Strength in Faith

Life at times seems meaningless and uninspiring. This is especially the case when one demystifies the realities of nature and views the laws and order of the cosmos as if they are random acts of chaos. With little tangible evidence for a Prime Mover or Heavenly Father our mere existence, while biologically amazing, seems relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things and while science provides us with a wealth of information and facts, it lacks the poetic beauty required to inspire and give humanity a sense of hope or inspiration.

I am a firm believer in the essence of the human soul. It is the soul that connects one to another. Those who can master the art of meditation are capable of truly connecting with that eternal essence that perpetuates all of existence. Now I am aware that to some people the term “meditation’ is taboo and that there are certain pockets of Christianity that believe it to be dangerous. This is a misguided belief. When a Catholic prays the Rosary and really focuses on the prayer and what is being said – it is a form of meditation. When a Jew recites the Shema and focuses exclusively on what is being said – it is a form of meditation. When anyone prays any prayer and is truly focusing on their prayer – it is a form of meditation. By now I hope you get my point on how meditation takes many forms and it is not exclusive to sitting “criss-cross apple sauce” with your palms up while repeating the word “Aum/Om”.

So why did I bring up meditation? It is not my intent to go on an Eastern Philosophy push to anyone. I was merely pointing out that when a person is able to filter out the “noise” of the day (the technological and completely unnatural obstructions that surround us) they can reconnect to the soul within and with a little more effort the Eternal Soul of all that exists. Some may call this connecting to God, some may call it “being one with nature”, and some may view this as mere figments of an overactive imagination. It is the later that many find to be the uninspiring view and while I agree that it might be the reality, who cares? While to some it may be irrational, our perceptions are our realities. If a person finds strength in faith, then their beliefs have merit and no one should denigrate the beliefs of another. One cannot deny the power of the human mind. Those with deep faith and convictions are not necessarily receptive to facts and observations that are contrary to what they believe and while this is viewed as a threat to our intellectual future by the militant arm of the Atheist movement, I need only remind them that the majority of their heroes still believed in either a Prime Mover or Spinoza’s pantheistic view of the cosmos. It is human nature, whether warranted or not, to have a purpose and to have someone or something that they can reach out to in times of despair and that keeps them in line and humble.

The idea that a physical manifestation of God is necessary for there to be any validity to faith is a fallacy. At the risk of being overly hyperbolic, a comparison can be made that the mere thought of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny stirs excitement and anticipation to children all around the globe – real excitement and real anticipation. The same is true with faith in any sense of deity. If a person believes that there is a god, then there is a god and only they are capable of changing that. The same is true for those who do not believe. There are no Bible passages or testimony of personal revelation that will convince a skeptic that a god exists. I believe that even the most rigid atheists hold something in the utmost esteem whether it be science, nature, or the mere act of discovery and inquiry itself. While that pinnacle of inspiration may not be god to them in the sense of the term, there is very little difference when taken into context of how it affects them.

Perception is often reality and to those that truly believe, there is strength in faith.

The faith of Thomas Jefferson

I recently participated in a debate on the faith of the founders of the United States.  I must say it is somewhat entertaining to see the lack of knowledge many have on this topic.  There is this misconception that they were all “good Christian men.”  The fact is – they weren’t.  Most of them were deists and would likely (by today’s standards) ended up as atheists given the advancements of science since their deaths as well as the pangs of history like the Holocaust and other genocides that have occurred since their deaths.  So maybe I will do a little series on the faith of the founders and since it was Jefferson that I spoke of this week, I may as well use the same subject here.  Thomas-Jefferson

For starters Thomas Jefferson rejected the divinity of Jesus, the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible, and the relevance and authenticity of the church at the time (imagine what he would think now)

To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.  – Letter to Benjamin Rush in 1803

It is an indisputable fact that although Jefferson was critical of the Bible and the Church, he did admire the moral code of Jesus but also acknowledges that it was not a moral code that Jesus invented as it was one that early non-temple cult rabbis had (like Hillel) as well as a number of other moral philosophers that predate the writings of the nomadic tribes of the Hebrews.

Jefferson was a man of his own sect – he thought for himself. At best he was a Unitarian and in reality a deist or universal theist who was just a skeptic who liked to read.

Here is a nice nugget he wrote as well which in my opinion is spot on and can be found as a preface to the “Jefferson Bible” (more on that a little later):

“SYLLABUS OF AN ESTIMATE OF THE DOCTRINES OF JESUS, COMPARED WITH THOSE OF OTHERS.

In a comparative view of the ethics of the enlightened nations of antiquity, of the Jews, and of Jesus, no notice should be taken of the corruptions of reason among the ancients, to wit, the idolatry and superstition of the vulgar, nor of the corruptions of Christianity by the learned among its professors. Let a just view be taken of the moral principles inculcated by the most esteemed of the sects of ancient philosophy, or of their individuals; particularly Pythagoras, Socrates, Epicurus, Cicero, Epictetus, Seneca, Antoninus.

I. PHILOSOPHERS.

1. Their precepts related chiefly to ourselves, and the government of those passions which, unrestrained, would disturb our tranquility of mind. In this branch of philosophy they were really great.

2. In developing our duties to others, they were short and defective. They embraced indeed the circles of kindred and friends, and inculcated patriotism, or the love of country in the aggregate, as a primary obligation: towards our neighbors and countrymen they taught justice, but scarcely viewed them as within the circle of benevolence. Still less have they inculcated peace, charity, and love to our fellow-men, or embraced with benevolence the whole family of mankind.

II. JEWS.

1. Their system was Deism, that is, the belief in one only God; but their ideas of him and of his attributes were degrading and injurious.

2. Their ethics were not only imperfect, but often irreconcilable with the sound dictates of reason and morality, as they respect intercourse with those around us; and repulsive and anti-social as respecting other nations. They needed reformation, therefore, in an eminent degree.

III. JESUS.

In this state of things among the Jews, Jesus appeared. His parentage was obscure; his condition poor; his education null; his natural endowments great; his life correct and innocent. He was meek, benevolent, patient, firm, disinterested, and of the sublimest eloquence. The disadvantages under which his doctrines appear are remarkable.

  1. Like Socrates and Epictetus, he wrote nothing himself.
  2. But he had not, like them, a Xenophon or an Arrian to write for him. I name not Plato, who only used the name of Socrates to cover the whimsies of his own brain.On the contrary, all the learned of his country, entrenched in its power and riches, were opposed to him, lest his labors should undermine their advantages; and the committing to writing of his life and doctrines fell on unlettered and ignorant men; who wrote, too, from memory, and not till long after the transactions had passed.
  3. According to the ordinary fate of those who attempt to enlighten and reform mankind, he fell an early victim to the jealousy and combination of the altar and the throne, at about 33 years of age, his reason having not yet attained the maximum of its energy, nor the course of his preaching, which was but of three years at most, presented occasions for developing a complete system of morals.
  4. Hence the doctrines which he really delivered were defective, as a whole, and fragments only of what he did deliver have come to us mutilated, misstated, and often unintelligible.
  5. They have been still more disfigured by the corruptions of schismatizing followers, who have found an interest in sophisticating and perverting the simple doctrines he taught, by engrafting on them the mysticisms of a Grecian Sophist (Plato), frittering them into subtilties and obscuring them with jargon, until they have caused good men to reject the whole in disgust, and to view Jesus himself as an impostor.

Notwithstanding these disadvantages, a system of morals is presented to us which, if filled up in the true style and spirit of the rich fragments he left us, would be the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man. The question of his being a member of the Godhead, or in direct communication with it, claimed for him by some of his followers, and denied by others, is foreign to the present view, which is merely an estimate of the intrinsic merits of his doctrines.

  1. He corrected the Deism of the Jews, confirming them in their belief of one only god, and giving them juster notions of his attributes and government.
  2. His moral doctrines, relating to kindred and friends, were more pure and perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers, and greatly more so than those of the Jews; and they went far beyond both in inculcating universal philanthrophy, not only to kindred and friends, to neighbors and countrymen, but to all mankind, gathering all into one family, under the bonds of love, charity, peace, common wants and common aids. A development of this head will evince the peculiar superiority of the system of Jesus over all others.
  3.  The precepts of philosophy and of the Hebrew code laid hold of action only. He pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man; erected his tribunal in the region of his thought, and purified the waters at the fountain head.
  4.  He taught emphatically the doctrine of a future state, which was either doubted or disbelieved by the Jews; and wielded it with efficacy as an important incentive, supplementary to the other motives to moral conduct.

I, too, have made a wee-little book from the same materials (The Gospels) which I call the Philosophy of Jesus. It is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen. It is a document in proof that I am a REAL CHRISTIAN, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call ME infidel and THEMSELVES Christians and preachers of the Gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature.”— Letter from Jefferson to Mr. Charles Thompson.Jefferson sources

Note the words “wee little book”… To Jefferson the Bible was so bad that he literally cut out the only worthwhile portions of Jesus’ life and teachings and compiled his own “wee little book”. Copies of this book were given to Members of Congress shortly after it was discovered up until the 1950’s when the evangelicals seized control of the government out of fear of the Soviets and us needing “god on our side” (as if the little children in Ethiopia could wait – we were more important).  I own a copy and I recommend it to anyone.  A side note – “In God we Trust” became the motto in the 1950 and “Under God” was added in the 1950’s as well – so this “God and country” thing is not our heritage.

Here is a link to the Jefferson Bible (with actual pictures of it):  http://americanhistory.si.edu/JeffersonBible/

Any questions?

Saving God

I had a recent exchange with someone who wanted me to “level” with him on what my position was on Jesus. It caught me by surprise because I know I have blogged about Jesus a number of times and thought I was clear on how I felt. So, this is how I responded:

I believe Jesus was a real man who really existed and do not relegate him to just being a mythical figure. Clearly he was a great teacher and given the lengths his followers went to spread his message he may have performed extraordinary feats that through the lapse of time have become exaggerated. As to whether he was the messiah, I take a somewhat Jewish position on this. You will find that aside from the Chassidic and other ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects, most Jews have a very favorable opinion of Jesus. Most believe he was a great teacher and may have performed the miracles attributed to him. The reason they do not believe he is the messiah is simple – the temple is still destroyed, Jews are still scattered across the globe, and nations still raise their ‘swords’ against one another. Does this diminish the message of Jesus and what he tried to accomplish? I don’t think so. I think the New Law he taught was intended to save all of us from the rigidness and complexities of the Old Law and to a greater extent religion in general. The problem as I see it, is people still hold on to ancient traditions and superstitions that completely deflect the focus of the message and thus creates just another confusing collaboration of doctrines and dogmas, which is what I think Jesus was trying to “save” people from in the first place.

Then came the question of what I believe about God. Well this is indeed the tougher question because anyone who knows me, knows my views on this often drift with the wind. As inflammatory as this may sound, I personally believe that the God depicted in ancient texts like the Bible or the Koran only exists within the confines of those books. The late bronze/early iron age God, for all intents and purposes is dead. There have been no divinely appointed prophets with super powers and no unexplained nature defying miracles in at least 2 thousand years (assuming there ever were to begin with). We have put men on the moon, have telescopes that return images that are billions of miles away and yet, there is no sign of a Divine Destination where Elijah flew off to in his fiery chariot (2nd Kings 2:11) or where Jesus ascended to after his death and resurrection (Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51). We have documents and tablets that predate the Bible which contain a moral code and similar cosmological myths (Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Tablets of Hammurabi) . The ancient writings must be weighed on their merits rather than on emotional tradition. The idea of a talking snake (Genesis 3:1-5) or a talking donkey (Numbers 22:28-30) is laughable to the modern mind (nowadays we have the ability to make it possible with computer animation or robotics). If I were to tell someone I was swallowed by a fish and lived in its belly for 3 days (Jonah 1:17) I would probably be committed to an asylum. So while at risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water, I must take the position that it would be better to not study the Bible at all then to take a fundamentalist or literal approach to it. Context is key. All ancient people had their own god or gods and they justified their actions no matter how atrocious by stating it was either their god’s will or the doing of the gods themselves. If you witnessed the destruction of your temple, city, the deaths of loved ones and friends, and were forced into exile in an unfamiliar land and forced to serve a tyrannical king you would be hoping for a supernatural savior too. If you did not have the knowledge of the universe that we now have and looked to the stars in the sky without the bright lights of an overpopulated city, how could you not think that the heavens proclaim the glory of God (Psalm 19:1)?

I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings. (Albert Einstein)

Just as the Jews changed from the polytheistic concept of “our god is better than your god” to the monotheistic concept of “our god is the only god,” our concept of God must evolve in order for God to remain relevant with the vast amounts of scientific discoveries. More and more people are walking away from religion than ever before and it is for a number of reasons. Whether it is because of the despicable actions of men who are supposed to be holy or the glaring absence of a “God who protects” in the wake of young children being slaughtered like animals by a deranged gunman; the God that most of us were taught to believe in, is quickly fading into obscurity.

Yet, when I look into my children’s eyes and am filled with love or when I see a kind act by someone to a complete stranger and am filled with joy or when I am in despair and need hope, that is where I find God.

The order from chaos..

The calm that precedes and follows a storm..

The breeze against my face on a sweltering hot day..

The sound of the tides mixed with singing of the sea gulls..

The intricacies of our DNA..

The unexplainable phenomena of the dividing of cells to form a new life..

The sparks of joy and promise in the eyes of a child..

The laws of nature and the discoveries of science..

God is the indwelling and not the transient cause of all things. (Baruch Spinoza)

And as to religion.. Well the Biblical definition of religion happens to be perfect:

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are just fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us. (James 1:26-27)

 

Jesus, redeemer or reformer?

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11).

We live in a world where the dangers of religious fundamentalism of all kinds surround us. Whether it be a “holy warrior” blowing himself up in market place, a madman shooting people in a temple or school, or a “Baptist” church that pickets funerals of fallen heroes and other victims of violence. Religions in and of themselves are harmless, it’s when people cross the line from rationalism into radicalism that makes them dangerous.

Centuries before Jesus lived, according to the book of Isaiah, “I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11). “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25). By this account, one can conclude that our Creator keeps no record of our “sins” and that all is forgiven and that we were “saved” long before Jesus ever lived. That being the case, blood atonement whether animal, man, or God himself was not necessary. Yet the temple cult continued ritual sacrifices because they believed it to be required for atonement. The Christian Church adopted the belief that when Jesus was crucified the blood requirement was satisfied, but as the verse above states it was not even necessary. For example, Hebrews 10:5 of the New Testament in quoting Psalm 40, claims that God replaced animal sacrifices with the death of the Jesus by stating, “sacrifices and offerings You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me.” However, the actual text of Psalm 40:6 does not even say this; it says, “sacrifices and meal offerings You have not desired, my ears You have opened.” This refers to God’s desire that we listen to Him, as we also read in Samuel, “Samuel said, “Does God take as much pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying what God says? Surely obeying is better than sacrifice, and heeding orders than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

Fundamentalist Christians insist that the Bible is the inspired and “inerrant” word of God and readily accept the Jewish Scriptures (aka Old Testament) as the foundation for the New Testament. If they were to be logically consistent, it would follow that wherever the “Old” and “New” Testaments contradict each other, the New Testament must be admitted to be obviously the one which is in error. If that were adhered to, Jesus would be relegated to what he really is – a great teacher (Rabboni or Rebbe) who spoke of actions over words and sacrifices. He was martyred for his teachings and his followers’ followers then committed the apostasy of elevating him to being God.

The Jewish Scriptures DO NOT revolve around God becoming man to sacrifice himself to appease himself. That is invented mythology. Jewish Scripture outlines how to act (albeit some of these rules are arcane for our time and a bit extreme – thus the reason the Jews never sealed the canon until it was hijacked by Constantine for the church). Jewish Scripture also shows how when the people disobeyed the rules, they suffered and when they obeyed they prospered. After a while this cycle cost them the temple and the “land of milk and honey.” It could be that in order for the Messianic Age to come, that Jews should listen to what Jeremiah said: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are false.” (this is a slight paraphrasing of the opening verses of Jeremiah 10 – which also explicitly exposes the “Christmas tree” to be a pagan practice – over 2 thousand years before it became as common as it is now)

So what was Jesus’ purpose?

I believe Jesus was trying to be a reformer, not a redeemer/savior and his focus was on freeing us from religious doctrines and dogmas that had become overbearing and burdensome. Perhaps what he was teaching was that we could focus on simply “Loving one another”.

“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33)

Here is the real New Covenant. Less outward ritual observances and more heart-driven loving kindness towards each other. The entire yoke of Torah needed to be simplified to the original summation that was contained within it.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Here the Teacher (Jesus) spliced together Deuteronomy 6:5 with Leviticus 19:18 to give us the summation of the Torah and the 2 rules that if all of us followed, would bring on an age where no nation raises a sword against another nation and we can all finally be at peace. This would be the fulfillment of hope and bring the Kingdom of Heaven here, on earth.

Did Yoda go to heaven?

The final computer-generated Yoda as seen in t...

The final computer-generated Yoda as seen in the film. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I asked this question to a critic I was astounded to find out that Yoda never really existed! OK, all joking aside if you haven’t figured out what I am about to discuss then I will be more direct – Surely, we cannot be arrogant enough to believe that we are the only planet with life forms or that we alone are the only forms of life that our Creator has an interest in amongst the entire universe. That being said, if there is life on other planets are they too required to believe their Creator assumed the form of a being on another planet to atone for their falling short of the laws and ordinances handed down to a being on that same planet? Did these other planets have an Eden? Did they have and Adam and Eve? Do they suffer the burden of Original Sin and the threat of eternal torment because a serpent was able to derail the Divine Plan?

Science has advanced to the extent that we now know the molecular makeup of our bodies. We can fly on an airplane into the same clouds Jesus is said to have ascended into and see no heaven. We know the earth does not have four corners and the stars are not lights in a big canopy. We know that cancer doesn’t care if you are a person of faiths or a person of deeds and neither do deranged gunmen in movie theaters.

But the Bible says…

So much emphasis is placed on Biblical inerrancy and infallibility by mainstream Christianity that few people question it and even less actually read it. The claim of inerrancy and infallibility has on many occasions been refuted and the stance is highly illogical. The men who wrote and redacted the various texts are mostly unknown and no original copies exist. These 2 facts are enough to cast significant doubt as to whether they are true to whatever the originals said (not to mention the KJV Onlyist bunch). Either way, they are cryptic writings that express the opinions of the writers. Writers who openly admit to their own failings, fears, and biases. I am not saying the Bible is useless. That would be grossly irresponsible. It is an ancient text and when you can sort through the myths and the dogmas you do find inalienable moral truths and examples of historical failings that we can all learn from. It has been said that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In the Bible people are killed multiple times “in the name of God” and we see when people break the laws of morality than society suffered for it and received (per the Bible) Divine retribution. We should learn from these mistakes.

The Bible is not the sole source of truth..

One can turn to the Kabbalistic texts, the teachings of the Buddha, the philosophy of Plato, and the moral code of Zoroaster to find inspiration and moral guidance equivalent to what they find in the Bible. When the printing press was invented the Bible became readily available to the common man. Is it merely a coincidence that the Age of Enlightenment almost immediately followed? As the Bible became less and less expensive is it coincidental that there was a spike in skepticism? This is not meant to be an attack on the Bible. While I am an advocate of studying it and do so myself regularly, I am not a fan of the dogma of inerrancy and the absolute authority some people feel that it has over every other text.

Back to Yoda..

The origin of the universe and its perpetuity point to a Designer. To me it is clear because something establishes the balance, authored the laws of nature, and weaves it all together. When you look into a child’s eyes you can see the Divine within the innocence. Love and compassion have an eternal thread and collective source. It is that source that according to the Zohar wishes to commune with each of us and makes us one.

Never gonna give you up..

 Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you…  Yes, I just lured you in with a Rick Astley song.  For whatever reason I thought that set of lyrics was pretty relevant to what I am going to cover in this relatively brief post.  My recent post “Who’s in control?” garnered the biggest single day number of hits for this blog.  It also had a good number of comments and email responses.  It seems my Christian friends have taken issue with my position that as human beings we are not wretched, worthless, disgustingly sinful beings.  That we are not building up a debt of sin that will justify eternal torment and punishment forever, which can only be paid and forgiven by belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That all of our actions and imperfections somehow get erased by faith alone.  Well, aside from the fact that the words of Jesus himself contradict the concept of faith alone in favor of “what you do to the least of these my brethren you do unto me“,  it really doesn’t portray God as has often been the Christian position that God is love

So, is God love?  I believe so.  Mostly because no science has been able to prove what causes love and that particular feeling or emotion is the thread that weaves humanity with a concept of morality.  So what exactly is love?  The Apostle Paul, who as most of you know I have been pretty critical of, wrote one of the most inspirational chapters of the Bible and it happens to be perhaps the greatest description of love.  The chapter, for those of you who may not have guessed it, is 1 Corinthians 13.   As the Bible has multiple translations this chapter reads differently from version to version.  The most obvious difference is when comparing the KJV and the NIV.  (to those not familiar – the KJV is the King James Version which was translated in 1611 and the NIV is the New International Version which was translated in 1984. These are the 2 best-selling translations)  The KJV doesn’t use the word Love, it uses the word Charity.  To the skeptic this would seem to be a problem, but not to me.  Charity is, after all, a tremendous example of unconditional love.  When one exercises charity, they give for the sake of giving, with no expectation of reciprocation.  There is no doubt that is love.  So, if God is love, why not use 1 Corinthians 13 as a description of God.  For the sake of brevity, let’s just take the core of  the chapter which are verses 4-7 and replace the words “love” and “it” with “the Lord” (note- I am removing a few “it’s” for the sake of flow):

The Lord is patient, the Lord is kind. The Lord does not envy, does not boast, is not proud.  The Lord does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs.  The Lord does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  The Lord always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Now I ask you again: Is God Love?  If so, than we have never been rejected, nor will we ever be.  Why else would a word like “Father” be invoked so often?  The way I see it, our Eternal Father never gave up on you, me or anyone else.  It seems that for many people it really is the other way around. 

For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you.. – Deuteronomy 4:31

Who is in control?

The notion that we are all sinful wretches worthy of punishment and that the physical world is the dominion and under the tyrannical control of a being known as Satan, is a dogma that I have always opposed. Satan, as Christianity perceives him, did not originate until the Gospels and Epistles. The very few references to Satan in the Jewish Scriptures paint this being in a far different way then the mainstream belief of the Christian and Muslim faiths. Satan is not the serpent in the creation account found in Genesis, nor is he the Prince of the Earth (whatever that means) that we see portrayed in gospels and epistles. Satan, in Jewish Scripture, is the “accuser” and “tempter”. He is not a fallen angel, as some wrongfully interpret Isaiah 14:12 (which when read in full context is an allusion to King Nebuchadnezzar). Satan, according to Jewish Scripture, is and always has been a servant of God. The servant who test one’s faith and resolve, but as clearly displayed in the book of Job, Satan acts and operates at the will and pleasure of the Almighty God.

So where did the concept of the evil, horned, red body-suit wearing, pitch fork carrying sovereign of hell come from? Well, truth be told, the devil that billions of Christians despise and the Hell they hope to avoid by having faith in Jesus are NOT Biblical. Both of them find their origins in a fused interpretation of Dante’s Inferno, the Divine Comedy and the Greco-Roman character known as Hades. The very few references to hell that exist are all in the Gospels and Epistles and they are better translated as the “pit” or Gehenna, which was an area outside the Jewish tribal camps (and later Jerusalem) where the worshippers of Baal and Molech would sacrifice their children by fire. This was an area that the Jews knew physically existed and they feared it. If Torah observance was not strictly adhered to one could get thrown out of the camp or city and face the threat of the “pit”. How a physical place was spun into a place of eternal torment is the crafty work of Augustine and it’s purpose, one could argue, was to scare people into conformity.

Let’s now apply reason and a rational view here. If God is all-powerful than he is all-powerful and the Sovereign of the Universe that Abraham claimed the Almighty to be. This means God and only God is in control and not a rebellious servant in the fiery bowels of the earth. If we are created in the image of God, than we have all the attributes of the Divine. We could not therefore be insignificant wretches that are full of sin and because of poor choices we may have made are somehow worthy of ETERNAL punishment. Let’s think for a minute about this gross implication of injustice. Most people live less than 100 years. What kind of justice is displayed where the mere lack of believing in something for the decades we spend on earth would somehow justify an ETERNAL sentence to torture and punishment? Not a life sentence, but a relentless and unending sentence with no hope for reconciliation or even parole. Where is the grace mercy and peace of the Father? Would the very Creator who created all things and imbued us with Reason and intellect really require that faith and faith alone ensure eternal bliss? Would the divine inspiration that is claimed to have been revealed to a small number of sages in the most primitive and ignorant corner of the earth, be the only source of this critical message? If this be true, why would the message be so cryptic and have so many examples of injustice within it?

Let me propose the following:

  • You are not a filthy wretch.
  • You are not unworthy of love.
  • You are not flawed.
  • You are not a disgrace.
  • You are not worthy of punishment.
  • You are not under an inherited curse of a sin that someone else committed.
  • You are not under the dominion of a powerful evil being who’s out to get you.

What you are is a living, breathing, and beautiful person. You have good attributes and you have bad. You have the freedom to choose how you use the strengths you possess and how you surrender to your weakness. If you have read this far, than you have a contemplative sense of reason and are willing to go behind the veils of dogma and uncover the purest source of truth. Everyone has the need to feel a sense of hope and an element of higher purpose. The idea that we are merely a carbon based collection of molecules and cells that act in repetitive and sometime meaningless ways and are destined to be inanimate patches of dust, is hardly inspirational to most people. This is why people feel deep within the recesses of their mind and soul that there must be something greater than ourselves. How can the wonder of time and the majesty of nature be the product of a Divine Judge that places matters of thought over physical actions?

Am I speaking against Scripture? No. I am merely providing my view of the Divine, just like the authors of the various books of Scripture did. Call me heretical if you want, but we know a lot more now about the universe, earth, the human genome, physics, medicine, human psychology, and a host of other quantifiable facts than any of the Bronze Age authors of Scripture ever knew. There is a strong argument that Biblical inerrancy is only in context not in content.

But Nelson, my pastor says this or Joel Osteen says that, or Joyce Meyer advocates this and Rick Warren wrote that… Well, why don’t we compare their motivational factors to mine. What exactly am I asking you for? Have I passed around an offering plate? Have I told you to call my prayer line and contribute to my ministry? Have I told you that I need you to “give all you can” and promised a ten-fold blessing from God in return for your offering? Nope. I am just on a quest for light and have welcomed you to accompany me on it and nothing more.

All I have ever asked is for 2 very simple things:

That you think with an open and rational mind.
That you love one another.

Ask yourself this question:
If this is the only life you will have and there is no resurrection or after-life, are you living life to the fullest?

One more question:
Why not?