Madonna and Child from the Mimara Museum, Zagreb, Croatia
I am a very, very concrete person. I take reality seriously. Some things can actually happen in this world, while other things simply cannot happen.
This is where faith and I part ways. Let me give you an example…
In order to be a Christian and to have faith, one must believe in some fundamental tenets of a religion. Those tenets are outlined in several creeds. These creeds are often repeated Sunday after Sunday in most major denominational church services. I shall present the creed that I repeated for several decades.
The Apostles’ Creed
(Traditional Methodist Version)
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
These words contain every bit of faith in order to believe in Christianity—or certainly the Christianity as presented by the United Methodist Church. The only problem with this creed is that it contains impossibilities on earth. Specifically, those impossibilities are being born of a virgin woman and the bodily raising from the dead.
Let’s take just one aspect of this creed—the virgin birth. I have often heard from people who live in the United States and who do not study ancient religions, that there was only one time when a woman was pregnant and was a virgin. Well, guess what? That’s not true. Ancient religions throughout the centuries often spoke of gods or demi-gods impregnating human women. Such a story is found in the original monotheistic religion, Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster was said to be born of a virgin. The Greek and Roman religions contained a pantheon of gods who cavorted with humans and created demi-gods. In Egyptian mythology, Isis is the equivalent of the Virgin Mary. Just look all of these up on your own. The bottom line is, no woman on this earth can or will ever be impregnated by a god. It has never happened and it never will happen. This is simply reality and just because you want it to be so does not make is so.
Such mythologies evolve around gods because gods are our super heroes. We want our heroes to heal us, to perform miracles in our midst when we call on them for help and redemption. What is the best way to worship a super hero? Make sure he was created by a god and birthed on earth by a mother who was “pure.” This gets into the ideas of women and male dominance very quickly and that’s another very long, drawn-out discussion.
Faith can cause us to believe some really hair-brained schemes. One of those schemes is that of the virgin birth. One can only believe in the virgin birth through faith alone, because it is impossible on earth. But repeating such sentences as “…born of the Virgin Mary,” cements into your psyche that this is real, that there is no reason to question the process because we repeat it over and over and over and we have faith that it is true. Just because you repeat something over and over again does not make it true if it is impossible. And it is…impossible—one of many impossibilities in Christianity and in any religion based on faith and super heroes.