A Light is Born: Jesus, Jeremiah & Sam

1 04 2008

By Derek Beres

I find it interesting that between two polarities being expressed regarding the role of religion in mainstream politics — the recent over-saturation of Barack Obama’s affiliations/non-affiliations with Jeremiah Wright, and the elucidating essay by Sam Harris on this site — there has not been any discussion of religious symbols and what they represent. This is not to fault any party aforementioned. Obama/Wright stick to a very broad and easily digestable understanding of faith, in which God is a man or spirit of some sort, and plays with humans like humans play with pets. Harris’s work has always been about the dangers of faith, especially blind faith, where we give credence to an abstract idea without investigating the actual effects those beliefs create in the world.

Yet religion has always been about symbolism, and it is in the personification of ideas that we “miss the mark,” which is an original meaning of the word “sin.” That is, taking universal ideas and limiting them to one or a few particular historical individuals, instead of comprehending and integrating the symbols into our life in the here and now. Hence, Jesus did this or that, and the best we can do today is mimic that idea; we will never touch the perfection by which he did it anyway. It’s no wonder that people involved in this sort of religion feel both 1) disempowered by the world and their place in it, and 2) immediately hateful toward anyone that questions their beliefs.

There’s little surprise that in such a reading of popular Christianity that the entire spectacle takes place in the underworld–the birth of Jesus, which roughly corresponds (and more traditionally, exactly corresponds) to the winter solstice, and his death and resurrection, which falls near the spring equinox. The soul of the Christian is literally in darkness: winter. This is a very old motif, used some time before the Jesus figure in the story of Osiris, as well as the underworld quest of Gilgamesh. A similar idea was employed in Persephone and Hades. All these examples deal with the barren soil and the “resurrection” of agriculture in spring. It is the sun’s descent and rebirthing, which in turn gives us nourishment through grain and greens, when soil is once again virginal, ready to bring forth fruit.

Read the full article on the Huffington Post here




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