Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent
header_02 home about login header_06
sidebar-top content-top

Positioning Christians in politics

Note: First published 30 October, 2007

Hello. Does being a Christian determine how you vote? Yep, but it depends on which Christian values you prioritise. The right wing 'Australian Christian Lobby' published answers from political parties to its election questionnaire yesterday, at http://australiavotes.org/index.php. It's a nifty website, where you can call up responses to issue to compare. Only trouble is The Greens did not specifically answer the questions, so you get a blank for them. According to the Sydney Morning Herald's report, Greens refuse part in Christian survey:

The Australian Christian Lobby has expressed dissatisfaction with the Greens over the party's refusal to complete a national survey dealing with issues ranging from climate change and abortion to same-sex marriage.

The lobby's managing director, Jim Wallace, said the Greens had shown they were not concerned about the Christian vote and he expected this would influence where these voters put their preferences.

There's a lot of history between the ACL and The Greens, as the latter has campaigned strongly against the party in the past and will do so again this time, mainly on the issue of same sex relationships and other matters of personal morality (see here).

Given the distrust,  The Greens responded to the survey questions with a letter, as follows, which the ACL refused to publish on their website. It reads:

"Thank you for your follow-up email in regard to the Australian Christian Lobby survey. We would ask that you publish the following response on your website.

"We are, of course, aware that many Christians vote Green because they recognise the Greens’ commitment to peace and non-violence, social justice and the environment and to participatory democracy are consistent with Christian values.  The Greens have an ongoing dialogue with the established Christian churches with a long association with faith traditions and demonstrated commitment to social justice and to the Gospels.

"The Greens oppose discrimination in any form. We regard all issues and legislation as having a moral and ethical dimension which is reflected in our policy platform. Our position is well expressed in the inaugural speech of Senator Christine Milne in August 2005:

It used to be that every political party could be defined by values, by the values it prioritised in the hierarchy, but it is no longer clear which values underpin main-stream politics.  
Every political decision is a values-based decision, from tax cuts, which prioritise individual self-interest over the common good, to the slashing of incomes for single parents and people with disabilities. This is a matter of justice and justice is something that you either value or you do not.  
The abolition of student unionism is being dressed up as an issue of freedom of association, but isn’t it more an issue of equal opportunity for young Australians?  
There has been a concerted effort to quarantine the values debate to matters of private and personal morality, deemed ‘family values’, in order to avoid a values debate on public economic and social policy. The prosperity gospel has been adopted to legitimise consumerism and materialism and to advance the economic rationalist agenda of conservative governments. The notion of ‘family values’ is confined to a narrow range of values to suit a particular agenda. Where I grew up, honesty, kindness, respect, justice, fairness, tolerance, love and forgiveness were family values. Discrimination against and vilification of minorities, lying, misrepresentation and meanness of spirit were not family values.  
This quarantining of the values debate in such a narrow way is designed to do two things: firstly, to send a signal to the electorate that the government has a strong values base; and, secondly, to declare that all other issues are value free, so that it seems possible to have strong values and at the same time trample the very values of honesty, equality, freedom of speech, compassion, tolerance and a fair go which Australians hold dear and which are at the heart of all the world’s great religions and humanist philosophies.

"All the Greens policies are on our website and we would encourage your members and others viewing this site to reflect on the whole body of our policy platform and make their own choices. 

"At the 2004 election the Australian Christian Lobby campaigned solely to stop the major parties from agreeing to civil unions between same sex couples, even though this is now recognised by the President of the United States as an issue of social justice. After the election it was the boast of Australian Christian Lobby that it had succeeded.

"The Australian Christian Lobby has never spoken out on the values behind Federal Budgets that give tax cuts to the rich and which deny Indigenous communities the funding to maintain their languages or to provide even the most basic health and education services. At no stage in the last 4 years has the Australian Christian Lobby ever commented on the Howard government inaction on climate change or refusal to recognise environmental refugees. This, in spite of calls by the World Council of Churches to act on climate change to protect God's Earth and to support the millions of people in developing countries who will be first and most dramatically affected. 

"It is apparent that whilst belatedly the Australian Christian Lobby has included issues of public morality and the common good in this survey, the main agenda remains that of the fundamentalist Christian Right relating to private morality. It is offensive that the Australian Christian Lobby legitimises the very idea that it is acceptable to vilify a person because of their religious beliefs."

The ACL wants to position the parties to run its political agenda, not let the parties position themselves. How unChristian of them!

Some Christians have got a bit hot under the collar that the ACL is claiming ownership of the Christian vote, hence the rise of another Christian lobby group, which like the ACL, has sent out its own questionnaire and is holding its own candidate's forum for the election. This one is called The Centre for an Ethical Society, and I recently attended its Canberra candidates forum, opened by the Anglican Bishop of Canberra George Browning, with Greens Senate candidate Kerrie Tucker.

The CES has given the political parties until November 8 to respond to its survey - The Greens are the first to respond, Labor and the Democrats have promised to respond by the due date, and guess what - this time the Coalition has stayed silent and may well not respond at all!

So in the interests of free speech and balance, I've published the Greens' response to the CES survey here.

You know what? I reckon the Greens will top the CES survey for Christian values. Bottom to top, top to bottom - what's it all about?


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Yahweh's will

Christ had one "value" to which he adhered leading to his death at the hands of the state. Namely, he was faithful to his Father's will. “

Roger, in the myth his father was Yahweh the god of war, he states and demonstrates his will in the old testament frequently and his followers have continued to express it throughout history. So it's logical for Yahweh followers to strive for their personal outcome, irrelevant as to the method or path used. After all, they rely on repenting and being forgiven at their day of judgement. Fielding is no different. All draconian laws, disenfranchising and elitist biased legislation and just about every thing to do with the negatives of government, has been introduced or supported fully by god's representatives in government.

I believe its important to know a candidate's psychological controls. How would you put faith or trust in any who believe and support a violent mythical superstition? We see worldwide the outcomes and growing negative probabilities of the push by god's followers to take more control, as they fervently contribute to killing life on earth. So people should put aside being a christian when voting and open their eyes to the frightening reality ahead and vote for someone who says and will do what they say they will for a real future, unlike those in parties.

What Christian values

The separation of church and state is part of most democracies

There is no difference between church and state in the supposed democracies of the world. They are one and the same, as most political parties and organisations are heavily involved and controlled by religion. Both lib/lab leaders are devout Christians, most ministers and shadows are too, along with a majority of bureaucrats and minders. Typically you can only ever expect lie after lie from them all as their beliefs are lies, so are their lives and we all see the outcomes of the deluded being in control of societies.

The church and state don't merge on ethical deliberations, religion has no ethics, just what they describe as morals or more to the point, suppression of expression and non injurious practices. Ethics are found throughout nature, but not within the religious of the world, which is aptly demonstrated throughout all endeavours of religious live. The reason religion is always pushed to the forefront of government is because the religious have only one agenda, control at any cost. We see this as our world collapses and gods followers continue to support and promote its demise as quickly as possible. All the time believing their god will come to their aid and they will be proved right, against the glaring evidence of their lives.

Roger Fedyck states clearly why you can't have any faith or trust in god's followers. The followers of god are the biggest hypocrites on the planet, they proudly announce they are one of gods children and follow their messiahs way of life. But not one of them upholds the words attributed to the myth, or do anything to care for the planet of their maker. They will tell you they have free choice, but they refuse to allow the world to be free of their choices, demanding all life bow down and become enslaved to their gluttonous greed. After all, there is never any talk or action from gods followers regarding the growing extinctions of life on this planet, as they have no other thought but themselves, they are blinded to reality and we see that in their control over politics. Like all ideologies, church and state are failed, past their use by date and destined to become a negative blot on the history of the world.

On Christian Values

Alga, "Christian values" are in vogue, or at least talking about them is. Perhaps we can ask what Christ's "values" may have been.

The gospels are silent on supposed values that Christ may have had. They are stridently clear on something else though. Christ had one "value" to which he adhered leading to his death at the hands of the state. Namely, he was faithful to his Father's will.

Perhaps we can ask Steve Fielding if adhering to the the will of the Father means that you give your preferences to a bigot and xenophobe like Hanson as against giving them to someone who is willing to take on the establishment's rape of the environment.

These "vipers and hypypocrites" are the among the worst examples of Christianity in action. A pox on the lot of them.

The Preacher and the Presidents.

Something must have led public figures to seek his counsel. His autobiography, “Just as I Am” (HarperOne), tells us that in 1954 Winston Churchill arranged a meeting. The man who stared down Hitler confessed to the preacher after just a few minutes: “I see no hope for the world,” Churchill said. “I am a man without hope.” And together, they prayed.

The library sheds no light on such events, nor on Mr. Graham’s controversial political relationships. For understanding those, the recent book “The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House,” by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (Center Street), is invaluable. Dwight D. Eisenhower asked Mr. Graham “how a person can be sure when he dies he’s going to heaven.” Lyndon B. Johnson, thinking of his own death, asked, “Billy, will I ever see my mother and father again?”

"Perhaps no person in modern times-- or anytime -- has been as close to so many presidents as Billy Graham. To the presidents, all of whom seek the image of divine approval for their policies, this has been a blessing. To Graham, who was frequently used by politicians for their own purposes, it has been a mixed blessing and sometimes a curse. No other writers have penetrated the inner sanctum of these unique relationships between presidents and the world's most famous evangelist as well as Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. This is a fascinating and informative book that reveals new historical facts and exposes the many dangers when representatives of the kingdom 'not of this world' become too close to representatives of an earthly kingdom."
—Cal Thomas, syndicated columnist

Billy Graham was close to many of the political leaders of the last fifty or sixty years. Was their relationship symbiotic?

Some define symbiosis in the sense that De Bary intended, describing a close relationship between organisms in which the outcome for each is highly dependent upon the other.

Continuing Hubris Of The Christian Elite

John, it has been plain to me that since the reported death of Jesus Christ those who proselytse in his name have determined that they need to improve on his methods and message.

The Billy Grahams of the world are charlatans because they claim to represent a Christ who is relevant in the running of great states when in fact Christ's reported life was simple, apolitical and disconnected from all matters of state except when state authorities colluded in his death.

The merging of church and state powers is perverse when considered in the light of the reported life of Christ himself but is considered to be acceptable by most church leaders and most poltical leaders in Western democracies and by most citizens who call themselves Christians.

Church and State

The separation of church and state is part of most democracies.

Where they merge is usually in ethical deliberation.  People's faith informs their ethics (as it should in my view).

It seems to me that we can only separate church and state institutions.  In the lives of citizens they inevitably merge.

Well how stupid can you get?

Bishop Boniface Adoyo, the head of the 35 Kenyan evangelical denominations, is leading opposition to the exhibition. “I do not dispute that as humans we have a history, but my family most certainly did not descend from the apes,” he said. The bishop was invited to view the new Human Origins gallery before it opened this month, and said that he would call on his flock to demonstrate outside the museum if evolution was described as anything other than merely a theory.

“Bits of it are being disproved by scientists every day,” he said. “Yet it’s being taught in our schools to children - a theory being taught as fact.”

His argument echoes a similar dispute in America, where creationists have developed the theory of intelligent design as a rival to Darwin’s natural selection.

Among the exhibits at the museum are remains of primitive apes dating back 25 million years and evidence that primates have been walking upright for 4 million years.

The star of the show will be Turkana Boy, a 5ft 3in (1.62m) skeleton of a human who died 1.5 million years ago, aged about 12. It is the best-preserved example of Homo erectus, the species that set out from Africa to conquer the world.

Lining up against the evangelical movement is the country’s most famous fossil-hunting family.

Richard Leakey, who led the team that unearthed the skeleton in the far north in 1984, dismissed the creationist argument. He said: “Science is at the very foundation of our ability to deal with the new century, so if we bring it down to the idea that science may be unChristian . . . well, how stupid can you get?”

Intelligent Design, not so intelligent. As Richard Leakey says science is not unChristian.   

Needless death due to poverty is a moral issue

I point out to Mr Roskam that the organiser of last year's Make Poverty History concert is not a Christian, nor were a very large percentage of the 50,000 Australians who signed up to the campaign to end extreme poverty.

You don't need to be Christian to agree that a child dying needlessly every 3 seconds, because of extreme poverty, is a moral issue.

I was also surprised by Roskam's apparent use of the word 'morality' as a derogatory term. Roskam labels increasing foreign aid as a purely moral issue devoid of any reasoning. This is a fascinating conclusion given that increasing foreign aid has proved effective in facilitating the kind of economic development that can end extreme poverty.

Christians like to think they have a monopoly on morals. I suggest in todays society many Christians and not following in Christ's footsteps.

I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:24.

religion and democracy

I was looking at Webdiary's 2004 for a piece when I came across Religion and Democracy.

Interesting read.

Religion and Democracy

OK, here we go. This article is such tosh I want to go into a great deal of detail.

1. The Athenians during the democratic phase were decidedly religious, believing that Athena ate the cakes offered to her every night. I don't know whether it is MacIntyre or Kenny who is historically uninformed. It was also transformed into a plutocracy (rule by the wealthy) rather than an aristocracy during the democratic period.

2. As pointed out there have been radically democratic religious movements. So I guess religion can be the foundation of democracy.

3. The rise in the power of the parties in Australia has coincided with the decline in influence of the churches. It has also been the rise of the eco-rat (neo-liberal) agenda: the religion of money. This phase in the appropriation of public assets by the private corporations has not been approved of nor argued for by the churches - it has coincided with a decline in their influence.

4. The root of religion meaning binding is to nature or god not to a specific dogma or world view (although the author does seem to have one - but probably doesn't regard himself as religious).

5. If you think it is only the religions of the book that are in turmoil trying a visit to India and take a look at Hinduism. Buddhism in Thailand seems to be experiencing a hiccough or two, I hear.

6. Very few religions find everyday reality illusory. They actually seek to change this reality - is the complaint that they have done so (private property) or not done so (mystery religions)? There are some schools of Buddhism that have a positively Berklean notion of the immaterial but this is rare even in Buddhism (which, like the other religions, is concerned with suffering - which, last I heard, happened in this world). The churches are the only organisations which come anywhere near government in their spending to alleviate poverty. In Christianity the concern for the faith to be validated in daily life started with the founder and has continued since.

7. Most religions are evangelistic - quite a counterweight to claims of esoteric knowledge.

8. Weber and Tawney in their brilliant analyses showed Puritanism's contribution to the rise of capitalism. This is not the same as saying that capitalism and puritanism are the same. Puritanism would have no truck with consumerism. As Clive Hamilton has pointed out the only major group that is hospitable to the anti-Affluenza line is the churches.

9. The prosperity gospel is not the belief of the majority of christians (probably not even in those stupid places where it is preached). To say that this influences government policy is simply risible. The prosperity gospel is well and truly opposed by those in the Puritan tradition.

10. Disagreeing on policy is bad for democracy? Give me a break. Democracy here means agreeing with the writer's politics. Actually, I think dissent is essential to democracy. Progressive politics is due to belief in a scientific biology? Give me a break.

11. What's the complaint if ancient Greek religion would have opposed greed. Is the argument now for instead of against religion?

12. Much of the early activism for female emancipation came out of the temperance movement which was decidedly populated by christians. Did most christians agree with most people in their societies of the time? Yes. I criticise this on the basis of their professed faith - what is this writer’s basis of criticism? Most of the causes he lists had vocal christian advocates. I don't know whether he is being deliberately misleading or is just inexcusably ignorant.

13. War. Are other civilisations more peaceful? This is the implicit claim made and never defended. The communists and fascists did not claim to be christian. I don't recall the churches advocating the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. What evidence is there that as societies have become more secular that they have become less warlike? None is cited.

I know this is very long and I could go on. These inaccuracies are not uncommon. Neither is the awfully confused argument. I wanted to go into detail because this tosh is so prevalent as to be commonplace and accepted as true.

Religion And Democracy II

Evan, you have laboured mightly on your reply to Margo's link and I have found it interesting.

However, somehow I have missed the point of your comments. Who or what exactly within the linked article are you disagreeing or agreeing with. For example, your point 1 on the Athenians is linked to what?

Point 3 seems to be in general agreement with the sentiments of the article as I read them. I can't see how what you wrote differentiates between the source and your own ideas.

The article is long therefore it would dictate a long and detailed response. Perhaps you could take the most important things by your reckoning and let us know your thoughts in depth.

Religion and Democracy III

Hi Roger, the points roughly follow the article on Pandora.

The Athenians invented democracy and were deeply religious (so they don't support the idea that religion and democracy are antithetical).

Point 3 is against the (implied?) idea that religion somehow legitimates privatisation of public goods. This is certainly not true of the current bout of appropriation. The churches have been (inexcusably) silent about this, not supporters of it. There are some left wing christian groups quite opposed.

My position in brief:

Religion is not necessarily antithetical to democracy.

Secular values are not necessarily supportive or antithetical to democracy (social Darwinism is against, others from a chaos perspective are in favour).

The church hierarchies have generally betrayed their founder as soon as they have gained any power. This is by no means a peculiarity of Christianity.

The Anglo-Saxon and European cultures are no longer christian in any meaningful sense, at least in the public sphere. The eco-rat agenda swept the Anglo-Saxon cultures and this would have been impossible if they had a genuine christian ethic at their core. (Sumptuary laws haven't been on the books for a very long while.)

Many of the problems with our democracies and cultures are due to the loss of the human scale.

I am in favour of democracy on the basis of it being the 'least worst' system. My politics is about equity – somewhat different from equality – and respect. I believe our cultures and lives can be enriched by diversity: that it shouldn't be eliminated from consideration (as is the case with bureaucratic procedures).

That underlying these discussions about values is the very big philosophical problem of the "is and the ought" (that values can't be deduced from what is). I have by no means thought my way through this. Part of the answer needs to be a sense of the individual as communal (that individuality implies community). A friend and I run a blog about re-doing psychotherapy along these lines. Community Psychotherapy. If interested your input is most welcome.

I guess this is no shorter. But I hope that at least it is more systematic and readable.

Better Not Necessarily So than So-So

Roger, two things make attempts to communicate with you impossible. One is your insistence on arguing that black is white. The other is that you argue from premises the validity of which your communicant has never acknowledged, and on which you yourself are unable to provide meaningful argument, offering instead only childish dogma.

You accuse me, when I invite people to think for themselves, of being equivalent to the church when it lays down imperatives to stop thinking and accept on faith whatever it decrees. I ask you, how silly is your line of argument here?

You accuse me of claiming things, when in fact it is you who claims things, not I.

One of the things you claim is that there are "primitive" societies which ""even today" have no tradition of philosophical pursuits. Good Heavens. Name one. Some pre-Neanderthal society, is it?

You ask me: "Why would God decide to give us individually some huge puzzle to solve so that we can enter into eternal communion?" Now when did I ever say I subscribed to that dogmatic "eternal communion" codswallop?

But leaving that aside you are asking, in effect, how I can know the mind of God, when from the outset my contention has held that I cannot, and nor can you or anyone else. What we have been talking about here is understanding the meaning of the words of Jesus, a man, hampered as we are by this difference in time and place, language and mode of expression. Anyone imagining that he can know the mind of God is like a dog thinking he can know the mind of his master.

Some Myopia In Evidence

Bill, there's more than a touch of pot/kettle in your answer. There is no question that people will think for themselves. However that is not the point that I have been addressing.

You have seemingly rejected basic Christian orthodoxy particularly about the promise of eternal life. That promise is not my theological invention as you undoubtedly know.

If you are proposing that a commitment to following Christ requires each person to make up his own theology then you need to express that clearly because it is not what I have understood of your position till now.

Now somewhere in all of this, some histrionics have crept in on your side. Aren't you somewhat sensitive to having your comments commented on? You may think in your own mind that you have invited comment when in fact you have not. Read over your comment and you will see what I am referring to.

All of a sudden we have gone from discussion to "silly", "childish", "accuse", "codswallop" and other sarcasms. That sounds like a closing gambit from someone who is either unsure of themselves or will brook no argument.

Regarding primitive societies, I find now that you also appear to have gone to "black is white" as a reply of choice. Perhaps the words are unfortunate and "less-modern or sophisticated societies" more apt. Should we have a discussion on anthropology now? How would you classify opportunities for philosophical/theological musings about Christ in certain segments of the population of South America, India, Africa etc.

Like you, Bill, I do not know God's mind and I can't understand how you might come to the conclusion that I say that I do. Up to this point, I have pretty much stayed within the ambit of orthodox Christian theology but with the idea that I will stick with the reported words of Jesus rather than their interpretation. You say that we are "hampered" in trying to understand them. So be it.

In that case, neither of us knows what we are talking about so don't get bent out of shape by imagined slights because we are apparently arguing about nothing.

Here's a good read

Have a read of Australia's Christian vote on Radio National's Religion Report. Guests are Christine Milne (Greens) Fred Nile and Jim Wallace.

Really - A Good Read?

I thought it was pretty awful.

The interviewer blaming the guest for not sharing the interviewer's agenda.  

People seem to be confused about whether the Aust. Christian Lobby (who certainly don't represent my kind of Christianity) should be narrowly moralisitic (ie. individual morality) or broader.  I think they just don't like them pushing a right wing version of Christianity.  (Fair enough I suppose, but it doesn't make for much of an interview.)

The Australian Christian Lobby doesn't represent all Christians?  Gee really?!  And the Libs and Labor represent who exactly?  This kind of attack can't be taken seriously. 

It can be pretty absurd when those pushing a broad agenda are intolerant of the narrow.

A Good Read For Some

Margo, trawling through all the links and reading, I came to the conclusion that tacking Christian onto some of the dialog does not change the nature of the horse-trading.

The failure of the ACL and other groups (some dispensation for The Uniting Church) to provide a comprehensive vision that would advance the lot of our disadvantaged says pretty much all that we need to know.

These people are citizens and entitled vote and have a political opinion. However, if they are entering the hurly-burly of the political world so as to make a difference, I would prefix the following word to their respective organisational monnikers, Hypocritical.

J.C. Was a Carpenter and Teacher, not a Woodwork Instructor

, I think you need to understand and remember that Jesus spoke in parables. No doubt He used plain language just as we do in everyday communication with those around us but, contrary to what the church might tell you, He was predominantly not a dogmatist.

Dogma is invariably delivered in unequivocal terms, to be heard and accepted, full stop, just like the instruction you got from your teachers in primary school. On the other hand metaphor such as Jesus used whenever He was teaching invites — indeed requires — the hearer to think about what is said, and to make his own sense of it.

Further to that, multiple understandings of multiple aspects of life are to be got from instruction delivered by way of extended metaphor, in the same way as many mansions may be contained in a single house.

Mansions, yes. Mansions within a house. Think about that. One needs to, to make any sense of it.

I'm pleased at least that you quote from the King James version; not from one of those which speak of many rooms in God's house, making Him out to be some kind of boarding-house keeper. Reinterpretation such as this can only stand in the way of understanding. In trying to make sense of it they have in effect turned the meaning inside out.

That, though, is what you begin to do, in your unthinking interpretation of Jesus' reported words. Consciously or not, you and many people follow John Pratt's advice, and keep your thinking to a minimum.

You and they are to be excused, of course. Traditionally, the Church of Rome forbade the reading of the bible by those few of the faithful who could read — all were required to accept without question the interpretation handed down to them by makers of dogma in the church hierarchy.

Since those times many people from both inside and outside of the church have reflected on those puzzling words in John 14:2. Many an interpretation has been arrived at, and significantly most have no fundamental conflict with any other. And that lack of conflict is in itself a reflection of the many mansions metaphor.

Universally, I think, God's house is interpreted as everything, both physical and metaphysical, that exists. And of course all is eternity: that is the milieu in which we all operate. When Jesus speaks of His Father's house, he speaks of the sum total of everything, and forever. The many mansions within that house may be taken as the various belief systems which strive to unite believers with the Godhead.

The notion I favour at the moment, and especially in context of this discussion, is the variety of approaches that may be taken to the subject at hand. Your view is one mansion; mine is another. I think mine is better than yours. No Mc prefix to my mansion, thank you very much.

It Ain't Necessarily So

Bill, over many years I have thought much of this up and down and inside out. I have come to the following conclusion. There are those, yourself included at the moment, who claim some superior interpretation/knowledge that, the divination of, does not fall upon other persons. There is very little practical difference between what, say, the Catholic Church claims in eminence and what you are claiming. Now think about this. Why would God decide to give us individually some huge puzzle to solve so that we can enter into eternal communion? How would that benefit those primitive societies that even today have no tradition of philosophical pursuits? Do we just regard it as some fortuitous accident that we have been born into a society that has the benefit of the results of thousands of years of formal learning? Certainly Jesus spoke in parables but they were quite simple ones. Not too many walked away completely bamboozled by some silver-tongued barker for a tricky god. Let’s apply William of Occam’s principle and come to the conclusion that simple is best for a largely unsophisticated world. It seems inescapable to me that the God, who “does not play dice” does not want us to master some torturous philosophical edifice to come to Him. Remember that we were exhorted to become like children and not philosophers.


Everything eventually is a moral issue.

Climate change provides another example of the churches' rush to resort to morality. When Cardinal George Pell cautioned against church leaders making extravagant claims about global warming and environmental catastrophe, he was taken to task by Anglican Bishop George Browning. Bishop Browning went so far as to claim that because Jesus spoke about the rich taking what belonged to the poor, therefore "He spoke about climate change". Following Bishop Browning's scriptural exegesis, presumably we are close to finding a biblical injunction for Australia to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Foreign aid, like climate change, is an area in which morality has overtaken reality. The problem with the tactic of resorting to morality at every opportunity is that when eventually everything is a moral issue, nothing is.

John Roskam is executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs.

John Roskam argues in The Age that if everything is a moral issue, nothing is. This I believe is rubbish. Every decision we  make has a moral  aspect  and  morality is not diminished by running the morality metre over it. When we decide to buy our next car, or a fur coat, when we choose which political party we support, when we decide to buy expensive jewellery. Whenever we buy anything we have a choice, we could go without, we could give more to charity. If morality has anything to do with religion? It should be central to our decision making process. When morality is central in our life then it is never diminished.

When we decide to act to protect the planet and all who live on it, it is a win for human morality. The idea that you must drive a bigger car or cars, that you must accumulate more and more consumer goods, is  failed philosophy.  We must learn to share the planet and sharing is one of the first things we learn in kindergarden. Sharing is a moral issue. To have more than your share is immoral.

Politics of Compassion

, dealing with trivial stuff first: if you want to cite multiple consecutive consonants in words to challenge my dislike of those in the word "judgment", you could have gone to the classics "rhythm" and "strength". The trouble with such argument would be that both of these contain not multiple consonants at all, but rather digraphs and trigraphs. These things count as one consonant, I think in any language; certainly in English. Your double Fs and Gs are also digraphs. The doubling serves to modify the preceding vowel in pronunciation. There may well be another English word which matches "judgment", but I cannot think of one, and you have not quoted any. If there is not one which is not just another corrupted English word, as "judgment" seems to be, then "judgment" should be detained and deported back to America from whence it came.

So much for that. Now to the on-topic issue. It seems to me that you are missing the central point of the Gospels' message. It is not justification for selfishness, which is what I am reading from your posts. In an earlier one, you suggest that only personal spiritual salvation is to be got from taking on board Jesus' exhortations, that what He said has nothing to do with the secular world. In your latest to date, you say that charity begins at home. Which well it may; but it doesn't need to stop there. "Home", to us, is a place where people at the lower end of affluence suffer obesity related ailments; and the more affluent can afford a healthier diet, and to burn off excess calories at expensive gymnasiums. While you would have us fatties working towards perfection in our own backyard, people somewhere else are dying of starvation.

The Christian ethic is one of compassion, never selfishness, or self-centredness. Humanists of course will vehemently disagree, and say that compassion comes naturally to humans; but I am prepared to posit that it comes to us, believers and non-believers alike, whether we care to recognise it or not, from Jesus' words and examples. It has filtered down to us from His teachings, and become part of our ethos.

Compassion was a radical idea in Jesus' time. His people's ethos was one of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The Nazarene carpenter advocated quite the opposite: He said turn the other cheek. A bit of hyperbole in both the old and the new, but Jesus was quite given to a bit of hyperbole. The Gospels are liberally sprinkled with it.

There was certainly no concept of compassion in Greek or Roman culture in Jesus' time. Arbitrary mercy, when it suited their agenda, but no such thing as disinterested compassion. Like Nietzsche, and the Jews, the Greeks and Romans had no admiration for that sort of weakness at all. Some have suggested that Jesus got the idea of compassion from India (His "missing years" may have been spent there), but that is where they trod untouchables underfoot and obliged widows to burn themselves on their husband's funeral pyres. So that suggestion is just plain stupid. I think there is good evidence that general compassion was part of the human ethos before our (relatively recent) change from hunter-gatherers to agriculturists. I presume this to be the case because some pre-agricultural societies have survived, right here on this continent, among others, and we have been able to observe their cultural mores, and come to see that they exhibit a natural propensity for compassion. But history shows that we threw that propensity out the window, at about the time we invented windows. If anyone can show where any pre-Christian society has had even paid lip service to general compassion, as we do, I would like to hear about it.

If you still need to know what indication exists that Jesus' message was meant for peoples other than the Jews, consider that His travels took him often into Gentile lands, where he preached, and did miracles. Example: when he rid the man of demons which then took refuge in the herd of swine, he was clearly in a place of Gentiles. Final proof that he meant his message to go to the whole world is to be found in the verses at the end of Matthew.

P.S. Fiona, it makes no difference whether you are passing judgement on someone in a courtroom, or on which shoes would go best with what you plan to wear tonight; the word is the same, the meaning is the same, and so should be the spelling.

Bill, interesting

Bill, interesting information about words.

Regarding the central point of the gospel message, I have to stand my theological ground. Jesus came to prove that death through sin no longer had hold of the human condition. Through faith in Him, all are given the promise of eternal life. That central idea underpins all the other things that were part of Jesus' ministry on earth.

There in no other compelling message in the gospel narrative. If we did not have eternal life then there would be no point to living by the golden rule. Altruism and compassion have no place if this life is the only existence. I would not encourage my children to be selfless for any other ideal. If there is no eternal life then they should get the most out of the short life that they have as is the imperative for all other creatures.

Regarding the messianic fulfillment (btw is this another 3 consonant one), I have said that Jesus did not exclude Gentiles and as you suggest may have preached directly to them. However Paul was the one who "formally" developed the Gentile's claim.

In reply to one of your early points, Jesus had very little to say about the secular world in so far as it was concerned with governance and the structures of state. I would see no point in Him doing so. He, as the Son of God, was never bound by any other power except His Father's. His duty and loyalty was not to the Romans or Jewish Priests or the Idumean royalty only the will of His Father.

There is a modern trend to project Jesus into the worldly debate as a lynch pin and/or cypher for much of what is supposedly to be a good cause. That was never His purpose. Salvation was His purpose.

To paraphrase Him "What good does it do us to save the planet and not ourselves". We should save the planet and enhance the lives of our neighbours but first we need to ensure our own salvation. There are priorities that must be met. The same is true in the matter charity. We need to fix Australia's problems before we dissipate our energy elsewhere.

Give ourselves eternal life first!

Hi Roger.  Look, I'm sorry, but I'm sick of hearing this "eternal life" thing. If there ever was a carrot that would make people inherently greedy, stupid and compliant at the same time, that would be it. How can the politicians compete, just with low interest rates and bribing women to have babies?

Paul's only surviving letters (which exist) do not quote the gospels, nor do they mention the resurrection, yet he purportedly was there. Many Bible scholars believe the gospels were written well after the lives of the maybe-disciples, and they may have been altered by the RC Church to suit its agenda.

Jesus, at the end of the New Testament, whilst he had originally been sent only for the 12 tribes of Israel, suddenly decided to send the disciples out to the "world", to spread the word everywhere, which coincidentally suited the purpose of the RC Church to dominate Europe at the time.

Even the Angels in Mark, Matthew and John differ, yet you would argue that the Bible is the word of God? Even though it is so contradictory?

Mate, you're floating up on a little cloud there. If you're wrong, you're more than a little wrong.

Take a care when you preach about God. I have seen God work, and I have felt the power. Jesus was not needed, only the higher power.

I don't know what God is, but I know what he isn't. And he's not a bunch of hoaxsters offering eternal life! Or some sort of patriarchal cliché of 144,000 virgin Jewish men, sinless because they have never touched a women, living in everlasting heaven with God.

Take a care my mate. You're getting more than a bit preachy here, and you are a long way from being proven right!

Pauline Corruption of the Truth

Ian, I don't want to argue against you, because I, too, am tired if hearing about eternal life. But I have to point out that Paul is not purported to have been present at the resurrection. He never met the living Jesus. He was miles away when he saw a vision of the resurrected Jesus, and immediately converted from an enemy to a follower. Disagreement between him and the original followers, led by Jesus' brother James, ensued, and the movement split. The original Christians, the Nazarenes and Ebionites, had no scapegoat dogma. The notion that Jesus took upon himself all the sins of the world and died to atone for them is all Paul's invention. Modern Christians would better call themselves Paulians instead. It is his teachings they follow, not those of Jesus. Nonetheless, as I have said before, we should be grateful to Paul and his misguided followers for keeping the Gospels alive through all those centuries. The ways of God indeed are strange… You might appreciate the words of G.B. Shaw: "The conversion of Paul was no conversion at all: it was Paul who converted the religion that has raised one man above sin and death into a religion that delivered millions of men so completely into their dominion that their own common nature became a horror to them, and the religious life became a denial of life."

Paul and The Church of Rome

Hi Bill,

But I have to point out that Paul is not purported to have been present at the resurrection.

No. But even if he heard of it second-hand, you might think he might have mentioned it in his letters! What does that tell you? He was deaf?

The notion that Jesus took upon himself all the sins of the world and died to atone for them is all Paul's invention. Modern Christians would better call themselves Paulians instead. It is his teachings they follow, not those of Jesus.

Paul went on to work with the Romans on the "new" Bible (and of course the new RC religion), I believe, which may have been "modified" by the Romans to suit their agenda.

Hi Roger

Irrespective of your considerable thoughts on the matter, eternal life is inescapably central to the message of salvation and therefore it is the reason for being a Christian. One does not become a Christian because of injustice or the environment or to become personally good or any other worthwhile but worldly reason.

This is where it gets messy. So, you believe Christians are Christians because – and only because – they are being offered eternal life? The Christian ethic surely cannot possibly be so mercenary, so purile, and so corrupt – can it? – that such a moral imbecility can be true? Jesus (if he existed) would spit in your eye, my mate!

He taught that only if you put the thought of yourself aside could you possibly win his approval. Those who embrace eternal life as the reason, and motive, for their Christianity will surely never attain it. Ptttooeehhy, I say! You'll never get your eternity, especially while you attempt to gain your approval here amongst men – for surely you get your full reward praying in Webdiary here amongst men, yes?

One of the most potent things that Paul wrote was that he is “a fool for Christ”. That probably expresses being a Christian as succinctly as one can. To non-believers it is the utmost foolishness that cannot be proven or justified except by a life lived as one.

Frankly, I don't have a problem with either of you guys. My problem is with my faith in God, which is strong, and that of the faith required to take the Bible seriously. I have a great faith, but not necessarily in Christianity. These are the primary flaws as I see it;

  • Hopelessly Patriarchal social theme (even Jesus pushed this idea, and it has taken a thousand years to undo the damage!)
  • Hopelessly Masculine (God is father, therefore he has a dick... Yeah right... Well if that's the case, where's the Goddess?)
  • Hopelessly Racist (no Gentiles until the end, when suddenly we have ALL Gentiles are OK. And even then, in Revelation we have 144,000 virgin Jewish men, members of the 12 tribes of Israel, living in heaven with God, because they're SPECIAL, and have never touched a "dirty" woman. Yeah right. This is the group who "never lookethd upon their dicketh, unless pisseth was ordainedeth". Utter pagan bullshit!
  • Hopelessly contradictory (don't start me up!)
  • Hopelessly pagan (don't start me up!)
Maybe we should start a thread and go there? We're probably pissing off everyone else with this religious mumbo-jumbo, and I'm sure Webdiary can find a place to accomodate us...

Mmmm...Not So Good

Ian, there is a sandpit for us to play in somewhere. The problem is that it slips off the WD 'radar' and into comment limbo-land. 

Anyway, I think that it's only us now so we can rabbit on unhindered.

As to your question regarding the eternal life motivation, the short answer is "yes" but as I explain a little further on, it is anything but mercenary or corrupt.

The long answer you already know. You will become a good person, a carer for the environment, someone who is willing to lay their life on the line for another, in fact all the things that we consider desirable as far as personality traits go if you take all of the teachings that Christ offered to heart.

Here is the dichotomy! Becoming a Christian guarantees you of absolutely nothing in this world. You could literally labour your whole life in service and be despised and abused for it. You will be poor, you may be worn-out and sick from the efforts you make to put others first.

Your reward, offered directly by Jesus, is an eternal life in the presence of God. It is so dreadfully simple. You must strive for no reward here. You have to give everything you have away. You have to forsake the company of your own mother, father and siblings to serve God if called to do so.

No wonder so few do it, it is incredibly difficult. That is why in its place we have religion. The true purpose of religion is to water down the unpalatable message of Christ and substitute it with what is acceptable to most; lip service, rituals and bastardisations like Hillsong (have your religious cake and eat it too because "God" wants you to be wealthy and have a sexy partner and forget what Jesus said).

So to your list of hopelessness you can add "Hopelessly impossible to be without the grace of God".

I empathise with your arguments. I have been there and still am in many respects. Anyone with a reasonable brain can see the logical and  philosophical problems of the Old Testament and New. Without doubt much of it is mysogynistic and at best chauvinistic. But there are real diamonds in there and the full message of Jesus is "so out there" that it cannot be made up. Who else would encourage people to flog themselves to death for everyone else and expect to get followers?

We can see that the "real" world is stuffed. In spite of technology, money, vacations, democracy etc. no one is very happy and poverty and degradation just go on increasing. In my opinion it is better stupid for Christ than smart for what we have got.

I just won't vote for it.

You should never think about religion

Hi Ian, you're doing too much thinking. You're not meant to think when it comes to religion. It's a slippery path to atheism, trust me I have traveled the slippery slope.

Cheers John


Hi John,

When I think about atheism I find that materialism is not an adequate explanation of my experience.

Thinking about Religion

Hi John,

It's hard not to think about things... :(

Point Of Order

Bill, I consider what you wrote in Pauline Corruption Of The Truth as extraordinary. Unfortunately it is not extraordinarily good. It seems to me that you fly in the face of Christ’s reported words in John 14:2 "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." Any sensible reading draws the following conclusions.

  • Jesus could not be talking about a building/structure/country that exists on earth only in the eternal domain of His Father;
  • If we did not enter the eternal kingdom then there would be no point to our having a place there;
  • As expressed, the reported words of Jesus contain an implicit challenge, namely that if He is not telling the truth then he is a liar.

Now as a point of explanation, I am no acolyte of Paul, I consider that his motivations and conclusions are often suspect but on the matter of eternal life he is spot-on.

David C: Hi Roger, sorry, don't know what happened the first time.  Hopefully it's right this time. 

Point Of Order Revised

Bill, it seems the WD gods want to have their sport. Two bullet items are moved to the last paragraph.

Item 2 finishes with "a place there".

Item 3 starts with "As expressed".

Hold Your Horses

Ian, I don’t want things to go off the rails here. I said very early in the piece that I am writing in this forum specifically to the converted and that I would not be involved in a dialogue about whether the bible is true or whether God exists.

Faith does not require proof. If proof was available we would be dealing with fact and faith would not be needed.

The issue at hand is the muscular interventionism being exercised by the Australian Christian Lobby. These misguided individuals are professing Christians and must be addressed as such. Christians do not normally debate issues between themselves such as the ones you mention.  All of those things that you say are debatable or are just plain wrong are a given to the body of believers.

I have made it plain that I am against political action by any Christian organisation because I do not see Christ’s life as reported in the gospels as being a political one.

Irrespective of your considerable thoughts on the matter, eternal life is inescapably central to the message of salvation and therefore it is the reason for being a Christian. One does not become a Christian because of injustice or the environment or to become personally good or any other worthwhile but worldly reason.

One of the most potent things that Paul wrote was that he is “a fool for Christ”. That probably expresses being a Christian as succinctly as one can. To non-believers it is the utmost foolishness that cannot be proven or justified except by a life lived as one.

Vote Labor it is a matter of life and death.

I AM not campaigning for Kevin Rudd in this federal election. And equally I am not campaigning against the Government, the Prime Minister, or my brother. But I have bought into the election campaign because I believe the issue of overseas aid and the position of the two major parties is critical. Indeed it is a matter of life and death.

World Vision research shows the extra funding that Labor has committed to aid, if delivered, could allow funding of programs that could reduce child deaths by 140,000 each year in the Asia-Pacific region.

The funding boost could also reduce maternal deaths by 4200, lead to at least 29,000 fewer deaths from AIDS and 31,000 fewer deaths from TB annually. And it could provide access to safe drinking water to almost 37 million people.

Why isn't Tim Costello our Treasurer or Prime Minister? This is a man with real Christian values. How can anyone who believes in God, ignore the plight of suffering children?  I would not like to be in the shoes of anyone who does ignore the plight of these children, when they face their God on judgement day. 

For the sake of these children, I plead to anyone with a conscience, vote Labor on 24th of November. 

Wisdom Of Solomon Required Again

John (Vote Labor ...) and Margo (All For One..), you both present an exquisite dilemma, one that has dogged us through the 20th and 21st century since news progressed from long-gone to in-your-face.

As exquisite as it might be it is not intractable. However it is being used for political purposes and it is being handled badly by the purveyors of charity.

I know that I now stand a danger of being accused of being callous but the answer to humanity's problems in other countries will never be answered for as long as we do not fix the problems in our own backyard. Every cent of assistance raised in this country should be spent here to fix our own massive problems.

How can we have any credence in the world arena when our own aborigines are in many cases as badly off as in any third-world country? How can we believe that spreading assistance so thinly in Africa and other places, as to be largely ineffective, will create a strong and vibrant Australian economy where 100% of the citizens are usefully employed either in paid work or other work that enobles the human condition.

"Charity begins at home" is not a pious platitude. It is the prescription for success. As wonderful a person as Tim Costello may be, he is largely wasting his time and the goodwill of the Australian people.

My parting shot is at the belief that government giving is the answer to many human welfare problems. It is not! Personal giving, committing yourself to the cause in your own backyard is the answer. Giving till it hurts ensures that everyone "adopts the baby". Responding to the tin-shakers is a momentary salve of conscience not an answer to the problem that the tin-shakers think that they are solving.

The whole world is our backyard its called globalisation

Roger, we live in an extremely rich country, we live in a world of globalisation,  it is hard to know where our backyard begins and ends. I agree with you that we can and should spend more on our indigenous population, we should spend more on our needy. If we can spare enough money to send troops to Iraq and to Afghanistan we can surely give to those who are in desperate need all over the world. It all comes down to our priorities and that is what the political argument is all about.

I respect your opinion.

Aid: Educate women

From Which Single Intervention Would Do the Most to Improve the Health of Those Living on Less Than $1 Per Day?:

The greatest improvement in health will come from general education (i.e., not specifically health education); there will be an initial lag period (which is why politicians do not like it), but after that it should improve income, living conditions and use of health facilities—and money for its implementation can be made available if all sectors force decision makers to stop purchasing weapons.


Education of women has been consistently shown to have a major impact on a number of health conditions. In addition, it can be the basis for self-care and individual empowerment for health, in a world of information technology.

Not enough money, Roger?

Roger, I don’t know about callous, but I think you’re very wrong. 

Why the mutually exclusive options?  So we can either support our own properly, or give overseas aid – but not both? 

How does that argument hold up against the Government spending $1 billion on locking up a few hundred refugees in Nauru, Christmas Island and New Guinea?

Or $34 billion in tax cuts?

Or $50 million on the Government’s political advertising (sorry, information) campaign for Work Choices?

Or $5 billion a year on rebates to ‘encourage’ taxpayers to take out private health care?

Roger, I’m not great at maths, but it seems to me from a handful of examples that there might be just one or two ways we could tweak the national budget to both lift the living standards of our Indigenous people AND provide generous overseas aid. 

(Without the rest of us having to forgo our plasma TVs.) 

Money? Not In My Book.

David, my stance is that we cannot do both effectively. We fix one and then we go one to help elsewhere. If you need convincing just have a look around our own patch and see the miserable failure of 106 years of federated governance in most areas of  indigenous and white poor welfare. Are you advocating that we continue to follow this flawed thinking for another 100 years?

Your premise is rooted in the idea that the government can/will fix the problem with financial largesse. If you re-read what I wrote you will see that I have firmly rejected that approach. Money is not the real problem with our indigenous brothers or with the white welfare population. We have thrown money at these problems for long enough and have fixed very little. Let's not continue the stupidity by wasting more money than we need to.

A leader and a population who's hearts were in the effort to achieve reconciliation and enpowerment would fix the problem in one generation. We are 20 years way from permanently fixing our national shame. And I truly believe that it would cost us far less money than anyone could imagine (of course that will send a shudder up the spines of a large group of conmen/women).

In Africa and India, economic miracles are performed with micro-loans from $50 to $2000. These initiatives lift people from welfare recipients to useful, self-sufficient and proud citizens. They are not handouts, the people receiving money have to qualify by dint of their ideas and energy. The rationale behind this financing is that empowerment makes an instant and life-lifting change. There is not even a whiff of the welfare state in these transactions.

The welfare state is a permanent blood-sucking parasite that enriches those that have no need and reduces people to the status of Pavlov's dogs or sharp liars. It is a massive, world-wide industry and a super con.

All for one...



Church leaders around Australia have joined with The Oaktree Foundation, and other aid organisations around the nation, to ask the Howard government to increase its foreign aid commitment, as promised. 

On Sydney’s Channel 9 News, Brian Housten (Senior Pastor, Hillsong Church), declared his support of an equal increase of aid to 0.5% Gross National Income by 2015 to make this election issue bipartisan. 

“I absolutely believe we should have bipartisan support for this.” said Brian Houston. 

His comments were backed up by Rev Dr Ross Clifford (Baptist Union of Australia), Rev Gregory Henderson (Head of the Uniting Church) and Jim Wallace (Australian Christian Lobby). 

In 2000 the Howard government agreed to increase foreign aid to 0.7% of Gross National Income by 2015 as part of the Millennium Development Goals – a United Nations plan to half extreme poverty by 2015.  However, the achievement of this goal remains un-reached.  Currently the Coalition has committed 0.36% GNI by 2010; Labor has matched this and promised a further increase to 0.5% GNI by 2015. 

“Last week I received a letter from the Prime Minister where he made it clear that he cares about ending extreme poverty. We ask that the Coalition match Labor’s promise on this important moral issue,” says Hugh Evans, Director of the Oaktree Foundation. 

According to World Vision statistics, an increase to 0.5% GNI could save the lives of 140,000 children in developing countries.

“No Australians should have to choose between the life and death of a child.  This is a moral issue, and there is the potential for all political parties to rise to this challenge,” Hugh Evans said. 

“The messages of MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY and ZEROSEVEN Roadtrip already have the support of over 1 million people around Australia, and now with the support of Australian churches, the Australian public is sending a strong message to all political parties – make foreign aid bipartisan.” Hugh Evans said.

The Messenger

Roger, you say you don't believe that the concept of religion in its incarnation of Catholicism, Anglicanism etc. has any merit. I think, as I have said elsewhere, that it has at very least the following merit: it has kept the stories alive. If it were not for the churches, you would not know the stories of Jesus at all. The conversation you are having would not be happening; and you would not hold the beliefs you do. Don't shoot the messenger.

Especially, you would not be able to hold the belief that Christ was God, who died on the cross to atone for your sins.  That is an invention of the church. Jesus of Nazareth never said anything like it, according to any sensible interpretation of the words He is reputed to have said. And while he referred to His God as His father, he told us we should all do the same. All of us. Look at the prayer He gave us: "OUR father which art in heaven…"

And how many times is he said to have called himself the son of MAN?

My interpretation of Jesus' message is altogether different from yours. I think His message was that we have no Messiah, except ourselves, or each other. The Jews had (still have, I suppose) a belief that a prophesied Messiah would come out of the house of David to save them from all tribulation. Jesus came to tell them that the prophesy was right: He was that saviour, he had the solution. It was a radical one. His solution was that only by taking responsibility for earthly suffering upon themselves could the people gain redemption.  "Do unto others" is a very political message, when you get right down to it.

The Shooting

Bill, I take your point. I agree with your last paragraph conclusion though I differ on the final sentence.

Perhaps, my objections are pedantic but I cannot see the word "political" as being apt in any way. The imperative, as you have already stated is to "do". Politics is, as Otto Bismark remarked, "the art of the possible". It denotes choices, haggling  (btw together with "suffrage" here's another word with 3 consonants), exchange of items with a premium (actual or values-based) and "winners and losers". I have never seen the historical Jesus as a person who was prone to be equivocal. If he was they would not have reportedly killed him but would negotiated a settlement.

I also have serious personal reservations about "atonement for sins" and the idea of "sin" in general. The idea that a creature can give offense to its creator is an anthropomorphism to me. This leads to the conclusion that if God cannot be offended (a human emotion indicating surprise, hurt and disappointment) then God cannot be sinned against. Sin, to my way of thinking, exists between people.

Is a vote for Jesus a vote for astrology?

Now, I'm really not sure that any of you took a serious look at the link I posted earlier on the undeniable similarity between the Christian scriptures and the earlier pagan myths. None of you came back to me with anything related to the topic.

So, in an effort to open up the debate on this matter, I will post three YouTube video links that are more easily digested than my earlier link, which was a long watch (it had a 9 minute intro).

Please watch them, think about it seriously, and post your thoughts!

Greatest Story Ever Told – Christianity. Part 1 of 3.

Greatest Story Ever Told – Christianity. Part 2 of 3.

Greatest Story Ever Told – Christianity. Part 3 of 3.

I have yet to hear anything that refutes these claims; that the Christian religion may have been derivative, perhaps even plagiarised, from the Egyptians.

I realise this is a matter of faith, as indeed all matters to do with God are, but we should ask ourselves: Is a vote for Jesus (or his so-called earthly representatives) a vote for astrology?

I have yet to find a satisfying answer, after much research...

One Step At A Time

Ian, in my studies of different religions many years ago, I found many interesting parallels to Judaism and Christianity. I would not expect our religions to develop in any other way. Our myths and stories all come from the same place.

However, to my mind that is not a starting point for becoming a Christian. If we stay the same and act the same then the result will be the same. If there is a better circuit-breaker for this sorry state of human affairs than Jesus, I would be pleased to hear it.

However, I see that you have a hard time (is it deliberate?) separating the historical Jesus Christ from "religion". That they are not the same is obvious. Jesus has never been recorded as saying "start a religion and call it after me". Of course, you could always give me your version of what "feed my sheep" really means.

Astrology is interesting in a very selfish way and panders to our sense of longing by suggesting certainty based on arcane ways your life will unfold. The porcine rear-end view of astrology is that it requires a practitioner steeped in its mystical ways to explain it to the neophytes ably assisted by coin-of -the-realm. Like so many other "expert" systems its track record is abysmal.

Voting has nothing to do with Jesus. Astrology likewise! What could possibly be the connection (other than the moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter aligns with Mars)?


Hi Ian. There is astrological content in the New Testament.  The Magi from the East see the star and follow it.  (The 'three wise men' spoken of at Christmas.)  They are unlikely to have been Egyptian, more likely Babylonian (Iraqi).

This doesn't fit in with post-Enlightenment westerners' way of thinking so is just ignored.  This is dishonest in a way. 

There was one Christian interpretation of the Zodiac (going from Virgo (Christ's birth) to Leo (the Lion of Judah) and claiming that the constellation now known as the Southern Cross changed hemispheres in the year that (this writer believed) was Christ's birth.)  I can't remember the name of the writer, sorry.  If you can count Jung as a liberal Christian he would be another Christian with astrological concerns.  In the New Age movement it is quite common for people to claim allegiance to both.

Were there other saviour myths?  Lots.  There are still some around. 

There's very little Egyptian content in the New Testament.  Lots of Jewish and some Greek (depending on how you read the Gospel of John).  The Jewish is probably Hellenistic Jewish, so things are pretty complicated.

We don't know much at all about Palestine/Israel in the time of Christ.  (Josephus isn't regarded as the most reliable of writers and he's about the only extensive source we have.)  So it all is pretty difficult.  There is a body of opinion attempting to revise the interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  They may have been scrolls from the Temple rather than from the 'Essenes'.  If so they may tell us a little more.  [Disclosure of personal involvement: my friend Ian Young is one of those proposing the re-interpretation.]

Earlier pagan myths are difficult.  There isn't a lot of textual stuff to go on. It's mostly archaeology with little history.

Everything has parallels and predecessors, we need to also be able to describe differences.

I've been away for the weekend.  I hope this addresses some of  what you wanted addressed.  If I've missed it please get back to me.

Swallowing God and Astrology

Hi Evan.

There was one Christian interpretation of the Zodiac (going from Virgo (Christ's birth) to Leo (the Lion of Judah) and claiming that the constellation now known as the Southern Cross changed hemispheres in the year that (this writer believed) was Christ's birth.)  I can't remember the name of the writer, sorry. If you can count Jung as a liberal Christian he would be another Christian with astrological concerns. In the New Age movement it is quite common for people to claim allegiance to both.

Evan, that's good feedback. And thank you for responding!

How many conservative, or evangelical Australian Christians, do you think, could swallow the fact that this religion may not be what they think it is? That they may have been manipulated by their religious leaders to buy a sub-plot, devoid of the history and the astrologic roots, so that they may be controlled by the church.

Sometimes, I shudder to think...

As it says in the doco, "I don't know what God is, but I know what he isn't"... (mind you, as a postscript, I have little time for the patriarchal sterotype either)

Carroll and Hitchens

John Carroll's The Existential Jesus is fascinating.

Also wading through Chris Hitchens' God is not great. He lines up the usual suspects, but I lost a bit of faith because of three errors of fact in as many pages, including 'Steven Hawking' the physicist and 'George Miller' the 19th century American millenialist (should have been William).

Chris Hitchens

As a thinker Chris Hitchens is a very good journalist - can he do rhetoric or what?

The 'ideas' in the book have been around for a couple of centuries, if not millenia.  It was an ancient Greek philosopher who first said that if cows had a god it would be cow-like.

In these arguments people need to pay attention to others' experience (arguing about externals won't cut it).  I think the only way forward is to talk about what convinced me and you that G/god does/n't exist.  And for those who do profess to talk about what it is that they experience that they label god.  I think this is the only way to a productive discussion.

Ian Mac

Yes, Ian, it gets just a bit easier a day at a time, though. Worth it in the long run, am told.

Actually just read elsewhere where a fundy church that demonstrates a bit too "robustly" outside of funerals for returning vets killed in Iraq, over the deaths being God's punishment for US tolerance of homosexuality, got sued by a family offended by the noise. Result – a ten million dollar court win.

My kind of god would perhaps send a "message" like that, an ironic comment on crass mean-spiritedness, but perhaps it was just more a matter of Karmic "going 'round, coming 'round".

Finishing, must say I find people infinitely more frightening than any god I can conceive of and that includes most of all the bloke in the mirror (yes, will accept donations for plastic surgery, if folk choose to read above that way!!).

Christianity in politics

Hi Paul:

Yes,  Ian, it gets just a bit  easier a day at a time, though. Worth it in the long run, am told.

Well, I can't claim to be any good at it. I first went to AA at 40, and stopped drinking for a good six years. During that time I did a bible study with the Witnesses and learnt a lot more about Christianity. I still have good friends amongst them – they certainly walk the walk, no matter what else you might think of them. I get bored pretty quickly, unfortunately, so I've been on and off the wagon since.

Actually just read elsewhere where a fundy church that demonstrates a bit too "robustly" outside of funerals for returning vets killed in Iraq, over the deaths being God's punishment for US tolerance of homosexuality, got sued by a family offended by the noise. Result - a ten million dollar court win.

I don't have much truck with any of this sort of thinking. Most of that reasoning comes from the Old Testament and doesn't sit well with me. God and government don't mix well, and the courts should never get dragged into it. They're altogether too ready to wade in where they're not needed, if you ask me.

Goodness, if the mixture of religion and politics is George Bush, we're in big, big trouble. Far too many right-wing American nutbags are praying for WWIII in the Middle East, just so they can float happily away to heaven. That ludicrous museum, where Adam and Eve are waltzing around Eden with dinosaurs is a perfect example. What are these people thinking?

To get back on topic, I'll still be voting Greens in the Senate... :)

The only political support the peak oil group I work with has had is from the Greens. They impress me as people who care about the planet and what we're doing to it. They want to save it, while the mainstream parties just seem to want to sell it off to China.

If Christian groups want to influence government, either in the hope of getting them to denounce same-sex marriage (or some other minority group), they've lost me. That's not a government issue. It's none of their damn business. Look to your own leaky boat, fellas. Leave the judgment stuff to God...

Matthew 7:5. You false one, first take out the bit of wood from your eye, then will you see clearly to take out the grain of dust from your brother's eye.

no arguments

Well, we both know we need go no further than these threads for examples of obnoxious people who would rather make war than love.

I prefer the Greens also. The ALP continue to frustrate me. Yesterday Mr Rudd, who is so in favour of the  sacred Tassie rainforests being pulped, was yet up on his hind legs babbling about a smidgin of the Kokoda Trail (Australian?) heritage site being transgressed by  New Guineans in their own country and a mining company. Not quite as daft as Howard exhorting the Asian nations to save their rainforests while condemning Tassie to its current fate, but so close you wonder if it matters.

BTW, did you get to watch Tim Costello doing his three-yearly plead on Lateline for increasing the pitiful micro-fraction of a percent that we offer the dirt-poor offshore?

Reduced to advocating Labor's policy before that of the party his brother serves as Treasurer.You can tell it was hurting, because he claimed Peter had proposed more and been knocked back by Cabinet. Jones relented just a fraction.

Never mind, can't see any icebergs just at the moment. Full-steam ahead, while I duck off for a kip.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
© 2005-2011, Webdiary Pty Ltd
Disclaimer: This site is home to many debates, and the views expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the site editors.
Contributors submit comments on their own responsibility: if you believe that a comment is incorrect or offensive in any way,
please submit a comment to that effect and we will make corrections or deletions as necessary.
Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner

Recent Comments

David Roffey: {whimper} in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 14 hours ago
Jenny Hume: So long mate in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 1 day ago
Fiona Reynolds: Reds (under beds?) in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 3 days ago
Justin Obodie: Why not, with a bang? in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 3 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Dear Albatross in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 3 days ago
Michael Talbot-Wilson: Good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 3 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Goodnight and good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 4 days ago
Margo Kingston: bye, babe in Not with a bang ... 14 weeks 1 day ago