I Lied To Myself For A Long Time

At 17, I was prayed for to receive the baptism in the holy spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues. That’s when my Christian life took off.

While born into a Christian home, my parents weren’t strict in their practices of the disciplines of the faith. We attended the United Methodist Church off and on during my childhood. I was involved in the youth ministry when I got a little older. I went to the altar and asked Jesus to be my savior around the age of 10.

But we didn’t talk about the bible in my household. Never saw anyone reading it, never heard anyone reference it. We didn’t pray except at the dinner table. God wasn’t active in our lives and we had no expectation that he would be.

That changed with the baptism in the holy spirit.

In my teens, I plugged into a youth group full of kids my age who were claiming to experience god in a literal way. They spoke in tongues. They prayed and expected answers. They actively studied the bible and then had lively discussion about it over fudge cake at Shoney’s.

My new circle of Christian friends claimed answers to prayer all the time. Any little thing that would happen was attributed to prayer. God was always at work. Angels were saving the day … devils were hiding in bushes. Some even claimed to have seen them.

Not me. But, boy … I wanted to.

I attended a bible study with them one night where an invitation was extended to go in the back room and be prayed for to receive the baptism in the holy spirit. I didn’t walk … I ran. “Just let your tongue move,” they encouraged as the group murmured in tongues.

speaking-in-tongues-floorThere was nothing in the world I wanted more that night than to speak in tongues. But nothing was happening. I didn’t feel anything at all. The room was crowded and hot and I prayed with all my might.

I tried and tried and waited and prayed. The other person being prayed for started praying in tongues. Everyone went nuts praising god and clapping. So I tried harder. I wiggled my tongue and hummed. Nothing. I quickly repented of any unknown sin. Nothing. I rebuked satan … nada.

I was getting worried.

It felt like a pressure cooker. What if I didn’t get the gift? What would that say about me? That god didn’t trust me to have it? That I wasn’t good enough or spiritual enough or mature enough?

“Just make this noise,” someone said. Then he went something like, “She Be Goin In A Honda” … So I did my best to repeat that. “There you go!” he shouted in victory, “You’re speaking in tongues!” Everyone in the room started to clap and praise god.

He encouraged me to keep going, to keep making noises as they came to me. They assured me that I had the gift of tongues. That THAT was it.

I was still worried. Was repeating someone else’s babble really tongues? I kept doing it … for about ten years!

Tongues was one of the things I could never fully convince myself was real. Even with the many trusted sources in my life saying that it was … deep down I knew something was wrong. Was it me, was it god, was it them? I didn’t know.

It seems to me like there are layers of belief. There are things that you know … really know. Those things are easy.You don’t even really talk about the absolutes much. I never wax on about how certain I am about the sun coming up.  I know it will.

Then there are things you feel strongly about but with an openness to the possibility of learning differently. Of changing your mind. And it’s okay. Kind of like I know that butter is healthier than margarine, but I’m open to new findings.

Then there’s knowing what you don’t want to know. Knowing a truth that will separate you from the pack. So, you push it back, you push it down and you forge ahead into the truth you wish to be so you don’t lose your footing with the people you’ve come to rely on.

That’s what I did. I kept on babbling for years and years, praying in the spirit as I heard others do all the while, pushing that nagging thing as deep as it would go. “She Be Goin In A Honda” … they told me it was real. My gut said otherwise.  And I had no idea what to do with that given the Christians I’d surrounded myself with.

I’m ashamed that I faked that part of my life for so long. That I denied myself the truth. That I played that mind game out of fear.

 

 

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23 thoughts on “I Lied To Myself For A Long Time

  1. I found this really disturbing. Especially since I’m almost perfectly certain that the original expression from the NT referring to speaking in tongues means speaking foreign tongues that the apostles weren’t supposed to know, not speaking gibberish. At least it was only for ten years and not for longer, right?

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  2. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I really do appreciate that especially since this is a fresh off the presses blog!

    I stopped praying in tongues of my own accord after about ten years … I just didn’t talk about tongues anymore to anyone. And yes, the whole thing IS disturbing – I agree. While there was no nefarious intent in the people that led me down that road, none-the-less, the whole thing caused a level of inner turmoil in my life.

    My recollection of what I was taught about the phenomena itself was that it was the holy spirit speaking through the believer. You surrender yourself, god takes over. This was especially useful when you didn’t know what or how to pray about a certain thing. The answer to that was praying in the spirit, or praying in tongues. Occasionally we’d hear an interpretation … one person would speak out in tongues, god would give another the interpretation of what had been said.

    Unless the believer spoke in a recognizable language, there was absolutely no way to verify that an interpretation was correct. That always bugged me … how could we KNOW it was god? We couldn’t. But that seemed to be okay with everyone. :o/

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  3. Back in the day, we relied mostly on the book of Acts when the spirit came down with tongues of fire. Tongues isn’t a well documented topic in scripture. But it was a big deal in the full-gospel movement. So we also drew from books by popular leaders/authors at that time in the 80’s. Preachers like Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin come to mind. And a book by Kenneth Kinghorn … Gifts of the Spirit, I think. There were others I can’t remember now. These days there’s a whole new crop of people writing books on the topic.

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    1. I’ll check the Book of Acts then, thanks. I’m asking because I’ve seen other instances where some passage from the original Koine Greek of the NT -which I can read because modern Greek is my actual native language- has been mistranslated and then used in all sorts of unbelievably crazy Christian movements. You probably never had any connection to the Sacred Name movement because those people are 7th Day Adventists but it’s similar. Some people who could not read the language came up with the completely and obviously wrong idea that Jesus means Hail Zeus, and made a whole movement out of something anyone with any significant knowledge of Greek could have seen was dead wrong.

      And also, I admire your courage to break off from the Christian cult in the environment you are in. That takes guts even if you haven’t gone public with it.

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  4. Son of Earth, thank you. I appreciate your encouragement. As I get healthier, I feel more able to talk openly without the chip on my shoulder. Hopefully this blog will take me that much further along.

    I’ve not heard of the Sacred Name movement. I’ll do some digging on that as I’m always fascinated by off shoots and movements within cults and mainstream religions (which are all still cults IMO, just more societally acceptable).

    Your original language being Greek … that certainly gives you an edge when studying the New Testament. Modern day English speaking Christians like me are at a significant disadvantage in this regard … as you pointed out, mistranslations have most certainly occurred. The average Joe like me would never know that had it not been for scholars who pointed it out. Even then, most Christians will dive straight into rationalizing that mistranslations aren’t mistakes at all. After all, how could god let a mistake happen to his holy word? Total conundrum.

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  5. I tend to agree with Son of Earth, in that the gift of speaking in tongues means in foreign languages allowing those who have it to spread the gospel to ‘the Gentiles.’ But I also believe people when they say tongues are a form of worship for them, like dance or song, something that transcends ordinary experience and that elevates one’s spirit by praising God. Even if you didn’t ever quite experience it like that–for I don’t believe in ‘fake it till you make it’–did you ever feel a supernatural joy coming from some of the others ‘speaking in tongues’? Or, perhaps they were all lying to themselves? I have to say, I’m intrigued by the content of your blog. I read your ‘Short version’ and wonder how your minister-husband took your leaving.

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  6. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my new blog! It means so much to me … you have no idea!

    To address your question … I did, indeed, feel joy throughout my Christian experience, including speaking in tongues and worship. I absolutely felt euphoria at times … compunction at times … awe at times. I don’t doubt those feelings were real.

    But what I’ve come to appreciate is the science behind belief. Advances in neuroscience suggest compelling reasons for why we feel what we feel when we pray, worship, meditate or chant. It would appear to be far more of a physiological response than supernatural one.

    Perhaps you’re correct when you say, “…the gift of speaking in tongues means in foreign languages allowing those who have it to spread the gospel to ‘the Gentiles.’” That could be the intent … if the bible and god are real. What I know is my own experience as I’ve described it. I was encouraged to babble and it was celebrated as a supernatural event. I was assured that this was god … something I eventually learned to be false.

    Right this moment, I can speak in tongues as I once could. I can make the same sounds in exactly the same way as I did when “under the influence of the holy spirit.” And yet, I have rejected the gospel. If I were to listen to praise and worship music right now, I suspect I’d feel a similar sensation to what I felt in church back in the day when I believed. And I further suspect that this could be explained scientifically. A chemical release? Maybe so. Endorphines making me feel good for a moment? Probably.

    The brain is an amazing thing. And our brain on god can imagine the unimaginable.

    My husband was retiring at the time I came unglued. The timing was good, as leaving the church didn’t become a ‘thing’. As for how he has handled this, he’s still a Christian and we don’t touch the subject much although he’s well aware of where I stand at the moment. It’s not been an easy ride … but we are working through and friends at the core.

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    1. This has become an interesting conversation. An ex-Christian’s blog where a Polytheist (me) and a Christian have commented. I’ve had my wasted years as a Christian as well, although I’m probably atypical for my culture because it came late and left very early. What did it for me was the pervasive silence that Way describes. What sealed it for me was reason, (and) acknowledging the fact that we have zero, yes absolutely zero, historical evidence for the existence of anyone that went by the name of Jesus and performed the feats he’s reputed to have performed.

      From her last response, I’d say that the blog owner’s rational faculties are spotless and I’d be sinning against my own Gods if I ever attempted to pollute them again with my theology, even if I think my version is right. I can’t expect Christians to ever reach this realization.

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  7. “What sealed it for me was reason, (and) acknowledging the fact that we have zero, yes absolutely zero, historical evidence for the existence of anyone that went by the name of Jesus and performed the feats he’s reputed to have performed.”

    I wish I could count how many times I was told by fellow Christians that history, archeology, and science prove the existence of Jesus. The more trusted the source, the more easily I believed the claims. I never set out to verify the claims on my own. Didn’t even cross my mind to do so at that time.

    These days I feel like I’m skeptical about everything all the way down to a label on a can of beans. Like the pendulum has swung too far the other direction. :0/

    I’m right in the middle of the book Nailed: Ten Christian Myths that Show Jesus Never Existed at All by David Fitzgerald. It’s eye opening … disturbing in many ways. I bought into so many ideas lock-stock-n-barrel. I feel like a goober for having done so but then again, we tend to be pack animals, easily swayed by those around us. I was surrounded by like-minded Christians … and I went with that.

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    1. I’ve read a few chapters from Nailed, and it seemed good enough to me. The various scholars involved in the historicity versus jesus myth debate aren’t always completely unbiased and some are if not Christians, at least Christian-friendly enough to be biased in favor of Jesus’s historical existence. Christian scholars have been a bit propagandistic in the past, forming groups like the Jesus Seminar back in the 80s to try to convince people that the scholarly consensus is that Jesus was a historical and not a fictional character. I find these tactics to be little less than apologetics, especially the appeal to scholarly consensus which isn’t always accurate, true or even current. Other than the Jesus Seminar, I’m not aware of anyone else regularly polling scholars on their opinions so anyone who claims to know what the consensus is at any given time is at best talking about his impressions and at worst, about his fantasies.

      One younger scholar that I quite like because of his vigorous approach to methodology is Richard Carrier and his various debates with Bart Ehrman, the major proponent of a historical Jesus today, have really destroyed any potential argument for a historical Jesus. I think he’s published most of Ehrman’s arguments and his counter-arguments on his blog besides his books: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/

      Christian apologists will usually try to portray some dubious or vague sources as proof of Jesus’s existence and completely hide other very odd facts, like that a very wide-spread sect of Christians existed who believed that he lived and died in 70 BCE (before Christ), the various common elements with pagan mystery cults of the time, the indication that (at least some) early Christians believed that Jesus had lived and died in a spiritual realm and not in ours, or the indication that even the Gospel of John seems to reflect the ancient idea that Jesus was a common man who was selected to become the Messiah by god during his baptism, etc. The greater picture cannot in any way suggest that there was any historical basis behind all these elements, at least to me.

      Besides, even if Jesus existed and he really was performing miracles, would any Christian be able to prove that he wasn’t Poseidon’s son for example? Or maybe Satan gave him the power to perform miracles to steer people away from Judaism? Apollonius of Tyana lived a little later than Jesus, we have good evidence that he did exist and some sources which are just as credible as the Gospels (or rather, lack credibility as much as the Gospels as historical sources) paint the image of someone who performed the same kind of miracles. Miraculous cures, resurrections, all sorts of impossible feats, prophecies and in the end instead of dying, he ascended to heaven to be with the Gods. I didn’t see anyone converting to Hellenic Polytheism because of that story though, which was taken far more seriously than the Gospels in early antiquity.

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  8. I’m profoundly excited about how advances in technology have and will continue to provide easy access to information for open minded and seeking Christian. Your comment here is busting at the seams with topics easily researched online for inquiring minds. Not all online sources are good ones of course, but the info is out there and ready to be explored.

    In the ’80’s when I was a full-throttle Christian, information was hard to come by. I had no idea that the Jesus story was a recycled one. Horus, Mithras …? No one was talking about the history of previous redeemers and their many parallels to the Jesus story. I’m sure I would have found that unnerving at the very least but had I known, perhaps I would have gotten out earlier? Dunno. I was pretty convinced.

    Continued reports and surveys pop up suggesting the there’s a significant rise in those who are religiously un-affiliated. When I was a kid, it was unheard of NOT to identify as Christian. (Small town in the mid-west, go figure.) That seems to be changing at a rapid rate.

    Your comment is a wealth of information … a simple study of Tyana alone is eye opening for anyone interested in religious history. I suspect we will never have a definitive answer to whether or not Jesus actually existed in the flesh and sadly, there will always be those who will not release that delusion even if we did.

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    1. I used to be of the opinion that to disentangle from Christianity, all you need to do is to read the Bible and see the atrocities, the inhumane values and the inconsistencies for yourself. But it seems your experience is a good example of how one’s environment can keep someone blinded even if they do read the Bible. This kind of “support structure” that’s meant to explain away every inconsistency and doubt is really cancerous isn’t it? You’re right about technology though, someone can delude themselves even while reading the Bible but put the whole thing online and point out all the contradictions that escape most faithful readers and the effect vanishes. http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/ is a good example.

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  9. I never know what to say to people who need a proof of the historical Jesus. There are so many apologetics and Christians I’ve met since becoming a believer eight years ago hell-bent on winning the grand debate of faith with loads of empirical knowledge. I know my story is different from theirs and from yours too, as I did not grow up with religion and have only started making friends with other believers a couple years ago. The experience I’ve had with Jesus –the real, living-today Christ– has been deep and mystical, changing me at the atomic level, inexplicable but by poetry. And I didn’t want it. I never asked for it. To me, I couldn’t care less if people want to refute the dates he lived or whether he did at all or whether he existed eons ago in the form of a Hindu incarnation of Vishnu. What is very real about the Gospel is how it changes one’s life and lets him/her know about eternal love. Here is a very short blog post about transformation: https://gospelisosceles.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/what-the-heart-desires/

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    1. I don’t know if I understood your argument there. Are you saying that belief in Jesus as the one God is valid even if he is a fictitious character because you’ve had a personal, mystical experience?

      Or are you saying that belief in Jesus is valid as the one God even if he is a fictitious character because the Gospel reflects valid philosophy, irrespective of who wrote it and why?

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      1. No argument. And I’m not going to be tempted by your question. I do hope God will unveil the hearts of those, both believers and non-believers, who focus on Jesus’ time on earth shielding them from the Word that is alive, pulsing and beating, right now and every day. The Beatitudes are a beautiful example.

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      2. gospelisosceles! You came back! Hoooooray!

        Thanks for posting again. I’ve perused your blog … your poetry is lovely and the baby pics are stunning! I related to the birth post. Did that 3 times myself. What an experience! And you write about it so beautifully.

        Given your present belief, I feel honored that you’d visit my blog at all, much less return. Thank you!

        My hope is that we can share thoughts and exchange views on more topics in the future. It can be tricky when the views are so far apart (as ours appear to be), but I’m open to trains of thought that lead to new places. Perhaps the track you’re on will open my eyes to things I’ve not thought of, but should.

        You’re welcome here any time and I hope you come often!

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  10. gospelisosceles – Thank you for posting!

    A guy by the name of Pastor Peter LaRuffa was on a video recently saying, “If somewhere within the Bible, I were to find a passage that said two plus two equals five, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible. I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and understand it.”

    Your post makes me wonder … are you in that camp of belief as well? Meaning, if someone were to prove beyond doubt Jesus wasn’t a real person, you’d believe anyway?

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  11. Your question makes me think of the book of Qohelet (after which I named my daughter) that conjures up the image of all we see returning to dust, all we do is in vain. Mathematics is a great tool to understand the properties and relationships of things in our physical world, so it is good to devise a number system and to pass it on to generations. Will this knowledge help our souls in eternity? Does this human invention mean anything on the grand, universal scale? In my mind, it dissolves like our bodies and our planet, and everything we’ve taught ourselves about this world. What remains? That is the ‘universal law’ I want to live by. In heaven and earth, I want to be guided by this law, which is God’s Love. It reminds me of what babies know, or what a stroke victim who had been a successful civilian of this world, only to have it all taken away except for the warm touch of his wife he can still perceive. It makes me sad to hear that there are people out there dedicated to proving Jesus never existed Does the same go for Muhammed and the Buddha and other prophets/people of God? It seems like such a waste of energy, as the book of Qohelet, the ‘teacher of wisdom,’ says: “For what has man of all his labor, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he has labored under the sun? For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart takes not rest in the night. This is also vanity.”

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    1. Girrrrl! You do have a way with words!

      You ask a good question. I can’t speak for anyone but myself … but I’ll give you my thoughts.

      It’s easy to point out how harmful religious notions are if we refer to those who hold radical, murderous ideals. But Jesus? What’s the problem? He was all about love, right?

      Lemme start first with a little assessment. Given that I know so little about you, I’ll tell you how I see you by what I’ve read here and on your blog thus far (I’m SURE to miss the mark, so correct me!):

      You’re a creative, artsy woman who loves words and books and deep thought. You tend toward an etherial view of god. The bible is fine by you but you’ve not read a whole lot of it and don’t necessarily find it a critical component to knowing god’s love. You find god’s love in nature, in family, in creative ventures, and in the basic joys of life. Jesus represents that love to you. Feelings, both good and bad, are directly influenced by god or satan. The supernatural is real and at work in your life.

      I’m artsy and love deep thought, too, but my experience with belief is nothing like that. I believed the bible was “God’s Word.” Final and authoritative (Except the truly disgusting parts. I made excuses for those). I believed in a living, breathing, active god who healed, did miracles, forgave sins, and had a call specifically for me. I believed the discipline of bible study, Christian fellowship and routine prayer was necessary for my spiritual health. I had expectations the god was not only listening, but that he would answer my prayers with tangibles or instruction.

      And I believed that he did exactly that at a few key junctures along the way… And it changed the very trajectory of my entire life.

      My beliefs robbed me in ways that are substantial. I made some hefty life choices based on what I believed was answered prayer. I believed my life choices weren’t up to me … they were up to god but I would have chosen differently at a few key moments had I been left to choose what I thought was best for me without the influence of god.

      I was held back at times because of my gender – often reminded of my place as a woman. While my husband never did this, a couple male co-workers frequently cited bible passages about submission, male authority and husbandry headship. That’ll happen when you work at a conservative Christian ministry that won’t promote women if it puts them in authority over a man. :o/

      The restricted roles of women and what the bible said about women stifled my emotional growth and battered my self esteem and confidence. I took “His Word” seriously and I studied it daily. The pain of reading god’s Old Testament atrocities against women and the New Testament restrictions on them was like a knife to the heart. But what was I to do? I believed that there was but one way to god the father … and that was through Jesus.

      For me, the damage was primarily emotional. But people under the influence of god will do some questionable things. In college, I once had a friend who believed Jesus wanted her in a wheelchair to “teach her something”. I was worried sick that she was going to harm herself. Just imagine the consequences had something struck her as a confirmation of that inclination.

      We buried a young man on the mission field who’d come from the states because god called him to be a missionary. He took Jesus’ words to heart when he said “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The guy died of malaria.

      So, disproving Jesus? If in fact he was not god incarnate, if he was not the savior of the world, if he did not die on a cross, rise from the dead, or exist at all, people who believe as I once did might be saved from following a perceived call of god straight into something less than ideal or even dangerous. For those willing to stake their lives on Jesus and take his words to heart, there is much to lose.

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  12. Oh, Way Past Due, thanks for reading some of my posts. Knowing where you’re coming from, I was surprised that you liked that ‘cherry’ line so much! Yeah, I hardly ever do any computer stuff Sat/Sun/Mon when my husband’s home, but like I said, I am interested in your blog and in why a born-again Christian would eventually leave the faith because I guess I’ve never met anyone with that particular experience.

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  13. The cherry line was beautiful! I’ve been a lover and writer of poetry since my youth, so it was delightful to read yours!

    I know what you mean about born agains leaving. I hadn’t heard of anyone leaving the faith until I began researching Mormons who’d left their faith. I was a Christian then, researching cults for a class I was teaching at church. In my online research, I read story after story by Mormons about why/how they left. There I was, rejoicing that they’d gotten free of their cult!

    But I noticed that some of the questions they were asking were applicable to any religion, Christianity included. And they were darned good questions, some I’d secretly asked myself! Anyway, in the course of that research, one thing led to another as online research often does, and low and behold, I found Christians who’d left the faith. Born agains just like me, with backgrounds just like mine. United Methodists, Full Gospel Charismatics, ministers … people who grew up in their faith like I had.

    At first I was stunned. The eternal ramifications! Oh my! But as I gathered the courage to read, I realized they were being courageous in expressing and exploring their doubts. I’d been a coward, hopping through hoops and making excuses to keep my doubts at a distance. I worked like a nut to keep god perfect, loving, kind … the god we told ourselves he was. Worked even harder and keeping him real.

    There’s power in knowing you’re not alone. It’s true with sickness. It’s true with sadness. And it’s true with ditching your religion. It was certainly unnerving at the time to learn of born agains leaving the faith. But it opened a door for me. And eventually, I walked through it!

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  14. Gospelisosceles, I was just trying to understand what your position is. I usually let Christians be unless they’re insulting my faith somehow. But now I’m puzzled. You say you won’t be tempted by my question. Do you see me as some sort of instrument of the devil? Because if you do, that same logic can be used to show that I’m an instrument of god, trying to set you free. Are you sure you’re not mistaken?

    I’d say I’m neither though. And since you mention the Word, Logos, you should look into where Christians took that concept from and whether it makes any sense that they’d have to “borrow” it. I mean, if Jesus or the people who made up Jesus were so divinely inspired, why did they need mortal pagan philosophy? You’d expect the Christian god to be the ultimate philosopher, far and beyond anything mortals and especially pagans could come up with.

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