5 Heresies

While reading Michael Barkun's Religion and the Racist Right - The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement, I was overcome by the sheer number of horrible concepts that have been created under the umbrella of Christianity in the last two thousand years. In a fit of theological creativity, I decided to compose a few heresies of my own, or at least modify existing ones (knowing that just about every thinkable heresy has been advocated by somebody, I don't propose to having invented really new ones). I choose heresies that have some inner logic, or that "explain" incongruencies of the Bible and/or known history that people have been wondering about for eons. The heresies aren't necessarily compatible (why should they?).

Positive responses and flames are ok, mail-bombs (virtual or real) not. As an ex-catholic and card-carrying member of Unitarian Agnosticists (1), I have a license to blaspheme up to five times on weekdays, and three times on holy days (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays - we have some piety, and don't discriminate).

I have no idea why I choose to write up five heresies. Somehow it was the right number, and as I was able to come up with all five of them within one evening (4 hours), it was not too bad a choice.

Heresy, the First: Jehova as Johnny-Come-Lately

The god we call God or Jehovah is actually a late upstart, so to speak. The original God or Gods (let's stay with the gender-neutral plural), unbeknownst to us, have no need for "chosen people" or "salvation plans". Why should they? They were omnipotent in the full, and planned mankind in its current form. We don't know where the God we usually call Jehova really comes from (a separate part of the universe? or is he no god at all, but merely a Created Being like ourselves, run amok?), but we can see his handwriting all over the place: he has to influence people and peoples manually, by using showy effects (signs and wonders) instead of the mechanisms built-into our universe: careful selection of mutated strains of genes and memes. Jehovah is an impatient and vengeful God -- characteristics of an underling manager who loses the grip on his projects, not of an omnipotent, omniscient God as old as the Universe!

Heresy, the Second: Would the Good Guys Please Stand Up?

Separating out one tribe of people by giving them an entirely new, isolationist religion, strange mores (don't tell me kosher housekeeping isn't strange!), and calling them "a chosen people" is a sure way to guarantee problems. Maybe Jehova is really an entity like Loki, a troublemaker? With a minimum amount of work (a few dozen special effects at the time of Moses; much less later), he has created a political and ethnic trouble zone - the middle east - that has been fueling itself for millenia! In contrast, nothing really damning can be said about the "bad guy". Was it Satan who "hardened the Pharao's heart"? Nope. Looking at current millenialists, we can even say that big J is indirectly (through influencing John to write his Apocalypse) helping cults that want things to get worse, instead of better. All we know of the opponent's side comes directly or indirectly from the Bible, which is hardly an unbiased account. Even so, Satan doesn't come off very bad, or J very good, which is telling in itself - if even the promo material of a God can't find very many good points about him, what should an unbiased observer think?

Heresy, the Third: The Anti-Christ Has Already Appeared, And He Founded a Religion Called ...

... "Christianity". Today, we know Him under the name of "Paul". Satan's best move for the last few thousand years, really. Just imagine yourself in his (Satan's) position: your opponent, big J, has just landed a big coup: he manifested a part of himself for a human lifetime on earth, spreading his gospel unbeknownst to your agents, who only thought him one of a thousand Jewish priests eagerly awaiting the End Time. Then, in a surprise move, he lets himself kill publically, in such a manner that everyone can see it, but by the mediation of the Romans, so that nobody of His own people has to feel guilty --- and returns from the dead after a suitable symbolic time of three days. Quite a publicity stunt.

What do you do? Luckily, big J doesn't remain too long on earth, but leaves the physical plane after a few weeks, so the field is yours. You plant a spy in the inner circle, to subtly modify the message. You know that a horde of apostles that can literally do wonders can establish a church in a few years, but your man will shape the theology of that church, and twist it beyond anything ever thought or said by its founder!

So Paul manages to place himself in a special position, as the sole apostle to the gentiles. The other apostles don't have much theological background and their arguments lack finesse, so they don't manage to create a consistent theology. Paul does, writing dozens of letters to the churches, traveling all over the realm, being conspicuous and better-known that all other apostles together.

The other apostles are unable to convert many Jews, and what remains is the Gentile Church, with Paul's doctrines predominant. Judas is invented (does nobody wonders about his name? Such flat symbolism!), the Romans are absolved from all guilt, and the headquarters of the Church are are moved to Rome, of all places.

Heresy, the Fourth: Choosing a New People

Jehovah is a bad guy, and it shows in the behaviour of the people that he "chooses". Luckily, he hasn't too much power to invest in flashy effects, so his influence fades after a time. After the initial exposure to J, the Jews behaved quite badly (killing thousands of Kanaanites etc.); later they seem to have "rationalized" their religion up to the point were all the bad influences of J have been eradicated (A doctrine like "don't do upon others what you don't want them to do unto you; the rest is commentary" is certainly much more mellow than what went for theology during the "kill all men, keep women and children as slaves" times. Don't trust Leviticus to faithfully represent the Law (it was written much later); look at the historical books instead). Jehovah tried to bring them on a more militantly racist course again (all those prophets warning against inter-breeding with and accepting the mores of other peoples), but wasn't very successful. Finally, he looked for a more receptive target population, and found it in the gentile Romans. Church history since its very beginning shows lots of rabidly intolerant ideologies that incited permanent struggle within the church itself and between the church and just about everyone else, so J's influence took on.

Heresy, the Last: Congratulations, You Failed the Test!

Imagine that all of the bible to be true, and that big J as depicted in the Bible is the good guy. It might still be possible that Earth is really intended as a test that filters out the uninteresting, boring, authority-believing people. The others (the unbelievers, satirizers, doubters, etc.) are much more interesting and will receive a high place of honour in whatever kind of heaven you might imagine. Maybe God is simply bored and wants people she can talk to, and who respond intelligently?

(The boring souls will most likely get recycled, or stuck in a nice peaceful heaven where they can't do any harm.)

(1) That's a lie, I invented UA on the spot.

Other Heresies

A very nice one (indeed, an answer to a lot of questions) is given by Dr. Schund.
This page is part of the Rant Space.