Friday, March 02, 2007

That whole tomb of Christ thang

It was front page news in the Hindustan Times on Monday. A story headlined, "Clergy refutes evidence," made it to p. 20. Clergy? Please, any archeologist worth his salt says that this is a load of bull.

But, if you're interested in the real deal, do check this story from Mercator.

Oh, and I've no doubt that the movie, when it comes out, will make big bucks. DVC ended up being the largest selling DVD in 2006, or something like that. People like to think that Christianity is wrong. And, quite clearly, this kind of stuff sells.


St. Izzy said...

Discussion question:

Would movies / documentaries / pseudo-scientific infotainment that attack the foundations of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, &c sell so well and make so much money for their media producers? Why or why not? Discuss.

Gashwin said...

Heh. I've no idea about Buddhism. However ... Hinduism? Let's see -- violent protests in India, boycotts of the movie, possibly a censor ban, and widespread indignation around the country and among the diaspora, possible protests and violence in, say Britain, and the ultraPC types falling over themselves in denouncing the neocolonial cabal behind such unenlightened activity.

Islam? One doesn't have to try and imagine too much, I'm sorry to say.

One screening and press conference by James Cameron was held in the Canadian Embassy in DC. One recalls what happened to Danish Embassies in the contretemps from a little while back ...

St. Izzy said...

I wasn't thinking of the various responses of the various faithful, although that's an encouraging place to go. It certainly contributes to the (un-)profitability of media attacks on various religions. And I suppose that it's encouraging that our response is not to burst into violence; in this respect, at least, we get it right.

I am more wondering if these persistent media attacks on the Faith don't have a kind of authenticating effect. They certainly have a lionizing effect.

It would seem completely irrelevant if there were shows attacking the foundations of Mithraism or the cult of Isis. No one would watch programs debunking the mythos of Osirus & Horus.

Of course, those religions have pretty much passed into the mists of history, and have no cultural currency. But of religions with cultural currency, only Christianity must withstand these persistent media attacks.

Could it be that the debunking of Christianity sells because it is the one that people most feel a need to debunk? Could it be that the profitability debunkers' attacks on Christianity reflects a struggle in the hearts of men in a way that shows debunking other religions would not?

I'm just asking.

St. Izzy said...

Left out an "of."

Could it be that the profitability OF debunkers' attacks on Christianity reflects a struggle in the hearts of men in a way that shows debunking other religions would not?

It's still awkward, but less so.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to put it bluntly - but other religions don't make claims that test rationality the way Christianity does.

Islam for example does not say the Prophet rose from the dead and lives today in wine and wafer. Even if it has its own fantastical elements, none of those are its central tenets of Islamic faith. Islam is simple in its central tenet - There is no God but God, and Mohammad is his prophet. I could find fault with how some Muslims behave, but how could I find fault with such a simple expression of faith?

Buddhism and Hinduism both have a rich heritage in myths, but none of those stories requires a belief in the literalness of them. The stories are a means to an end - to educate the faithful about the way to live their lives.

Buddhism has got something of free pass in the West, since it's associated with meditation and right living and so on. It's so non-threatening that there're even some Zen Catholic nuns in Virginia.

When people criticize Hinduism, they will usually find the most arcane and ridiculous of practises - rat worship or tree marriage. But from a rational perspective - who's to say that believing a rat is a manifestation of God is more ridiculous than believing in transubstantiation during communion or the resurrection.

If you stripped away these central mysteries of the Christian faith, you might be left with a more rational religion and one that is less prone to ideological attacks. But till then, you just have to get used it. It is not just that people are validating your faith in some kind of backhanded way or find it the most threatening. It's simply the one that is the most troubling to a rational person, and from my own experience, even some Catholics are troubled by these aspects of the faith.

- Pram

St. Izzy said...

But the attacks have absolutely no effect on the faith of the Faithful. Nor do I think they are intended to. Christians are patently NOT the target audience. So why should non-Christians even care? Why do these specials continue to draw such audiences? Why doesn't everyone else simply shrug and say (like the Lectroid at the end of Buckaroo banzai), "So what? Big deal!"

Anonymous said...

The effect might be negligible, but I do think they're intended to challenge the Christian faithful into examining their views. And interestingly, these attacks are from within - quite different from outsiders (such as moi) questioning the religion. And maybe that makes a difference in how it is received.


Gashwin said...

I think Pram is right about one thing: a lot of this is from within. The boundary between "Christian" and "non" -- at least in the West -- is hardly clear-cut. Just look at the Episcopal church. Or the left-wing of the Catholic Church. (And Pram, I've never come across any attack on Hinduism that talks about rat-worship or tree worship, unless it was from Hindu reformers really talking about andhavishwas. But they too were being influenced by a form of rationalism that may have its origin in the largely Christian West. Yes, there are also Indian forms of rationalism and the nastik schools of philosophy. That's why I said partly.)

I will disagree that this is simply a rationalist response to the more (seemingly) bizarre truth-claims of Christianity. Those truth-claims have been subject to ridicule, challenge and scrutiny since they were first put forth. That is an ongoing conversation.

This isn't just about philosophy. There is something more visceral here.

Why is it that the study of the texts of a small first century Jewish sect is a huge academic field, or the study of Jewish writings from one small strip of the Fertile Crescent is such an issue? Who really gives a hoot what their contemporary neighbors wrote and thought? For instance he only reason some have heard of the Epic of Gilgamesh or the Enuma Elish is because of what it might imply about the Bible. Because all of this has some current contemporary significance.

It can, it might, just show what a silly and stupid (at best) and evil and twisted (at worst) delusion and hoax Christianity is.

Christianity, even in these post-Chritian times, is the dominant meta-narrative of the West, and even more so in the US.

Attacking it, either by sceptics from without, or those more susceptible to the Zeitgeist from within, is not a new phenomenon. It has gained a currency and power in the past several decades, and has taken its toll on the Church, I would say. Just look at the decimated landscape of Europe.

The wider culture cares because, like it or not, they are deeply influenced by Christianity. And they don't like a lot of what it has to say. Especially when it comes to sex, but that's just a part of it.

And there's the whole reaction to a kind of (rightly or wrongly) perceived authoritarianism as well.

PixelChick said...

Something I've been neglecting to mention in my previous comments... why I feel bolstered in my thought that the attacks have to do with rationality.

After all, none of these attacks are on social aspects of Christianity, not on Christ's ministry, not on his turning water into wine and feeding the hungry. Those things most people can live with - if he could feed 40,000, it doesn't matter to where that food came from.

The ideas that are challenged are the ones that are most esoteric - depending on time of year, it's really either the Virgin birth, or the resurrection.

I agree, there's a lot more invested in challenging Christianity/Catholicism than simple rational thinking, esp. for those within the Christian tradition, whose experience might, no, *must* be entirely different from mine.

In the end, individual and hence collective perception is everything, because as I've said a few times before, there is no way of knowing "objective" truth, there is only a subjective perception of it, and if the church has to make any inroads, it has to work on becoming the experienced perception of a whole lot more people.

Gashwin said...

Hola Pram: A few things:

-- "there is no way of knowing objective truth" is a common enough mantra these days. Whether this statement is true or even absolutely true is another matter. It is an assertion, nothing else. An assertion that is often regarded as, well, objectively true! :)

-- you are right about perception, and colloquially one does, in fact, say, "perception is everything." It is a lot, but it really isn't everything. The Church may have an "image problem" or a "PR issue" as some say. But, in her self-understanding, she doesn't get rid of inconvenient truths -- such as the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, because of PR.

-- just to clarify, from the Christian point of view, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are not natural phenomena, something that a human being can come to understand using reason alone (unlike, say, things covered by the natural law, such as some aspects of sexual morality or social justice etc.). They are revealed truths. Without divine revelation, these ideas would not have been understood. What is required to grasp these is faith. They may have some rational basis -- in the sense, that the narrative and story are coherent from within -- but Christianity doesn't, or at least, ought not to, assume that any reasonable person will automatically believe in the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection. St. Paul, when talking about the Cross, goes so far as to say that it is "foolishness for the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews." That could be said about several Christian dogmas. The dogmas are important but they are most emphatically not the sum of Christianity.

-- I state again that these kinds of attacks are not really against Jesus, but against Christianity, and not just its seemingly absurd truth claims, but because there is a whole current of Enlightenment and post-Englightenment thinking that equates traditional Christianity as being the bane of true progress.