The power of thought
I find it so interesting to see the intensity that results from intangible thoughts. No one living today has any personal direct experience with the people who wrote and rewrote the Jews' and Christians' Scriptures. All that people have is in their imagination, yet they will demand that others have the identical mental model.
People are prepared to fight and argue over ideas, to the point of torture and murder. People are prepared to subject themselves to the thoughts of people, most often men, who beguile and control the minds and behaviours of large numbers.
My argument is always with the religious leadership, the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, never with any individual Witness. Each can believe what they wish to, provided they do so willingly, freely, and with complete knowledge of all relevant facts. What each does is their own responsibility and their right. I wish to be able to live out my life in accord with my mental model so I must extend that right to all others.
Consider that amazingly tolerant humanitarian, Cyrus, the victor of Babylon and contrast him with that religious zealot, the authoritarian Ezra. Not that I met them personally - just thoughts in my mind.
What each does is their own responsibility and right.
Doug if everyone followed that and believed it what a changed world we would live in.
Imagine just letting people be true to themselves instead of trying to conform to others preconceptions.
" provided they do so willingly, freely, and with complete knowledge of all relevant facts."
Very few members of the JW religion, or any extreme sect or cult fit that criteria.
I've thought about this for a long time, Doug.
A two-minute tour of the Bible and Christianity.
Get ready . . .Get set . . . GO!
There was no "Bible" as such, until several hundred years of oral storytelling gave way to apologetic.
(Marcion (the gnostic) and others compiled "official" writings, and the Church needed ammunition for rebuttal in writing as a kind of tangible "proof".)
Even so, the universal Christian Church (Catholic) held all authority until the 16th century WITHOUT using the Bible.
The entire world of Christianity existed WITHOUT anybody owning "Bible."
(WHAT WERE CHRISTIANS THINKING? Was "thinking" even a part of being "Christian?")
Christianity was NOT about "right teachings held to be true" (orthodoxy). For those 1500 years, Christianity was about
confessing Jesus as savior and confessing sins and taking the crackers and wine.
Then what happened to change all that?
PROTEST against corruption in the hierarchy!
Protestantism brought a kind of revolution and not only did the pomp and pope come tumbling down, so did Magisterium and Tradition.
PROTESTANTS turned to a different kind of POPE. Protestants elevated the newly translated Bible to a new form of IDOLATRY : Bible worship.
(Sola Scriptura: the Bible alone, in prayer aided by Holy Spirit).
Instead of one Christianity (Catholic) there were thousands of OPINIONS (Denominations).
Today we have 41,000 opinions. (Denominations.)
(WHERE DID ALL THAT THINKING come from? Why all those opinions?)
The FUNDAMENTALISTS (among them, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, etc.) demand THOUGHT CONTROL.
QUOTING SCRIPTURE is a substitute for owning an opinion. If you quote the right scripture, it's the same thing as having an opinion;
except you DON'T. You are merely joing a group telling you which scriptures are important. Which ones "mean" this and that.
JW's don't bother much with Jesus except as an invisible fetish to justify the sheep's clothing of "Christ"ianity.
JW'S are judged by how controlled they allow themselves to become.
North Korea could learn a lot from Jehovah's Witnesses.
Christians did not have to THINK to be Christians until the Bible came along. Then, suddenly--everybody had thoughts and OPINIONS! Quoting scripture is a form of opinion. "Right" thoughts (orthodox) allow people without education to become empowered to make others do this and that. Cults are peopled with those who can't think for themselves being told what to think and what it means.
I like what you have written!
Today, those who do read the Bible use it as an instrument to "prove" that their thoughts are correct, which was the reason those writings were produced in the first place.
Opinions based upon opinions, thoughts based on thoughts written by invisible people. Then these opinions drive actions, sometimes for good, sometimes in ways that harm mentally, physically, socially.
I agree, Doug, this is a fascinating subject. When you think about it, people would not passionately argue over and die for just any arbitrary beliefs. For instance, people who believe that light travels infinitely fast would not fight against people who believe light has a finite speed. There would be no reason to get upset over a difference in a neutral fact like this.
Now, if someone tied this disagreement to religion, such as by saying, "The Bible says that light has infinite speed", then this changes everything, because someone will take a statement about light's finite speed as a challenge to their entire mental model which says that God cares about them, will reward them with eternal life, etc. If they can't trust in the Bible then, they fear, none of their beliefs might hold up! So they have to fight back.
But the subject of the speed of light per se does not contain anything that touches on emotions -- only the intellect, only head knowledge -- so by itself the subject is too trivial for people to get worked up over.
So at first it's amazing that people would fight to the death over a disagreement about how to read certain verses in an ancient book, but then you go back to what it means to them and you realize that the strongest aspects of the psyche are involved, such as fear of death and the tribalist instinct, and it's not so surprising.
It's true that these groups of believers are forming based on frequently-arbitrary lines -- many of the disputed doctrines don't actually make a difference in one's outlook and belief in God. That's why I believe much of the underlying motivation is simply tribalism, that is, the desire to form a group for survival. Experience taught mankind that group cooperation is needed in order to beat a rival group.
If that means accepting whatever your family tells you, such as historical miracles that allegedly took place, or that there's an invisible man in the sky, then it's absolutely worth it from a survival standpoint because you gain your immediate family as tribal allies. If extending your tribe means getting worked up over an arbitary difference (like Swift's Big-endians and Little-endians), then so be it, because at least you know who's on your side.
So it's not so much that our abstract thoughts in general are so powerful, but that our underlying desires, encoded into religious beliefs, are so powerful. The desire to have safety ensured by large numbers, the desire to avoid death, etc.
Problem is, some people, especially JWs believe the Bible is true and reasonably well preserved, the essential word of God that he intended for them to have. Even if it was copied many times if people believe it is authentic then you will have arguments. What I find interesting is that if there were so many revisions, then why does everybody essentially have the same Bible?
One of the things that comes up when discussing atheism is that Christians don't claim to have "proof" of God or the authenticity of the Bible, but readily acknowledge and claim they are "walking by faith." So they flip the script on those who want authentication by challenging them to disprove what is in the Bible, which for the most part, they can't. Can any really disprove that Abraham had a wife named Sarah? No.
Would that approach still be valid if I was following the Lord of Rings books as a religion and I asserted to you that Sauron and Gandalf were real -- is the burden on you to disprove it?
So they flip the script on those who want authentication by challenging them to disprove what is in the Bible, which for the most part, they can't. Can any really disprove that Abraham had a wife named Sarah? No.
Generally, it's impossible to prove a negative which is the only reason religious idiots do this and then imagine they've won an argument.
"Blind faith" is all you have ... is there any other kind?