughly intellectual environment, soaking up academic theology.)

    Since then I’ve spent far more time “in the Wilderness” than in a church. Lifelong depressive, intellectual, agnostic, mystic, small-s socialist, cynic, snarky bitch, and extreme introvert that I am, I find it almost impossible to be comfortable in any church.

    I haven’t given up on “God,” but my idea of “God” is more in line with Tillich’s “Ground of Being,” or the mystics’ “God beyond God,” and I’m drawn to Bonhoeffer’s “religionless Christianity” and wish he’d lived long enough to develop that idea more fully. You see? Reading those guys when you’re 12 will totally warp you, LOL! Is it any wonder I really, REALLY want to punch a wall whenever I run into anyone who thinks “The Purpose Driven Life” is high theology?

    • John Thomas

      Totally agree. I love Tillich’s books, his ideas and his way of writing. That is the concept of God and religion worth considering. I too agree that it is sad state of affairs when “Purpose Driven Life” is the popular book among Christians compared to Tillich’s books.

    • ccws

      A case in point:

      The only time I go to church these days is when I’m visiting my mom & stepdad – the old “keep peace in the family” thing. So one day I’m sitting in Sunday school, and the lesson is about the sacrifice of Isaac, and coincidentally I’ve recently finished reading an excerpt from Kierkegaard dealling with how huge and horrific that would have been for Abraham and how he had to commit to the killing blow before being stopped in mid-motion by divine interference – a leap of faith unimaginable to any of us. (I don’t know about you, but even though I don’t even believe in Hell, sometimes I think I’d go there to save my son’s life! Just the thought of losing him makes me sick to my stomach.)

      So I mention that as a counter to the common rationalization that Abraham could somehow be blasé about the situation “because he trusted God” – you know, the air of holiness that dehumanizes so many biblical figures & makes them better than the rest of us – trying to bring home what’s REALLY happening, and how many of us would even be willing to THINK about killing our only (or only remaining) child because God told us to?

      Well, I think I upset a few people (WHAT? S**T GOT REAL – IN SUNDAY SCHOOL???) and finally one lady said, “Can we get back to the lesson?” which turned out to be how upset a missionary in Africa was because the kids at his church’s school were still wearing amulets to keep the players on another school’s soccer team from cursing them to get hurt & lose the game instead of praying & trusting God to keep them safe & give them the win.

      I generally make it a habit to keep from cussing in church, but it was all I could do not to jump out of my chair and say, “WHAT. THE. F**KING. F**K!!! does THAT have to do with the lesson????” Somehow I managed to express that in a more civilized way, along the lines of, “I don’t understand how THAT relates to the lesson. What do good luck charms have to do with a dilemma so horrible that we don’t even want to think about it?”

      After church I told my mom how I thought the lesson had entirely missed the point, that this was the quintessential kairos moment, that not only Abraham’s promised family but all of history as we know it could have been wiped out and that Abraham must have known he had the entire weight of history riding on his shoulders in addition to the grief of losing his own child by his own hand, and how frustrated I was that no one seemed to get that, and she said, “These people don’t know anything about Kierkegaard – and they don’t care.”

      Well, WHY THE F**K NOT??????

      HEADDESK. HEADDESK. HEADDESK.

      • louismoreaugottschalk

        it reminds me of cows contentedly chewing their cuds. ya spooked ’em gal!

        • ccws

          Sho ’nuff. LOL! But I still wanna punch a wall…

      • I am always disappointed as a Sunday school teacher when people in the class fail to bring up obvious issues like that!

        • ccws

          I’m forever getting in trouble for pointing out the obvious…sigh…just another day in the life of the Voice Crying in the Wilderness: “WOTTHEBLEEP’S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE???”

          I was talking with my stepdad (who’s also an ordained ABC-USA minister – in fact, he was my dad’s first boss when Dad got out of seminary) and he said, “Sometimes you come across as someone who has all the answers,” and I said, “Just the opposite! I get frustrated when people are willing to settle for the quick, simple answer in the Sunday school book, when there’s so much more to it than that! I don’t want to settle for the pat answer, I want to try to understand the question!”