Here's a Present, Ish

The study of religious or heroic legends and tales. One constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens amongst the gods or other mythical beings was in one sense or another a reflection of events on earth. Recorded myths and legends, perhaps preserved in literature or folklore, have an immediate interest to archaeology in trying to unravel the nature and meaning of ancient events and traditions.

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Postby Ishtar » Fri Sep 05, 2008 3:13 pm

But I didn't miss them. I'm talking about them in the other thread. ...

Oh, I get it ... I see.

Had you worried there for a minute, didn't it? You thought we'd run out of things to argue about.

But oh no. You feverishly scrabbled around in your back pocket and there among the shredded tissues, old bits of string, loose coins and fluff you found it ...

... something else for us to argue about!

Well done!

OK, you go next then.

Image



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Postby Minimalist » Fri Sep 05, 2008 5:05 pm

OK, you go next then.



Celsus, c 180 AD, speaking of "Jesus."

If this Jesus were trying to convince anyone of his powers, then surely he ought to have appeared first to the Jews who treated him so badly--and to his accusers--indeed to everyone, everywhere. Or better, he might have saved himself the trouble of getting buried and simply disappeared from the cross. Has there ever been such an incompetent planner: When he was in the body, he was disbelieved but preached to everyone; after his resurrection, apparently wanting to establish a strong faith, he chooses to show himself to one woman and a few comrades only. When he was punished, everyone saw; yet risen from the tomb, almost no one.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Postby Ishtar » Sat Sep 06, 2008 1:45 am

Min,

The first rule of warfare, according to Sun Tsu, is not to try to get a bigger gun than your opponent, or to try to gain the advantage of fighting with the sun behind you. Important though these factors are, they are not as important as intelligence. And that's why Sun Tsu says that the first rule of warfare is "Know Thine Enemy".

The problem often is that Literalist Atheists, like Ken Humphries, are often in infringement of this rule. And so it's quite apt that you should bring up Celsus, who could almost be considered to have been the Ken Humphries of his day.

When reading Contra Celsus (Against Celsus), the letter Origen the Gnostic wrote in reply to Celsus's criticism of Christianity, I often find myself agreeing with Origen.

From this letter, Celsus appears to be a Literalist Atheist who attacks Jesus on the same grounds that Humphries would - mainly that the story doesn't hang together, or make sense, therefore, 'it cannot be true'. But what Celsus (and Humphries) both fail to understand is that the story is not meant to hang together, or make sense on the rational level. They both don't know this because they both don't know what they're dealing with - they've failed to understand their enemy.

Celsus appears to be ridiculing Christians over their blind faith versus his reason, but he has completely missed the point of true Gnostic Christianity which avoids that dichotomy. In other words, there is no blind faith in a literal flesh-and-blood Jesus within Gnosticism; neither is there any reliance on reason.

Here is an extract from Contra Celsus that illustrates my point. Celsus attacks the Christians for meeting in secret, and here is Origen's reply:

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0416.htm


In these circumstances, to speak of the Christian doctrine as a secret system, is altogether absurd. But that there should be certain doctrines, not made known to the multitude, which are (revealed) after the exoteric ones have been taught, is not a peculiarity of Christianity alone, but also of philosophic systems, in which certain truths are exoteric [freely available to the public] and others esoteric [only available to the initiated].

Some of the hearers of Pythagoras were content with his ipse dixit; while others were taught in secret those doctrines which were not deemed fit to be communicated to profane and insufficiently prepared ears. Moreover, all the mysteries that are celebrated everywhere throughout Greece and barbarous countries, although held in secret, have no discredit thrown upon them, so that it is in vain that he endeavours to calumniate the secret doctrines of Christianity, seeing he does not correctly understand its nature.


And incidentally, this quote from Origen alone is proof that the original Christians - as late as the mid-third century CE - were giving a secret teaching and initiation, just like the Mysteries, which has been lost today.

The Eastern church in Constantinople managed to resist some of Rome's attempts to control it. So there, these secret intitiations went on into the fourth century. Basil of Caeserea, Gregory of Nyasa, Gregory of Nazianzum, Evagrius of Pontus and Diodochus of Photice continued in the oral tradition of secret teachings and initiations. They taught the Bible stories as allegories, and that Mary was a metaphor for Sophia.

In Rome, too, there was a Gnostic called Dionysius who is thought to have studied under Proclus at the Platonic Academy until it was shut down by the Emperor Justinian in 529 CE. Writing about the Jesus story in his Letters, he said:

"Don't suppose that the outward form of these contrived symbols exists for its own sake. It is a protective clothing, which prevents the common multitude from understanding the Ineffable and Invisible. Only real lovers of holiness know how to stop the workings of the childish imagination regarding the sacred symbols. They alone have the simplicity of mind and the receptive power of contemplation to cross over to the simple, marvellous, transcendent Truth the symbols represent."




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Postby Minimalist » Sat Sep 06, 2008 10:15 am

Ishtar wrote:Min,

The first rule of warfare, according to Sun Tsu, is not to try to get a bigger gun than your opponent, or to try to gain the advantage of fighting with the sun behind you. Important though these factors are, they are not as important as intelligence. And that's why Sun Tsu says that the first rule of warfare is "Know Thine Enemy".


But once again, Ish, Humphreys is not "at war" with the gnostics. He is refuting the Historical Jesus crowd and the gnostics are merely cannon fodder in that struggle. What they believed or why they believed it is inconsequential to Humphrey's need to show that they did exist and that they pre-dated the Historical Jesus idea.


The problem often is that Literalist Atheists, like Ken Humphries, are often in infringement of this rule. And so it's quite apt that you should bring up Celsus, who could almost be considered to have been the Ken Humphries of his day.


As noted above, it is simply irrelevant to his point. What the gnostics believed is of interest to you, not him. All he needs to show is that they existed prior to the literalists and that their doctrines were different. He did that. Perhaps you should write your own book on the subject?

When reading Contra Celsus (Against Celsus), the letter Origen the Gnostic wrote in reply to Celsus's criticism of Christianity, I often find myself agreeing with Origen.


See, I don't. Usually all Origen does is trot out some xtian doctrine and repeat it as if that answers the question. It is a failing of believers that their beliefs are sufficient in and of themselves.

From this letter, Celsus appears to be a Literalist Atheist who attacks Jesus on the same grounds that Humphries would - mainly that the story doesn't hang together, or make sense, therefore, 'it cannot be true'. But what Celsus (and Humphries) both fail to understand is that the story is not meant to hang together, or make sense on the rational level. They both don't know this because they both don't know what they're dealing with - they've failed to understand their enemy.


Then you haven't read it closely enough because Celsus is a Platonist with the attendant beliefs (he was a man of his times) of a perfect god and intermediaries. Celsus notes in one of his more famous quotes that a truly perfect 'god' would not have to destroy the earth like an inept workman because he would have gotten it right the first time. I suspect that Celsus sees the Judaeo-christian god as something of a shlub. I completely disagree with your assertion that the literalists do not think the story should hang together on a rational level. That is precisely what they think and the fact is that they have convinced a lot of people that it is LITERALLY true. It is what the word means. Again, Humphreys doesn't care what the gnostics thought because they lost and therefore became unimportant. Only in that sense does your battle analogy hold true.

Celsus appears to be ridiculing Christians over their blind faith versus his reason, but he has completely missed the point of true Gnostic Christianity which avoids that dichotomy. In other words, there is no blind faith in a literal flesh-and-blood Jesus within Gnosticism; neither is there any reliance on reason.


Correct about the faith thing but Celsus did not have the luxury of knowing which variant of this superstition would win out, if any. He notes, on a couple of occasions, that there are numerous xtian sects and that the only thing they seem to have in common is the word "xtian." He is thus entitled to be confused by what they are putting out as truth since they had so many versions of it at the time he was writing.


Here is an extract from Contra Celsus that illustrates my point. Celsus attacks the Christians for meeting in secret, and here is Origen's reply:

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0416.htm


In these circumstances, to speak of the Christian doctrine as a secret system, is altogether absurd. But that there should be certain doctrines, not made known to the multitude, which are (revealed) after the exoteric ones have been taught, is not a peculiarity of Christianity alone, but also of philosophic systems, in which certain truths are exoteric [freely available to the public] and others esoteric [only available to the initiated].

Some of the hearers of Pythagoras were content with his ipse dixit; while others were taught in secret those doctrines which were not deemed fit to be communicated to profane and insufficiently prepared ears. Moreover, all the mysteries that are celebrated everywhere throughout Greece and barbarous countries, although held in secret, have no discredit thrown upon them, so that it is in vain that he endeavours to calumniate the secret doctrines of Christianity, seeing he does not correctly understand its nature.



The issue about xtian meetings is well taken and in Book I, 1 Origen states"

For as those persons would do well who should enter into a secret association in order to put to death a tyrant who had seized upon the liberties of a state, so Christians also, when tyrannized over by him who is called the devil, and by falsehood, form leagues contrary to the laws of the devil, against his power, and for the safety of those others whom they may succeed in persuading to revolt from a government which is, as it were, "Scythian," and despotic.


This, frankly, is the essence of apologetics. He admits the charge and claims that they have a right to oppose the government and its laws. In such an instance, expect the government to fight back. It is what governments do.

And incidentally, this quote from Origen alone is proof that the original Christians - as late as the mid-third century CE - were giving a secret teaching and initiation, just like the Mysteries, which has been lost today.


Absolutely. Some were to a greater extent than others apparently but that merely reinforces the notion that there were many types of xtian thought at the time and not all of it involved an earthly jesus...which is all Humphreys is using to make his point.

The Eastern church in Constantinople managed to resist some of Rome's attempts to control it. So there, these secret intitiations went on into the fourth century. Basil of Caeserea, Gregory of Nyasa, Gregory of Nazianzum, Evagrius of Pontus and Diodochus of Photice continued in the oral tradition of secret teachings and initiations. They taught the Bible stories as allegories, and that Mary was a metaphor for Sophia.

In Rome, too, there was a Gnostic called Dionysius who is thought to have studied under Proclus at the Platonic Academy until it was shut down by the Emperor Justinian in 529 CE. Writing about the Jesus story in his Letters, he said:

"Don't suppose that the outward form of these contrived symbols exists for its own sake. It is a protective clothing, which prevents the common multitude from understanding the Ineffable and Invisible. Only real lovers of holiness know how to stop the workings of the childish imagination regarding the sacred symbols. They alone have the simplicity of mind and the receptive power of contemplation to cross over to the simple, marvellous, transcendent Truth the symbols represent."


Again, agreed but it only reinforces the idea that in the 4th century real political power was granted to the literalists and they used it to suppress not only the pagans but their own fellow xtians. Was this idea ever in dispute? In a historical sense did what the gnostics think matter any more than what the Old Kingdom Egyptians thought in the 4th century? Those holding the swords set out to crush all opposition. They were successful in doing so.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Postby Ishtar » Sat Sep 06, 2008 12:00 pm

Minimalist wrote:But once again, Ish, Humphreys is not "at war" with the gnostics. He is refuting the Historical Jesus crowd and the gnostics are merely cannon fodder in that struggle. What they believed or why they believed it is inconsequential to Humphrey's need to show that they did exist and that they pre-dated the Historical Jesus idea.


I didn’t say he was at war with the Gnostics. He is at war with the Literalist Christians. But because he doesn’t understand the wellspring of Christianity (i.e Gnosticism) he fails to understand Christianity’s true nature.

It’s like when you’re gardening. If you have a weed you want to get rid of, what do you do? Do you lop off its head? No, that wouldn’t work, would it? The weed would grow back again. And you could chop off its head a million times, and each time it would grow back. That is because you are not attacking it at its core – its root. You have to pull a weed out by its roots.

Christianity is not based on anything reasonable or rational – so attacking it with reasoned arguments won’t work, as Richard Dawkins readily admits. In the case of the Gnostics, who Celsus was referring to, neither was there any blind faith in a flesh and blood Jesus. Yet Celsus is using reason to attack them over their what he describes, wrongly, as blind faith.

It is obvious from the way Celsus describes these Christians that he is attacking that they are Gnostics, and not Literalists.

He didn’t know his enemy. He didn’t know what made them tick, so anything he had to say to them was like water off a duck’s back. Of course, in political terms then, it didn't matter. But it matters today. If Ken wants to win his battle against Christians, he needs to understand them or at least know what they think - that John the Baptist thing was appalling, and I'm sure you must know it.

Minimalist wrote:As noted above, it is simply irrelevant to his point. What the gnostics believed is of interest to you, not him. All he needs to show is that they existed prior to the literalists and that their doctrines were different. He did that. Perhaps you should write your own book on the subject?


See above.

Minimalist wrote:See, I don't. Usually all Origen does is trot out some xtian doctrine and repeat it as if that answers the question. It is a failing of believers that their beliefs are sufficient in and of themselves.


He answers as a Gnostic and not as a Literalist, as the extract I posted shows and that’s my point. He’s actually in a difficult position because Celsus is erecting straw men, and it’s always a total bore to have to deal with them.

Look at this one. It is Origen’s first point:


The first point which Celsus brings forward, in his desire to throw discredit upon Christianity, is, that the Christians entered into secret associations with each other contrary to law, saying, that of associations some are public, and that these are in accordance with the laws; others, again, secret, and maintained in violation of the laws.


Well, for one thing, it’s hardly the Christians fault that some Roman emperor (probably Trajan) had decided to make their religion illegal. And I’ve always thought it particularly odd that Roman emperors in the second century did make Christianity illegal, when they allowed every other cult (and some had some quite unsavoury practises) to survive – it was only Christianity they made illegal. Why?

But anyway, this is really where Celsus is coming from. He is criticising them for being illegal and being secret. They were secret for two reasons. Because they were illegal (not their fault) and because there was an inner group who gave secret teachings, for all the same reasons that the Mystery rites did at that time, which Celsus should have known about.


Minimalist wrote:Then you haven't read it closely enough because Celsus is a Platonist with the attendant beliefs (he was a man of his times) of a perfect god and intermediaries. Celsus notes in one of his more famous quotes that a truly perfect 'god' would not have to destroy the earth like an inept workman because he would have gotten it right the first time.


I haven’t read every single word .. but I’ve read enough of it to get the drift of where Celsus is coming from.

Minimalist wrote:Celsus notes in one of his more famous quotes that a truly perfect 'god' would not have to destroy the earth like an inept workman because he would have gotten it right the first time.


That would only be a famous quote among Literalist Atheists, because it shows what a Literalist he is. That’s like Dawkins saying that God doesn’t exist because the fossil record shows that Genesis is wrong. We all know that God didn’t destroy the earth ... so Celsus’s argument does the same belly flop.

Much of Gnosticism was based upon Platonic ideas, but not all Platonists were Gnostics. Plato, 500 years before Celsus’s time, taught an oral, secret doctrine, but they may not have survived until Celsus’s time – and it’s obvious from this idea of God as a man in the sky (which no Gnostic or true Platonist believed he was) that Celsus hasn’t been taught the Secret Mysteries, or doesn’t even appear to know about them. So then, all he is left with is the dry bones of Plato’s teachings – the logic and the rationale, which is about as satisfying as a Jacobs Cream Cracker with no butter on it.

Minimalist wrote:I suspect that Celsus sees the Judaeo-christian god as something of a shlub. I completely disagree with your assertion that the literalists do not think the story should hang together on a rational level. That is precisely what they think and the fact is that they have convinced a lot of people that it is LITERALLY true.


Min, you have misread me again. My whole point has been that the Literalists DO expect the story to hang together in a rational way, and that’s been the whole thrust of my argument, which you have completely missed because you haven’t read my post carefully enough.

Here’s what I said:

Ishtar wrote:From this letter, Celsus appears to be a Literalist Atheist who attacks Jesus on the same grounds that Humphries would - mainly that the story doesn't hang together, or make sense, therefore, 'it cannot be true'.

Celsus appears to be ridiculing Christians over their blind faith versus his reason, but he has completely missed the point of true Gnostic Christianity which avoids that dichotomy. In other words, there is no blind faith in a literal flesh-and-blood Jesus within Gnosticism; neither is there any reliance on reason.


I hope you’re clear on that now. If you’re not, we cannot proceed because most of my argument is based upon it.

Minimalist wrote:Correct about the faith thing but Celsus did not have the luxury of knowing which variant of this superstition would win out, if any. He notes, on a couple of occasions, that there are numerous xtian sects and that the only thing they seem to have in common is the word "xtian." He is thus entitled to be confused by what they are putting out as truth since they had so many versions of it at the time he was writing.


Well, I think if he was gong to attack them, he needed first to do a little research. It’s not much to ask – otherwise, he didn’t know his enemy.

Minimalist wrote:The issue about xtian meetings is well taken and in Book I, 1 Origen states"

For as those persons would do well who should enter into a secret association in order to put to death a tyrant who had seized upon the liberties of a state, so Christians also, when tyrannized over by him who is called the devil, and by falsehood, form leagues contrary to the laws of the devil, against his power, and for the safety of those others whom they may succeed in persuading to revolt from a government which is, as it were, "Scythian," and despotic.


This, frankly, is the essence of apologetics. He admits the charge and claims that they have a right to oppose the government and its laws. In such an instance, expect the government to fight back. It is what governments do.


The only way they are opposing the government is by meeting. Hardly a capital crime, is it? And please see my earlier point about why was it illegal? What harm where they doing?

What was the government fighting back against? People who want to meet in a house?

Minimalist wrote:In a historical sense did what the gnostics think matter any more than what the Old Kingdom Egyptians thought in the 4th century? Those holding the swords set out to crush all opposition. They were successful in doing so.


It’s matters if you want to understand your enemy.




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Postby seeker » Sat Sep 06, 2008 12:26 pm

Ish - I get a kick out of the 'literalist atheist' thing. Do you realiize that atheism is simply non-belief?

If anything you might accuse Celsus is refuting the literal story which brings up something interesting. What makes you think Celsus was particularly against Gnosticism or all religion? In fact Celsus actually makes note of the fact that Gnostics attract a better class of people. We really only know that Celsus was making the same point you have made, that the Gospel story was absurd.
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Postby Ishtar » Sat Sep 06, 2008 12:49 pm

seeker wrote:Ish - I get a kick out of the 'literalist atheist' thing. Do you realiize that atheism is simply non-belief?

If anything you might accuse Celsus is refuting the literal story which brings up something interesting. What makes you think Celsus was particularly against Gnosticism or all religion? In fact Celsus actually makes note of the fact that Gnostics attract a better class of people. We really only know that Celsus was making the same point you have made, that the Gospel story was absurd.


But I'm not making that point.

That would be like saying the story of Harry Potter is absurd because there is no trace of any Hogwarts School in England, let alone a Professor Dumbledore.

However, Harry Potter is not absurd. It's a great cracking story with, may I say in favour of J K Rowling, absolutely spot on research on the history of magic.
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Postby Minimalist » Sat Sep 06, 2008 1:17 pm

But what Celsus (and Humphries) both fail to understand is that the story is not meant to hang together, or make sense on the rational level.



Perhaps here you were referring only to the gnostics, I can't tell because you did not specify.

But...

In other words, there is no blind faith in a literal flesh-and-blood Jesus within Gnosticism; neither is there any reliance on reason.


What difference does it make? They lost out and were consigned to the dustbin of history by the literalists. Gnosticism is nothing more than an intellectual pursuit whereas the literalists are still calling the shots.

I still get the impression that you want Humphries to fully subscribe to your theory and the point is that it is irrelevant to his point of study. In a sense, we all have an advantage over Celsus because we know how the story turned out.....and I think Celsus would be terribly upset to know that this doctrine was put in charge of the whole empire.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Postby Minimalist » Sat Sep 06, 2008 1:26 pm

seeker wrote:Ish - I get a kick out of the 'literalist atheist' thing. Do you realiize that atheism is simply non-belief?

If anything you might accuse Celsus is refuting the literal story which brings up something interesting. What makes you think Celsus was particularly against Gnosticism or all religion? In fact Celsus actually makes note of the fact that Gnostics attract a better class of people. We really only know that Celsus was making the same point you have made, that the Gospel story was absurd.



Celsus states:

The point is that this Jesus is hardly the only angelic being reckoned to have visited mankind; even before his time there are those who were sent by the creator, though some among the christians--Marcion and his disciple Apelles for example--think that the creator is an inferior god. On this point there is considerable disagreement, for while some of the Christians proclaim that they have the same god as do the Jews, others insist that there is another god higher than the creator god and opposed to him. and some Christians teach that the son came from this higher god. Still others admit of a third god--those, that is to say, who call themselves gnostics--* and still others though calling themselves Christians want to live according to the laws of the Jews.


The asterisk refers to a footnote in Hoffman's text where he suggests that Celsus was referring to the Valentinian Anthropology as described by Irenaeus.


It does seem that Celsus made some effort to iron out the various doctrines which were all parading about at the time under the Christian Banner. He's not simply mouthing off.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Postby Ishtar » Sat Sep 06, 2008 1:32 pm

Yes, I am referring to the Gnostics, because the letter is written by a Gnostic (Origen) who is answering as a Gnostic to a Literalist's charges that nothing can exist outside of reason and that anything else much be blind faith.

I'd really like it if you could answer some of my points on this, like why was Christianity illegal and why did Celsus think that that gave him a legitimate ground to attack it? What harm were the Christians doing at that time? Why does Celsus crtiticise them for being secret when every wisdom teaching at that time was secret - and especially if it was illegal?



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Postby Ishtar » Sat Sep 06, 2008 1:40 pm

Minimalist wrote:
seeker wrote:Ish - I get a kick out of the 'literalist atheist' thing. Do you realiize that atheism is simply non-belief?

If anything you might accuse Celsus is refuting the literal story which brings up something interesting. What makes you think Celsus was particularly against Gnosticism or all religion? In fact Celsus actually makes note of the fact that Gnostics attract a better class of people. We really only know that Celsus was making the same point you have made, that the Gospel story was absurd.



Celsus states:

The point is that this Jesus is hardly the only angelic being reckoned to have visited mankind; even before his time there are those who were sent by the creator, though some among the christians--Marcion and his disciple Apelles for example--think that the creator is an inferior god. On this point there is considerable disagreement, for while some of the Christians proclaim that they have the same god as do the Jews, others insist that there is another god higher than the creator god and opposed to him. and some Christians teach that the son came from this higher god. Still others admit of a third god--those, that is to say, who call themselves gnostics--* and still others though calling themselves Christians want to live according to the laws of the Jews.


The asterisk refers to a footnote in Hoffman's text where he suggests that Celsus was referring to the Valentinian Anthropology as described by Irenaeus.

It does seem that Celsus made some effort to iron out the various doctrines which were all parading about at the time under the Christian Banner. He's not simply mouthing off.


I agree that the doctrines were so diverse that it would have been a difficult job. But Origen is answering as a Gnostic (whoever Celsus is criticising) and so reading him from that point of view, he makes sense to me.

OK. Literalist Atheist - I think what I mean by a Literalist Atheist is an atheist that is constantly pointing out that the Jesus story cannot be literally true - when it was never intended to be in the first place - and therefore, the teachings are worthless. Celsus sounds to me like this, as does Humphreys.

Soooo.... what would a Gnostic Atheist be? A Gnostic Atheist would understand that it wasn't meant to be true and was a myth. But they would still think it was a pile a crap because no-one has taught them the purpose and value of myth as a guide to inner truth.

I don't know which you and Min are!

Image

Probably both!


. :?
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Postby Ishtar » Sat Sep 06, 2008 2:16 pm

Minimalist wrote:Celsus notes in one of his more famous quotes that a truly perfect 'god' would not have to destroy the earth like an inept workman because he would have gotten it right the first time.


This is pure ipse dixitism.

It’s like saying “If there was a God, ice creams would be free. But as ice creams are not free, this means logically that there can be no God.”




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Postby seeker » Sat Sep 06, 2008 3:17 pm

Ishtar wrote:
seeker wrote:Ish - I get a kick out of the 'literalist atheist' thing. Do you realiize that atheism is simply non-belief?

If anything you might accuse Celsus is refuting the literal story which brings up something interesting. What makes you think Celsus was particularly against Gnosticism or all religion? In fact Celsus actually makes note of the fact that Gnostics attract a better class of people. We really only know that Celsus was making the same point you have made, that the Gospel story was absurd.


But I'm not making that point.

That would be like saying the story of Harry Potter is absurd because there is no trace of any Hogwarts School in England, let alone a Professor Dumbledore.

However, Harry Potter is not absurd. It's a great cracking story with, may I say in favour of J K Rowling, absolutely spot on research on the history of magic.


You kind of are though. Part of Celsus criticism was that:

"Jesus, they say, was sent to save sinners; was he not sent to help those who have kept themselves free from sin? They pretend that God will save the unjust man if he repents and humbles himself. The just man who has held steady from the cradle in the ways of virtue He will not look upon. He pours scorn upon the exorcists; who were clearly in league with the demons themselves – and upon the excesses of the itinerant and undisciplined prophets who roam through cities and camps and commit to everlasting fire cities and lands and their inhabitants.

"Above all Christians are disloyal, and every church is an illicit collegium, an insinuation deadly at any time, but especially so under Marcus Aurelius. Why cannot Christians attach themselves to the great philosophic and political authorities of the world? A properly understood worship of gods and demons is quite compatible with a purified monotheism, and they might as well give up the mad idea of winning the authorities over to their faith, or of hoping to attain anything like universal agreement on divine things."

Clearly Celsus wasn't an atheist and he wasn't against the Mystery religions, only literal Christian doctrine.
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Postby seeker » Sat Sep 06, 2008 3:25 pm

Minimalist wrote:It does seem that Celsus made some effort to iron out the various doctrines which were all parading about at the time under the Christian Banner. He's not simply mouthing off.


I agree, Celsus was pretty careful in his criticism to separate Christianity from other mystery religions. BTW, here is something you might like.
seeker
 
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Postby Ishtar » Sat Sep 06, 2008 3:35 pm

Isn't it strange how two people can read the same thing, and get something different out of it?

seeker wrote:You kind of are though. Part of Celsus criticism was that:

"Jesus, they say, was sent to save sinners; was he not sent to help those who have kept themselves free from sin? They pretend that God will save the unjust man if he repents and humbles himself. The just man who has held steady from the cradle in the ways of virtue He will not look upon. He pours scorn upon the exorcists; who were clearly in league with the demons themselves – and upon the excesses of the itinerant and undisciplined prophets who roam through cities and camps and commit to everlasting fire cities and lands and their inhabitants.


This is obviously an attack on literal Christianity, but Celsus is not always so clear who he is attacking - else why criticise the secrecy which is necessary to the Gnostic wisdom teachings, and also is a way of upholding the very standard of having a criteria of acceptance into the teachings that Celsus accuses them of not having here?

But this next to me is meaningless:

seeker wrote:"Above all Christians are disloyal, and every church is an illicit collegium, an insinuation deadly at any time, but especially so under Marcus Aurelius. Why cannot Christians attach themselves to the great philosophic and political authorities of the world? A properly understood worship of gods and demons is quite compatible with a purified monotheism, and they might as well give up the mad idea of winning the authorities over to their faith, or of hoping to attain anything like universal agreement on divine things."


I bolded that last bit because never could a person have been so wrong!

But the fact that they are 'disloyal' and 'illicit' is meaningless in terms of whether or not this teaching revealed the experience of inner god-hood, as its followers claimed. Laws come and laws go. In a matter of a century or so after Celsus said this, the mad idea of the authorities being won over to the faith had actually become reality. Of course, Celsus was not to know that. But surely he would know, if he were any kind of philosopher that God, if there were such a thing, would not be the subject of the laws of man that change with the wind and the fashions of the times?

seeker wrote:Clearly Celsus wasn't an atheist and he wasn't against the Mystery religions, only literal Christian doctrine.


It's not that clear to me. And in any case, he's getting a Gnostic's reply, and that makes more sense to me than much of what Celsus has to say. If he knows and wasn't against the Mystery religions, why was he complaining about the secrecy? I agree he attacks Literalist ideas, but it comes over to me as an attack on the whole of Christianity. He isn't specific enought that Literal Christianity is a misunderstanding of a Gnostic story ... unless there is something of his that I haven't seen.



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