Sin In The Land Of The Hindu Faith.

When someone makes an effort to summarize religions, as appears in the popular book, God is Not One, Christianity comes down to one word, sin.  It makes sense that sin would be so big because the concept lends itself to control of people.  And, when control requires a new definition of what is sinful, it is easy to change its definition.

In the October 10, 2011, issue of The New Yorker there is a story about sin in the Hindu faith.  The author, Akash Kaplr, follows around for several days a cow trader in India.  The cow trader’s life has been profoundly affected by “sin”.

The cow trader is something like what we would call in Midwestern U. S. a broker.  At local market days in rural towns, cow traders help farmers sell cattle to the buyers who also appear.

This cow trader had grown up in an inferior cast, the untouchables.  He had experienced discrimination based on religious beliefs of the majority.  From that experience, he had become an atheist.

His wife and children are devout Hindus.  One of their three adult children had died in a car accident.  People in their local community had concluded the death was punishment for being a cow trader, a sinful occupation.  Besides that, he is an atheist. His wife and children remain unsure.

This seems to me to be the universial story of religion.  People in the minority are shunned and shamed by sin into conformance to rules of the majority’s unseen spirits.


30 Responses

  1. Henry

    Unseen spirits? Perhaps in the Hindu faith. Read the Gospels and Acts. They provide a historical record. Or wait, let’s just imagine that resource doesn’t exist. It doesn’t say what the atheist wants.

    1. entech

      Hilarious, the ranting of a few new converts constitute a historical record. Hysterical would be a better description. But of course they must be true because you believe them.
      A lot of it seems to be argumentation and letter writing, trying to get a coherent system going, trouble is they couldn’t reach agreement for a few hundred years.

      1. Henry

        “A lot of it seems to be argumentation and letter writing…

        Your description sounds like a blog. You would need to classify yourself in the hysterical spectrum.

        1. entech

          A blog would have been a good thing in those days. It would not have taken so long to reach a consensus on the Christology. It would not have taken hundreds of years to get rid of the Marcionite, the Docetist, the adoptionist and all the other possibilities that were mooted. Some people say that Constantine had an influence, which is not true all he said was “if you want my support you better be consistent”. So they all got together and decided what was the most popular, what was being preached by the most Bishops. This turned out to be a trio, logical as most of the converts were Greek and Roman and they had an understanding of multiple Gods going back a long way. When that decision was finalised they had to sort through all the written stuff and decide what was compatible, this then became scripture (just a Latin word for writing, but sounds so impressive after you have usurped it for exclusive use) and all else error or heresy.
          So it was settled on three, some schemes could have had a pleroma of 30. Another would have kept the one God indivisible and had Jesus as a necessary illusion, after all how can God die – just make it appear that way to attract the faithful. Almost as many versions as there were Bishops.

          1. entech 3:26 and 3:07 Thank you for two powerful pieces of writing. You have put the arguments made on behalf of the faith in a big hole. That Christianity is anything but a product of chasing the human ego that requires life after death and administrative adjustment of the vast complex of gods into “one” is so logical it borders on the self evident.

          2. Henry

            “You have put the arguments made on behalf of the faith in a big hole.”

            Not hardly. Heretics being declared in the historical record hardly places Christianity in a big hole.

          3. Henry 5:42 I’m glad that you are a believer because, obviously, it helps you in some way. But, entech is correct the Bible is not a document we can use as a reliable source of history. It serves well those who want to be in the faith. Believing the things claimed by the Bible to have happened reinforces that faith. The problem is there is little to corroberate the stuff writtn there.

            I like entech’s observation that the Latin word for “Scriptures” is “writing”. That is the more correct why to refer to what the Bible contains. The writing was done by specific people, aimed at a specific audience of the time to make a point related to that time.

          4. entech

            There is actually very little about heretics in the historical record, not even the historical records of the church.

            Outside of the Roman Empire there is hardly anything about the Christian Church, the main interest by the Romans was twofold 1. They were associated with the Palestinian rebels and part of their widening attraction was in defying Rome. 2. They were useful scapegoats all the ills, (even mad Nero and his fires) could be blamed on these atheists who denied the Gods of Rome and thus brought down catastrophe.

            The records of heresy within the church is fairly slim because most of the original work was destroyed as heretical, ironically most of what is known is from writings condemning them and explaining their errors. One of my favourites was Marcion whose main message was not that Jesus came to save man from sin, but that Jesus came to save man from God. His church was a major competitor for hundreds of years. A further irony is that one of the major writers against Marcion in particular and heresy in general was Tertullian circa 200 CE, and he himself was later accused of heresy.

            The main history of the church comes from within the church, an autobiography is not always objective. You can’t use what it said by an individual or an entity as verification of the truth of what is said, this amounts to saying “it is true because I say it is true.” Neither does it follow that because Henry thinks it is true that it is true, nor, of course, is it false because I don’t think it is true – these are just very old words written a long time ago.

          5. Henry

            “The problem is there is little to corroberate the stuff writtn there.”

            Well, we have Josephus and we have multiple manuscripts from the books of the Bible that can be checked against one another.

            In fact, compare to the works of Homer. the Illiad and the Odyssey. These texts are used by historical scholars to establish what some of the history of ancient times was. The earliest manuscript from this work is the Laurentianus dating only back to the 10th or 11th century AD. Historians have dated the events to around 1188 BC. Therefore, a large gap exists between the event and the existance of the earliest remaining manuscript. But yet, historians largely rely on Homer’s work to develop a historical record.

            Compared to the Bible and the New Testament, some remaining biblical munuscripts are within a couple hundred years of the events. Yet, the Bible gets challenged far more than Homer’s works even though the assembly of biblical manuscripts are far superior in date and quantity with little transcription error.

          6. entech

            Josephus would be as valid as Mathew Arnold , he mentions Jesus only twice, There are two versions of his mention of the crucifiction/resurrection: one speaks as if he thinks it is fact but fails to convert, if you believed it fact how could you not convert?, the second a translation from Arabic which says that this story is what they believe. Nothing much of the early original writings of the church are available only handwritten copies of copies of copies.

            Homer is said to have lived about 600 BCE although some put the writings about 1200 BCE much closer to The Trojan Wars. The Trojan Wars are thought of as some of the most important stories in Greek Mythology. He is much revered as Greece’s greatest epic poet and even as the foundation of western literature. Whether there was an actual Homer is sometimes questioned as there is little or no classical biography and it is sometimes thought that it is a particular style of literature and poetry that developed and Homer is the name given to the supposed founder, the founder of the Homeric school.

            The Odyssey and Iliad are epic poems, works of fiction, and great works of literature but not history. The Biblical story should be viewed in the same way; The Laurentianus codex is at last a thousand years later than most of the originals were supposed to have been written and no complete original exists. At the risk of giving you a heart attack may I recommend a cursory look at Bart Erhman a New Testament scholar and a doubter but still James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

            For something that makes such great claims to truth and aspires to great influence something more than self-referential evidence is required.

          7. entech 10:41 “…such great claims to truth and aspires to great influence something more than sefl-referential evidence is required”

            We keep knocking on this door. We shout, “Hello in there. Has anyone thought that when people say they decended from the almighty, a virgin birth, and have the ability send people to heaven and hell we need one, just one, independent second opinion.”

            But, nobody is home.

          8. Henry

            “The Odyssey and Iliad are epic poems, works of fiction, and great works of literature but not history.”

            Epic poems – yes. Works of fiction – yes. Great works of literature – yes. History – yes for some events. Corrolation of astronomical phenomena assisted in dating some events. Other history of the era was analyzed in the work, “The Homeric catalogue of ships studied as a historical source”.

            My apologies this isn’t black-and-white for you.
            My point was the differences in the time each work was originally authored to the time of the earliest surviving manuscript. The Bible knocks it out of the park in comparison. In fact, you have some surviving works of the apostolic fathers who directly knew the apostles.

          9. Henry 2:39 Let’s say someone comes upon a pieced of parchment that says, “I, ****, was born on ************ and was present when Jesus said, ‘God told me I am the One.'” Then, someone proves this person existed and lived at the time of Jesus. Surely, you would admit that does not prove Jesus was the “one”. The Jews don’t think he was. They think the “one” is still in the mail.

            The people of that time believed things that are myths, just like people always have. That some of the events and people in the Bible can be cross checked does not mean what they believed was anything other than one of the thousands of myths circulated since the beginning ot time. I know this does not dent your conviction, but others can see it clearly.

          10. entech

            Ok history as observation of the period, the stars at night, the design of ships, probably geography is historically accurate of the Homeric period. No one would deny that much of the New Testament is historically accurate in the same sense, the geography; some aspects of the history of The Jews up to, during, and for a period after The Roman occupation, especially Josephus are likely true, there most certainly was a rebellion, the second temple was burned down, and Pontius Pilate did exist. There is no record of a census where people had to return to their birth, this and much else is pure invention. The true history is somewhere in between. The history according to the early Christians is different from the history according to the Romans. Even at the time not everyone agrees with what is history, no sooner had Eisenhower done his best to get everything photographed and witnessed because he knew it would be denied revisionists where denying it, and it still goes on while in living memory: the Soviet Union thought history and the party line were the same thing: read some Japanese history books.

            But history cannot validate the beliefs and myths of the people that lived through the period. According to the Homeric epic of the Trojan War, Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus created Helen as the most beautiful woman in the world and gave her love to Paris as a reward for selecting Aphrodite as the most beautiful of the Olympian Goddesses, over Athena and Hera. Do you accept this as true history or would the Greeks (as well as the Romans later) call you an atheist.

            The history of Clement, Ignatius is not in doubt, Polycarp was a little later said to have died about 155 CE. There must have been some long lived people if he knew John the Apostle. None of this alters the fact that they were “preaching to the converted”, that whatever they said and wrote was to support that belief and to lay down rules for the believers to follow.

          11. Henry

            Jon: “Let’s say someone comes upon a pieced of parchment that says, “I, ****, was born on ************ and was present when Jesus said, ‘God told me I am the One.’”

            I would say it still wouldn’t make a difference. If Jorgenson’s modern technology was present filming the events of Christ, it still wouldn’t matter.

            I draw upon Luke 16. You have Moses and the Prophets. If you don’t believe them, nothing else will be convincing. That example talked about the “what if” of having a relative raised from the dead coming back to earth with warnings. We were told this compelling evidence still wouldn’t convince the believer in atheism. I believe in the application of that parable to this discussion today.

          12. entech

            Henry, of course you are correct. Moses and the prophets are not sufficient to convert the non-believer, especially the ones who do not want to convert, it would actually take a lot more than old books (ancient writings or scripture if you prefer), it is an extravagant claim to be taken on faith and a 2000 year old story and as such many would expect a very high and concrete level of proof. As you indicate for some there will never be enough proof or evidence short of God himself giving them a prod with a sharp stick (the sharp stick is a very local idiom and not meant as anything other than metaphor).
            Alternatively there are many (more?) who would not accept anything that would indicate that their faith was misplaced or wrong, some would even deny a very strong anti-case as being the work of the devil designed to lead them astray, lead them “from the paths of righteousness”.

            But actually Luke 16 gives some problems, for me, why did Lazarus have to live an abjectly awful life in the first place. Most of the parables and lessons seem to indicate some kind of callous indifference to suffering, suffering is imposed for no apparent reason some sort of cosmic capriciousness. And then we have all the millions who have died in pain and panic in natural disasters, it does not given confidence in the promises of paradise – if people on earth can suffer in this life for no reason other than god’s will, that he does these things, as Job found out, because he can, what hope of the afterlife?

          13. Henry

            “Most of the parables and lessons seem to indicate some kind of callous indifference to suffering, suffering is imposed for no apparent reason some sort of cosmic capriciousness.”

            I can only speculate. Of course the reason can be attributed to sin and the resulting fall. Your question is though, what purpose does human suffering serve? I do not have an answer that I know of falling within canonical thought.

            Therefore, I can only speculate and draw upon scholars many times smarter than me. I will point you back to Origen. Origen believed in pre-existance of souls prior to the garden. I would point you to Rev. 12 and a close allegorical reading may indicate a fall prior to the garden. Ezekial 28 also suggests this with the “king of Tyre” (Satan). Then there is the interesting Greek word Katabole used in Matthew 13:35. What does all this mean if there was an overthrow prior to the age we know now? Perhaps we are in a testing. Perhaps as one could interpret in Rev. 12, some of us suffer in this age to test and save some of the fallen 1/3 from the age of pre-existence. Of course, all of this is supposition. At this point, I am quite content relying on the canon.

          14. entech

            I spent a fascinating few hours following the story of the three ages.
            Seems to be once was heaven all spiritual none of this vile flesh and sex business, this was “In the beginning …” created at some distant time, but there was a fall even then leading to the earth becoming (apparently this is the real meaning, not was indicating there was a world before the Adam and Eve story) “… without form and void …”. This was caused by the great flood, not the little thing of Noah’s time but before genesis and this destroyed everything leaving total desolation (without form).
            The world was restored to the current, second, age, the time when we have our original (or Origen 😉 ) souls but actual physical bodies. Oops, another fall, and now we have to accept certain things so that at the end of times (not the end of everything, just this age) we can be restored to our spiritual selves in the third age, which is again heaven.
            There is much more about the devil and fallen angels and 1/3 of souls following Satan instead of God, now everyone has the free will to choose God or not.

            The people that write this stuff say they are Christians, the true biblical scholars and not lead astray by false doctrines. Sounds almost like a resurrected form of Gnostic ideas to me, without the complicated pleroma but certainly with the lost knowledge of the true nature of man!
            Thanks for the pointer Henry, it has been fun, not canonical but it does derive from interpretation of the canon.

          15. entech 9:14 floods, fallen angles and devil, 1/3 of the souls, false doctrines….

            There is a popular phrase in the U.S., “You can’t make this stuff up.” But, someone did.

          16. Henry

            entech “This was caused by the great flood, not the little thing of Noah’s time but before genesis and this destroyed everything leaving total desolation (without form).”

            The geologic record indicates a great flood, this being before genesis.

            Another interesting little tidbit. Review Genesis 1. The earth “became” without void and form. “tohu va bohu”.

            I found this stuff at one time interesting and it explained a few things for me, but the canon is really the heart of Christianity and that is what I embrace.

  2. Well, wish the Cards were winning, but they aren’t and I’m online to get some work done as I watch the came. Encountered this. There are times you nail it Jon. This wasn’t one of them. The leap from the anecdotal to the blanket statement isn’t good reasoning. I’ve seen you do better.

    1. Rev. Herbel 2:13 Thanks for the comment. I don’t claim to be a great thinker or writer. If just seems like the general experience of humans is one of being controled by religious mythology.

  3. entech

    I quite like Prothero, one of the better religious writers and a far better foil to Hitchens/Dawkins than the likes of d’Souza and other apologists. His older book Religious Literacy was very good and I have just discovered “God in America” the whole 6 hours is available on line from PBS so that will keep me quiet for a few days.

    I have always been quite fond of Hinduism and Buddhism, a major failings of Hinduism is the extremes of Ritual Cleanliness, giving rise to the caste system and such stuff as an ordinary person not being able to touch a Brahmin because he would contaminate the Brahmin and the same person not being able touch an untouchable because he would contaminate himself. I have read that Buddhism’s origins and early popularity lay in the rejection of caste. Some of the more cult like Christian sects have rules about not associating with outsiders: and of course “HolierThanThouism” is pretty strong. Jews and Muslims still observe strong Ritual Cleanliness; you can be defiled by simply touching the skin of a pig and so on. Christians seem to have replaced most, not all, of this with sin. At least you can become clean, with ritual ablutions in many cases and reincarnation for the untouchable, sin is so strong that you need to go through all of the purifications and even then you may not be one of the chosen (I understand some are just chosen and so can do anything anyway). T o escape the effects of sin, not even you own – but the sin of someone else whose relationship to you is tenuous, you need to be cleaned by baptism, reborn, and finally declare belief in something which viewed logically is almost unbelievable.

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