No, It’s Still Yogaphobia

Kyle Garton-Gundling has offered a thoughtful and critical response to my discussions on yogaphobia and the Catholic Church in my recent RD essay, “Is Pope Francis Yogaphobic” and in my recent book, Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture (Oxford, 2014). He questions whether or not my use of the term yogaphobia is fair in the Catholic case, asking, “If Catholic warnings against yoga are misguided, is their error one of style or substance?” In other words, his concern is with whether or not Catholic warnings against yoga are justified or “substantive” based on a desire to guard against real offenses to Catholic doctrine. My critic concludes that the Catholic Church is indeed justified in warning against yoga when warnings are based on perceived incompatibilities between Indian philosophical systems and Catholic doctrine—since such ideological incompatibilities are in fact real.

Such obviously phobic warnings against yoga for its perceived demonic and evil character as well as its associations with Satan by certain Catholic leaders aside, Garton-Gundling hones in on withdrawing my label yogaphobia from the 1989 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) of the Roman Catholic Church. He suggests, in this case, the Church was justified in warning against yoga since the Letter targets any philosophy that maintains an ontological oneness and therefore circumvents the perceived need for salvation through Christ. In short, my critic argues that Catholic leaders, and especially the CDF, are reasonable in their efforts to steer Catholics from the advaita (non-dualist) vedanta philosophy with which yoga is often, if mistakenly, conflated.

Garton-Gundling raises some important questions about the Letter’s warnings, but I disagree with his conclusions. Understandably, the CDF seeks to prevent Catholics from undermining Church doctrine. Yet, the Letter commits several offenses against any reasonable and informed discussion of the compatibility or incompatibility of yoga and Catholic doctrine. Because of what I will refer to as the excesses of this Letter, the ways it goes beyond a simple warning against a conflicting ideology, I suggest the Letter is indeed yogaphobic.

Excess #1: Eastern methods share a doctrinal core.

Garton-Gundling suggests the great diversity of “eastern methods” is implied by the Letter when it states it will ignore methods’ “psychological aspect,” and focus instead on their “theological and spiritual implications.” I suggest, however, that the Letter fails entirely to recognize and take seriously the dramatic distinctions between yoga systems. After all, it lists no specific eastern system, instead referring broadly and essentializing to “eastern methods,” a category that discourages discernment and instead implies some set of shared characteristics or static core.

The underlying assumption is that Catholic doctrine and eastern methods are equally homogenous, irrevocably separate, alien entities. In this way, the Letter betrays a bias toward doctrine as the essence of religion, assuming that the Catholic protest against eastern methods is justified given that a static belief system must underlie any set of practices or techniques and so combining one doctrine (e.g., Catholic doctrine) with a set of practices (e.g., yoga postures) inevitably results in a conflict of ideas. In other words, the Letter betrays the Orientalist tendency to apply an essential identity to all religions by reducing them to a doctrinal core. It fails to attend to the internal dynamics of both lived and historical eastern methods, as they are available to us through the use of anthropological and historical methods. The Letter serves as evidence of the unfortunate reality that, while there is a strong emerging argument for non-essentialist understandings of religions among academics, essentialism still dominates in the popular imagination.

Excess #2: Eastern methods are monistic.

Garton-Gundling acknowledges that the Letter problematically assumes that eastern methods are essentially monistic, a characteristic that undermines a Christian’s commitment to salvation in Jesus Christ. He adds that it is justified, however, in warning against those methods that lead a Catholic to adopt ideas incompatible with Catholic doctrine, which emphasizes the distinction between God and us.

My critic understates the problems resulting from the failure to differentiate between the threats posed by specific philosophical schools, particularly as they correspond with specific body practices. Although yoga is not named explicitly—instead, the letter refers to the “position and demeanor of the body” according to “eastern non-Christian methods of meditation”—it is implicit that yoga is the object under scrutiny, since it is the preeminent body-centered “eastern” method with which contemporary Christians experiment. Furthermore, since most contemporary Christians who experiment with yoga do so with body-centered modern postural yoga, it is reasonable to assume the Letter targets this type of yoga. Modern postural yoga refers to variations that emphasize the systematic adoption and movement through physical postures that are in turn synchronized with the breath. It is this type of yoga that has undergone popularization around the world today.

The Letter suggests that postural and breathing practices can become an “idol and thus an obstacle” to experiencing God. It adds that body practices “can degenerate into a cult of the body,” presumably because of the monistic equation of the self, including the body, with God or the divine.

The question then is whether or not postural yoga systems betray monism or, more specifically, require the practitioner to abandon any distinction between God and us. Historical evidence suggests postural yoga is far removed from the eastern philosophies the Letter perceives as in conflict with Catholic doctrine. In fact, recent scholarship on the history of yoga suggests that postural yoga is based on modern ideas about anatomy and physiology and aims toward modern conceptions of healing, fitness, stress reduction, beauty, and overall well-being. Though it can betray a non-dualist approach to the mind-body-spirit complex, that approach reflects a concern with enhancing the body as a part of immediate self-development and is not linked to any other-worldly soteriological vision. Postural yoga also betrays an approach to healing and resolving suffering that privileges modern biomedical discourse, and the disciplining of desire for the sake of health and beauty, again defined according to modern conceptions. None of those characteristics correspond to any particular eastern monistic soteriological vision but rather can be and are frequently combined with different soteriologies according to individual identities or preferences.

Garton-Gundling argues that, given what Catholics have to lose, namely the salvation of their souls, their aversion to whatever they believe is an obstacle to salvation is reasonably fearful. He suggests, therefore, that the Letter is justified in warning Catholics against yoga when it poses a threat to their salvation. But the type of yoga with which most Catholics experiment, that is, modern postural yoga, does not threaten nor offer a substitute or replacement for a Catholic soteriological path, since its concerns are with immediate self-improvement defined in modern terms, not through cultivating any distant state of salvation that would conflict with a Christ-centered path.

Excess #3: Eastern body-centered methods not only have consequences for one’s salvation through Christ, but also have immediate consequences for one’s psychological stability and moral life.

Garton-Gundling suggests the Letter is not yogaphobic strictly in terms of its content. However, the Letter warns of the following severe consequences of eastern body-centered methods: “mental schizophrenia,” “psychic disturbance,” or “moral deviations.” Neither evidence nor reasoned arguments are provided in support of such claims.

Eastern body practices are deemed not only incompatible with Catholic doctrine, but also a threat to basic human stability, not in soteriological terms, but in terms of everyday mental health and moral commitments. In this way, the Letter’s warnings do not exclusively focus on maintaining a consistent commitment to Catholic doctrine. According to the Letter, those engaged in eastern body-centered methods for the sake of anything beyond physical exercise or relaxation are involved in self-destructive activity; that unless the practitioner is an advanced adept no bodily experiences can be legitimately identified as spiritual; and points out that Christians who have acknowledged the meditative role of body practices avoid the “exaggerations and partiality” of eastern methods, which are often recommended to those insufficiently prepared. These warnings reach far beyond the question of whether or not the Catholic is putting her or his soul in danger by embracing monistic ideas that conflict with the Catholic path to salvation through Christ.

Garton-Gundling explains the warning against eastern methods with the following interpretation: “It is worth considering that a Catholic rhetorical emphasis on fears and threats might not be dismissible as a phobia, but is rather an internally consistent outgrowth of the New Testament’s radical warning that “the desires of the flesh are against the spirit” (Gal 5.17), a passage that has been emphasized in the Catholic Pauline and Augustinian tradition.”

To say the warning is a “consistent outgrowth” of a warning against “desires of the flesh,” however, implies that yoga is essentially hedonistic. Yet yoga, even in its most popularized forms, cannot be reduced to pleasure. In postural yoga contexts, self-development requires the practitioner to discipline her or his desire. The yoga practitioner seeks to conquer unhealthy desire in an attempt to cultivate a better self and to live a better life.

Postural yoga serves as one among many ascetic areas of contemporary culture in which a person seeks to repent for the modern sins of eating too much or not exercising enough. In other words, postural yoga is for self-development—most frequently defined in terms of modern conceptions of weight loss, sexual appeal and performance, or health—not for play or pleasure. In postural yoga, pain is put in service of physical and psychological healing and advancement with the aim of immediate self-improvement. Interestingly, the CDF does not dismiss the approach to the body that dominates most postural yoga contexts as it exists in other ascetic contexts of contemporary culture. After all, the CDF offers no Letter warning against Cross-fit, spin classes, or running marathons.

Additional Thoughts and a Question for my Critic

Today, millions of people around the world, including many self-identifying Catholics, practice postural yoga, and in most cases they do so in settings that ignore any connection with “eastern” monistic philosophies. I would be far less likely to apply the label yogaphobia to the Letter if it explicitly differentiated between the dangers of accepting particular yoga systems that were tied to specific eastern monistic ideologies and practicing popularized postural yoga techniques, but it does not. The Letter, furthermore, does not warn against body practices simply because of perceived underlying ideas that conflict with Catholic doctrine or even because they are devoid of Catholic doctrine, but because they are believed to pose a danger to Catholic doctrine. Furthermore, I would withdraw the label if the warning against eastern body-centered methods was put exclusively and explicitly in terms of a particular method’s potential doctrinal confusion or soteriological danger, but the addition of threats concerning psychological and moral stability warrant the term yogaphobia.

My criticism of the CDF’s yogaphobia is an attempt to push against strong misreadings of yoga and its various forms, and, more specifically, the too frequent tendency to seek the essence of yoga in a particular idea or philosophical system. Until recently, that tendency has haunted much of the academic study of yoga, and it is still prevalent in the broader public spheres. Discussions on yoga or, more broadly, eastern body-centered methods, should reflect such methods’ malleability and should attend to historical difference. The CDF’s Letter fails entirely to attend to the particularities of the practices it targets.

I therefore respectfully leave my critic with the following question: having read the Letter and its ominous warnings about eastern body-centered methods’ potential consequences for the soul, the psyche, and the moral life, what devout Catholic would feel comfortable embracing a popularized form of postural yoga, confident that fitness and relaxation will be the only consequences even if they intentionally avoid any non-Catholic soteriological vision?



  •' Jim Reed says:

    It’s just the inquisition and they can’t hurt people any more, so don’t worry about it.

  •' Craptacular says:

    “The Letter suggests that postural and breathing practices can become an “idol and thus an obstacle” to experiencing God.” – from the article

    So the position of your own body and controlling your own breathing can “become an idol and an obstacle to experiencing god?” Just out of curiosity, is the Lamaze Breathing Technique for childbirth also prohibited by catholicism?

    Seriously, though, by this definition anything up to and including work, family, hobbies, etc. can “become an obstacle to experiencing god.” However, the biggest “obstacle to experiencing god” for some was probably the priests that molested them over and over again, seemingly with vatican approval.

    And yes, I will bring up priest pedophilia and the lack of institutional accountability every single time a catholic opens their piehole to judge someone else (like yoga). As far as I am concerned, the rcc lost whatever moral high ground they had long before the pedophilia scandal broke, but now the rest of the world is finally seeing them for the morally bankrupt institution they are.

  •' Deane says:

    I am a convert from Christianity to Vajrayana Buddhism.

    1. Our Gurus believe and teach that the yogic path is beset by dangers and that real risks of mental breakdown or the emergence of latent mental difficulties exist. For this reason even the lowest levels of preparation for yoga are closely supervised and practice is immediately terminated on the slightest sign of mental instability.

    2. It is continually emphasized by them that externalities (meditation techniques, supports, postures etc) and internal subjective experiences (joy, serenity, transcendence, visions and whatnot) are not to be dwelt on or allowed to occupy the mind during meditation lest they become obstacles (ie “idols”) to progress in meditation.

    Seriously guys, posture fixated yoga is not the only game in town and “Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” it is not only just about you.

    If an initiate were to ask me whether s/he could practice Christian prayer or Hindu yoga alongside Buddhist meditation I would certainly discourage it and hedge any “yes” about with many provisors and reservations. However valuable these practices may be for spiritual advancement within their own traditions, in the context of Trantic Buddhism they bring with them more difficulties than advantages.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Convert from Christianity to Buddhism is an interesting concept. This must mean you no longer believe the name of Jesus is the path to salvation and Christianity gets you into heaven and rejecting Christianity gets you into hell. This probably means you think Christianity is a false religion. I would think you would have to agree with that because if you still thought Jesus is the savior who gets you into heaven you would still have to be a Christian, even if you were also Buddhist. Just interesting to contemplate because other religious traditions can be a mix and match thing, but with Christianity there is no middle ground. Either it is the one true religion, or it is a false religion, and any middle ground makes no sense.

  •' Deane says:

    Hi Jim

    Yeah, what you say is correct for the most part. My loss of God was a slow and painful processes. My final crisis came, when studying the Book of Job, I realised that whether there is a God or not made no difference to me since I still have no knowledge of why bad things happen to good people while the wicked flourish, no understanding of why I existed or what the purpose of life is, nor any of the wisdom required to lead a meaningful life: If God existed then only S/He possessed knowledge, understanding and wisdom, not I (Job 28 sums this up quite well for me). Since I had to define my own purpose and create my own meaning without any help from God I turned to an alien religious form that had over 2000 years of experience in managing without God while yet sill getting on with the business of life.

    As you might imagine, this kind of spiritual/existential journey is painful and humiliating, but also, more enduring in its effects, humbling. I was forced to examine everything I found to be true at one point or another and find it to be wishful thinking, projection, delusional or factually incorrect only, in the end, to have wasted my time an energy for no gain at all, only loss. I no longer have any desire to be right, only to be happy and, as I have have discovered, that means serving others. I do not know for certain that there is no God, no soul, no afterlife, no incarnation, no blood atonement, but I do I also do not know if Muhammad (pboh) is the Seal of the Prophets, if Laxmi gives wisdom and prosperity, if the Universal House of Justice is the spiritual centre of the world or if engrams can be be spotted though auditing. All I know is what works for me and to rejoice if someone else finds something that works for them.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    The journey is painful, humiliating, humbling? That sounds like Christianity was messing you up more than you know. In high school I started taking Christianity too seriously, and I joined a cult in Pasadena. They did a good job of showing the flaws in other Christianities, then as a parting gift they showed the flaws in their version. Since then it has been about not wanting to make a mistake and believe anything that is not true. This works for me, but doesn’t scale to anyone else in my family or anyone I know. I post on RD because I don’t know anywhere else to go.

  •' Deane says:

    I was fortunate in that the Christian community I belong to was open to and responsive outside criticism with a leadership that was humble and taught members to be non-judgmental, accepting and loving in dealings with others above all. Unfortunately, as with many conservative Protestant groups there was an emphasis on the Bible-as-the-Word of-God which on a theological level focused to much on doctrinal correctness and too little on Jesus’ teachings and example (Jesus-as-the Word-of-God: Jn 1:1-3, 14; cf Heb 1:1-4, 2:1-4). This kind of Bible worship does not recognise that the Bible is not the Word of God, but one of many fingers pointing (along with the example of a truly Christian life, the life of the Church, the liturgy, the sacraments and ministry to the poor and oppressed children of God) to the divine Word made flesh. Consequently, the message of Jesus, his proclamation of the good news of God’s in-breaking Reign, is replaced with with a message focused on the Messenger! On a practical level spirituality remains shallow and spiritual progress negligible. I think that perhaps if I had belonged to a less Bible directed Christianity, to a more Jesus directed form of Christianity, I might have passed through my own “dark night of the soul” with my faith intact. As it was, instead, I went through the pain of losing my grip all that was precious to me; I lost the Bible, then Jesus and then God, along with direction, meaning and joy. the humiliation for me lay in accepting that i who had counted my self among the secure elect of God had no longer any confidence in my ability to discern between truth and falsehood.. These passed with time as loss gave way to acceptance, humiliation to humility and misery to gratitude.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    You found out it was not real. If they had been kinder and less Bible is God’s word focused you might still be under the illusion. It might even end up taking you almost all of your life to admit to yourself the problems. If they make it easier for people to see through the illusions, that is actually better. If they can be good enough to make it hard to see through, that is just going to be more trouble in the end. Christianity is a problem that we as a society must solve. There is no answer in Jesus, only deeper illusions to be worked through.

  •' Deane says:

    I was very hurt and angry for many years and sometimes when I am tired and grumpy a little of my old mindset will show. I felt as though I had been conned, that I had wasted a lot of time and energy on lies and conjurer’s tricks. Over time I came to see the role I played in the process and how I, with the best of intentions, hurt other people in the same way. At the same time I came see that though I did not believe in God I was acting as if I was God, trying to “argue people out of their superstitions”, knowing better than they do what is good for them and trying to control them and steer them on a path that would avoid my mistakes (for their own good, of course), only to realise that I was totally powerless over other people and trying to fix them was just breaking me. People need religion (that’s why I converted to Buddhism), but like any human instrument it can be used for good or for evil: God does not kill people, people use God (or guns, or socialism, or the structural violence of capitalism) to kill people :-). Getting rid of God, Christianity and/or religion will not solve the problem because we are the problem. I accept that I am powerless over this problem and turn my attention to doing what I can to ameliorate it.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Why do people need religion? I think society influences us, and society evolves. Is religion a requirement from deep in the human brain that manifests itself in society? Or has religion worked its place into society, and over time influenced us all to think we need religion, and that becomes a self fulfilling thing where it causes us at some level to need religion? I think over time we will grow along with society. The only guiding principle is like in science, anything that can’t be proven as true will ultimately fall away. We should soon be expanding beyond earth, and that is the direction that society, and humanity, and evolution, and even religion will go. All those things must support the trillions of humans, and ultimately different species of humans that will fill this solar system, and some day move beyond.

  •' Deane says:

    The evidence that people are hard wired for belief in things unseen, to see intentionally created patterns where none exist, for meaning and purpose, the transcendental and the numinous seems overwhelming. Whether it is a by-product of some evolutionary advantageous trait or is itself is advantageous and been selected for I do not know. The only society I know of that has no religion, magic or other superstition also has no art or music; everything revolves around work and material success!

  •' Matt Nyce says:

    Check out Patheos if you want more, there are channels for the various religions and a lot of fascinating blogs…

  •' Linda says:

    I find the RC argument confusing. Roman Catholics and many Protestants worship through gestures and postures: sign of the cross, bowing the head, kneeling, genuflecting, raising hands in worship, and many other examples of ways Christians use their body to get in touch with God, praise God, pray to God, or engage in mental prayer to God. These postures do not make Christians idolators of the body, but rather they feel like they are using their physical as well as spiritual being to behold, praise, commune. They feel oneness with God and with their whole being. Some of the mystics emphasized special postures, and prostration is one of the postures used to indicate surrender of self in the ordination rite.

    I have found that forms of body work, such as massage, Reiki, healing touch, and yoga, help me quiet my mind and be open to an experience of God’s presence. I do not understand these practices as salvific, but as mere paths to an openness to focus on The One and Only God. So I wonder if religious condemnation of these practices comes from a) a misunderstanding about what the Christian does when engaging these practices, b) a misunderstanding of what happens in meditation, or c) a body/spirit dualism.

    I remember the teachings of Brother Lawrence: one can pray to God while doing humble tasks like washing the dishes.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    From a Christian perspective, the church is God and all the practices should strengthen that way of looking at it. Once you see it that way, it is easy to see how all other religions are wrong. The strength of Christianity comes from the provable fact that the church does exist.

  •' Deane says:

    Hi Linda

    If one reads the “Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” carefully it is apparent
    that the discussion of the body as far as non-Christian eastern meditation is
    concerned almost exclusively with the physical dangers presented to the
    unprepared who adopt difficult (“extreme”) positions (this seems to
    refer to Hindu and Buddhist Tantric yoga which require expert training and
    supervised practice, but could just as easily refer to forms of body yoga found
    in the west where numerous unqualified and careless teacher abound, to the
    detriment of their unfortunate students).

    The text then discusses the role of the body in eastern Christian practice, and points out that eastern Christians do not think that these work for everyone and that a danger exists that these Christian practices may result in physical sensations being confused with spiritual experiences (resulting in an “idolatry of the body”).

    Now, although the text does not do so, one might generalise these remarks to apply to eastern non-Christian body techniques. Yoga is in no way singled out or condemned and nor are bodily postures, whether eastern-Christian or non-Christian.

    To find an veiled attack on yoga (or even a prohibition of it) in common sense advice from Christians to Christians about Christian spiritual practice verges on paranoid delusions of persecution.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    To find an veiled attack on yoga (or even a prohibition of it) in common sense advice from Christians to Christians about Christian spiritual practice verges on paranoid delusions of persecution.

    You can’t be too careful. Christians have a history that we must be concerned about.

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    I’m not sure what supposed ” christian perspective “you are referring to,Mr.Reed (catholic,perhaps? ),but the church(-es) are most emphatically NOT “god”; certainly not from the Biblical perspective. What are you talking about??

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    For once,you’ve got it right,Mr.Reed,garbled though your post was…Either Jesus IS…”the Way,the Truth,and the Life”…or He isn’t,simply put.The Christian Faith is most emphatically NOT a”mix-and-match” pseudo-theological construct designed to cater to whoever.

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    In other words,Deane…Satan was right all along,and Almighty God got it wrong:you yourself ARE a”god”…Wow.

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    What in the world are you talking about,dude? Did you encounter some other”jesus”,as Paul mentioned,or are you just hopelessly confused? As Christians,our focus should ALWAYS be The Risen Christ—ALWAYS!!

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    You mean that there’s no answer in whatever non-existent pseudo-“jesus”you’re talking about,right Mr.Reed? Every time I read your posts,I’m reminded that you have never met The Risen Saviour; that you and people like Deane are unwitting victims of the false pseudo – theological construct known as cultural christianity,in which man,not Almighty God,is the center and focus,sadly.I urge you,although I know that you won’t heed my advice,to seek the Lord while He may be found,before the enemy of your souls lead you to convince yourself that you have no need for Him at all.As Jesus said…”What will it profit you to gain the whole world(However cramped,mean,and small that self-made world is.),and lose your soul?

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    We don’t need”religion”,Mr.Reed: WE NEED CHRIST!!

  •' Deane says:

    How can I meet the Risen Christ if He will not show himself to me? If I have gone astray, turning to my own way, why has He not left the other 99 to find me? He knows His sheep by name and when He calls they answer him; Why does he not call me? Does he not know my name? Do I even belong to him? Am I even a feral sheep? I am a goat? I don’t know, and, frankly, I am too tired of all of this to care anymore: I pled my cause, but, as far as I can tell, he was not interested. It seems I am vessel created for destruction and not for glory… He wlll do what He does and I am powerless over Him.

  •' Deane says:

    “In other words,Deane…Satan was right all along,and Almighty God got it wrong:you yourself ARE a”god”…Wow”.

    You have deliberately misconstrued my post and your “In other words” is mischievous. You can see very well that nowhere in the post do I say that (1) I am a god (Jn 10:33-36 not withstanding); (2) that God Almighty got it wrong (how can I think God got it wrong when I don’t believe in God?); and (3) Satan was right all along (I don’t even mention Satan, but for yor edification I will say that I do not believe in Satan. Satan, as you seem to understand him, does not exist outside of Christianity and I have never me anyone who does not believe in God who believes in Satan).

    Seriously dude, if you want to join the conversation you are welcome, but if you are going to carry on with this kind of trolling behaviour, do us all a favour and go to one of the thousands (millions?) of forums where name calling, vilification, straw man argument constructions and opponent baiting are acceptable substitutes for facts and reason.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Religion is needed to keep the Jesus myths going. We can see in the Bible, Jesus is the product of the stories that were invented toward the end of the first century.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    I imagine all the mix and match Christianities would say the same kind of thing. They all believe. That is how a Christianity continues fro generation to generation. It has to make the people “believe”.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    The churches would all say that, but they do recruit people who can be influenced to believe what that church wants to teach. A part of being “God” is claiming you are not God. Christian humility can be vanity.

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Hmm…Well.There are a number of responses I can make to this,but I’ll begin with the most obvious: Whatever I post on this site or any other,no one is forced to engage with me. I don’t need your permission to,as you say,”join the conversation” Deane; the site is in the public domain.Now,to address the other points in your post…I answered your complaints as you listed them; in one of your posts you posited a litany of complaints about why Almighty God didn’t come and retrieve you,the supposedly straying sheep.It’s possible that you weren’t one of his to begin with;I find myself astonished at times to read the words of people on these sites who simply assume that they are”children of God”by dint of existence.Now,I don’t presume to speak for various religions per se,but I can state unequivocally that the concept of we all of us being”children”of God is NOT a Biblical construct.In other words,the Scriptures don’t teach that.You also give the impression that Almighty God owed you something since you condescended to engage Him(or who you thought He was).As I said,you might not have intended to,but frankly in your other post you came across a bit of a whiner.Jesus said in John chapter 10…”My sheep hear my voice,and I know them,and they follow Me”…I have heard that Voice for almost 40 years,Deane(I was saved and born-again in 1976,in a jail cell in Mississippi at 2:o’clock in the morning of October 4th),and guess what? I didn’t always follow Him! But ALWAYS, as one of His straying sheep,He would either call me,come get me,or this last time,like The Prodigal,I came to myself and arose and went to my Father.We are told in the Epistle to the Hebrews that…”I will never leave you nor forsake you”… (Hebrews13 : 5b)—those words have held true for me for ALL the almost 40 years that I have known The Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour.I don’t mean to be rude or mean-spirited on these sites,Deane,but your words come off as an attack against Almighty God and an impugning of who and how He presents Himself in Scripture,and has presented Himself in Christ,and frankly I’m having a hard recognizing exactly who it is you’re talking about.It’s as though you and I are talking about 2 different entities here.Is it possible that you truly have not met The Risen Saviour? He is more than willing to met you as He is in Scripture,which you say you’ve read.I just don’t understand how our perspective experiences with Him could be so radically different.And I speak of what I term”cultural christianity”because I myself was”raised”in a ostensibly christian home/church environment(Baptist),and yet,I didn’t meet my Saviour until I was 22 years old,in that Mississippi jail cell!! Go figure! I could go on,but I trust my point is made.With all due respect to you,and I ask your pardon for any offense,but you and I are quite simply NOT talking about the same God.If it was your choice to embrace the atheistic philosophy of Buddhism,that’s certainly your choice,and I respect that.But I could no more give up my Saviour than I could divest myself of my own skin.The very idea draws a blank in my mind;as the old saying goes,”it does not compute”. So…at least now you know some of where I’m coming from.I’ve been /am a born-again, blood-bought, Spirit-filled child / servant of Almighty God for almost 40 years,and as long as JESUS IS LORD, I will remain so.As the Psalmist said,…I will praise Him while I have any being”…So…there it is,Deane.Again,I ask your forgiveness if I offended you;Lord knows I’m no diplomat,LOL! But I love the Lord my God with EVERYTHING that’s in me,and.THAT will ALWAYS be where I come from—PEACE IN CHRIST!

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Sigh…Mr.Reed,seriously…I’m trying mightily to be respectful here, but your insistence on trotting out these long-discarded”theories”is simply boring and tiresome;even die-hard so-called atheists know that they’re on shifting sand here.These hackneyed,easily -refuted canards should have been relegated to history’s dustbins long ago;in fact,most reputable historians affirm the very real existence of Jesus the Christ.Common since ought to inform any reasonably intelligent person that no mere myth could have possibly have hadsuch an impact on humanity and human history,religious AND secular as Jesus has had,and is STILL having.YOU certainly don’t know of any comparable”myth”,Mr.Reed.Give it a rest,why don’t you??

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Since the Scriptures speak of only One Christ(Except when it mentions false”christs”),the word “christianities”has no meaning to me,Mr.Reed.

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    “A part of being “God”is claiming you are not God”…What?? Were you once enslaved by a cult,Mr.Reed? Seriously,dude…What ARE you talking about? You’re going off the rails a little bit here,sir.Come back,LOL!

  •' Jim Reed says:

    If a church is going to be God to the people, don’t they have to claim they are not doing that? The issue still is the church speaks for God, and the people listen and believe. Theoretically they justify it by saying God is the head of the church, but I don’t think they have ever presented any evidence of that.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    The church won the European religion game and dominated. Their impact on society was driven by them convincing people, often through intimidation or the sword, that the church was having an impact.

    Belief is strong, and many people know that they know Jesus in a personal manner, but on the other hand it is clear that the writings from the middle of the century were talking about a scriptural Christ, and not a man from Nazareth. That part was made up later when they wrote the gospels, and people admit the miracles of the new testament were just stories or whatever, and didn’t actually happen. They still believe probably about 10% of the new testament (not the miracle part) must be true and about the man Jesus, they just aren’t sure which part is that 10%. I think this is because the believers need about 10% of the story to be historically accurate so that they can go on believing.

  •' Deane says:

    Yeah, Laurence, you are totally right. According to the theology of the Church I grew up with (outsiders would have called us Calvinist Pentecostals, we called ourselves Christians) I am a goat, not a sheep (Matthew 25:31-46). Because I do not belong to Jesus when He calls I do not hear his voice (John 10:3-4). I am a vessel made for destruction and not for Glory (Romans 9:21). I am thus most assuredly, as things stand now, not the son of God, but a son of perdition.

    At that time, when I surrendered myself and my life to God, through the Blood of Jesus that alone could cover the sins that I believed the Spirit convicted me of, I believed I became His Son and He my Father (see Romans 8, esp 14-17 & 28-30). In this I was seriously deluded as I came to see over time, for I was not sanctified, not glorified, not brought in anyway into conformity with the the image of Christ. Instead I continued as lost in my sin as before and no amount of prayer, fasting and tears changed that. From this I concluded that I was not adopted as a son and an heir but rejected as the bastard son born in slavery (Galatians 4, esp 3-7, 30).

    So, you see, Buddhism was very much a last choice and a desperate resort. The Buddha set the bar very low perhaps, by comparison, with Jesus:
    / Avoid doing bad
    / Try to do good
    / Purify you mind

    My expectations were correspondingly low, yet against all these expectations, there I have found happiness, serenity and joy through acceptance of things as they are (including myself, with all my defects), by fixing only stuff that I have effective control over (this turned out to be only myself and even then only to a limited degree) and in serving others (to the best of my – it turns out – very limited abilities). This is certainly not what you have, but it is not nothing either and it is certainly enough for me.

  •' Deane says:

    The talk of whining made me think of my most favorite whine of all:

    / Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.
    / Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.
    / Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.

    / etc etc
    Job2:3-5 & more or less for the rest of the book

    As Jews go, Jesus was pretty bad at whining, lol.

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Sigh…Well,Deane,as I said,your words just don’t make sense;if you did what you claimed,I simply cannot understand why you are not STILL what you claim you were,so obviously some type of disconnect occurred I cannot account for,and perhaps it’s not my place to attempt to do so.So…I wish you well,and God bless you–PEACE IN CHRIST! [No reply necessary.]

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Uh,actually,no,it doesn’t,Deane…What you HAVE made clear is how poor your grasp of allegory,typology,hermeneutics,interpretation,and all the other tools theologians use the mine the deep treasures of Scripture is. (And by the way,you had better add Jesus’ Name to the list of “Biblidolaters”,since He Himself had a deep love of Scripture,quoted it extensively,and showed that said Scriptures confirmed who He was /is and still does.Since He called it”The Word of God”,i’ll.side with HIM on this issue,always.Discard Holy Writ,and you are GUARANTEED to concoct a”god”re-made in YOUR image.).So…you don’t like God as He is,Deane? You’re certainly not forced to.

  •' Deane says:


    “What you HAVE made clear is how poor your grasp of allegory,typology,hermeneutics,interpretation,and all the other tools theologians use the mine the deep treasures of Scripture is.”

    1. Humm, I must say that the distinctions “allegory” and “typology” strike me as artificial late constructs generally imposed on texts to avoid the plain meaning of the texts. Jewish thought, from the earliest scriptural texts to the material generated by the Talmudistis Sages moves fluidly between the actual and the mythical, between the historical and the legendary and between what is and what ought to be, without any regard for Protestant genres of heurmenuetics, and is characteristic of diverse texts with profoundly different theological outlooks that include among them the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the sectarian texts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, early Christian texts at least up until the death of St Justin the Martyr (c15CE, my knowledge of Christian texts becomes increasingly sketchy after that and by the death of St Augustine of Hippo in 430CE is fragmentary indeed) including but not limited to the New Testament (Luke-Acts being a striking exception) and, of course, the Gnostics whether Christian influenced or not up to and including the Mandaen Scriptures and those produced by the Church of Mani (who was, of course, of Jew Christian origin). To be clear: Not only do they write texts in a way that ignore your hermeneutical distinctions, they read and recast earlier Jewish texts (especially the Torah) with the same freedom and creativity as they write with.

    It is not out of ignorance but out of disdain that I do not use these tools of eisegesis, since they violate my own principles of hermenuetics that I, and historians generally, use to read and interpret text since they impose on the text constructions and readings that are foreign to the text being examined.

    2. “since He Himself had a deep love of Scripture,quoted it extensively”
    A deed love of Scripture is neither necessary nor sufficient to be qualified as a Bibledolater. I share Jesus’ deep love of Scripture (otherwise I would never, as a Historian, have specialized in Second Temple Judaism). Until the Enlightenment, I think, Bibledolatry was entirely absent from the Church, or at least from the Reformers. Martin Luther famously wanted to excise the Letter of James from the New Testament because it was “a right strawy epistle” and “that speaks not to us of Christ” and he and Calvin and the other Reformation Fathers had no compunction about summarily trashing whole chunks of the received Christian Old Testament to bring it into conformity with the Hebrew Scriptures. Moreover, their mindsets remained thoroughly medieval and wholly uncontaminated by the Renaissance, to the sorrow of their sympathizer Erasmus.

    The Enlightenment on the other hand advanced to the fore the literal mindedness that had always underlined Latin Christianity (One only has to compare the Summa Theologiae with the work of the Cappadocian Fathers to see what I mean). St and St Augustine regarded the Holy Trinity as literal truth and an incomprehensible mystery, an idea that puzzled the Greek, Syriac and Coptic theologians who understood it non-literally, as a figure of speech pointing to an ineffable truth about God. The Latin theologians set about to prove that God existent being which scandalized their Eastern brothers who knew God did not exist, He was Existence Itself, not a being, but Being-as-Such. To worship a being, they said, was to worship an idol.

    The Enlightenment literal minded approach to things meant that things were either true or not, and myths were not. Christianity had Truth, everyone else had Myths. This idea, through the agency of the Great Awakening, propagated itself (along with other newfangled notions such as having a personal encounter/ relationship with God/Christ and being “born again”) throughout the powerful and influential Protestantism of Britain and the USA and from there contaminated, and eventually replaced, age old ways of reading Scripture among other Protestants first and more lately even Catholics.

    This simpleminded treatment of Scripture, in contempt of everyone from the Apostolic Fathers to the Reformation Fathers, is what generated the absurd conflict between liberalism and fundamentalism. Worse, it has contaminated Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and even Theravada Buddhism, so that the same moronic conflict has arisen in these religious traditions as a result af the same foolish way of first privileging Scripture at the expense of all else and then reading it as if it was written the day before yesterday and directed to the reader now and personally. The outcome, all protests of scriptural veneration and textual fidelity not withstanding, is a brutal assault on the texts by asking of them questions their writers would and could never have thought of and then forcibly extracting from them answers their writers would and could never have thought of. And that, Laurence, shows a very poor grasp of hermeneutics.

    3. “So…you don’t like God as He is,Deane?”
    God as Being-as-Such is way beyond my comprehension and beyond any assessment I can make (whether positive or negative); to say that “He exists” or “He does not exist” are equally meaningless to make about Existence itself. The god I dislike is that of the Christian Fundamentalism who is an imaginary being created by the arrogant to serve their own all to human purposes through a (usually unintentional) vulgar, ugly and stupid corruption of Holy Scripture (I say “usually unintentional” because watching the development of the “Word of Faith” movement in general and the “New Apostolic Reformation” in particular, I am increasingly convinced that psychopathic atheists are having a field day fleecing the unfortunate and credulous Flock of Faithful while corrupting the Church as a whole with new previously unimaginable heresies and appalling and dangerous practices.

    4. Historians do not concoct gods made in their own image, religious fundamentalists (whether sincere of on the make) do.

  •' Deane says:

    Laurence is right about this. In my early days as of Biblical Study I considered this hypothesis as seductive but unlikely, and certainly not impossible. A friend of mine asked me about it and I threw myself into investigating it only to watch the evidence put forward disappear before me like a mirage when closely examined and I came out 100% certain that it was completely and absolutely wrong.

    I do not know of a single Biblical Scholar or Historian who thinks that Jesus did not exist. There was, at the turn of the 20th Century, a group of Dutch Biblical scholars who argued very persuasively that Jesus was fabricated by historicizing pagan (mainly solar) myths, but as research progressed their assumptions were progressively undermined (for example they claimed that the entire Pauline Corpus had been forged!) and steadily their earlier converts and their later students defected. The “Dutch School” lingered on into the second half of the 20th Century until the last of its great thinkers died, demonstrating that a dearly held scientific hypothesis never dies when it is disproved, only when the last thinker that holds it does.

    This, of course, did not stop others from resurrecting the thoroughly debunked hypothesis as if it was still not only a valid theory about the historical Jesus, but also the best one on offer. If you look at who these guys and what they do are it quickly becomes evident that (1) they have absolutely no credentials whatsoever to be dabbling in the Historical Jesus (or any New Testament) discussion at all and (2) they have no new evidence or ideas that might convince us that the case is worth reopening, they recycle barely understood material (complete with claims smashed to oblivion by actual evidence) plagiarized from the Dutch School.

    The Internet seems follow the adage “bad money drives out good”, because the thousands of pages of long refuted evidence they offer dominate Google searches. They are followed by equally absurd claims by Theosophists (Jesus was born in 185BCE and spent his youth in India studying the Vedas) and then a host of silly conspiracy theories that make the “Passover Plot” look relatively sane by comparison. The evidence driven worthwhile hypotheses are relegated to last, just before thousands of links to pages written in Chinese and Japanese characters!

  •' Luke says:

    I am a follower of Christ and enjoy yoga. The focus on “yogaphobia” is a reflection of the religious leader’s own phobia: Metathesiophobia…fear of change. Just because they have not tried yoga or do not choose to see the incredible physical and mental value in yoga (congruent with faith in Christ), their fear of something new–and for them, unknown–drives them to a new religious rant. For all of the clear shortfalls in religions today (all religions) I am surprised religious leaders would waste any precious few minutes focusing on yoga as a focal point of fear and condemnation. I am also a cancer survivor and I can attest to both the harmony with my faith in Christ and the beneficial stretching and focus on breathing for those dealing with physical challenges. Breathing is important–God breathed life into man and Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into His followers. Breathing inward equates to inspiration, something the religious leaders are in clear need of seeking to find a better way to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Religious hyperbole over yoga–“Yogaphobia– is foolish.

  •' Luke says:

    A few quick points on questions of the historical Jesus: 1. The timing of the writing of the Gospels (all within 60-80 years of Christ’s death/resurrection/ascension) and Paul’s letters (as early as 15-20 years) are far too early to create a “legend” of Jesus Christ. Many people wanted to disprove Jesus as Messiah/Savior, and the writings speaking of eyewitnesses (over 500 seeing the resurrected Jesus) would have been immediately disputed by other eyewitnesses and used to discount the viability of following Jesus. Historical proof? Legends are created after all of the eyewitnesses die and can no longer challenge the stories, oral traditions or writings regarding the “legend.” The Gospels and Paul’s letters are simply written too soon to create the legend/fantasy type Christ you refer. Checkout “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” by Richard Bauckham–excellent review of the historical Jesus 2. The content of the Gospels and Paul’s letters are far too counterproductive for the writings to be “legendary” and fictional. The disciples are reflected as cowardly, doubting and failures–not what a new “religion” would rely on to build an audience in the 1st century. Women–marginalized and viewed as second class when it comes to testimony in the first century–were identified as many of the eyewitnesses. Again, if you want to make something up, why create your own slippery slope…unless the writer was simply telling the truth? If you want to doubt the Bible–the Bible itself contains many significant doubts of people throughout its pages. Again, why create doubt–unless the telling of the story was historical narrative from collective memory as an eyewitness? The truth of the Bible is challenging–and if it is fiction and intended to falsely lead people, it would have been much more manipulatively crafted. 3. The literary form of the Gospels is too detailed to be legend. Checkout Beowulf or The Iliad–details are not necessary. Narrative fiction–“modern fiction”– did not evolve until the past 300 years where details were used to elevate the realism of events. Either the writers of the Gospels were unique and 1500 years ahead of the world in writing fiction, or they were telling the truth. 4. Would this many people die for a lie? Giving your life to a cause that you created on lies, deception and manipulation–yet many were willing to die for those lies–is incomprehensible given the number of witnesses and those dying for their faith. Would you die for a lie? Most people will not even die for the truth… Four points–tried to be as succinct as possible. One last point–excuse the repetition: If you want to make something up, why create your own slippery slope…unless the Gospel writers were simply telling the truth? Best regards, luke

  •' Jim Reed says:

    In Paul’s time Christianity was finding Christ Jesus in old testament scriptures. They were very religious. Then later it was evolving into a story about someone actually being a man from Nazareth. This is when the legend was created, so there was no actual person making it far too early for the story to become legend. In order to make it sound impressive to first century potential converts, they made up a number of 500 eyewitnesses. Since there were no actual witnesses in the first place, and since it was a lifetime after the the story, nobody was around to question. This all seems to support the myth idea.

    The main reason to doubt is still Paul is a written record of Christianity before the gospels, and none of the gospel stories were around at that time. The speculation of an oral tradition is inventing an oral tradition that is contradicted by the actual written record.

    The gospels were stories that were told later, and built one on another. The letters of Paul show a Christ that was from the old testament scriptures, and not a man, Jesus from Nazareth. Acts is written in the style of fiction of the day. Revelation has an appearance from the ghost of Jesus, but it is not about Jesus, the man from Nazareth. You now have a problem because NONE of the books of the new testament are about an actual man who lived in the first part of the first century. There is no Jesus in the New Testament, other than the myths that were being constructed as the religion was being refined.

  •' Luke says:

    The fundamental difference here–and conflict to dialogue–is the distortion of the story you offer above. Respectively, even Dawkins and other noted atheists do not deny the time the Gospels were written or the letters of Paul–these have a historical reference. If you simply choose to dismiss the actual timing of the writings and dismiss the questions I posed by saying, “Here’s the story” you need to offer more than rhetoric and bravado. Saying “none of the books of the New testament are about an actual man who lived in the first part of the first century” ignores documented letters–Josephus, a Jewish scholar (hardly a “Christian”) notes the reality and life of “Jesus of Nazareth” and notes his miracles and teachings and crucifixion. Are you yourself creating your own myth, or playing one forward? Facts matter…

  •' Jim Reed says:

    I didn’t dismiss the timing of the writings. I agree with them. The point is that is when the gospel myths were created. You say there was not enough time between the life of Jesus and the writing of the gospels for the myth to develop. There wasn’t any Jesus, so that is not an issue or a question.

    The Josephus reference is fake. It notes his miracles and teachings and crucifixion. All of that is exactly what would have been written by a fourth century Christian apologist, and exactly what would not have been written by a first century Jewish historian. It was the fourth century when that passage in Josephus was reference by Christians. In the second and third centuries Christians did reference Josephus for other things, but not for that wondrous works Jesus part. If it was actually in the real Josephus, it would have been the first thing they referenced. The fact is that is a later addition by Christians. It is still often used by Christians today, even though it is well known to be fake. Even though it is fake it still seems to be the best evidence for Christianity available.

  •' Luke says:

    One more time: 1. The timing of the Gospels, Paul’s letters and other “non-Christian” writings (Josephus) are too early after the life/death/resurrection/ascension of Jesus to allow the invention of legendary versions of Jesus. 2. The writings in the New Testament describe flawed, cowardly, doubting disciples and a Jesus who cries out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” This would clearly indicate an honest, unbiased reporting of eyewitnesses who were careful to not unduly color their reporting. If you are going to create a deceptive lie–manipulative story–the New Testament clearly fails on giving a glowing, perfect foundation of heroes and honor to build on. Why? The truth was being told. 3. The hatred for Jesus was very real in 33 AD and immediately following, so any offering of teachings, oral history, letters and public support of Jesus would have been immediately debunked had the Jewish leaders and/or Roman occupying force had evidence to clearly say “It’s a lie!” They could not because they did not have the proof–even though numerous eyewitnesses were alive when Christianity formally surfaced on the Day of Pentecost. 4. The writings of “Luke” (Gospel of Luke and Acts) were based on eyewitness accounts and found through archaeological examination over the years to be accurate–painstakingly so. The timing of Luke’s writings again pre-date the time necessary to create a legendary Jesus. 5. Would the people who were eyewitnesses, the early leaders of Christianity, die for a lie? Would you? People find it hard to risk much for the truth–much less risking your life over a lie. Given the former cowardly personas of the disciples, something happened to them that made them lose their doubts and be willing to die for their faith. In my faith, the cause was seeing a resurrected Jesus. *I have given you plenty of wood to build your fire. But, if you simply dismiss everything I pose and the queries I offer without any factual, contradicting reasoning, proof and evidence, well, I guess you have created your “faith”–your own belief system…something you cannot prove but believe in…not an objective perspective of a historical set of events. Up to you, my friend. I look forward to hearing your response(s) Thanks, luke

  •' Jim Reed says:

    1. Paul’s letters were part of the process of creating the legend, with old testament scriptures and his vision as sources. The Josephus reference is fake.

    The gospels turned Christianity into the story of a human Jesus from Nazareth, so it is meaningless to say it was too early to create a legend because they were creating the man at that point, and they placed him several decades in the past.

    2. The writings of the New Testament clearly have contradictions, so it is nonsense to call them truth. As far as the psychology goes, you can’t say why they took the approach they did, or why they didn’t take some other approach.

    3. Jesus was not hated in 33 AD. There is a lot of Christian history that was made up, and is not found in actual history of the day such as Roman history.

    Luke and Acts were not eyewitness accounts. They were a work of fiction, following patterns of other fiction of that day.

  •' Luke says:

    Paul’s letters creating the legend…Josephus a fake…the reality of what was written that is in the Bible in the here and now (even if you think it is “fake”) does not matter…basically, from your comments, the entire New Testament is a “fake” Everything is a fake? Ok, you said, “Jesus was not hated in 33 AD. ? So, are you saying there was a Jesus? I am confused? Jesus? Yes or No? And, somehow, you know He was not hated? Based on what? Where is your documentation…your proof? And, Jim, I see the amount of time you have spent writing and the apparent enjoyment it gives you, but if it is all a “fake” why worry????? You really should relax and let it go if you believe what you say is true. I have probably been as much of a skeptic as you are now–and I still have doubts. I am very anti-religious (the man made junk that divides and separates people from having a dialogue on faith.) As it relates to you, I simply asked objectively to respond to some different challenges–realities. And, you are saying it is all “fake.” Again, so why bother. Enjoy life–you believe this is it (no eternity, right?) so time is truly wasting for you. I write that not in frustration, but based on what you say. I wish you the best–I do–and hope you will look again, objectively at my questions and the information I posed…I urge you to doubt your doubts. We should all do that, right? Thanks again, luke

  •' Jim Reed says:

    I think I am saying since Jesus was not created until decades later, Jesus was not hated in 33 AD. Besides, Christianity made up a lot of the martyr stuff. They just wanted to be hated.

    I think ending Christianity would be helping the world. There is a lot of religious confusion, and Christianity is probably the biggest problem because it is the biggest deception. You can see that over and over here on RD. Why do you bring up Josephus? It is because you learned that in Christianity. And why do they use that when at the higher levels they know it is fake? That is something Christians should be researching and asking about. Ask your spiritual leader and have him ask his spiritual leader until you get to someone high up in the know about the issue. Then you can see, the Josephus reference is fake. But for some reason, Christianity would rather let people believe in the fake evidence than sort it out. That should probably be question one. How could anyone believe in a religion that would do such a thing?

  •' classyoga says:

    Amazing what happens when people begin to distort something for their own gain. Fact: Real Yoga is all about the Hindu religion, taught by Hindus and not for a fee.

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