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An article donated by Alton C. Thompson:

Crafting a Bible-Based Religion

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A subtitle of this essay might very well be: "Why the recent burning of Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris, has no religious significance (per the Bible)!"

More on that later.  However, at this point it’s worth noting that the fact that so many do think of that burning as having religious significance is an indication of the pervasive ignorance that exists (and not just in our society) regarding the Bible!  An ironic fact, to be sure! 1

The Bible is herein perceived as a human-created book; for example:

In the 4th century a series of synods produced a list of texts equal to the 39, 46, 51, or 54-book canon of the Old Testament and to the 27-book canon of the New Testament that would be subsequently used to today, most notably the Synod of Hippo in 393 CE.  Also circa 400 CE, Jerome produced a definitive Latin edition of the Bible (see Vulgate), the canon of which, at the insistence of the Pope, was in accord with the earlier Synods.  With the benefit of hindsight it can be said that this process effectively set the New Testament canon, although there are examples of other canonical lists in use after this time.

And this, from a review of Dr. Darrell L. Bock’s The Missing Gospels:  Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities (2007):

". . . I doubt [that] orthodox Christianity was the 'first' form of Christianity.  Jesus’[s] own 'Christianity' was, probably, most similar to Jewish Christianity, which eventually lost out to Pauline Christianity.  As usual, we don’t have enough surviving evidence to say with much certainty what really happened almost 2,000 years ago."

The above are, of course, but snippets of the writing that has been done regarding the Bible.  I include them here only as evidence that the Bible is a human creation which, therefore, reflects that fact.

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What’s of particular interest (to me!) is that the Bible includes four different accounts ("gospels") of the life of Jesus. In chronological order, they are:  Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. Although these accounts overlap, they also differ in important respects, one from another.  For example, the oldest of the canonical gospels, Mark, (probably dating from 66 - 70 CE)"

"... tells of the ministry of Jesus from his baptism by John the Baptist to his death and burial and the discovery of the empty tomb There is no genealogy of Jesus or birth narrative, nor, in the original ending at chapter 16, any post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.  The Gospel portrays Jesus as a heroic man of action, an exorcist, a healer, and a miracle worker.  Jesus is also the Son of God, but he keeps his identity secret (the Messianic Secret), concealing it in parables so that even most of the disciples fail to understand. All this is in keeping with prophecy, which foretold the fate of the messiah as suffering servant. 2 The gospel ends, in its original version, with the discovery of the empty tomb, a promise to meet again in Galilee, and an unheeded instruction to spread the good news of the resurrection. 3

My purpose here is not, however, to discuss Biblical scholarship; rather, it is to take the Bible as it currently exists, and then use it to create a religion (on paper, at least!).  One might very well argue that this has been done already (i.e., the various denominations of Christianity — named for a title given to Jesus), but the present essay ignores that possibility, and attempts a "fresh start"!

The title that I have given this essay is somewhat misleading in one respect. It is Bible-based, but in another respect is rooted in human nature.  I begin, however, with the "Bible-based" part: the fact that it derives its definition of "religion" from the Bible.

"Religion" is defined in just one place in the Bible, in James 1:27:

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

As that definition was intended for a society and time rather different from, say, the United States as it exists today. For it to become relevant for our society today, it must be "translated."  Here is how I would "translate" it:

    1. Become aware of the "neediness" that exists today, both at individual and specietal levels, and do what one can to address that neediness.  At the specietal level this means especially that one should become aware of the threat to our species posed by global warming, and then to do what one can to reduce that threat.  What I have done, in part, is write this: A Road to Survival? and send it to a number of "green," and other, entrepreneurs with the hope of interesting them in my "plan")

    2. Become aware of the dominant ideologies in one’s society, recognize that they distort one’s knowledge of reality, and then strive to avoid "possession" by them.

Once one has come to recognize what "religion" means, Biblically, one needs next to ask:  How should I go about practicing it?

Here is where human nature enters the picture.  What must be recognized about "human nature" is that it became established prior to the Neolithic Age (which began about 12,000 years ago).  During that period, humans (whose sustenance came from gathering and hunting) became "designed" -- physically, psychologically, and sociologically -- for living in small groups, 4 and in a situation of relative equality (including sexual equality): 5

Our prehistoric forebears are often portrayed as spear-wielding savages, but the earliest human societies are likely to have been founded on enlightened egalitarian principles, according to scientists.

A study has shown that in contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes, men and women tend to have equal influence on where their group lives and who they live with.  The findings challenge the idea that sexual equality is a recent invention, suggesting that it has been the norm for humans for most of our evolutionary history.

As agriculture began to displace gathering-hunting (i.e., foraging) during the Neolithic, group size began to increase in those groups within which agriculture was developing, and that fact conduced the development of a Discrepancy between:

  1. The way of life for which humans had become "designed" prior to the Neolithic; and

  2. The new ways of life that began to develop during and after the Neolithic. 6

After the Neolithic, therefore, although some behaviors continued to have a genetic basis (ones involved in the satisfaction of basic needs), new behaviors began to arise, these being related especially to two developments:

  1. The beginning of some members of a group now exploiting other members of the group -- leading to the creation of social class systems.

  2. Institutional developments -- the development of social class systems being itself an example.

Those two developments conduced intellectual developments which, in turn, conduced further developments in both exploitative behavior (e.g., the creation of ideologies) and institutional developments -- giving us our current "dog eat dog" world!

What’s the relevance of the above for the development of a Bible-based religion?  Here’s my answer:

Once we recognize the meaning of "Bible-based religion," and ask ourselves how to go about practicing it, we should "call upon" human nature; that means, especially, that we recognize that we are social animals.

Given that we are "social animals" 7 and designed to live in small groups, on an egalitarian basis, one might reasonably argue that to create a Biblically-based religion, we need to create small, egalitarian communities for ourselves.  Certainly some who have engaged in attempts to create what they conceived as a Bible-based religion actually implemented such an idea. The Shakers are a prime example.

My "practicing" view, though, is that although congregating in small communities may have "salvific" value (for our species; see my A Road to Survival?), from a purely religious perspective what "practicing" Biblical religion would involve is:

  1. Meeting with like-minded others on a regular basis.

  2. Discussing with them how to "operationalize" their concept of Bible-based religion (rather than having someone lecture to them!). 8

  3. Planning joint and individual activities.

  4. Acting on what has been decided.

The specific institution that I would advise adopting for these purposes is the Life Institution:the LEG. (See my Introducing a Life Institution).

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I noted at the beginning of this essay that James 1:27 provided the definition of "religion" used in this essay.  I assume that the "James" in question was a brother of Jesus. I would add that whether it was James or Jesus who originated this concept of religion, the (misnamed!) "Good Samaritan" parable attributed to Jesus both illustrates that concept, and goes beyond it:

  1. The Samaritan in the story models religious behavior.

  2. The priest and Levite in the story illustrate the fact that "organized religion" tends to be anything but religious!  Although the priest and Levite in the story undoubtedly thought of themselves -- and were thought by others -- as being religious, the parable presents them as being goats (to allude to this Biblical passage).  That is, by not engaging in helping behavior they demonstrated their irreligious nature!

Calling this parable, then, the "Good Samaritan" parable is to draw attention away from the fact that it illustrates what is -- and is not -- "religious" behavior, from a Biblical standpoint!  Which forces one to ask: Was this done deliberately, or out of ignorance?!  (Or both?!)

Of more direct interest here, though, is that the above comments should caution LEG creators regarding the wisdom of going beyond the creation of LEGs, to the creation of a denomination!

I offer here no definitive answer to that matter, except to add that the creators of a LEG could be expected to expand the activities of the LEG to include social activities, etc.  So long as such "add-ons" do not detract from the LEG as a religious institution, they would not be objectionable.  And, I would add, the very structure of the LEG -- its emphasis on discussion, rather than lecturing -- would conduce its remaining religious in nature.

Of course, given that LEG sessions can continue (if created, in the first place!) only if humans continue to exist (!), it behooves LEG session attendees to give some attention to the problem of global warming.  Even then, there is no guarantee that our species will continue to exist, as I point out in this:  Why We Are Doomed!

Finally, to refer to my "subtitle":  It should now be clear that the recent burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral is irrelevant, so far as the Biblical concept of "religion" is concerned! How utterly pathetic that so few realize this fact!!

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. My thinking about Biblical religion has been shaped especially by my reading of The Social Institutions and Ideals of the Bible. by Theodore Gerald Soares (1915); and Sociological Study of the Bible (1912)and The Bible is Human (1942), both by Louis Wallis.

  2. Christ.  "In Christianity, Christ[Notes 1] (Greek: Χριστός, Christós, meaning "the anointed one") is a title for the saviour and redeemer who would bring salvation to the whole House of Israel.  Christians believe Jesus is the Israelite messiah foretold in both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament.  Christ, used by Christians as both a name and a title, is synonymous with Jesus. 5 6 7

  3. For example, Economics is an ideology insofar as it fails to recognize that we humans are a part of Earth System, rather than apart from it.

  4. An individual "band is generally small in number, typically with no more than 30 individuals if moving on foot, . . . ."

  5. This article explains how they maintained equality.

  6. I see this development as (virtually) determining all subsequent history, but in the absence of supporting research, this must remain a "mere" hypothesis.

  7. The mechanism(s) by which we became "social animals’ is not explored here, except to say that Charles Darwin’s worthless (even dangerous!) concept of "natural selection" was not involved!  See my Ringing the Bell for Darwin.

  8. A practice which tends to lead to "religion" becoming a mere tool of the State!

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Original posting: 2019-APR-18
Most recent update: 2019-APR-24
Author: Alton C. Thompson
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