Opinions vs. Facts
by: Robert F vonBriesen
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OPINIONS VS FACTS
Opinions; everyone has them. Where do we get them from? The sources are many: opinions we hear stated by adults as we grow up, stories we are taught in Sunday School, traditions that have become part of our society’s culture, mainstream news, movies, songs, urban legends, opinions of other’s, and occasionally, but rarely, from facts. There is even an industry that has the manipulation of public opinion as its’ primary goal. It is called ‘Marketing’ and advertising is its primary tool.
Therefore, the primary sources of opinions are third hand versions of unverified information. Opinions eventually become ‘Beliefs’ and form the basis for a person's core values. When repeated often enough, these opinion-based beliefs became indistinguishable from facts and might be defended to death. We see these opinions forming patriotic traditions such as: "America, the home of the Free and the Brave, sweet land of Liberty", and religious beliefs such as the Christian: "Jesus died for my sins and only through belief in Jesus can I find salvation". Of course, it is not just the U.S.A and Christianity that hold onto opinions; every culture in the world has its own set of opinion-based beliefs. As a product of the American culture, I am most aware of the American traditions; the facts behind them have been a major pursuit of mine for many years.
So where do I start with my critique of the myths that have become tradition and finally perceived as facts by this culture? The political myth of ‘land of the free, home of the brave’ is rapidly being eroded by the current political processes we see unfolding every day. I am amazed, every time that I engage in a discussion with other ‘average’ Americans that knowledge of and belief in Conspiracy Theories seems to be more prevalent than the belief in the traditional American values of Truth, Justice and Liberty. It appears that we no longer trust our government and no longer believe that the U.S.A. is living up to its image as the Beacon of Freedom to the rest of the world.
Since it is not possible to interview every American and to know all the behind-the scenes details of the workings of our government, we are left with nothing but our opinions. Facts are very difficult to ascertain. Therefore, opinions rule the day and, as I have already noted, public opinions are easily manipulated by various 'marketing' agencies, whether they be government of commercially sponsored.
Religion is a more difficult issue as it covers a longer period of time and is cross-cultural, involving belief systems of many different peoples. The history of the U S A can be verified by documentation and it covers a relatively short time span. Even though some of the documentation have not been released as public knowledge, historians still have ample material to break through the myths of the American experience. Christianity has no clear historical path; its’ actual beginnings are still shrouded in mystery. What documentation we have is questionable, most of it has contradictions included within the same source or there are other ‘non-official’ sources that offer different versions and points of view. If Jesus was to look back at his followers 100 years after his death, he could have said “Wherever three or more people are gathered together in my Name, there will be disagreement”.
A detailed study of the Bible (the Hebrew O T and the Christian N T) using the standard analytical literary and historical tools reveals that most of it is comprised of a collection of ancient myths (similar forms of which also appear in other traditions), the same stories being repeated in other Bible books with slight variations, claims to have been written by authors when the text reveals that they had to have been written many years after the death of the alleged author, or fictional authors and major conflicts with historical facts if any of the stories are to be taken literally.
Also, in the New Testament, the epistles of Paul predate the Gospels of Mark, Matthew , Luke and Peter. Matthew and Luke obviously copied many stories directly from Mark and also copied stories from an unknown source that was common to both. When the plagiarized stories are removed, there is little left in M or L that is in agreement. Peter disagrees with all three of the synoptic Gospels and presents a totally different version of the person and teachings of Jesus. And these are the four books that make up the ‘proof’ of the mission of Jesus! Paul could not be writing about these four Gospels when he mentions ‘Scripture’ as none of them were written until 30 – 50 years after his time. The disciples of Jesus were all common people who were most likely illiterate and certainly could not write in Greek which was the original language of all the New Testament Gospels.
Of Paul’s 13 epistles which support the bulk of Christian theology, six are believed to be forgeries and not written by Paul. So that leaves seven letters, all of which (except Romans) are directed to specific problems in the early Christian churches. The Biblical scholars seem to agree that the Christian Bible IS NOT the undisputed Word of God. However, the facts, revealed by the scholarly approach to find the Historical Jesus, fall on deaf ears when they are related to ‘True Believer’ Christians. According to them, if it is in the Bible, it is the Truth and facts will not have any effect on their opinions.
So what is the point of discussing the various points of view regarding religion when the discussion will eventually become an argument between those who are unwilling or unable to change their opinions? My personal approach is that I will answer questions based on what I have learned from my own studies but I will not defend my position or opinions when it is obvious that I am dealing with the ignorance of someone who is basing their opinions on only one source – that is, what they have been taught about the Bible by their religious teachers.
Clearly, I too have my opinions about Christianity and religion, in general. Mine are supported by my attempts to understand the philosophy and history of Christian doctrine as it has evolved over the centuries. The fact that we do not have any original texts to support the doctrine confirms my opinion that Christianity is based on myth, legend and distortions of the (missing) original texts. However, I am always willing to modify my opinions when exposed to new factual information. Unfortunately, I will not find any of that in the Bible.
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