Early Religions, Judaism and Christianity: the Scholars Speak
By Brent Waterbury
Smashwords copyright 2013
"Honest criticism of religious faith is a moral and intellectual necessity.”
(“Letter to a Christian Nation”, Harris, ’06)
This ebook is a post-modern look of ancient religions, Judaism and Christianity and their origins from a scholar’s point of view. This is also an indepth look at how these religions started and their evolution over time. Here the layout is unique in that I've chosen the subjects but use the scholar’s own quotes to make their point. The reason for this layout is the reader doesn't need to wade through tons and tons of dry scholarly material just to get a few historical points or facts. I've done the 'dirty work' so to speak. But this approach wasn't easy either as this has entailed years and years of reading, research and study.
Today literally hundred's of millions of people around the world from all cultures and
all walks of life feel that life isn't worth living without a religion. To them religion is a calming effect on life's stresses and strains and they would be lost without it. While millions of others feel the opposite: that religion is overrated and irrelevant to anyone with a brain. This ebook helps to eliminate this confusion...
This book is also based on my own personal experiences with various church's since I was for many years a "devout religious Christian". Like Paul, I too wandered the 'spiritual deserts' trying to find answers to my questions. But after years of searching I found out the spiritual problems weren't me per se (as I often thought) rather the Bible itself. Why? Because the Bible is good at raising questions but not so good at providing answers:
"A majority of Americans (78%) say that the Bible is the 'word of God'. Pew 2011
"The U.S. is an intensely Christian nation today."
("Transformation of the World", intro)
So I set the Bible down for a decade or so thinking, 'this is just another ancient religion and I'll never understand it' and let it go at that. But the problem was I admired the Old Testament. I admired its overall philosophy (for its time) and moral teachings. So I moved into the historical research and scholarly end and ended up finding more answers than I dreamed of! But of course the answers I found aren't what most Jews or Christians are really looking for:
"Do you find the Bible... Confusing? Difficult to read? Hard to understand?”
"The Bible is misunderstood. Most Americans are completely in the dark about what scholars
have been saying about the Bible for the past 200 years."
("Jesus, Interrupted”, Ehrman, pg. 1)
Because religion can be mysterious, unknowable, thousands of years old and not at all straight-forward millions are turned off. In fact, over the last 50 years possibly hundreds of millions of people have left the Christian church altogether without any negative effect overall. This is an extraordinarily telling:
"The American public is disillusioned with traditional Christianity."
("Bad Religion", Douthat, ), (Barna, "New research how different generations view the Bible", '12)
So what amazed me about my research on earlier religions was the deeper I got into them more interesting they got. Not so much their insight (a mixed-bag) but how they went about starting religions from scratch. To us a large startup religion might seem impossible now but didn't Apple computer start just 35 years ago with 2 guys in a garage? How worldwide could Apple be in say 2,500 years?:
"Religious faith remains a perpetual source of human conflict. What is the worst in us--outright delusion--has been elevated beyond the reach of criticism."
("End of Faith", Harris)
Then there are Christians that read their Bible but still know very little about its own history. They don't know why the texts originally got written down, what prompted them, and who separated what from what. This ebook can dramatically help with this perplexity:
"Most contemporary Christians are massively ignorant how the church got to where it is today."
Dr. Snyder, Asbury Theological Seminary
(sourced from, “Pagan Christianity: exploring the roots of our church practices”, Viola/Barna, ’12)
"The common goal of most biblical scholars is to figure out how the Bible works."