21. Know the truth, and the truth shall make you free

 

         The struggle against Islamic aggression cannot be won without taking issue with the basic doctrines of Islam, i.e. explaining to the Muslims that they have no reason to stay with the refuted dogmas of Islam.  The same is true for Christianity.  The Sangh Parivar has made much ado about the Christian demand for reservations for "Christian Dalits", and about continuing Christian proselytization in tribal areas.  It is, however, impossible to sustain this objection against the strategies of evangelization as long as Christianity is accepted as a valid religion qualified to enjoy the Hindus' sarva-dharma-samabhava.  Why in the world should Indian citizens not embrace Christianity if it is true, at least "equally true" with Hinduism?  Especially now that Christianity in India has largely "indianized" itself in its cultural expressions (e.g. by giving Hindu first names to their children), the Sangh should not object to conversions to Christianity.  

 

         Being a Christian implies accepting a creed, i.e. an unprovable truth claim.  The Christian denominations differ on some points of detail, but crucial to any criterion for being a Christian is the acceptance of the following item of belief: Jesus was the Christ/Messiah and saved mankind from original sin through his death and resurrection.  To my knowledge, all denominations with active missions in India also teach that Jesus Christ was God's only-begotten son, both human and divine in nature.[1]  However, modern Bible scholarship, much of it carried out by Christians, has conclusively refuted all the Christian fairy-tales about Jesus.[2]  For example:

 

         * Contrary to his own self-image, Jesus was not the messiah in the original sense of the term, i.e. a scion of King David's clan who restores the Davidic kingdom.  He never scored any political or military victory for his country, and by the end of his career, Israel was still under foreign domination.  For all we know, Jesus did not even belong to the House of David; if he did, it is a mystery why the evangelists had to indulge in such demonstrably false and contradictory stories about Jesus' genealogy and birth.

         * Jesus was not executed by the Jews but by the Romans because of his entirely hollow but strictly speaking seditious claim that he was the "messiah", i.e. the new king of the Jews, intrinsically a challenge to Roman rule in his country (but not an act of blasphemy liable to the death sentence under Jewish law, as wrongly alleged in the Gospel).  The Gospel version that the Jews wanted him dead (when in fact they merely held him in contempt as a useless and self-centred eccentric) was invented when the Christians tried to be on the winning side during the Roman crackdown on the Jewish revolt of ca. 70 AD.  This move set the trend of two millennia of Church opportunism and it off-hand initiated Christian antisemitism with its numerous pogroms culminating in the Holocaust.

         * Jesus was not the messiah in the Christian-theological sense, i.e. the redeemer of mankind from original sin and from its punishments (as per Genesis), viz. mortality, the need to work, and painful childbirth.  Anyone can see that people have gone on sinning, giving birth in agony, eating the fruit of their labour in the sweat of their brows, and dying; just like they did before Jesus.

         * Jesus was not resurrected, for if he had really "conquered death", he would still be with us.  The apostles tried to get around this simple logic by inventing his direct ascension to heaven, an imaginary event totally incoherent with the whole narrative, rendered necessary only by the fact that Jesus proved mortal like the rest of us.  Fact is that the stories about the resurrection in the Gospels are full of contradictions and absurdities, like most of the theologically crucial episodes.

         * Jesus was not God's only-begotten son, and for all his megalomania, he never even claimed to be that.  The whole notion is a mix-up of the worst in Hebrew monotheism (exclusivism) and Greek paganism (idolizing of human beings as divine), and is absurd from the viewpoint of both these traditions in their pure forms.  Like the crucifixion, it was "a scandal to Jews, a nonsense to Greeks", and an invention of the Church Fathers.[3]

         * Jesus was not even a prophet, in the sense of being able to predict the future.  Like his follower Paul, he predicted the impending end of the world (even within the lifetime of his listeners),-- surely a failed prophecy. 

         * Jesus' ethics were mostly not his, but included classical Jewish lore ("love thy neighbour") and general proverbs ("to him who hath, shall be given").  Some of "his" words were put into his mouth retrospectively by the evangelists, e.g. "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's", a diplomatic kowtow to the Romans.  The words which he really spoke himself are either not original or not commendable.  Thus, the humane doctrine of the relativity of the Law (i.e. that the need to save a human life can overrule a commandment), always presented as a revolutionary innovation, was taught by the very Pharisees against whom Jesus is reported to have preached this doctrine.  As against the Pharisees' balanced view of the Law, Jesus vacillated between a pseudo-noble but inhuman hyper-adherence to the law ("even a man who mentally lusts after a woman is guilty of adultery") and a nihilistic dismissal of the Law and even of sheer common sense as having become irrelevant in view of the impending Doomsday ("don't plan for the morrow", like the lilies in the field).  Jesus' original contribution lies mostly in the least commendable injunctions, e.g. in his very un-Jewish anti-family and anti-sexuality statements, in the commandment of surrender to the aggressor ("when slapped, turn the other cheek"), and in the morbid Sermon on the Mount ("the meek shall inherit the earth"), which teaches the weak to exult in their weakness instead of exhorting them to become strong.

 

         This was merely a brief survey of the case against Christianity, but Hindutva activists who are serious about countering Christian subversion ought to familiarize themselves more throughly with these findings.  Similarly, the case against Islam as marshalled in a number of quality books is required reading for anyone who prefers India not to become an Islamic state.[4]  Hindus may rightly feel more drawn to critiques of Christianity and Islam from a spiritual viewpoint, as those by Ram Swarup, than to purely rationalistic critiques; yet, I feel that taking cognizance of the latter's very thorough and comprehensive analysis of these religions would certainly be worth the effort.  After properly digesting the hard scholarly facts, they may add something which most scholars may be unaware of, and which Hinduism offers: a comprehensive vision which allows for a meaningful type of ritual and spiritual practice to continue after the creedal religions have been discarded.

 

         If the Sangh is serious about saving Hinduism, it should make sure that from now on, no one can get away with pious nonsense like Jesus' Resurrection or Quranic Revelation.  Every time a wily secularist or sentimental Ramakrishnaist stands up to praise Jesus or Mohammed, every time an Indian President or Minister opens a Christian or Islamic function with the injunction that "we should all put Jesus' (c.q. Mohammed's) message of peace and tolerance into practice", Hindus should push the facts under his nose.

 


 

             [1]  One of the most bizarre disputes in religious history is the fragmentation of the early Church in sects divided by their doctrines concerning the nature of Jesus.  Some "heresies" marginally surviving in the Middle East teach that Jesus was but a non-divine human being, others that he was exclusively divine and not human, but the mainstream (after bloody persecutions of the others) decided that Jesus had two natures, divine and human.

             [2]  For a start, I suggest all the Hindutva workers dealing with Christian missionaries read Michael Arnheim's excellent book Is Christianity True? (Duckworth, London 1984), and of course the Voice of India publications on Christianity.

             [3]  According to the apocryphal Acts of Thomas, the source of the Indian Church's claim that the apostle Thomas came to India and was martyred near Chennai, Thomas was Jesus' twin-brother, which ought to create a problem for the dogma of the "only-begotten son".

             [4]  A truly great book in this class, written by a born Muslim, is Ibn Warraq: Why I Am Not a Muslim (Prometheus, New York 1995).

 

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