In Webster’s online dictionary, paradox means “contradictory or opposed to common sense,” among other things.
Basically, paradoxical beliefs in religion are mysteries that cannot be explained and are accepted on faith. I do wonder what is the point of arranging a religion around a bunch of inexplicable ‘mysteries,’ instead of facts.
Examples of paradoxical teachings
1 – Three equal differentiated persons in one consubstantial God
2 – Jesus, both fully divine and fully human
3 – Mary, both mother and virgin
4 – Consubstantial God as father of self
5 – People of God as both the Bride and the Body of Christ (Bridegroom)
6 – Jesus as human sacrifice to Yahweh who abhors human sacrifice
7 – All-knowing, all-powerful God who is absolute good, but allowing evil
8 – Looks like wine, tastes like wine, but really sacred Blood
9 – Looks like bread, tastes like bread, but really a risen Body
10 – “World without end. Amen.” vs. Judgement Day
11 – Celibate priests are holy; couples using ‘artificial’ birth control are in sin
12 – God said, “Do not kill,” then willed a crucifixion for his own Son
13 – Jesus saved us, but 2,000 years later, the world is still a mess
14 – God is “Father,” limited to maleness by convention, but God is limitless
15 – A ‘loving’ and ‘forgiving’ Father tests his children’s sinfulness, then throws them into a burning Hell, all the while knowing the outcome in advance
For sure, paradoxical teachings can be remembered and last for centuries, and as people puzzle over them and argue over them, the teachings are retained, and foster community and communication.
Rather scary to think there are millions out there, probably most of my neighbors, too, who hold similar paradoxical beliefs in their innermost thoughts. With this kind of thinking, how are they able to analyze who they should vote for? How are they able to make any decisions rationally? Fortunately, it is considered impolite to discuss religion with casual acquaintances, so likely I will never know what they are thinking on this subject.
I guess most people internalize what they hear in church, then struggle to come up with some rational alternative explanation for what they have heard, so they can continue to ‘believe’ and to be part of a group and setting that is comfortable and familiar to them.
I am recalling that some people lie to their own children and say Santa will come down the chimney on Christmas Eve. The youngest children are not able to analyze this tale and determine:
(1) No one lives at the North Pole, least of all, Santa,
(2) Gifts for all the children of the world will not fit into a single Santa sleigh,
(3) Reindeer cannot fly through the air,
(4) A man of considerable girth such as Santa would not fit into a chimney that is at most, several inches wide,
(5) No reindeer has a brightly lit nose to guide the way,
(6) The gift to Santa of cookies was instead eaten by Mommy and Daddy, and
(7) There is no lump of coal for the children’s transgressions
So the little children are deceived. Interesting that the story seems to be designed with several propositions which are easily dismissed by older children, especially when prompted by their better informed peers.
I personally was not told reindeer could fly and so I did not have to overcome that; however, I was indoctrinated very thoroughly in religion in school. I really have to wonder what the teachers were thinking as they pounded paradoxical “truths” and all manner of religious trivia into our young brains. Surely, the teachers themselves did not believe all of it. Surely, they had begun to question. Yet they thought it was OK to mold children’s minds with it?
I just noticed an ad on Biblegateway, “God will wipe away every tear.” Are you really doing a child a favor by telling him/her that as if it were true? (And is this the same God who created the situation that caused the tears in the first place?) Logic, please.
One of my religion teachers, a priest, died at a young age, and I have always wondered if he killed himself in despair, having intelligently discovered something he could not bear to know, like . . . reindeer do not fly or some such thing.
Of what use are paradoxical beliefs? Is there some benefit to society from people having to overcome paradoxical beliefs? Do people gain more awareness by overcoming? Do they gain more ability to analyze?
Unfortunately, most people do not seem to progress quickly in their thinking and analyzing.