What if?

Recently I had a very deep philosophical discussion with an atheist friend of mine. It’s always a very engaging discourse and always sparks thoughts in my mind about what my beliefs are, what they aren’t, and how they’ve evolved over the past several years. The overwhelming question is always the same though: What if?

What if there is no life after death?
What if love is just a chemical reaction in the brain?
What if the Bible is just Bronze Age mythological nonsense?
What if God does not exist?

Could billions of people have been duped into what those with “enlightened minds” consider simple-minded dogmatic nonsense? Have countless hours of Bible Study, Torah teachings, and Sunday Sermons over the course of the last 2000 years been an abominable waste of time and effort? I would be lying if I said that I haven’t questioned with boldness the existence of God or the reliability and credibility of the Bible. To truly believe requires the suspense of reason and a leap of faith. However, one could argue that to not believe also requires a similar leap. Does belief in God and the study of Scriptures parallel what the modern organized churches execute? Maybe the question could be posed as – What if the churches have got it all wrong? It’s pretty clear that many of them get it very wrong. I recall a gentle and kind Jewish man saying “Love one another” and another one saying “faith without works is dead“. Yet we see angry people cursing, judging, and condemning other people because of “sinful lifestyles”. That’s a bit hypocritical don’t you think? Especially when “judge no one” is a tenet. We could go into the not so distant past to see a number of church led atrocities, but that’s not a path to take for this post. The fact is that to many churches place dogmas over morals and tithing over charity.

True religion is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27

So let’s take the position of atheism. Let’s say God doesn’t exist and that the Bible is irrelevant. Then we are merely carbon based globs of cells with no purpose, no significance, and no accountability. We are just specks of dust amidst a vast immeasurable universe. Love, compassion, morality, and evil are mere chemical reactions equivalent to burps and farts. Well, that’s a pretty bleak view isn’t it? Of course the secular defense would be that morality and justice in a godless world are possible because they “feel right” and are qualified by using “reason” and “common sense”. Well, where do those things come from? There has to be a common thread that weaves all mankind together when it comes to matters of morality, love, and the thirst for knowledge and truth.

What if God is incomprehensible?
What if the Bible needs to be studied (personal studies not just in a group) in order to be understood?
What if love is the breath of the divine within our souls?
What if our sense of morality is a divine influence?

The idea that our existence is just pure happenstance could be a fact, however there is no reason we have to live it that way. If our lives are the only lives we will ever have, shouldn’t we be as productive as we can and leave a legacy, maybe leave the world just a little better than when we got here? Science can explain a lot of things, but why let it reduce us to a state of hopeless meaninglessness

It has often been said that there are no atheists in foxholes. The idea being that when a person finds themselves in a life threatening situation or is in the deepest state of despair they always look up. They cry out to someone. Sure, they may not recite a prayer or cry out “My God, why have you abandoned me?“. But, they do cry out, they say “why me?” or “what did I do to deserve this?”. Well, just who the heck do you think you are talking to? What if it’s God and you just don’t realize it?

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?

The Apocalypse Revisited

It is always darkest before the dawn. So if there is to be an ending in which evil falls and good finally prevails, then an apocalyptic showdown is inevitable. Much has been written on the matter and none of it comes without some level of allegory or esoteric context. Whether they be Biblical, natural, or philosophical, any prophecy or prediction of how it will all end is merely hypothetical. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the concept that the same essence that created life, the cosmos, and the intricate laws which govern it, did so with the intent of destroying it all at some point. However if that be the case, I would like to offer my view as to how this final showdown will play out. I will use as my reference the themes found in the following Biblical texts: Genesis, Job, Daniel, Ezekiel, Matthew, John, Revelation, and personal inspiration (quite possibly divine in nature).

The world is in darkness and immorality reigns supreme. The rejection of the Creator is commonplace and people worship money and put faith in themselves. Then suddenly there was a windstorm coming out of the north —an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light and the earth is unraveled and laid flat. Then from within the light a royal court appears. There are 3 thrones, a large throne and 2 smaller thrones, one to the left of the large throne and one to the right. In the larger throne is a being that is made of pure Light. The body is like gold and silver and the face is unable to be seen due to the brightness emanating from it. Seated to the right is a man in a white robe with gold piping. He looks as human as everyone else, with a gentle and familiar face. The throne to the left is vacant and made of pure gold with red velvet padding. Then the being in the center speaks and the voice booms like thunder “Where is the Accuser, the Prince of the Earth?” Then the man in the throne to the right rises and says, “Father, Sovereign of the Universe, he is roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it”. Then he said, “Prince of the Earth, come forth.” Suddenly another man appeared seated in the throne to the left. He looked very similar to the man in the throne on the right except his robe was worn and ashy. He spoke, “Eternal One, what is your command?” Suddenly, the people realized that the being in the center throne was God and to his right was Jesus, the Prince of Heaven and to his left Lucifer, the Prince of the Earth. Then God said, “All will be judged”. Then Jesus and Lucifer rose up from their thrones and faced God, both bowed and Jesus spoke first. “Eternal One, I have the righteous and plead their case. They fed the hungry, provided drink to the thirsty, and comforted those who fell by the wayside.” The God said, “What of the faithful?” and Jesus said “Faith without works is dead”. Then God spoke to Lucifer, “What say you of the condemned?” Then Lucifer said, “You commanded me to test the faithful and to lure the weak. This I have done and many have strayed from your ways.” Suddenly there was thunder and lighting and a smoldering abyss of fire and smoke appeared. “This will be the eternal place of torment for all who have fallen short of my ways.” God said. Lucifer fell to his knees and cried, “Eternal King, I did your bidding. You sent me to tempt and I tempted, you sent me to accuse and I accused. Their souls were weak because of me. Show mercy on them.” Then God said, “They showed no mercy to the poor and destitute. Why should I show mercy upon them?” Then Jesus said, “They rejected my teachings and served themselves. Why should they enter the kingdom?” Then God said to Lucifer, “Do you take the blame for those you have deceived?” Then Lucifer bowed again, “I do”. Then Lucifer said, “I have put every evil thought in their mind and prodded them to do evil. It is because of me that all have failed”. Then God said, “I gave all of them the Prince of Heaven too. Yet, they chose you over him. Why should I not condemn them?” Then Lucifer said, “If it be your will condemn them, but you must condemn me as well”. Then Jesus said, “Father, I shall take this cup.” Then God said, “My son, you already have”. Jesus said, “There is no greater love than of the one who will lay down his life for his friends and the Prince of the Earth has offered to pay their price just as I did. Should the price be paid again?” “Now, in the final hour are all are to be forgiven?” said God. “You created every living thing and when man chose to take the yoke of knowledge of both good and evil, many times they choose evil.” Jesus said. “Yet, the Prince of the Earth was tempting them the whole time, making the path of evil easier than the path of righteousness. How are they to compete with the power of the Prince of the Earth? He was the craftiest of all your creations.” Then Lucifer said, “I am powerless before you Great King. For aeons I have suffered separation from you and tempted your creation. I did your bidding and now I take this yoke and accept their punishment.” Then God said, “My children, all will be forgiven. Those of who have done evil must first be cleansed and then they will enter my kingdom.” Lucifer bowed to God and then bowed to Jesus. Jesus picked Lucifer up and embraced him. The final battle is ended.

I have quoted several lines of scripture in this story. I have also written it in 3 layers. To many of you the surface layer may contradict what you believe to be church doctrine. You are going to have to look past that and dig deeper. As always comments and emails are welcome.

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?

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

Life is a blessing, not a curse

Sometimes it is all to easy to forget just how lucky a person is to just be alive and well.  The fact that we are even born is nothing short of a miraculous event.  It is a hard-fought battle just for the seed to make it to the egg to begin with and then once it does, there are so many things that can go wrong before the embryo actually becomes a little person.  Even then a myriad of other things varying from irregular heart beats, to slowly developing kidneys, to autism, and even death can still occur while in the womb.  If by chance you are lucky enough (blessed is a better word) to be born, even more challenges lie ahead as one goes from infant to toddler to child to adolescent to adult.

With life itself, being the miracle that it is, why do some people seem to be more concerned about an “after-life” instead of enjoying the every day miracle of life?  Why do some religious teachings harp on how wretched we are or even worse, that we are cursed at birth due to someone else’s impulsive dietary error?

Life is a blessing. To deny that is to destroy the basis of all religion, natural and revealed. The very foundation of all religion is laid on the firm belief that life is good; and if this life is an evil and a curse, no such belief can be rationally entertained. – Albert Pike
And why hope for an after-life?  Why not enjoy the life you actually have?  We have no guarantees in this life, so the idea that there is an everlasting one that follows defies reason and logic.
 
Wait, don’t panic…. I am not saying there is no life after death.
 
What I am saying is that regardless of what religions teach, we really don’t know what comes after death.   So we should focus a lot more on this life.  If you are reading this then you probably have a computer or a smart phone (or a friend does and they printed it for you).  You probably also live in a house with running water and electricity.  Did you know that those very simple things alone – things that you can’t imagine living your life without – make you wealthier than at least a BILLION other people on this planet?  Yet, there is little doubt in my mind that you probably wish you had more.  I am guilty of wanting more as well sometimes, however I have gotten a lot better at appreciating the things that I have and not “coveting” the things I see that others may have. 
 
If people spent more quality time with their families and less time at work, more time outdoors and less inside watching trash TV, more time being thankful for what they have instead of always wanting more; maybe, just maybe life can be seen as the blessing that it actually is.
 
Typically a cancer patient wants just one thing – to live.   Why should a healthy person be any different?
 
Life is a blessing.  Live it!
 
 
 

Beware the Golden Calf

Worshiping the golden calf, as in Exodus 32:1-...

Worshiping the golden calf, as in Exodus 32:1-35, illustration from a Bible card published 1901 by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Biblical tradition after the Israelites were liberated from bondage of the Pharoah of Egypt they arrived at Mt. Sinai where the first and only mass revelation of the Almighty Creator of the world occurred.  The mountain was shrouded in thick smoke and fire blazed as the voice of the Almighty uttered the Decalogue (or 10 Commandments).  The people feared for their lives and begged Moses to go up to the mountain and act as an intermediary between themselves and this awesome manifestation of the Creator.  So Moses went up the mountain where it is believed the rest of the Torah (or first 5 books of the Bible) were communicated to him over the course of 40 days.

Apparently it only took 40 days for this awesome revelation to be forgotten and the Israelites demanded Moses’ brother Aaron to create a new God for them.  So all the gold was collected and the Golden Calf appeared.   It’s amazing how quickly the people turned to a new god after witnessing the awesome power of the Creator.  When Moses came down from the mountain he was outraged at the idolatry, destroyed the tablets and ordered the execution of thousands before going back up the mountain to beg for forgiveness and receive the Torah again.

It is very unlikely that this Biblical Account is based on an actual event that occurred.  To be totally honest, it doesn’t have to be based on a true event to teach a very important message.  The Bible is a highly allegorical book with veiled teachings and very little of it should be taken literally.  It has been a long tradition, that still exists to this day, to teach lessons – especially ones about life and morality – using stories (or parables).  This is why Rabbis and scholars have studied the Bible so much for thousands of years.  

So, let’s look at this allegorically and with a touch of rationalism.

Why on earth would people who had just witnessed the undeniable revelation of the Almighty start worshiping a Golden Calf?  Surely if you or I had witnessed something like this we would never had resorted to the worship of an inanimate object, right?

Wrong.

The Golden Calf is still around today and is worshiped by more people than any other god that has ever been worshiped.  In fact, at one point in time everyone reading this (myself included) has worshiped the Golden Calf.  Not the physical one, but what it actually represents.

Gold = wealth, money, power

Calf = food, sustenance, possessions

Combine the 2 and you have the formula for the root of all evil – greed.

So what’s the lesson?

We should not think that the world revolves around us.  That our problems are bigger than someone else’s.  That we are more deserving than someone else to have a bigger house or a larger income.  That personal wealth makes us better than our friends. The thought that the person who works at Wal-Mart or McDonald’s is any less of a person than the CEO of a major corporation is detestable and immoral.  The Golden Calf represents the dangers of people relying on the physical things to make themselves happy or to calculate their worth.  It’s not what’s in your bank account that defines you, it’s what’s in your heart and your mind.

In addition to not valuing the physical and monetary is the necessity to revere God.  God, is not a tyrant and not an anthropomorphic judgemental deity.  God, in the simplest of terms, is the essence of life and the origin of love and morality.

The lesson is to value life and to love one another and that morality really matters.  To accept the fact that there is something beyond our comprehension that enables life and weaves together the fabric of time and space.  That nothing we gather in life goes with us when we die.  So rather than focus all our energy on ourselves, we should focus it more on those around us.

Beware the Golden Calf.

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.

The Blood, The Word, and the Reason

There are 2 passages of scripture that almost everyone has heard at one point in their life regardless of whether they are religious or not:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

and

For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish…” John 3:16

The first passage is clear. All things come from God. No other being. The ultimate sovereign of the universe is God and only God. And as Deuteronomy 6:4 states: “Hear O Israel the Lord our God is One”. There is only one God and there is not a multiplicity of this God nor is there any other being – good or evil – equal to God.

So why would the second passage be necessary? Why would the Creator of all things and Master of the Universe have to sacrifice his “son” for anything? I personally have a hard time with the concept that God would have to do anything to forgive me outside of let say… Forgiving me.

This is where context and an allegorical exegesis of scripture is needed. The kind of things mainstream preachers would denounce as heresy. Frankly, I’d rather interpret scripture for myself than let someone who’s paid to do it do it for me. Jewish tradition has always held to individual commentary of scripture because only the Decalogue (10 commandments) is “etched in stone”. The Talmud, Mishnah, and Zohar are examples of that continuous search for hidden meaning. Jesus himself used parables to provide his interpretation of the Torah and the Psalms and the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are perhaps the best interpretation of Torah ever uttered.

We are in the midst of Passover, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday. I personally believe that there is a deeper allegorical meaning in all of these mythological events. However to keep this blog post under a thousand words, I am going to focus on the Passion of Jesus from a non-dogmatic and allegorical perspective.

The primary verse in all of Christian scripture is John 3:16. It is this verse that billions of Christians base their faith and belief in Jesus. What if there is an entirely different meaning than the one developed by the early church fathers? A tradition that was formed then that has snow-balled into a religion that worships Jesus instead of following him. Let’s take a look at another series of passages:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” – John 1:1

“and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” – John 1:14

Now I am going to paste all of these passages together:
In the beginning the One and only God created the heavens and the earth. From God’s word all things were created and through God’s word all men can be one with Him for eternity. Man was created in the image of God and wanted to be God, so man rejected the Word. Man became a mortal being and God had compassion on him. Many times God had compassion on man and many times man rejected his Word. So God made the Word into flesh so that man could know God face to face and have a living example of the Word. Once again man rejected the Word and rejected the Word by shedding blood. Man can reject God’s Word but, that will never destroy it. So therefore God so loved the world that he gave us his Word and whoever believes in God and follows his Word will be one with God for all eternity.

I know what you are thinking. I used a lot more passages than I said I was going to do. To be completely honest every single word I just wrote came from somewhere in the Bible. (all are easy to find)

But wait, there’s more. I am obviously not going to leave you hanging without talking about the actual death of Jesus. The death of Jesus was a tragedy. The greatest of all Rabbis who wanted nothing more than to teach everyone the sum total of the Word:

“Love your neighbor as yourself”. The lesson was so important that Jesus even gave us an example of the most profound act of love a person can show anyone “that a man lay down his life for his friends”.

In a world so technologically advanced it is difficult for many people to believe the miracles attributed to Biblical characters. It is also very difficult to accept that some of the very violent forms of punishment in the Bible can be attributed to a merciful and loving God. Whether the characters in the Bible actually lived or whether the events recorded actually happened is irrelevant. What is so ever critical to remember is that it doesn’t really matter what the Bible says – it is the underlying meaning that matters the most.

The Bible is unique in that it can be interpreted in so many ways – good and bad. I personally believe that to truly understand it you need to keep reading it.