Sometime in my early twenties I realized that “radical ideas” are marketing twists, not actually anything radical.
There is nothing new under the sun, and nothing all that surprising, unless of course you venture away from reality and then you can have unicorns and eudaemoniac imaginary friends. The universe itself is mind-blowing, but that mind-blowingness is subtle and nearly invisible if your outlook on life is anthrocentric, or rooted in the human perspective.
How can the vastness of the universe, the detail of micro-organisms, or the fineness of quantum physics be appreciated if you focus is social events among human beings? “That’s nice,” you say, and turn back to those things that are made tangible because other people reinforce them: money, popularity, political power.
When we talk about radical ideas, we’re talking about making something sound radical so it has more currency in that human social events sphere. The ideas are never radical; they’re either departures from reality, or someone spinning a normal idea to make it seem new, wacky and far-out. Weird sells.
Here’s an example of the oldest fallacy in the book:
The core of Jesus’ message was directed to the economically downtrodden, the poor farmers, laborers and others who had little power in their own lives. Jesus presented a radical social proposition that meant society could be reconfigured to allow for less inequity and more sharing.
The useful idiot who’s talking above is a Biblical scholar who wants to bring us a radical message that is radical to no one who has thought critically for more than five minutes on the topic:
Jesus was a guy who said let’s side-step the order of things as they are, and use social pressure to make sure we the meek as a group are equal to our masters, whether they be Romans or simply our supervisors at Wal-mart.
Is this a radical idea?
No, it’s old as the hills. Think about it: in any town, a few people are really good at what they do, most people are in the middle, and then at the bottom there are the screwups — the lepers, whores, addicts, thieves, bastards, inbreds, outcastes, etc.
If you unite all those people, you’ve got political power.
So along comes some enterprising young hippie like Jesus. He realizes: if I pitch these idiots on Hope! and Change! in the form of equality, what they’ll think is that they get a share of the pie.
Up go the banners demanding equality. Those who do not agree face the guillotine or gulag.
Soon there’s a new King in town — that Jesus guy. Having made himself an audience, and united them against their masters, he has turned society upside down. Or has he? With the screwups in control, problems proliferate, but there’s no solution other than more equality.
In the meantime, Jesus fakes his own death, sets up a gated compound in the hills of France and lives off the proceeds of having had control of a corrupt, dying society.
Is it terrible to say that? I’ve observed there’s two types of Christians: the gestalt Christians, who like the basic message of helping a community and caring for others even when convenient; and the illusionists, who want to talk about the afterlife and Jesus’ love and how he has saved them from themselves, all while ignoring practical actions they could take.
(An interesting tidbit: Christians were the revolutionaries/liberals of their day, just like the American founding fathers were radical revolutionary liberals in their day. Liberalism, like all negative philosophies or philosophies based on removal of a pre-existing condition, can be simplified without losing its basic message. So liberals offered the same dogma Christians did — equality — but stripped away the religious requirements. Similar product, lower price… and that’s why atheist, progressive liberalism has overtaken Christianity in the west.)
I submit that it’s equally possible Jesus was just a gentle stoner who came up with one really important doctrine, which is the forgiving of others so we can all move on, but his words got twisted by revolutionaries who wanted to seize Israel from the Romans. I’m not even sure if these revolutionaries were Jews so much as they were robber barons.
Since that time, the best scholars of Europe have slowly been equalizing the old and new Testaments of the Bible, and finding out that a God of Wrath is only compatible with a forgiving hippie if we consider them both to be naturalistic phenomena. This is where the gestalt Christians come in: they believe that God is the organizing force of the world, and since the world has produced such beauty and greatness, God is always good.
In that light, it’s part of God’s plan to let the screwups die out while taking care of widows from among the nice people. God gave some light and hope; it’s important they thrive. And the others? God has a plan for them too. It may involve death in damp places without offspring having been produced, which means fewer screwups in the future… which, like nature red in tooth and claw, is part of God just as much as the warm fuzzy feelings we get from sunbeams on winter mornings.
It’s a complex world and people always want to dumb it down. “Be an Atheist” and “Just follow Jesus” are conflatable, at that level. Looking for God as part of our world and its order, and finding one’s own actions compatible with that order, is more complex but because it is logical, a heck of a lot less neurotic than these “radicals” who just want to sidestep reality so they can profit.