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Posts Tagged ‘Gnosticism’

Christmas is kind of hard. Especially since, deep-down, I really want to fit in with everyone else… go to a good service or two and sing about baby Jesus, light a candle, or whatever you all do. I want to, but I just can’t. Or even if I do go, I just can’t forget the things that I know… the things that I know and so many of the other smiling faces in the crowd either don’t know or simply refuse to accept.

Through all my years of Christian (yes good old bible school seminary) education, Church history, apologetics, and various other studies I just know that this holiday can’t be taken literally. Although tonight I realized that I can still enjoy it and take it seriously.

I may not believe in god the same way that you all do. I believe that the whole thing is an allegory, meaning to inspire and point us all towards a greater truth… and one that we took far too literally. Believing, or better put “knowing”, that has always been a hang up for me. Especially on this holiday since it centers so much around the telling, re-telling, and proclamation of a ridiculous series of events as a historical fact that I should just accept as though I’m accepting the fact that there is a Europe, or that Abraham Lincoln was a President of the United States.

Tonight though, while in a service, I smiled and felt a certain amount of release and joy as I slowly broke down and started singing along with one of the Christmas hymns. The joy came from knowing that even though I debate the historical accuracy of this whole thing, and even debate the literal existence of a Christ… that I do believe in it conceptually, and that even if to me he was allegory and to you he is literal, that in the end our songs and our prayers are both reaching the same heavens.

For those of you who are new to this concept, and who think that I must be off my rocker for even proposing it; let me take a second to explain some of the basics of what was once called Christianity but now is referred to as heresy… or Gnostic Christianity.

A fact that I learned while studying church history in my minister’s training, was that in the beginning of church history there was already a debate going as to if the New Testament, and especially the story of Christ was to be taken literally or if it was simply a tool to help man “awaken” and be brought closer to god/enlightenment. There was even a point in time where both of these groups of people were still considered Christians and even managed to get along and worship side-by-side.

Now, most churches and religious schools today will state that the literal Christians came first, and that the non-literal “Gnostics” came along much later as Christianity got watered-down and mixed in with other Pagan religions as it spread through Europe and other territories. That is the popular answer, and as it is commonly said… the ones who win the wars get to write the history books.

However, archeologists, scholars and theologians across the globe have not too recently found enough evidence buried deep in the sands of time to support the theory that it was really the opposite that was true. That the Gnostics were the first to call themselves “Christians”, and that it wasn’t until much later that a fundamentalist movement came along, professing a literal, historical belief in the events of what we now call the New Testament.

Gnostics saw Christianity as a fluid, adaptive religion that could embrace any culture and would not only tolerate but incorporate other beliefs as it spread. For it wasn’t the message which was sacred, it was the end result. Jesus was a path to lead us towards the divine, but they saw many paths and never lost sight of the end goal… knowing that you are a Christ, that you are in God and that God is in you.

Historically, we should all be able to agree, that the split between the “Christians” and the “Christians” came to a head when Constantine decided that he wanted to pick a one world religion for the Roman Empire.

His final two choices had boiled down to what we now know as the Gnostics and the fundamentalists who soon after became the Roman Catholic Church. He made his decision, and one faith was elevated and the other cut-down… almost erased from history. Which does make one wonder… who the heck was Constantine, a political figure and ruler to decide our faiths in the first place?

For many years the church painted Constantine as a saint, even literally made him one, a man of God, a devout Christian who encountered God in a holy vision giving him divine direction, making him a messenger of God… an instrument to give direction to His church.

History, real history, paints quite a different picture. Constantine was a cruel and shrewd ruler, who even after his supposed “conversion” was killing wives, going to orgies and up until his death bed considered himself a pagan.

The desire of a one world religion wasn’t spiritually based but politically. Rome had one government, one ruler, and people needed to understand that there were dire punishments for disobeying that ruler, and benefits for obeying him. The religion needed to be the same. One religion, one ruler, some after-world benefit for following it, and some eternal damnation for disobeying. There would be another catch as well… Constantine wished to control this religion as well, setting himself up as the spiritual leader or director of it and its teachings. Total control of the people, both politically and spiritually.

Now out of the two primary choices, which fits the criteria best? Gnostics do not believe in a “heaven” or a “hell”, and could really care less if someone was Gnostic or not. The point was to help people find enlightenment, unleash the true good of the inner man, and adapt the message to something new if the current flavor doesn’t work for you.

The others, on the other hand… fit the criteria perfectly.

But what does this mean for me if I truly believe this? Does this mean that I can’t call myself Christian? Because the Gnostics sure didn’t have a problem with calling themselves that. Can I not enjoy church? They founded the church. Can I not enjoy Christmas? Communion? Easter? What do you think the Gnostics did during those holidays? I’m sure they worshiped right there alongside the rest — knowing full well that even though we may disagree on certain specifics, dogma, or theologies… that their worship and prayers are too making their way to their object of worship.

Am I declaring myself a Gnostic? No. No I am not. And neither would they, for in the end although some did die for their beliefs, many instead just simply adapted again… as I adapt and learn from this wealth of spiritual knowledge that is available to me from not only this one culture but so many, many more.

I like their attitude though, but I see no need for saying that I am any one thing when my attitude and beliefs are fluid, able to learn, able to change, able to appreciate all that is out there, and always, always focused on the end-goal… knowing god and self. Knowing that the form, the message holds nothing sacred for me, but that the quest itself IS sacred.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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e1242913021“Christian” is a social phenomena that has permeated every aspect of our Western culture, and I hold little doubt that as adamant as we Westerners tend to be about keeping the term tied to our identities, as best we can, there are similar modes of thought going on in other cultures clinging to their common, comfortable, and socially accepted titles of Buddhist, Islamic, or Jewish; while, in all truth they are walking in clearly different religious, social, or philosophical path.

I have even seen the opposite to be true, intellectuals who have been born and bred in the homes or classrooms of professors and great minds to be atheist, humanist, or at the very least practical agnostics; who, despite their social peer pressure to keep this intellectual title deep-down are very spiritual and have a secret faith in God, gods, or some kind of Universal Mind or consciousness.

I know a professor of computer science who is an adamant atheist, and practices a humanist Zen Buddhism that focuses on ethics, discipline and being at peace mentally in this life, but with no promise of nirvana nor enlightenment. That doesn’t surprise me that much and that holds no great contradiction.  However, what surprised me with him occurred one day while we were talking about our differing practices over some tea after meditation. I casually stated that I wasn’t Christian and I watched as his jaw dropped and an look of shock fell over his face. “What do you mean you are not Christian? I’m a Christian” he said.

Confused I got him to break down certain aspects of his belief system. He is atheist, Buddhist, does not believe in any kind of an afterlife, nor God the Father, and he believes that there was a Jesus but that he was just a man, not the Son of God, and that when he (Jesus) died he simply decayed and decomposed like the rest of us. And where exactly does the title “Christian” come into play?

His defense was that he agreed with the basic principles, ideals, morality, social constructs, and felt akin to the myths and inspirational stories that appeal to the better nature of us all that come from the Bible. And that as a Westerner he identifies with the label of Christian since this is a Christian nation and culture.

As a Bible scholar, though an non-believing one, I tried to explain the biblical criteria for calling yourself Christian, but that didn’t get me too far. Eventually I just dropped the subject, and went on to enjoying his great company and our friendship. I filed the conversation in the back of my brain to ponder upon a later date and went on with life. It wasn’t until the other week, where I was having a conversation with a sociology professor about gay rights that this past conversation was triggered back into play with some kind of clarity.

While discussing the gay rights movement we happened along the tangent of how difficult it is to “come out of the closet” as they say. The professor asserted that it is so counter culture to do so that one risks alienating themselves from everything they consider comforting. They risk losing identity as a straight “normal” person. They risk losing family, friends, their church, their social status… all kinds of things that we, as pack animals, tend to hold dear. It was then that the whole Christian thing made sense to me.

We hold onto the label for the same reasons. We do not want to risk the alienation or the discomfort or being different from the norm and the acceptable. Even mentally we can not escape the guilt and the oppression of feeling bad about ourselves for rejecting a Christ that we do not even really believe in. So instead we practice our New Age, Buddhism, Atheism, or other philosophy or religion and tag onto it the hyphenated “Christian” to form some kind of ease in our minds about the whole ordeal.

Please understand that this is not an attack against Christianity. To the contrary, it is out of a great respect and understanding of the religion that I defend its integrity in stating that I, and many who still cling to the term, are not Christian. Let those who are pure in their faith be free to practice without us others confusing people as to what the religion truly is, and let those who in their hearts want nothing to do with their God be free from the social shackles of thinking that they have to keep identifying with the religion.

Through my own personal studies I came to a very logical conclusion that there was never at any time a historical Christ figure that lived and died and rose again. However, even if you believe there was some kind of a man who was a great leader, sage, reincarnation of the Buddha, or prophet, but was not the Son of God, you still can’t fit your square peg into the clearly defined round hole of the Christian faith. Once I depersonalized my concept of “God” from the old, grey haired king sitting on his throne in heaven surrounded by his worshipping angles; into a broader, more universal concept of “energy” or an interconnectedness of all things… I left the fold. As soon as I opened up to the idea of their being many paths to experiencing and communing with this life force I immediately validated all religions and alienated myself from all of them at the same time – since just about all of them hold true the statement that they are the only path.

So I am nothing and I am everything, and I have to learn to be comfortable with and accept the fact that I just do not fit in quite well with my current society. It is unfamiliar, it is unsettling, disturbing at first… but it is also liberating!

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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three step programThis is an honest question that I am putting out there for anyone to answer.

Why is it that in order to have a proper Christian theology a belief in the physical resurrection of Christ’s mortal body is such a pivotal matter?

It has beome so integral that it has made it’s way into the Apostles’ Creed, many congregation’s core beliefs, Sinner’s Prayer; it is considered to be one of the fundamental things one must profess to be “saved”. I simply ask why?

I am not going to waste anyone’s time by insulting their belief in Jesus; nor am I going to stoop to such trite, juvenile conclusions such as:

i) His body is missing conveniently because he never existed
ii) His followers stole the body
iii) Zombie Jesus!

I think that having a missing body does more to complicate matters for the argument of Christ than it helps; instead of people arguing if there was a historical Christ or if he was pure fabrication, we could just say “and there is his body–see“. I see no solid theological argument as to why he could not have left his old body in the tomb, gone to heaven in spirit and still be Christ.

If the body was stolen that would imply that the bible is actually truth, and according to the bible it would have been quite a task to get that body out of there. Also, the body would have to be put somewhere eventually, and seeing that it would be considered a holy relic, would eventually turn-up somewhere. Besides, if the disciples knew their Messiah was a total fake I highly doubt they would have allowed themselves to become persecuted and martyred in order to keep the world’s longest running gag going.

I kind of like that; thinking of it all as the world’s longest running joke. From Wikipedia,

A running gag is a literary device which often takes the form of an amusing joke or a comical reference and appears repeatedly throughout a work of literature or other form of storytelling. Running gags can begin with an instance of unintentional humor that is repeated in variations as the joke grows familiar and audiences anticipate reappearances of the gag.

Finally, even though Zombie Jesus makes for some very funny posters, stickers, t-shirts, and now the new motion picture (I have got to see that one); it does nothing to really help us… except maybe laugh.

Anyway, my question is why it so important? What does a resurrected Christ with his old body accomplish for the religion that a Christ who died, went to heaven in spirit and then got a new body can not?

Christians believe that the resurrection is basically their souls entering into the Kingdom of Heaven. Some also believe that they get new “perfected” bodies in heaven; others that they eventually come back to earth in these new perfected bodies and live on a new earth.

Christians do not believe that they keep their old bodies. They believe that these current bodies of flesh simply decay and die. Furthermore, they do not believe that if they were missing an eye here on earth that after the resurrection their new body would be missing an eye as well. Or that if they are fat here they will be fat there; that if they lost a leg in the war they are going to be limping around heaven for all eternity. So I do not see why the idea of Christ needing to keep his old body is one of importance to this community of believers. It actually seems to disagree with their own beliefs on what happens to their own form after death.

Jesus however seems to have not received a perfected body, like a good Christian would, but instead is still lugging around his old one. We even see him coming back down to the earth sometime later in the Scriptures, and he still has physical wounds, and holes that people can see, touch, and stick their fingers into. I feel kind of sorry for the guy; since all the Christians get shiny new bodies, and he has to spend the rest of eternity with a scarred up back, holes in his hands and feet, and  God knows whatever other kinds of damage–I hear that thorny crown leaves one hell of a rug burn.

The Jewish religion, unlike the Christian on, does/did (depending on the various sects) preach that the resurrection was of this current physical body; there was no new perfected one. In fact, looking back at Christ’s preachings on the resurrection of the dead and the second coming–it pretty much reads like Jewish philosophy and not a very Christian one.

The whole theology of his resurrected body seems to be very un-Christian to me. It is starting to look to me like Jesus was “gasp” more of a Jew than a Christian.

Anyway, if anyone can explain any of this to me please feel free to do so. This is not an argument, this is me posing questions and seeking answers.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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Dionysus

I walked out of church today. I did not know that it was going to be a Palm Sunday service, and I was not quite mentally prepared for that one. I am not particularly proud of standing up and leaving; in fact, the whole thing was pretty disturbing for me.

I just could not sit there listening to the preacher going on-and-on about Christ’s riding on the donkey, the palms, and the triumphal entry as some kind of literal, historical fact. He even had the congregation stop and think about the fact that “on this exact day” so many thousands of years ago all of this was unfolding.

Either this person is a fool, or he is taking me for one. There is no in-between option that I can come to on my own.

Let me explain myself…

If this preacher is a scholar then he must be aware that the holiday was a pre-existing one; that the god-man riding the donkey, and being celebrated with the waving of the palms were already part of that pagan holiday and was later integrated into the story of Christ.

If a preacher being educated on these facts, knowingly preaches this event to me as a unique and literal fact of the life of Jesus, then he is taking me for a fool. He is knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately misleading, manipulating, and insulting my intelligence.

If a preacher is not aware of these facts, then he is uneducated, unlearned, and is no scholar. A man such as this is not fit to hold the pulpit.

If a preacher being educated on historical facts knowingly rejects them as a statement of faith, this man is a fool of the highest sort. True faith is not simply rejecting or choosing to not believe historical or scientific facts that do not line up with a personal belief system; such a thing we call stupidity.

If it were against my religion to believe in the country of France, or that the world is round, should I be applauded for my great faith in choosing to believe such nonsense despite the reality of the situation? No, never! Such a thing would be considered to be mere self-delusion and idiocy.

Wouldn’t it be better to educate the people about the religious history of that region and what the image of the god-man on top of a donkey represented in that culture? What the palms symbolized? How we can apply this to our spiritual lives today?

I do miss my old child-like faith; I am not bragging about the loss of it–I mourn it. However, I am not about to go down that road of trading knowledge for faith–I know where that leads. There has to be another way. I wonder if anyone has any words of encouragement for me in this time? I feel very down today about all of this for some reason.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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Sacred Geometry: The Jesus Fish

Sacred Geometry: The 2 Become 1 (A.K.A. The Jesus Fish)

OK, most believers have to admit that when they came across this scripture in Matthew they got a friend or two together and tried it out:

Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.

I did, you did, we all did; and nothing happened.

Maybe you wished for money, or something noble like a loved one to get healed; or just something simple like making a chair float in the air (that would be mine). Either way… nothing happened.

Was there more to the formula than we thought? Or, maybe that “friend” of ours really wasn’t a believer? Did we not have enough faith? What gives!

There are some long-winded theological arguments to explain away this promise in Scripture, but we can boil them all down to the following:

God only does it when he feels like it.

I have heard many a Christian explain away that although it is not in the text, God only answers prayer if and when he darn well pleases to. In fact, they even go so far as to state that he only answers those miracles that he was about to do anyway; this is called praying in (or accordance to) his will.

You would think that such a large disclaimer would have made it into the text.

The other explanations you can get are just as silly. A little bit ago, several people quote this verse to me; professing their superior faith to mine. I pointed out that there was well-more than two of them in the room together, and suggested that they “show me” it in action. They said that they “could do it if they really wanted to“, but that they “did not want to“. I then told them that I could turn invisible when I really want to, but that I did not feel like doing it in front of them either.

One then said that they could do it if they wanted to, but that the bible says not to put the Lord to the test.  So basically, we are told that it is against your faith to exercise your faith.

Up until recently this, and many other scriptures, bothered me greatly. The disclaimers revealed a weak, missing, or even worse — dead God, or it reveals a dead church.

There is hope though! For you see, this verse does not mean what we think it means; it may be better to even say that it has been misinterpreted greatly.

It is not that “if the two of you agree“; it is if the two agree, or when the two become one. This verse seemed cryptic to the translators, and so they paraphrased it the only way they could make sense of it — as fundamentalist Christians. However, if you look at the verse as a Gnostic Christian it makes perfect sense in its original form.

During that day-in-age the popular belief, especially in the Gnostic circle, was that the human consisted of 2; the lower self and the higher self. You could equate it to our concept of flesh and spirit.

So when the 2 become 1is the point where the believer (initiate) unites with his higher-self, transcends all, and becomes one. He becomes divine-human, a Christ, a Buddha, a god-man. It is in this state where anything that he wills will become granted to him. The verse is not saying that if two Christians simple get together and make a wish it will come true. It is pointing out that when you become perfected, hit nirvana, become the Christ — then wondrous miracles follow.

Nowadays we think of man in the form of Trinity; a being of body, mind, and spirit; so this dualistic view escapes us a bit. This triune theory was already becoming popular back when this verse was written as well; some people believed in the 2 and others in the 3, and that is why in the next verse it goes on to talk about “the two” or “the three“.

The author is not saying “sometimes it takes 2, and other times it requires 3”, he is saying that if you believe the human to be composed of 2 then the 2 need to be 1, and if you believe in the human trinity of 3 — the 3 need to become one; whatever floats your boat. Which is pretty open-minded of the guy. Fundamentalists would have had a council meeting on if 2 or 3 was the right answer, voted on it, and the losers would get burned at the stake for being heretics.

Read their history, they killed people over less.

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Faith Without WorksI have been considering this one for a while, so I thought I would share it with you all. For most Christians, it seems that the pinnacle of their belief centers around the concept of faith; having faith, claiming things by faith, asking for more faith, losing faith, gaining faith, acting on faith, or believing things on faith.

However, in the early church they would have laughed at such a concept; for to them faith was seen as just the preliminary step that the immature took on their way towards real maturity — or knowing. The word for this knowing was gnosis.

The desired end result of faith was to move into this knowing, not to simply have faith in-and-of itself.

I am sure that the early founders would find it even more humorous that today people take great pride in who can blindly believe the greatest number of things without ever knowing them or experiencing them to be true; yet we regard these people and refer to them as our Giants of the Faith.

Real knowing or gnosis is the real life application, as in working knowledge, of the item that was at first taken on faith. So the desired sequence of events should be broken down like this:

Knowledge (not gnosis) > Faith > Knowing (gnosis)

Just so there is no confusion, let us explain the difference between knowledge and knowing (gnosis). It is the difference between knowing something as purely factual information, or on here-say, and having the revelation of experiencing this knowledge in real life. Kind of like knowing the bible says you can raise the dead verses actually going out and raising one from the dead. You can have knowledge, and have all the faith you want, but until you do it — it’s dead; literally in this case.

I like to look at it in terms of our knowledge of outer space. I know it is there, I read books on it, had lessons in class, and I have the general idea as to what it may be like up there; I have knowledge on weightlessness, and understand it to the best of my abilities. This is knowledge.

An astronaut however has gnosis. He (or she) was in outer space, and was weightless. They know the thing better than you or I ever could. This is the working knowledge of gnosis. You can read all the textbooks or watch all the sci-fi you want, but you will never know weightlessness or space travel as they know it.

When the bible states that “faith without works is dead” it does not mean that your religion means very little unless you do good deeds (although some more good deeds would be greatly appreciated); it means that faith without coming into the fruition of works, gnosis, a working knowledge is nothing, dead, or useless.

Say a person comes to know the Law in the bible and they are convicted on their errors; here is the desired breakdown of that and the resulting sequence of events:

  1. Person comes into knowledge of the Law; thinks “I should not be doing ______”.
  2. Person comes to the knowledge that through Christ “I do not have to do ______”.
  3. Person does not feel like they can do it, nor have they experienced gnosis; so they act on faith.
  4. Person comes into knowing they are set free, and experience the working knowledge of being healed of this.

Churches these days stop at number 3 — they stop at walking in faith; they will walk in this faith at times for the rest of their lives, and will still struggle with the same problems over and over; never seeing any real results or freedom.

So the next time you are made to feel like you are less of a person than someone of faith for asking for some simple proof (or working knowledge) — don’t. Realize that faith was only meant to be a baby step to get people through into the adulthood of actual works. In any other aspect in life if one were to stay that long in the baby stage, and never reach maturity we would call it retardation; so it is nothing to brag about.

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Plato? Aristotle? Socrates? Morons!So, I had this great analogy I was going to use about Star Wars and the  Church, but seeing how I “blew my proverbial Star Wars load” on the last post, I am going to have to go old-school on you all and bust out with some Plato. Or, as none better than Vizzini puts it in The Princess Bride,

Have you ever heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates? Morons!

Let me propose to you this simple series of questions:

Which of us can rightfully say that he or she understands the works of Plato better than Plato himself? Whom among us can grasp the concepts of Platonism better than Plato did? Who can claim to better understands the intent of Plato than Plato?

Granted, you may have been able to memorize his works better than he ever did, and maybe you can quote Plato to Plato til blue in the face; however, can you really ever claim to know his intent better than he?

Sorry, this would have been much cooler using George Lucas as the example.

Anyway, the point is pretty clear: No you can not know Plato’s work (the desire, intent, purpose, reason, point, and passion behind it) better than Plato ever did. That would be impossible.

In Church history we have “built off the knowledge” of certain founders, apostles, preachers, scholars and theologians. The basic idea being that all of them before us thought that they “had it right”, but they really did not have it right. Maybe they had a part that we like and keep, but the rest of it was pure nonsense. They thought that what they had was sacred and unchangeable; they were wrong. However, what we have now is right, is unchanging and infallible.

How can it be that we who are further away from the source (i.e. Jesus) of Christian intent can say that we understand this intent better than someone who was nearer to the source? Would not Jesus know his intent more than any other, followed by his disciples, then their students, and so on and so forth? Yet, we claim to now with our “better and more educated understandings” come to new revelations that Peter, Paul, and the founders of the church simply missed?

It is only in our our pride and ignorance we can say that we know the teachings and heart of Christ better and more than our Founding Fathers.

How can we “build off of” the works of Luther? Either he had it right or he suffered mental illness, was an Anti-Semite and a child molester.

We all know that the New Testament was compiled by men in the church because they believed that the God in the Old Testament and that the God of Jesus in were different Gods; we disagree with them, but we use their bibles.

When people point out that the God of the Old Testament seems a lot different than the God of the New Testament we discredit them; we say that they understand less than we do; yet, our Founders declared that they were different and should not be read as one.

We all call this New Testament divine and as a Church declared it “infallible”, then later removed several books from it that no longer fit with their “new understandings”.

We do not recognize that fact that even further back all Christianity was the Roman Catholic Church.

We quote men as heroes in our religion, as great theologians, who were Gnostic – not fundamentalists – who believed in reincarnation (i.e. Origen), who did not believe in a literal heaven or hell, and did not even believe in a historical Christ; they taught that the entire story of Jesus (birth, life, death and resurrection) was just an allegory (metaphor).

Most of these men we both burned at the stakes and made into Saints.

Either they are the heretics or you are; enough with these “new revelations”, let us go back to the source.

I propose that returning to a true Christianity would result in doing away with the religion of Christianity. I propose that if I were to suggest that there was no literal (historic) Christ – that this would not revolutionary but counterrevolutionary (going back to the source); if I were to teach reincarnation it would not be heretical but historical.

I propose that all religions that seek after One are One.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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