Why I’m Committed to Something that Doesn’t Yet Exist


It’s a strange thing that so many people unquestioningly doubt, even oppose, anything that they can’t see, that they can’t count on with absolute certainty, or especially, that lacks the approval of authority.

New and useful things, as we’ve all observed, begin as things that can’t be seen… things with no evidence, no substance, and usually no pedigree. Name your convenience and it probably began that way.

But let’s move past older historical examples and simply jump to things that have happened in our own times:

  • Where were personal computers a generation or two ago? Only in the dreams of a few hyper-technical types. It was a business grown mainly in garages and similar spaces.

  • Where was home schooling a generation or two ago? It was the domain of cranks at best and child abusers at worst. (Or so it was proclaimed by an enthroned and worshiped educational aristocracy.) And yet homeschooling delivers superior results.

  • Where was the Internet in 1990? First it was unknown, then it was a silly tool of “nerds,” then it was a threat to all that is holy (yes, New York Times, some of us remember), and only later, a worldwide infrastructure.

  • Where was encryption in 1990? A regulated munition… a sequestered weapon… until a small group of cypherpunks set it free.

  • Where were digital currencies in 2000? The supposed haunt of the worst criminals on the planet. And now… well, now they’re hated only by people skimming from violence-backed currencies and those who think they’ve missed the boat.

Those of us of a certain age have seen all these things enter the world. Things that were utterly without substance, existing only as ideas in disrespected and belittled minds.

So then, where are the utility, efficiency, and safety in “staying with what’s been proven” and ridiculing the new? Blown away is what they are. The voice of authority is the voice of paralysis and petrification.

Yes, some old things remain lovely, and some new things are stupid. But opposing things only because they are new… smothering them in fear and the implication that unauthorized things will be punished… “paralysis” and “petrification” are not overly strong terms.

Progress always begins from mere ideas… from unapproved ideas and usually from opposed ideas.

This is why I am committed to parallel societies, to decentralized economies, to a voluntaryist ethic and a civilization built around our abilities, not around our fears. I know that good ideas can become reality. I’ve seen it over and over. You have too.

Moreover, none of the things I believe in are entirely new. Humankind has had decentralized commerce many times. It has enjoyed voluntaryist ethics and healthy societies.

Our Model

I’ve heard people say, “You can’t beat the system,” or discouragements to that effect, for a long time, and it simply isn’t true. Yes, the system uses plenty of force and likes to make examples of people who threaten its legitimacy, but where are the great pharaohs? Where is “the Great” Alexander? And where, for that matter, are Napoleon and Mussolini and a hundred other “indomitable leaders.” They’re gone, along with their ruling juntas, their court intellectuals, and their acquiescent subjects.

So, you can beat the system. It may take time, but the system always crashes and burns. The only question is when.

And in our quest to build a voluntaryist civilization, we have one tremendous example: the proto-Christians and decentralized Christians of the first few centuries AD. And let me point out that this was a long time before what people think of as “the Church.”

Nor is this really about religion – it’s about people who believed in and were devoted to a better set of ideas. Ideas opposed by the greatest power ever seen on the planet: the great Roman Empire at its height.

But in the end, Rome crashed and the new ideas triumphed, wiping away the Roman model altogether.

Here’s how the great historian Will Durant described it:

There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with a fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known. Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won.

There is no reason we can’t do the same thing. I don’t know how long it will take or how much turmoil we’ll have along the way, but I can tell you that building a decentralized world based upon the Golden Rule is very definitely possible. But we’ll need to work for it.

We can build a better future or we can “play it safe.” Which will you be more proud of when you’re old?

* * * * *

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* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

How Similar Are Judaism and Christianity?


This should really be a book-length discourse, and I may write such a book one of these days. First, however, I want to give you some of the highlights and begin to get my thinking in order.

At their cores, Judaism and Christianity are more similar than you might expect. Their appearances of course are different. After all, it is very much in the interests of leaders on both sides to proclaim how very right they are, which means that all others must appear to be wrong… and different.

Whom Do We Hear and See?

When dealing with this subject, there is a first obstacle that must be dealt with carefully… or else we’ll get a skewed picture of both religions. And the choice we must make is this:

To whom shall we pay more attention; to the leaders of the movements, who are few but loud, or to the simple believers, who are many but generally unheard?

It’s far easier to hear from the leaders. We have their writings and their endless disputes, after all. And in fact this is what has nearly always been done, a situation that has begun changing only in recent times.

However, as I see it, the average believers matter considerably more than the leaders. Granted, their voices are harder to hear, but they were always where the weight and mass of these religions lay. And their willingness to follow any particular leader or movement affected the ultimate shapes of these religions.

And fortunately for us, we do sometimes hear and see the average believers. If nothing else, we are told about them from the leaders of their religions as they complain (which they often do) that their followers aren’t following very well. We also find the average believers in the descriptions of outsiders and now in the archaeological record. A picture of these people is emerging.

Now, with that in mind, let’s proceed to the two religions.

Judaism Was Becoming Christianity Anyway

Most of us think of Judaism as being almost entirely law-based. But while this is true for a goodly number of modern, Orthodox Jews, it’s really something of a throw-back. Judaism had long been changing into what Christianity was to become. Here’s what I mean:

A passage from the prophet Micah:

With what shall I come before the LORD and bow myself before God on high? … with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

One from Amos:

Though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them… But let justice run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream…

And there are many others. What we’re seeing is Judaism moving away from laws and rituals and into purity of heart. In other words, it was moving directly toward Christianity.

Christians and Jews Intermixed

Here’s a fact that may shock you: Through at least the 4th century, Christians attended synagogues. We know this because it greatly irritated a famous Christian leader of the day, one John Chrysostom. This man complained at length about the fact that Christians were worshiping in synagogues and partaking of the Jewish festivals.

Furthermore, the first people who carried knowledge of Jesus to the Roman world (before St. Paul) were Jews and worshipped in synagogues along with other Jews. On top of that, it was standard procedure for Christians to identify as Jews, since it allowed them to stay within the exemptions that Rome accorded Jews. It insulated them from the wrath of Rome.

Again there is more to say but we’ll move on.

Through the Years and Now

Through the many centuries between 400 AD and today (and that’s a lot of condensing) Judaism’s concern was far less on doctrinal progress and far more on physical survival. And the founding of the state of Israel, less than 100 years ago, has further complicated things. But since Jews gained the status of “citizen” – first in the US, then France, and now in most places – we’ve seen movements, such as Reform Judaism, that focused on “what you are inside” rather than on keeping 613 laws. Even Orthodox Judaism moves that way frequently. After all, it’s in their book just the same as in the book of the Christians, and it’s the obvious line of human development… of human evolution.

How silly is it to pretend that you’re close to a loving and all-knowing God while harboring hate in your heart?

The Modern Differences

Many Jews remain convinced that Christians are their enemies… and not, we should admit, without cause. From the perspective of a modern Christian, this might seem misguided.

“The people who killed your ancestors,” they would say, “were blind sectarians and embarrassments to Christ.”

And while they too would be right, the children of the violated may not forget so easily.

On top of that, the voices of the various leaders can still be counted upon to accentuate the differences between the two religions. As can those who are devoted to doctrines rather than goodness of the heart.

And so, while the foundations of their beliefs (another big thing I flew past) are almost entirely the same… including most of the same stories… the window dressings of the two groups are purposely, and sometimes flamboyantly, made different.

But aside from a few excessive people on either side, Judaism and Christianity are far closer than might be comfortable for many people.

We might even imagine a happy future in which they begin coming back together, however slowly and hesitantly.

* * * * *


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* * * * *

The Dissipation of Moral Energies


Roughly 98% of us have a deep-rooted connection to morality. Even confirmed criminals routinely say things like, “That ain’t right,” which is purely a moral judgment. However well or poorly we use it, nearly all of us hold morality as a central reference.

And this is true across nearly the whole sweep of life. Take a hard look into any workplace and you’ll find that nearly every interaction is tied to some form of moral judgment: “He didn’t treat me with proper courtesy,” “She’s arrogant,” “That’s a man you can respect,” and so on.

Nearly everyone thinks in moral terms: what’s fair, whether or not others keep their word, who has a right to what, and so on((We covered the mechanism underlying and causing this in FMP #79.)). All of these are moral judgments, and they reveal the inherent moral focus of our race. We are morally-focused creatures by nature.

Opposition to Morality

Our present world, however, is an adverse environment for morality. This becomes obvious once we observe two simple facts:

  1. The basic statement of morality is known to nearly all of us and has been championed in nearly identical form by more or less every serious moral teacher.

  2. People are deeply confused on what is or isn’t moral.

If morality is simple and widely known and yet we’re confused, something is intervening.

The basic statement of morality is our Golden Rule of course: What is hateful to you, do to no one else. This was proclaimed by ancient Greeks, Chinese, and Hebrews, and more or less every serious thinker since. And it’s a supremely simple dictum to live by.

Why, then, moral confusion?

There are many reasons of course, but all of them stem from a single source: the people and systems that can’t thrive under a simple and clear Golden Rule.

Our Golden Rule is built upon self-reference: recognizing what we like or don’t like. It is then extended to others with uncomplicated thinking.

The enemies of morality, then, are those who don’t want us to refer to ourselves. And so they demand that we reference outside standards and obey them without self-reference and without thinking. They do this partly with fear and partly with confusion.

The fear-based method of stanching morality is the statement of authority we all know: Obey or we’ll hurt you.

The confusion-based method is the belief that our obedience has been ordered by a super-human authority: the god-king, or the god, or the majestic ancients, or the holy will of the people, or nowadays, by our magic-infused democratic processes.

Here are two statements that express this same concept from a different angle:

Government is an entity that does things we’d be condemned for if we did them to our neighbor, and yet it is held to be righteous.

Anyone with a clear enough moral view and sufficient moral energy is (at a minimum) worrisome to rulership.

Dispersion of Moral Energies

What we’ve described above is the simple opposition to morality. Worse in many ways are the less direct methods: things that drain moral energies in ways that are harmless to morality’s opponents.

Think of it this way: If what you want requires people not to engage their moral energies, it might be best if you got them to spread their moral energies every which way, so that they didn’t have much left in reserve.

Humans have limited amounts of energy after all, and that includes things like willpower and moral energies. Spread them out wildly and there is simply not enough fuel to sustain them. And this is precisely what we’re seeing in our time.

The internal energies of a mainstream, respectable couple, for example, are almost fully directed away from serious moral issues. This couple likely devotes extreme levels of emotion (drawn from the same energy pool as moral energy) to harmless diversions: the environment, their pets, hating one or the other political party, office politics, complaining about all the small moral failures they see, and so on.

All of these are dispersions of moral energy, from which no personal or civilizational improvement results. And once these energies have been expended, little is left over for more productive applications.

The Reverse View

Imagine now that your interests would be threatened if people focused their energies on the Golden Rule. What would you do to ensure your continued prosperity? I think you’d do this:

  1. Encourage and support anything that would keep people afraid.

  2. Encourage and support anything that diverts moral energies into harmless paths.

  3. Encourage and support things that make people surrender their moral energies to blind obedience.

  4. Undercut the development and application of morality among the masses.

  5. Subvert whatever purposeful development of morality remains.

And here are examples of each in the modern West:

  1. (Keeping people afraid.) News channels broadcasting fear 24/7. Political talk shows focusing on the evils of the “other side.”

  2. (Diverting moral energies.) Facebook, politics, celebrity gossip, and other trivialities.

  3. (Surrendering to obedience.) The ubiquitous and uncritical lauding of democracy.

  4. (Undercutting moral development.) The persistent ridicule of Christianity. The perennial hatred toward Christianity’s sibling, Judaism.

  5. (Subverting what remains.) The grafting of evangelical Christianity into the military-industrial complex.

This conversation could go on of course, but I think my primary point has been made.

My only exhortation is that we should leave this status quo and construct a world that does not drain our moral energies.

* * * * *

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* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

What Jesus Didn’t Say


Most of the things people associate with Jesus are things he never said. I’ll provide a few dozen examples below, but first please understand that I’m not doing this to tear anything down. Rather, I’d like to open a path away from obsolete and moribund beliefs. To do that, I’m drawing a hard line between Jesus and the apostles.

I’d very much like people to differentiate between what Jesus taught and what others taught about him. This is, however, a difficult thought, standing against centuries of assumptions to the contrary. So much so that when I first grasped this concept back in 1976, I was unable to deal with it and it slid off to the side.

I did not, however, forget it. And as I matured, this difficult thought remained with me and became clearer. I’m now convinced that it should circulate.

What Do We Call This?

So, what can we call a set of beliefs founded only upon the sayings of Jesus? I don’t know, but we can’t honestly call it “Christianity.” As you’ll see below, very many of Christianity’s core beliefs did not come from Jesus; they were added by others. However uncomfortable this may be, I really have no clearer way of expressing it, and I think its truth will become more obvious as we proceed.

But because this thought is so odd, those of you who come to agree with it (to whatever extent) will not have the comfort of a tag to place upon it; there is no category to roll it into. You’ll have to stand alone.

So, here’s my list. For convenience I’ve divided it into sections.

On the nature of God:

Jesus did not say:

God is a trinity.

God is three persons.

God is present everywhere.

On his own nature:

Jesus did not say:

I was born of a virgin.

I share the full nature of God.

I am God.

On the nature of humanity:

Jesus did not say:

Man was born into original sin.

Man is born corrupt.

Mankind is a fallen race.

On churches:

Jesus did not say:

          You should form churches.

          I will place you into congregations.

          You must obey your elders.

          Obey your leaders.

          Follow the scriptures.

          Study the scriptures.

          Study the prophecies.

          You must defend the gospel.

          You must prevent heresy.

          You should tithe.

On salvation:

Jesus did not say:

You must believe I was raised from the dead.

You must call me “Lord.”

You must surrender to me.

You must accept the Bible as truth.

You must believe and confess.

You must keep the sacraments.

You must die in a state of grace.

You must confess your sins.

On prayer:

Jesus did not say:

Pray to me.

Revere the cross.

Pray to saints.

Venerate icons.

Pray for your nation.

On Politics:

Jesus did not say:

Pray for your rulers.

Pray for your ruler to do the right thing.

Obey those above you.

Obey rulers.

Sacrifice yourself for your countrymen.

You should kill and die to preserve freedom.

You should form Christian nations.

“But if those things aren’t necessarily true, what is?”

What is or isn’t true is for you to decide. All I’m saying is that Jesus did not teach these things. And I strongly suggest that you mull that over for a while before jumping into another set of grand conclusions.

We should never have believed things because of what churches or church leaders say… not even the perfectly groomed and perfectly confident TV preachers. Nor should anyone have held such things to be true because their parents believed them. Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa may have been beautiful souls, but they were subject to misunderstanding and error just like the rest of us. We must examine things independently.

My point is this: What Jesus actually taught is quite distinct from Christianity. And in my opinion, the mix of doctrines that constitutes contemporary Christianity is at a dead end. The ideas that come directly from Jesus, however, stand to liberate and elevate the world… once they’re freed from the chains of doctrine.

What to do about this is up to you.

* * * * *

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  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
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Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)


* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

The Inconvenient Sayings of Jesus


Some things just need to be pointed out. I’m not sure I’d go quite as far as P. C. Hodgell when she wrote, “That which can be destroyed by the truth should be,” but truth – so long as it’s for the purpose of building and improving – should be told.

As the title indicates, I’ll be discussing several of Jesus’s sayings today. And I’m doing this because I think there’s tremendous potential among the world’s 2.4 billion Christians. As I’ve said before, these are people who have committed themselves to a great man and to a generally useful book. There is a tremendous amount of good that could come from them. I write this to remind them that “church” should never be more important to them than Jesus.

So, let’s begin.

“Call no man ‘father.’”

This one’s obviously going to be hard for Catholic and Orthodox Christians, who call their ritual leaders “Father,” but truth matters, and we may as well start here:

And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.

That’s from the 23rd chapter of Matthew, by the way. And yes, it flatly condemns calling a religious leader “Father.” Don’t blame me for this. Jesus said it; I’m just pointing it out.

And if this bothers you, please decide who is more important to you: Jesus or a church organization. You really can’t have it both ways here (as much as many have tried). Jesus said a specific thing, and while we are free to say, “He was wrong,” or “The book was wrong,” we cannot claim that Jesus and the book are right and still call a man in a robe “Father.”

That’s just the way it is.

“When you pray…”

This one will hit nearly all the big churches and most of the small ones too. Nonetheless, here it is:

When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

So, that’s how Jesus said to pray. Notice that he didn’t say anything about praying together at a church… or even holding hands and praying together at home. Nor do we see Jesus presiding over any such thing in the New Testament. But we do read, “after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.”

And in the verse just prior to this one, Jesus said:

When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners…

Where then, does this leave public prayers?

So, if you think your church knows better than Jesus, pray in unison as much as you like. But if your church bosses don’t know better than Jesus, you might want to take your advice from the rabbi from Nazareth.

These passages are from the 6th chapter of Matthew, by the way, which
continues this way:

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

You might want to give that one some consideration too.

“He that is greatest…”

Here’s what Jesus had to say about being a “great man” or “great woman”:

He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.

The word for servant, by the way, means “one who runs errands.” So, in modern speech, the saying goes like this:

The greatest man or woman will be the one who runs errands for you.

I’ll leave you to compare the actions of the big-name ministers to this verse (from Matthew 23), but I think we all know how that’ll turn out.

“My kingdom is not of this world”

Jesus wanted nothing to do with the governments of this world. It would be hard to be clearer than this statement from John 18, though there are others that are similar. Jesus defied the state agents of his time, and his first followers did the same. These things are obvious to any reader who isn’t hell-bent on evading them.

Christian “leaders” have whored themselves out to governments since the third century, and their ideas currently dominate many Christian minds. But with every theological excuse they spin, they push Jesus farther away from themselves.

“A new commandment…”

This last saying, from John 13, is, in my opinion, of central importance:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you.

Church people (and yes, I am generalizing, which isn’t entirely fair) are happy to debate doctrine at any length, but they consistently evade loving. Indeed, they become agitated or worse if you press the subject.

And to love one another the same as Jesus loved his disciples? They won’t accept that as a serious possibility.

But Jesus did think of it as a serious possibility. He thought his followers could do this. If not, he was simply being cruel.

So, again, you are free to shuffle past this saying with all due haste, but you are not free to call yourself a proper follower of Jesus at the same time.

You could of course call yourself a faithful churchgoer, son of the church, daughter of the church, or whatever. And that’s my point:

I hold that you should be free to choose whichever way you like, but I also hold that you should be honest about it: Jesus and church are not the same thing.

* * * * *

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  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.

  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.

  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)


* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

The Truth About Hell


Before I drop yet another “sensitive” article into the world, I’d like to add that I’m not writing these to be destructive or to garner controversy. I write on these subjects because they matter a great deal and because no one else seems to. Other people have to have seen the same things I have, but somehow they don’t show up in print.

“Hell,” to be sure, is a touchy subject. Millions of people think their eternal destination rests upon an acknowledgement that hell and its eternal torture are real. Some of them will almost say, “If there is no hell, there is no God.” Furthermore, they believe that without the fear of hell, we would all degenerate into monsters.

Nonetheless, the truth about hell is that it began as Egyptian propaganda. I’m sure some people will be shocked by that statement, but it’s true, it’s clear, and we should have been told this a long time ago. (This is covered in depth in issue # 64 of the subscription letter.)

From Egypt, “hell” made its way to Greece, where it was embellished. Finally – and later than people think – it made its way into Christianity, where it has remained till the present.

When Hell Began

The earliest Near Eastern religions had no concept of hell. Instead, they had a dreary underworld, almost like a purgatory where people lived as ghosts. That’s an awfully rough description, but it’s the best I can do in a few words.

“Hell” was an innovation of Egypt’s Middle Kingdom, after the Old Kingdom (the bosses who built the pyramids) broke down in 2181 BC. The priests needed a better set of mythologies to keep people paying their taxes and obeying the pharaoh, and this story worked. A group of texts from this period (the Coffin Texts) describe an underworld as containing fiery rivers and lakes, as well as fire demons who threatened the wicked.

The Greeks added a place called “Tartarus,” a pit of punishment that existed inside the larger underworld, which was called “hades.”

Neither the Sumerian religion nor the ancient Hebrew religion had any concept of hell, and later-day Judaism seldom ventures farther than an underworld. (Jesus is said to have used a version of this underworld in one of his stories.)

The modern version of hell doesn’t appear in Christianity until long after Jesus’s death. The earliest explicit mention I can point to is from Hippolytus (Against Plato), in about 230 AD, eight or 10 generations after Jesus.

Jesus Taught Hell!”

No, he didn’t. Again, this is carefully explained in issue # 64 of the subscription letter. Suffice it to say that half of the mentions of “hell” in the King James Bible shouldn’t even be there. They wrongly translated the name Hades – the Greek god of the underworld – as “hell.” Newer versions use “the grave.”

The word from the scary hell passages – gehenna – was simply the name of a garbage dump: The Valley of Hinnom, where the people of Jerusalem discarded and burned their refuse. Furthermore, the word for “destroy,” apollymi, means “to eliminate entirely.”

And so, doctrines of hell are contradicted by literal translations. Here’s a scary passage from King James:

… but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

Literally translated it says:

… but rather fear him which is able to annihilate you, body and soul, as refuse.

Now, the scariest one:

… to be cast into Gehenna, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

“Worm,” here, is actually “maggot,” creatures that abound in refuse piles. And so, the verse could be translated as:

… to be cast as refuse into a pit… where maggots and fire consume all.

I invite anyone committed to the scary interpretations to get an interlinear New Testament and a lexicon and to look up the words.

The Implications

It would be hard to find a worse contradiction than a God who loves everyone but who will torture most people for billions of years simply because they didn’t express the right flavor of religious devotion… something they had no way to be certain about.

This belief portrays a “loving God” who is worse than serial killers. The killers, at least, have some point where they weary of inflicting torment. What kind of being is this God who will torture fathers, mothers, and children forever?

And make no mistake; people who advocate for hell are calling torture “righteous.”

The Fruits

Hell, the ultimate terror, is the enemy of what’s best within us, not its aid.

And it’s true that “hell” began as Egyptian propaganda. It was a useful myth to keep the taxes flowing.

One last thought:

We can choose to see or we can choose to be blind. Choose wisely.

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.

  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.

  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.

  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)


* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

How Jesus Condemns Christianity


People I love and respect are committed to Christianity as it exists today. And so I’m relieved that they’ve acclimated to me and won’t take this personally… because it needs to be said:

Modern Christianity is something Jesus would condemn.

And yes, “condemn” is the right word. Do you remember all those passages where Jesus rails against the religious “hypocrites” of his own time? Well, he’d be doing the same if he were here now.

Let’s take these three lines as a warm-up:

Jesus never mentioned the virgin birth.

Jesus never mentioned original sin.

Jesus never used the word “trinity.”

None of these doctrines originated with Jesus. All of them were religious additions… later additions. Jesus never taught them.

Does This Offend You?

I am openly driving a wedge between Jesus and “Christianity” here, and I’m not going to apologize for it. My sympathies lie with Jesus rather than Christianity. If this offends anyone, I dare suggest that they consider their priorities.

The truth is that Jesus was more radical than religious people have ever been able to accept. How many of his original “disciples,” after all, were from a religious background? They were mostly fishermen and construction workers.

How strange, then, that within a century or two, intellectuals would take over entirely. And they did: Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Ambrose, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian of Carthage, and Augustine were all professional intellectuals before they encountered Christianity. They changed a great many things.

We do, however, have records of average believers in the early days. We haven’t space for details here, but you can find them in several issues of our subscription letter. And what we find in those records looks nothing like modern Christianity. We see people devoted to good works rather than incessant talking. And we see no Bible devotion. In fact, the first mention of reading anything like a Bible reading in a meeting comes at 155 AD (several generations after Jesus), and calls the passages “memoirs.” Whether church people like that or not, it’s a fact.

“But the Apostles Taught Jesus’s Way”

Sorry, they didn’t. They were good men, and they tried. But they didn’t understand Jesus very well (lots of evidence for that), and they soon fought among themselves. And here’s a very telling fact:

In the New Testament, Jesus is noted as expressing “compassion” in six separate incidents and weeping over a death in a seventh. In a striking contrast, such actions are never attributed to any of “the apostles.”

The Way of Salvation

Christianity offers “salvation” to people based upon keeping sacraments, membership in a group, appeals to “accept his Word,” admonishment to “surrender to him,” and so on. Jesus’s teachings, however, are wildly different:

No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.

Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.

All that the Father gives me will come to me.

In all of these cases, internal enlightenment is the only path to salvation. Either you get something from the Father, or you don’t. And that’s it. End of discussion.

This passage makes the same point:

You are blessed… because flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father….

We also see this in the earliest followers. At about 130 AD, an old man – old enough to have known some of the very first believers – tells a young man this:

Pray that, above all things, the gates of light may be opened to you; for these things cannot be perceived or understood by all, but only by the man to whom God and his anointed have imparted wisdom.

It would be hard to overstress the implications of this teaching. And it’s incompatible with the doctrines of the churches.

One Final Point

There’s much more to be said on this (again, see the subscription letters), but I can summarize this way:

All that matters to Jesus is the real, the essential. He flatly rejects the value of form, ritual, and symbolism. Everything hinges on actual substance and on nothing else.

Jesus declares authority to be worthless. He declares tradition to be worthless. He declares acts of devotion to be worthless. The only thing that matters is what you are. No exceptions; no wiggle room. And if what you are isn’t sufficient, then change your mind (that’s the actual meaning of repent) and get busy fixing it.

Perhaps that’s still too radical for mankind to bear, but it is what he taught.

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.

  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.

  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.

  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)


* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

What the World Would Be Like Without Capitalism

slaverySome people say that the search for profit is abusive, heartless, evil, and so on. I’m not particularly in love with profit for its own sake (and I certainly don’t think it justifies abuse), but a reflexive condemnation of profit is deeply ignorant.

The truth is, “profit” killed the ancient abomination of human slavery. To eliminate the ability of people to profit would draw slavery back into the world. And we obviously don’t want that.

Here’s why:

Slavery Was an Economic System

What is not understood is that slavery was the foundation of economics in the old world – such as in Greece and Rome.

Slavery was almost entirely about surplus. (Surrounded by creative justifications, of course.) It was a type of enforced thrift.

An undeveloped man, left to himself, will spend almost all of what he earns. If he does earn some surplus, he’ll likely spend it on luxuries, frivolities, or worse. Until he develops a strong character, little of his surplus will remain for other uses.

A slave, on the other hand, never holds his earnings in his hands and therefore cannot spend them. All surplus is transferred to his or her owner. It was precisely this kind of surplus that made Rome rich.

But then Christian Europe came about. Prior to that, I cannot point to a single ancient culture that forbade the practice; it was seen as normal. So, for Europe to expel the slavery it inherited from Rome was a monumental change.

Europeans replaced slavery – slowly and because of their Christian principles, not because of a conscious plan – by doing these things:

  1. Developing personal thrift. This required a strong focus on building up virtues like temperance (self-control) and patience.
  2. Replacing the enforced surplus of slavery with profit. That is, by mixing creativity in with their commerce: innovating, inventing, and adapting to get more surplus out of commerce.

Under a new system that was eventually tagged capitalism, thrift and creativity generated surplus, and no human beings had to be enslaved.

A World Without Profit

On the other hand, we have recent examples of what happens when a culture forbids profit: the “socialist paradises” of Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China, and the enslaved states of Eastern Europe. (Among others.)

These examples are bleak indeed, featuring the enslavement of everyone to a ruling party.

Profit provides an incentive to work, and when it is gone, not only does work suffer, but those who want to get ahead have no honest way to do it. And that drives them either to despair or to crime.

If you eliminate profit – innovative, rewarding commerce – you get slavery. The form of that slavery may vary from one case to another, but it will be slavery of some type.

This result is the same, by the way, whether the elimination of profit occurs via communism (make a profit, we shoot you) or fascism (all profit-making is taken over by friends of the state).

The core issue is surplus:

  • If surplus can be gathered by average people via honest means, slavery can be eliminated.
  • If average people are not allowed to create and hold their own surplus (surplus being skimmed off to the state and/or state partners), slavery of one sort or another will be the result.

Profit is simply a tool – a way of generating surplus without the enforced thrift of slavery.

You cannot get rid of both slavery and profit. You can eliminate whichever one you wish, but you’ll be stuck with the other.

Profit Rests on Virtues

To live in a civilization that prospers by profit, we need to move beyond gorilla-level instincts like envy. We need to develop self-control, patience, and a focus on more than just material possessions.

It’s a shame that the West has turned away from traditional virtues over recent centuries. If the Church that previously taught these virtues was found to be wanting, we should have replaced it with something better, rather than casting everything aside and pretending that virtues were nothing but superstition.

If we ever lose enough of our virtues, profit will lose its protections, and the ancient way of slavery will return.

What we do matters.

Paul Rosenberg

Silk Road Died, Bitcoin Crashed. So why am I so happy?

silk roadYou may have heard that Silk Road – the truly free online market – was taken down today, by the FBI. In response, the price of Bitcoin crashed 24%.

Yet here I am – just a few hours later, feeling very optimistic. Why? Because the philosophy of freedom just showed itself to be massively stronger than statism and its “don’t think, just obey” philosophy.

Here’s What Happened

As I was finishing my lunch, I saw a story posted on the takedown/crash. I did a bit of checking and conversed with a friend, and then hustled over to a place I know where crypto-anarchists hang out online.

These guys were already talking about replacing Silk Road, and doing a better job of it.

Forget about the drugs aspect of this – I don’t care for drugs and neither do the people I listened in on – they just want to build free markets.

Contrast that to a financial site, where I found a couple of Bitcoin haters, a Fed trying to supercharge as much fear as he/she could, and several people trying to buy Bitcoin at its lows, or lamenting that they were out of extra cash to buy right away.

But here’s the interesting part: In the face of an orchestrated attack (and you can be sure that the Feds arranged the day’s events for maximum fear – that’s what they do), even these people, within minutes, were walking forward, not backward.

A Better Philosophy Wins Out

Arguably, the greatest triumph of a new philosophy has to be that of the early Christians (of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries AD), they simply would not be stopped, no matter what was thrown at them.

And why wouldn’t they turn back? Because the Roman way was ridiculous and barbaric. Their gods were vile, vain, sometimes stupid and often cruel. Who wants to worship that? These Christians – whatever their faults or virtues – had found a God who loved them, who wished to help and enlighten them, who said they were meant to be free and prosperous.

Which way would you choose?

The Romans persecuted them and sometimes killed them, but they would not be turned around. These people chose the better philosophy, and in the end, they won.

Today, I saw the same thing, wrapped in modern circumstances.

Freedom-minded people are not stopping, are not abandoning their views. And why should they? Shall we go back to the idiocy and self-contradictory life of worshiping the state? Of pretending that robbery is somehow – magically – not robbery when the government does it?

Our minds have been removed from the state’s intimidation and conditioning. Shall we go back to believing lies and repeating vapid slogans for the rest of our lives?

There are real reasons why individuals move from bondage to liberty, but very seldom the reverse.

The Bottom Line Facts

At the end of all the discussions, all the fears, all the questions, all of the explaining to newbs and concerned friends, stand these facts:

Our philosophy is better than theirs. We offer men and women truth, understanding, compassion (the real kind), and strong, direct relationships. The state offers punishment, fear, an occasional promise of plunder, and intrusion into every relationship in your life.

Our people are better than theirs. Not because we were born better, but because finding and living according to truth produces better people than blind obedience and fear of the lash.

We are not quitting. We can’t. We won’t.

Yes, there may be bruises and even blood along the way, but like the first Christians, our people do not turn back – they continue regardless.

We’ve come out of the state’s cultivated darkness, and we are moving into more and more light. Why would we want to go back to where we were? Even if we tried to do it, could we really stick with it? Could our minds really fit back into their old restraints?

This is why freedom will win, my friends: The genie is out of the bottle, and the Internet has spread the message to the four corners of the Earth. It’s a better message. It produces better people.

And in the end, we will win.

Paul Rosenberg

Christianity and War: Do they go together?

christianity and war

Yes, I know that there are some churches and individual Christians who don’t approve of war, but a huge wing of Christianity in the US has put itself in service to a warfare state. Listening to them, you’d think that Christianity and war were natural bedfellows. If you’ve spent time in Red State America, you know what I mean.

Please understand that I am not endorsing the Blue State line of crap either (I reject both wings of the Party), but that’s not my subject today.

Red State Protestants have given themselves over to “the virtues of defense,” seemingly without limit. They endlessly laud cops, firemen, and especially soldiers: anyone authorized by the state to use force. State force has become unquestionably righteous – especially if it is overseas. To these people, the US military can do no wrong.

This involves killing strangers, you understand… by Christians… people whose Holy Book say that they should love the outsider, turn the other cheek, and that every government belongs to the Devil.

Red State Religion as a Mix of Christianity and War Philosophy

Red State Christianity has become a State Religion, a Warfare Religion. So, since “judgment begins at the house of God,” let’s be harsh:

These churches are sucking up to the state for tax breaks, to follow a popular course, and to get lots and lots of members. It’s the new successful pattern, and they are following it without hesitation… to the point where they invent reasons to justify the killing of children. (“Collateral damage,” that is, not “killing.”)

A huge number of Red State churches have become whores to the US military culture, paying endless obeisance to uniformed state agents. According to them, all agents of the state are noble, are to be respected, and are most definitely to be obeyed without question. (Tell that to Sam Adams or Tom Jefferson!) All opinions to the contrary are discarded, condemned or ridiculed, without serious consideration.

This War Christianity is definitely at odds with the New Testament, which treats both war and state as barbaric relics.

I am not, by the way, opposed to stopping actual killers. What I am opposed to is telling someone to kill another person that he knows nothing about, guided by a superstition that “we’re automatically the good guys.”

And yes, I know that no one, in the midst of fire and confusion, has enough skill to avoid accidentally shooting an innocent. My complaint is with worshiping a government that places 18 year old boys in that position. These kids are being told to kill strangers, without any real evidence that the people they kill deserve it.

Is “because a politician said so” really sufficient?

These boys are coming home in pieces, or with pieces missing – and committing suicide in droves – for what? To magically turn Afghanistan into a western state? Does anyone seriously think that will happen?

And as someone who cares about history and theology, I am especially opposed to Jesus’ name being abused – yet again – by credentialed shepherds who are devoted – first and foremost – to gathering the largest flock possible, while not giving a damn that distant brown people die.

At this point in American history we are being treated to a continuing and twisted spectacle: Defenders of indiscriminate death pretending that they care about “love.”

They lie. So says me and so says John the Apostle.

Let me be clear about this: Christianity is an anti-state religion. It always was. So was the Judaism that came before it. All arguments to the contrary are fallacious, at least if we are to take the Bible as a serious reference.

But it will change…

Sooner or later, some American Christians will remember that theirs is an anti-state religion. It will doubtless begin with meetings in living rooms, barns and job sites, and will include a lot of good and talented young people. But they will make themselves despised outsiders, opposed by the current generation of Christian leaders, who have dedicated themselves to the state and haven’t any inclination to admit their errors.

In other words, the new, honest Christians will become the next link in a long and proud chain of heretics. They will be brave and committed people who are right, while all the institutions are wrong.

Are we really to believe that there is virtue in sending machines to rain indiscriminate death upon foreign people… at funerals? (Look it up!)

Must we really defend repetitive torture as being righteous?

Now, to be honest, the Red State Christians don’t say these things. Actually, they avoid facing them altogether. And that is the problem. Many of them have become, as Jesus’ friend Simon Peter said, “willingly ignorant.”

The US war machine is killing and torturing, and American preachers are straining their every muscle to thank them for it, in the name of Christ.

I’ve read Jesus’ words too many times to be suckered by this game, and I don’t think Jesus is pleased with it either.

Let’s hope that some young Christians can pull their act together and do better than the generation that preceded them. War and Christianity don’t belong together. They never have and they never will.

Paul Rosenberg
Christianity and War: Do they go together?