Friday, February 22, 2008



First, not all Christians accept the same books of the Bible, and they do not accept the same translations of what original-language text we have.

Second, and more important, in all religions, there are doctrines emphasized by some and ignored by others. People over time humanize and alter any set of religious rules.

Actually, the Bible is such a collection of notions from people with very different viewpoints over considerable stretches of time that it would be impossible to reconcile them.

Some fairly observant Jews eat shellfish, wear multi-fabric shirts, and even secretly indulge in Chinese pork dishes now and then, even though all these are forbidden in the laws.

Many Christians emphasize the loving side of Jesus' teaching, ignoring the Revelations as a strange excess.

Perhaps no religion has more paradoxes than Catholicism. Priests in South America who are sometimes communists, and a head office in Rome that views communism with the distaste of a powerful estate owner. American Catholics who regularly practice birth control, despite the Pope's constant thunderbolts. The many obvious clashes between Jesus' simple teachings and the imperial stage play of Rome - all neatly tied together by tradition having a role to play as well as gospel.

Religion in part is about people wanting some sense of verities and certainty, but over time, individuals find they cannot agree with everything, and they pick and choose and form new subgroups.

Of course, doing so diminishes the verities, for if you can ignore one, why not another?

But hasn't that been the story of all the major religions for recorded time? Protestants form new subdivisions just about every two weeks.

Judaism, for such a relatively small group of people, has several major divisions and many sects. And if you read scholars on the history of Judaism, even what today is ultra-conservatism does not accord with views held two thousand years ago.

And we have all recently become aware of Islam's many subdivisions - Sunni, Shia, Wahabi, and various sects - despite its having a history seven hundred years shorter than Christianity.

Most in the end are glad simply for some kind of community of like-minded people, without too much emphasis on eternal verities.

Those who insist on eternal verities define the very nature of fundamentalism, or in the corresponding political sphere, what right-wing means. In this sense, I believe there is a role for genetic make-up in determining to what part of the strictness- spectrum you belong.