The Jesus Question

Photo Credit: RubioBuitrago via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: RubioBuitrago via Compfight cc

It is Christmas day as I write this article and I thought it fitting to write some of my thoughts about the man to whom this day is dedicated. In the process of letting go of my religious beliefs, Jesus was the last to go.

As a Christian, I was a big fan of preacher and author, Josh McDowell, who claimed to have spent his younger years in an earnest effort to disprove Christianity, yet could not do so because he couldn’t find a way to refute the person, death and resurrection of Jesus. For many years, I felt the same way as well.

However, this argument presupposes two things: One, that Jesus was a real, historical figure; and two, that the accounts of his miracles (especially his resurrection) are factual, accurate and reliable.

For most of my life, I was convinced that I had a “personal relationship” with him. I could “feel his presence” and talk to him, sing praises to him, worship him. Then I began to realize that all I ever knew about Jesus, I learned in Sunday School, or through the Bible, or through a sermon or books written by Christian authors.

And then I thought it was such a joke for me to claim to have a personal relationship with an entity whom I only know about through second-hand sources, an entity I have not even seen, heard, touched or smelled (or tasted, just to round out the senses).

How do I know that the picture of Jesus in my head was the real and actual Jesus? Was there even a real and actual Jesus?

So I set out to learn and study more about him. I was especially interested in material that was scholarly and as unbiased as possible. I didn’t want anything with an agenda (although that is quite difficult), and I had to do a lot of reading, cross-referencing, listening to debates, arguments, counter-arguments and finally letting everything sink in, letting the emotions dissipate, and doing my own thinking and reflection.

I would just like to share my personal realizations so far in this little quest of mine.

I do not have a clear stand on whether or not Jesus was a real, historical figure. I am around 60% convinced that he is historical because of traditional scholarship and also because of agnostic scholars such as Bart Ehrman. I used to scoff at the idea that Jesus is pure myth but Robert Price and Richard Carrier make some intelligent and compelling arguments for this case and I am intrigued enough to do further readings and reflection on them.

I have reason to highly suspect the miracle accounts. Jesus may have been a real person who existed in history, but much about him may have been embellished and even contrived. The gospels are not first-hand accounts of Jesus’ life as most people believe. They are most probably not written by the people whose names they bear (e.g. the book of Matthew was not really written by Matthew). One has to remember that Matthew and John were illiterate, Aramaic-speaking Jews while all the copies of the gospels that we have are written in highly literate Greek. Moreover, they were written at least 30 to 60 years after the events had taken place — that is more than enough time for legends and fiction to develop. Besides, we do not even have the originals of these documents but rather copies of copies of copies of copies.

We might think that it would be easy for actual eyewitnesses to refute the gospels if they had not been factual. But how exactly would they do that? If a document reaches another city where no one has heard of Jesus, and one person preaches it so fervently there, would there be an eyewitness to refute what he says?

Even in our generation, we have charismatic personalities able to convince large numbers of people to believe their slant of “truth” — think of political leaders like Hitler or Mao, or religious founders like Joseph Smith or Felix Manalo.

Even with the internet, we still get our fair share of people believing in myths and false tales. Just look at your Facebook page at the people who still post the hoaxes about those colored bars found in toothpaste tubes, or who tell you (wrongly) how to circumvent Facebook’s new privacy policy.

Many historical documents (even supposedly reliable ones) are full of “miracles” simply because people at that time were more superstitious and less knowledgeable about science and hence explained the unexplainable with magic or stories of divine intervention.

I do not claim to have all the answers about Jesus, or that my ideas are right, and honestly, it’s more confusing now than before when I only listened to one side of the argument. But I would not have it any other way. I was raised believing that this man’s life was the most important thing in my life (and in all life, for that matter) — and millions around the world, including many of my closest friends, still believe it. I owe it to myself and to them to find out the truth.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Andy Uyboco is a businessman by profession and an educator by obsession. You may email him at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

 

Who Made God?

STORY #172 from Awakenings: Conversations with the Masters (by Anthony de Mello):

Photo Credit: giopuo via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: giopuo via Compfight cc

The preacher was determined to extract from the Master a clear declaration of belief in God.

“Do you believe there is a God?”

“Of course I do,” said the Master.

“And God made everything. Do you believe that?”

“Yes, yes,” said the Master. “I certainly do.”

“And who made God?”

“You,” said the Master.

The preacher was aghast. “Do you seriously mean to tell me that it is I who made God?”

“The one you are forever thinking about and talking about — yes,” said the Master placidly.

When people ask me if I believe in God, my usual answer would be, “Which one?” The word “God” means different things to different people, even among those who share the same basic belief — notice how Christianity or Islam is divided into different sects, each one convinced that it is they who hold the true interpretation and understanding of God. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who knows?

People create their own image of God, whether consciously or subconsciously. A simple survey of the Old Testament shows this God condemning tattoos (Leviticus 19:28) and banning shrimps from the dinner menu (Leviticus 11:9-12, also see godhatesshrimp.com).

This same God tells you that if you have an especially hard-headed child, you should bring him in front of the people to have him stoned to death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Look at the New Testament where it says that women should keep silent in church and not have authority over men (1 Corinthians 13:34-35, 1 Timothy 2:12) along with its subtle acceptance of human slavery (Ephesians 6:5, 1 Timothy 6:1-2). Do we still practice any of these today? No. What happened?

In a nutshell, we have reinterpreted God. But of course we do not like it when it is said in such a direct manner, so we have terms like theology and apologetics to make it sound more scholarly. In fact, you can do a quick search on any of the topics listed above and you will find countless online apologists explaining how we should understand the verses, and what is the correct interpretation, and so on.

What is funny is that these apologists also contradict one another at one point or another. But that only underscores my point. We create our own notions of God and we create our own meanings and interpretation of “divine revelation” and “holy scripture.”

While I do hold to the possibility that there is a divine creator being out there somewhere, I don’t believe one bit that the caricatures we have created do him/her/it any justice. And until it shows itself irrefutably to me, I will continue in my own merry, agnostic ways.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao

Andy Uyboco is a businessman by profession and an educator by obsession. You may email him atandy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Funny Signs

In our country, English is a borrowed language, and it is often evident in the signs we see around us. I have compiled a short list of funny signs that I have seen around the city and other parts of the country. Enjoy and have fun.
four-feet-drive

  1. Outside a hotel: Wanted front desk (female). Apply Inside.
  2. Store sign: Junmar’s Antiques – We make antiques while you wait.
  3. On a kalesa: Horse Power – Four Feet Drive.
  4. On a tow truck: Street Hooker.
  5. At a restaurant: Wanted – Boy Waitress. Applied now at Aling Manang’s itiry.
  6. In a menu: Hamen Egg, Hamen Chiz, Hamen Eggen Chiz.
  7. At a furniture shop: Setting here is not allowed (Bawal umupo dito).
  8. At a fruit stand: Saging P30 (Banana Flavor).
  9. At a gate: Entrance Only. Do Not Enter.
  10. On a highway: Don’t stick your elbow out too far. It might go home in another car.
  11. Outside a store: Win a free ride in a police car just by shoplifting in this store.
  12. At a construction site: Hard Hot Area.
  13. Graffiti: Vandalism is an art but when you caught, it’s a crime.
  14. At a sari-sari store: We load Smart, Glove, Sun.
  15. Store Name: Holy House of Drugs.
  16. Outside a bar: Notice – Our bar is presently not open because it is closed.
  17. Store Name: Kosh Kosh Ayosh Laundry Shop.
  18. Along EDSA: Bawal Tumawid – May Namatay Na Dito.
  19. On a road: Road is temporarily closed for erection.
  20. Store sign: Accept order – Retiner (Bres sa ngipon).
  21. At a repair shop: We Repiar – Reprigeretor, Electrect Pan, Oben Tooster, Plat Iron
  22. In Divisoria: Sale – Bed Cover and Bed Shit.
  23. Store sign: Put A Henna Mo Tattoo.
  24. At a resort: Our guest please do not inter if you wet body with dress and short to this way left side and right side go to bathroom.
  25. At a resort: Only 3 piece swimsuits allowed – hat, sunglasses, sandals.
  26. On a door: Caution Door Opens.
  27. At a dormitory: Please try to do your laundry like a daytime, not a midnite because the laundry make too much noise at nite.
  28. At a school: School Free Drug Zone Enforced.
  29. Sign at PICC toilet: Report leaking faucets immediately (A faucet leak saves 15 gals. a day).
  30. At an appliance store: Nova DVD component with sub-wooper.

Woop! Woop!

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Andy Uyboco is a businessman by profession and an educator by obsession. You may email him at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Crutch

A friend asked me, “Why are you so angry at God?”

I replied, “I am not angry at God.”

He said, “Then, why do you keep writing against God, against faith and so on? Why are you trying to destroy the church?”

I said, “I am not trying to destroy the church. I am not trying to convert anyone although I won’t be sad if someone begins to ask questions. But I write mainly to let those who think like me know that they are not alone, because I know how lonely the journey can be. I write to encourage them, to tell them it’s okay to keep thinking, asking and seeking. Even if we do not come to the same conclusions later on, it is enough for me that they have gone through the process, rather than blindly follow ideas from other people all their lives.”

Photo Credit: VinothChandar via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: VinothChandar via Compfight cc

I look at religion as a crutch that is sometimes necessary for people to cope with life. Some people will say at this point, “I don’t have a religion, I have a relationship” — whatever it is, as long as you believe in an invisible powerful being who’s interested in what you eat or who you take as a life partner, for the sake of brevity, my use of the word religion includes that too. A crutch is not necessarily a bad thing. Those who are lame and cannot walk properly need crutches, just as those who cannot comprehend a world without a god need their faith and belief. One of Time Magazine’s Top 10 Photos of the Year includes an entry by Philippe Lopez showing a group of women in procession in Tolosa, Leyte, clutching statuettes of Jesus and the Sto. Niño, against the backdrop of the destruction wrought by Typhoon Yolanda.

A relief worker who goes there and starts questioning these women’s beliefs would be just like a person who takes away a lame person’s crutches at the height of his agony. It would be cruel, heartless and unnecessary. If their faith in their religious icons brings them hope and encourages them to continue living and rebuilding their lives, then so be it.

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to help a casual acquaintance who, along with his family, had escaped from a fire with nothing but the clothes on his back. Until today, I receive daily religious text messages from him. I’m not about to tell him that he is just wasting his messages on me. There is a time and place for reason, and there is also one for compassion and understanding.

There are also those who have recently lost loved ones, and the way they cope is to believe that that they will one day meet them again or see them again in some happy-ever-after place that no one has really yet seen or proven to exist. When I go to the funeral home and the bereaved says, “He’s in a better place now” or “At least, I’ll see her again in heaven,” I’m not about to go, “How do you know? Can you prove it?”

However, there are also people who (in my opinion) are of perfectly sound condition, and yet still prefer the comfort of a crutch. It is these people whom I like to engage and challenge. I respect their desire to have a crutch, yet I also want them to experience the joy and freedom of letting go.

Anthony de Mello wrote a short anecdote about a small village with an old, lame man who had learned to do amazing things with his crutches. He could dance and spin on those crutches and people were astonished. Then, some perfectly healthy kids bought crutches and began to imitate the old man. It became a very popular fad. People laughed and mocked those who still used their legs. Pretty soon, everyone owned a pair of crutches and they would use those everyday to get from one place to another. And one day, the people of that village realized that their leg muscles had atrophied from lack of use. They could no longer walk, even if they wanted to.

It is a sad thing, when people who have perfectly healthy minds, refuse to hone them and use them well.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Andy Uyboco is a businessman by profession and an educator by obsession. You may email him at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

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