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“I know everyone who gave their life that day, some of which were my best friends and my daughter. And I guarantee you, beyond any shadow of a doubt, they are dancing with Jesus today.”

 

The above quote from Pastor Frank Pomeroy of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs Texas captures one of the reasons why religion will never die.  It may diminish some.  It will certainly continue to change greatly. But die, no.

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This quote is from a sermon he preached on Sunday, Nov 12, 2017.  A week before this sermon a gunman had entered his church and murdered  26 members of his congregation, including his 14 year old daughter. He preached this sermon in a tent. At the front of the tent were the few remaining members of his congregation.

Many atheists say that religion will one day die out and be no more.  Some say it is already happening, that it is shrinking and will continue to do so until it no longer exists.   I believe that the number of atheists will continue to grow for awhile, but do not think it will ever become the dominant religious view of the planet. And by atheism, I mean the variety that does not believe in God or the supernatural.  Instead, I think some variety of religious belief, including in a God, will survive and still be the most common view.

The reason I think this is because I realize that humans are more heart than mind.  And, by the way, that is not a bad thing. While the heart can and has led to many evils, it is also the source of our morality and most of what is good too.  It is also an essential part of what gives our lives joy and happiness. Evidence, logic, reason all have an important role, but they are not the basis of what is good and right in our lives.

David Hume put it well when he said, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”

Many atheists may be surprised at this quote from Hume. After all, he is a one of the pre-eminent empirical and skeptical philosophers in history.  However, Hume realized that we do not use our reason to determine our morality and our goals, but rather, they are chosen through our passions and emotions. And reason is then used in aide of them (which can include modifying them to if needed) and, to justify them (unfortunately).

Consider, did you reason your way to loving your parents and siblings?  Did you use logic and evidence and rational thought when meeting people to determine your friends?  Did you reason your way to loving your children?

In moral decisions, do you use abstract moral principles and reason from them to determine if a given action that you have to make now is moral or not?  And do you use reason to determine whether to get angry or not when you see a man knock down an old woman and steal her purse, a woman slapping a child hard enough to mark them, a child tormenting a cat?

Reason has a role to play, but it is in aide and support of, not in substitution of.

Which is why religion will never die away.

What arouses more passion than both the idea and reality of death.  Not only our own death, but, often more importantly, the death of your loved ones – parents, spouse, friends.  Children.

171105151324-04-sutherland-springs-church-shooting-super-169

171105195446-14-sutherland-springs-church-shooting-super-169            For most people, such losses need more than what reason and logic can provide.  I wrote a blog a few weeks ago, “There is No Immortality, But There Are Times I Chose to Believe Anyway”, about why I find traditional atheist platitudes on death unsatisfactory, and  why, on an emotional level, I find myself vested in the belief in the rainbow bridge and will continue to happily be so vested.

This is even though I have been an atheist for over 43 years now.  And this is despite my love of science, my commitment to rational thought, my being a member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry since its first day when its journal was called the Zetetic, and my highly analytical nature.

Consider Martin Gardner, one of the founders of the modern skeptic movement, and a founding member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (called Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal at first). Even though a skeptic of the first order, he believed in God and immortality, even though he knew there was no evidence and that such a belief was irrational.

We are not rational creatures. We can harness rationality and use it, but the great majority of our pleasures and desires and goals are not the result of rational thought.  I did not sit down and say and make a list of things that I might like, put reasons by each of them, and then made a conscious choice.  I like to write because I love to read. And my love of reading did not come about by rational reflection but from emotional response.

And there is nothing wrong with this. It is an essential part of what it means to be human. Change it, and you are dealing with something that is something else than human.

So, when I see what atheism has to offer for comfort and support – atoms returning to the universe to last as long as the universe within the hearts of stars or in enormous gas clouds, living on in the memories and lives of others we have touched, living on in our memories and being one of the ones touched by the deceased, and so forth – and compare that to my friends and loved ones “dancing with Jesus” and waiting for me to join in when I eventually die….well, I know which one resonates more strongly.

One final thought.  While I enjoy discussing and disagreeing about various ideas and issues relating to religion – and do feel there is much that deserves strong condemnation – the most important thing is not religious beliefs per se, but an individual’s views towards choices.  Pastor Frank Pomeroy said this well in his sermon too;

“Folks, we have the freedom to choose, and rather than choose darkness, as the one young man did that day, I say we choose life. “

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I just recently came across this blog that perfectly highlights one of the reasons I eventually became an atheist – the philosophical and moral problems in believing in an omniscient, omnipotent, moral being, especially one who is concerned about our welfare and well being.

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In “No This Isn’t All Part of God’s Plan So Lets Stop Blaming It on Him”, by Dr. Benjamin L Corey, Dr. Corey tries to salvage the moral part of that description of God.  Unstated, and, perhaps, unrecognized, is that he does so at the expense of an idea of a God being all knowing and all powerful.

Dr. Corey starts off by discussing why he has a problem with those who, in the face of a tragic loss, say it is all part of God’s plan.  This bit here does a good job of summarizing this problem:

Not only does that line fail to bring me comfort, it also seems to impugn God’s character. The idea that a loving God would have a “plan” that involved wiping out thousands in earthquakes and tsunamis, giving people cancer, parents losing children, car accidents, trauma, abuse, and all manner of pain and suffering, is an insane idea.

Think about it: if this is all “according to God’s plan” and every life event is being directed and controlled by him, he’s really bad at making plans.

In some of my saddest seasons of loss, people have come along side of me and said, “Well, we’ll never really understand God’s plan.”

And every time I hear it, through my tears and suffocating sadness I just want to reply, “No shit, Sherlock.” How could a plan that involves so much heartache be understood?

………

Sometimes we’ll say God planned the suffering for our benefit. Other times we’ll be tricked into believing that God planned the suffering to chastise us for not measuring up. Yet, no matter how we try to rationalize or explain it, we end up at the same spot: if this is all part of God’s plan, God is the author and cause of evil and suffering

 

I agree with Dr. Corey on this. I have never understood how a good God could cause evil and suffering and still be considered a good God. However, I will say that the Old Testament writers had no problem in doing so.  God afflicted Saul with madness. He hardened the pharoah’s heart. He sent plagues to punish. He sent disasters to punish. As with Job, God could take away a spouse, children, wealth and home and health…and yet was still good and moral.

I believe that there were three reasons that these ancient writers thought this.  One was the mystery bit that God hits Job with at the end – were you there when I made the morning, shut the door to the seas, laid the foundation of the earth.  In other words, God is so great and we so small that we will never be able to understand his reasons. But, take his word for it, he is a Good God.

Another is that many ancients believed that those who suffered somehow deserved it. That is still another answer that many still believe, although I do not think as many as in these ancient times (during early Christianity, doctors did not look for physical causes of diseases, but, instead, looked for how that person had sinned and so called down this affliction from God, and what they could do to appease God – it is one reason that Muslim doctors became the more trusted.)

Finally, I think that the ancients believed that whoever had the power had the right to say what was good and what was wrong.  A more primitive version of the modern position that God is morality.

Over time though, societies and cultures grew and changed.  Ideas were tested and ideas discarded.  Among those were ideas about morality.  Today, the idea of might makes right is abhorrent for most people.  And the idea that all people who suffer deserve it is likewise seen by most as absurd (birth defects anyone).

Which leaves only the mystery one still surviving – that God has a reason that would make what seems evil into good and right. But, unfortunately, we are too limited in our understanding to ever be able to see this.

 

Dr. Corey quite rightly rejects this. But, in doing so he has also rejected the ideas of an all knowing and all powerful God, and either doesn’t realize it or chooses not to acknowledge this.  Here is his answer to the problem of evil and a moral God.

 

Instead, when we acknowledge that really hard and sad life events did not come from the hand of God, and were not in any way planned by or ordained by God, I believe we’re invited to get to know a God who joins in our suffering instead of causing it.

………………………………………………………………………………

Instead of trying to rationalize our suffering as being from the hand of God– thus making God an agent to be petrified of instead of a creator to be loved, I think we should be quicker to acknowledge that, no, a lot of what we experience in life isn’t God’s plan at all.

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Because you see, if it’s outside of God’s heart and desires, God grieves that loss and brokenness with us– because it’s his hopes and dreams for our lives that end up getting smashed as well.

…………………………………………………………………………………

Instead of this idea of God having a master plan that meticulously dictates and controls what happens in our lives (often referred to a blueprint theology), I believe that God has hopes, dreams, and desires for our stories. When those things come true, he rejoices and celebrates with us.

But when those hopes and dreams get smashed to bits, instead of saying “Oh, by the way– I actually did that,” I believe God sits in the dark and mourns those broken dreams with us.

And when the tears have subsided long enough to begin to hear his voice clearly, I’m convinced he’s also whispering, “And I know this can’t replace your loss, but when you’re ready I’d love to partner with you to try to make something good come out of all this.”

 

First off, notice that God no longer knows what is going to happen: “…his hopes and dreams for our lives that end up getting smashed as well” and “were not in any way planned or ordained by God”.  In other words, God is not all knowing.

Next off, not all powerful.  God cannot stop these events from happening and once happened he cannot “replace your loss”.

So, Dr. Corey gets to keep the moral part of the descriptor of God, but at the expense of God not being all powerful and all knowing.  And that’s fine. If you want to define God like that then our discussion should be on how limited is God, and when do those limits approach describing a being who cannot be described as God any longer.

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And , truth to be told, if you want to have an all-powerful and all knowing God who does not care about morals and morality, I think you have a stronger case too.

 

Take your pick.

 

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I confess. My title is misleading.  The Gospel of Judas (not Iscariot) has not been lost at all, just well concealed and its knowledge revealed to a carefully selected few. For example, Cardinal Richelieu had read the Gospel of Judas (not Iscariot) and successfully absorbed its lessons. However, today, with more and more Christian leaders having read this once secretive gospel and following its teachings, as is evidenced by so many of them endorsing and supporting Donald Trump and his subsequent election, the time for such secrecy is past.

Now, I do not intend to post the whole of this Gospel (it is the longest of all the gospels), only parts. My intention is to make Judas (not Iscariot) well known and force the publication of a new, revised Bible with this Gospel, the most influential of all the Gospels, taking its rightful place before Matthew and Mark as the first of the gospels.  So, without further ado, here are some select passages from the hitherto hidden Gospel of Judas (not Iscariot).

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JnI 1:1 – 21

And certain of the Pharisees and certain of the Herodians were sent to Jesus to lure him and catch him in a trap of his own words.  And when they came they said unto him, Master, we know that you are true, and care for no man over that of God for you teach the way of God in truth.  So teach us Master so that we should know the way of God, is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? But Jesus, knowing their hypocrisy and deceit said to them, bring me a penny that I may see it. And they brought to Jesus a penny.  And Jesus said, Whose is this image and superscription?  And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. And they outwardly marveled while their hearts were filled with anger.

After the questioners of Jesus and the crowds had left, Judas (not Iscariot) approached Jesus and asked him, Lord, is not Caesar God’s too?  And Jesus smiled at Judas (not Iscariot) and said, Truly, God has given you the discernment to see this.  And Jesus took Judas (not Iscariot) aside and said to him, Listen well most favored disciple, and learn these secret teachings of God. And I charge you to listen and learn and only reveal these to those whose discernment is the equal of your own and who can make Godly use of this wisdom.  And Judas (not Iscariot) listened well and followed the words of his Master, the Lord.

JnI 2:1 – 4

Jesus said that mankind is foolish and in their foolishness they follow their own thoughts and desires over that of God’s. For the glory of God and the furtherance of his will use those thoughts and desires against God’s foes. Sow confusion among those who oppose God’s will by using the confused minds of one against the desires of another so that neither can speak the same language, so that neither have the same cause, and so that both will fall when confronted by those following the way of God.

JnI 2:16

The ways of Caesar are not the way of righteousness and justice. Therefor when working with Caesar to bring forth the intent of God, your ways too do not need to be righteous or just.

JnI 2:20 – 22

While the meek shall indeed be one of the inheritors of the kingdom it is the rich and the powerful, the loud and the boastful who control the things of Caesar’s. Such men act upon their own desires, even to choosing to believe lies as truth and ignorance knowledge.  Let such men grab the secret parts of women and cheat the weak and powerless, so long as they listen to your words and so do God’s will.

JnI 4:14

When necessity calls, promises made in the past are of the past.apostle-saint-jude-thaddeus

 

JnI 4:24

When a man is harmed to advance the glory of God, then harm him severely such that his vengeance need never be feared.

 

JnI 6: 20

Faith need only be kept with god. Mankind is too fickle, weak, and greedy to expect or deserve faith. Keep faith with God and break faith with others when it serves your cause or God’s.

JnI 6:31

Do not hesitate to sin if it furthers God’s will. God will forgive such sins.  He will not forgive those who do not so sin and so fail to further God’s will.

JnI 7:3-8

For the things of Caesar, what is right is what those who have power say. Work hard to be the ones with power, for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.

JnI 9:1

Men are deceitful creatures.  Because of that they are easily deceived. Use that to bring about God’s glory.

JnI 9:3-5

Men are nothing compared to God, only fools braying into the night, concerned only with what will get them through from moment to moment. Use that and you will always be able to deceive them for the glory of God.

 

JnI 12: 3

Only God commands both love and fear.  For man, if one cannot be both, then be feared,

 

 

I thought it apt to close with JnI 12:3 above because today we have every cause to be fearful as those of God and the followers of this gospel work through an immoral fool concerned only with his needs and his desires.  When Godly men to the devil turn, tis time for all good souls to be concerned

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I see in the news that the Trump administration’s Health and Human Services is about to promote the pro-life belief that life begins at conception.  However, I cannot help but wonder if they have thought this out all the way.  I mean, if they had, they would realize that “life begins at conception” is way too liberal. Science, after all, tells us that both sperm and eggs are alive too.  And the Bible tells us that God knew us before we had even formed in the womb. In other words, life instead of starting at conception, is started before conception.

I have heard many religious groups, the same ones who Trump wants to allow full reign on imposing their morals on the country, citing Jeremiah 1:5 for their pro-life beliefs.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Now, it seems to me that if you are going to use this verse as a Biblical justification for being against abortion then you are also going to have to go much further than merely picketing abortion clinics and passing laws against abortion.  Much, much further. After all, before being “formed in the womb” you were an egg and a sperm.

If you are for life and take this verse seriously as a justification for being against abortion then you must also start a campaign to save the sperm and eggs that are being murdered in their millions every day.

After all, since God knew Jeremiah before he was formed in the womb then that means he knew and had selected which sperm was going to unite with which egg to form Jeremiah.  If this verse then is the basis for being against abortion it is only logical to then be against losing sperm and eggs.  After all who knows what God has planned for each individual sperm and egg that was lost.  A man irresponsibly spilling his seed or a woman who menstruates recklessly need to be stopped and stopped now.

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Obviously this is going to change things quite a bit.  For one thing the Catholic Church is far too weak and wishy-washy in their stance against birth control.  Not only should embryos and fetuses be saved but sperm and eggs need to be saved too.  It is, after all, Biblical – from God to us.

Now, in order to save the sperm and eggs the following, as I see it, will have to be done:

1)     All males past the age of puberty would have to wear sperm catchers while they sleep lest they have a nocturnal emission.  Should they have one it will have to be immediately put in the refrigerator until it can be safely and quickly transported to an appropriate Sperm Collection Hospital.

2)    Males with hair triggers will be required to always wear a sperm catcher.

3)    Immediately after intercourse the insides of a woman’s vagina and uterus would have to be swabbed and any excess sperm saved.  Again this would have to be put in the refrigerator until transport to the Sperm Collection Hospital.

4)    If the couple engages in either oral or anal sex the man would again have to wear the sperm collector just as he does during sleep.  Those men with hair triggers who would be required to always have wear sperm collectors would have an advantage in that no annoying interruptions would occur during sex play.

5)    Women would have to wear egg catchers during their menstrual period to collect the eggs that would otherwise be lost.  Like the males these would have to be refrigerated and then safely and quickly transported to an Egg Collection Hospital.

6)    Probably both the Sperm Collection Hospital and the Egg Collection Hospital should be physically connected in some manner since eventually both egg and sperm would have to be united to form a new baby.

7)    Women would also have to wear egg catchers when they urinate – especially after having engaged in intercourse.  Scientists have been finding that there are many fertilized eggs that do not implant and are lost when peeing.  After being caught the same procedures are followed in regards to storage and transport.

8)    Of course laws would have to be passed to ensure that men and women followed these common sense Ultra Pro Life practices.

9)    Since we are talking about human lives here and a Biblical directive, a well funded crash research and development program needs to be initiated to resolve some rather pressing problems and issues.

  1. Since there are roughly 6 to 10 million sperm produced during each ejaculation and each woman only produces about 400 eggs during her lifetime it is obvious that there is going to be much more sperm than there are eggs.  Because of this we are going to have to develop an artificial egg in order not to let any sperm go to waste and thus spoil God’s plan.
  2. Since the number of sperm vastly outnumbers the number of eggs it is obvious that sperm will be driving how many babies will be born.  And of course how many women will be needed to incubate the united sperm and egg.
  3. In doing a bit of research I find that men between the ages of 20 to 29 ejaculate on average 15 times a month.  That number (sadly) declines by age 80 to an average of 5 ejaculations a month.
  4. According to the 2007 census there are over 19 million men in the United States falling into the 20 to 29 age range.  At 15 ejaculations per month that means there are 285 billion ejaculations per month.  Over a 10 month period (have to allow a woman at least one month recovery between pregnancies) we will need 2,850,000,000,000 women to host all of that sperm.  And that is just sperm from the 20 to 29 age range.  The number obviously becomes much higher when you factor in all of the post puberty males; both those younger than 20 and older than 29.
  5. There are only 143.5 million women in the United States of all ages from 0 to death.    Obviously we have a problem with not enough women for all of this sperm.
  6. I believe that in order to correct this several actions will have to be taken:
    1. We need to find a way to shorten the gestation period from 9 months to 4 months.  This will allow for a quicker turnaround of pregnancies.
    2. We need to find a way to allow pre-pubescent girls to become pregnant too.  And of course we would need to have all women, regardless of how old they are – including post menopausal women – being sperm hosts.
    3. We will have to freely allow immigration of single or separated women from other countries.
    4. We should immediately start research on how to create an artificial woman who can host sperm and produce babies.  Preferably of the Stepford type – the wives that is.

Now I know that some unthinking person is going to ask why not just make all males past the age of puberty take some sort of medication to prevent erections and in that manner control the killing of sperm.  That way we can limit the living sperm to the numbers of available women.  I am sure that some especially vindictive and short sighted women who hate God might even suggest electro-shock aversion treatment instead of chemicals as a way to prevent erections.

However this would be wrong.

For just as the Bible tells us to save the sperm and eggs so too does it tell us to go forth and multiply.  And since God gave us all it is up to us to give God all we can to fulfill his commandments… no matter how difficult it seems.

So this suggestion is a no go.  And that’s not even considering the other bits in the Bible about woman being the helper of the man and having to bear the pain of childbirth.

Now I know that this may seem radical to some, but is it really?  After all we are talking about human life here.  It doesn’t matter that they, the sperm and the egg, are small and do not look like us.  Life is life and God knows it all.

God said so when he spoke to Jeremiah.

 

 

Note: This is a revision and update of a blog I originally posted on October 4, 2011.

 

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As usual, Trump and his administration are in the news. For many things. The two that caught my eye for this blog are:

  • Trump putting into place a rule allowing more employers to opt out of buying insurance that provides coverage for birth control if they have religious objections to it.
  • The DOJ memorandum excluding transgendered people from legal protections, along with two follow on memos outlining the new view on religious liberty and federal law, views that will likely have a large and negative impact on LGBT rights. .

And let me add one more story relevant to this blog.  This one from Kansas, where the state has taken a child from his mother and grandparents and , over their religious based objections based,  the state is going to vaccinate him.

Now, I am not going to go into who is right and wrong here – although those who know413b4ee6dceb3098d9b515c6f3e6b5f2 me probably can take a good guess at what my views are.  Instead, I am going to briefly discuss why freedom of religion is on a par with the right of free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly and so forth.

First let me provide the list the rights from the Constitution’s Bill of Rights (note – many of our founders would object to my use of the word “list”. For the reason why, consider the 9th Amendment.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Now, almost all of the rights listed here have rather a rather obvious relationship to a working government, especially a democracy.  Free speech, trial by jury, freedom of assembly, and so forth.  But freedom of religion?  How is that related to a functioning government?

To answer this, first, consider the freedom of religion might more properly be called the freedom of conscience, the right for a person to believe as they chose.  In many ways that is a more basic right than freedom of speech and such, since if you are not free to believe as you see fit then what does it matter if your speech is free?  Of course, you could argue then that political thoughts and ideas are free and protected, but not religious ones, not ones dealing with God and the afterlife and the moral teachings of a religion.  The problem with this is that so often, in fact most often, a person’s ideas and thoughts about politics are going to be influenced by his thoughts about morality at the very least. And for most, morality was associated with religion.  In other words, making a clear distinction is much more easily said than done.

Which leads us into the second reason. Religion is important to people. Their views of the universe, of life and what may lie beyond it, about how to live in this world, and all the rest of it are of critical importance to individuals and groups.  In fact, people consider these views so important that religion has had a prominent role to play in most of the violence in the world (note, I did not say cause, there is a difference).   This is something I wrote about in my blog What Most Have Forgotten.

The point here is that our founders, the creators of the Constitution, knew this history just as well as anyone did. Better than most actually. Along with this is the fact that most Religion-2of them believed religion to be of critical importance to a society too.  The best way they saw to avoid the violence was to give everyone the right to believe as they think best, without the government taking a side or promoting one view over another.  In other words, to have a free and functioning democracy, freedom of religion is just as essential as any and all the other rights.

 

As for the proof of it- well, our history has been free of the degree of religious conflict that afflicted both Europe and Colonial America. And that still afflicts much of the world.  It is also an idea that has been taken up by many nations around the world, to their betterment.  The challenge now that we have successfully created the separation of church and state so necessary for a stable democratic government is to maintain that separation in the face of those who  do not realize its importance.  One of the many challenges facing us in our suddenly changed times.

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What does the word father mean?  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary (slightly paraphrased), a father is:

  • A man who has begotten a child.
  • God, the first person of the Trinity
  • Forefather, such as the founding fathers of the United States.
  • One related to another in a way suggesting that of father to child.
  • An old man – used as a respectful form of address
  • A pre-Scholastic, a Christian writer accepted by the church as an authoritative witness to its teaching and practice – called also church father
  • One that originates or institutes, such as the father of modern science.
  • Source, such as the sun, the father of warmth and light.
  • Prototype, such as the father of all libraries in the country,.
  • A priest of the regular clergy.
  • One of the leading men (as of a city) – usually used in plurals such as a council of the city fathers.

Wow, so many meanings embedded within one word.

words-at-work

Now, those wedded to the idea a person can read the words of a tract, book, articles, manuscript, religious work or political document and understand exactly what it means, will, upon seeing where I am heading with this, point out that while the word father does have many different meanings, which meaning being used is usually made obvious by the context of the word.  In other words, the words around the word help define that word.  And to an extent they are right.

However, words are not only understood as an abstract intellectual concept. In fact, most of the time they are not. People insert meaning  and values to those words.

For example, what a father is will be something quite different  for a woman who was raped and abused by her father since she was a young child versus what it will mean for a young man who had a loving father who played games and helped with homework.  Which means that how a person understands a word within a given sentence embedded within a paragraph that is part of a page which is just one page in an article or a book and all of whose words influence the meaning and understanding of that particular word is going to also depend on that individual’s own feelings and emotions in reaction to that  particular word.  And let us not forget, that each and every one of those words influencing the understanding of the word in question is also being interpreted and understood by that person’s past too.

Put that way, it is really rather amazing that we communicate as well as we do.

And all of this Is happening before we start applying that rather abstract understanding of a word in a passage in a paragraph, etc to real world questions and problems.  Thou 24stephensWEB-facebookJumboshalt not kill seems simple enough commandment when seen on a page, but what does it mean when faced with a 220 pound six foot man with blood in his eye as well as on his clothes wielding a machete?   What about a person running away from you with your money and jewels when you have a gun in your hand?  What about if you accidently kill someone by stumbling over your untied shoelace, bumping into that person and causing her to take a header down an up escalator?  Is that still a sin?  Or even a crime?

To avoid spending too much time and way too many thousands of words, let me just condense it to this: how we understand words, especially words that are accompanied by a great many words, and even more so when those crowds of words have to be applied to the world, are only partly objective. They also have a large subjective element to it, a subjectivity that is dependent upon a person’s:

  • Parents
  • Personal history
  • Education
  • Culture
  • Society
  • Political economic status
  • Own readings
  • Friends
  • Acquaintances, both of the friendly and not so friendly sort.
  • Movies
  • Music (one person I know was greatly affected by John Denver’s songs, another by Pink Floyd’s)
  • And anything else

So, to cut to the chase since I am now  trying to keep these blogs at 1000 words or less, what does this mean in regards to a definition of religion?  Which is, after all, the title of this blog.

A religion can be and usually is defined by its sacred works and doctrine. However, this never quite seems to nail it down. Take a look and you will find a great deal of variety within even a small seemingly well defined group of believers.  Even the most uniform of them will disagree on some issues. And some will prove to be more amenable to different understandings than others.   Which is strong evidence against the idea that there is some plain and literal reading to be had, and for my own view is that, while there are objective limits, they bracket a wide range of subjective understandings and interpretations.

For myself, I have read many works taken to be sacred by different religions – the Tanakh, Bible, Quran, Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching.  In every  one of the works I have read I found things I considered good and things I considered bad. Some of these were very very good, and some were very very bad.  How these often conflicting passages are understood and applied to the world is very dependent upon how a person choses to understand them.

6259220Given this, I think the most practical and relevant definition of a religion is that a religion is what its followers make of it – both as a group and as individuals within that group.

 

I believe that the most practical definition of religion is a religion is what its followers make of it. What they make of it is, of course, influenced by the history of that group, their society, other aspects of their cultures, geography, political and economic realities, and so forth.  To get even more basic, religion usually differs even between members of the same group, so that more properly a religion can be said to be what a follower makes of it.

For example, Rais Bhuiyan, the lone survivor of an attack by a man intent on getting revenge for 9/11, suing to prevent the killer’s execution because he believed the Qur’an required him to forgive.

Harman Singh, a Sikhs required by his religion to not take his turban off, taking it off and using it to help a young boy hurt in an accident.

And the list goes ever on and covers every variety of religion, and non-religion – Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Wiccan….

For me, I believe that often the most important definition of a religion is what does that person or group make of their religion. It is why, although very important, a particular religions sacred scriptures and doctrine are, to my mind, of secondary importance.

 

 

 

Well dang. 1,174 words.

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Before getting to the questions, let me first off make this clear.  These questions are directed at the vision of the afterlife held by those Christians who believe in a “literal” interpretation and understanding of the Bible, in a very real heaven and a very real hell, and in angels, Lucifer, and fallen angels.

images

Second off, while written mainly in response to the above mentioned  Christians’ views about the afterlife, they also have, surprisingly, a great deal of relevance for almost any idea and conception of a life after death.

Now, having gotten the offs out of the way, on to the setting up questions.

333px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Fall_of_the_Rebel_Angels_-_Google_Art_ProjectGod created Adam and Eve.  God created Angels. He created both toGen_03-24_Gjertson be his eternal companions.  Yet both failed him in that.  Some angels rebelled against God. Adam and Eve disobeyed God.

Given that so far God has a 100% failure rate in creating beings to share eternity with him, then why should the afterlife be any different?  What is the difference this time from the last two times?

Is free will the issue?  Then is God going to take away humanity’s free will?  If so, then why not do so at the beginning and avoid all the pain and suffering of humanity while on earth/. And the pain and suffering that most of humanity will be in for eternity after they die? If free will was important enough to justify that much pain, then wouldn’t taking it away mean that we become something other than human, something less?

If free will is not the answer then perhaps  it is because we are going to be purified by our life here on earth  and our dross will burn away with our deaths?   In which case, what are our impurities?  What is our dross? Often our strengths in some areas also creates weaknesses in other areas, our weaknesses in one area are a strength in another – different sides of the same coin so to speak.  What then?  Burn the coin?

In addition, we are the sum of our weaknesses and strengths.  Change them and you change who we are.  To an extent you could mess with that, but at some point in doing so that person who is experiencing heaven is not the same person who experienced life in the here and now.

Also, humans form groups.  More accurately, we are individuals who form groups.  Being individuals we form stronger groups with those who are most like us in some way.   And being individuals we are going to have disagreements with other individuals  Which means the groups are going to have disagreements.  What is to keep them from becoming violent and creating conflict and pain as they so often do now?

Perhaps  we are purified so that these differences will never get out of hand?  I am not sure how that would work.  Put a banana in a bowl of water and nothing much happens. However, take the potassium out of the banana and purify it and then drop it in the water and you get this:

Potassium water.gif

Perhaps we should  be adding more dross?  Perhaps it is the dross that defines us?

Or perhaps no borders and limitless land and is the secret?  Along with limitless food and drink, and a body that does not get hurt or know pain?  All of which would reduce or eliminate the most common sources of conflict. But not all.  After all, both Adam and Eve had that, as did the Angels. And it did not work then. So, why now?

It seems that God made both angels and humanity with the same design flaw.  In fact, I You_are_God's_mistake_think that this “flaw” would also make heaven, a paradise in a forever life after death, impossible for humanity, whether it is a God driven one or a secular one.   Humans are too diverse a group for that.

 

Somehow, I think the only way an eternity of bliss would work is if the species inhabiting it were not human.  Between our needs as individuals and our needs as part of a group, I am very much afraid that humans are not meant for an eternity of bliss and happiness.

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