I’ve seen Christianity described as..

[ by Charles Cameron — a little matter of rising (i trust) between the two stools of belief and unbelief ]

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I have seen Christianity described as —

The popular belief that a celestial Jewish baby, who is also his own father, born from a virgin mother, died for three days so that he could ascend to heaven on a cloud and make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh, drink his blood, and telepathically tell him you accept him as your Lord and master, so he can remove an evil force from your spiritual being that is present in all humanity because an immoral woman made from a man’s rib was hoodwinked by a talking reptile possessed by a malicious angel to secretly eat forbidden fruit from a magical tree.

Don’t these atheists understand anything about poetry?

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Don’t the Christians understand anything about poetry?

Try this as an exercise for the imagination — picture this —

To suppose the Eucharist

Suppose the hypothetical all of everything

in unspooling itself chose to exhibit itself in

one human, suppose further all the sun’s

light were caught in wheat and baked into

bread, all the world’s pains and passions

crushed like grapes into wine, suppose the

one person took loaf and cup and with

word and gesture raised them blood, body

of his own self to be supped and sipped,

thus woven into his one flesh, blood, mind —

just when his flesh is torn, blood spills —

suppose then that his mind to love were to

entrain this new body of many bodies to

heal with all radiance each instance of pain..

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I offer this poem as a bridge in two directions — to allow the sensible atheist a means of glimpsing what might be admirable in his Christian friend’s faith.. — and to allow the Christian on the brink of leaving the faith for “sensible atheism” a means of retaining much of the deep beauty of that faith while leaving behind both the bribes of heaven and the threats of hell.

8 comments on this post.
  1. Lexington Green:

    The brute facticity of existence isn’t even a fact it is an unfathomable mystery so inexplicable that it loses some of its undeniable brutality when you start to notice the weirdness. The very comprehensibility of the universe — the mathematical comprehensibility of much of it! — is a thing so strange that it is almost a colossal joke, a cosmic quip by the mind-like being who cast this vastness in our path, to be comprehended by supreme effort by the greatest of our own lesser minds, layer by layer, a puzzle to be solved, where each layer only seems to be the last but never is. And this mind and this being beyond beings radiating through everything we can know, is here held up to mockery by some funny little man who somehow smugly imagines he knows better how the infinite, how being itself, should reveal himself to the finite and damaged created beings that we are. And to shift focus from criticizing a pitiable exponent of a false, unpoetic universe, thank you for supposing the Eucharist in this way, which is very nicely done, and appropriately poetic, while yet fully compatible with the lawyerly exposition in the Catechism (which being canonical and mandatory must be consulted in any questionable case — Christ the poet of bread and blood, yes, and Christ the king and rule and founder and lawgiver as well, we men being what we are and needing these sorts of helps and supports):
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    1374 The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”

  2. Charles Cameron:

    Thank you.
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    Your comment is very welcome, Michael — all the more so in that its language —

    the mind-like being who cast this vastness in our path, to be comprehended by supreme effort by the greatest of our own lesser minds, layer by layer, a puzzle to be solved, where each layer only seems to be the last but never is. And this mind and this being beyond beings radiating through everything we can know–

    reminds me of another passage I treasure, from the Foreword to Kadloubovsky and Palmer’s classic anthology of Orthodox Christian texts, Writings from the Philokalia:

    Inaccessible to human conception is the inexpressible glorious Majesty of the most holy, sublime Sacraments and Revelations on earth of the Divine Incarnation and supreme Holocaust of Love of our celestial Saviour and God Jesus Christ. They open for us the way to possibilities that are not of this earth, forming, purifying and developing the unseen parts of our being, helping us towards Salvation.

    Your quotation from the Catechism fits in so nicely with a follow-up post I was already preparing on the sacramental arts that I’ll defer further comment for that post.

  3. Charles Cameron:

    I was also struck by your remark:

    The brute facticity of existence isn’t even a fact it is an unfathomable mystery so inexplicable that it loses some of its undeniable brutality when you start to notice the weirdness. The very comprehensibility of the universe — the mathematical comprehensibility of much of it! — is a thing so strange that it is almost a colossal joke, a cosmic quip by the mind-like being who cast this vastness in our path..

    Two points — or rather, a query and a point.
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    My query: had you by any chance seen Scott Aaronson’s The great mystery of mathematics is its lack of mystery which I just came across today, and which begins:

    In one sense, there’s less mystery in mathematics than there is in any other human endeavour. In math, we can really understand things, in a deeper way than we ever understand anything else.

    ?
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    I’m far from agreeing on that poinjt as regards depth, for reasons that brings me to my point — that a mystery isn’t “a puzzle to be solved..” (a sacrament isn’t a puzzle, a koan isn’t a puzzle) — it is “a mystery to be dwelt upon”.

  4. Grurray:

    “What would really be mysterious, one wants to say, would be if the digits didn’t occur with equal frequency! ”
    .
    That occurrence was just discovered among prime numbers. They’re “biased” in a way where they tend to not want to be distributed near numbers with certain similar conditions:
    http://qz.com/639452/mathematicians-are-geeking-out-about-a-bizarre-discovery-in-prime-numbers/
    Totally unexpected, and a bit mysterious on top of that.
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    So much for a more deeper understanding than other disciplines. What’s more likely is that theories spring from overall cultural and social movements and trends. In that sense, the maths may now be just catching up to everyone else.

  5. Lexington Green:

    Charles, I am not familiar with the Aaronson piece.

  6. Charles Cameron:

    It seemed to chime in with yours, and I saw it on the same day — so, serendipity, perhaps, zeitgeist, synchronicity, ?

  7. Charles Cameron:

    Grurray — since the 10-digit number system we use is somewhat arbitrary, have they tried the same sort of thing with base 9, or 11, or 237, etc? My brain is too fuzzy to know whether it’s a property of the qualities or the numeration they’re discussing..

  8. Grurray:

    Charles, all the news reports suggest they only tested base 10. The condition applies to frequency distribution not numerating. All primes can be described by 6+/-1 in base 10, and this works for all number systems above it. My guess is, in this case, this newly discovered distribution will also work for the other larger number systems.
    .
    This new development applies to the last number in a prime, but the first number also has a pattern which follows a distribution called Benford’s Law

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benford%27s_law
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    This was discovered 5 or 6 years ago, so it’s even more damning to Aaronson’s claim because it was known when he wrote it. Instead of all of them being equally and randomly distributed, prime numbers starting with 1 occur most often, starting with 3 the next most often, starting with 7 next, and 9 the least. The frequency follows a power law distribution which is commonly seen in natural patterns of growth or decay.
    Benford’s Law can also be expressed in the other number systems above 10.