Jim’s writing about religion

 
 

I accept and believe (most of) the following         

                                                  (from Bishop John Spong):

  1. 1.Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

  2. 2.Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes    nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic                  deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.

  3. 3.The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human   beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.

  4. 4.The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.

  5. 5.The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a

    post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate

    deity.

  1. 6.The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian

    idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.

7.Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God.

    It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human                   

     history. (I admit that I don’t understand this above one. JM)

  1. 8.The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.

  2. 9.There is no external, objective, revealed standard writ in scripture or on  tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.

  3. 10.Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history

    in a particular way.

  1. 11.The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior

     control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must

     abandon,therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.

  1. 12.All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination. (I can’t agree with this one. I think we may be PART of God’s creation but that it is meaningless to say that we “bear God’s image.” JM)

You can’t have FAITH without MAGIC



A thought that keeps occurring to me is that "magic" -- virgin birth, walk on water, raise the dead, etc. -- is REQUIRED in order that people can demonstrate FAITH.  You do not need "faith" to believe  simple observable, demonstrable facts. These do not NEED faith in order to be believed. 


This also leads me to believe that the persistence of the telling of these things in sermons, Bible lessons, is to reaffirm the requirement for faith in religions. Look at the Muslims who commit suicide for their faith. They'd never do that for simple facts. Same with our snake handlers and even same with us as our church tries to get us away from reason and into the normally impossible so that we can demonstrate our --- FAITH. 


I think the church pushes our requirement to have faith in the existence of a satisfying heaven for the wrong reason. The church seems to be saying "you who have strong faith may achieve eternal life", or "you must have faith that there is indeed heaven". etc, etc. What strikes me as absurd about these efforts of organized religion is that heaven either exists or it does not exist and whether you or I believe that it does -- have FAITH that it does -- simply has no effect on its existence.


I think that faith is the secret ingredient that keeps organized religions including Muslims in business. Without faith there is only reason and if we only have reason the religions don't have much of a lock on us.

I I didn’t go to church today


6-17-2012


I did God the honor of not going to church today. Today is Father’s Day. So I decided not to go to church. Reason: I refused today to be a part of the strange church service that depicts God as someone who is insecure and needs me to praise him -- Hi God, gee, you’re looking good today and I especially like that great tie. Was it a Father’s Day gift?  And pretending that God’s a guy who needs me to confess my sins to him all the time – hey God, I hope you’ll forgive me not taking a shower yesterday and for calling that jerk who lives across the street a bigot. And I especially hate that the church stuck God with the dubious honor of being the incredibly cruel father  (it is Father’s Day after all) who required that his son be tortured and then killed just to wipe out my sins like calling my neighbor a bigot.  The church’s creation of this cruel god makes even less sense than the other characteristics it gave him.


This mean spirited and jealous and petty thing that we call God was created by men.  Men created this god and then men made up the actions that men thought he would like. Men did all this and then we were able to avoid thinking about the fact that:

  there is now a universe and once there wasn’t, and some unimaginable power made it and made it a universe in which creation could take place and evolution could take place and in which I could exist and in which I could even be aware that I exist.


I have no words or actions to communicate with the power that created all this.  But I don’t have to be a party to my church’s ludicrous attempts to sell me its own version of this power and then ask me to kneel to its silly and invented god.  So…I didn’t go to church today.

How can you tell if a religion is valid?


I think there's a test for the validity of a religion and the test is the answer to the question "Does the religion seem reasonable?"  The more I hear of the words and actions of Jesus Christ the more it seems that he injects into men the antidote for mankind's survival instinct. There is no questioning the simple fact that a human being does have to function in a survival mode some of the time.  The world we live in, and which is the world that was created for us, requires that we must make efforts to survive.  But, the overdoing of survival behavior needed to be controlled. I would think that our creator would not want to see his creations un-creating each other and so the mission of our creator's emissary Jesus was to offer the rules for control of overly aggressive surviving.


I suppose that our being equipped with the wish to survive is what the Bible set up as our "original sin."  I certainly do not accept the blame for having been given this "original sin" because I was made, designed, and created to be concerned with my own survival ( I didn't create me, by the way, something else did.  I'm not my fault.)  But I surely can see that there needs to be a brake on me.  Of all the religions I've examined, Christianity is the one that most directly attempts to get us to live peaceably with each other.

Let me explain to you what God is NOT 


  The whole reason that religion exists is that we simply do not have the faintest idea of how we got here and why we got here and who put us here and we desperately look for an explanation.  The world we live in is a given, but not given by us. We can't change it or explain how it happened or even how it works. All we can do about this world -- nature -- is examine it.  The world is totally out from our control and understanding.

  We are scared.  Something out there made us.  We are scared so we worship the Thing that created the world just in case the Thing exists and in case it listens to us and in case it needs us to show gratitude.  We give the Thing human characteristics because we don't know what kind of characteristics a god might have.  So we think the Thing needs praise and we think It needs us to act grateful because a human-type Thing would think like that and need us to praise it and act grateful to It. 

  We debate whether we got here by creation or evolution (and that debate is laughable because evolution is just a different method of creation) and those who think that we got here by creation are the really religious -- that is; fearful -- ones and those who think we got here by evolution are the less religious ones who avoid thinking about how the very first un-evolved creature happened to have been created in the first place.

  The most believable explanation for me of what God is and how we relate to Him was Abraham Joshua Heschel's and his idea that we simply sense something that he calls "the ineffable". That makes me a mystic.

   There's probably no harm in ascribing to God human characteristics and creating our own God so that we can put a face on what we worship, but the idiotic god that has been created by extremists in the middle eastern originated religions -- Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc. --  has these nuts doing their best to destroy the world and everything that The-God-that-we-don't-understand created.

Might a belief in God depend upon how important one thinks that Man is?


Our faith that there is a God and that he exists and that he cares about us might not have taken hold if we thought that Man wasn’t worth the attentions of a god. Our religions that offer the hope of eternal life depend on our belief that we are so special that we deserve this godly gift.


Man, as well as every other living thing on this planet will die.   The other living things besides men don't have brains enough to realize that they will die so they don't need to believe in a god that'll free them from death. Did we define our god in such a way that it would get us to worry less about our death?

Random comments about religion:


"Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify thy holy name evermore praising thee and saying 'holy, holy, holy, lord God of hosts,  heaven and earth are full of thy glory, glory be to thee oh lord most high…etc"

Does God really like us to praise him? Why? What does this do for God? Does he react like a human being to our praises and compliments?  Does he like it when we "laud and magnify thy holy name"?  Does he like us better when we do that?  I wonder what God thinks about when he hears us saying stuff like "God is good". Does it make God feel better about Himself?  Does He have an inferiority complex that we're trying to talk Him out of?  And what does he think about when a human who's got cancer thanks Him for the "blessing" of living another day? Did God give the guy one more day to live because God enjoyed being thanked for these favors? Could it be that we have assumed that God likes this stuff? Could it be that we are, once again, defining what God is?  Could it be that in a relationship with a god that the god would ordinarily define the human instead of the human defining the god?


Is there any point where our Christian religion -- or any god-based religion for that matter -- will let us admit that we know nothing whatsoever about God; that God is invisible to us; that God may not even know or care that we exist; that God is a rare visitor to us; that God is something that is so far beyond our comprehension that there are no words nor thoughts that can describe even the smallest portion of his god-ness?


It is very hard for me to sit in my church and observe the odd phraseology and odd customs that have been created by men to try to convince themselves that there is any small portion of god that they -- we -- understand.


Heaven and hell and life after death;

What if this -- here, now, right where we are -- happens to be heaven?  Would we know it if it was?  It's hard for me to believe that after my body dies and rots, that some portion of it, or a portion of my rotting brain, could exist as a sentient, thinking thing that is alive even if "alive" means something else when you're dead. 


I think the Original Sin was God's and it's this: he made us mortal but made us smart enough to know that we're gonna die.  Is that cruel or what? Kind of a serious sin, I'd say.  I have trouble thanking God for his having given me brains enough to know that I will soon cease to be. But if God really offers us some sort of existence after our death then how come God hasn't shown us what this existence really is?  Why are we to accept it "on faith"?  If faith is a good thing then why can't any faithful belief in anything be considered a good thing.  The 9/11 World Trade Center bombers had strong faith.  So…is faith a good thing?  And if it's stronger is it better?  And how come we were given the ability to reason and to solve problems of our survival but are expected to abandon reason when the church tells us to "have faith" that we will:  be with Jesus when we die; go to heaven if we're good, go to hell if we're bad, and, worse, to have faith that what the church tells us and quotes to us is the word of God.


Faith: a good thing?  Almost the entire production of advice and admonition, and the entire purpose of all religious education is to produce more faith in us. "More faith" could be a statement of the entire purpose of my church.  But, I think my church is going to have to explain why our faith is the valid one; why our faith is the better one; why other faiths are not the valid ones.  This is going to be difficult because of the nature of faith.  Faith's nature is that it is not rational.  It is not arrived at by reasoning. The Muslim whose faith says that he must blow himself up to destroy non-believers is, clearly, to me a searching trying-to-be Christian, badly mistaken. To me his faith is not a valid faith.  But when the Muslim has faith he knows that his faith is right. So, Christian church, tell me how we know that our faith is right.


Is religion itself worth saving?  The world is cursed with the effects of various religions. Other than the worthwhile attempts to perform charity, religions cause more fighting and more pain than any other human institution.


Muslims: they seem to be the worst of a bunch of defective religions, although a lot of Christianity's Old Testament  can give the Muslims a race on cruelty.   Why the hell do Christians even bother with the Old Testament that was written and describes events before the birth of Christ?  Maybe just to give background for the New Testament and the life of Christ. But the baggage that the Old Testament carries with it should be baggage that the Christian church disavows.


Shouldn't the church  be required to make sense? Maybe it can't explain God or what he is or how he creates but it ought to be able to describe itself.  Our priest wrote this following and I'm trying to figure it out: "I noticed no youth (present)…So…I asked 'Is the Church relevant in today's world?' …Relevancy to culture has never been included in the church's mission.  The church is meant to be counter-cultural: held to a higher standard than society imposes. …God's loving desire is for us to be reconciled to God. In this regard, the church will always remain relevant."


Huh?


It's easier for me to understand that I'll never understand these things: what God is; how God created everything; why bad stuff happens; and why good stuff happens than it is for me to try to understand mens' made-up words that were designed to be meaningless but strange-sounding enough to make the words sound important and sacred.

Depressed?   Of course!


Of course I'm depressed. Who wouldn't be?  We went to see Doug and Marge's house yesterday and the Nashville flood became very personal. And depressing.

I want to go out to Big Sur for three days to get back that summer feeling that I used to have as a kid.  I'd sit with Johnny Beutel or Monty Snyder or with my  brother Dave out at the gravel pit and just listen to the meadow larks and watch the white clouds go by.  And pick those funny grass stems that had bushy tips and make them into darts by shoving the bushy stuff into sections of reeds and jamming a nail backward into the other end of the reed.  Or, there'd be recess at school and endless games of Prairie Wolf and Jackie Snyder chasing me and not catching me.  And Harvey Pankanin and Ed Look catching me easily and all there was was running and laughing and not a thought in the world.

A few months ago I quit taking an anti-depressant but I don't feel any difference between my non-medicated condition now and my supposedly happy drugged condition during the anti-depressant.  Shit still happens and when it does I get depressed. And that's the way it's supposed to be.

I don't want to read anything from any expert who tells me that: 1. I should thank God that he didn't smite me this time, or, 2. we caused the flood by overheating the planet with our carbon burning and this is what we get, or 3. if we pray real hard then maybe God will keep blessing us and not wash away our house.  I just want to believe what I believed back in the gravel pit:  nothing.


Original Sin?  Redemption?  Salvation?


I have trouble with the concepts that my church puts under the guilt-toting term "original sin".  Was the purpose of Christ's painful death to somehow "redeem" us from our "original sin"?  And, if there wasn't any such thing as "original sin" then was Christ's death meaningless because we didn't need to get redeemed? Boy, am I confused.


So, I looked up "original sin" and saw that there is a lot of disagreement about it in the church:

1. Judaism, Hinduism, Islam don't have "original sin" and are therefore pure of heart and don't need "redemption" (great news for the Muslim suicide bombers),

2. Pelagianism (whatever that was) denied the existence of "original sin",

3. Augustine thought that all of us were existent in Adam when he sinned, so we have to take the rap. (and they made Augustine a saint?  geez),

4. A fellow named Peter Lombard pointed out that my sexual urges are "original sin" (thanks a bunch, Peter),

5.  also Martin Luther and John Calvin equated original sin with libido.


Bottom line:

I think that the way the world was created (by you know Who) made the world into a survival challenge for its creatures. Its creatures had to be competitive to survive.  I don't think that this is sinful or "original-sinful" .  It's the way we had to be to live in the world that God created.  So, what's our original sin?  My answer is that there isn't one.


Religion writer John McArthur wrote the following points (a) through (e) and I wrote the comments:

a) Justification--the sinner stands before God accused, but is declared righteous because of his position in Christ (Rom. 8:33).

   Comment: "Accused"? Of what? Of being a surviving occupant of the world that God himself created?

b) Forgiveness--the sinner stands before God as a debtor, but his obligation brought by sin is canceled (Eph. 1:7).

   Comment: What "debt" do we owe God other than our gratitude for His having created us and having given us a mostly wonderful universe to live in.

c) Adoption--the sinner stands before God as a stranger, but is made a son (Eph. 1:5).

    Comment: We were "strangers" to God? You mean that He created us but never bothered to know our name?

d) Reconciliation--the sinner stands before God as an enemy, but is made a friend (2 Cor. 5:18-20).

  Comment: How could we have been considered the "enemy" of God? This concept is the most ridiculous one.

e) Redemption--the sinner stands before God as a slave, but receives freedom (Rom. 6:18:22).

  Comment:  The concept of our being "slaves" escapes my understanding completely.

f) All those terms are different facets of the magnificent diamond of the doctrine of salvation. Redemption is just one facet of our salvation."

  Comment:  I think you have to work yourself up to be able to make a statement like that. I think "the magnificent diamond" is an exaggeration by someone who is not quite convinced that it's really a diamond at all.

Musings


How come organized religions need old stuff to inspire the fans? Why do we need artifacts to remind us that God exists or that our particular sect is the best one or that we ought to be nice to each other? For example: why do Episcopalians need processions and the oddities of speech in the King James  Bible?  Why are celibate priests important to Catholics?  Why do Jews avoid eating pork?  Is pork still poisonous?  Why do some Muslims hold dear their old fashioned let's-all-join-in-for-the-fun stoning of their adulterers? 


Isn't there enough going on around us humans that can remind us that there IS a God, and that the universe might not be just an accident?  Isn't there anything going on in our world that looks to us as if it might be a mystery? Doesn't anyone wonder why sex was created? Or why it's so much fun? Doesn't anyone wonder how it happened that fish could breathe under water? Or why walruses were invented?


I could go on…

   Let's define God

  


The human hobby: Let’s define God.  We say that he's good and he is concerned about us and he is right there to jump in and help us and we pray to him when we're sick "cure us" and then if we get well we say that God cured us.  We know that he's a Good Guy because we've seen his picture on the ceiling of an Italian church and he's naked and has his finger pointed at a muscular human man. There's your proof -- God's for real and all he thinks about is…us.


Yeah, right.


I watched a bit of The Cove. It's a movie about the slaughter of dolphins.  The terrorized and sentient dolphins  (sentient just like us) fought for their lives while they were subjected to the most horrible and painful wounding and death.  I watched a news item on TV that showed a Sumner county veterinarian euthanize dogs and cats: the trusting dogs just stood there and accepted the needle into their heart.  The vet actually stood on a little cat that writhed furiously knowing that it was to be killed.  The cat's panic was obvious in its exaggerated flailing.  I once beat a wounded pheasant over the head with a candlestick when my mother made a bad shot and wounded the bird and called me to come kill it.  The bird flopped wildly as I repeatedly missed it and wounded it and caused it pain instead of death.  I watched a movie of a Chinese fishing boat catching sharks and cutting off the tail fin and the front fin and then throwing the helpless animal into the sea so you could see its agony as it drowned because it couldn't propel itself.  A few days ago in our yard, a goshawk or Cooper's Hawk -- I can't tell them apart -- slammed a junco to the ground and the junco screamed before the hawk killed it. 


And then watch the news: earthquakes, tsunami's, hurricanes. What's going on? Actually nothing special because that's just the way the earth that God created works.  It's not just animals that are killed and die in pain protesting wildly.  Humans go the same way.  Millions of humans are killed in earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes.  Millions are killed and tortured by other millions who simply disagree about some obscure detail in their religion or politics.  Where's God in all this?  Where is that beneficent father figure who, we have been told, loves us so much? Did you ever stop to think that God simply doesn't get involved with us?  Did it ever occur to you that God created this whole universe and then moved on to whatever God-things do next?  When you pray to him does he answer your prayer?  Do you realize that if your prayers get answered 50% of the time that is just probability working for you, not God?


God is good?  God is with us all the time?  God knows of even the death of a little sparrow. Etc.  Come on churches -- tell the truth:  God simply does not notice this stuff.  God isn't good and God isn't bad and "good" and "bad" are human terms anyway, not God's.  God is just God and we don't have the faintest idea of what he is.  We sit in church and we kid ourselves by defining what we would like God to be:  "God is great, God is good, let us thank him for this food."  God let his own son get nailed to a cross.  "For us."  How nice of him. No, what really happened is that God created our world and our system and then he went on to whatever retired Gods do.


The truth: God does not bother with us very much.  Maybe he never bothers with us. Every now and then he takes a look to see if his creation is still working.  It is.  So he looks away and returns to whatever God does.


Wow. Do we ever need to hear some truth!  God just does not bother with us.  God created all these sentient creatures: men, dolphins, dogs, cats, sharks  (are sharks sentient?  they sure seem to feel pain and know when they are being killed )  and the system in which the creatures exist lets the creatures suffer the most horrible and painful deaths.  That's the way it is.  That's the way the system works.  Hey! Church! Tell us some truth and quit trying to define God when you know it’s the other way around:  God defines us.  We don’t define him.

A private thought


A thought hit me when I read an Internet comment about atheist Richard Dawkins: 


  In Dawkin's "The God Delusion":  "Our universe runs on its own like an engine with no need for a god. In my opinion, it is more beautiful and magnificent than any human-made fairytale could ever hope to offer."


My thought: Could it be that the universe itself IS God?


   I also think that the impersonal universe acts the way we have thought that God acts. 


Ray Waddle, Religion columnist in The Tennessean wrote: "A fearless spirit of discovery -- and a yearning to be worthy of divine encounter -- might disclose the universe  itself as 'the hidden face of God.'"  Waddle says "the …face of God."  I said "…IS God."  I like my version better because Waddle uses the word "face" that makes his statement guilty of the same error that has been made constantly in regard to descriptions of God: we try to describe God by using human terms.  Waddle's article was titled "God may have decided to pull back from earth."  Again, Waddle describes God in human terms -- "pull back", "decided".  Maybe I can explain the distinction that I'm drawing by describing the thought that started me thinking about this.


I was reading about the Large Hadron Collider and its quest to find the ultimate particle -- the particle that is tinier than the previously discovered smallest particle and which is hoped, if discovered,  will give answers to the existence of mass -- the very being of all things.  In this train of thought it occurred to me that our inability to see the tiny things -- atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons and smaller things -- that make up us and our observable world,  has a parallel to our status in the universe.  In the universe we are so tiny as to be unobservable.  After all, compare the height -- the length -- of a Man to a light year.  Compare a light year to the distance between galaxies and so on. Man becomes smaller and smaller and less significant in the world of the universe.  We -- men -- have only discovered the movements of stars and planets and comets, and the huge expansion of the universe, and so our understanding of the universe is infinitely almost nothing.  Could this observation of ours not be similar to, let's say, a single atom inside our brain which is observing the electrical movement of a small thought inside our human head?  So it struck me that this situation is similar to Man's observation of the phenomenon that we call God.   I haven't had this above similarity in my mind for long but I have had a different view of what God is than I can get from my attempts at understanding through my church (Episcopal, by the way).  I have become more and more dissatisfied with the church's descriptions of God's pettiness : His desire to be adored, worshipped, and his desires for (Old Testament) revenge, and his requirement that Jesus -- his own son (?) -- be sacrificed so that somehow we men could be "redeemed" -- how humanly petty of God.  And so on.


Years ago I read a book "Man is Not Alone" by a Jewish philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel and his view that our sense of the "ineffable" was our main contact with God all made more sense to me than the cartoon style religion of my church.  Lately I am becoming more and more attached to Heschel's mysticism.  And Ray Waddle's article stirs me even more.


Another Comment

I raise this subject because of my problems with faith. I understand that faith is defined as a belief in something for which there is no proof. So I am searching for evidence that if God desires that we believe in Him, in His existence, in His characteristics, that He would send some such evidence.

A strong piece of evidence for me comes from the answer to this question: Do you think that the existence of the universe happened because of creative intent, or do you believe that it was an accident?

My answer is that I can not imagine the existence of the universe to be an accident.

But, I can not trust some of the faithful who have taken their faith to absurd extremes: snake handling, speaking in tongues, sending their children away to be suicide bombers, marrying off six year old girls, the list goes on.  So I think that faith must make sense.  Or, it must have some basis in revelations from God. When it is based on nothing but itself it rots.  And I don't trust it. I need some reasons for my faith.

I am taking the following from a book that has helped me find my way;  from Abraham Joshua Heschel's "A Philosophy of Judaism -- God in Search of Man"

The appearance of God to Moses was the first time in all human experience that God was not characterized as being only all powerful and all knowing.  Instead God said to Moses "I am full of love and compassion."

This was the beginning of a new era where Man was not told that the mystery is a demonic force, but that a God of righteousness and compassion rules all creation.  When Abraham negotiates with God over the punishment for Sodom, Abraham reminds God "Far be it from You to slay the righteous along with the wicked -- Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?"  This says that the old theology which characterizes God as a demon is, simply, wrong.

I used to think of the Old Testament as a collection of fearful doings of an angry God, but Heschel's writing points me in a completely opposite direction. The "old" concept of God (any god, for that matter) was that the god was irrational, vengeful, and willing to hurt mankind or anything else that got into his selfish way. But Heschel says the message from the Old Testament is: "(God) is not a law but a judge, not a power but a father."

There are problems: God stays mostly hidden. God stays mostly silent.  Heschel says: "The Jew will not accept that answer. He will continue to pray, "O God, do not keep silence, do not hold Thy peace or be still, O God" (Psalms 83:2)

And: "The most vexing issue in Jewish thinking…is not "wherefore dost Thou bring forth creatures" but rather,  "where is Thy mercy? Where is thy zeal and thy might?"  (Your) yearning (for me) and your compassion are withheld from me."

Note the use of the phrase by Heschel "(your)  yearning …(for me)".  This brings up a thought that was new to me which is that God needs men.  And, this is the title of Heschel's book.  A delightful thought. I feel that I am here for a reason and that I may even be "wanted".  Can it get better than that?

I think that organized religion has made a mockery of God


I tend to be a mystic in my religion (or lack of religion.)  I think that organized religions have made a mockery of God.  Imagine a God that has the power that we are just beginning to discover but who comes up with ridiculously nitpicking pronouncements when Men take over the job of trying to speak on His behalf.


See if this comparison between Item 1 and Item 2 strikes you as a little bit odd:


Item 1:

We now understand that an event of creation occurred about 13.7 billion years ago in which an infinitesimally tiny space -- a dot -- was created by a power that we will never comprehend, to contain the ENTIRE mass of what we now call the Universe. And then this unimaginable Power caused an explosion that we call the "Big Bang" and which created in an instant the entire expanding Universe that we live in. There is not even a tiny possibility of us ever understanding how this was accomplished.


Item 2:

So, with the magnitude of that accomplishment in your mind, doesn't it strike you as ridiculous that that same Power came up with rules such as prohibiting Jews and Muslims from eating pork, and telling Catholics not to use birth control as the world population approaches 7 billion, and prohibiting Episcopal ministers who are gay from admitting to a union with somebody of the same sex, and telling some crazy people that they can prove their faith by handling poisonous snakes, and by telling others that they can speak in languages that they don't understand but which they call "tongues".


In other words: Did the incredible Power that created the Universe age into a senile old fart who comes up with ridiculous pronouncements in his old age?  I

don't think so.


Referring to the above, here’s an additional comment about God’s “Later-life senility”


Subject: Leviticus 18:22, etc

   

 On her  radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger ( A popular conservative  radio talk show host in the USA) said that homosexuality is an  abomination according to the Bible , Leviticus  18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The  following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a  US resident, which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as  well as informative:

 

 Dear Dr. Laura:

  

 Thank  you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have  learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge  with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the  homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that  Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination... End  of debate.

  

 I do need some advice from you,  however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to  follow them.

  

 1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may  possess slaves, both male and  female, provided they are  purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that  this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify?  Why can't I own Canadians?

  

 2. I would like  to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7.  In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price  for her?

  

 3. I know that I am allowed no contact  with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual  unseemliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have  tried asking, but most women take offence.

  

 4.  When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates  a pleasing odour for the Lord - Lev.1:9.. The problem is my  neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them.  Should I smite them?

  

 5. I have a neighbor who  insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states  he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him  myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

  

 6. A  friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is  an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is  a lesser abomination  than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are  there 'degrees' of abomination?

  

 7. Lev.  21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have  a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear  reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there  some wiggle-room here?

  

 8. Most of my male friends  get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their  temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27.  How should they die?

  

 9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8  that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may  I still play football if I wear gloves?

  

 10. My  uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting  two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by  wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread  (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme  a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of  getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16.  Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair,  like we do with people who sleep with their  in-laws?

 (Lev. 20:14)

  

 I know you have  studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable  expertise in such matters so I am confident you can  help.

  Thank you  again for reminding us that God's word is eternal  and unchanging.

Your  adoring fan,


 James M.  Kauffman, Ed.D.

 Professor  Emeritus Dept. of

 Curriculum,   Instruction,  and Special Education

 University of  Virginia


(Note: I have recently read that this letter was NOT written by James Kauffman but by someone else who affixed his name to it.   January 14, 2013  JM  ) 



Unpublished Letter to the Editor No. 15


Governor and philanderer Mark Sanford said of his wife: "I'd simply say that Jenny has been absolutely magnanimous and gracious as a wonderful Christian woman in this process."


Why did he have to throw in "Christian" in that silly statement? If she had been a Muslim would that have justified his affair?  Or maybe if she had been a bad Christian woman his affair would have been OK.  Or, maybe Sanford thinks that he should throw in the word "Christian" just to get people to think that he's some kind of honorable man.  Well, it didn't work.



Conversation with Stephan today:


  Religion/Faith.  Question came up "do you believe that there's life after death?"  My answer: No.  Stephan said that he had faith that there is life after death.  I said that I didn't know what faith had to do with it. There either is or there isn't life after death and that whether these is or isn't life after death that my believing that there is or isn't won't make it so. After all, what God does or doesn't do (or create) does not depend on whether I have faith that He'll do it.


I don't have trouble thinking that when I die that I die. I'm not aware that I had any thoughts of this life before I was born or that I had any awareness of anything at all.  I don't recall being unhappy in my lifeless and faithless existence before I was born.


I think that if I were God and I had created this life on Earth for mankind, that I'd be irritated if all those people -- to whom I'd given life on Earth -- spent a lot of time thinking that life AFTER death would be better than the life I gave them on Earth.


Faith requires that you think anyone else whose faith is different is nuts. If I believe that I'll be playing a harp in heaven then the guy who thinks that he'll have 70 virgins is nuts. And, of course, the realist who thinks that both harp playing and keeping 70 women happy is impossible, is probably the only one who's got it right.



I hate being thought of as a non-believer


I hate being thought of as a non-believer. I'm a believer, but I think organized religions put too much of Man's thinking into God's mouth. Obituary: "He has gone to be with his Lord and Savior".  How the hell do we know that? And last night a friend grilled me about my non-belief that Adam and Eve were really the progenitors of us all.  Can’t that story be taken as an allegory?


I think the words in the Nicene creed "… We look for the resurrection of the dead…" are a valid expression of our hope without making a statement on behalf of God.  In fact, the odd term "Godly judgment" came up when JoAnne and I got the official permission to be married in the Episcopal church and it angered me at the time because it was not God's judgment but the judgment of some bishop who had his own screwy ideas.  Our church, however, does call the Bishop’s permission the “Godly Judgement”.  The “Godly Judging” bishop said that he did not approve of second marriages.  I told him that was fine with me because between JoAnne and me it would be our fifth.


PS:  the stupid bishop  with his "Godly judgement" was wrong anyway as it turned out, because JoAnne and I have been happily married for 32 years.

“Mere Christianity” – a Revelation for me


January 23, 2015

I have spent so much time worrying about the possibility that fundamentalist religions are ruining the planet that I have been too harsh in my internally held criticism of silly beliefs of my own church.  I think that Bishop John Spong is on the right track in showing the connections between the Christian writers in the first few centuries after the birth of Christ who aimed their writings mainly at a traditional Jewish audience.  Spong’s writings have been instructional but I sort of lost a bit of my faith.


So, I needed to back off from the nitpicking and get back to the religion I love.  On a plane trip back from our trip to Ft. Lauderdale I happened to sit next to an Episcopal priest and we got – naturally – into a discussion about religion.  At some point I mentioned Bishop Spong and when my new priest friend picked himself up off the floor he told me that I needed to “get back to my faith”.  He recommended three books by C.S. Lewis and the first one was “Mere Christianity”.


I probably won’t read the entire short book.  The first approximately 70 pages have been astounding to me and have put me back into a position where my faith is stronger and while I haven’t lost my respect for Bishop Spong, I have lucked into the Christianity that I had hoped for.  I recommend the book “Mere Christianity” – up to about page 70.  If the rest is as good I’ll let you know.

                   It’s not.


Religion MUST change. Let’s start with Christianity


September 27, 2014

This astounds me: in the Koran the beheading of people is recommended.  So, now we have the “faithful” --  the REALLY faithful -- Muslims beheading people.  The Oklahoma man who worked in a food processing plant beheaded a woman who had offended him in some way. The man is a Muslim who was trying to convert fellow workers to Muslim.  Now there are demonstrations by moderate Muslims who abhor the violent behavior.


I look through my own Bible and I read of similarly advocated violence in the Old Testament (I should not capitalize old testament because it is obscene to me).  MY part will now become to try to steer my own religion -- Christianity -- toward the love that Jesus advocated and away from the horrible, ungodly, obscene and filthy horrors of the old testament.  I don’t care if the New Testament does refer to the old testament. I know obscenity when I see it.


Examples:


Exodus


God decides to kill Moses because his son had not yet been circumcised. 4:24-26


God will kill the Egyptian children to show that he puts "a difference between the Egyptians and Israel." 11:7


Leviticus


"And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat." 26:29


When one of the Israelite men brings home a foreign woman, "Phinehas (Aaron's grandson) sees them and throws a spear "through the man .. and the woman through her belly." This act pleases God so much that "the plague was stayed from the children of Israel." But not before 24,000 had died. 25:6-9


Want more?  Read the old testament and then explain to me why you believe that the Bible is a holy book.


Jim Martin

Is “Self Awareness” the Original Sin?  Yep.


Despite my recent frustration with parts of the Bible, the reading today from Genesis was this and it made sense to me:

…(Adam and Eve)  realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

So Genesis has God forbidding Adam and Eve from eating the fruit that made them aware of themselves.  Self awareness therefore is a trait that God did NOT want us to have.

I coupled this thought with the passages from Bishop Spong that pointed out that self awareness was the awareness that gave us the dubious abilities to (1) be aware that we would die – cease to exist, and (2) the ability to imagine the passage of time as we went through the aging process that would lead to our death.

Taking this a step further:  If God offered us eternal life and if God allowed us to retain our self awareness then we would appreciate the fact that we were not going to die.  But if God gave us eternal life WITHOUT our self awareness then we would be no more appreciative of the absence of death than our pet cats are.  So…isn’t self awareness the “original sin”?


April 9, 2015  Spong wrote this in this week’s letter:

“Resurrection meant rising into the life of God. It meant transcending the limits of time. It meant experiencing birth into a new consciousness. It meant stepping from self-consciousness into the reality of a universal consciousness. It meant entering the oneness of life, which is also the oneness of God. It meant escaping our survival-driven biology and seeing ourselves as part of what the word God means.”


I wonder if Spong’s “stepping from self-consciousness” correlates to my idea of losing self awareness as being the relief from “original sin”?

                                    Jim Martin


Must we DOUBT in order to have FAITH?

This is an issue that I need to discuss with  my priest.  Faith problem.


I know that when I think about something that many other people must also be thinking about it. I’m not unique. I’m part of a very big group called people. So here’s the issue that a heck of a lot of people are wondering about.

Some background: Faith has a huge defect and yet we feel that we must still attain it. The defect is that faith is usually wrong. I’ll back up a little. You can not have faith unless you have doubts. An absence of doubt means that you are simply stupid. You are not human, or, fully human if you don’t have doubts. Faith requires doubts for the faith to really be faith.  I’ll come back to the doubt problem.


Here’s the question for my priest: Every religion is required to have the faith that that particular religion is—choose a few from the following—in possession of the only god; is absolutely right about everything; is absolutely sure that other religions are wrong; is sure that other faiths are held by stupid people who are too dumb to have doubts and who, therefore, can not possibly have true faith;  is in possession of facts that normally impossible events gave their particular religion/faith its legitimacy;  and is capable of rewarding its particular believers the bonus of some sort of desirable life after their death.


I look at, for example, Muslims and I know that they must be stupid if they believe that they will have 72 virgins waiting on them in an afterlife, and that the Taliban and Al Quaeda are too vicious to be deserving of a god or to be considered a religion and therefore their faith is not true. And I look at Christian snake handlers and think that they are too stupid to have doubts and therefore their faith is not true. And I look at the Catholic church that will not let their priests marry and I think their faith is not true because no religion could be that stupid. Et Cetera. So...All this is FAITH and some of it simply MUST be wrong!


This above line of thinking makes it very hard for me when I look at my own attempts to have faith and my own attempts to overcome (not abandon) my doubts.

Creation and the Stupidity of the first descriptions of “God”


The first descriptions of God make him Superman.  A super man.  Greek gods are super versions of man and Christian versions are wise versions of man and both are ridiculous.  This god who spoke through Jewish prophets was a very wise man.


How absurd. 


Neither the Greeks nor the Jews seemed to consider the fact that their very existence on a huge planet above which strange stars and sun and moon appeared was a creation.  The Greeks and Jews only seemed to concern themselves with various actions and opinions of their gods all within the creation that seemed never to be considered


My understanding of a book I’m reading “Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: the Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe” by Lisa Randall is limited. I have to reread pages, sections, chapters and I still can not comprehend much of it. Several things strike me and won’t leave me alone:   After the initial explosion of the “Big Bang” -- 30 to 45 seconds after the initial explosion -- the explosion changed into an “inflation”.  This change was a near-exponential expansion of the creation and was over in a fraction of a second of the history of the universe.  And in this near exponential expansion period the possibility for the continued evolution of the universe into what we partly understand today came into existence.


The change of the expansion from a simple expansion to an exponential expansion was willed by something.  It could not just happen.  This act of creation is so far beyond human understanding as to serve as the yardstick by which we should measure our concept of “God”. 


I find it hard to believe that a God of this magnitude is much concerned with me.  I’d like to think that it is but I’m a realist.  In comparison consider this:  How concerned would I be with the existence and the life of one atom which is one of a hundred billion that form the leg of a virus that lives in my body and is 1 to the minus billioneth power of my full size?  Answer: Not very much.


Jim M   November 9, 2015

Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.


I just thought that was funny. It really doesn’t have anything to do with what I’ve been thinking about religion lately.


     ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      (the following thoughts occurred to me in February 2016)


The thing we call God is so far beyond us in size, concept, power, and creativity that we have no status whatsoever in trying to define or describe it.


It — let me change that to IT — IT may have been responsible for influencing a human being called Jesus to convey to us ITs desires for our behavior.  I would like to believe this and I do believe this.


IT can not  be described:  IT is everything.  IT is the entire universe and more than the universe. Everything is a part of IT.  I am a tiny part of IT. 


The attempts to define IT as having human characteristics in the Bible and the Koran are ridiculous.  IT is not similar to men. Men are not similar to IT.  Men try to become spokesmen for IT when they invent religions. These man-made religions create almost more problems than solutions.


I hope that if IT notices me that IT will not disapprove of me. And maybe IT will let me in on some of ITs delights.  Maybe IT communicates to me by exposing me to sunsets, seascapes, bird songs, earthquakes, and to my own thoughts which sometimes surprise me. Then I wonder how I can  communicate back to it. Maybe, if I am really a part of IT, communicating with IT might involve just taking my own unexpected thoughts a bit more seriously.


Bishop Spong said it this way:

"Because of Jesus, I no longer see God as a being, supernatural in power, dwelling somewhere external to my world and ready to intervene to come to my aid or to my rescue. Rather I see God as the Source of life giving me the enhanced capacity to live, to live fully. I see God as the Source of love freeing me to love beyond any barrier, to love wastefully. I see God as the Ground of Being giving me the courage to be all that I am capable of being. It is by living fully that I make the God who is life visible. It is by loving wastefully that I make the God who is love visible. It is by being all that I am capable of being that I make the God who is the Ground of Being visible."



Which came first:  nothing or something?


There are only two possibilities:

(1) The universe, time, and everything has always existed.

(2) The universe, time, and everything had a beginning.


Neither possibility is imaginable to our human mind. In my mind the first one is simply impossible and the second one must be the real situation.  Why do I tend to believe this?  Because I just “feel” that the first possibility is impossible. I have no further explanation.


So, I think that everything was created — had a beginning — and therefore that there must have been a creator. 


I have no idea why I tend to feel that things must have a beginning.