Reflections on God 3: The Other Cheek of Christianity

This is part of God Flux but split into smaller sections for an easier read.

The other cheek of Christianity

During my undergraduate course, I joined the choir and sang songs praising Jesus. I attended Mass to sing as part of the choir for the first time within the first few months. I would like to mention here that until this point all I knew about Christianity was that Jesus said love thy neighbour and if someone slaps you on one cheek, offer them the other, don’t offer violence in return. This sounded pretty much in line with compassion, which was good enough for me. So imagine my shock, nay, horror, when between the songs we sang, the priest said, “Jesus is the only God. If you worship any other gods, you will surely PERISH”, and nobody laughed. I felt suddenly surrounded by strange people who took such things so seriously. I, who had until that point, not cared two hoots about Hinduism, longed for some pluralism and tolerance which I had taken for granted until then. After the initial shock passed, I got curious about Christianity and how rational people can take things like immaculate conception literally. After all, we had stories in Hinduism too, about impossible things like multiple headed snakes and strong god-boys who can lift a mountain with his little finger and show the whole universe in his mouth. But I always knew that these stories were metaphorical or symbolic, certainly not real!

I was twenty when I found my good friend from Sydney after eight years of no contact. Since she had taken up philosophy and I was interested, I asked her whether she had developed her own. She had chosen Christianity when she was seventeen. This was the beginning of our Dialogues on religion. (I managed to put up three parts in all and may at some point put up more.) Through these exchanges I learnt a lot about Christianity. I found though, that unless one has faith, one can simply not accept the ‘miracles’. She quoted C.S. Lewis to me. In effect he said that Jesus claimed to be the one and only god, the only path to heaven and salvation. If Jesus wasn’t a madman, the only other option is to take him seriously and abandon the belief of all other gods. This sounded very absolute to me. Why couldn’t Jesus be one more of several rivers that lead to the same sea? Why did he insist on being the only one? I also couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that he died for humanity’s sins and that sacrifice was a gift from god which we had to accept in order to go to heaven. I would say to Jesus, thank you so much for offering, it is very big of you, but I would rather take responsibility for my own actions. You don’t owe me anything and needn’t have been so tortured for me. My friend explained to me that my own sacrifice and efforts to be good would never be enough for god because I am a sinner. God can only accept a pure sacrifice. As someone who always tried to see the best in people, I certainly never saw myself as a sinner. In fact, I’m a good person. Sure, I’m not perfect but then if there was an external god who was omniscient and wise, surely he/she would understand that and adjust his/her expectations accordingly? It sounded to me like the Christian god was playing around. Creating a species in his image, making it impossible for them to be perfect with so many rules, making them flawed by birth and nature, sending his son, who was himself, to be tortured and killed as an act of kindness to his flawed species, and making it so that the only way to gain his favour again was to believe in this sacrifice and praise him constantly. If he wanted to be kind to humanity and forgive us for our sins, surely as an omnipotent being he could do it directly? Why put Jesus through such violence? And why does he need so much praise? Indeed it would seem that the Christians define their god to be pettier than an average good human. Many of these thoughts came up during our conversations but I didn’t find a clear voice for them until I was exposed to radical atheism.

'holy' books  A Sand Country Almanac  A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity  absolute  abuse of children  academic study of Hinduism  agni  ahimsa  ailments  aldo leopold  almighty power  alter boys  anbe sivam  anger  atheism  athma  atrocities  attacks on diversity  auspicious days  back ache  back problem  bad for the world  bahkti poetry  beautiful  beliefs  benevolent  bhakti poets  bhooma devi  bible  biological basis for belief in god  biological origin for belief in god  bliss  blue  body and nimd  books  brain  brutality  buddha  buddhism  bylakuppe  C.S.Lewis  calm  carry mountains with one finger  caustic  chakras  children  chinese  choir  Christianity  clothing  clouds  common mythical structure  communal violence  communities  comparitive mythology  compassion  concept  contradictions  conversation  conversions  Coorg  corruption of god  critical thinking  cultural diversity  Dalai Lama  dangers  deep commitment  deep ecology  deep experience  deep questioning  depression  describe  dialogues  distract  divine  Do you believe in god?  dream  Dreams  drowning  drugs  early vedic  earth  Edinburgh  environmental science  equilibrium  evolution  evolutionarily advantageous  excludes and condemns possibilities other than it's own  existence  exposure  external god literally  faith  faith can be dangerous  fascinating  festivals  fire  five senses  flawed  food  forces of nature  forgive directly  forgiven  forgiveness  fritjof capra  gadgets  gandhi  gandhi philosophy  gandhian philosophy  geological integrity  gift from god  god  god and love  god is everything  god is mean  god is nothing  gods  gratitude  grow up  guidelines  happy  harmony  healing  heaven  hell  highest potentials  Himalayas  hindi lessons  hindu  hindu gods  hindu mythology  holy men  horrendous atrocities of the chinese  human capacity  human values  humans  humility  Illusion and other Realities  illusions  immaculate conception  infinite definitions  inherent biological feature  interconnectedness  interpretation  intrinsically linked with  irrational  irritable  jesus  jesus is a madman  jihad  joseph campbell  judgement  judo-christian  ka  kabir  Kamal  Kamal Hassan  killed  knowledge  Koran  krishna  Krishna lila  Krishnamurthi  krishnamurthi school  lakes  languages  laugh  laws of physics  layers of existence  leaves  letters from edinburgh  life forms  Light  Lord Krishna  love nature  love thy neighbour  loved by god  M.K. Gandhi  Mahabharatha  Mahatma Gandhi  material growth  materialistic  maya  maya jaal  meditating  meditation  meera bai  mental discipline  mercy  merge  metaphorical  mind and body  mindless sheep  mira bai  miracles  missionaries  moderate and tolerant views  moksha  mosques  mukthi  mukti  multiple headed snakes  myths to live by  nature  nature is sacred  Neuroscience  nirgun  nirvana  not follow spiritual teachers  nurturing  occident  oneness  only one  open  optimal use  organised religion  original  own path  papers  paradise  paramathma  peace  peaceful  perish  personal crisis  pettier  petty  Phantoms in the Brain  philosophies  philosophy  philosophy of yoga  plants  pluralism  poetry  political power play  poojas  power of love  power play  praise  praising jesus  protect nature  pure  question  radical atheism  radical atheist  ramayana  rational  read  reality  reason  reduce chronic pain  reflections  reiki  religion dangerous to humanity  rescue animals  respect  responsibility  reverent  rich mythology  richard bach  richard dawkins  ritualism  rituals  rivers  roberto calasso  running from safety  sacred  sacred rivers  sacrifice  sagun  sam harris  samsara  Santa Clause  sarcastic  sargun  schizophrenia  Schizophrenia: The Inward Journey  science  sections  sending his son  sensitive  seventy two virgins  shiva  sinner  sins  sky  sneh shapat  solipsism  spiritual  spiritual experiences  spiritual growth  spiritual path  spiritual progress  spirituality  spoon fed  stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise  streams  strokes  strong religious identities  suffering  suicide bombings  Sun  swayed  sydney  symbolic  symbolism  tao of physics  temper  temples  temporal lobe lesions  think  Tibetan settlement  tibetans  tiny ants  tolerance  torture  touched  trauma  trees  turn the other cheek  undefinable  utilitarian value  V.S. Ramachandran  varuna  vayu  videos  violence  water  welfare of the environment  wendy doniger  western philosophy  whole universe in his mouth  wild animals  wind  women  worship  worship nature  yoga  Yoga class 

See also