Bo Bennett – Christian Nontheism

May 02, 2011

Robert “Bo” Bennett wears many hats (author, motivational speaker, black belt Karate master, businessman, etc.) but manages not to have a swelled head to accommodate them!

His latest book is called The Concept: Introduction to Christian Nontheism, an accessible and engaging presentation of the case for maintaining one’s Christian identity once one has outgrown belief in biblical inspiration, miracles, even God. True, if anyone else in your church found out, they might kick you out, but you wouldn’t have a guilty conscience! How to manage this? Is it a mere mind-game? Why bother? What makes Christianity still attractive once the beliefs are gone? This is one interview certain to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable!

Links Mentioned in this Episode

This is point of inquiry for Monday, May 2nd, 2011. Welcome to Point of Inquiry. I’m Robert Price. Point of Inquiry is the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values and public affairs. And at the grass roots, Robert Beau Bennett is a businessman, author, programmer, philosopher, martial artist, motivational speaker and amateur comedian. He graduated Bryant College with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. But by age 10, Bo had already started devouring personal development tapes and books. Twenty years later, he’s considered one of the leading experts on success. He started several companies and sold them for anywhere from one dollar to 20 million dollars. His first book was Year to Success, which Donald Trump called an inspiration to every person who reads it. At age 13, Bo started studying the martial arts. Five years later, he earned his first degree black belt in Hsiao Lin Kempo Karate. He followed that with a second degree black belt and tie cuando. Today, he remains active president of Archie Boy Holdings LLC. Most recently, he authored a book called The Concept Introduction to Christian Non Theism. Welcome to Point of Inquiry, Beau Bennett. Hello. Good to be here. 

You caused a stir among my Bible geek listeners and I’m sure you will hear for point of inquiry. I got such an interesting bunch of things to say. And so I think I’d start right off with the question everybody wants to know. Can you tell us how to succeed in a fantastic way that Donald Trump would praise, as he did years and we can all become rich. 

So I’m just seconds from that in the half hour show. No, but maybe in another podcast make it a good start. Why? 

Because I was I was thinking you’re going to say, well, the answer is to become a Christian non theist, and then the bucks will start, you know, avalanching in it. 

No, not even close. In fact, in my book A Year to Success, one of the Q&A is that I have in the front is does it take faith to succeed? And I said, no, it doesn’t. Whether you have faith or you don’t have faith, it’s irrelevant just to head off the issue right there and then. 

That brings up a real interest. Some of interest to me, I hope, will be to others. You know, there’s all this stuff like if you believe you can do what you can and it doesn’t have anything to do with explicit religion of any kind. But I guess the a lot of the motivational speakers and a lot of the new thought people I know the whole thing is it’s the magic of belief that you got, you know, manifesting business. What do you think of that? I’m curious because you’re. You also are a motivational list, but you’re also I know from reading your stuff, very hard headed and rational. What do you think of that approach? 

Well, I think there’s a huge difference between magic, faith and positive thinking. I certainly believe that positive thinking has a lot to do with success in life, not only financial success, but pretty much anything you do. 

It’s really based on what you focus on, what you focus your attention on, what you think about all the time. And I you know, I don’t really believe in the whole, like, law of attraction. 

I don’t think by thinking about something, you actually attract that something to you. But by thinking about that, you’re actually attracted to that something. So there’s a difference. There’s no cosmic force that’s bringing things to you. It’s more of something that’s going on internally where you are attracted to something else. So if you could see the difference, there’s certainly no magic. They’re completely naturalistic and no hocus pocus. But but it works. And I certainly am a true believer of positive thinking. 

Mm hmm. You know, I have to say, I’ve tried to take a similar approach at top secret where I’m willing to accept a lot of the anecdotes people have about how well they’ve succeeded. But I just cannot accept the weird pseudo science since metaphysics involved. 

And I think that if you can get rid of that and approach it in a realistic way, you’re doing people a double favor. And it sounds like that is what you’re doing. 

Certainly. I mean, there’s a lot of people that have succeeded and tried to tell you. I’ll tell you how to succeed. I’ve done it. I’ll tell you exactly what it takes. And they try to pin their personal philosophy that has nothing to do with success on their success. So they’re trying to relate to things that are completely unrelated. And I think just in with obviously, as you know, by with with religion and rationality, you have to separate those. And you have to see that one thing is not related to another. And I think that’s where I’m trying to go with with both my books, actually. 

How is the is the popularity of what’s the relative popularity of these two books and what other books you got in mind to do? I guess it’s two questions. 

My first book, A Year to Success, I wrote back in 2001 and you know, things that you mentioned before, Donald Trump was kind enough to give me a great endorsement on that book. And that’s certainly help lend credibility to the book itself and the information within the book. It’s been a good seller ever since the my my new book, the concept. That’s that’s pretty much brand new. And thanks to your podcasts, it’s doing pretty well. 

The whole Christian monotheism thing is of great interest to me. Oh, how would you describe what it is? I have Thomas all ties to on here many, many weeks, months ago and he talks about Christian atheist. But you don’t mean the same thing at all, though I find both interesting. Would you explain to us what you mean by Christian non theism since that is the point of the book, the concept? 

Sure. Yeah. Yeah, I know that people throw terms out there. I mean, there she’s just look it up on Google and look up atheist, non-fixed, strong atheist, weak atheist theists. I mean, the titles in terms just go on forever. So when we’re doing some research and trying to find out what really is my philosophy or what what am I trying to get across the term Christian on theism really seems like. The most appropriate term, because basically, in short, what it is, it’s a philosophy where you could actually accept or maintain, if you’re already a Christian, many of the cultural aspects of Christianity while rejecting the supernatural. And you say, well, wait a minute, doesn’t God kind of include supernatural? Well, yeah, it does. Are you okay with rejecting God? Well, hopefully after reading my book, then I hate putting it that way to rejecting God. It seems very targeted and very mean spirited. But basically what you’re doing is you’re rejecting many of the labels, the traditional beliefs that go along with God. I think that’s a little bit more an appropriate way to put it. So in essence, basically, you could be a Christian and you could have a lot of the Christian values, a lot of the traditions. You could even go to church if you want. Heck, I don’t care. And you could even you could even pray. But but it’s more like you just you just don’t accept all that supernatural that goes along with it. And when I say pray, I’m more talking about a lot of the meditative type of prayer thinking, just basically talking to somebody, talking to yourself, if you want to put it that way. Not not petition every prayer where you’re actually asking for something and expecting something in return. 

A lot of the old desists and liberal theologians, even on up into telex work, will say that that there is a point in this this transcendence of the ego that prayer involves. But if you presume to talk to an almighty being and chiseled stuff out of them, it’s it’s not wholly superstitious. 

It’s blasphemous. And I have to I you know, this gets into the whole crazy thing, don’t you think of there’s a God. He already knows what you need. Is he. Is he like Ronald McDonald House? Where. Well, we will give to charity, but we’re only going to match what you do. I mean, what sort of game playing is ad buy? Do you if you don’t mind me asking, do you still go to church at all? 

No, I don’t. Only holy like on weddings, funerals, exorcisms, those type of things. But normally I stay out of stay at a church. In fact, I just tried to go to church probably like a year ago when I started this whole process. I’m like, all right. With an open mind. Let me let me see if I could see things differently. Knowing a little bit more than what I do now, I can I guess my most interesting experience was going to the Universalist Church, the Unitarians, because I thought it was a good idea. It’s like they’re not preaching any specific belief, but you just go there and like, okay, well, what do you go there for? So I went there. There’s like nothing on the wall. Everything that I actually like about Christianity, like the beautiful churches with the statues and the stained glass windows and and even the Bible. You know, the interesting stories in the Bible, there is none of that. It was like it’s like eating sugar free candy. It’s like, what’s the point? So kind of just left and had a bad taste in my mouth and haven’t been back since. 

Yeah. That’s a strange thing to me, that they almost have a religion about being non-religious. Paul Beedi, who was once the head of the You You Way, said that secular humanism was his religion and that that really ties folks up in knots. What on earth are you talking about? Do you think there’s. And what do you said in religion that you think survives the death of theism? Do you think it’s esthetic mainly or just the the ethical exhortation or what would you call the the helpful dimension that remains, if any, does in religion? 

Right. I do think there is an aspect to to it that. Won’t go away anytime soon and probably shouldn’t go away anytime soon. It was interesting thinking about, all right. We have science. Do we need religion? And then you think, well, it’s not just science or religion. I mean, that’s kind of a false dichotomy. It’s either science or religion moment. There’s more than that, this philosophy. Don’t forget about philosophy. 

You bring philosophy into the mix. And now you have a whole new way of looking at the world, understanding the world. So then. Well, if you have philosophy and science, where where does religion fall in? And I still think it does play a part because this is another one of those words that you try to look up religion and you get definitions that are all over the board and I mean thousands of different things. And you’re like, all right. Well, at this point, you’ve got to ask, what does religion mean to you? And to me, it’s sort of like philosophy, but a little bit more feeling than thought. If that makes sense, I think it can be best described when people say they have religious experiences, you know, they don’t have to be religious or Christian or anything or believe in God to have like an absolute religious experience, to have that feeling like, for example, just being outside, looking at the stars one night and you just you just get that sense that overcomes you like, oh, my goodness, there’s there’s so much out here. And you get a sense of who you are in relation to the world and the people around you. And that’s not something that that you can really explore with science. And sometimes it’s like and something you can explore with philosophy. It’s more of a feeling. And to me, that’s kind of what religion is. 

Yeah, you sounded a lot like slier mocker there after can’t he realized the jig was up in claiming to have knowledge about things one has no real access to by the senses or reason. And so that forced him and other liberal religion is back on the question. 

Well, if it isn’t knowing important stuff like heaven and hell, how to go to one and avoid the other, God is a trinity at Cinderella. If we don’t have privileged knowledge, what the heck is it? And Condit said, well, it’s it’s morality. It’s that simple. If it helps to be moral, good enough. And Schleyer mockers that that can’t be right, that you just don’t need religion for that. Really. And he said yet just like you did, there’s somethin else there in the case in the nature of a feeling. And he called it the feeling of absolute dependance, the sense and taste for the infinite. And he was one of the romantics. And I’ve always thought he he almost did, though he he doesn’t want to go over the line. He kind of does go over the line to say this is esthetic and the emotive and there’s nothing wrong with that if you’re not cheating to try to throw in truth claims like, of course, almost all religious people do. 

It feels great. So it must be true. Wait just a second. 

Exactly what reactions have you had to to to the concept? 

Well, mostly it’s maybe disgust from a lot of the Christian audience. 

I think I kind of piss everybody off the the atheists who who kind of condemn me for my for holding on to Christianity or even supporting it in a small way. And then the Christians who condemn me for for my nonspecific beliefs and not believing the supernatural. So I think I’m kind of in a weird spot where where nobody really likes me. But if once they give me a chance to kind of explain my philosophy a little bit there, they I think I could win people over. 

Well, I’m sure Christians ask you, how dare you use the name Christian if you don’t believe in God? What do you say then? Name on that. 

All right. Well, Christian, I think that the name has been associated with believe in God. But if you go back, like, way back to the beginning, mean, you know, Christian, the name Krista Crew comes from Christ the Anointed One. And what does that mean, pouring oil on somebody? Right. I mean, how many anointed people were there in the Old Testament? There were. There were there were some hope Christ wasn’t the only anointed one. 

So anointed to pour oil on somebody. And then you have Christian to follow to follow this Christ. So what does it actually mean to follow somebody? And I think that’s where I think that’s where we have a little bit of a leeway, because when you follow somebody, you can follow somebody for different reasons to adhere to the practices of. A good example was Martin Luther King Jr. He proclaimed that he was a follower of Gandhi. It doesn’t mean that he was actually following the guy around. 

We know that. So we don’t know. Doesn’t mean to follow Jesus around, but it means just to. Yeah, he appreciated some of the things that Gandhi did and Gandhi said and wanted to emulate that. And to me, that’s what it means to follow somebody. I certainly don’t agree with everything that Jesus character said. I certainly wouldn’t do the same things that. It did. But it doesn’t matter to me, it doesn’t. That really doesn’t matter. It’s just you pick things that you like about an individual and you could emulate that. And I think that’s that’s something that I kind of had in my success philosophy as well. 

For example, at Ford, you know, Henry Ford, he was a brilliant businessman who revolutionized the automotive industry with with a different processes. He put in place. But the guy was also a Nazi, you know. 

Do you just hate the guy and say, OK, nothing that guy did was right? No. I mean, you look for what the guy did. Right. And you could follow that. You could appreciate that. And you just leave out the rest. 

Yeah. Yeah. What are you supposed to be a God at the judgment pronouncing sentence on somebody? This is. No, you know who told us to do that? You just have to learn from what you can. That bugs me when people are denounced. Heidegger. Yeah. And fortunately, at some point he was a Nazi. I don’t see how that affects his philosophy, though, so I’m not going to ignore it. All right. What do atheists say? Why don’t you just go the whole way and call yourself an atheist? Why this non theist thing? Isn’t that just gussying it up a bit? 

Well, ahead, I would say I think no, I think names have a lot to do with perception. 

If you think about what is an atheist mean, ask a Christian, what does an atheist to you? And immediately you get these very negative feelings that come up. And these words that are associated with this title. And I mean, this is one of the things I know for a fact by dealing with and debating so many different Christians. If you say you’re an atheist, they automatically assume that you insist that there is no God. And I guess they’re they’re moving toward more toward the strong atheist where you say, no, there’s there’s it’s impossible that there’s any sort of God whatsoever. So they kind of it automatically assumed that that you have that you hold that belief just just basically they don’t know. Well, again, these titles that people give you, they they can mean so much to different people and different things. So you really have to kind of nail it down by really describing your beliefs. So I really chose nonces of instead of atheists because it’s still not believing in God or the Fiesta God, the God, the Christian God or the Bible or any kind of duty for that matter. But yet it doesn’t seem to carry all the baggage that atheists that the term atheist does. And some atheists will say, well, you know, are we going to stand up for a term? And we got to we got to make it mean something different. Well, you know, good luck with that. But I don’t think you’re going to do a heck of a job convincing two billion Christians that already have many preconceived notions of what that term means and that you’re immoral and that you’re evil or anything else, that that no matter how crazy it may be, the fact is that those kind of terms are associated with ageism. 

So I say, you know what? Let’s just change the term or a little bit and not take all that baggage. 

Plus, there’s this tradition in a number of world religions of not being a theist because you have some alternate view of God or of what the God notion does. Like in Theravada Buddhism, they don’t really have a God, though. They don’t care if you believe in the traditional Hindu gods. They’re almost just on the level of folklore beings. But they they speak instead of nirvana, which is no person and in a way, no nobody that’s going to answer prayers. But it has the same sort of function in the system. So that’s non theism. But no one would say it wasn’t a religion. I mean, there are various kinds of pantheism and yoga and so forth which don’t involve a God or as you say, in the title of a book. It’s just a concept like the Chark Rós that people some people believe they’re actually these neur spiritual nerve centers were the original yogis, apparently didn’t. It was just sort of like a biofeedback thing, a way of getting a handle on experience and so. Well, what is God? Well, what do you mean by saying the concept that the God is a helpful or unhelpful concept, even if God is not a living being? 

Well, whether you wanted to find it helpful or not helpful, it doesn’t really matter. I think the point of the title and the point of the book that that God is a concept more than anything else, because I don’t believe he is a being. 

And then once again, we get into these crazy definitions and the. Well, what is it being. Exactly? Well, it could be a spiritual being, but a spiritual. What does that mean? You know, and you keep on going to this until you finally get down. Well, you know, it doesn’t exist in space and time and but we feel we can feel him so well. What do you what are you feeling? Well, I feel love. So you’re talking about love. So basically, to me, when you really look at at the God and dissect it and what people call God, it comes down to what what I believe it is. And that’s a concept, a concept that exists in the minds of believers and even nonbelievers. So if somebody says, well, do you believe in God? Well, I believe in the concept of God. Do I believe that he’s a old guy with a gray beard that rides on clouds? No. Do I believe that that he is Jesus Christ who who came and walked the earth? No. Do I believe that he is he’s some kind of of being. No. So you can keep on giving God all these qualities. And I think it was. Oh, what’s that? The Indian guy who. Chopra. Deepak Chopra. Right. He defined God. Or you said that one of his famous quotes was, you can’t you cannot define God. The moment you’re trying to define God, then the whole concept of God or everything is lost basically once you start defining him in any way. And ironically, of course, in the in his definition, in the same sentence, he says God is friends present transcendental. He keeps on saying what God is and what is God is not. I’m like, well, you just said he can’t define God. It all comes down to it, in my point of view, that if God does exist, he exists. But as a concept. 

Interesting. A friend of mine once said one cannot. Everybody from a fundamentalist to an agnostic to an atheist believes in is God is within the heart. Even if you’re saying there isn’t any God out there. There’s joy foir Boxx there. There are these godlike traits in the human heart. 

And I never thought of it that way. But I thought in a strange sense, it’s right. And that’s kind of what kind of boils down to saying there is a God concept that that plays out in many different ways, whether or not there is a God. These definitions I was just reading a new book by Vincent Bugliosi where he argues that. He says he’s sick of a theist, atheist debates and wants to present the case for agnosticism. But then he promptly defines agnosticism as as the belief that you can never know whether there’s a God or not. Which isn’t quite the way it has been taken to mean since Huxley. It’s just that. Look, I don’t know whether there’s a God or not, and I don’t see how you could find out. But who knows? Maybe somebody will come up with it. I’m not going to start dog Moatize thing. About what? I can’t. No, that’s never safe. But then he says, well, what’s an atheist? Is an atheist has this faith state by this faith position, I believe there’s no God. Hallelujah. I don’t know any atheists that that that that’s sort of a crazy view. It’s more like they they say, look, I suppose there could be a God. I mean, there might be little green men living in the moon, though I don’t think this is just any recent take its sway. And to me, that’s Athie ism. 

And. And I that well, that’s the standpoint I would take. But I do enjoy and respect religion. But it to me, it’s just died. The death of so many blah as logical problems like what you say, you know, they say, oh God, like this is great thing that Anthony flew sent and God and philosophy says Catholic theologians will it will tell you that God is beyond human conceptuality and that totally transcends reason. And we can speak of him only by analogy. But one thing we’re pretty sure of. He’s against birth control. And I thought, boy, isn’t that just the other day since was right before Holy Week, the one of the the Catholic spin doctors on the Fox TV network was saying, well, we’ve got this drive for to get people to come out to confession and to get right with God because God is reaching out. Oh, wait a minute. 

Me I. Isn’t that a typo? Shouldn’t your script say the church is reaching out and you realize, well, by God, they just mean our institution. It’s like Ronald McDonald is the face of the hamburger joint. And God is simply like the the imaginary mass God of this huge institution. And once you get beneath that and say, OK, let’s get down to business, is God infinite? If so, can we describe to the whole Trinity? All these things said just falls apart. Plates you, you, but the laser pointer and then they think you point out more in the concept God is the universe. So answer to everything. Because he doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s just a wild card. It explains everything by explaining nothing. Now you want the answer to. I got it right here. It’s Z. Oh, well, thanks. That’s what I find refreshing about your book. It says a lot of profound things in very plain speech that makes you think about them in a new light. 

Well, I don’t have any other choice. I don’t. I’m not a doctor. I don’t have many degrees. 

So I put it right in an elegant way if I wanted to. So I have to write it plain and clear. 

Well, I’d say if it’s clear, that’s eloquent, that that’s the kind we even think about the thing they always say, well, God is God can offer perfect forgiveness. 

He’s all forgiving. But of course, he’s perfect in justice. 

So he’s got to take it out of somebody’s side. Does that make any sense? 

No, not at all. But, you know, then again, doesn’t the whole concept of God really does make a lot of sense. It’s one of those, as you were kind of getting at. 

You were dealing with a wild card here. We’re dealing with something that you say, well, you know, God is above logic. You know, God doesn’t have to be logical that God could be the father and son at the same time, God could be 100 percent man and under percent God. You cannot use logic in order to define God. So once you take logic out of the equation, mathematics reason, once you take all of that out, what are you left with? You’re left with something that makes no sense whatsoever. So if you say, well, no, I know God is 100 percent forgiveness, he’s all about forgiveness. OK. So if I’m a nonbeliever and I do not accept Jesus Christ as my savior and I die, is God going to forgive me or is he going to get justice on me and send me where I belong? And that’s the fiery pits of hell. Well, there’s the same thing that if you look throughout the Bible, I mean, there’s there’s all those those questions like, well, wait. Are we talking about a just God, a God who who demand the justice like the warrior God of the Old Testament, or are we talking about a God that’s all about forgiveness and will forgive us our sins like the Jesus God? Well, you have both. I mean, no, one of the reasons why the Bible works so well as you just pick a stance and you can get the Bible and just pick out some versus that could support it. I mean, it is like the universal wild card itself. You got God as well, card. You got the Bible. So it’s it’s one of those things, too, that if you try to pin down somebody like a Christian and ask him about this, they’ll eventually get to the point of it. They’ll keep on going back and forth, trying to justify it. Then when they realize they can’t, you get down to the the old safe. Well, you know what? We don’t. God is a mystery. You know, there’s some things about God that we just don’t understand. And as you said before, well, maybe there’s going to be a class in heaven that we’re all this stuff is answered. What they. 

Yeah. But it’s going to be a mighty long one with a lot of remedial stuff in the beginning, I think to. 

But just defining Anasta V, if I found it like I did, take the time to get these degrees and I’m glad I did. But I have to admit, it kind of showed me the door. The more you get into the doctrines about God and so on, the more you realize, wait a second, like what you just said is said all the time. 

And then the same people will turn right around and say, you know, if the biblical God doesn’t go to presupposition, let’s say this is the biblical God doesn’t exist. There’s no basis for logic. So if you want to believe in logic, you got become a born again Christian. Well, you’re just showing that logic means nothing if it’s decided by the whim of some creator. And at least they’re consistent about that because it doesn’t ultimately make sense. And all of these heresy condemnations, what they were doing was to condemn people that tried to make it clear. Well, let’s see. I don’t quite see how you could be one God and three at the same time. So maybe it’s one God who acts three different ways. Sorry. Disqualified. 

And they say, no, it’s a mystery. You can never distill it down into something. You can explain. But I. For you, if you can’t explain it, there’s nothing to believe and it’s just just astonishing. Ultimately, it winds up with if you’re unlucky enough to be in Kawana s instead of the optimist club, you go into how and what is. I just the older I get and the more versed in this stuff, I just find it amazing that I believed it for as long as I did. It’s right. 

Well, it’s like you don’t want people to pull a fast one on you and over you, and then that’s sometimes what it feels like it when somebody is trying to explain Christian theology to you. They do it with such conviction. And yet, of course, he is someone will explain to one way and then you go to another. Christian will explain it completely opposite way, with the same level of conviction and assurance that what they’re looking like. I’m not talking about a theory here. What I’m telling you is truth with Capital T.. And you’re saying, well, wait a minute, this guy over here, your buddy is a Christian from another church, told me a different truth with a capital T.. So how do you reconcile this? And you also mentioned about. You know, the whole idea of some of these things that the concepts of God and theology, where it just doesn’t make sense. And then you have it where you can resort to the wild card and say, well, you know, it doesn’t have to make sense. It’s a mystery. 

But then you cannot take this mysterious world where logic and reason doesn’t work and mix it, commingle it with this logical world where things do make sense. And so you can’t look at the real world and let’s say take, for example, the resurrection of Jesus to say, OK, here’s a man who died, came alive after three days, turned water into wine and made all these fish appear in bread like. All right. Well, now you’re taking this mysterious world that doesn’t make sense. And you’re you’re mixing it with this physical world where we know the laws of this world. We know the rules. So and that’s where I get. I guess that’s where I have a real problem with. If you want to take your theology and if you want to say, well, it doesn’t make sense, it’s not logical, but it doesn’t have to because it’s in a completely different realm than, you know, fine. I’m okay with that. If that realm exists after we die, maybe after we die, we’ll find out about it and we’ll live in that realm then and we’ll live by those rules. But for now, we’re living in a world with these rules where these rules apply, where we could test the laws of logic, the laws of science, and and when people, I guess, try to mix these two worlds. That’s what upsets me. And that’s where I get a little bit agitated because it’s like, no, that that didn’t happen. If it did, well, prove it. We’ll prove with a test to show me. And they just can’t. And they say, well, you know, it’s unrepeatable event. 

Well, you know, we are those stories before. 

Well, that’s a great circular argument there that she of the resurrection happened, but it is an unrepeatable event. So you’re right, it’s it can’t be proven, but that’s no strike against it, because if you could prove it, it would mean it was some scientifically explicable thing. And that’s not a miracle. Like just bring somebody back on the operating table. So you see it’s no strike against it. That’s it’s a miracle. You just can’t verify it. Yeah, well, okay, I see that. But then why believe that it happened. 

Oh well, because they say that in my church and the people, they’re real nice and that’s why go. So that’s how I know that this guy died and rose from the dead. That’s how I know there’s three persons in the Trinity because I sure like this church. And that’s what we say in the Creed. Yeah, that’s some epistemology. Boy, I used to have students in college where I would ask them, you know, why do you believe what you believe? You may be right. But why is it you believe it? Well, because so and so taught me. And it would be disloyal to my parents or grandparents to question what they said too much. But we really got our work cut out for us. 

Well, we have a lot of friends that are that are Christians and they go to church. And when and when you talk to them and you get it, you know, you break the whole social faux pas and you say, well, let’s talk about religion for a moment, cause, of course, you’re not supposed to talk about that. And and they tell you, well, you know what? You know, I really don’t believe in all this stuff, the supernatural. But you know what? It feels good to go to church and. And it’s a good thing to do for the kids. And I like the morals they teach and the values and and, you know, one and one. And I see that and I and I say, you know, wait, what are you doing? You know, you you can’t do that. You can’t just take part of it. And then on the other hand, it’s like, all right. Well, I see why you’re accepting Christianity and I see why people feel like it’s a whole package deal and they don’t want to feel like they’re lying to themselves or the cheating themselves. So they say, OK, you know, I really do like the morals. I do like the people who the other Christians, my my friends who are Christians. I like the church. I like everything about it. So I’m going to adopt this whole set of beliefs so I could be in with this group. And I think that’s kind of what I’m trying to do with with the concept to say, look, you know, great is stick with those friends. And you could you could still hang out with them and you could still share the majority of what they believe. But you know what? You could look at it a different way without having to be like a heretic. And you don’t have to feel guilty about it. You know, there’s no guilt involved. And I can’t stand that that thought that if if you don’t believe in God, then you go home. I couldn’t assure the devil. I went to my sister’s house for Christmas and I gave her a copy of my book and my sister, her husband’s Catholic, and a lot of her friends are Catholic. My sisters got to get cut open minded, but she’s kind of she just goes to the Catholic routine as well. And just as I was leaving, she was with a whole bunch of her friends there. And I’m like by, you know, take care. And she goes, Oh, this is my brother’s book. He doesn’t believe in God. And I swear, everybody shut up and stared at me with their mouths open like a demon was about to come out of my years or something. And I just felt so uncomfortable. Is that that’s that a stigma that society has on that? You know, if you don’t believe in all these doctrines and everything that goes with it is wrong. If you got to feel worthless, you’re not right. And what I’m trying to say is, look, you know, what do you believe in God actually mean anyway? So once you get down to it, I think that a lot of us actually do share the same beliefs, but many of us don’t want to say them out loud or we haven’t thought about them enough to be able to actually vocalize them. And hopefully that’s what I accomplished in the book. 

Yeah, it’s really fascinating. And I think this kind of thing boils on my Web site. 

I mention I go to the Episcopal Church and keep my mouth shut. Me, any trouble if they know what I think, and I think a lot of them do, but I just don’t feel any need to make trouble with them. I like them and I like the esthetics of the service and so on. Why not just dwell on what I do like? And that makes me kind of like the ancient Gnostics and UTU, I would say, where are you? There’s a reason to be there. You like to be there. You don’t disdain the people, but you do feel like you know better. But that doesn’t alienate you from it unless they think it does and they alienate you. So why make a point of it? But then older sisters come along, I guess. Are you familiar with Don Cupitt in his book Slike Taking Leave of God because he advocates a kind of Christian non realism, he calls it. 

No, no, I never heard of him. 

Yeah, he he’s heavily philosophical but very clear and bright and humorous. I think you’d enjoy him because I think the non theism has a lot in common with with his non realism realisms old group called the Sea of Faith that takes off from his books, which is the whole thing is very different than the. Heavily metaphysical. At least, I think Christian atheist, some of Altay, sir. But I just find it both interesting. There’s a British philosopher of religion who back in the 60s was Braithwaite. I forget his initials, but he he argued that it would be enough to to claim to be entitled to be called a Christian, that you agreed with the general moral stance and tried, delivered and found yourself instructed and nourished and and challenged by the insights of the New Testament, Clowe with Dean, especially the stories of the Bible, and says some people that might seem like bare bones Unitarianism. But I think the guy has a point. It’s not really telling you what to believe exactly. It’s just you sort of catch a certain vision that has come to you by reading a certain literature. And you could. I have a friend who’s a Buddhist, but he doesn’t believe in reincarnation or anything. He just you’re reading Buddhist texts, says that’s the way I’d like to live and sounds. Sounds pretty good to me, though. You know, I don’t think non-religious atheists are missing the boat or anything, but it’s just different strokes for different folks, I guess. Well, speak. I got to ask this, because this always comes up with me as I’m a monomaniac. I guess I’m right about the Christ myth theory a lot. What do you think of that? Do you think there was a historical Jesus? Can we know? Does it matter? 

Well, I actually have to defer to experts like you who, if there is any indication of historical Jesus, it would have to be in in the texts that talk about him. And as you know better than anybody. The opinions vary on that, depending on which scholar you go to and if they’re bringing any presuppositions or beliefs into the matter as well. Personally, for me, it was. How do you define a person? Like we say, okay, where did Jesus exist? Well, if they really wasn’t Jesus, it was. Yes, sure. OK, well, he was born on December 25th, right? We’re not really like. OK. So he wasn’t born on this day. His name wasn’t Jesus. What else? I mean. Well, he obviously was a white guy with with long brown hair and a beard and bright blue eyes. Right. Well, you know, not really. He was probably a darker skinned guy. And who knows, he could’ve had a Mohawk. So once you start, it’s like, wait, what do we know? What is Jesus exactly? You know, who was this historical guy? I mean, personally, I think it’s probably the whole story is probably based on a character. You know, that’s certainly a possibility. Or it could obviously believe, too. It could obviously be true that if Jesus was a God before, he was actually a real man and it was the opposite. 

And, you know. 

But personally, for me, it doesn’t matter. It’s for me and Christianity. And following the beliefs is really about the Jesus character and what the Jesus character stands for. And if you if you you know, you ask people, you know, look at the bumper stickers. 

What would Jesus do? Well, he’d he’d come into a crowded area and flip over tables. Well, he would do a lot of things. But Jesus, that’s the Jesus character, you know. So to me, what’s more important is not the question, did Jesus really exist? Because I don’t believe in all that theology that goes along with it and the supernatural. To me, it’s just how Jesus was defined in the book and in the text that we have. So that’s, you know, that’s what it really boils down to. And I don’t think no, I don’t think we could we could ever know unless we had some crazy chance. We find the bones of Jesus and somehow are able to prove it. But I would hold my breath. 

The parallels with, like Merlin and King Arthur, I think are apt. There’s a decent chance there was some British Romanow British war chief that might have given rise to the King Arthur story. But would that be King Arthur or Merlin? There was there some men, Strohl or something referred to as Meriden? And some people say, well, that’s the historical Merlin. 

Well, is that really Merlin that you read about in these epics and so on? 

There might be some tenuous connection, but to say that is he we we’ve found the historical Merlin. I don’t even know what it’s saying anymore. So the only thing we’ve actually got is the stories. And that is like the, um, verifiability of it in the nature of the case is sort of a it’s part of a structure, I think. 

There is, I would say, of the whole Jesus Christ thing or Buddha or whatever, it sort of matters as to the meaning of it, that it cannot be verified and might not be historical at all. So people are just spinning their wheels. And I find it more and more tiring to deal with them. But maybe you can take my place in all these debates. Hand the baton off. Well, I really find this fascinating, and I really appreciate your being on a point of inquiry both. I hope you’ll come back sometime soon. 

I would love to. Thank you so much for having me. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to get involved with an online discussion about today’s show. Join the online discussion forum at point of inquiry dot org. Views expressed on point of inquiry aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor its affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on today’s show can be sent to feedback at point of inquiry dot org. 

Point of inquiry is produced by Adam Isaac in Amherst, New York. And our music is composed for us by Emmy Award winner Michael Pavlin. Today Show also featured contributions from Debbie Goddard. I’m your host, Robert Price. 

Robert M. Price

Born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1954, Robert Price moved to New Jersey in 1965. At Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary he took an MTS degree in New Testament (1978), then, at Drew University, a PhD in Systematic Theology (1981) and a second PhD in New Testament (1993). He has served as Professor of Religion at Mount Olive College, North Carolina, pastor of First Baptist Church, Montclair, NJ, and Director of the Metro NY Center for Inquiry. He founded and edited the Journal of Higher Criticism and has authored scores of articles on the Bible and religion. His books include Beyond Born AgainThe Widow Traditions in Luke-ActsDeconstructing JesusThe Incredible Shrinking Son of ManThe Da Vinci FraudThe Reason-Driven LifeThe Pre-Nicene New TestamentJesus Is Dead, and The Paperback Apocalypse. Price is a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar. He served as Professor of Theology and Scriptural Studies at Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary and Professor of Biblical Criticism for the Center for Inquiry Institute in Amherst, NY. He and his wife Carol and daughters Victoria and Veronica live in Selma, NC.