Forging into the unknown.. a path of our own.

I would like to open this post with an apology.  I haven’t written much in quite a while and that is mostly due to being focused on other things lately.  I was even debating shutting down this blog as well due to my apparent state of confusion as well as a serious case of writer’s block.

I just renewed the domain registration so it’s safe to say that I’m not going to shut down the blog, but where I take it is yet to be determined.  I have veered off any kind of definable path at the moment and am in a state of limbo for lack of better terms.  This is called the “Quest for Light” and I have to pause and ask:  What does that mean?

First and foremost, I have abandoned the idea of finding a label.  How exactly would I label myself anyway.  Let’s break it down shall we?

From a traditional theological perspective I am not a theist; meaning I do not believe in any traditional concept of a Supreme Being.  However, I do acknowledge that what a person believes is truth to them and that deep within the human conscience there exists an unbroken connection to whatever the first cause of human existence was (or is).  This is a philosophical position and not a scientific one.  I am not going to pretend it to be anything that is provable.  However, if science has already been able to demonstrate that the atoms that compose our bodies are made of “star stuff”,  I see no reason not to believe that since our minds are part of that matter that a connection exists between us and all that surrounds us.  So while I reject all theistic claims of a God “out there” somewhere, I fully embrace the concept of a God within that connects all there is.  This is a pantheistic position  and not an atheistic one.  However, even that label becomes somewhat complex due to the pantheistic label itself having no shortage of organizations that define it in various ways.

What about Scripture?  Clearly I have spent many years studying the Jewish and Christian Bibles, the Talmud, Zohar, Koran, Gita, Tao, and others.  While I have learned much from all of them it is no secret that I have favored the Jewish philosophers and even the mystics above the others.  Yet it is only recently that I realized that is it is more of the exegetical process of allegorical interpretation and skeptical inquiry used in their approach that had my attention and not the actual content itself.  So it was the art of studying and critical examination, which was really somewhat of a scientific approach to something outside of the realm of science that has attracted me all along.  The Jewish and Christian Bibles as well as the Zohar will always hold a special place in my heart.  Not because I believe they have authority over any other holy text, but because those are the texts that I spent the most time studying.  I was born into a Christian family and that is what was my childhood was framed around.  OK.. I am beating around the bush and owe you an answer:  I do not view any holy text as relevant in the modern world.  All of them are a mixture of folklore and myths.  Some are laced with actual historical events as well as political propaganda.  None of them are science books that have accurate cosmological arguments (meaning “In the beginning” is no different then “Once upon a time”).  All are valuable in understanding where we as a race came from and how we have evolved, but none of them are needed for progressing forward or as guidebooks to our future.

So I have shifted my focus from Bronze Age texts to the philosophical writings of the Enlightenment period.  This has been an incredible endeavor that has  allowed me to grow my critical thinking skills even more than even I thought possible.  As a result I have opened even more books and nothing tickles the intellectual mind more than when you bounce from Spinoza to Kant and then trace those concepts to giants (that predated even the holy texts) like Plato and Aristotle.

So I need to regroup and try to lasso in some sort of personal philosophical path rather than fit myself into a label.  So I ask you to be patient with me.  The Quest is going to start back up, but don’t expect to be walking down a well-worn path.  It’s time we forge ahead and make our own!

Ineffable Truth

Let me open with a few definitions:

Ineffable –
1 a : incapable of being expressed in words : indescribable
   b : unspeakable
2: not to be uttered : taboo

Truth –
1 a (archaic) : fidelity, constancy
   b : sincerity in action, character, and utterance
2 a (1) : the state of being the case : fact (2) : the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality (3) often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality
   b : a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true
   c : the body of true statements and propositions
3 a : the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality
    b (chiefly British) : true 2
    c : fidelity to an original or to a standard

Theory –
1 : the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another
2 : abstract thought : speculation
3 : the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art
4 a : a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action
    b : an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances —often used in the phrase in theory
5: a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena

For most of recorded history mankind has, in some form or fashion, searched for what can be considered as ineffable truths.. Many of the realities of today were completely inconceivable to people that lived a century ago. Just imagine for a second what men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Hobbes, Isaac Newton or Socrates would have tweeted! We live in a world so technologically interconnected that it almost rivals the interconnectedness of nature itself.

We live in an age where we’ve mapped the observable cosmos and every discovery is a venture not only in the future but in some ways they are echoes of the past. With each discovery we unravel a mystery of the past and yet to many people this progress is threatening. Religions have held a significant amount of influence over not only culture, but the way people think and how they reason. This is why many well researched scientific theories come under unnecessary fire and criticism. Part of the problem here is the understanding of the word theory as well.  There is a difference between the modern vernacular use of the word theory and the scientific use of the word.  In the world of science in order to label something a theory requires a substantial amount of experimentation, research, and evidence.  Evolution and the “Big Bang” theories are viewed as threats to religion when they should not be.  The men that wrote the Jewish Bible were one group of people in an obscure part of the world.  One group out of many groups, and while all of them had their cosmological legends and myths, none of them had the knowledge we have today.  Few knew the earth wasn’t flat and that the stars were much bigger than the earth.  They didn’t know the molecular structure of carbon or have the ability to even know what DNA was.  So to rely on their presumptions of how everything came to be and reject what we are learning is foolish.  We need to embrace facts and relegate myths and legends to their proper place as allegorical lessons and historical perspectives.

We have seen a tremendous amount of changes in society in the last century and it is due primarily to advancements in science and technology.  Vaccines have eradicated the majority of fatal viruses, computers can calculate and rapidly retrieve data faster than the human brain, and the internet coupled with mobile technology has enabled information to travel across the globe in seconds when it used to take weeks and even months for information to spread across a single country.  Somewhere in the world someone’s very life is being spared because a very skilled surgeon is performing surgery on them.  Somewhere in the world a child is walking for the first time on their own because a skilled engineer crafted a prosthetic leg for them.   The scientists and doctors of today are what people of old would call miracle workers, but what they do is not miraculous in a supernatural religious sense.  We have progressed to the point to where we have a little more control and are subject a little less to random chance.

Yet with all we know we are finding there is still so much we don’t know.  For now there remain many questions that science still cannot answer.  What caused the “Big Bang” and what was there before it?  How do cellular structures “know” to evolve at the micro and macro level?  And while it is obvious that the universe is beyond our comprehension in size and structure we still wonder if we exist for a reason.  Do we cease to exist when we die?  Perhaps most perplexing of all is why, if we just happen to inhabit an obscure planet in a solar system on the outer reaches of a several billion year old galaxy, do we have an emotion as powerful as Love?

Religions tend to answer these questions in dogmatic ways, but the questions still remain for most people.  The idea of any kind of intelligent design is easily brought into question when children are born with life threatening diseases.  Yet when one takes a step back and considers the ineffable enormity of all that exists, how can we be so bold as to assume that if there is a god behind it that we are even capable of adequately describing it’s nature or intentions?  As an old Talmudic theme teaches – If we cannot gaze upon the sun, which is an object of existence, how can we gaze upon that Source from which it came?

The knowledge one claims to have of whatever they believe to be God is purely a mental construct because the existence of any god is ineffable.  We are like specks of sand on a cosmic sea shore.  We roll in with tides and we roll out.  And much like the specks of sand on a beach, we have no way of seeing where the tides came from or where they might take us next.  The Hebrew name of God has traditionally been ineffable.  This less about taboo and more about the consonantal nature of the Hebrew language (there were no vowels).  Perhaps the ineffable name alludes to the ineffable existence of the god being written about.

The Divine Mystery

There are mysteries that have puzzled the minds of all who take time to think about anything beyond the mundane and menial tasks of our day-to-day lives.  The more we advance (or evolve) the more questions we answer and the smaller the enigmatic box of mysteries becomes.   It has been human nature to perceive the concept of a divine being with attributes and emotions much like our own that governs our existence and the laws and order of the cosmos.  We call this mystery of mysteries, this supreme entity – “God” and while we conceive a loftier and more immense being then ourselves, anything we do to define god with “authority” in essence puts a human box around that which is infinite, not human, and possibly completely unknowable. Thus, humanity has created a god in their own image and in a manner of their own understanding.  This perception is limited to an individual’s own experiences and knowledge which is often influenced by mentors, parents, and time immemorial.  Humanity has grappled with purpose and the enigmas of natural phenomena and while there is far more knowledge of biology, geology, and astronomy now than we had even a century ago, the mythical explanations of ancient times still influence society today. For example, it is an indisputable fact that the earth revolves around the sun, yet we still say sunrise and sunset.  Some still say the “stars come out at night” when they are actually “out” all the time and it is only when we rotate away from the direct rays of our sun that the light from the others become visible.

There is an unfortunate debate that somehow science is atheistic and that scientists work against the belief in a god.  This is unfortunate given the fact that it is science that enables us to see just how incredible it is to merely exist.  Especially when one considers the incredible odds stacked against each one of us during the process of conception through gestation and eventually to our birth.   The fight is one that has been going on for centuries and while many like to point to the scientists as being the culprits, history tells us a different story.  Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, and Bruno are all men who had faith and through research uncovered scientific facts that went against the common beliefs and positions of the church.  The church took the ignorant and intolerant position of branding these men heretics and in the case of Bruno – burning him at the stake for teaching facts.  When human inquiry and discovery uncovers facts that go against the common beliefs then we must reconsider what we believe rather than reject the facts.

How humanity has grappled with the mystery of existence has evolved.   Whether one relies on empirical evidence as their sole source of finding answers or not, it can really only satisfy the questions around the mere existence of physical things.  We still have the epistemological enigmas that are the basis of going beyond empirical evidence and beyond physics (metaphysics).  There was a time when man worshipped fire and then we began to understand it thereby stripping it of its divinity. The gods of ancient Greece and Rome were replaced by the invisible god of the Hebrews.  Humanity has now ventured into space and found no celestial palace in the skies that would have been the destination of Elijah’s flaming chariot or an ascending Jesus.

So now what?

Are we to revert to the Platonist philosophy of a Prime Mover?  Is existence random or is there perhaps a Pater Agnostos (unknown father)?  Perhaps this is the mystery of the Ineffable Divine Name of the Jewish tradition.  That even within a book claiming to tell “His” story, we are still incapable of knowing “His” name thus our conceptions are limited by our knowledge and our knowledge by our own experiences.

Perhaps to know God requires one to first know himself/herself, thus making the mystery personal.

Be the change..

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and ...

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and spiritual leader of India. Location unknown. Français : Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), Guide politique et spirituel de l’Inde. Lieu inconnu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have not been shy about expressing my opinions and sharing what I have learned in the realm of religion and philosophy. Just as society has gone through “ages’ of darkness and enlightenment, so have I as an individual. We live in an extremely materialistic world. A world where people are often judged and classed by what they possess and the influence they have rather than the content of their character. It is also evident that the less one is required to think about a topic, the more consumable it is for public discourse. When one takes a step back and looks at how far we have come scientifically, medically, and technologically it is difficult to understand why we are socially on a death spiral in the opposite direction.

How can a society that is charting DNA and uncovering the secrets of the human genome find television shows that claim to be reality when they are mere facades and staged fallacies displaying utter ignorance and Neanderthal behavior to be entertaining?

How can a society with the resources available to wipe out hunger across the globe instead squander the wealth by engaging in unnecessary combat?

How can a society claiming belief and reverence to a man who preached “what ye do to the least of my Brethren, ye do unto me” be more concerned about defending the wealth of the wealthy than the well-being of the poor?

There are some that believe that the rise of secularism in the world is the cause for the moral collapse of society and to those people I can only ask them to explain the Inquisitions and Holy Wars of the past and the lavish lifestyles of high-profile pastors and clergy today. The overwhelming majority of wars that have been fought in history were either for religion or imperialism and ironically enough, up until the 20th century imperialism itself was also tied to religion due to the perceived “divine right” of monarchs.

It is incumbent on all of us to find a way to move society forward in a rational, compassionate, and tolerant way. We cannot expect things to change without any effort of our own and we cannot expect or allow the discourse to be done without any effort of our own. It has been over 50 years since a vibrant and inspiring leader said “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I think this premise needs to be extended further as we now live in a more global centric world. The myth of one country being “greater” than another is not conducive to geo-political progress and it creates a vain and false sense of exceptionalism, which is counter productive in building relationships.

We all need to take a step back and consider that our personal worldview is limited by our personal education and experience. Just because we have grown up under certain conditions and beliefs does not mean that they are true or that they apply to everyone. The art of compromise has all but vanished in the halls of the U.S. government because of ideological stubbornness and the perception that compromising somehow is a relinquishing or surrendering of core values, when it is an essential part of managing cultural diversity.

So how is this in any way relevant in the Quest for Light you may be asking? Well, it is simple really. Take a look at how you spend your day. No doubt it is probably a repeatable routine that resembles a hamster in a spinning wheel. Do we look at the forest for the trees anymore? Do we spend time walking on something other than concrete or asphalt? Do we sit in the shade provided by something not consisting of trusses and plywood? Can we even see the stars anymore? Do we even look up?

We live a life with no evidence to support that anything will follow once we take our last breath. Life has a cycle that if you live long enough you eventually become just as helpless as you were when you were born. A full circle of life that ends almost exactly as it began, except instead of the promise and potential that comes with a new life we must consider what it is we did with all that promise and potential.

Darkness dissipates by a mere spark of light and a spark can cause a flame and a flame can lead to a fire. Gandhi once said to “be the change you wish to see“. I think it’s time we all stop waiting for change or praying for miracles and start doing something.

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
Albert Pike

Riding the cosmic tide

Amidst the chaos we see in nature and the universe, an underlying order exists.  An order that, while not seemingly perfect, somehow perpetuates unseen and almost unknown to those not attune to its existence.  Nature is filled with dichotomous processes and attributes that, while seemingly unnecessary for the finite human mind to perceive as relevant or “fair”, serve a purpose in the endless ebb and flow of the cosmos.  There cannot be darkness without light for without light one would never know they were in the dark.  There cannot be joy without sorrow for without one we would never be able to experience the other.  To experience a state of perfection we must acknowledge and overcome our own imperfections.  There are times when we should take a step back and reflect on ourselves.  Are we worthy of advancing further?  Are we giving our best effort in our present situation?  Are we really prepared to move on to the next phase in life or take on a new role in our professional careers?  While at times there are obstacles placed before us that may prevent us from advancing, we cannot automatically dismiss each lost opportunity or setback as something that we shouldn’t be reflecting on in order to build ourselves up.  The worst thing a person can do is let a situation get the better of them.  Once a person loses their drive and determination they risk sinking deeper to a place where negativity is king and that can be toxic.

Our very actions have implications on those around us whether intended or unintended.  If those actions are constantly negative or dwell on our inability to learn from the past rather than dwell on it, how are we ever going to move forward?  Today people openly judge others with indiscriminate prejudice and without regard to how their judgments may affect them.  Many people have a tendency to be unbelievably petty, shallow, egotistical, and callus.  It is all too common to jump to conclusions without even giving a single thought to what another person is going through and it exposes a shameful hypocrisy when we cast judgment on someone else’s character, while all the while engaging in the very thing we are condemning the other person for to begin with.  Regardless of your religious preferences the words “Judge not, lest ye yourselves be judged: for whatsoever judgment ye measure unto others, the same shall in turn be measured unto you.” (Matt 7:1-2) should be words we all live by.

In the world of social media we often see ourselves debating everything from politics to religion and from dogs to furniture.  The pen can in many ways still be more powerful than the sword.  This is especially true when the one holding the pen is aware of the emotions and sentiments they can both manipulate and cultivate with what they write.   Our opinions seem to flow freely when written and sometime that freedom lacks temperance.  Our words and our deeds are mere outward expressions of who we are and while many put up a good front, the facade eventually exposes itself the second another person traverses the walls we build around our true selves.  Substance and character comes from within and if we focus solely on what others perceive, we are merely building walls that once traversed exposes and empty open field.

We are all microcosms of the cosmos, no one being separate from the other.  So every storm we weather has its purpose and our actions rarely, if ever, affect ourselves alone.   Here is the dichotomy of our own existence.  We are to be true to ourselves yet live harmoniously with those around us.  Finding that balance is how we navigate through the ocean of time.

Can anyone “prove” God exists?

In the months since writing the post entitled Divine Science I have had a number of debates as to whether or not it is possible to prove God exists and I have never made the statement that God is a scientifically proven entity.   The evidence of the existence of God has long been an argument.  However, since there is no evidence to the contrary naturally it still remains a logical possibility.  This is not a scientific debate though; it’s a spiritual (or subconscious/emotional) one that Finger of Godif provable would propel the enigma of why evil exists to the forefront.  Part of the problem I think with the argument on proving the existence of “God” is the very defining of what “God” is or is not.

I, personally, am not a believer of an anthropomorphic deity.  You know the one that billions of people believe in and atheists completely detest and reject.  The God that judges and has had fits of rage that result in global flooding or fire and brimstone raining from heaven is an irrational concept to grasp or believe with any sense of reason.  Nor do I believe that God was a man who walked among us 2,000+ years ago in the flesh that had to subject himself to execution in order to forgive me for sins I hadn’t committed yet because that was the only way he could forgive me.  When you put God in a delusional dogmatic box like that, most rational people will not truly believe.  In fact, the only reason many people do believe it is because the genetic lottery caused them to be born into a family that believes it and thus the indoctrination as a young age begins.

That being said, something still compels many people to still believe in God even though they have managed to discard youthful things like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.  Part of it is obviously the fear factor – lack of belief in Santa or the bunny will not result in eternal damnation and proving they were myths was easy.  Yet there is also something within a person’s soul (or mind) that makes a distinction between God and the average run of the mill myths or beliefs.

Theists can be classed into one of three genres –

1. Unquestioning dogmatists, who believe exactly what they are told the Bible (or other sacred text) says.  By all outward appearances there is no questioning the existence of God, the infallibility of scriptures and the supernatural events that are attributed to God and those sent by God.

2. Cafeteria believers, who observe the major holidays and abide by the traditions (baptism, bar mitzvah, etc) because it is their “religion”.  They say they believe yet they couldn’t tell you what the primary doctrines are or even understand concepts like predestination or atonement.

3.  Heretics.  These are people who do not follow any religion and use either a comparative religious theology or a personal theology that is nondoctrinal and antidogmatic.  (Yes, I am often considered to be a heretic and I am proud of it)

Most of you know I study the “sacred texts” of numerous religions.  The Hermes archetype has existed since antiquity and will so long as people require hope for things not rationally obtainable.  Hermes was a transitional deity that acted as a messenger, intermediary, and conductor between the divine and mortal worlds.  The idea that mortal men could commune or speak with the gods was made possible through Hermes.  Oddly enough Hermeneutics, which is the art of textual interpretation, is derived from the name Hermes, who could also be considered the interpreter of the gods to men.  So whether you adopt the theology of the Odinist, the Wiccans, the Jews, Christians, Muslims or the Pastafarian you will not find “anything new under the sun” as theology and religion has been an ever evolving process; just like nature.

I have found that one of the best ways to put a reasonable argument around the existence of God is by blending multiple schools of thought together.  There are 2 primary schools of thought in Judaism – rabbinic and mystic.  In my opinion it is these 2 schools of thought that encompass what is needed to come to a sensible perception.  The Rabbinic thought is based on – “I shall be what I shall be” (not I am what I am).  The mystical side is based on the concept – “God is everything and God is nothing.”

When you incorporate these two together you get:

“I shall be everything and I shall be nothing.”

So, I really think it is a choice that each person has to make for themselves.  If you choose not to believe in God, then God does not exist to you.  If you have an inherited and shallow view of God, then you will have a shallow almost nonexistent God that is more an abstraction then reality.  If you truly and deeply believe in God, then God exists and makes a difference to you and how you live .

The Prayer of Manasseh

I have done some studying lately of the “Apocryphal” Scriptures and I must admit, a lot of them are better than some of the writings that are in the “official” canon.  Once such work is the Prayer of Manasseh.  This is an unbelieveably beautiful prayer that (like almost every other book of the Bible) has unknown authorship.  It predates the birth of Jesus by over 100 years.   According to the Books of Kings and Chronicles (2 Kings 21:1-18; 2 Chronicles 33:1-9), Manasseh was one of the most idolatrous kings of Judah .  According to Chronicles, Manasseh was taken captive by the Assyrians. (2 Chronicles 33:11-13) While he was a prisoner, Manasseh prayed for mercy, forgiveness and deliverance.   A reference to the prayer is made in 2 Chronicles 33:19, which says that the prayer is written in the “chronicles of the seers.”  While the prayer itself is lost to antiquity, this prayer is a result of what a Jewish sage likely felt was prayed.

The prayer was placed at the end of 2 Chronicles in the late 4th-century Vulgate (Pope Clement VIII wanted the prayer in an appendix to the Vulgate “lest it perish entirely.”)  It also appeared in the Apocrypha of the King James Bible in 1611.  My guess as to why the Jewish Canon excluded it was that it was a prayer of perpetual repentance which kind of nixes the Yom Kippur celebration (and the tithes and sacrifices that came with it).   

While the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches include it somewhere in their Bibles (whether within the context or as an appendix) and it does appear in the liturgy of some of the Eastern churches, the Protestant Churches reject it entirely.  My guess is that because it expresses repentance and forgiveness without a mediator  (this is true of Psalm 51 as well) that it somehow threatens the necessity of atonement by the Messiah.

The above being said – I love this prayer and I pray it every day now. 

Perhaps you may do the same.

The Prayer of Manasseh (RSV)

O Lord Almighty,
God of our fathers,
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous posterity;
thou hast made heaven and earth with all their order;
who hast shackled the sea by thy word of command,
who hast confined the deep
and sealed it with thy terrible and glorious name;
at whom all things shudder,
and tremble before thy power,
for thy glorious splendor cannot be borne,
and the wrath of thy threat to sinners is irresistible;
yet immeasurable and unsearchable is thy promised mercy,
for thou art the Lord Most High,
of great compassion, long-suffering, and very merciful,
and repentest over the evils of men.
Thou, O Lord, according to thy great goodness
hast promised repentance and forgiveness
to those who have sinned against thee;
and in the multitude of thy mercies
thou hast appointed repentance for sinners,
that they may be saved.
Therefore thou, O Lord, God of the righteous,
hast not appointed repentance for the righteous,
for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob,
who did not sin against thee,
but thou hast appointed repentance for me, who am a sinner.
For the sins I have committed are more in number than the sand of the sea;
my transgressions are multiplied,
O Lord, they are multiplied!
I am unworthy to look up and see the height of heaven
because of the multitude of my iniquities.
I am weighted down with many an iron fetter,
so that I am rejected because of my sins,
and I have no relief;
for I have provoked thy wrath
and have done what is evil in thy sight,
setting up abominations and multiplying offenses.
And now I bend the knee of my heart,
beseeching thee for thy kindness.
I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned,
and I know my transgressions.
I earnestly beseech thee,
forgive me,
O Lord, forgive me!
Do not destroy me with my transgressions!
Do not be angry with me for ever
or lay up evil for me;
do not condemn me to the depths of the earth.
For thou, O Lord, art the God of those who repent,
and in me thou wilt manifest thy goodness;
for, unworthy as I am,
thou wilt save me in thy great mercy,
and I will praise thee continually all the days of my life.
For all the host of heaven sings thy praise,
and thine is the glory forever.
Amen.

No need to fear, NO ONE will burn forever.

 As a result of my last couple of posts, and a few others from some of my friends in the blog-o-sphere, a big debate has spurred about eternal punishment and biblical literalism.  If  you haven’t figured it out by now I am pretty open from a theological perspective.  While I do heavily rely on and reference the Bible, it is not my only source of theological concepts.  There are other theologies and cosmological myths that predate the Bible.  Many of the concepts in the Abrahamic faiths were adopted by religions that preceded it.  While I try to uncover the wisdom within the great book I have found that many of the doctrines of the established church are either not biblical or literal interpretations of a hidden source of wisdom that only an inquisitive mind is capable of uncovering.  As a result doctrines like original sin, the trinity, predestination, biblical inerrancy, faith over deeds, and the rapture are dogmatic doctrines that have seeped their way in to a religion that was intended to be based on LOVE and not FEAR. 

OK.  Now that I let all that out, if any one is left let me turn to the defense of He who’s name we can’t pronounce and who’s essence no one will ever be able to comprehend.  First, we need to erase the myth that Jewish Scripture (or as the uninformed refer to it, Old Testament) is all about showing us how we are imperfect and destined for eternal punishment.  There are a few verses in Jewish Scripture that talk of God as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.”   There are so few that I can only rattle off a handful off the top of my head like: Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 4:31; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:5; Psalms 86:15; Psalms 108:4; Psalms 145:8; Joel 2:13….  These verses say crazy things like:  “Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches;  but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the LORD.” ” Jeremiah 9:23-24

Literalness is a cancer and does not do the Bible justice. The layered meanings are what matters the most. I for one get tired of seeing people who think they know scriptures and try to slap people around with passages as if they are holier than thou.  The problem is they use bits and pieces and take the passages out of context.  Worse yet, they take it literally and in the process completely miss the underlying and hidden meanings within.  If anyone were to think that I am making up the concept of reading in layers or that it is some failed Jewish concept, I suppose that these words are nowhere in the Bible:

“And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive.  For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’  But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.  Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. ” Matthew 13:11-17

“But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification.  None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:7-8

“The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”  1 Corinthians 2:14

To much scripture for one post?  Well,  I have often been accused of not using enough scripture to back up my opinions so the last thing I wanted was for anyone to accuse me of coming out here and creating an argument that I can’t back up. Let’s face it, in the hands of a madman the Bible can be equally as effective as it is in the hands of someone like Mother Teresa.  My opinion is it’s not Sunday-only finger food.  In order to be useful and understood it must be critically read and  investigated.  Not just quoted by a pastor or an easy bake devotional.

Now, I have given a concept of a pure, loving, and merciful God that is not an angry tyrannical narcissist.  If you can refute my claim that NO ONE WILL SUFFER ETERNAL TORMENT than feel free to do so. My question is – Why in the – firey made up place for eternal torture that doesn’t exist – would you want to defend such a horrible concept?

Reason vs. Religion

Nothing defines the battle that is going on in my mind more than the words Reason vs. Religion. A child-like faith is not possible to the open and contemplative mind. It is Masonic philosophy that faith begins where reason ends and this is unequivocally true. How would someone deduce with any shred of reason events like the 10 plagues, Jonah and the giant fish, and the resurrection of Jesus? What about the pillar of fire by night and smoke by day, the parting of the Red Sea, the turning of water into wine (that I would love to learn) or even the Apocalypse?

The fact is you can’t rationally explain any of these things, nor with any facts prove that they actually occurred, but this is where faith comes in. Faith allows one to believe that the laws of science and nature can be suspended and that the Creator is capable of anything. While I do not personally believe that any of the events I have stated actually happened, I cannot resign myself to believe that the same Supreme Source of all things is governed by what we as people perceive as the laws of science and nature.

So am I rejecting the Holy Scriptures?

No, not really. It is necessary to acknowledge that the Holy Scriptures are the works of men and regardless of whether they were divinely inspired or not, no original manuscripts exist and there is a constant debate over what manuscripts are the most authoritative. As such, given that they are the works of men, I do not view the Scriptures as being inerrant and without flaws. For the Jewish Scriptures (or the Christian Old Testament) is the Masoretic or Septuagint the most accurate and authoritative text? What about the New Testament? Are the Textus Receptus, the Alexandrian Text, the Byzantine text, the Codex Vaticanus, or the Codex Sinaticus the most accurate and authoritative text? When translated what is the most accurate? The KJV, NKJV, NIV, TNIV, MKJV, ESV,NASB,NET, NLT, NWT,NJT,JPS….

But 2 Timothy 3:16 says:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Yes, this is true however at that time the New Testament didn’t exist and I can assure you Paul didn’t think he was writing scripture. The only scriptures that existed at that time was the Jewish Scriptures (or Old Testament). To circle back to my position on the Holy Scriptures and what my opinion of them is. Please consider that I refer to them as the Holy Scriptures, Holy Writings, or the Great Light. So while I do not consider them without error, I do sincerely believe they are inspired in some form or fashion and that within those texts all of life’s trials can find answers, pain can find solace, and sorrow can find comfort. That is not to say that other sacred writing are of no use though. The Holy Quran, the Zend-Avesta, and the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Emerson, Locke, Hall, and Pike – just to name a few – are unquestionably inspirational and worthy of study.

But which one wins, Reason or Religion?

Well, let’s do some comparative analysis:

  • Religion can not reveal the chemical properties of salt and Reason can not reveal the source of love.
  • Religion can not accurately explain the source of life and the creation of the cosmos, neither can Reason.
  • Religion gives hope and Reason leads to inquiry and knowledge.
  • Religion gives a person a moral compass and Reason enables a man to determine right from wrong.
  • Religion is restrictive and at times oppressive, Reason deems everyone to be equal and of independent thought.

It is my belief that a person can be happy with either religion or reason. However, faith in God and adhering to the rites and tenets of a religion does not automatically bring a person happiness and the use of Reason does not automatically make a person intelligent or an intellectual superior. As with all things they must both exist and it is the responsibility of the individual to find the right balance.

Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear. ~ Thomas Jefferson

The “power” of the mind and prayer

The human mind is an incredibly powerful and amazing creation. When you think (pun intended) about the things the mind is capable of you have to wonder why the words I can’t are in anyone’s vocabulary. The subconscious mind controls the senses, the emotions, and the essential life systems and cycles of the body. The mind truly is a terrible thing to waste on some of the mundane silliness we seem to waste it on this days (ie. “Reality TV”)

If the mind is capable of creating an entirely parallel universe while you are dreaming and if we, as it is written, are created in the image of our Creator, how can anyone doubt, question, or even fathom the limits of the power of the mind? The even greater power of collective consciousness can even be physical felt by those around it, whether they wanted to feel it or not. Collective consciousness is, in simple terms, a group of people thinking and focusing on the same thing. The easiest examples are pep rallies, funerals, and even a business conference room. Think of the almost electric positive vibe you can feel at a pep rally, the somber sadness you can feel during a funeral, or the tension in a conference room when opposing parties are engaged in a serious ideological debate.

So what does this have to do with prayer?

When someone prays it is a deep mental process (unless it’s a shallow recitation or going through the motions). So depending on the depth of a person’s consciousness, a prayer by a single person can very easily change their mood and perceptions of their situation. Now, add a few people who have the depth of consciousness and who knows the possibilities. This is where some “prayer circles” may have the “power” to impact their surroundings. I’m not saying a group of people can form a prayer circle and eliminate cancer, however imagine if for a few moments the entire planet at the same time focused on the same topic… The outcome could be astounding. I realize this may seem completely irrational to the secular mind. To those people I revert to my previous examples of the energy at a pep rally and the somberness you can feel at a funeral and ask them to come up with a better explanation than collective consciousness.

Do you know someone who is extremely persuasive? You know, that friend who can talk you into anything or that sales guy who can sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Have you considered the fact that this is a person, whether they know it or not, had the ability to use their mind to influence yours? Think of the scores of motivational speakers, religious teachers, even regular teachers that with their words (which originate from their mind) plant seeds of hope and knowledge into the minds of the people they speak to. These seeds then grow into other thoughts based on that person’s perspective of what they thought they heard.

In today’s world people really don’t use their minds as much anymore. The rise of technology have made things like spelling and grammar to be unnecessary skills. Studying and reading have been replaced with television and video games. As smart as we think we are, we are probably less intelligent than people were just a century ago. Think of people like Thomas Jefferson, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, and even further back – Pythagoras. Do we have anyone even remotely comparable to these people? In ages past some people, like Nostradamus, were so in touch with their subconsciousness that they could pinch the ripple of time and predict events that would occur centuries later.

The power of human thought is immeasurable. Sincerely focused prayer from a non-dogmatic perspective is literally a person tapping into the innermost recesses of their mind and consciousness. The possibilities of those thoughts really could be limitless.

Think about it.