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?

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 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.

I went to church today…

Holy Week at Santhome Basilica, Chennai (HDR)

Holy Week at Santhome Basilica, Chennai (HDR) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been a while since I walked into a church, today I broke that streak.  My ability to write this blog rules out any indication that I was struck by lightning for walking in those doors.  I also regret to inform my Christian friends eager for me to be born again that that didn’t happen either.  I did enjoy the service very much though and as with any occasion when the person in the pulpit is actually well-educated in scripture in a non-dogmatic way, I learned something and was impressed with his perspective.  The service focused around Paul’s letter to the Philippians and how it was a testament to the importance of prayer.  The pastor wove the necessity of prayer into how it can affect our relationships with other people.  I don’t know if the folks were listening, but he pretty much blasted the notion of self-serving prayer and crisis hotline prayers – this was a very good message!   Naturally, I went on with my day and was looking forward to everyone going to sleep so that I could take the time to read the entire Letter of Paul to the Philippians just so that I could get the complete context – yes, I will always be skeptical of another person’s method of scriptural exegesis.  It is a very short epistle and I will have to admit it is one of Paul’s better writings.  I read it in its entirety in both the KJV and the NIV and was happy to see the pastor didn’t spin it out of context.  This was a nice discovery because my kids really enjoyed the youth activity that was going on while the “big people were in the big room”.

So why did I go to church?’

Well, to be honest my kids need more stuff to do and they have some really good friends that go there and my wife and I figured it would be a good thing for them.  Mind you my wife is about as secular as it gets so if she is telling me we should go to a church, it has to be divine intervention.  The kids had a blast and want to go back so we will.

What happened to me converting to Judaism?

I can’t go through a conversion because I refuse to go into anything halfway.  This means a conversion to really be legit, I would need to go Orthodox.  That kind of thing affects more than just me, it affects the entire family.  And while I thoroughly enjoy Torah study, I do not believe any writings of man to be infallible and I still found a lot of value in the New Testament and it is really hard not to admire the character of Jesus.

So am I a Christian?

If being a Christian means that I revere the character of Jesus, respect his teachings above all others, and believe that by following his example is the manner in which a person can live a moral life – than the answer would be yes.

If being a Christian means that I believe Jesus is God and should be worshiped, and that faith in his death and resurrection will wipe away all my sins and that is all I need to go to heaven – than the answer is no.

My mind is full of ideas for more posts – this may be a busy week here at The Quest so stay tuned.

What is the true nature of God?

English: Vitruvian man by Leonardo da Vinci

Image via Wikipedia

With all the pain and suffering we see in the world one of the primary weapons an atheist has against the concept of deity is why an all-loving and father-like deity would allow bad things to happen. As we have advanced in science and technology the concept of an anthropomorphic deity is a very difficult concept to defend. Many people casually dismiss the argument with statements like “The Lord works in mysterious ways” or “Trust in the Lord”, but I am pretty sure in the back of most people’s minds the question of “Why?” and the statement “it’s not fair” still lingers. Blind faith is not easy for the contemplative mind and it is almost impossible to measure with any sense of reason. I know what some of you are thinking, “We can’t understand the nature of the Divine”, but I think that’s because we try to humanize the Divine way to much. Rather than try to measure ourselves up to it, we diminish the greatness of that great unknown element of the first and perpetual cause of the cosmos by applying human attributes.

Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Mormon, or Muslim all of scripture originates in the Torah. Regardless of your stance on reliability of translations, divine inspiration, historical accuracy, or the infallibility of the text there is one undeniable truth that no one can dispute – It was written by men in an attempt to explain the unexplainable. What if we, the more technologically advanced version of the Patriarchs, are completely missing the point? What if understanding the concept of deity is really achieved by making a real earnest effort at understanding ourselves?

The human body is essentially a microcosm of the universe and the brain a mini version of the Divine. I realize this borders on heresy to some of you, but bear with me here. The Divine is in complete control of all creation, much like the mind is in complete control of the body right? Then why did you let yourself stub your toe the other day? Why did you say such a harsh thing that you later claim you really didn’t mean? Why did you cheat? Why do you allow yourself to get a paper cut? Why is your hair not cooperating with your comb? Why do you have to brush your teeth to prevent decay? These things happened and you didn’t want them to. I thought the brain controlled everything.

Getting the point? There is a difference between Divine Consciousness and Divine Control.

I am pretty sure you have gotten angry and snapped at someone and then regret it later. Is that your mind admonishing your instinctive reaction? You ever forget something and then remember it later? If you remembered it, you really didn’t forget it. (ie. “The Lord remembered Noah“) How can I be so bold as to say we are like the Divine? Need I remind you that we are “created in the image and likeness” of the Divine. Perhaps getting to know the nature of the Divine is only achievable when we try to understand ourselves. Meditation and prayer to many, have been ways to relax and to find solace. It is a bit ironic that this is an exercise you do on your own. But are you really alone? When you close your eyes and clear your mind, focusing on each breath as it enters your lungs and is then released, you aren’t alone. In fact this is probably the only time you are focusing on your breathing when your brain has been gauging the activity of your lungs since conception. When we were created we received the “breath of life” and that one breath started a reaction within us that continues with every single breath we take and just as our body evolves, so does the rest of creation.

Perhaps the answers to our questions have actually be in right in front of us the whole time – looking right back at us in the mirror.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light

In His image?

Life is full of trials and tribulations. We live in a world that has become so morally corrupt that many of us find ourselves questioning our own morality. The sad thing is many don’t even bother and have chosen to make themselves the center of the universe and that is a big problem. Especially when it’s done at the expense of those around you.  We elevate the most detestable people to almost god-like status and mock those who are open about their faith and believe they are accountable to a higher power, regardless of what that faith might be. We judge people without first putting ourselves in their shoes and we show favoritism to those whom we feel it would benefit us to do so.
 
Science and technology have changed the world so much that society has almost completely forgotten that there is an author of the laws of science and the revealer of hidden knowledge.  If we hold ourselves accountable to each other, while this is a valid pretense, it is not enough. The changes in culture and society have created a mindset of “I can do whatever I want and I don’t care what anyone thinks”.
 
What happened to Love your neighbor as yourself?
 
Since when did our own personal satisfaction outweigh the burden it could place on someone else?
 
Since when has aiding the distressed widow, orphan, and poor become someone else’s job?
 
When did charity become anything other than an obligation we have to each other?
 
We have lost our way and the less value we place on the lives of others the easier it becomes to turn a blind eye to abuse and to kill people because they live a certain lifestyle or follow a path we disagree with. When people feel this way, then the governments they control adjust their policies. When countries refuse to listen to each other than war is imminent.  If to many countries begin to fight each other than the results can be catastrophic.
 
The scariest part of all is this is it is a continuous cycle. Mankind goes through periods of enlightenment and then periods of darkness. In the Torah the creation account ends each day with “there was evening and morning”.   Have you ever wondered why this is stated and why it is repeated with each of the successive days?
 
Evening = Darkness
Morning = Light
 
Out of darkness came light and each day requires both to be complete.  Everything requires its opposing force in order to find equilibrium.  Darkness and Light, Good and evil, male and female, love and hate, liberty and oppression.  One cannot exist without  the other.
As people we can never be perfect.
 
Or can we?
 
What if “in His image” really meant it?  Is our Creator both good and evil?   What if “let US make man” meant a good god and a bad god?  That would go against the grain of monotheism and the concept of one Sovereign of the Universe. Some say our Creator is not evil and is all good.  Is that true?  How many babies died in the flood?  How many babies died during the Passover?  These were not holocausts inflicted by man like what the Nazis did.  This was a Divine action.
 
What if the Torah, the Christian Bible, and the Quran are just story books? Loosely based on facts, but mostly allegories and myths designed to teach lessons and an attempt to comprehend that Great Source of all things?
 
What if the concept of an interventional deity is completely bogus?  Not because of scripture, but because of what we see happening every single day.  If we were created with free-will out of love so that we would not be divine puppets, how can a loving father-like deity allow so much pain?  Why are innocent little children allowed to be molested and murdered? If Jesus, God, Hashem, Elohim, or Allah is an all loving God watching over us, why do these terrible things happen?
 
The argument against our Creator is the same argument that can be use to prove the existence.
 
As you gaze up at the stars and get lost in the cosmos, what do you see?
 
When you stare into a campfire at night, what do you see?
 
When you sit at the edge of the sea-shore and watch the tides roll in, what do you see?
 
When you walk outside and feel the wind blowing against your face, what do you feel?
 
The stars are beautiful, but an asteroid can fall from the heavens and vaporize everything on earth.
 
A fire can be hypnotic, can keep you warm, and provide energy.  It can also destroy everything in its path and cause a very painful death to any living thing.
 
The ocean can be soothing and provides life to billions of animals.  It can also create massive storms and tidal surges that can decimate everything in its path.
 
The wind can provide comfort on a hot day.  It can also form into a tornado and within a matter of second destroy everything that feels its touch.
 
Our every action has a corresponding reaction. Words once spoken can never be taken back and a heart once broken can never be fully mended.  The allegorical evils attributed to the Divine in all forms of scripture are myths. They are always tied to an evil provocation and the intent is to show a measure for measure form of Divine justice. This too is an allegory that shows that we have both darkness and light within us and that we ultimately decide our path.  The path we take does not just impact our own life but every person around us.
 

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light