1. You know where you are…
Australia has been inhabited for at least 50,000 years. It was first inhabited by the remote Asian ancestors of the current Australian Aboriginal people. Australia was not discovered by Europeans until the 17th century
Captain James Cook voyage of discovery in the Endeavour
Captain James Cook reached Tahiti on 3 June
Captain James Cook discovers New South Wales and takes possession of the Australian land in the name of Great Britain
Captain James Cook returns to England
13 July: Captain James Cook embarks on the voyage of discovery in the Resolution
12 July: Captain James Cook with the ships HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery look for the Northwest passage but bad weather drives him back to Hawaii
14 February: Captain Cook is killed by natives
Banks suggests founding a convict settlement at Botany Bay.
Plans for the colonization in New South Wales are made in the UK
Foundation of Sydney.
1795-1796: George Bass and Matthew Flinders make voyages in the Tom Thumb
George Bass discovers the Bass Strait and Westernport.
Matthew Flinders circumnavigates Australia.
And so on…
2. Where I now sit there were people living, breathing and walking about 20,000 years ago and more. According to a family tradition I had ancestors among them.
60,000 years ago: Age of Lake Mungo 3 human remains (age range between 56,000 and 68,000 years), south-western NSW, 987 km west of Sydney. Footprints discovered at Lake Mungo are believed to be 23,000 years old….
22,000 years ago: Occupation site at Wentworth Falls, NSW.
16,000 years ago: Hearths, stone and bone tools, Shaws Creek near Yarramundi (60 kms north-west from Sydney), NSW. Sea levels begin to rise as ice caps melt. Inland lakes such as Lake Mungo have dried up.
8,000 years ago: Earliest visible evidence of Aboriginal belief connected with the rainbow Serpent. This becomes the longest continuing belief in the world.
5,000 years ago: Occupation site, Penrith Lakes (about 50 kms west of Sydney), NSW. Coastline of Australia takes its present form
And so on… Source Australian Aboriginal history timeline.
28,000 thousand years old. How many generations of humanity before Abraham is that?
3. All of which makes it very difficult to treat the following with the awe and wonder it may have attracted in the past, or indeed in my own past. How do you reconcile the fact that in light of the above the grand cosmic narrative of the Abrahamic religions looks decidedly less impressive?
Creation of Adam and Eve – [Very few accept this “date” as having any connection whatever with anything that really happened in the history of this planet. — NW]
Noah’s Flood – [never happened — NW]
1996 to 1690 B.C.
The Biblical Patriarchs lived during this time – from Abraham to Jacob – [totally myth and legend, reflecting certain rather mundane developments in the movements of people and cultures, but having no resemblance to actual history. — NW]
Joshua leads the children of Israel into the Promised Land
1410 – 1050 B.C.
Time of Israel’s Judges
1050 – 930
First Kings of Israel – King Saul, King David and King Solomon
Building of the first temple in Jerusalem
Division of the Kingdom of Israel
930 – 723
The period of the Kings of Israel from Jeroboam I to Hoshea
930 – 586 B.C.
The period of the Kings of Judah from Rehoboam to Zedekiah
840 – 400 B.C.
Period of the Minor Prophets
The fall of Israel
Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple
Temple at Jerusalem Rebuilt
The Romans occupy Palestine
Herod the Great is appointed ruler of Judea by Rome
Jesus was born either before 4 BC (when Herod the Great died) or in 6 AD (when the historical Census of Quirinius was undertaken).
My childhood vision of Jesus, from one of the several “Uncle Arthur” books that were my primary source of religious imagery between the ages of 8 and 12. Any resemblance to the person born most likely in Nazareth (rather than Bethlehem) around 4BC is totally unlikely. Of course, symbolically…
And yet, echoing Justin Erik Halldór Smith:
I know that I am picking and choosing, and that by many standards I’ve failed to meet the requirements of being a Christian. Many, like those with the banners at the sports events, take John 3:16 to contain the core message of the Gospels. I also claim to know what the core message of the Bible is: love and forgiveness (1 John 4:8, 1 Corinthians 13:13, Matthew 5:38), and I claim that there is much extraneous stuff too, which can have little to do with our understanding of the essence of Christianity: the rules concerning marriage, the disregard for animals, the cosmic significance of crucifixion. How do I justify my picking and choosing? Well, who wants me to justify it? The hoarse-voiced goon at the sports match shouting about how Jesus Christ died for my sins? What concern is he of mine?
Those who know me or have read me will probably know that I have often claimed that I am an atheist. I would like to stop doing this, but if I had to justify myself, I would say that it is for fear of being confused with that blowhard with the ‘John 3:16’ banner that I am unforthcoming about what I actually believe. I am infinitely closer, in the condition of my soul, to the people who feel God’s absence– the reasons for this feeling are a profound theological problem, and one might say that it is only smugness that enables people, atheists and dogmatists alike, to avoid grappling with this problem. I am with the people who detect God’s hand, perhaps without even realizing it, where the smug banner-holder sees only sin: in jungle music, dirty jokes, seduction, and swearing. I am with the preacher who puts out a gospel album, then goes to prison on fraud and drug charges for a while, then puts out a hip-grinding soul album, and then another gospel album. I am with the animals, who can’t even read, but can still talk to the saints of divine things. I am sooner an atheist, if what we understand by Christianity is a sort of supernatural monarchism; if we understand by it that God is love, though, then, I say, I am a Christian.
I will be exploring and developing the implications of this post in various ways in the future.