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If You Want To See The Hand Of God

5/04/2016

NGC 2174 Stars Versus MountainsIf God is not the creator of this universe there is no point in believing in Him, much less worshipping Him.

If God is not a transcendent being, outside of the limitations of time and space, there is no point in believing in Him, much less worshipping him.

If God can be fooled / bamboozled / cheated, if He can change His mind, He is not a God worthy of worship.

If God does not know all, He cannot see all, He cannot forgive all.  He would be in no position to do so as He would be operating out of ignorance.

We are moral creatures only because we can choose between good and evil.  If we were compelled to do evil it would not be our fault because we could not choose to be good; if we were compelled to do good, it would not be to our credit because we could not choose to do evil.  Only by being able to choose are we moral actors.

If God does not compel us to do either good or evil, He must want us to be moral creatures.  He has assigned us free will.

If free will does not exist, then our entire existence is futile.  Without an ability to choose, we are incapable of being either good or evil.

If free will exists, then only by choosing to serve God can we be good.

Since God created everything and is greater than this universe, there is nothing we can do for God that He cannot do for Himself except to chose to love one another.

If the only way to love God is to obey Him,
then God wants us to choose
to love our fellow human beings.

God can provide Himself
with anything else He wants.
Our offerings are pointless.

Since God cannot force human behavior without robbing us of our free will and moral choice, He can only act when He is asked to act, and only in a way that affects the person asking for help.

Since God will not force human behavior, He desires all to choose to behave in a way that helps His creation.

God helps humanity through the voluntary actions of those humans who choose to do good.

If the objective was merely to put food in bellies, to heal physical infirmities, then God could do that with a snap of His fingers (metaphorically speaking).

But that’s not the objective –
or at least not the sole objective.

The main objective seems to be to get human beings to voluntarily change their hearts and minds, to put aside selfish behaviors and thoughts and to be more loving and accepting and caring of one another.

This life is short and filled with suffering.
It is gone in the blink of an eye.

Nothing we do here matters in the long run.

Eventually this universe and everything in it will unravel and turn into something else and it will be as if we never existed.

We don’t want to be here when that happens.  We want to be part of something else, something much bigger, much better.

And the only way to be part of that is to love one another as God loves us.

If you want to see the hand of God, look at the end of your wrist;
if you want to stare down the devil, look in a mirror.

Religion is a metaphor for the ineffable.

 

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A Coffin For God

28/03/2016

The worst piece of art in the history of the world hangs under the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo_-_Creation_of_Adam

It is not, in and of itself, a technical or aesthetic failure.

Quite the contrary.

Indeed, if it were called

“Zeus Tricks Prometheus Into Pulling His Finger”
or
“Jor-El Sends Kal-El To Earth”

it would be great.

But as it is, it’s proven to be a destructive and divisive instrument to the Good News, a tribute to humanity’s vainglorious lust for ambition and power and not to the spiritual truths that bind us all.

It is — and without the least sense of irony by either artist or patron — in direct violation to one of the revered Ten Commandments:  “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

There’s a reason for that, folks;
it’s not just a petty tribal taboo.

Creating an image of the Divine basically puts God in a box.

A box of human making.

A box that serves human purposes.

A box to keep God confined.

A box in which God is dead and buried.

The Sistine Chapel exists very specifically to put a human face on the Divine[1], to change the Divine, in fact, into God, and to depict God as part of humanity’s authoritarian power hierarchy.[2]

That’s nonsense, of course.

Human power hierarchies are meaningless to the Divine.

It’s like trying to confine the vast reality of the oceans into the tiny word “sea” written on an index card and then claiming that because you are holding that card, you are the chosen representative of that “sea” and invested with the power and authority to decide who gets wet.[3]

Putting the Divine into God|box|coffin only benefits the makers of the box.

This is an old, old problem.

It first cropped up immediately after the Divine offered the Covenant from Mt. Sinai to the collected nation of Israel.

The collected nation of Israel freaked, and turned to a substitute God of their own making.

No, not the golden calf:

Moses.

They wanted Moses to be their intercessor, because they could not conceive of the Divine as anything other than a ruthless, merciless, violent tyrant.

Because ruthless, merciless, violent tyrants were the only authority they understood, and authority was the only social structure they could comprehend after having been subjugated to tyrants for centuries.

So Moses obliged.[4]

Moses did not so much interpret the Covenant so much as create loopholes.

“Thou shalt not kill” — unless you violated this, that, or the other tribal taboo.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery” — unless you’re a guy wanting to trade up to a newer, hotter model.

“Thou shalt not covet” — unless you’re part of Moses’ own tribe, and in that case you don’t have to actually own anything ‘cuz you can just tell people you’ll turn off the God spigot unless they give you their best stuff.

He crafted laws that — outside the context of building a unique national identity among people without one — are at times insane excursions into pointless minutia.

What you eat?  How you cut your hair?  The type of clothes you wear?  The number of brass rings on the curtain rods in the Tabernacle?

Who cares?

The Divine certainly doesn’t.[5]

But we as the Church in the 21st century are stuck with the finely crafted coffin our predecessors have made for the Divine.

A coffin that imposes human concepts of gender and human concepts of emotion and human concepts of form and even human concepts of physicality onto the Divine.

As was said in only a slightly different context:

“Why seek ye the living among the dead? 
He is not here, but is risen.”

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[1]  The Divine already did that a millennium and a half early, and with much better results.

[2]  And very explicitly to link God’s authority to that of Pope Julius II (Michelangelo’s patron) so he could justify laying the smack-down on anyone who rejected him as Head Honcho Of Everything On Earth.

[3]  It could be argued that water is a much better metaphor of the Divine than God the Father:  Water permeates every living thing, is comprised of basic, simple, easy to grasp characteristics, yet moves in its own way without regard to the desires of humans; indeed, humans who attempt to defy water invariably come to a bad end, while those who learn to move with and accommodate water find it a limitless bounty.  And while Jesus used many metaphors for the Divine, he was certainly fond of the water one.

[4]  No, we’re not trashing Moses; he had a tough job re transforming a mob of slaves into a nation of believers.  But the Bible is pretty clear he was a hot tempered, impetuous, judgmental, violent, murderous man and the laws he felt inspired to write often reflect those prejudices and peccadillos.  That he was even able to articulate “an eye for an eye” as a proportional limit to justice marks a significant positive growth and change in his worldview and probably one of the few genuine Divinely inspired laws he laid down.

[5]  Just ask Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, or Zechariah.

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Mr. Brunelle Has Jesus Explain It All

25/03/2016

Mr Brunelle has Jesus explain it all

from Robert Waldo Brunelle’s delightful webcomic

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Thinkage

12/03/2016

“If I hate a person because I’m mean, well, then that’s just mean. But if I hate a person because ‘Jesus told me to hate him,’ this is not just mean, this is satanically mean.

“This is why the lack of love – especially the lack of love from people who claim to follow Jesus – is the worst heresy in all.

“When we hate and hurt and kill ‘in Jesus name’ – we are the greatest arch-heretics the world has ever seen.

“Which is worse: to teach others that Jesus was not God, or to burn such a person ‘in the name of Jesus’ for not believing that Jesus is God?

“While the first person might be wrong about the nature of Jesus, the second person is completely wrong about everything related to Jesus, for if they think that Jesus wants them to burn people who don’t understand Him, they haven’t understood the first thing about Him, and should incinerate themselves first.” – Jeremy Myers, “The Biggest Heresy of All Time (Are You Guilty of It?)

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The White Evangelical Christian Nightmare

29/02/2016

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Jesus returns

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leading an angelic army

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of black lesbians

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The One And Only Original Sin

22/02/2016

The one sin that underlies all other sins is indifference to suffering. God and Jesus both pound home on this.  If you don’t care if other people suffer then you’re fully capable of justifying racism, rape, robbery, and murder. If you do care, then you will refrain from harming others because you wouldn’t want to be harmed yourself, and you will act charitably because you would like charity extended to you when you need it.

Specific acts are not in and of themselves selfish. On May 23, 1939 Electrician’s Mate Third Class Lloyd Maness slammed a steel hatch shut aboard the USS Squalus, locking 26 crewmen in the flooding after section of the sub and drowning them.

Squakus Guppy_Book_guppy_1A_watertight_door

 

Maness did this to save the 33 men in the forward section of the sub, since waiting even a few seconds would have allowed the rushing wall of water to push open the hatch and flood the rest of the sub.

Now, that sailor killed those 26 men just as surely as if he had shoved their heads into a bucket of water and held them down until they drowned. But did he sin? If he hadn’t locked them in, the entire crew would have perished. Maness was not indifferent to suffering; rather, he instantly knew from his experience as a submariner that those men in the aft section of the sub were already doomed, but there was a chance to save the rest of the crew (and they were; click on the story, it’s pretty amazing).

Now, if we stick by hard and fast rules such as Moses’ Old Testament purity laws, we end up in situations where suffering is magnified because it would be a sin to intercede (Jesus cites example after example after example of the Pharisees doing this). But if we stick to Jesus’ principles then there is freedom and leeway in our actions; we may do a thing under one set of circumstances that would be wrong under another so long as the motivation is one of love, charity, and a desire to prevent unjust suffering.

This orbits us back to the issue of slavery, and the horrid racism it fostered. Slave owners didn’t want to lose their “property” and their free labor, so they ignored Jesus’ principle treat others the way you want to be treated and found willing stooges to promote a heretofore justifiably discarded inaccurate literal interpretation of the Bible.

They focused on the rules, as it were,
instead of the reason.

Because of this, and because they deliberately fed into a pre-existing stream of willful ignorance embraced by the poor southern whites, the woefully inaccurate, grossly distorted, and factually wrong teaching of Biblical literalism took root and spread.

Case in point:
Human beings refer to the covenant offered on Mt Sinai as “the Ten Commandments” when God never referred to them as such either by number or by that definition. God offered a contract that the Israelites were free to accept or refuse. If they wanted God to be their God they would do certain thing; if they didn’t want to do those things then God would have let them go off on their own.

The term we humans translate as “commandments” is the result of translators working for an established king or government translating the term to impart maximum authority…which the king or government would then claim to share. The proper Jewish term is translated into Greek as the Decalogue, and means literally “the Ten Words”.

Not commandments,
words.

Yes, Jesus referred to them as laws and commandments but again remember, he was talking to people already steeped in about 1,600 years of a particular tradition; they understood the covenant to mean something it didn’t, but there was no point trying to straighten that out at the time, it was just too culturally ingrained.*

So trying to figure out precisely what was said or meant is a problematic task, but taking the longer view of God’s principles as voiced in Jesus’ teachings, we see it’s basically very simple and no complicated at all: Love God, love your neighbor, everything else is commentary.

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*  And further, Jesus spoke in Aramaic, which was translated and written down in Greek, and then further translated into Latin and other languages, all of which went through meaning and culture shifts over time.

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Racism / Slavery / Literalism / Creationism

12/02/2016

Let us speak the truth:
The people who pushed for Biblical literalism were the anti-abolitionists of the slaveholding South. The Northern abolitionists pointed to the golden rule as proof slavery had to be done away with even though there are both Old Testament and New Testament verses recognizing slavery as a given. To counter that the Southern slaveholders promoted a literal interpretation of the Bible that would justify whites owning blacks, and after the fall of slavery, to justify Jim Crow.

The chief promoters of creationism are white Christians who see themselves no longer being deferred to and are trying to shore up their rapidly declining social status.

Their belief has nothing to
do with religion or truth.

This was a country built for white people on the graves of Native Americans and off the backs of enslaved Africans. The pro-slavery forces marshaled a lot of effort to keep the issue of slavery from ever being discussed, including but not limited to hiring public speakers and subsidizing pastors and college professors who would speak out in favor of the extermination of native Americans and the enslavement of Africans.

And in fairness the pro-slavery side plied both sides of the street:
They also hired Darwinian social evolutionists to argue that Africans were biologically inferior to humans — ‘scuse me, white people — and deserved to be enslaved.

The abolitionists were no great paragons of racial justice, and many of them were motivated by the fact the South had an unfair economic edge on them by virtue of not having to pay for their labor, but they saw it was impossible to reconcile Christ’s teachings with slavery and if one of ‘em had to go, it should be slavery.

The one thing the slave owners used to keep “poor white trash” (i.e., 80% of the Southern white population) in line was the racist message that as bad off as they were, at least they weren’t black. This poison seeped out of the South and infested the whole country; what Jim Crow codified under law, the North did as well under custom.

The largest Protestant denomination in the states — the Southern Baptists — was formed to split off from northern churches who advocated abolition. They preached sermons before, during, and long after the Civil War promoting white supremacy and the brutal subjugation of African-Americans using their literal interpretation of the Bible to justify these evils. They continued doing so well into the civil rights era, with the lion’s share of the Ku Klux Klan coming from Baptists churches (tho all Protestant denominations were represented), they kept fighting into the 1970s and 80s: Led by Jerry Falwell and others, first they started private Christian schools and colleges that kept blacks out, then when forced to admit blacks began encouraging home schooling to keep white kids out of the clutches of a multi-racial, multi-faith society.

The writer Andrew Sullivan identifies them as “Christianists”, people who have adopted the superficial trappings of Christianity without applying the actual principles to their daily lives, people who use human tradition and cupidity to justify maintaining a social order where they get to be on top.

What we’re seeing today is the last long, lonely, ugly bleat of this white Christianist patriarchy going down hard. Demographics are changing, and by 2048 non-Hispanic whites are going to represent only 49% of the population.

But go ahead, cling to your non-Biblical,
non-Christian, wholly erroneous beliefs.
Your grandchildren will be
the ones who have to suffer.

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Still More On The Virgin Birth

19/12/2015

Well, this is interesting. In a report released two years ago but which apparently got very little media play, the British Medical Journal reported a survey of pregnancies in the US that indicated 1 in 200 such pregnancies were self-reported as occurring without sexual intercourse; in other words, human parthenogenesis.

Now…BIG caveat with this survey:
The women reporting are self-reporting; there is no objective way to verify their sexual activity or lack there of. Some of them may not have understood what was meant by sexual activity (for example, what we’d refer to as heavy petting over clothing), others may have been lying either consciously or unconsciously.

Any woman who had child that doesn’t match
the mother’s DNA exactly may be presumed
to have had some sort of sexual contact

But…at the very least this report would suggest that the idea of human parthenogenesis, long pooh-poohed by skeptics, may not be beyond the realm of possibility after all.

See also:

The Science Of The Virgin Birth

More On The Virgin Birth

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Thinkage

25/07/2015

“In recent years and elections one would have thought that homosexuality and abortion were the new litmus tests of authentic Christianity. Where did this come from? They never were the criteria of proper membership for the first 2000 years, but reflect very recent culture wars instead. And largely from people who think of themselves as ‘traditionalists’! (The fundamentals were already resolved in the early Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. Note that none of the core beliefs are about morality at all. The Creeds are more mystical, cosmological, and about aligning our lives inside of a huge sacred story.) When you lose the great mystical level of religion, you always become moralistic about this or that as a cheap substitute. It gives you a false sense of being on higher spiritual ground than others.

“Jesus is clearly much more concerned about issues of pride, injustice, hypocrisy, blindness, and what I have often called ‘The Three Ps’ of power, prestige, and possessions, which are probably 95 percent of Jesus’ written teaching. We conveniently ignore this 95 percent to concentrate on a morality that usually has to do with human embodiment. That’s where people get righteous, judgmental, and upset, for some reason. The body seems to be where we carry our sense of shame and inferiority, and early-stage religion has never gotten much beyond these ‘pelvic’ issues. As Jesus put it, ‘You ignore the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and good faith . . . and instead you strain out gnats and swallow camels’. We worry about what people are doing in bed much more than making sure everybody has a bed to begin with. There certainly is a need for a life-giving sexual morality, and true pro-life morality, but one could sincerely question whether Christian nations and people have found it yet.” — Fr. Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations (Sunday, June 16, 2013):  “New Fundamentals” Are a Contradiction in Terms

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What Kind Of Parent…?

8/07/2015

”What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?”

Imagine, if you will, that you have a daughter barely able to walk and talk on her own.

In her short life this little girl has never been lied to, never been tricked, never been mislead or mistreated, and has only experienced people speaking the truth to her.

Imagine, if you will, that you place this child — your daughter — in a room to play while you do something else.

An adult drops in, and you let them stay in the same room as the child while you do something else (what exactly doesn’t matter).

Now, if you know this adult, and know they are trustworthy, you’ll have no qualms leaving them in the room with your daughter: She’s in safe hands because you know that adult would never ever harm her.

And the adult doesn’t, even though you are not in the room or watching.

So everything’s peachy keen.

Now suppose a different adult has dropped in, one you don’t know that well, but whom you have no reason to suspect would be the kind of creep to rape a child.

If you step into the room and find the creep raping your daughter, you may be criticized for not knowing this particular adult well enough to justify leaving them alone with a child, but at the same time you can argue you had no reason to suspect them and as such you are not as guilty as if, say…

…you knew the adult was a child molester and you leave them alone in a room with your daughter while you go do something else.

Now even there you have a defense:
You didn’t think they would be so brazen as to try something in your own home when you might walk in at any minute.

But let’s take this a step further…

Say the room is under surveillance, either a big two-way mirror in the wall or hidden security cameras. Let’s say you saw what was happening at all times.

Now, if you see the rapist making a move on your daughter and immediately rush to her rescue, you may have done something foolish by letting the rapist in the room with her in the first place, but at least you acted swiftly to prevent harm.

But if you didn’t pay attention to what the adult was doing, then you are a negligent parent at the very least.

But if you knew the adult was a child rapist, and if you saw them attacking your daughter, and you did nothing while it was within your power to stop it…

…and if you blame her for being raped afterwards…

…just what kind of parent are you?

animated simpson adam and eve

Ladies and Gentlemen,
the story of Eve and the serpent
in the Garden of Eden.

More than any other story in the Bible, Old Testament or New, this one is the single most problematic.

Because a plain text reading indicates God doesn’t know what will happen and that the future is as much of an unknown to Him as it is to us.

In which case, why should we worship Him? No matter what promises He makes to us, He can’t guarantee He can deliver because He doesn’t know the future. (Call that Option #1)

And if He does know the future, then He should have known full well what the serpent would do when it had a chance and He let it happen anyway.

In which case, why should we trust Him? He set us up. (Call that Option #2)

And if he deliberately intended for it to happen just so He could punish us, then we are royally screwed, and just the playthings of a sadist. (Call that Option #3)

Now, our friends the atheists would look at options #1 & #2 & #3 and offer Option #4: There is no God, there is no divine presence, there is no moral center to the universe.

And the fundamentalist / literalists would offer Option #5 and say “Ah, God’s ways are not our ways; who are we to judge God?” in which case we would rightfully say “If God can’t clearly convey and articulate His desire for humanity in simple concrete terms that se can readily grasp, then communion with Him is an impossibility.”

Which is where the list of options usually ends…

But there is Option #6:
The story of Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden is not literally historically factually true but rather a parable by early culturally primitive and barbaric humans to express as best they could with their limited viewpoint their understanding of their relationship to the Divine.

This is where the atheists say “Yeah, right, whatever…” and go check the TV listings while the fundamentalist / literalists started screaming and stamping their feet and throwing a hissy fit: “No no no NO NO!!! It’s all literally historically FACTUALLY true — every single word of it!!! It must be literally true, it has to be literally true, because if it isn’t literally true then every single other thing in the Bible is false false FALSE!!!

Really?

Says who?

Your theology?

The same theology that makes God not a loving parent but either a negligent numbskull or a monster?

Because that’s where literalism inevitably takes us.

The Bible, no matter how Divinely inspired, no matter how faithfully transcribed, is still the product of human understanding.

And human understanding changes and expands and yes, even evolves from generation to generation, from year to year, heck, even from moment to moment.

And what some distant unknown Second Millennium BCE scribe recorded from whatever ur-creation myth his tribe hand passed down around the campfire from prehistoric times at best represents what they understood at that time, not what the actual Truth of the matter is.

It’s not the Bible that’s the problem, it’s the claim that only the surface details are important, not the underlying Truth.

Religion is a metaphor for the ineffable.

 

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