Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Depriving Religion of Its Capacity to Destroy People

Hat tip to NT Wrong for locating this interview with Gerd Ludemann, author of Eyes that See Not: The Pope Looks at Jesus. Here is the transcript of the interview conducted by Luis Rodriquez. NT Wrong points out a few gems. I like this one:
Whoever does historical research – that's my experience – will have to say: "I no longer believe". To give an example: historical researchers, work on God. They discover that God is a projection; they work on Jesus and discover that Jesus didn't say most of things that the Bible claims he said....

....when studying the Bible, we discover nothing but opinions of people about God—which they ascribed to God or whoever they want to. We never come across God or the Holy. We just come across the opinions of people. Then we tie them to the situation of their time and look at them from a new vantage point. We try and determine their agenda, what they wanted to do or what they wished had happened—it’s wishful thinking. By arriving at these results, we deprive religion of its threat, of its capacity to destroy people. It's the language of people from the past, not the present and, thereby, our research is a critique of ideology. That I think it's very important. As such, historical scholarship is destroying religion. Having read the bible historically and critically, you can no longer read it piously, because you know if you do, you deceive yourself.
I do like that observation that historical study deprives religion of its capacity to destroy people. I have to say that as a minister, my work more often than not is to help people pick up the pieces of their lives that have been destroyed by religion.

Some people need to reclaim and reintegrate some aspect of religious belief into their lives. Others need to come to peace with leaving it behind. In either case, the religion or no-religion that they currently embrace is completely different from the religion that destroyed them.

What has been the most helpful destroyer of the destroyer? Facts.

The God who wants to send you to hell has no power when you see that his fearsome image is a creation of the fearful little man behind the curtain.


  1. "They discover that God is a projection; they work on Jesus and discover that Jesus didn't say most of things that the Bible claims he said...."

    Yet no proof is offered to support these "discoveries". Mr. Luedemann seems to forget that his position is void of faith. Therefore, he has a burden of proof upon him that is not required of the faithful.

    "Gerd L├╝demann no longer believes in Christianity, and he suspects a lot of Christians secretly agree with him."

    There is no logic to his assertion. He has no consensus, only guesses and empty rhetoric.
    What we have here is nothing more than a man who lost his faith and in an effort to feel better about it, want's us all to lose our faith with him.

    Sells books though.

  2. I was afraid that if I waited until tomorrow to post this, someone would beat me to it! It's really hilarious.

  3. I disagree with you, Captain. I think Ludemann is a good scholar, but my opinion is neither here nor there.

    What resonates with me in this interview is his sense of freedom. It is a lonely freedom, perhaps.

    Some folks would rather have a god who punishes, neglects, forgets, or whatever than have none.

    None is lonely, but at least not abusive.

    Given that choice I am with Ludemann.

  4. Fred,

    I think you meant to post on the musical! Ludemann is bright, but not that funny : )

  5. There is a lot of validity to what Mr. Luedemann says, at least in my experience. Thirty years ago I probably would have argued the contrary. My husband is a good example. He has what I would call, a private, personal faith. He doesn't want to talk about it, he just wants to be left alone with it. He lets me "do religion". He came back from a men's retreat really upset because they basically told him that he was wrong. There is only one way to be a Christian, it says so in the Bible. How does beating someone over the head with the Bible equate to faith? Who decided that we should have faith in book, written by men, assembled by men and interpreted by men? Where is God in that equation? Maybe they were inspired by God. Who got to decide that? Why can't I use my head, heart and experience to mold my faith? I explained to him what I believe about the Bible and "religion" and he was better. He'll never go to a men's retreat again, which is too bad because I think they can be great experiences. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe there is a hell, maybe I'm going to it. Oh well, I just hope I get to choose my neighbors.

  6. Good points, Sara. Whatever God we end up finding it often starts with dismantling the god we have inherited. To that end, the dismantlers, like Ludemann, can be helpful. That doesn't mean we need to end up with his conclusions.

    I am preaching from a text from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene this weekend (nope you won't find it in your Bible).

    In this text, Jesus says to the disciples:

    "34) Beware that no one lead you astray saying Lo here or lo there! For the Son of Man is within you.

    35) Follow after Him!

    36) Those who seek Him will find Him.

    37) Go then and preach the gospel of the Kingdom.

    38) Do not lay down any rules beyond what I appointed you, and do not give a law like the lawgiver lest you be constrained by it.

    39) When He said this He departed."

  7. John-I look forward to your sermon, as usual.