Mum was teaching her eight year old daughter how to cook the Sunday joint. The child watched intently as mum cut a piece off each end of the steak and placed it on top of the main body of beef before sliding it into the oven.
‘Why do you cut those bits off the end?’ was the child’s reasonable question.
‘I don’t really know,’ said her mum. ‘It’s the way gran always did it. I’ll ask her next time she visits.’
And of course in a couple of weeks time when gran visited, it was the child who remembered to ask. ‘...so why did you do that gran?’
And gran was surprised, ‘Do you still do that? The reason I did it when you were a child was that our oven was so small that we couldn’t fit the joint into it!’
And such is life; we tend to do what we have always done because we have always done it, and in the same way we believe what we believe for no other reason than we have always believed it.
We have inherited our belief systems and are resistant to change even in the face of compelling evidence.
Galileo was a classic example. He rejected Aristotle’s belief that heavy objects fall faster than lighter objects and he demonstrated his point by dropping an object weighing ten pounds and an object weighing one pound from the Tower of Pisa. He was of course vindicated when the objects struck the ground simultaneously, and to remove all possible doubt he repeated it several times, and what thanks did he get for creating this new knowledge? He was sentenced to life imprisonment for daring to question the ‘accepted wisdom’ of the age. It’s really another way of saying, ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.’
There are many aspects of religious belief that have little or no basis in Scripture, the principle of tithing, for example. Nowhere is it taught, it is mentioned, yes, but you will search in vain for anything resembling an injunction to give a tenth of your income to the church, but it suits organised religion to pretend that it is one of the foundations of the Christian belief system.
But just as there are aspects of religious belief that have little or no basis in Scripture, there are clear teachings that are selectively ignored, and again it suits the purposes of organised religion.
For example, in Jesus’ famous diatribe in chapter 23 of Matthew’s account of the gospel aimed at the religious leadership of his day he made it clear that God has no grandchildren when he declared, ‘Don’t let anyone call you “Rabbi,”’ meaning “my teacher” or one who has a special place in my life upon whom I can rely so I don’t have to bother studying the Bible’ - for you have only one teacher, the Messiah, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters.’ Therefore, the fact that in most of Christendom a special place is reserved for teachers is an implied rejection of Jesus’ teaching that ‘...you are all equal as brothers and sisters.’
In the same vein he went on to say, ‘And don’t address anyone here on earth as “Father,” for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father.’
My life was changed forever the day it dawned on me that it was not the wicked Romans who masterminded the crucifixion of Jesus, it was the religious leaders of his day. Why? He undermined all they stood for and as such they faced an impossible dilemma, either accept him as their Messiah and acknowledge the need to redefine themselves, and there is evidence that they knew who he was, or get rid of him. And of course they chose to have him put to death. These days they have a more sophisticated way of dealing with him; they sound pious while completely ignoring him.