Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Good Is Good

Between the animated discussion going on my previous post, "Fundies Gone Wild" and a debate I provoked with some Muslims, I am inspired to talk religion.

My parents are not very religious people. They were both raised in Muslim families but my father's family is secular. Although mom's family is very religious, her marriage to my father pretty much put an end to praying five times a day and all that jazz. Never went to the mosque when I was a kid. Dad did not like "those religious people."

In hindsight, it amazes me how "liberal" my parents were. We celebrated Christmas and Easter. They let my sister and I go to church with our friends on Sundays and I even went to Christian summer camp with my best friend Tricia the summer after 8th grade. Those are my earliest memories of religion and my utter disgust for it.

I've been to Mormon church, Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopalian and have sat through hours of inane and painfully boring Catholic masses. Perhaps it is the character with which we are born; maybe we are hardwired to be pre-disposed for or against religion; because every church I attended sickened me more than the last. The dogma, the ritual, the pageantry. It all seemed so idiotic to the teenage me. There went Christianity....

Then I spent a summer in Egypt. My grandmother was doing one of her five daily prayers and I walked in front of her. Who knew that was a no-no? No one in my household ever prayed. My mom was pretty miffed and told me God would be mad at me. While other kids would probably cower in fear at such a prospect, I was indignant. Who is this jerk of a God who is going to be mad at me for doing something I didn't know was wrong? There went Islam....

Years later, I dated a Jewish guy (several, actually) who invited me to Passover seter. It was truly one of the strangest rituals I have ever seen, with eggs and chicken bones in the middle of the table. Everyone read stories from a book, all of which ended "Next Year in Jerusalem." On the way home, I explained to my then boyfriend that the last line of those prayers no longer has meaning. If Jews were really serious about those prayers, El Al has several daily non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. Assuming people weren't blindly reading jibberish out of a book, they should put their money where their mouths are and book a one-way ticket. There went Judaism....

Then there was my trip to Thailand. Since Bangkok is a sickening shithole, I structured my trip to spend a day and a half there -- which was plenty of time to see the 12-year-old prostitutes with their 60-year-old Japanese johns. I took a tour of the temples around town and, at each, you're supposed to give some offering to the 101 Buddhas lined up in front. So, I put a Thai penny in some lucky number of bowls, and I filled Buddha's tummy with lamp oil, and I banged on the drum seven times, all of which is supposed to bring me good luck. Toward the end of the day, I truly had enough. I wanted to get into the last temple, take my pictures and leave and I cruised passed the incense bowls. My Thai guide looked at me with a righteous religious frown and asked me if I was going to do whatever it was I supposed to do to earn Buddha's favor. "No", was my reply. "But, it's for good luck", she responded. By then, I was tired, completely fed up in Bangkok and not having it. "If this stuff brought good luck, then I doubt you would have so many little 12-year-old girls suffering hideous indignities everyday with no one in your country doing anything to stop it." She did not speak to me the rest of the way back to my hotel. There went Buddhism....

Hinduism is a non-starter. Anything that creates a caste system is unhuman and completely off the list.

As an adult, I have made various efforts to give each of the religions a fair shot. One year during Ramadan, I endeavored to read the Quran a chapter a day. The caveat, however, was that I would not proceed to the next chapter until I was intellectually comfortable with the previous one. It worked for a short while until I got to the stuff about inheritance. I closed the Quran and ceased to consider myself a Muslim from that day on.

I did the same thing with the Bible, although I cheated and skipped past all that begatting in Genesis. What a bunch of horndogs, although I suppose they really didn't have anything else to do. The Old Testament is one of the most depraved, evil, sadistic bunch of tripe I have ever read. Besides demanding death for pretty much any mistake a person makes, the stories are so bizarre and off the wall as to offer no real spiritual guidance for this era.

The New Testament has some cool stuff in there. Assuming Jesus existed, he was an amazing man. But the NT is incomprehensible. Anyone who claims to understand what Jesus and the disciples were talking about half the time is a liar. The Parables can be interpreted a million different ways. I find it difficult to believe that a book written hundreds of years after Jesus' life could be accurate and, since the church has heavily regulated the contents of the Bible, who knows what really happened - especially when all the originals are in Greek and Latin. In short, there is a credibility problem and a book that proves itself is inherently suspect.

If there is a God, Buddhism got it right, although I don't think Buddhism was ever meant to be a religion in the mindless, ritualistic sense of the word. It is a philosophy without dogma and banging on drums. Alan Watts, one of the most brilliant theologians and philosophers to ever live, offers incredible insight into Buddhist teachings and their relation to the Big 3 religions. http://www.alanwatts.com/

I tried reading the Bhagavad Gita, but it did not hold my attention.

All the "good" books have wisdom. No doubt. They all offer some semblance of guidance for the spiritual dilemmas of this world. But the idea that God created a planet of billions of people who speak different languages and developed different philosophies, but then made only one of the belief systems correct is absurd. If there is a God, I would like to think it would not be so unjust. I would like to think that God would be good and kind and fair. I would like to think that God would care about spiritual dedication, not mindless ritual. If there is a God, and if he gave humans brains in order to make us superior to the rest of the animal kingdom, I would like to think that God would be horrified by humanity's willingness to surrender their brains in the name of religion.

It is my view of what a truly loving God should be that prevents me from ever accepting religion. And it is the refusal of so-called religious people to use God for "good" that has made religion a 2,000 year old failure. Einstein once said that it is insanity to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. Yet humanity continues to insist that somehow this time it will be different. It is time to accept religion for what it is -- an insanity that has produced the same destructive result time and time again without fail.

I posted the following comment on another blog:

People who have good souls do not need religion. It is only for evil, depraved people who know they would slaughter and rape everyone around them if they didn't have the fear of damnation hanging over their heads. And, throughout history, the fear of damnation hasn't even been a deterrent to such behavior.

Good is good. It doesn't need an excuse to be good.

60 Comments:

At 11:06 PM, April 25, 2006 , Anonymous Brooklyn Bedouin said...

the best part of your analysis there is that it is so close to what someone who is religious or spiritual would say... that they have tried this and that and then decided upon a course that was meant for them

sadly, a lot of people do not discover the courage needed to be fully themselves - however and whomever that may be

as it says in the Quran: "to you your way and to me mine"

 
At 6:26 AM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Crankyboy said...

You should follow the religion of crankyism. I know the founder.

 
At 6:37 AM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

Amen and you're right about Buddhism. The Buddha didn't want to be worshipped, didn't want to start a religion, yet predicted it would happen and that it would eclipse his teachings.

Freud was wrong. The strongest human urge is for bullshit.

 
At 9:21 AM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Craig DeLuz said...

II,

Well now I see the root of your distain for religion. You want God your way. You want to completely understand him and you want him to completely accept you for who you are. I can relate to that. I was there. And while these feelings did not lead me to hate religion, it did cause me to dismiss it whenever it didn’t fit within my view of the world. Your statement, “The dogma, the ritual, the pageantry. It all seemed so idiotic to the teenage me.”, pretty much summed it up.

But that is just it. I was imature, a child who thought I knew it all. I did not fully understand was dismissed. I accepted only those beliefs that fit within my world view. As I matured, I came to understand that I did not know it all. As a matter of fact, the more I learned, the more questions I had. And the more I had to come to grips with the fact that I could not understand or control 90% of what was going on around me. So now what?

A good friend shared Jesus with me. He told me that I did not have to fully understand or change, I only had to be willing to let Jesus change my life. I was and he did.

Since then, I can only tell you that my faith and understanding has grown. I can tell you stories upon stories of how God has blessed me, how hes has given me understanding of his nature and the world around me. He had guided my path. He has blessed me when I have followed his lead and has allowed me to learn valuable lessons when I did not.

My faith in God is what has built my understanding of him and allowed him to prove his existance by how he has blessed my life. I know this is not the proof you are looking for. But it is what I have to give. My God asks that you have faith and then he will give you understanding.

The problem is that you want understanding before you are willing to have faith. It just doesn’t work like that. You want a faith that requires no faith, just intelectual agreement. This faith does not exist.

 
At 9:22 AM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger mrsleep said...

Wow, this sure got you going.

Your Good is Good point makes sense, although what is "good" may not have common definitions across cultures. What is bad may be good, and what may be good may be bad.

This reminds me of an off color joke, but I AM NOT going there.

There is a lot of ritualism that I find very hokey and inconsistent with the basic foundations of the various religions.

Faith brings comfort to many people and that is a good thing. How Religious leaders use their direct or perceived position of authority for an agenda concerns many of us.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I don't care how principled you are, or how deep your faith is. You will be subject to the trappings of power and influence if you are in a key position.

 
At 9:59 AM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Craig,

Acceptance of religion is a circular impossibility because faith can't be the beginning and end of the analysis. At some point, you must use your brain to decide which religion is the correct one. As soon as you acknowledge that your brain is an appropriate tool for making judgments, a book that tells incomprehensible stories and contradicts itself cannot provide anything definitive for guidance.

In addition, everyone wants religion to be what they want it to be. It's called hypocrisy. And although Christianity says all people are sinners, some people are purposeful hypocrites. They pick and choose what suits them from the religion, while rationalizing the rest.

The concept of faith is a paradox. Alan Watts described that paradox best as follows:

"Faith is a state of openness or trust. To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be."

 
At 10:15 AM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

I co-sign nearly in total with this excellent post. Buddhism is the shiznit--one of the best discoveries of my life.

Craig Deluz makes some great points as well. I think one must have faith in God to be truly in tune with the world.

I only differ on the last paragraph, and the quote from what you put on another blog. Religious people aren't necessarily "evil." I think you took that one too far because you got lost in anger.

 
At 10:26 AM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

BOB -

Ask anyone who is religious whether they would continue to be good if religion was removed from the earth tomorrow. If they say yes, they admit that religion is not necessary. If they say no, they prove my point.

And I purposely chose the word "need" to make the point. Most people I know who describe themselves as religious find peace and comfort in religion, but they do not "need" it as a deterrent to harming others. Religion is where they channel their goodness, but religion is not the cause of the goodness.

I can accept the notion of faith in the way Watts describes it. It is the acceptance that you can't control anything in this chaotic world. People who accept that have peace of mind.

 
At 12:02 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Craig DeLuz said...

II,

I never said I did not use my brain. I also never said that my decision began and ended with faith. It began with faith and God proved himself in my life. There are things that I have been able to accomplish, hurdles that I have been able to overcome because of the wisdom God has given me. There have been storms that I have been able to traverse and mistakes that I have learned from all thanks to consistency of his Word.

But beyond even that, I have been able to understand why things are the way that they are. Many of the intelectual truths you take for granted find their roots in spiritual revelation.

When people have followed the principles outlined in the Bible, they have been blessed, just like his word says they will. And when they ignore those principles, they are not, just like his Word says. Thus, God proves himself by being faithful to his Word.

It is not that God decides what happens to us. He set up this world and gave us an instruction book on how to get along in it. We decide if we want to follow it or not. When we follow the instruction book, we are blessed. And when we don’t, we’re not. But all in all the choice is ours. And as we have make choices (right and wrong) we come to learn the lessons that God is trying to teach us.

Suffice it to say that you will never understand, if you come from the position that the Bible is “a book that tells incomprehensible stories and contradicts itself cannot provide anything definitive for guidance.”

BTW, I hate to question your intellect. But if you cannot comprehend the stories in the Bible, I would have to question your literacy :-) (Just a little jokie joke!)

But then again the Bible does say “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor 2:14

Anyway, I don't expect you to get it. But you can... If you are truly open.

 
At 12:05 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Craig DeLuz said...

II,

And although Christianity says all people are sinners, some people are purposeful hypocrites. They pick and choose what suits them from the religion, while rationalizing the rest.

You are totally right about these folks. But keep in mind, Christians are people. And people make mistakes.

That is why my faith is not in Christians, but in Christ.

**GREAT CONVERSATION**

 
At 12:19 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

Craig Deluz,

What is your view of other religions? I have studied Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism, and I find GREATNESS in all three. Do you accept that other religions can lead people to blessings??

I find Jesus' teachings--and the manner in which he taught them--to be nothing short of incredible. However, what I DON'T find useful or relevant is believing he died on the cross "for our sins." What does that mean? In addition, I think Jesus is to be modeled, not worshiped. What are your thoughts on that?

Thanks.

 
At 12:24 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Gandhi said...

I'm forced by my father to go to mass every Sunday. i usually sneak off outside and chill with some other friends who don't go in (Not because they disagree with it on an intellectual level, but because they find it boring) If anyone here has ever been at a Catholic mass, you'll understand what I mean. How in Christs name can an unmarried man offer advice on how to raise ones family?

(Though this argument can be extended to Christ as well)

 
At 12:30 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Craig,

Tying into BOB's comment, what does it mean that your faith is in Christ? If God does, indeed, exist, he gave you a brain to use and we can go over and over about what "wisdom" is. I suppose that begs the ultimate question of what it means to be a Christian. Is it possible for you to respect people who are moral and have wisdom, absent the religious ritual?

In addition, how do you reconcile the OT and the NT? An eye for an eye vs. turn the other cheek. The two are inherently incompatible, but doesn't the validity of one make God a liar on the other?

 
At 1:23 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Craig DeLuz said...

Bombsoverbaghdad,

Great quesitons!

Q1. What is your view of other religions?

I was raised Catholic and my wife was raised Hindu. Three months after we met we both became Christians. Also, I have had many in depth discussions with friends who are Muslim, Jewish, Mormon and even Scientologists. I can’t say that I know too much about Budism.

They all have some great teachings, all of which can also be found in the Bible.

Q2.Do you accept that other religions can lead people to blessings?

Yes I do. As their teachings are consistent with God’s Word, they can bring about blessings. His principles don’t just apply to those who believe that they are is. They work for whoever applies them.


Q3. However, what I DON'T find useful or relevant is believing he died on the cross "for our sins." What does that mean?

If you read the Old Testament, especially the Law of Moses you will soon discover just how impossible it is for man to be righteous in the eyes of God. If you have a lustful thought…. You’ve sinned. If you eat the wrong food… You’ve sinned. If someone under your authority does some thing wrong… You’ve sinned. And under the Old Testament Covenant, each time you sinned you had to make a sacrifice to atone for that sin.

The reason Jesus, who Christians believe to be God- become man, was crucified was to serve as a sacrifice for us. As God- become man, he was the only man truly righteous enough to serve as a pure sacrifice for all of our sins.

He did so as a gift. But like any gift, it cannot merely be given. It must also be received.

Q 4.I think Jesus is to be modeled, not worshiped. What are your thoughts on that?

I agree that he should be modeled. We should all aspire to live the life of love and sacrifice that he did. And we should not be selective of what we choose to model. But we should apply all of his teachings with wisdom and discernment.

As for worshiping him, as I stated in the answer to the last question. I believe him to be part of what Christians call the Three Part God Head; The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So when I worship God, I worship him in the name of Jesus. I don’t know if that answers your question though?

 
At 1:27 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Impressive Craig.

Can you have God without religion?

 
At 1:33 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

Craig Deluz,

Thanks for the great answers. They were very insightful. I do not seek to change your opinions, but merely to understand them. Q1 and Q2 were excellent answers.

To me, the explanation of Jesus "dying for our sins" requires a philosophical leap I cannot make. To me, it contradicts what God teaches me everyday. Why would God send his Son-God to be killed by us? It makes NO SENSE, at least to me. Reading the OT, I find it to be mostly MYTHOLOGY. A human parted a river? C'mon. It's mythology designed to teach a lesson. That's fine with me, but it's not fact.

Thanks!!

 
At 1:37 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Craig DeLuz said...

ii,

During his time, Jesus was one of the biggest critics of organized religion. Not that he did not want us to come together for worship and to learn, but he understood that too often organized religion put man's law above his.

 
At 1:39 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Craig DeLuz said...

bombsoverbaghdad,

I understand... that's why it's called faith.

 
At 1:41 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

I couldn't agree more Craig, which brings us full circle. You do not need religion to have wisdom. Just as Captain Fogg pointed out about Buddhism, I suspect Christianity was never supposed to develop into the ritualistic group-speak it has become. It was supposed to be a personal, private philosophy.

 
At 1:55 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Craig DeLuz said...

II,

II,

I suspect Christianity was never supposed to develop into the ritualistic group-speak it has become.

Why do you call it ritualistic group speak? How many Christian churches have you been too? I doubt you have been to many based on that comment.

 
At 2:06 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Craig DeLuz said...

II,

“You do not need religion to have wisdom.”

You are right… but you must have faith in that wisdom. And in order to have faith in that wisdom, you must have faith in the source of that wisdom.

My source is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He has proven to be worthy of that faith through the time tested truth and wisdom laid out in his word; and how he has worked in my life as I have walked with him.

 
At 4:46 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Oh boy, theology - my favorite.

Craig says that he was a Catholic before he "became a christian".

Well, no.

From the perspective of the Catholic church, he was a christian before he became a hell-bound heretic. Though it's spelled out a little bit more politely post-Vatican II, that's basically church teaching. I mention this specifically because of the irritating habit of various evangelicals in their little new-fangled congregations to claim exclusive, and exclusionary, ownership of the brand name, and that is rather irksome to me.

As to the nature of goodness and wisdom, it is my firm belief that mankind has evolved beyond needing the crutches of bronze-age superstitions to divine it. The faith we require is in humanity itself, and in our own essential goodness; certainly, if someone needs a moldy text to tell him or her that killing someone is wrong, that person needs to do a bit of reflection. Granted, it is easier to say "I am virtuous because big daddy in the sky demands it", but it is better, and far more virtuous, to say that "I will do good because I am human, and will act ethically of my own free will and not out of fear of punishment".

Forget Jesus. Try Kant. Certainly, Jesus is easier, just as it is easier to extract order from a crowd if you have a whip; but there's more goodness and morality in something that is done without fear of coercion or hellfire.

:-), StS

 
At 5:12 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

II – great post. One of my favorite topics.

CD -- “When people have followed the principles outlined in the Bible, they have been blessed, just like his word says they will. And when they ignore those principles, they are not, just like his Word says. Thus, God proves himself by being faithful to his Word.”

HUH??

What about “He causeth the rain to fall on the un-just AND the just” – or some such thing (I don’t have a bible in front of me). Are you trying to tell me that your ‘faith’ has led to blessing so Christianity must be “right”?

So would you have adopted Christianity if, after professing your faith, “god” took all your worldly possession and cast you into the street (ala Job)?

Stalin hit it on the head: 3000+ years ago some god-inspired rules helped keep people in the tribe in-line… fanciful stories of fire and brimstone (the wrath of the gods) functioned in society for 1000’s of years before Christ: Rome’s and Greece’s god’s served similar social purposes (in addition to explaining things in the natural world we didn’t understand).

But to cling to a bunch of hocus-pocus about sin/hell/grace/etc. in the face of objective reality is (frankly) simply a form of mild insanity. Saying “god is real” because “he changed my life” ignores statistics… For everyone who “finds god” and is blessed there’s one who finds god and then finds himself living in a trailer park in Duluth 12 months after losing his job. (Of course “his faith” keeps his chin-up, a possible good side-effect of it…).

If I was to go around saying I believed that the universe was created by a giant turtle 25,000 years ago and that his eggs will one day hatch to carry us all back to nirvana I’d be locked up.

That story has a much credibility as those in the bible.

 
At 7:00 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Um - bingo.

ROR says this all the time - people, use your heads, use your own innate reason. Religions are nothing but creations and inventions of mankind itself; it would behoove us to have confidence in our own ethical capacity, rather than having to rely on some invisible friend to ensure compliance.

Funny how Craig never really answers any of these perfectly valid points.

:-), StS

 
At 8:32 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Craig -

I have been too many churches of various denominations. They are nauseating and, after each visit, I feel dumber than when I walked in.

Why can't you be the source of your own wisdom?

 
At 10:21 PM, April 26, 2006 , Blogger squawpeak said...

II, you comment that it is assumed Christ existed. This is actually historical fact. Josephus the historian writes of him.

Then, you comment that the New Testament was written "hundreds of years" after Christ lived. Actually, the gospels (testimony of those who knew Him) oral tradition put to writing more like 150 years after Christ died. The gospels included in the Canon are the transcription of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John's eyewitness testimony carried on through oral tradition.

Further, the Church's "tight control" has played out in reality in keeping things like the Gnostic gospels (written 300+ years after Christ, by folks with no connection to anyone who actually knew and walked with Him) out of the Canon. Over time, what has transpired is ever more meticulous, faithful transcriptions of the original Hebrew and Greek texts (not Latin). See the New American Standard version, and take the time to read the rigor exercised in translation of original text, not the fabled "translation of translation of translation".

While your observation of Catholic mass as boring is correct from one perspective, as my own faith has deepened and I've gained understanding, there is a beauty to the Mass, and the ritual (like others such as prayer beads) actually can assist in achieving a different mental state (check out a psych journal if you like the secular slant).

Anyway, you are on your own path, just be dilligent enough to get to the truth of things before knocking them (for example, you may still not respect what the Bible has to offer, but do yourself the intellectually honest thing by getting facts).

One final thought, Aquinas observed that the natural world, and humans in it, are ordered. Part of that order for humans is that we seem wired to serve. The question becomes, what will you serve?

 
At 6:52 AM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

SP - "Actually, the gospels (testimony of those who knew Him) oral tradition put to writing more like 150 years after Christ died. The gospels included in the Canon are the transcription of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John's eyewitness testimony carried on through oral tradition."

"ORAL TRADITION" -- you said it yourself. It takes a lot of FAITH to believe that the words of Matt, Mark, Luke and John were captured after 100 years accurately.

And we know they weren't since there are contradictions in their stories (as to what happened on the cross for instance).

And what about the gospels of Mary, Judas, Thomas, etc. that were all written about the same time? The only reason they aren't included is because the early church voted (at the council of Trent) in 1545 on which books to include.

Why do mormons, catholics and protestants all disagree as to what's divinely inspired? They all have different bibles!

 
At 9:11 AM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger squawpeak said...

ROR, can you back that the gospel of Judas was written at the same time with sourcing?

What little I've read dates it at something over 300 years later, an as part of the Nag Hammadi Codex which contains most of the Gnostic gospels.

All the Gnostic gospels have been excluded (by all denominations ;)) most significantly because they all refer to secret knowledge meant for a select few. This is in complete contradiction to Christ's statement that “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret." (John 18:20)

see also http://markdaniels.blogspot.com/2006/04/what-about-gospel-of-judas-first-brief.html

 
At 10:02 AM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

I think everyone has made good points in this string.

Faith and reason go hand in hand in my view. I have faith in God, but I also have reason, and I believe I'm supposed to use it, guided by faith. The problem these days is that most religious leaders encourage their followers to discard reason and walk by a poor definition of "faith" alone. This turns people like II and RoR off to spirituality in total, which is shortsighted, IMO. I'm telling you--watch TD Jakes--he breaks down the connection soooo well. Also, Pope John Paul II wrote an excellent Encyclical on the connection between faith and reason. Google it.

Squapeak made an interesting point about prayer beads and rosaries that ties into a post II wrote a few weeks back about worshipping idols. I think objects can be useful in prayer, so long as you are not worshipping the object. For example, I meditate after a shower because water has a cleansing nature. Or candles can be helpful.

 
At 10:10 AM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

BOB -

You have me all wrong. I am not turned off to spirituality. As I explained to Craig, this post only discusses religion, not God, and the two are separate and independent concepts. It is the point of this post, and my general opinion, that religion often hinders, rather than promotes, spirituality/understanding of God or whatever you want to call it.

That is why a truly spiritual person does not "NEED" religion.

 
At 10:39 AM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

SP:

"And he spoke unto them in parables.. .and without a parable he did not speak" -- I think that's from Mark...

Isaiah -
"And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,..."

So the bible even says its teaching are somewhat "mystical"...

Yeah, the copies of the Gnostic gospels that we have date from that time. And they do refer to secret knowledge... But the "cannonical" gospels also expound a particular view of Christ and his teaching. Why is that one "right" and the Gnostic version "wrong"...

Its simply a matter of choice -- which christians call "faith".

 
At 10:39 AM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger squawpeak said...

More detail germaine to the discussion, form markdroberts.com..."When all is said and done, almost all biblical scholars believe that the New Testament gospels were written in the latter half of the first century A.D. The most common dates for the writing of these gospels are:

Matthew: 70-80 A.D.
Mark: 60-70 A.D.
Luke: 70-80 A.D.
John: 80-90 A.D.

It should be noted, however, that there may have been earlier editions of these gospels, and that they may well contain earlier written sources. I'll say more about this later.

The New Testament gospels are assuredly earlier than all the other so-called "gospels," with the possible exception of Thomas, which may have been written in the latter part of the first century, though most scholars think it is somewhat later."

 
At 11:48 AM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

II,

Got it.


RoR,

What's wrong with teaching in parables??? It's a good way to teach. It's like the Socratic method, where the pupil has to figure out the answer, rather than be lazy.

My son is learning to crawl, and this morning, he got himself in stuck in between the pillows of the couch, then started crying and look at me like, "Help me!" But I had to let him find his own way out of the morass. And he did. :-)

 
At 12:11 PM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

BOB -

That is a good point. Much of Buddhist teachings are parable-like. The Zen Master tells a story and you run in circles trying to figure out the lesson. Or you run in circles only to discover the paradox in which you are trapped.

When I was in law school (as were you), people got angry when the teacher ran them through an argument, but didn't reveal the "right answer" at the end. That, of course, was because there is no right answer - it is only what you are able to convince a judge or jury is correct.

Same with religion. Like the angry law students, people generally want a teacher (i.e. a priest, imam, rabbi) to tell them the right answer. They don't want to read the book, they don't want to puzzle their way through the heavy issues. They want someone to stand in front of a room to summarize it for them. They are lazy and do not want to do the thinking for themselves so they prefer to be spoon-fed sound bites on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, as the case may be.

That was the point of Martin Luther's reformation. No one can teach this stuff to you. These are heavy topics that have great bearing on human conduct. Only those who have the willingness and determination to puzzle through can ever gain wisdom.

 
At 1:52 PM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

There's nothing wrong with teaching in parables. My point is that the bible says jesus spoke in parables so that only those "who had [the] ears would understand" ... In other worlds, the bible is inconsistent in that it says (on one hand) the good news is supposed to be preached to all, but it also says that only those "chosen" will hear the real msg. It'll sound like gibberish to the rest of us.

Sounds like myticism to me... and a sure fire way to address critics who use reason to deduce that the book is full of hooey.

While the gnostic gospels contain overtly "secret" knowledge, the regular gospels also contain secrets -- "unlocked" when you lay aside reason.

 
At 2:09 PM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

RoR,

Perhaps your love affair with reason has blinded you. While I agree that the Bible is inconsistent in many ways, has been used to oppress millions, etc., it's also a very useful piece of literature in many ways. It's it "God's word?" No. But that doesn't mean it's the useless piece of junk you make it out to be.

There is the baby, and there is the bathwater. Decide what to throw out on your own, but don't throw out both.

 
At 2:36 PM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger squawpeak said...

II, for what it's worth, I see religion as helpful, when used by those seeking truth, as a system which facilitates a relationship with God.

It's like using Microsoft Word to type a letter. You don't "need" Word, but it can make the task much easier and quicker.

 
At 3:20 PM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Fair point Squawpeak. :-) Thanks for joining in the discussion.

 
At 10:57 PM, April 27, 2006 , Blogger jedati said...

I'd like to jump in and comment on the following question that was posed above:

"In addition, how do you reconcile the OT and the NT? An eye for an eye vs. turn the other cheek. The two are inherently incompatible, but doesn't the validity of one make God a liar on the other?"

In studying the historical times of the OT, I came to reconcile these quite easily. The written laws of man at the time of the writing of an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" had very serious punishments laid down for even some very trivial crimes. Even up to the time of Jesus, where it was a thief who was being crucified on the cross next to him, and Jesus himself who had done nothing wrong. An eye for an eye was a call to let the punishment better fit the crime. It was a call for compassion. Jesus said he would take it a step further and said if someone stole your coat, let him have your cloak also. "Turn the other cheek". Both are calls for more moderation and more compassion.
(Jesus told the thief that he would see him in paradise that very day after the thief had defended Jesus' innocence.) Jesus said he did not come to change his father's laws. It was that his father's laws were being misread, misinterpreted, and misunderstood. God sent Jesus, knowing full well what mankind would do to a perfectly innocent teacher/healer, "but God so loved the world".....and yet how often do people say the sacrifice of Jesus wasn't that of a loving God? They blame God, rather than the brutality of man that God and Jesus both tried, in so many ways, to stop mankind from committing upon each other.

"Go and sin no more." That was Jesus response to what, in that day, would have gotten the woman stoned to death. Someone had to teach us and God knew that very well.

 
At 10:44 AM, April 28, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Jedati,

That is the most interesting reconciliation of those two commandments I have ever heard. But, it still doesn't resolve the issue. An eye for an eye is a quid pro quo that has nothing to do with forgiveness. Turn the other cheek is a lesson about forgiveness and giving someone your cloak if they take your tunic is about sympathy.

It may be true that an eye for eye was a call for compassion during the OT times, but I would retort that times had changed by the time Jesus showed up on the scene and he changed the script. Wasn't there a new covenant through him and that is why Christians don't keep kosher and circumcise their kids?

Your argument is noteworthy as well in that it bears a great deal of similarity of Muslim defenses of the Quran. I have argued with Muslims about the sexism of the Quran and I always get the same response - that, in the historical context, the Quran was revolutionary and was a huge improvement on women's rights at the time. That may be so, but what have you done for me lately?

Like the Muslims, you tacitly concede by your argument that particular aspects of your teachings have relevance to distinct historical contexts that bear no similarity to the present. Perhaps the problem with followers of both the OT and the Quran is that they can't get their heads out of the stone ages. Does the NT need similar justification?

 
At 11:39 AM, April 28, 2006 , Blogger Possum said...

II, let's refer back to the old testament in the book of Exodus and the original passover like the meal you participated in with your Jewish friend.

There was a ritual that Moses told the Hebrew slaves to perform. To take a young lamb and kill and eat it. To take some blood from the lamb and mark the door frames of their homes. Then to completely burn any remnant of that lamb.

Those who followed these instructions were spared from the death that took the first born of each house from Pharoah to the lowest slave.

What is the relation to belief in Jesus Christ?

Redemption has absolutely nothing to do with your good heart or social class. God has given us redemption on his terms not on ours. Those that follow, take into themselves, and place themselves under the blood of Jesus will be spared from death.

It is in fact a direct link to what Jesus did as the "lamb" on the cross. It is his innocent blood that covers our transgressions and from the laws of sin and death.

As to faith and satisfying intellectual understanding, you'll never get there without your heart.
The same God who created everything in the heavens and the earth has created a way for us to be with him. We are not in authority to govern to him how we should be redeemed.

Read the parables again of Jesus. Ask with incredulity-I know it will be in your head- but add sincerity from your heart seeking understanding. If your sincerely want understanding the helper will provide it to you.

 
At 11:44 AM, April 28, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Possum,

I expected you to show up for this party earlier in the discussion. Where have you been? :-)

There is no doubt that wisdom can be gleaned from the parables, but the point of this post and about the parables is that I may reach a very different understanding of them than what the preacher thinks and that is okay. That is the difference between religion and God. Religion has ONE right answer. God does not.

 
At 6:33 PM, April 29, 2006 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

BoB - "But that doesn't mean it's the useless piece of junk you make it out to be. "

Well, you are right -- the words and teachings of Christ are incredible. But the other 99.9% of what's written there is almost useless.

 
At 6:40 PM, April 29, 2006 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

Possum – I have to say your arguments start from the assumption that God exists and Jesus is his son. When you start with that premise you can derive all the stuff about sin, forgiveness, etc. etc. etc.

But frankly, like any axiomatic system, if you start with bogus axioms you can derive any “truth” you want from them.

Reading the parables may make me feel good, and even teach me something about character, good/evil, etc. But you loose me with all the sin/redemption stuff.

 
At 9:41 AM, May 01, 2006 , Blogger Possum said...

II: sorry, I've been working!

Reign:
You call it "bogus" and that troubles me. What exactly do you believe in, Reign?

First, and foremost: Jesus did actually claim to be "the word made flesh" and "the one who was promised". If you accept that Jesus lived then you have to assert that he is either a total "Branch Dividian" psychopathic nutcase or who he says he was: God as a Man.

The other 99% of the text as you have stated can be divided into: the Old Testament which is the background prequel to Jesus, the prophecies relating to Jesus and series of hereditatry lines leading us from Adam to Jesus. The later part of the New Testament is the application and development of the Church post ressurection. There is a small part about what to expect of the second coming.

Beginners should focus on the New Testament and then learn the associative history.

If you can't accept Jesus as God's son then there isn't much common ground to be had.

So back to my question: what do you believe?

 
At 10:00 AM, May 01, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Possum,

Alan Watts says that in the Greek Bible, Jesus said I am "a" son of God, not "the" son of God. Since I don't speak Latin or Greek, I can't confirm whether that is the case, but wouldn't that turn Christianity on its head? If that is true, doesn't it bring Christianity closer to Buddhism and Sufi Islam in saying that each one of us is God?

 
At 6:16 PM, May 01, 2006 , Blogger Sarabeth said...

I enjoyed reading the post and many of the comments.

I, too, have looked at the religions and discovered that not one is for me. I don't need to believe in something larger than me. I find faith baffling. I do not understand it.

 
At 12:39 PM, May 03, 2006 , Blogger Possum said...

Even if Watts is correct that is not how it is worded in Mark 14:61-62 when Jesus is "on trial" before the Pharases.

"Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed one"
Response: "I am"

There are several other verses where Jesus does not deny he is the "one" rather confirms the assertion without saying outright with a miracle(Matt 9:27-30; John 4:48). In another account of the trial by the Pharases the lack of a denial "you said it yourself" came at the cost of a beating (Matt 26:63-67).
Who do they say I am? The Christ they responded. Tell no one because many things must happen(Mark 8:27-30)

Other assertions:
Only through me get to heaven: Matt 11:21-30
Confess Me, I'll confess you to GOD Matt 10:31-40

 
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