Category Archives: religion

An open letter…

I am at a metaphorical and metaphysical crossroad in my life.   I am willing to admit that I am having issues believing that you are real.  I do not know a better way to say this.  I am not in the habit of speaking ill of believers or supporting non-believers.  I, being a solitary person, need something to make me believe or at least nudge me toward the conclusion that there are powers greater than human love and human hate- yet, WHAT that could be, i admit i don’t know.  I see beauty in life, in my children, in other people, and in myriad aspects of the world and its people.  Is that you or just how it is?  However, I also see what else exists in this world that is still in the per view of your domain that is not good or beautiful.  Is that you too or just how it is?  Do you not intervene in the world?  Text suggests you did in the past.  Why not now? Do you now simply let people … do what people do? Is it because people are a constant source of disappointment to you and you have simply stopped?

On a similar topic, Are you moral and good or are you ambivalent and lassier faire when it comes to this corporeal domain?  There seem to be many of us that speak in your name.  Who is right?  Who is wrong?  Does it matter?  I am sure you have heard “all roads lead to Rome.” Is a similar phrase true for religion?   Do “all religions lead to god?”  Does religion in its most dogmatic definition really matter to you?  Does stained glass and recitation of specific text bring someone to a closer understanding of what is really going on here on earth better than praying 3 times a day?  Does any of that really matter to you?  What are we supposed to be doing?  Are we supposed to be doing anything at all?

Are we here to simply BE here.  Is that it?  For the record, I am OK if that is it.  I would just like to know- completely know.  I admit, I am asking for the keys to the kingdom while insisting on to the right to cast it aside if I don’t like it.   I am not special, nor do I warrant any special attention.  Nor do I not expect any special attention to my plea.   I know many people have asked for a sign to bolster or give validity to their faith.  I freely admit that am unsure that if I were to ask for a sign I wouldn’t know who to ask for that sign.  Is the religion of my area the right one?  Are you a white-bearded Caucasian, who came back to earth approximately 2000 years ago as a brown haired, blue eyed man or are you a elephant headed being that millions of kids in India love and pray to?  I ask because images of you portray you as both of these and many more.  Some say we were made in your image.  So, is the image of the man in robes a closer representation of you or is the image of a man in robes what we humans want to god to be? If the latter is true it seems pretty vain on our part.   On the surface that seems a trivial point, but to me, it matters.

I realize that you may or may not already know this was going to be written and may have answered me and I was too dense to see that answer.  I admit that is a distinct possibility.    Never the less, I just thought I would ask.

Thanks,

-M.H.

P.S. If you aren’t god (or God) please feel free to respond.

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Don’t like the Bible? Change it! (And one Random Comment)

Dictionary.com has reported that new “versions” of the bible will be coming out soon.  These versions will have altered language in them.  I don’t know exactly how to feel about this.  Two main issues jump into my mind.  The first is “How can men change the meaning of scripture by changing pronouns?”  The second issue is “How can you “modernize” an ancient text and preserve its integrity?”   Well, first some basics from Dictionary.com’s article:

New International Version (NIV) and The New American Bible, respectively, will include gender-neutral language and substitute words that the editors claim will reflect a modern understanding of the book’s theology.

That is a bold claim, considering they are “modernizing” an ancient text that was written through a divine hand acting through a mortal.  That begs the question of do the editors have the right reason stones to change a book reguarded by millions as the end all and be all of their religion?

Gender neutral pronouns, as the article states, would cause loss of meaning and confusion on many passages that scores of people have committed to memory and live their lives by.

The Apostle Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female…”  – this passage from Galatians 3:28 makes a statement about gender roles by using the specific masculine and feminine pronouns. However, if replaced with a gender-neutral pronoun, as in the case of NIV, the intended meaning may simply get lost in the translation. The same could be said for the passage: “Man cannot live by bread alone” (Mathew 4:4), as it has become such a popular cultural phrase.

There is a quote that came to mind when I read this article:

Language forces us to perceive the world as man presents it to us.  ~Julia Penelope

When man changes the language from the divine- it truly is a case of language presenting the world as a man wants us to perceive it. Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands A Verdict”  provides evidence of the Bible’s survivability throughout time.  The main point he makes is that the Bible’s survivability is largely credited to its unchanging form.  That takes into account verbiage and form.

Since God handed Moses the 10 commandments in roughly 1400 BC, the Bible has been translated into 100s of languages around the world.  Is there any way to truly know the meaning and intent of the original work?  I think that it was lost hunderds of years ago.  Contextual and vocabulary dissimilarities could only cause confusion and misleading statements.  Like the Dictionary.com article points out.  This goes past pronouns and may have resulted in a bastardized text we know as the scriptures.  Let me provide an example:

Original Text:

You must go to the store and buy bread.

Translated into a language with dissimilar vocabulary:

You must travel to a building and trade for a grain and water mixture that uses yeast to rise.

I know you can see how that can mean the same thing- literally.  When the original text is used as a metaphorical device and not a literal sentence, I can see how it’s meaning can become marginalized by the translation.  We assume that “bread” is universally known as a symbol for Christ’s last supper.  I think that same scenario has been repeated over the decades and decades until all that is left is:

You must go.

These “gender neutral” additions are just the latest stride in a marathon of clouded meanings since the original words were penned.  Not to mention that The King James Version of Revelation 22:19 says that:

And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Maybe the believers and re-writers should read it?

What do you think?

Now the random comment on the Dictionary.com post:

Alex Madjarov on March 27, 2011 at 10:41 pm

The best way to modernize the bible is to get rid of the whole thing and start all over. If you remove the genocide, slavery, unicorns, zombies, talking snakes, misogyny, lies, infanticide, deceit and other less-than-nice elements, you’d barely have anything left.


The Death of Religion and one Dumb-Ass Commet

Organized religion will go the way of the dinosaurs in nine Western democracies, reports CNN. “Religion will be driven toward extinction” in Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, researchers conclude in a new paper. It will also fade in Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, and Switzerland, they predict. “If you look at the data, ‘unaffiliated’ is the fastest-growing group,” said the paper’s lead author. The U.S. could not be included in the study, because unlike the other countries, census data on religion was not available. The study began with two sociological assumptions. First, people want to be part of the majority rather than the minority, making it increasingly desirable to avoid church rather than to attend. “Just a few connections to people who are [religiously] unaffiliated is enough to drive the effect,” said the lead author. Also, there are social, economic, and political benefits to not being religious in these countries. “The utility of being unaffiliated seems to be higher than affiliated in Western democracies,” he said. Despite the lack of U.S. data, other studies suggest people who identify as “unaffiliated” are the fastest-growing belief group in the United States.

Abrams and his co-authors are not passing any judgment on religion, he’s quick to say – they’re just modeling a prediction based on trends.  “We’re not trying to make any commentary about religion or whether people should be religious or not,” he said.  “I became interested in this because I saw survey data results for the U.S. and was surprised by how large the unaffiliated group was,” he said, referring to a number of studies done by universities and think tanks on trends in religion.

Studies suggest that “unaffiliated” is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, with about 15% of the population falling into a category experts call the “nones.”  They’re not necessarily atheists or non-believers, experts say, just people who do not associate themselves with a particular religion or house of worship at the time of the survey.  Abrams had done an earlier study looking into the extinction of languages spoken by small numbers of people.

When he saw the religion data, his co-author “Richard Wiener suggested we try to apply a similar technique to religious affiliation,” Abrams said.  The paper, by Abrams, Wiener and Haley A. Yaple, is called “A mathematical model of social group competition with application to the growth of religious non-affiliation.” They presented it this week at the Dallas meeting of the American Physical Society.  Only the Czech Republic already has a majority of people who are unaffiliated with religion, but the Netherlands, for example, will go from about 40% unaffiliated today to more than 70% by 2050, they expect.  Even deeply Catholic Ireland will see religion die out, the model predicts.

“They’ve gone from 0.04% unaffiliated in 1961 to 4.2% in 2006, our most recent data point,” Abrams says. He admits that the increase in Muslim immigration to Europe may throw off the model, but he thinks the trend is robust enough to withstand some challenges. “Netherlands data goes back to 1860,” he pointed out. “Every single data that we were able to find shows that people are moving from the affiliated to unaffiliated. I can’t imagine that will change, but that’s personal opinion, not what the data shows.” But Barry Kosmin, a demographer of religion at Trinity College in Connecticut, is doubtful.

“Religion relies on human beings. They aren’t rational or predictable according to the laws of physics. Religious fervor waxes and wanes in unpredictable ways,” he said. “The Jewish tradition that says prophecy is for fools and children is probably wise,” he added. And Abrams, Wiener and Yaple are not the first to predict the end of religion. Peter Berger, a former president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, once said that, “People will become so bored with what religious groups have to offer that they will look elsewhere.” He said Protestantism “has reached the strange state of self-liquidation,” that Catholicism was in severe crisis, and anticipated that “religions are likely to survive in small enclaves and pockets” in the United States.

He made those predictions in February 1968
Read original story in CNN | Thursday, March 24, 2011

Here is the enlightened comment on the story on CNN’s website:

Francis Bacon “Free at last! free at last! thank scientific method, we are free at last!”!

March 24, 2011 at 7:33 am | Report abuse | Reply

Ummm…Francis Bacon’s three goals were to uncover truth, to serve his country, and to serve his church.  FACT CHECK I can not stand people who use someone’s name to bolster their cause without knowing if that person would have really backed the cause in the 1st place.  Idiots.

 

A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.                     – Francis Bacon

 

People need to

 

Some Info for Mississippi Voters

First some facts:

Read the rest of this entry

Yep, I knew it!

…sadly I say “Yes, it is.”

In my attempts to bring you good writing on important issues, I give you  Nicholas Kristof.  He is an OpEd columnist for the New York Times.  There are links to his blog, Facebook, and Twitter at the bottom of the post.  Click one and tell him “thank you” for writing this piece.  Open your brain and read.

Is This America?

Read the rest of this entry

If you consider yourself an American watch this.

I don’t care if you like Keith Olberman or not- what is said here is the absolute truth. Listen and think. Paste the following into a new browser window:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=undefined&sns=em

Ted Haggard Retakes Pulpit (with translation)

Ted Haggard was shamed into resigning as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and leaving his Christian ministry—as well as Colorado—after a scandal four years ago involving a sexual encounter with a prostitute, from whom he also bought meth. But now he says he “over-repented.” Haggard started a ministry with his wife Gayle in their backyard barn two months ago, and now the congregation has swelled to 200 people, so many people that they had to move out of the barn and into a community center this Sunday. Haggard says he was the victim of a “witch hunt,” and that the sexual encounter was really a massage gone wrong. Christian critics say the pressures of leading a church could cause Haggard to be tempted again, but the preacher says ministering is part of his repentance, reminding him every week of his sins. In one way, he says, his painful public scandal encourages his flock to confide in him: “It’s amazing. People tell me everything,” Haggard says. “That never happened when we were respectable.”

Here is a translation of some key terms from that article using Babel Fish.


A Conscience Examined

I was doing some reading and came across this.  Can’t explain why, but thought I should share it with all of you.  Enjoy.

-Matt

A Conscience Examined

I ask you, how can God’s love survive in a man who has enough of this world’s goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?  Little children, let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it.  This is our way of knowing we are committed to the truth and are at peace before him no matter what our consciences may charge us with; for God is greater than our hearts and all is known to him. 1 Jn 3: 17-19

It is all very well to sit each morning and meditate, doing our best to connect with God, filling our hearts with truth, rising edified.  But what happens in the rest of the day?  We have done the discerning of God’s will, now comes the aligning with it.  Now comes the participating in God’s work.  We have oriented ourselves toward heaven, now the rubber meets the road.  Now we put one foot in front of the other.  Now is the time for action.

And it is the action, the loving in deed and not merely talking about it, that is our way of knowing we are committed to the truth.  How do we know we are good?  How do we know we are Christian?  Or Moslem?  Or Hindu.  By your fruits.  By their fruits you shall know them.  By the fruit of our labor.  By actual labor.  By our work.  It is not a matter of belief.  Unless belief means action.  To find out what we believe actually, examine our actions.  How we live.  That shows what we believe more than our words.

So.  The theory is that God’s will for us will be some form of creativity and redemption.  Since these are God’s jobs and we are happiest when we participate in God’s work.  That’s not a lot to go on.  We don’t know whether our impulses are good, though we have dedicated ourselves to God and asked God to take charge of our impulses, showing the way.

And then there’s that troublesome bit from Paul about seemingly accomplishing evil when he intended good.  Poor me.  I can’t do the good I intend.  So you could have good intention, you could see the good that you are trying to accomplish, some creative or saving goal, and you fail to reach that goal.  You don’t know how to reach that goal.

A mother wants her son to stay in the state of grace.  To avoid drugs and drinking to excess and casual sex.  She wants to do things to cause this to happen.  She tries to think of things to do.  She tries kindness.  She fixes his favorite food.  She urges him to go to church.  To go to college.  She wants him to associate with good people.  He won’t listen.  Her attempts at conversation end up preachy and screechy. They get to be ugly encounters.  She nags.  She feels she has lost her boy.  Everything she tries fails.  Now she feels that she is a failure.  Her self esteem is low.  She doubts she is a good person.

Hundreds of things like this play out in our lives.   I don’t pretend to have the answers.  Certainly my simple religion is not the answer.  And I would argue that these things are beyond religion.  It is too much to expect a religion to find the answer to every problem.  It is too much to ask a religion to have a formula for converting each moment of your life, each phase that you go through, each phase of each relationship, into bliss.  Into each life some rain must fall.

Actually, the minor keys are richer.  A life without hurt is empty.  I am almost tempted to say that God knows this.  That God arranged it, strangely, contrary to logic and all expectations, to enrich life.  To give wisdom.  To improve our self esteem.  It’s even scriptural: the father disciplines his sons.  It is part of creation and redemption.  There is benefit in suffering.  It creates beautiful people.  Ones who have muddled through disaster and not lost faith.  Muddled through each morning consulting God, connecting with God, pledging themselves to participation in God’s creative and redemptive work.  Trying to discern the best course of action.  Taking whatever actions seem most likely to bring a good outcome.  Living through bitter times, always oriented toward the good, always oriented toward the ultimate outcome.  Striving for salvation.

If we could open our eyes we might see in the disabled, in those muddling through with little mental capacity or physical grace, without limbs or sight or hearing, the bravest people on earth.  And those most connected with God.  Those being creative and redemptive in their own persons, just by living their own lives.  We might see a thing of beauty.  Instead we avert our eyes.  We shut off empathy.  We do not want to feel what these people feel.  We cannot put ourselves in their place.  We would rather not see.  We feel awkward and embarrassed.  We don’t know how to act.

Wait.  Didn’t we just this morning pledge ourselves to Godly action.  To lives of creation and redemption.  And we know this only when we act on it.  So OK.  Focus.  Look.  What a brave person this is.  One of God’s best.  Good morning to you.  A cheerful good morning to you.  Praise God for your bravery.  Show me how to live will you?  Let me in on your secret.

What?  Can’t we say these things?  Shouldn’t we?  Can we at least acknowledge their existence? Can’t we at least affirm them?  Make eye contact.  Give a smile.

And what about seeing my brother in need.  I who live well.  Who have furnished myself with a sufficiency of this world’s goods.  What about all those in distant lands who are starving.  Those suffering from war.  Those whose lives are hard because of local politics.  Because they live in the wrong place. Because they were born there.  The author of John could not imagine a world where the suffering of others around the globe is brought daily into our living rooms.  Still he or she seemed to speak to that.  How can God’s love survive in a man who has enough of this world’s goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?

I am a man who has enough of this world’s goods.  I do not wish to close my heart.  But what do I do?  Should I give away my stuff until my brother has as much as I have.  Until I am in the same state as those suffering from famine?  Do I need to suffer from the same level of violence as the least of my brothers?  Or is it enough to write the occasional check?

Gee I wish I had an answer.  I know that some people have given up everything and put themselves in harms way for the poor and downtrodden of this world.  I haven’t.  I enjoy my wealth.  I wish I had a way of knowing that I am not called to follow their example.

OK maybe this.  Think of Beethoven.  Think of Newton.  Think of the entrepreneurs of the industrial age.  We are not all called to work with the poor.  We are all called to be charitable in our own constellations of personalities, in our own circumstance.  We are called to share our lives and our sustenance, but not to the point of not caring for ourselves.  Becoming dependent on others for necessities.  If I were poor in my old age, I would be a burden on the state or on my children.  They write of Jesus that he said the poor you will always have with you and you can help them whenever you wish.  As if the goal of creation and salvation is not an utterly equal distribution of wealth.  As if we should not stop all other efforts until the problem of poverty is solved.  As if poverty is not only the only priority.

Some are called upon to push creation further.  Some are called upon to achieve in other spheres.  To push back the frontier that divides ignorance from knowledge.  And many of the greatest breakthroughs, many of the enterprises that have changed our lives for the better, alas, even the inventions that bring the pictures of poverty and war into our living rooms, were motivated by profit; by the lure of great wealth.  As if there’s a place for greed.  A benefit.

We are all called upon to create beauty in our relationships. To pour out love in them.  To sustain them.  To make them holy.  And to redeem whatever relationships and persons we can.  Help with self esteem.  Affirm.  There is enough to do in our own circumstances.  And to some degree we should remaining open to helping those in other circumstances.  And yes some of us are called upon to take ourselves out of our comfortable circumstances and put ourselves in those of the poor and suffering.

Our actions show our faith.  And so to see our faith, examine our actions.  If we believe in love, we will love.  If we believe in redemption we will redeem.  If we believe in sacrifice, we will lay down our lives for our friends.  What form this takes in our circumstances cannot be predicted or prescribed.  You must be creative.  You must connect with God and learn to discern.   Let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it.

Written by: James Stemmle

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