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October 8, 2005

Organized Religion and Bible Stories

Another quote from Nock, from his autobiography:

The history of organised Christianity is the most depressing study I ever undertook, and also one of the most interesting. I came away from it with the firm conviction that the prodigious evils which spot this record can all be traced to the attempt to organise and institutionalise something which is in its nature incapable of beling successfully either organised or institutionalised. I can find no respectable evidence that Jesus ever contemplated either; the sort of things commonly alleged as evidence would not be substantial enough to send a pickpocket to gaol. By all that is known of Jesus, He appears to have been as sound and simon-pure an individualist as Lao-Tsze. His teaching seems to have been purely individualistic in its intent. One would say He had no idea whatever of its being formulated into an institutional charter, or a doctrinal hurdle to be go over by those desirous of being called by His Name.

I'm not a Biblical scholar by any means, so feel free to toss points of scripture at me to show me where this idea might be wrong. One of the biggest problems I have with Christianity is that it doesn't seem to be what Jesus intended. From what I have read of the Bible, I always got the impression that Jesus himself would be very surprised to head back to our planet and find that the religion was centered on him.


In following with my commitment to teaching classical studies, I've been reading Bible stories to the kids. Or rather, trying to. I was hesitant to start in the first place, but several friends advised me to just do it, and treat it as I would a Greek myth. Good advice, I thought. Why be afraid? Let's just do it.

Ah, but Bible stories are not written like Greek myths. Greek myths name the gods. They are treated as characters in a story. In Bible stories, God is not named. He's "God," and that's the end of it. Or "Our Lord." I know that many Christians do not refer to God by any name, but I never before realized just how powerful the act of not naming him is. It is extremely difficult to read these stories to the kids, without feeling that I need to stop, explain, reword, and in some places, vent. The Garden of Eden? That was rough. Cain and Abel? We haven't read any Bible stories since that one. Mom had to take time to recuperate.

The venting is not good. The kids don't need this from Mom, not at their ages. I want them to know the Bible, because it is such an important, foundational work. I want them to understand it through my teaching, but not through my baggage. This is a tough one.

I often run across Christians who worry about reading Greek myths to their kids, because they don't want them exposed to, and perhaps become enamored of, false gods before knowing their true god. I've been reading Greek myths to my little Pagan kids for months now, and their reactions have been very interesting. They are not becoming enamored of the Greek gods; they see them as capricious, vengeful, sometimes outright mean. They see clearly that in these stories the gods are playing with humans, directing them for their own aims. I didn't teach them that, they understood it on their own.

Pretty smart, these kids are. And pretty unnerving, when, to be honest, Mom doesn't have this whole god thing worked out herself.

If you're wondering, we're not raising them to a specific religion. We're raising them with our values of right and wrong, and with our basic Pagan outlook, but beyond that we want them to use their brains and their hearts and decide for themselves. (We are, however, deliberately raising them to a specific political philosophy. Heh.)

Posted by lynx at October 8, 2005 9:39 AM

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ouch. I know it's rough. The important thing to remember is the Bible isn't the only evidence, or even the only story, we have from that period. Try saying "Jehovah" for "God", or even get into the difference between "Jehovah", "Elohim" and the other terms which are interpreted as "God".

When it's time to discuss the Old Testament with the girls, I'm pulling out Josephus, _When God Was a Woman_, Shelby Spong's _Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism_, and I'm about to order Dever's _Did God Have A Wife? Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel_. For the New Testament will be reading The Thomas Jefferson Bible and Tacitus.

I can think of no finer place than Bible Studies to emphasize the unreliablity of certain texts in the context of archeological evidence and other contemporary accounts.

Posted by: Lioness at October 9, 2005 12:17 PM

Okay, so... what baggage do you have?? I sense a story here. Anyone needing to recuperate after reading about the creation and Cain & Abel has both baggage AND stories. Share! :)

Posted by: Jo's Boys at October 9, 2005 1:37 PM

The political stuff is not so much "deliberate" as inescapable. I mean, with me around, spouting off on politics, history, Liberty and the like every chance I get, how could they avoid it?

Posted by: Jeff Medcalf [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2005 1:59 PM

I disagree with Nock about Jesus' individualism. He was a Jew of his time and therefore taught and thought in terms of community, even when he spoke to individuals. You've got to imagine the crowd around him during most of those conversations. His teaching is as much for them as for the person he's talking to.

Even if you don't buy his claims to be the Messiah of Israel, Jesus clearly stands in a long line of Hebrew prophets and contemporary (to him) rabbinic teachers. N. T. Wright is a very good source for placing Jesus in his historical context and an excellent counterpoint to writers like Borg or Spong. He does come down on the side of Christian orthodoxy (he's an Anglican bishop), but he does so without a lot of textual hijinks.

About Bible stories: heck, it's even hard for me, sometimes. The OT is full of ugliness. We just finished hearing a series of sermons on Abraham, including the "Binding of Isaac" story. Was I sure I wanted Ruby hearing about child sacrifice, even one that was called off at the last minute? I was not. No real advice to offer, other than that I think it's fine to be real with kids about how rough some of these stories are - particularly when the goal is cultural literacy, not faith.

Posted by: Mungo at October 9, 2005 4:09 PM

Okay, I don't generally preach on other people's blogs, but you said to feel free to toss out points of scripture. ;o)

It seems that you and Nock are speaking about slightly different things (although I'm a bit fuzzy on Taoism, so that comparison was probably lost on me).

I think that in a lot of ways organized Christianity has lost the essence of what Christ taught. One can get caught up in the ceremonial aspect and miss who Christ is. The basis of the Evangelical movement was to get away from all the extraneous "religious" stuff, but human beings always manage to muck things up, and a lot of the time Evangelical Christians get so caught up in legalism (real Christians don't have tattoos, drink alcohol, only wear denim jumpers, etc.), that they can miss the point, too.

But when you said, "Jesus himself would be very surprised to head back to our planet and find that the religion was centered on him," I think there are Bible verses that contradict that.

In Matthew 16:15-19

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

And also in John 14:6

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

C.S. Lewis makes an excellent point in Mere Christianity. He says that Christ made no bones about the fact that he believed he was the son of God, so either you believe him, or you think he was a crackpot (C.S. Lewis said it much more eloquently, though.) This was Lewis's counterargument to people that claim Jesus was only a teacher or philosopher and nothing else.

But you also said that Christianity doesn't seem to you to be what Jesus intended. That's when you get into the sticky discussion about our freedom, as humans, to choose. With the freedom to choose comes the freedom to make the wrong choice. We do that all the time. That's why it's never a good idea to look at Christians to see what Christianity is. We screw up way too much for that.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

Posted by: Staci at October 9, 2005 5:55 PM

"I often run across Christians who worry about reading Greek myths to their kids, because they don't want them exposed to, and perhaps become enamored of, false gods before knowing their true god."

Do you worry about the flip side of that? How well do you think you would deal with the alternative?

Posted by: Lynne at October 9, 2005 7:43 PM

Lynne, I'm not sure what you mean by the flip side. Do you mean do I worry about my kids being exposed to Christianity, and becoming enamored with it?

No, I don't really worry about it. I don't think it would bother me if one of our kids decided to become Christian, unless said child also decided he could/should be disrespectful toward his parents' beliefs as part of the package.

Staci, that's why I asked - because I don't know enough of the Bible to evaluate Nock's statement. I don't think you were preaching. You've given me plenty to chew on, there. I was remembering Jesus saying that he came not to get rid of the law, but to fulfill it.

And Mungo - even though Jesus thought in terms of community, he was still a radical, a unique. He had to be. But even if he thought in terms of community, and had the founding of a church, an institution, clearly in mind, I can't imagine that the intent was anything like what we have today. Staci is right, of course; humans have free will, and often, no, usually, screw up. When I look at any branch of Christianity today ... how much of the intent is really left?

So this quote of Nock's caught my attention; it's pretty much how I feel about any organized religion.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 9, 2005 11:11 PM

Lioness,

I think using Jehovah and Elohim will be very helpful. I'm curious to see if that change alone will alleviate the reaction I have to reading the stories to my kids. What about you? Do you find that you read them with commentary? What kind of commentary?

Posted by: Stephanie at October 10, 2005 12:12 AM

http://www.mwscomp.com/movies/brian/brian-04.htm

On a more serious note, how did you preface reading the Greek myths to the kids? Did you have to explain the concept of gods to them? Did you tell them that these were stories that the Greeks believed were true or did you just read them as stories? I'm sure you had to get into explanations at some point. I assume you explained the myths and their meaning to the Greeks in some form or fashion, though I assume you don't believe the myths yourself.

I understand your point of God being referred to as God. Why not tell the kids that many people who believe in the God of Abraham have names for God (Jehovah, Allah, and about nine billion others - give or take) but many Christians just refer to Him as God, because they believe in just one deity (unlike the Greeks), so they don't need to use names to tell the gods apart.

Perhaps you could even relate it to their use of 'mom' and 'dad' because they only have one of each, but don't call each other 'brother' because with three brothers, it requires them to be more specific. It's not perfect, but it may do.

I'm curious as to why it was tough for you to read about the Garden of Eden and Cain and Abel as opposed to any of the Greek myths. What was different?

"They are not becoming enamored of the Greek gods; they see them as capricious, vengeful, sometimes outright mean." Hmmm, I would not be surprised if they felt the same way about the Christian God of the Old Testament after a few stories. As you say, the boys are pretty smart. Even without you having to prod them, I bet they would have many of the same piercing questions and obsevations that you do. These are not the type of kids who will just automatically believe what they hear; they are bound to really question the nature of the story. That's a good thing. If you're worried about venting or baggage in a reply or if you just can't understand the Christian perspective enough to give it a satisfactory explanation, ask someone you know and trust who is Christian to explain how they see it to you, and you can relate that to the kids as to how a Christian might interpret the story.

I know I'm rambling, and this is hard to address, because I don't know your specific concerns. The real trick is to find out how to be a dispassionate, objective observer from the sidelines. That's really easy for the Greek myths, and I understand why it's not so regarding Christianity for a non-Christian.

I think the best thing, in the end, will be exposing them to a few different religions. That way it's not just mom and dad's religion versus the religion of most people they will be around (like some sort of contest), but that there are many different things that people believe and that they can feel free to decide which makes the most sense to them or if none of them make sense to believe nothing at all, some amalgamation or something entirely new. In any case, I wouldn't stress too much. Just keep teaching the boys how to think critically and they will be able to figure it all out on their own eventually.

Posted by: Brian at October 10, 2005 2:51 AM

"And Mungo - even though Jesus thought in terms of community, he was still a radical, a unique. He had to be."

Unique, yes, at least in theological terms. Only-begotten, and all that! :) But for his own time, he wasn't particularly radical. There were many would-be messiahs, and although in the church we're trained to look at Jesus in opposition to "those Pharisees," religiously he was far closer to them to any other sect of the day - an orthodox Jew among orthodox Jews. That's part of why he took them to task so ferociously. Many, many of his teachings, including the best-known are paralleled in the rabbis of the time, especially Hillel. That's the more merciful aspect that some people see as "hippie Jesus." His teaching style - the parables, the rhetorical tropes - all this i entirely consonant with rabbinic models as well.

What' more his messianic mission was very much in line with at least one of the cultural narratives at large in that time: That the Messiah's advent would bring the nations to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Zion (Jerusalem/the Temple), inaugurating a new age of peace for Israel. What *was* different about Jesus, and what disqualified him as a messianic candidate in the eyes of many of his Jewish contemporaries (and most Jews today), is that he did not link the coming of the messianic age with the re-establishment of Israel as a worldly kingdom, an independent geo-political unit. In other words, he wasn't a warrior-king who came to boot the Romans all the way back to the Tiber and then some, which was the core of the messianic hope at the time. Anyway, lots more here to talk about, but I really do recommend Wright. He lays this out very clearly, and to my mind, convincingly.

All that said, I do agree that much of what goes on "in the name of Christ" today would be (is!) horrifying to Jesus, especially the extent to which the church has rejected its Jewish roots. But my experience with various denominations - and there have been plenty - has convinced me of the doctrine that "the Church" consists of Jesus' followers wherever they may be, regardless of denominational affiliation. The Church exists wherever the Kingdom of God is at work in people's lives. When Jesus talked about "the Kingdom of God" (or Heaven, a common euphemism for God), he didn't mean the afterlife; he meant the reign of God in the hearts and lives of His people, people's hearts being remade into something new, something holy: the icon (image) of God as seen in Christ. Wherever that is, there is the Church.

Thus endeth the lesson. ;) Sorry for the long comment, but this issue is a passion of mine. I taught a whole semester's class on it last year! -M.

Posted by: Mungo at October 10, 2005 7:47 AM

---I apologize for not getting this comment lump to post with paragraphs. ---

This has less to do with Nock, but I've been reading about your family's decision to attend a UU church and wanted to comment.-------------

I was raised catholic and now attend a unitarian universalist church. My children are 8 and 6 and very enamored with all things magical--Harry Potter, unicorns, fairies, Narnia, etc. I do worry about them becoming enamored with parts of catholicism. My mother has taught them the prayer to Saint Anthony that she says when she is looking for something "Good St. Anthony, come around, something's lost and can't be found." You just chant it while you look for the lost item. And my mom believes it works, through the divine intervention of St. Anthony. And now my kids have gotten looped into the magic of that. I try to explain that it works because you are LOOKING FOR THE ITEM. If you sat and chanted the prayer all day, I am quite certain that the item would not fly through the air and bonk you on the head. But how does one tackle this with UU children who dig the magical aspect of such a thing? --------------

I think my solution might be in bonking my mother over the head for teaching my children the prayer to St. Anthony. ; ) -------------------------

My daughter once told her grandfather (granted it was about 2 years ago, they have learned since) that "Our church doesn't believe in Jesus, we believe in Harry Potter." (We do have an excellent Hogwarts program at our church.)--------------

When the kids were flowergirls in their aunt's wedding last year (catholic wedding with the whole mass) we had to walk them through the catholic mass. We wanted to prepare them for all the standing and sitting and kneeling and not to follow the bridesmaids up and inadvertantly receive their first holy communion. The whole changing of the host to the body of christ thing was puzzling to them. ----------------

Anyway, back to the topic. I sometimes fantasize that Jesus might come down and say "PEOPLE! You missed the point! I don't need and want your prayers. I don't want you to worship me. I want you to live as I lived, caring for the sick and the poor and setting a good example of kindness and humility." -------------------

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm ragging on all christians. I have just met so many that are condemning and judgemental and so non-helpful in the world. But I have also met many that are helpful, open-minded and trying to live more like jesus and less like televangelists.

Posted by: kelbel at October 10, 2005 12:05 PM

I've always avoided using the phrase "false gods" when we discuss other faiths. Instead, I say "We believe..." or "We don't believe this." So far, this has worked well for us. BUT, I haven't exactly sat down to teach from the Qu'ran with this attitude. And in all honesty, I don't think I'd be able to teach from the religious book of another faith without occasionally wanting to throw it across the room. (FTR, I wouldn't, but I'd want to.) I read recently (can't remember where) about a new textbook that is supposed to teach the Bible from a cultural literacy point of view rather than teaching the faith. If you're interested in this idea, I can backtrack and see if I can find the link that discussed this.

My beliefs concerning the Church here on earth are pretty close to what Mungo said on his blog, and I whole-heartedly agree with what Staci said above. I think there are too many Biblical references that refute Nock's statement.

Re: political philosophy, my husband and I have serious privacy issues. We didn't realize exactly how much of this our son (almost 9) had picked up on until he told us very seriously that his Sunday school teacher had asked for his last name. "I told him I wasn't sure if I was supposed to tell him that." :} I'm just waiting for him to tell someone, "My daddy says that when the revolution comes, you b*stards are going to be the first against the wall." *sigh*

Posted by: KathyJo at October 10, 2005 1:39 PM

I found that link I mentioned. :)

Bible Book Made for Public Schools is a brief blurb about it from the Washington Post. And here's where you can order it:

The Bible and Its Influence

I'm thinking that I'd like to have this eventually. I know that I personally can't claim to catch every Biblical reference out there.

Posted by: KathyJo at October 10, 2005 1:58 PM

That was basically what I meant, but maybe more specifically, rather than a particular brand of religion, I was wondering about going from an independent belief system (i.e. Pagan or agnostic or FSM) to an organized, institutionalized form.

I'm going to have to buy that book. There just wasn't enough time on my ILL to thoroughly digest it.

Posted by: Lynne at October 10, 2005 4:53 PM

My biggest issue right now with so much of the practice of christianity, is that the focus of worship has evolved from that of God to Jesus worship. It is even something that I have discussed with my pastor. Do I believe Jesus is who the writers of the epistle says he is, yes. Would I have had this same answer 15 years ago, no. But my adult evolution has led me in that direction.

At the same time that I do believe Jesus to be the savior, messiah, etc; I don't believe he ever intended to be the center of worship for a new faith. Everything he did was done in the honor of "his Father" not to honor himself. He made that clear over and over.

He never called for a new religion, nor the overthrow of the ancient judaic faith. And he did come with a message to *individuals* (even if he spoke to large groups), and those individuals that made up the leadership of the jews of the day. He totally understood that it is all but impossible to overthrow an entire culture and society - but if enough individuals change their own behaviors the culture will change. But these were never to be 'hurdles' to jump through, but rather ideals to strive for. Jesus' teachings for the ideals they present, should never be questioned as they all boil down to one word - LOVE. Act in love, love yourself, love your neighbor, etc. It is what later followers and christians have done.

Almost every culture that I have read myths/legends/religious beliefs from have gods to pose/become human for some purpose (good and bad). Comparatively the hebrew, christian and muslim faiths are all 'new' in world history. I find it very interesting to read the stories from ancient cultures and realize how much has been adapted into the histories of these faiths. I will not even go into the later influences of western europe (celts, gauls and germanic tribes) on our modern day practices. We are what our historical cultures have made us.

I would love to do a unit study when my children our older in which we will pick one major event from the bible such as the creation story, cain and able, or flood story and compare and contrast with other cultures and beliefs around the world.

Do I worry that this will harm them, make them not follow *my* beliefs. Not really. They will have to grow up and have to make their own decisions. I can introduce them to the ideas, tell them how I feel - but I would rather that they take their faith into their hearts, rather then have a surface/intellectual/social belief system. Not to mention that proverbs exerts us to be wise, to gather wisdom; "The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring , get understanding." Proverbs 4:7

One cannot be wise and understanding if they only know one point of view.


Excellent topic. Sorry to be so long-winded.

Amy

Posted by: Amy in Apex at October 10, 2005 4:54 PM

We haven't gotten that far in history yet. We just got out of the Neolithic Ice Age. But I read other things with commentary. I can't get two lines into a poem without having to stop to explain what a "apple bough" is, or why the train carries the mail at night. I'm a nut about prehistoric Midle Eastern history. The Bible is getting both commentary and alternate sources.

First of all, start with the "Green Man" legends of Tammuz and Osiris, which each tell of a God who dies and rises again for his people. Include the mud-and-wheat-seed statue of Osiris buried in every coffin, in the hope the departed would live again in Paradise just like the seed sprouts from the mud and Osiris lives again. Go into detail on the "Easter ritual" of Osiris, where the people look for the morning star as the waters of the Nile rise and proclaim in ecstasy, "He is risen! He is risen! He is risen!" Then later metion Persephone. Then you've got the progression for the Middle Eastern Green God myth, each god being popular for approximately 2000 years: Tammuz/Inanna, Osiris, Persephone, and Jesus.

For Genesis, there's a couple of people who've written works about the books that have been folded into Genesis, like The Book of J. And there's Josephus.

For Joseph and the exile in Israel, check out the _Pharoahs and Kings_ video, as well as Josephus. There's also a few other interesting Egyptian sources as well. If Joseph wasn't initiated into the priesthood of Set, I'll eat my entire hat collection.

For Exodus you'll definately want Josephus. His flight across the Red Sea involves the "miracle" of crossing a key beach in front of a cliff face at the precise moment before the tide came in. His details on the burial of Moses' sister make it clear that she was an Egyptian priestess, probably of Isis; and he goes into the political infighting as Moses lost control of the group that led to the Israelites taking 40 years to make a two-week trip.

_When God Was a Woman_ details the Israelite caste system, where only the priestly caste, the Levites, could own a weapon, or fine clothes, or other things, or do certain things, and they could have anybody put to death for any reason. It also starts to go into both the archeological and the Biblical text evidence on just how few Israelites worshipped Jehovah as opposed to Asherah.

Spong's great for lots of general things in the Bible that don't get talked about in most Sunday School classes. _Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism_ goes into how the Old Testament was deliberatly rewritten after the Babylonian exile at the same time the Israelites invented ethnic cleansing.

Spong's books on the Gospels are critical to understanding just what was going on at the time when they were written. Elaine Pagel's book on early Christians, _Adam, Eve and the Serpant_ goes into how the Gospels got twisted into Christianity and where the heck this notion is "origianl sin" came from anyway and why it was invented 300 years after Jesus' death.

But the most important book to read on Jesus is the Jefferson Bible. Thomas Jefferson sat down with a Bible and copied out all the passages of the life of Jesus that didn't mention miracles, and assembled a simple profound story of an extraordinary man who fought for kindness and decency, and was willing to die for his beliefs. It makes the Jesus of the Gospels look like a carnival sideshow act.

Posted by: Lioness at October 10, 2005 5:30 PM

Whew! Okay, here goes:

Brian:

The kids were already fairly clear on the concept of gods. I discussed with them that these are the gods the ancient Greeks worshipped, and that people still worship them today. No, I don't believe in the myths as more than metaphor. And the kids know that we believe that when we talk about gods, and when Christians talk about God, it's ultimately all the same thing.

You're right. They are smart, and what they're picking up about the Greeks is the same thing that they're picking up about Jehovah. Which is why, if you ask Connor, he's likely to tell you he doesn't believe in god. Which was not exactly what I was going for ... but in truth I've done nothing to prevent it, either. Bad planning, there.

Kelbel and Amy:

Kelbel said: "I sometimes fantasize that Jesus might come down and say "PEOPLE! You missed the point! I don't need and want your prayers. I don't want you to worship me. I want you to live as I lived, caring for the sick and the poor and setting a good example ..."

and Amy said:

"My biggest issue right now with so much of the practice of christianity, is that the focus of worship has evolved from that of God to Jesus worship. ... At the same time that I do believe Jesus to be the savior, messiah, etc; I don't believe he ever intended to be the center of worship for a new faith."

THAT is exactly what I meant.

When Jesus said "no one comes to the Father except through me" did he mean by worshipping him, or by following his example?

Kelbel, that's funny about the prayer to St. Anthony. To get my kids to understand the reality there, I'd probably tell them the story about the man who refused to be rescued from the flood because God would save him - do you know that one?

Mungo:

You said "'the Church' consists of Jesus' followers wherever they may be, regardless of denominational affiliation. The Church exists wherever the Kingdom of God is at work in people's lives. ... Wherever that is, there is the Church.

That just makes all kinds of sense to me. All those laws, all those hoops ... come on, what does God really want?

And Amy said "Jesus' teachings for the ideals they present, should never be questioned as they all boil down to one word - LOVE. Act in love, love yourself, love your neighbor, etc."

When you take that together with what Mungo says above, it's beautiful and makes all kinds of sense. But what Nock was pointing out is that for whatever reason, people took a good thing like that and made a huge mess of it. Wars, beheadings, Pat Robertson ... ugh. What a terrible shame.

Incidentally, our faith boils down to love as well.

Kathy Jo:

You said "... in all honesty, I don't think I'd be able to teach from the religious book of another faith without occasionally wanting to throw it across the room."

I needed that. Maybe when I get angsty about this it would help to picture you trying to read to your kids out of The White Goddess ;-


Lioness:

How 'bout you just outline an ancient myths curriculum for me? :D We done some of that, of course ... but I am seeing that we've not done enough.

Lynne:

We picked the UU church specifically because it provides some traditional church structure while imposing a flexible belief system. If the kids grow up to need more than that, well, I'm not worried about it. Like I said, my only worry is whether they will choose to continue to be respectful to their parents.

Rebellion in our house is likely to consist of kids becoming Southern Baptist and eating junk food.

And now, for the general commentary:

The baggage, the emotional reaction, comes from the fact that in our society, Christianity is the default. These are the stories my kids are expected to believe. These are the stories they are expected to accept as Truth. These are the stories that I have deliberately turned away from. Like it or not, they are MY myths too, because I grew up in American in a nominally Christian family, even though we didn't pay any particular attention to religion at all. So they are just loaded with "baggage."

Truth be told, I'm looking at all of this with my eyes. In their eyes, because they've been raised with me for a mother, maybe they really don't see any difference between Jehovah and Zeus. Maybe I should get out of my own head and try to see if that's so. It's hard to raise kids to not have your issues, when you have your issues, isn't it?

Jo and Brian:

Let's look at Cain and Abel, shall we? Cain and Abel both bring God sacrifices, representing the fruit of their labors. God likes one, but not the other - tells Cain to try harder, and that sin was probably the reason his offering wasn't pleasing enough.

Eh? Capricious favoritism. God set Cain up. It's Cain's decision to murder Abel, and he's responsible for that; but God set Cain up. It stinks.

And the Garden of Eden? Again, it's a setup ... and I think that Eve made the right decision. Stay and be blissfully ignorant, or go and have knowledge? I'm on the side of knowledge. I prefer to think that the acquisition of knowledge has much more to do with the destiny of humans than being happy in a state of ignorance.

The grammar is getting terrible. It must be time to sign off for the night.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 11, 2005 11:28 PM

LOL! I can just see my reading _The White Goddess_ to Ruby. All I'd have to do is quote all my old recon pagan essays (which are, I've recently discovered, still floating around the Internet): "Robert Graves was a fine poet and an imaginative novelist, but he is not a reliable academic source on ancient religion, particularly not the Celts. If you want accurate information, see Miranda Green...." And don't even get me started on the whole matriarchal shtick! ;)

Posted by: Mungo at October 12, 2005 6:48 AM

"How 'bout you just outline an ancient myths curriculum for me? :D We done some of that, of course ... but I am seeing that we've not done enough."

Working on it. Actually spent years trying to get one or another of the Big Names to do it for me, but they don't seem to have the time.

I started the girls off with _When the World Was Young : Creation and Pourquoi Tales_ http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0689808674 We've had a poetry break to keep in sync with the history lessons, but we're about to move on to _Sacred Myths: Stories of World Religions_ http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0963832778/ It has the Inanna myth and the Persephone myth in the "Earth Religions" section, as well as key stories from Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

We've got the Isis & Osiris story in a few children's mythology collections, including _Lady of Ten Thousand Names: Goddess Stories from Many Cultures_ http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1841480487/ There's even an Ishtar picture book believe it or not: _Ishtar and Tammuz: A Babylonian Myth of the Seasons_ http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0753450127/

When we get to Sumer in a few weeks I'm going to read bits from Kramer and Wolkstein's translation of the Inanna myth, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060908548/ Your boys might be able to handle the whole thing, it's got less sex and violence than a contemporary made-for-TV movie. BTW, the Sumerians decorated evergreen trees with sparkly bits for the Winter Solstice. In the Big Cities they set fire to the trees on the Solstice in a display of conspicuous consumption, but I bet that was just the wanna-be-rich showing off.

Posted by: Lioness at October 12, 2005 8:31 AM

"The baggage, the emotional reaction, comes from the fact that in our society, Christianity is the default. These are the stories my kids are expected to believe. These are the stories they are expected to accept as Truth. These are the stories that I have deliberately turned away from. Like it or not, they are MY myths too, because I grew up in American in a nominally Christian family, even though we didn't pay any particular attention to religion at all. So they are just loaded with "baggage.""

Last night as we were reading the Egyptian Myth about Isis tricking Ra, into giving her his unspoken name (sounds familiar huh), MB asked me if these stories were real, did they really happen? This is a fine line to have to walk on, because the cultures of the ancient egyptians, hebrews and sumarians are so intertwined that if I say one story is untrue because it is egyptian or sumarian, but yet the same story (without gods, but people or prophets) is in the Old Testament is true, then that is pretty confusing.

My response to her was that it was true for the ancient egyptians, as long as they believed in it, it was true for them. When it isn't 9:30 at night, and the girls are a little older I will discuss how the stories are similar because cultures were similar, and that the bones of the story is true, just the people differ by culture.

Amy

Posted by: Amy in Apex at October 12, 2005 2:24 PM

Coming in late on this. Biblical education, or comparative religion, with an emphasis on the Bible for cultural literacy is something I think that I will struggle with for a while, in one way or another.

But, I do think Augustus Caesar's World, will help me tremendously. I think it will be an excellent intro and a springboard. I love how it presents religion. I love how it tells about the evolutions of god/s. It is rather embellished in places, but upon studying the Jews in more detail, I've come to agree with what Mungo has written. I used to believe, and I loved to believe that Jesus was a hippy radical.

Chapter after chapter, intermingled with the Romans and their gods and even their human gods (Augustus and Julius), told about the Jew's stubborness, waiting for their king.

The God of Abraham was named in that book as Jahveh, or Yahveh (book is downstairs) and I will simply explain that he's not commonly known as that anymore. I will probably use the moon as an example. We named the moons on the other planets, but we simple call ours the Moon. Once she finds out he has such a cool name though, she will probably use it lol.

I do agree that Jesus would be very surprised at a this huge religion centered on him.

And as for Bible stories, she's heard about the creation and a few benign stories. We did rent the Joseph production with Donny Osmond and the little thing he wears and the eyeliner and she knows that it is based on a Bible story. We both love it for two entirely different reasons;)

Anyway, hope this makes sense. I'm drugged up to the eyeballs on flu meds.

Posted by: Shawna in Texas at October 13, 2005 1:05 AM

Exactly, Mungo ;-)

Thanks, Lioness and Amy. Amy, we've looked at several different flood myths that way, though I've got one kid who insists that the Noah version is the "right" one ;-)

Shawna, that is a great book, isn't it? Would you believe that it's that book that explained squares and cubes (as in squaring and cubing numbers), and the whole idea of the square of the hypotenuse, in a way that really made it click for me?

My kids were too young, though, when I read it. Maybe next year ...

Posted by: Stephanie at October 13, 2005 8:45 AM

Mungo, that was uncalled for. Should I throw out my list of truly awful Christian websites? Every religion has people whose enthusiasm exceeds their scholarship, and often their common sense. Let's not go judging others by their lowest common denominator lest ye should be so juedged.

"And don't even get me started on the whole matriarchal shtick! ;)"

Insufficient data. We'll doubtless know more, one way or another, after the ancient libraries in Rome and Egypt have been restored and translated.

Posted by: Lioness at October 14, 2005 11:29 AM

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