Sunday, March 24, 2013

Taking Apart the Nicene Creed

This statement of beliefs is supposedly the minimum necessary belief set that one must agree with to be considered a Christian.

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;By whom all things were made;who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead;whose kingdom shall have no end.And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen. 

Let's take this apart.  The first part reaffirms monotheism and The God is the creator of everything: We believe in one God.  So far so good.  Christianity is indeed an outgrowth of Judaism, right?

Not so fast, buckaroo.  Christians worship more than just this one God.  Christians also believe in the son, so apparently they're not monotheists after all:  And in one Lord Jesus Christ.  Well, he's the son so maybe he doesn't really count.  After all he's really only half-god, right?  Like the old demi-gods of Ancient Greece.

Not quite.  ...Very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father.  So Jesus was his own father, and we now apparently have the answer to the question "Who made God?"  God made God, of course!  He just didn't tell Moses because that would have confused the old codger. 

SO ... God made himself, at least once.  But wait... came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost...  So God made himself at least twice, first making the Holy Ghost and then making Jesus, and a third time if he made himself too.  This is the ta-da... *drumroll* .... TRINITY!

At the beginning of Christianity there was no such concept.  Jewish Christians believed Jesus was an ordinary man until his baptism.  Gnostic Christians believed he was 100% spirit.  How do you combat "heresy?"  Make them all only partially right!

The next bit rehashes the basic "facts" of the Gospels, Jesus was crucified, died, then came back to life.  The four Gospels agree on the crucifixion at least. 

The sacrificial stuff is a little more muddled and you have to wonder what the writers were thinking.  They've already said that God "Came down from heaven... for our salvation."  This is already a little messed up, as we're being saved from his own punishment, which he could easily have just decided to drop. 

But no... he had to crucify himself to appease himself.  And then after this horrendous death, he sits at his own right hand, judging people, though he had been sacrificed for us....  so what's to judge?

Now, to part three, because threes are holy in Catholicism.  And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.  So when the prophets were speaking (are speaking?) this ghost is doing the speaking, but it's not really the ghost it's really God because he comes from God just like Jesus did. 

Or perhaps it's a she, because of course Jesus was the only-begotten son, so if the ghost proceedeth from the Father, that sort of means it's the child of the father.  Conveniently, the creed in English doesn't use a gendered term.  Sadly, my theory doesn't work because spiritus, the Latin term, is a masculine word (fourth declension masculine to be precise).  It derives from the word for "to breathe," which explains why it powers the speech of prophets.  So... God has two sons, not one.

...In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; doesn't really mean not protestants.  Catholic means for everybody, and apostolic means they derive their authority from the apostles.  Even if you accept that Matthew and John actually were apostles and actually wrote the gospels attributed to them, this doesn't compute because Mark and Luke weren't apostles.  Also, Paul never knew Jesus and his writings (and writings falsely attributed to him) constitute most of the rest of the New Testament.  Luke was Paul's pal, so we have even less "apostolic" -ness than the creed would suggest.

One baptism for the remission of sins always struck me as a funny concept, because Jesus' sacrifice was supposedly the mechanism for that.   But then after you've been baptized, and Jesus has been sacrificed for you, you still get judged by Jesus.  That's all in this one little creed.  Gives you some idea of what the Bible is like!

We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.  I never understood what this delay was supposed to be about.  Christ supposedly went right up into heaven, as did his mother.  Why can't the rest of us?  Why have all the bodies laying around in cemeteries, or worse... at the bottoms of seas or out in the woods... waiting for centuries for the resurrection?  In the literalist Catholic theology the actual bodies have to stay intact to be able to get up and move about after the resurrection.  That's why they're buried rather than cremated.

But what about the people who died without being buried?  What if wild animals made off with the bones and scattered them in all directions?  What if they burned up in a forest fire?  They'd be cremated, then.  Could God resurrect those people but not intentionally cremated dead people? 

Eek!  A Zombie!!!
And what if someone drowned at sea and their body is under hundreds of feet of water?  Will they have gills long enough to get up onto dry land?  What if they drowned because they were crappy swimmers?   Wouldn't they still be crappy swimmers? 

And what about all the amputees and people born with birth defects?  Wouldn't these be some scaryass zombies?  If a deformed baby died because it couldn't survive its birth defects, would it be resurrected as a healthy adult?  It died before it even learned language.  Wouldn't it be a zombie, or at best an automaton?

This creed wasn't codified until almost the end of the Fourth Century.  It was supposed to unify Christian thought, but I think it was more of a brainwashing tool.  If you say this every week, or every day if you're in a monastery or cathedral, the repetition would numb out the parts of your brain that would pick up on the inconsistencies and illogic of it.


Wikipedia on Nicene Creed.
Old Catholic Encyclopedia (1911)
Old Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)
Wikipedia: English Versions of the Nicene Creed


L.Long said...

I had forgot the Creed which I now remember saying in my catlicking days. Well I lump all the BS together and do not call it the buyBull for nothing. Which tells me most boss xtians know this as well and also call it the buyBull but change the spelling so the sheeple wont realize it.

Excellent de-construction of the Creed.

Grundy said...

I always noticed at least 75% of the Catholics in church went to their booklet to recite the Creed with the priest. If they did this EVERY week and REALLY believed it, I would think they'd have it memorized.

In fact I took a picture of them reading it once...

LadyAtheist said...

I used to have it memorized (Episcopalian version). I was in the church choir so I had to recite quite a bit of mumbo jumbo, and being musical helped my memory so... I really didn't need to c&p from elsewhere but I didn't want to test my memory on that.

Once upon a midnight dreary
while I pondered, weak and weary,
over some curious volume of forgotten lore
suddenly there came a tapping
as of someone gently rapping
rapping at my study door
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered
"Only this, and nothing more."

....ahhh remembering that is much more satisfyin

LadyAtheist said...

*quaint and curious volume!


Grundy said...

A Christian, nevermore!

krissthesexyatheist said...

When you say it like that, it makes the whole thing sound stupid (ha ha).

I always hate it when I see a baby crying when being baptized.


LadyAtheist said...

Don't they always cry?

Eric Haas said...

Sadly, my theory doesn't work because spiritus, the Latin term, is a masculine word (fourth declension masculine to be precise).

The NT was originally written in Greek, and the Greek word for spirit (and breath), pneuma (πνεῦμα), is neuter.

LadyAtheist said...

Well you can't have a neuter child!