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A Personal Voyage of Taboo

Davy Carlin • 19/7/2002

So a bible from the fundamentalist school of free Presbyterism was found amongst a cache of weapons linked to the UVF, this at the same time as the brethren were marching in their thousands proclaiming in part religious liberties. What I find intriguing is that while many talk of our historical conflict, it is that 'Jesus within our conflict' and the scenario of both his supposed existence and the questioning of differing religious beliefs that I have found to be a taboo subject. This both within the media and within many established parties. Ironically in a way this in part has directed me towards a firmer understanding of this acknowledged taboo and to question why this issue is continually sidestepped or avoided. Initially I thought it could be because of the obvious and hidden contradictions within various religious beliefs, which are of no benefit to both consensual party politics or differing religious. Or maybe it is just the fact that temperatures and feelings are raised especially within 'our own wee world' on such matters. Whatever the case my first understandings is that it is no co-incidence that religion has always found a residence amongst the poorest, the downtrodden and the exploited more so than any differing layers of society.

Historically many religions and their believers have both been used to unite in a cross class common cause as well as being used as a weapon for communities' divisions, yet this almost always set in the context of a particular ruling interest. Many people including former paramilitaries during our recent conflict have been born again, moved to libertarian or fundamentalist theology, became Christian socialists or reverted back to their traditional inherited religion. Some through a growing appreciation of that little book 'left' in their cells, others through witnessing an unusual event or life saving experience. While others still, seeking a way out of exploitation with some stating feeling unloved and so found a spiritual being who will love them despite their earthly faults.

Yet for every one person that has turned away from conflict and found God, a thousand others can be found who have used God to turn to conflict. As fewer people within our increasingly modern society practice actively their traditional religious upbringing I will attempt to answer that taboo question about Jesus and his actual existence or not. For this I have to ask initially who was this Jesus that some find for peace while many use for war?

For an understanding of this we need to look at the time and period where this historical person was said to have existed. The main academic studies of this period in relation to this are concentrated on the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, with the first Gospel not being written until approximately seventy years after the supposed death of Jesus. The Gospels themselves on reading are interpreted by various groups to portray various messages in which differing lessons can be drawn. This is not surprising as a detailed and objective study of them depicts a differing Jesus in each, which indeed runs constant to the various historical happenings of the time.

This is due in a large part to the big time span both after Jesus's supposed death and that between some of the Gospels being written, as between those years there was the development of immense social and political situations in that region. Mark's Gospel for example was finished about AD70 - this at the end of the upraising against both Roman and Jewish authority rule which took place between AD66-AD70, with aspects of the Gospels reading reflecting such factors of the period.

Through out history within conflicts and through exploitation peoples have sought immediate answers to immediate concerns. Is it then a co-incidence in this period with the brutal crushing of the upraising, the historic destroying of the people's temple, with the people crying out for a saviour, a Messiah, that Mark came forward with the Gospel of Jesus, the saviour, the Messiah, seventy years after his supposed death?

Although there is no real evidence of the time that this Jesus existed many have and do still follow his teachings. Nevertheless some have attempted revisionism of what little evidence there is at the time which did not mention Jesus. For example the early Christian monks forged Josephus's writings to include a brief piece on Jesus as they were concerned that such was the detail of Josephus's writings of the time that it did not mention Jesus. Why had this historian of the time within his detail not mention this man Jesus who made the dead rise and indeed arose from the dead himself - Could it be that such a man did not exist? Yet despite this Jesus's teachings have carried and sustained through out the centuries. Why and how I will deal with in a later article.

Within my research my interest was directed towards the libertarian theology and more so to those who follow the 'radical Christian socialist' tradition. Those who follow this tradition on many occasions hold similar thoughts to myself. They provide a radical analysis of change to the economics of present society combined with the 'radical' teachings of Jesus. Their understanding is based on the spiritual but relating also to the physical and economic. 'The kingdom of God' (1838) was an early theological basis for such thought on Christian Socialism. Frederick Maurice and others who supported Chartism argued that politics and religion were inseparable. So the combination held within their spiritual socialism was defined as the means of change (differing changes) as opposed to that of scientific socialism. Therefore their belief is in the spiritual emancipation alongside the economic, so a relationship is developed both within their class as well as within Jesus.

Although my understanding is held within the Scientific, and despite disagreeing with the spiritual aspect of Christian socialism, I find it to be a religion 'with the people' as opposed to that of 'of the people'. All persons have a right and a respect to personal beliefs, yet I would be of the opinion that in differing circumstances in a period of revolutionary unity of the working class, huge questions would arise, with the economic and Scientific understanding ascending above the spiritual as the the material concerns, and ruling interest are replaced by class interest. I also believe some lessons can be learnt though through the personal, as with myself for example.

I was born at the RVH in the first week of October in the early seventies. My primary school years were spent both in the Lower Falls and in Ballymurphy where for several years I lived with my Grandmother who was and is a devout Catholic. My schooling was by 'Christian Brothers' in St Finian's School on the Falls Road. My father, a labourer, when he got work; my mother worked in the factory mills until she had kids which was usually the norm. Again both practicing Catholics who found it important that I should constantly pray (we said the rosary every night until I left home). At the same time I was also encouraged to practice my religion, so apart from the normal participation I became an altar boy at Clonard Monastery.

So like many others I had baptism, first confession, first rosary, first holy communion, confirmation, twice weekly mass attendances (with parents), another with school, the priest's school visists, plus doing other masses as an altar boy doing marriages, deaths etc. Like those others in differing religious upbringings, my whole world was directed at religion through church, school and home all dominated by and tuned into 'our Lord' from an early age. Despite this I was always inquisitive and remember one of the first questions I dared ask, as the authority of the priest or brother was such that you feared to ask let alone question. 'Why should I and billions before me take the blame for what two people did (Adam and Eve)'? I was granted with a spiritual and philosophical answer, which maybe because of my youth I felt didn't really answer the question.

So I repeated the question while adding that 'even in this present society I am judged on what I do and not by what a relative a million times removed had done supposedly in my name' - surely if it was the latter that would not be fair', from a fair God?'.

The reply right up to my face was 'FAIR, FAIR' don't talk to me about fair, that's the way it is written so that is the way it is'. So from an early age the answer I remember most vividly was 'so that is the way it is'. Despite this I did honour the religious tradition while under my parents roof.

As I got older I reflected on the ten commandments as my parents religious practice for the kids intensified. I placed the commandments into four categories as I could recite them back to front while reading a book as through school, church and home they had been constantly drummed into me. Firstly to respect authority, then honour and respect family values, respect society and its lawful stability and above all respect private property. Isn't it funny the real similarity of those commandments and those now thrust at us through the present ruling classes? Isn't it interesting how the commandments both equate the law of authoritive rule under presently capitalism and previously under different systems? While these commandments concretize stability for the ruling classes I wonder If one or two could have been added to give a tad of stability to the poor and exploited. Thou ruling classes must redistribute the wealth,thou must end slavery etc etc. Yet no such commandments were etched on those supposed tablets of stone and it does not take a scholar to understand why not.

Despite this many point to the 'radical teachings of Jesus', (there were many Jesus's as Jesus was a common name), who supposedly helped and worked with the exploited and poor as did also many other such 'prophets' and 'miracle workers' crucified at the time. While some 'find' God others are spoon-fed him while increasingly others, again especially youth, do not believe in such. From the traditional teaching at home, the church and school amongst others, young minds have and are directed one way. The freedom to think and acquire knowledge is also hampered by the state who direct us on what to learn and how best to answer.

Such rules and laws have common threads where we are taught to acknowledge then obey the relevant tradition, thus the status-quo. Revisionism is used and answers are given not acquired but expected to be followed, from early youth. Although the church authorities and the state differ they are in unison ideologically within both their authoritarism and protectionism of their relevant ruling interest. Of course there are individuals who follow the path of Jesus and his 'radical teachings'. They may feel spiritually and at times some limited economic freedoms. Yet unless we collectively direct ourselves at the root cause of exploitation little will change for the world's poorest. While some follow God to attempt to end exploitation it is constantly used as a tool for exploitation and stability. As the Christian master once said to his unruly christian servant 'worry not about earthly suffering as paradise awaits you'.

In conclusion in this first in a series of articles on this issue I will finish with an understanding from my initial period of study on this matter. Firstly it must be said that everyone has a right to their beliefs, for example my partner and immediate family believe in 'a God' of some description and on that issue I both at times compromise and at all times respect their belief. Yet on those initial studies it must be said that it is my belief that God did not create man in his own image but in fact man created God as an image.






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If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good.
- Thomas J. Watson, Jr

Index: Current Articles

18 August 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Unidentified Mob Rule
Aine Fox


The West Belfast Feile
Newton Emerson


The Most Useless, Most Spineless, Most Pointless of Them All
Ciarán Irvine


North Belfast: A Resident's View
Joan Totten


A Tawny Sinew
Anthony McIntyre


Deepest Sympathy


Ahmed Al Kouraini
Sam Bahour


A Personal Voyage of Taboo

Davy Carlin


Reading Connolly
Liam O Ruairc


15 August 2002


Put Spotlight On Republican Aims
Eamonn McCann


No Hierarchies Here!
Anthony McIntyre


Freedom to Dissent

Dorothy Robinson


Freedom of Whose Speech?
Paul A. Fitzsimmons


Political Intimidation
Anthony McIntyre


Class War is Over!
Billy Mitchell




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