Sunday, March 31, 2013

From ‘The Spiral Staircase. A Memoir’ by Karen Armstrong

I made some startling discoveries. A disturbing number of eminent scholars agreed that Jesus had no intention of founding a new religion. He had preached only to his fellow-Jews and there was nothing strikingly original aboiut his teaching, which was in line with other strands of first-century Judaism …..the early Christians still regarded themselves as forming an exclusively Jewish sect. It was St Paul, who had never known the historical Jesus, who had first marketed the faith for the non-Jewish world of the Roman empire. ….It was St Paul, not Jesus, who was the founder of Christianity…..I….discovered that Paul’s epistles are the earliest extant Christian documents and that the gospels, all written years after Paul’s own death, were penned by men who had adopted Paul’s version of Christianity. … The only Jesus we knew was the Jesus bequeathed to us by Paul. …. Some of the most misogynist passages…..were almost certainly written by Christians some sixty years after Paul’s death.

Hyam Mccoby …told me that in most traditions, faith was not about belief but about practice. Religion … about doing things that change you. …..purpose is to compel us to act in such a way that we reveal our own heroic potential.

As a very early Buddhist poem puts it: ‘May our loving thoughts fill the whole world; above, below, across – without limit; a boundless goodwill towards the whole world, unrestricted, free of hatred and enimity’…. We are liberated from personal likes and dislikes that limit our vision, and we are able to go beyond ourselves.

In most traditions – certainly in Judaism and Islam – religion is not about accepting a complicated belief system, but about doing things that change you. ….The Koran is very skeptical …about theology, which it calls zanna: self-indulgent guesswork

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