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Thoughts on the Boston Bombing

By now, you’ve heard of the explosions at the Boston Marathon. I wasn’t there on Monday, but I was at the finish line years ago when I lived in Boston while attending college.

In the late seventies, the race ended at the Pru in Back Bay. It’s always held on Patriot’s Day, and we had no classes that day. Some friends and I would climb on a particular sign that was wide enough to sit on and which gave a nice view of the finish line. I think it was my idea for us to “air paddle” in unison while astride the sign. A photo of us got into the Boston Globe one year. We made a few people laugh.

This year’s marathon won’t be remembered for much laughing.

At this writing, there is no conclusion about who executed this bombing, and I imagine it’ll be a long time for the clues to be discovered, pieced together, and made public.

This reminds me of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Though this event preceded the 9/11 attacks, rumors immediately spread that a Muslim organization was behind it. That this turned out to be domestic terrorism was a reminder that there’s lots of violence to go around, and we mustn’t jump to conclusions.

Another bombing

Speaking of bombs, did you hear about the dirty bomb plot planned for Obama’s first inauguration in January, 2009? This wasn’t something caught at the border or uncovered in another country. This one was being built domestically.

As with Oklahoma City, the guy behind the plot wasn’t an Al-Qaeda terrorist. James Cummings lived in a small town in Maine. He was a 29-year-old white supremacist who displayed a swastika flag in his home and claimed to own pieces of Hitler’s personal silverware. He was furious at Obama’s election and the bomb was to be his response.

Oh yeah—and he reportedly received $10 million per year from a trust fund.

But here’s the really crazy part of the story: detective work didn’t uncover this plot. Investigators only found out about it after Cummings’ wife killed him with two bullets to the head while he slept, barely a month before Obama’s inauguration. He was well on his way to making the bomb, and investigators found thorium and depleted uranium (bought online) as well as instructions and ingredients for making a bomb.

This doesn’t sound like someone who fit into any of the usual bins. Sounds like a man-bites-dog event that should make it a widely distributed story. Or is its violation of the stereotype why the story isn’t more widely known? Would a Muslim plot foiled in Yemen have made news while a millionaire, wife abusing, white supremacist plot foiled by accident in small-town Maine didn’t?

Maybe Muslim anger is behind the Boston bombing; maybe it’s not. Let’s not speculate too much until the facts are in.

News outlets not 100% reliable.

There’s another takeaway from the Boston bombing for me. A powerful emotional story like this one is a good place to look for change over time. For example, I heard that police had found one unexploded bomb in addition to the two that exploded. Later, I heard that they’d found five.

It turns out that authorities never found any.

And did you hear about the guy who planned to propose after he reached the finish line, but his fiancée-to-be was killed in the blast? Did you hear about the young girl, “running for the Sandy Hook victims,” who was killed? Did you get the tweet that race organizers would pay a dollar for every retweet?

These are sticky stories, but all of them are untrue.

Celebrities have (predictably) jumped in. Many have already speculated about the causes. Michael Moore tweeted “2+2 =.” What’s that supposed to mean? That it’s easy to connect the dots to point to some right-wing nutjob?

A conservative radio commentator tweeted, “[the bombing] stinks to high heaven #falseflag,” which presumably suggests that the bombing isn’t what it appears to be. Maybe that it’s a conspiracy by some left-wing nutjob?

The more important a story, the more it will pick up “improvements” over time. Given what we’ve seen in the first 24 hours after the bombing, imagine how the story of Jesus would’ve changed over its first 24 years.

Be a good guest at the dinner table of life
— A.C. Grayling

Photo credit: TMZ

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Richard S. Russell

    All America is alarmed at the Boston bombings.

    You know what they call the comparable event in Afghanistan?

    Monday.

    Your tax dollars at work.

    • JohnH

      Is there something special about Monday? I thought Tuesday-Sunday were fairly similar in this regard over there.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        My guess is that Richard was simply noting that the bombings happened on a Monday.

  • http://Newsvine King Dave

    “We are pattern seeking primates, we prefer any answer to no answer at all.” ~ Michael Shermer
    With that in mind, no one should feel guilty suspecting Islam, after all it is merely human nature.

    • just.chris

      Suspecting Islam???? Maybe I am naive but that thought never crossed my mind.

      Even if these two were Muslims, even if they were directed by a Muslim leader, even if they claim the act to be one of vengeance in the name of Islam – no minority act taken by the members of any group should be used to condemn the entire group. Maybe I don’t know what you mean by Islam.

      Maybe I am over reacting to your post, too. Just thinking something is not wrong. It is only wrong, if those “wrong” thoughts result in “wrong” acts. If an organization or group teaches “wrong” ideas, maybe then the group should be suspected or held accountable for the “wrong” acts of individual members.

      Does Islam teach terrorism?

      • SparklingMoon

        Does Islam teach terrorism?
        ——————————————————————————————–
        Every form of communal violence witnessed in the world today, wherever that is and whatever cloak it wears, is essentially political in nature. A Religion is never an exploiter but is always itself exploited by internal or external political interests. When we examine so-called ‘Islamic terrorism’, we discover political forces working behind an Islamic facade. More often than not, the real manipulators and exploiters are not even Muslims themselves.
        Second, A person can not close one’s eyes to various brands of terrorism which unfortunately flourish all over the world; in fact, it is impossible for an observer not to be aware of the persecution, bloodshed and murder, often in the name of some purported ideal or noble cause. There are equally, other groups involved in terrorism and subversion throughout the world? Would it be fitting to label all brands of terrorism by using the same principle which gave birth to the term ‘Islamic terrorism’ creating a list of Sikh terrorism, Hindu terrorism, Christian terrorism, Jewish terrorism, atheist terrorism, Buddhist terrorism, Animist terrorism and pagan terrorism?

        Terrorism is a global problem and needs to be studied in its larger perspective. Unless we understand the forces behind the violence, we shall not be able to understand why some Muslim groups and states are turning to terrorism to achieve certain objectives.For instance, we find terrorism generated by racism—but that, in the final analysis, is essentially political in nature. There are other small expressions of terrorism born out of rebellion and hatred against prevailing social systems and cultures. These are generally regarded as acts of madmen and anarchists. There is a special kind of terrorism which is related to the Mafia’s struggle for supremacy; this terrorism is directed by certain factions against other factions within the Mafia. Obviously, this terrorism is really a power struggle and therefore political.

        As far as Islam is concerned, it categorically rejects and condemns every form of terrorism. It does not provide any cover or justification for any act of violence, be it committed by an individual, a group or a government.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Moon:

          As far as Islam is concerned, it categorically rejects and condemns every form of terrorism. It does not provide any cover or justification for any act of violence, be it committed by an individual, a group or a government.

          I know little about Islam, so help me understand your perspective. I can see that you could have your interpretation of Islam that rejects all terrorism, but how can you say that the other person’s interpretation of a more violent Islam is wrong? Even when you take into account the Law of Abrogation, the Koran still has plenty of violence in it, doesn’t it?

        • SparklingMoon

          I know little about Islam, so help me understand your perspective. I can see that you could have your interpretation of Islam that rejects all terrorism.
          ————————————————————————————————
          God Almighty is the only one out of His mercy and benevolence raises prophets , who had been appearing for human guidance in every people and in all parts of the world.The mission of these prophets was always to guide mankind to Him, through their revealed teachings and holy practices.It states in the Quran that there are no people in the world to whom God have not sent prophets to make them aware(35:25)

          As there is a process of evolution in every sphere of human society as there is in religion also. New religions are needed not only for the sake of restoring the fundamental teachings of older religions which had been mutilated at the hands of man, but also, as society evolved, more teachings had to be added to previous ones to keep up with the pace of progress.The guidance revealed through each prophet was designed to cater for the specific needs of the time and location; hence they were essentially temporary in nature. With the advancement and maturity of mankind God sent advanced and matured teachings suitable to their time.

          God has from Adam, (the first prophet of recent generation about six thousand years ago) continued to address mankind through His different messengers. God’s guidance and teachings for human race that commenced through Adam and reached the zenith through Prophet of Islam are gathered in the book of the Quran.As God declares in the book of Quran: “This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed my favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.” (5:4)
          Prophet of Islam had explained in following words the position of this last Law, for human guidance,in the form of the Quran: ”My position in relation to the other prophets is like this: ”A man built a house, completing it and adorning it well except for a place of one brick. When the people entered the house, they marvelled at its beauty and said, But for the place of this one brick (how much more splendid the house will be) ”(Bukhari, bab khatim al-nabiyyin) The Prophet of Islam and his message is the last brick to this building of Law.

          Islam is not a religion that’s entry in the world of religion is totally a new one. It has a close relation to all other religions of the world in the sense that most of its teachings are those that were also given to earlier peoples. According to the Quran, there is only one religion acceptable to God and that is complete submission to His Will. In the broader sense of the word Islam was also the religion of the earlier prophets because they also submitted themselves to the will and obedience of God.

          How can a person imagin that a compasionate and benign Creator who used to appear to the prophets of other religions Judism Buddhism Christianity Hinduism etc.with the teachings of forbearence and forgivness, sudden changed at the time of the revelation of the Quran and became a cruel one?As He forgot all His loving nature and entered in His plan to destroy His own people by giving them a lesson of terror. There is question that either last Law for moral and spiritual guidance for His mankind (with His particular promise of the safety of its words) should be more near to human nature or should be totally against the benevolence of His people?

        • Carol

          Bob posts:
          Bob Seidensticker commented on Thoughts on the Boston Bombing.

          in response to SparklingMoon:

          Does Islam teach terrorism? ——————————————————————————————– Every form of communal violence witnessed in the world today, wherever that is and whatever cloak it wears, is essentially political in nature. A Religion is never an exploiter but is always itself exploited by internal or external political interests. When we examine so-called ‘Islamic terrorism’, we discover political forces [...]

          Moon:

          As far as Islam is concerned, it categorically rejects and condemns every form of terrorism. It does not provide any cover or justification for any act of violence, be it committed by an individual, a group or a government.

          I know little about Islam, so help me understand your perspective. I can see that you could have your interpretation of Islam that rejects all terrorism, but how can you say that the other person’s interpretation of a more violent Islam is wrong? Even when you take into account the Law of Abrogation, the Koran still has plenty of violence in it, doesn’t it?

          As does the Judaic Scriptures. That is why I believe that the bible is historical, not in the modern sense of obsessing over correct dating and objective factual details, but as a meaningful narrative that reveals as much about our disordered humanity as it does about the Divine character.

          Even though God plainly told Abraham that he was being blessed to become a blessing to others, theistic believers has repeatedly interpreted their “election” as an election to power and privilege rather than election to service:
          http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/12_blessing.html

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Moon:

          How can a person imagin that a compasionate and benign Creator who used to appear to the prophets of other religions Judism Buddhism Christianity Hinduism etc.with the teachings of forbearence and forgivness, sudden changed at the time of the revelation of the Quran and became a cruel one?

          Uh … because the Koran contains violent passages? Or is this a trick question?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carol:

          As far as Islam is concerned, it categorically rejects and condemns every form of terrorism. It does not provide any cover or justification for any act of violence, be it committed by an individual, a group or a government.

          “And when the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other gods with God wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush: but if they shall convert, and observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then let them go their way, for God is Gracious, Merciful.” Sura 9:5

          “Make war upon such of those to whom the Scriptures have been given as believe not in God, or in the last day, and who forbid not that which God and His Apostle have forbidden, and who profess not the profession of the truth, until they pay tribute out of hand, and they be humbled.” Sura 9:29

          My understanding is that these passages haven’t been abrogated and are therefore still in force, though I could be wrong.

          As does the Judaic Scriptures.

          Don’t get me started! Pretty much zero Christians in the West point to the OT as justification for slavery or genocide.

          That obviously isn’t true within Islam.

    • Kodie

      Pattern-seeking primates have no excuse for continuing to believe things are true just because they noticed a pattern. There is a similar pattern of hardcore Christians killing and wreaking havoc for their particular causes, but they are compartmentalized in a “crazy” bin where us normal righteous people do not live. They are outside of the norm, they don’t fit a “pattern” even though white male Christians are some of them, heavy-duty criminals. That Islam-suspecting “pattern” you easily excuse tends to blanket all brown people of any belief, including moderate Muslims who would never dream of inflicting violence and love to live in America. Oh, it’s ok, they’re just pattern-seeking primates, so don’t worry that they will avenge anything against their Hindu neighbors. It’s xenophobia at its heart, and that should not be excused but pointed out and corrected. If people think this is a white Christian country and anyone against any of us must be a brown Muslim terrorist, you should be pointing out that it is not a Christian country. Religious freedom does not mean fearing one kind and excusing another kind. It does not mean we fear a whole non-Christian religion for a few extremists any more than we generally fear all Christians for a few extremists. Sweeping it away with a lazy quote doesn’t teach anyone that they are wrong and might stand to modify their reactions.

      As it is, the perpetrators of this violence do seem to have been Muslims, but not tied to any terrorist organization. They were brought here as children and lived a nice American life during their adolescence and young adulthood. They turned against their own city, why? We don’t really know more than that. This doesn’t seem to be any more organized than the guy who independently shot a crowd in Arizona, a white guy, and the guy who shot a movie theater, a white guy. Pattern, my ever-loving ass.

      • http://Newsvine King Dave

        Brown skin? Correct me if I am wrong, but can’t anyone be a Muslim or Christian? Religion is not an ethnicity. These Islamic Jihadist don’t believe they are committing mass murder, they simply believe they are doing the work of the lord.

        • Kodie

          Islamophobia is racism and xenophobia. It’s not a valid criticism of Islam. Pattern-seeking primates of privileged color and religion notice that Muslims commit most of the massively violent attacks of Americans on US soil, while rational people suggest it could be a Muslim as well as a Christian, since most of the massacres have been carried out by white males who are predominantly Christian. Nobody kills or threatens their local shop owner who is white because a Christian shot up a school or a crowded assembly or a movie theater. They disassociate themselves pretty easily as you are doing from actual patterns. We isolate the problem to an individual who happens to be white, happens to be Christian, and happens to have psychological issues that cause them to kill as many people in a short amount of time as possible. Nobody identifies their race or religion as the basis of their violence the same way they do Islam.

          Hey, pattern-seeking primates also notice that gun violence is way up, but arguments/excuses why we can’t control gun sales resist being blamed for any psychosis an individual with a gun may have. Just like hey, let’s blame a Muslim because they are bombers and they hate America! They do not turn the mirror on themselves, and excuse every Christian, every gun-owner, it’s not a pattern! It’s an individual person’s individual problem. It would not be the right thing to target Christianity, so why is it ok to target Islam in its entirety? You just say it’s ok. Pattern-seeking primates are allowed to go mad and think whatever they like even if it’s not true. Pattern-seeking primates who ignore white Christians perpetrating similar crimes.

        • http://Newsvine King Dave

          I think it is you who has issues with racism. It was Islamic bomber who injured hundreds and killed an eight year old boy, not tea party whit Christian Lutherans who oppose gay marriage.
          This point you should think about, one doesn’t have to be white, Christian, racist, black, republican, democrat, an atheist, or any other label you are fond of using, to oppose Islamic violence. The topic is not the sins of Christianity.

        • Kodie

          It was not ok 4 days ago, when you posted, to point blame at Islam, that’s ok, we’re just silly fucking stupid pattern-seeking primates!

          Just because it was Islam now does not make it a pattern of Islam, and does not make it ok in the future to blame Islam for everything bad that someone does. You are a racist. You excuse racism.

        • Kodie

          Do not try to pretend you are not just because ha-ha you were right this time! Do not ever say it’s ok to blame Islam even when we don’t know who did something. Do not excuse people for being shallow and uninformed. White Christian males perpetrate most of the violent crimes in the US. Islam is not a pattern. It’s racist to jump to a conclusion like that, not to mention lazy.

        • http://Newsvine King Dave

          Kodie, Islam is not an ethnicity, no matter how many obnoxious and vulgar comments you post. You obviously have issues with racism. If hypocrisy was a sport, you would be our finest athlete.

        • SparklingMoon

          These Islamic Jihadist don’t believe they are committing mass murder, they simply believe they are doing the work of the lord.
          ————————————————————————————–
          The aim of every religions is to establish peace between man and God, the Creator of all; between man and man; and between man and the rest of god’s creation. The teachings of Islam also promote peace and love among people. Prophet of Islam has said: ” God is Gentle and loves gentleness in all things. Make things easy and do not make them hard. And cheer people up and do not repel them.” ”Gentleness adorns everything and its absence leaves everything defective.” (Muslim). God Almighty has no mercy for him who has no mercy for His fellow beings.”(Bukhari) ” The best friend in the sight of Allah is he who is the well-wisher of his companions, and the best neighbour is one who behaves best towards his neighbours . (Tirmidhi)

          No doubt, there exist some Muslim clergies in Muslim world , who for the sake of their personal hidden purposes, use the religious sentiment of muslims and try to incite them to commit acts of carnage and terrorism,and disturb the general peace. This attitude of Muslim clergies is totally against the message of God. The Reformer of the time Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1836-1908 in India)about more than 100 years ago, had advised these muslim clergies and had forbidden other people to follow them :
          “Could it be considered a good act, for example, there is a person walking in a bazaar engulfed in his own thoughts, and is a complete stranger to us, and we do not even know his name, and neither does he know us, but we fire a gun at him with the intention of killing him? Is this a religious act? If this is a good act, then the beasts are far better than human beings in carrying out good deeds…Did God instruct us to cut a person into pieces without any proof of crime, or kill him with a gun while we do not even know him, and neither does he know us? Can such a religion be from God that teaches to start killing sinless and innocent people of God without any excuse and reservation, and without even delivering them the message, and that it would lead us to heavens?. ……..It is a pitiful and shameful that a person, with whom we have no previous enmity, and is a complete stranger to us, and while he is buying something for his children from a store, or is busy in some other lawful act, and we,without any reason, fire a gun at him, and make his wife a widow and his children orphans, and turn his house into a place of mourning. Which Hadith mentions this practice? Which verse of the Holy Qur’an mentions this? Is there any Muslim religious leader who could answer this? (British Government and Jihad by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed )

          According to the teaching of Islam, the unlawful killing or the shedding of innocent blood of someone is like the killing of the entire human race:”Whosoever killed a person it shall be as if he had killed all mankind.(QuranCh.5: v. 33)that is to say, the taking of a single life is like the massacre of thousands of innocent lives. Now, everyone can very well imagine what kind of sentence would be passed on someone who is found guilty of the taking of thousands of innocent lives.

          God has warned in the Quran: ”In the sight of God ‘persecution, or making people constantly fear for their lives, is much worse than killing’. And also: ‘There shall be no compulsion in religion’, that is to say, that no one has the right to force others into complying with their demands or compelling others to follow their line of thinking. There is a warning and an advise of the Prophet of Islam : ‘By Him in Whose Hands is my life, you will not enter Paradise unless you believe, and you will not truly believe unless you love one another. Shall I tell you something whereby you will love one another? Multiply the greeting of peace among yourselves.”

        • http://Newsvine King Dave

          I like this Mark Twain quote that applies to Islam: ” It is not the parts of the bible I don’t understand that concern me, it’s the parts of the bible I do.”
          And Sam Harris:
          It was even possible for the most venerated patriarchs of the Church, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to conclude that heretics should be tortured (Augustine) or killed (Aquinas). Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches. You are, of course, free to interpret the Bible differently—though isn’t it amazing that you have succeeded in discerning the true teachings of Christianity, while the most influential thinkers in the history of your faith failed? ~ Letters to a Christian nation

  • Greg

    “Speaking of bombs, did you hear about the dirty bomb plot planned for Obama’s first inauguration in January, 2009? This wasn’t something caught at the border or uncovered in another country. This one was being built domestically.”

    No, I didn’t hear of this and I am a news junky. Should I read your essay again, and I will see that you are not serious, and I missed your point? If this is true, what is your source? I am pretty gulliable, so I believe all kinds of stuff sometimes…but the important stuff I am not gulliable about I like to think. Like I know there is not an all good God, and those who claim to know there is an all good God are full of shit, or claiming they know anything that God wants. I am gulliable, but I guess I care about the truth enough that eventually I figure it out. If it is a lie, hell of an elaborate lie. Hope all is well Bob.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      Search for the guy’s name and “dirty bomb” and you’ll find lots of articles. Yes, the story is accurate.

  • Greg

    “With that in mind, no one should feel guilty suspecting Islam, after all it is merely human nature.”

    Are you serious Dave? I will quote the late Christopher Hitchens: “That which can asserted with out evidence, can be dismissed with out evidence.”

    Dave’s claime of it being human nature to think Isalm is dismissed. Islam isn’t evne a person. Almost sounds like a troll comment. I ain’t go no time for trolls. If I falsey accuse anyone, I am sorry. I will try not to do it again.

  • Greg

    Sorry about the typos too.

  • Greg

    Oh ya, and thanks for writing about this Bob, I find when I read you stuff I calm down, of feel a sense of calming when I read some of your stuff.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      Great! I’m glad it’s helpful. Thanks for the feedback.

  • ctcss

    @Bob

    “The more important a story, the more it will pick up “improvements” over time. Given what we’ve seen in the first 24 hours after the bombing, imagine how the story of Jesus would’ve changed over its first 24 years.”

    After a thoughtful post on a very serious and tragic incident, was it really necessary to cheapen your effort by tossing in a jab aimed at those of the Christian faith?

    • Kodie

      Using current examples to show how quickly stories change and how easily stories ON TV, no less, and internet, with cameras on buildings and mobile phones, and people’s first-hand experience pick up facts that turn out to be untrue is not a “jab”. If Bob waits, mourns “properly” and lets the story get settled into memory, he won’t be able to point it out! “There! Right there!” Every article he writes about 2000-year-old eye-witness accounts finally written down more than a generation later doesn’t sink in with you folks. Stories don’t change that quickly!, you say. Eye-witnesses have perfect memory since they were there, you all say. In 2 days, with media watching and combing the crowd for personal eye-witness commentary, police investigation loose talk and speculation being prematurely reported as fact by one of the most-watched, most-respected TV news outlets in America, with conflicting facts reported by another one, pre-empting regular broadcast on both TV and radio, what people will remember is not what’s real or true, but what they heard when they were listening, which will later morph into how they feel about and relate the story to others and get defensive because they “KNOW”.

      You don’t get why this is a perfect example for one of Bob’s recurring topics, as he patiently explains to you and you don’t believe him why the story of Jesus is prone to exaggeration and rumors. I am sorry you can’t protect your belief in resurrection today.

    • Rick

      I have to agree with CTSS on this one. Really, Bob? Using a tragedy so soon after the blood has been spilled is kind of beneath you.

      And are you really saying we know less after 24 years then we do two days after? How about the Lincoln assassination? More or less after a few years. The Kaufman County murders? More or less after several months versus several days? 9/11 — more or less after two days versus 12 years? This is a silly point, and was beneath the standards you usually set for yourself.

      You may say we are more sophisticated than they were 2,000 years ago. Don’t confuse cell phones and media with sophistication and attempt to make the witnesses to the crucifixion and resurrection as ignorant, unsophisticated and gullible. They were as smart as you, but with less technology.

      It is far more likely for the truth to be clarified with time rather than obfuscated. The lack of naysayer accounts in documents of antiquity indicates this clarification was indeed happening toward the mid first century when the writings began to be distilled and began rapidly spreading. Go where the evidence leads, not where you want it to go.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Rick:

        Really, Bob? Using a tragedy so soon after the blood has been spilled is kind of beneath you.

        “Using”? How??

        I can’t improve on Kodie’s response.

        And are you really saying we know less after 24 years then we do two days after?

        And this is the problem. What seems obvious to me (stories change with time) is met with incredulity by you. I wait for a couple of months and then say, “Remember those crazy stories that swirled around the Boston bombing?” and you won’t remember what I’m talking about.

        This is a silly point, and was beneath the standards you usually set for yourself.

        My standards for reliability are in the toilet, right? How can they get any lower?

        And what’s the silly point? That stories change over time?

        They were as smart as you, but with less technology.

        Granted. And when we see in 24 hours laughably wrong ideas like the photo below attached to a powerful emotional event, what can we do but assume that our smart forebears in Palestine were susceptible to the same thing?

        The lack of naysayer accounts in documents of antiquity indicates this clarification was indeed happening toward the mid first century when the writings began to be distilled and began rapidly spreading.

        I’ve already slapped the Naysayer Hypothesis silly.

        Go where the evidence leads, not where you want it to go.

        Wait–you’re telling me this?

        • Rick

          Bob,

          “Using”? How??

          Uh…. by using it as a prop to bash Christianity as usual, perhaps?

          I wait for a couple of months and then say, “Remember those crazy stories that swirled around the Boston bombing?” and you won’t remember what I’m talking about.

          Perhaps because there will be more, not less clarity and less, not more confusion and misinformation. So you used this event close to its occurrence for your own purposes as an attention-getting device. Smooth.

          And what’s the silly point? That stories change over time?

          No. That there is confusion right after an event moreso than long after. Like I said in my comments.

          I’ve already slapped the Naysayer Hypothesis silly.

          I missed that post. Just read it. Not everyone agreed with your conclusions, so your humble self-congratulatory assessment might be overrated. As for the little girl pictured as a prime example of your misinformation type of problem, I never saw this and the media didn’t get flooded with it, so I guess the truth is clearer now than immediately after you saw that one. Case in point.

          Rick: Go where the evidence leads, not where you want it to go.
          Bob: Wait–you’re telling me this?

          Yes.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          Uh…. by using it as a prop to bash Christianity as usual, perhaps?

          I’m not sure what my crime is here, and (based on your comment) I’m not sure why I’m not guilty with every single post.

          Yes, I tied the bombing to my usual subject, Christian apologetics. “Using” seems to be getting unfair mileage on the backs of those who suffered (though perhaps you meant something else), and I don’t see that here.

          Perhaps because there will be more, not less clarity and less, not more confusion and misinformation.

          I’ll grant you that some false stories fall away. And the stickiest ones remain. For example, 28% of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 (source). 24% of Americans think President Obama is a Muslim (source).

          Expand on your point. Is there some force that pushes the public view toward the correct view? What is this force, and how does it know what the correct view is? I know of no such force.

          So you used this event close to its occurrence for your own purposes as an attention-getting device. Smooth.

          Wow–I thought that my devious purposes were hidden, but you flushed them out. Ouch! I stand convicted in the harsh glare of your sharp analysis.

          [The silly comment is] That there is confusion right after an event moreso than long after. Like I said in my comments.

          And that’s what you just said happens. And I agree that it happens and that some rumors fade away. My question: why imagine that the initial false stories will die and why imagine that new features can’t get added?

        • Rick

          Bob,

          Yes, I tied the bombing to my usual subject, Christian apologetics.

          Perhaps you could revise and extend your remarks to point toward radicalized Islamists, where the blame truly lies. That would be going where the facts lead. You want a religion topic on a real threat? Go there. Is your hatred for Christianity is too deep to change courses in the middle of a blog?

          I’ll grant you that some false stories fall away. And the stickiest ones remain. For example, 28% of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 (source). 24% of Americans think President Obama is a Muslim (source).

          Sounds like 72% and 76% got it right just a few years later (compared to 2,000 years). Thanks for making my point.

          My question: why imagine that the initial false stories will die and why imagine that new features can’t get added?

          I don’t imagine that false stories and features can’t get added. I just believe that the big stories tend to be corrected over time, certainly in our age of alternative media where even the mainstream media can’t own the stories as they once could. The story of abortionist Kermit Gosnell is a case in point. The media ignored it. The alternative media picked it up and told the story, and it spread like crazy. In response, the mainstream media have been forced to at least acknowledge this mass murderer. Big stories eventually get out.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          Perhaps you could revise and extend your remarks to point toward radicalized Islamists, where the blame truly lies.

          One problem at a time.

          Sounds like 72% and 76% got it right just a few years later (compared to 2,000 years). Thanks for making my point.

          You can’t be so stupid to have missed the point, right? But, since you refuse to acknowledge the point, I’ll treat you as if you are.

          These are two really, really foolish beliefs that people would cling to only because of ulterior motives, not following the facts. And this is in the 21st century. You’ve got people with the same biases but with no modern sophistication or science 2000 years ago. Can we assume that they could be at least this inclined to embrace pleasing but false ideas?

          I don’t imagine that false stories and features can’t get added. I just believe that the big stories tend to be corrected over time, certainly in our age of alternative media

          And that’s your challenge. I need only show that the gospel story could have grown organically with the retelling, giving us a natural explanation for the supernatural story. Your much more difficult task is to show that this is basically impossible.

      • Kodie

        You may say we are more sophisticated than they were 2,000 years ago. Don’t confuse cell phones and media with sophistication and attempt to make the witnesses to the crucifixion and resurrection as ignorant, unsophisticated and gullible. They were as smart as you, but with less technology.

        That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying even with all those things, the media reports will be remembered more vividly even when they’re wrong. Rumors will be spread because they are emotionally appealing. The less information forthcoming quickly as people want it, the faster they will clutch to other things that comfort them, where speculation becomes fact for many people, even when later on, the truth is in conflict with what they already are biased to believe. How do you think, without immediate technology, such stories would have circulated and changed? When people don’t know something, as I feel the whole religion concept illustrates clearly (to ME), is that people want a fast and easy answer. They can’t wait to “know” and they will deny reality when the truth surfaces. I have heard enough heart-breaking news stories to know that what people think they want more than anything else is closure. They don’t want a manhunt that goes on for months or years. They want to catch the guy, of course we all would prefer, but as in the case where the media hung Richard Jewell almost immediately following the Olympic Park bombing in 1996, nobody really felt sorry when it turned out they blamed the wrong person. Eric Rudolph wasn’t charged with the crime for 2 whole years and some, committed several similar crimes in the meantime that weren’t even widely broadcast as this one, and remained at large until 2003. Nobody cared. They had a guy already. Felt good to have someone take the blame so everyone would feel that sweet, sweet closure.

        But then I remember I’m talking to Rick, who is so overwhelmed with my tone that he refuses to respond to points as they are made. I wonder if he will still think his version of what I said is correct, no matter how much anyone explains to him!

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie:

          the media reports will be remembered more vividly even when they’re wrong.

          There’s no way to figure out which of two conflicting reports is accurate without outside input. But we all have an internal gauge that tells us which story is cooler. Kid running for the memory of Sandy Hook victims gets killed at the finish line? Forget that it’s a ridiculous story–it’s sticky, it’s powerful, it’s memorable.

        • Kodie

          What I see happening a lot is the news takes over all the stations and keeps talking, saying the same vague few things we already know. They want to be the first ones you hear from when there is something new to report. In the meantime, people play guessing games and open up discussions about their gut feelings, their speculations, suspicions, and whatnot. I cannot even fathom who would start a rumor about that little girl. An 8-year-old boy died, one of three who died from the initial explosion, so what purpose does that serve? Are we not emotional enough that people have to create stories when they’re bored not knowing anything new? Is this story just not dramatic enough?

          But people who do not explore or look for facts will remember not just the wrong facts someone else told them, but their own thoughts. When you have a tragedy that heightens your attention to it, besides the news and all that, has a way of etching into your brain. Your feelings write over facts. Some religious people postulate that the evidence in god is that we have imaginations at all, that we have sentience and creativity. The same brain that creates solutions to problems also worries itself into creating memories of things that never happened, but I don’t know where that bridges across to creating a viral meme about someone that didn’t run in the Boston Marathon and did not die from an explosion. Were they intentionally creating a rumor or did they decide that it actually happened? And when we find out it did not happen, are there some people who believe they’re “keeping something from us” as these new emotions over false memories make it become true?

          I found your post about the explosion relevant to your blog and if that feels like a slam to people instead of a demonstration of exactly the point you keep making, they are merely in denial and making excuses why the truth is hard to swallow. They want to believe what they want to believe, however false it is, because it makes them feel good, and they don’t like you or anyone making them feel bad. I live in Boston now for the past almost 8 years, and I’m an atheist. Some things have to be said. I think making excuses to be sensitive to emotionally immature Christians would be the wrong way to go, so good job.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie:

          Thanks for the comments and your continued interest in the blog.

        • Rick

          Kodie,

          as in the case where the media hung Richard Jewell almost immediately following the Olympic Park bombing in 1996, nobody really felt sorry when it turned out they blamed the wrong person.

          I cared. Lots of people did. Justice matters.

          … Rick, who is so overwhelmed with my tone that he refuses to respond to points as they are made.

          Not overwhelmed—I don’t mind getting into discussions with Bob, who can take it. I just hate getting you wound any tighter than you already are. Even my attempts to be understanding in the past were misinterpreted and twisted. Will you do the same this time? I’m always game to discuss issues objectively.

          Rick

  • Carol

    Of course, interpretations of the life of the Jesus of history have changed. The Disciples/Apostles ususally didn’t even begin to “get it” until after the Resurrection and the Pentecostal Gift of the Holy Spirit. Our human understanding of the Christ-Event is still unfolding and deepening after 2000 years.
    Church history is replete with evidence of spiritual back-slidings and spiritual renewals. Much of the theological controversy within the ecclesiastical subculture is occuring because world view of a pre-scientific Christian belief system can not meet the challenges of 20-21st century scientific discoveries and technologies. The Church is struggling with how to simultaneously strip away the cultural accretions from Traditional beliefs and practices and preserve the timeless Revelation of the Christian Mysteries. That is what the speculative [not dogmatic] theology of the Evolutionary Christianity Movement is all about.

    Perhaps the articles on these two websites may clarify the issues:
    http://www.catholicmediacoalition.org/rohr_evolutionary_christianity.htm

    http://www.fordham.edu/campus_resources/enewsroom/inside_fordham/february_16_2007/news/gre_convocation_chri_24942.asp

    “The human race in the course of time has taken the liberty of softening and softening Christianity until at last we have contrived to make it exactly the opposite of what it is in the New Testament…” –Soren Kierkegaard

    “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide.
    Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.” –Jaroslav Pelikan

    “You cannot claim absolute finality for a dogma without claiming a commensurate finality for the sphere of thought within which it arose. If the dogmas of the Christian Church from the second to the sixth century centuries express finally and sufficiently the truths concerning the topics about which they deal, then the Greek philosophy of that period had developed a system of ideas of equal finality. You cannot limit the inspiration to a narrow circle of creeds. A dogma – in the sense of a precise statement – can never be final; it can only be adequate in its adjustment of certain abstract concepts…. Progress in truth – truth of science and truth of religion – is mainly a progress in the framing of concepts, in discarding artificial abstractions or partial metaphors, and in evolving notions which strike more deeply into the root of reality.” –Alfred North Whitehead

    “The sacred history of redemption is still going on. It is now the history of the Church that is the Body of Christ. The Spirit-Comforter is already abiding in the Church. No complete system of Christian faith is yet possible, for the Church is still on her pilgrimage. And the Bible is kept by the Church as a book of history to remind believers of the dynamic nature of the divine revelation, “at sundry times and in divers manners.” ~Georges V. Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View

    “…(A) relatively simple kind of reflection shows that we never possess the Christian faith ‘in itself’, in as it were a ‘chemically pure’ state. We ‘possess’ the Christian faith only as a faith that is humanly heard, humanly understood, humanly affirmed and humanly appropriated.”
    –Walter Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ

    “Ideal Christianity doesn’t exist because anything the human being touches, even Christian truth, he deforms slightly in his own image. Even the saints do this.” ~Flannery O’Connor

    The word “Christianity” is already a misunderstanding – in reality there has been only one Christian, and he died on the Cross. –Friedrich Nietzsche

    “The institutions of Churchianity are not Christianity. An institution is a good thing if it is second; immediately an institution recognizes itself it becomes the dominating factor.”
    — Oswald Chambers

    In a rare interview in 1967 with Thomas McDonnell, [Thomas] Merton pronounced that the great crisis in the church is a crisis of authority precipitated because the church, as institution and organization, has overshadowed the reality of the church as a community of persons united in love and in Christ. He now charged that obedience and conformity with the impersonal corporation-church are a fact in the life of Christians. “The Church is preached as a communion, but is run in fact as a collectivity, and even as a totalitarian collectivity.~ George Kilcourse, ACE OF FREEDOMS: Thomas Merton’s Christ, Notre Dame Press, 1993

    While science was confronting nature, society began to confront the effects of nature. For this went beyond the ability of any individual or group of individuals to respond to. To have any chance in alleviating the devastation of the epidemic required organization, coordination, implementation. It required leadership and it required that institutions follow that leadership.
    Institutions are a strange mix of the mass and the individual. They abstract. They behave according to a set of rules that substitute both for individual judgments and for the emotional responses that occur whenever individuals interact. The act of creating an institution dehumanizes it, creates an arbitrary barrier between individuals.
    Yet institutions are human as well. They reflect the cumulative personalities of those within them, especially their leadership. They tend, unfortunately, to mirror less admirable human traits, developing and protecting self-interest and even ambition. Institutions almost never sacrifice. Since they live by rules, they lack spontaneity. They try to order chaos not in the way an artist or scientist does, through a defining vision that creates structure and discipline, but by closing off and isolating themselves from that which does not fit. They become bureaucratic.
    The best institutions avoid the worst aspects of bureaucracy in two ways. Some are not really institutions at all. They are simply a loose confederation of individuals, each of whom remains largely a free agent whose achievements are independent of the institution but who also shares and benefits from association with others. In these cases the institution simply provides an infrastructure that supports the individual, allowing him or her to flourish so that the whole often exceeds the sum of the parts.
    ~John M. Barry, THE GREAT INFLUENZA: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, p. 299

    • Kodie

      Many excuses why Christianity cannot stand up to reality. Wishful thinking will not make it true. Many wishful thinkers you can quote will not make it true. It’s not too big to understand – it’s too mythical to hold up. Humans have progressed and it’s not necessary or logical to believe any of that. Besides which, I think it’s off-topic for you to go on a diatribe about speculation vs dogma. It is dogma.

      It’s no longer an unfolding event. We’re still talking about a couple days 2000 years ago – did or did not happen? How do you know? There is no way to know. If you say in your heart, well let me open up your chest cavity so I can find where it is in your heart. Or, it’s just another way to say “I have no idea what I’m talking about, I just like to say it.”

      • Selah

        Kodie ,
        There is always rationalization for those to rebuff the clear message of Jesus Christ.Just as the people in Nazareth took offense ( scandalized ) at Jesus’ claims, so do many in these days. Jesus’ gospel is going to offend you until you allow God’s truth to plow up the hard soil of your heart.
        It deeply affects and saddens me that those who reject the truth about Jesus are dooming themselves to eternal damnation. When people reject the Lord Jesus Christ, even the most convincing evidence and argument won’t persuade people to turn from error to truth.
        Luke 16:31 says it plainly ” Abraham answered the rich man ,” if they won’t listen to Moses’
        teaching and the Prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone comes back to life ‘.
        The Bible has both Good News and Bad News and can be summed up here in John 3: 16 -18 and in other books of the Bible.

        • Kodie

          Nope. You are full of shit. You are rationalizing your imaginary friend into existence, and it is tiresome. Circular reasoning isn’t evidence or proof. It might sound like good news to you but it sounds like a story only babies believe to me. You might try harder to use your brain some more instead of being utterly convinced you are right and then preaching to me about your imaginary friend.

        • Kodie

          You know that makes you on the side of an actual monster if god is real and I’m actually going to hell. Don’t pretend to be sad, you’re a monster.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Selah:

          It deeply affects and saddens me that those who reject the truth about Jesus are dooming themselves to eternal damnation.

          Don’t believe silly stories then.

          Problem solved.

          When people reject the Lord Jesus Christ, even the most convincing evidence and argument won’t persuade people to turn from error to truth.

          Why don’t you provide some convincing evidence and see. You’ve provided nothing.

          Luke 16:31 says it plainly ” Abraham answered the rich man ,” if they won’t listen to Moses’ teaching and the Prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone comes back to life ‘.

          I see your point. That is laughable.

        • just.chris

          Selah,

          If I, an atheist, am proved to be wrong and this god you just described exist, I would not worship him anyway. Who you describe is a cruel and spiteful ass. I’d rather go to hell than worship such a being.

          You should talk to ctcss.

  • Carol

    Selah, it always amazes me when “bible-believing Christians” think nothing of informing people who do not share their beliefs that they are “going to hell.”

    As I read the Bible, it seems very clear that “separating the sheep from the goats” is a task that the Holy One has reserved to Him/Herself, since only God can look into the heart and intent is what separates ignorance from sin when our behavior harms oneself and/or others.

    I am not a “universalist”, I am an inclusivist. I totally reject Calvin’s Cosmic Bully with his Limited Atonement, a little story historical Jesus who is Savior of the Church rather than the Big Story Cosmic Christ of faith, Savior of the world/universe introduced in the Pauline texts, especially Colossians and developed further in the Writings of the Early Church Fathers during the post-Apostolic Patristic Age.

    There is a General Grace/ intutitive faith by which people “connect”, often subconsciously, to the Creator/Sustainer of our material Universe. As with religious believers, they, too, will be “known by their love.” That is the litmus test for an authentic religion and a healthy spirituality, not their assent to abstract doctrinal teaching. They will be people who gather in communities where the Power of Love is greater than the love of power. By that standard neither America nor any other nation state can be a Christian Country. And neither posting the Ten Commandments nor prefacing official political activities with a formal prayer is going to transform our country into a Christian Nation. The Holy Trinity is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not God, Church and Country and the theological virtues are Faith, Hope and Love, not the civic virtues of the Protestant work ethic.
    It your mind is more open than the minds of the dogmatic atheists whom you judge damned, I would recommend the book “Bad Religion” as a critique of American *Christianity*:

    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re1139.htm

    If it were right beliefs that got us “saved” [saved from what, for what?] then our “salvation” remains as securely in our human hands as it did when Catholic believers thought “salvation” was earned by good deeds.

    As my son, Paul, posted on another blog in response to the statement that all non-Christians were hell-bound: “Those who are pursuing Love are pursuing God. Through His grace, this allows them to partake as they are able in the divine life and thus also partake in the redemptive work of Christ. It is not necessary for an individual to outwardly profess a particular set of theological dogmas for Christ’s work to be effective for redemption in that individual.
    This is what a comprehensive contextual reading of Scripture leads to, instead of having to balance apparently contradictory texts against each other when they are plucked out as “proof texts.”

    The historical Jesus is small story religion that has the power to turn people into good, law-abiding citizens driven by fear and self-interested moralism. The Cosmic Christ is Big Story stuff, with the power to turn people into saints transformed and inspired by love.

    “When I was a child, the stories of Jesus’ birth captured my imagination. But as a young man growing up in the Catholic faith, the mystery of Christmas was mostly lost on me. As I grew, the Nativity story seemed fixed in centuries long past and spoke to realities that I assumed were long gone from the face of the earth. When I began studying theology, I learned to categorize the infancy narratives as myths, imaginative stories written to convey hidden truths but easily dismissed by the intellect. The Incarnation, God’s love poured out “in the flesh” of Jesus, remained an abstraction, a doctrine that needed to be understood and explained, certainly, but hardly something one would live.” ~ Christopher Pramuk

    “The Most Profound Discovery: The most profound discovery that I’ve made in my life is that it is possible to be free. The outrageous claims of history’s greatest mystics and realizers about our potential to experience higher consciousness are absolutely true. And having no doubt about this alone can change everything! The Buddha’s profound Enlightenment, the liberating love of God that Jesus passionately preached to the masses, the moral imperative in the universe to which Jews bear witness—all of these are available to us—if only we have the deep receptivity and yearning in our souls to know such hidden truths directly for ourselves. Once we do know, it’s no longer possible to imagine life without the tranformative presence of this knowing that changes absolutely everything. Now we are not the same people we were. Now we are no longer living this life merely to have and to get and to become for ourselves. Now we know beyond any doubt that we’re here for a higher reason and our lives must be a testament to that fact.”—Andrew Cohen

    A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do.
    What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God. “— Flannery O’Connor , The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

    The point of the spiritual life is not our personal private holiness but rather opening our selves so that the life of God can pour out on the community. ~ Maggie Ross

    “Plenty of kind, decent, caring people have no religious beliefs, and they act out of the goodness of their hearts. Conversely, plenty of people who profess to be religious, even those who worship regularly, show no particular interest in the world beyond themselves. ~John Danforth, priest, ambassador, senator

    Religion [often] is a defense against the experience of God. –Carl Jung

    “When religion is in the hands of the mere natural man, he is always the worse for it; it adds a bad heat to his own dark fire and helps to inflame his four elements of selfishness, envy, pride, and wrath. And hence it is that worse passions, or a worse degree of them are to be found in persons of great religious zeal than in others that made no pretenses to it.” –William Law

    “I think we must fully face the fact that when Christianity does not make a man very much better, it makes him very much worse. . . . Conversion may make of one who was, if no better, no worse
    than an animal, something like a devil.” ~C.S. Lewis in a letter to Bede Griffiths, dated Dec.20 1961

    • Kodie

      It’s a lot more palatable than Selah, who constantly fears for us atheists “adrift” and bound for hell, and who feels secure in their own salvation. But it’s still wishful thinking, and you do not need so many quotes to speak for you if you are able to speak for your own damn self. Too many quotes to explain your position is like dogma, worship, and appeal to authority. So what if Flannery O’Connor says this and Carl Jung says that? You believe, you reject, you tell us why you think your ideas are better, but no more founded in reality than Selah’s. You only support your position by posting a lot of quotes of people who agree with you and probably influence you. “Yeah, that sounds good!” is not a logical argument.

      Also, like I said, it’s off-topic, which you persist in remaining. The Jesus you believe in is not going to be analyzed, and therefore beyond examination. That’s your whole answer, Carol. Wave your hands and the Jesus story just won’t conform to rules about how stories change over time. How convenient. Contrary to what just.chris says, you did come here to proselytize. You did not have anything to say regarding the topic. You just regard the Jesus story true and outside the example given. Just because you don’t think I’m definitely going to hell, like Selah does, you are insulting.

      • just.chris

        Kodie,

        “This blog explores intellectual arguments in favor of Christianity (Christian apologetics) from an atheist perspective and critiques Christianity’s actions in society.”

        I think Carol is agreeing there are historical inaccuracies as we have been discussing. She also appears to be agreeing with criticisms of Christianity’s actions in society as discussed in this blog.

        The fact that she basically agrees, even if from a completely different perspective and still believes in “God,” does not mean she has nothing to say. It is difficult when you agree on the stated intent of the blog, yet disagree on the arguments. Not to be condescending to Carol at all, but her belief may be more genetic than logical.

        Carol’s first post was on topic. Her second was in response to Selah’s use of hellfire and brimstone debate strategy.

        From her first post:
        “Of course, interpretations of the life of the Jesus of history have changed.”
        “Church history is replete with evidence of spiritual back-slidings and spiritual renewals. Much of the theological controversy within the ecclesiastical subculture is occuring because world view of a pre-scientific Christian belief system can not meet the challenges of 20-21st century scientific discoveries and technologies.”

        How is this off topic?

        Personally, I would prefer to hear the mix of opinions of the “believers” rather than just the extremists. Or do we only want to hear from fellow atheists? Is the point of this blog to convert people to atheism? I don’t believe so, I think the point is the examination as quoted from the “About” above – to discuss the arguments from a logical and historical perspective and the societal ramifications AND not stated but possibly implied to push for, not only freedom of religion, but freedom from religion in the state, as well.

        If anything having believers who side with the atheist is more likely to bring about social change.

        The quotes do not offend me, and she placed all her quotes at the end of her post so they are easy to skip.

        Maybe proselytization and stating what you believe, is a fat grey line.

        I can understand your frustration, Kodie, it is difficult to argue when there is no logic or evidence but just faith. And I also would like to her to expound upon more of what she thinks. Links might be useful but I won’t follow them unless some premise is made clearly in the post to justify their examination. I did not follow Carol’s links. The link she suggest for Selah in her second post was well supported by her own opinions. And I would like to point out both you and Stick both went off topic in response to Selah, as well.

        I never heard of the “Evolutionary Christianity Movement” and assumed it was just intelligent design, but from a brief perusal, I think they are Darwinist, and don’t believe in ID! I think I know a few Christians that would fall into that category, unlike the “educated atheist” they are educated and believe in science (and not ID) and just believe because they prefer to, or were raised in it, or were brain washed, etc.

        If there is a “movement” that attempts to clarify how someone can be this way, I am interested in what they have to say. Because it is interesting to me how they justify their belief system. I do not expect it will be hellfire and brimstone.

        So be nice.

        • Kodie

          I think the quotes are excessive and declare that Carol has nothing substantial to add. They are an appeal to authority. If we don’t believe her, we might believe some great thinker must have had it right.

          Carol asserts that the great news of Jesus Christ is merely unfolding. It cannot be boxed up into a single life of preaching, execution, and resurrection. So what? Bob’s post was about the people who believe eye-witness accounts and use them as their argument. Bob’s post uses a current example in real time to show how stories like we hear, now, with a wide variety of instantly shareable media, can be altered. So what if someone’s concept of Jesus is that none of that stuff even matters. Carol asserted then posted a litany of quotes to support the assertion, but no arguments. It was “I believe this instead, and so do all these people with finely cherry-picked quotes.” Hello, none of those people are supporting their assertions either. It is avoidance of the topic at hand by waving it away. Thus, I call it proselytization. Carol may have something relevant in another post, but not here.

          Selah is also a fretful proselytizer. That Carol disagrees with Selah is irrelevant. Carol still needs to support the assertions with logic, but instead went with referring to her son’s blog and what he concurs, and then another litany of quotes. That’s not a logical argument. It doesn’t matter if they are easily skipped, it’s the point that Carol keeps avoiding:

          Events unfolding in real time change over retelling, no matter what time, what era, what media. Christians constantly defend their basis of belief as that no story would change that much in a generation and that so-called eye-witnesses are reliable when recalled and recorded many years after the fact. That is the only thing relevant to this topic. I am not trying to mini-mod, but I disagree with you. Carol may be a kind sort who doesn’t believe, in contrast to Selah, that we’re all going to hell, but that is neither here nor there, especially going overboard on opinion and very light on why any of what she has to say refers to the topic. It’s easy to excuse reality if you imagine something else is true. It’s a lot more difficult to actually prove what your assertions have to do with anyone or anything.

          I have had other discussions with Christians before. I think these blogs bring up discussable topics, it’s not a share circle where I believe there’s no god and Selah believes I’m going to hell and Carol thinks I’m not going to hell and we all agree to disagree. Making an excuse why we cannot analyze the Jesus story the same way we can analyze the reporting of the Boston Marathon Bombing (and Aftermath!) without supporting arguments, but instead, wishful thinking and a lot of appeal to authority does not apply to this topic, instead, it annoyingly la-di-da skips along her merry way with no supporting arguments. I am sorry if picking that out is not “nice” for you, and I’m sorry that you just appreciate Carol being nice, but insubstantial, but being nice like Carol is has sort of mesmerized you, I think, into overlooking that she hasn’t said anything at all. “I believe this instead because it’s nicer” is not how you find truth.

  • just.chris

    Carol,

    Thank you for that response.

    Inclusivity is an honorable trait.

    I appreciate your minimal proselytization.

    I am amused by your quotes. I find my reactions entertaining as I read each – some ruffling my feathers while others we a welcome relief and offer hope that the hellfire and brimstone hardcore literalist Christians are a shrinking minority.

  • Carol

    just.chris, I worked for an elderly progressive Catholic priest for 12 years. He told me that the Church was always 100 years behind our secular culture. In the Red States it is probably more like 200 years. I don’t know of anywhere else where *Evolution* is still controversial. Even Pope JP II admitted that there was enough evidence to lead to “the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis.” And Rome is not exactly a hotbed of theological progressivism!

    The Church will change because the incontrovertable law of nature is adapt or die. And the churches in the post-Enlightenment/Industrialized West are hemorraghing members for three primary reasons:
    1. Dogmatic absolutism
    2.Self-righteous judgmentalism
    3.Sectarian triumphalism

    All three of these attitudes encourage rather than challenge egoistic narcissism, the underlying disordered cause of humanity’s psychological and social ills.

    We are a diverse species. We will never achieve unity on the basis of shared common beliefs or cultural traditions. The only common basis for living together in peace is our common humanity, with its “glories and miseries.”

    Linear logic cannot affect common beliefs since the conclusions it leads to depends on the presuppositions with which we begin. The existence of God can be neither proven, nor disproven. Both theism and atheism require a “leap of faith” and although the “logic” of both may be flawless it will lead to opposite conclusions. The only totally intellectually justifiable position on the *God-question* is agnosticism. Kodi’s faith in the power of human logic to resolve the theistic/atheistic controversy reveals an insufficient recognition of the limits to human understanding. Dogmatic absolutism is not just found in our ecclesiastical subculture, it has been an epistemological error in the West which reached its height in the Enlightenment/Modernism. The radical scepticism of post-modernism, the claim that it was impossible to know ANYTHING with certainty represents the opposite error. Fortunately, the more reflective thinkers among us are evoking an epistemological shift away from both dogmatic absolutism and radical scepticism to the realization that we can know some things with a high degree of probability. Michael Polanyi, a philosopher of science, rid Western science [which had become quasi religious *scientism*] of its logical positivism/dogmatic absolutism by pointing out the obvious, “the experimenter is always a part of the experiment” and therfore there can never 1oo% objectivity in the results.

    Kodi still holds the modernist belief in logical positivism, as do a great many Western people who are unfamiliar with the shift in formal philosophical thought, but there is a growing shift from dogmatic absolutism to probability based on cummulative evidence in both religion and science.

    With all of the challenges that we are facing as a result of our technological advances, spending our time and energies fighting about the “god-question” seems to many of us to be, not only futile, but a bit irresponsible.

    I am a Christian humanist who shares all of the values of a secular humanist. I differ in that I believe we need Grace to acquire the virtue to practice those common values; but I also believe that together we can make more evolutionary social progress since it does not take explicit theological faith to cooperate with “general grace.” Those who share my hunger for justice and desire for peace are “my kind” of people whatever their faith, or the lack thereof, may be.

    I do not ignore the historical evidence that religion seems have the power to bring out both the best and the worst in human nature. I would hope that, after the experience of atheistic communism in Russia and other countries within that modern empire’s sphere of influence, both theists and atheists would begin to realize that the tragic flaw in our humanity goes much deeper than can be explained by which side we take on the “god-question” and leave that matter to personal freedom of thought and expression while we cooperate in seeking to realize our common human values for the sake of our common good.

    “We exist in a bizarre combination of Stone Age emotions, medieval beliefs, and god-like technology.” —Edward O. Wilson, esteemed Harvard biologist

    “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” -Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

    • just.chris

      Nicely stated.

      30 years ago, I was friends with a Catholic priest who told me he was a closet atheist. He was in his 70s, said he began as a believer but lost his faith in a god because he felt if one existed, she would act to reduce suffering. He continued working for the church in part because it was his career but also because he felt his work was of benefit to his parishioners, whom he said, seemed to have a need for faith and ritual. While god did nothing, he felt the church did something that comforted people.

      • Carol

        just.chris, there are a lot of Christian clergy who have “lost their [in the traditional sense] faith. Some stay for financial reasons. Seminaries really don’t train seminarians for a secular career. Others stay, like your friend, because of bonds of affection. Others because they are cultural Christians and Christianity is part of their identity.

        There is not much by way of credible apologetics that can meet the challenge of the transition from 20th to 21st century evolutionary shift in consciousness. St. Anselm defined theology as “faith seeking understanding”, but, in the Western Church(es) theological beliefs have come to be confused with faith which is not belief without doubt, but trust with reservation.

        http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/Non-Believing-Clergy.pdf

        The priest I worked was more Jewish than Christian in that he did not believe in “life after death*, but, like your priest-friend, he continued, as part of his committment to his vocation as a Catholic priest, to faithfully console people with this Traditional Christian teaching. His mother had also had doubts about Eternal Life and she had told him that, if there was anything to it, she would find a way to let him know. She didn’t and because of the affectionate familial bond that they shared, this had a powerful influence on her son’s beliefs.

        Actually, I think people tend to be more concerned with the question of whether there is [meaningful] life before death than life after death these days. Such are the times in which we live!

        • just.chris

          I am glad of that. Living for dying is a tragedy.

        • Carol

          just.chris, yes, “pie in the sky when you die bye and bye” doesn’t appeal to me either. A lot of Marx’s criticisms of formal Christianity/Churchianity are spot on. However, his proposed alternative, not so good, IMO.

          BTW, “pray, pay and obey” isn’t my spiritual style, either as you may have already guessed. These are exciting times to be alive, unfortunately many people, both religious and secular, seem to be missing it. Hard to be reflective when your brain is flooded with fear chemicals. The “old ways” don’t work any more in the brave new hi-tech world that we have created for ourselves and, until we have trial and errored our way to what does work the predators among us have the advantage. We are going to have to learn to tolerate a higher level of insecurity than we experienced before our technology shrank the world and and the protection that being boundaried by two oceans had previously afforded us.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carol:

          He enters a battle gravely,
          with sorrow and with great compassion,
          as if he were attending a funeral.

          And Sun Tzu teaches that the best battle is the one not fought.

        • Carol

          Bob posts:

          And Sun Tzu teaches that the best battle is the one not fought.

          Once Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and began “conquering” under the “sign of the Cross”, the crucifixion of “Prince of Peace” became an ongoing historical reality Western *Christendom.” The only “Crusade” that Christians are supposed to pursue is a “crusade” against the un-Christlike impulses of our own disordered humanity.

          French king, on his refusal to join in the Pope’s Crusade, “I wouldn’t send a knight out on a dogma like that.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carol:

          I intutively resonate to the Trinitarian and Christological Mysteries

          The Trinity is one of the least sensible notions within Christianity! Is that one of the draws?

          How important is it to you that this is actually true?

          Most Western Christians are Unitarian, not Trinitarian

          Well, they do claim that they’re a monotheism. Kinda follows, it seems to me.

          My view of the Trinity is that it’s a clumsy effort to patch Jesus in at the top spot. You can’t really have a duality–that’s typically male + female–so they throw in the vague “Holy Spirit” guy to make it a threesome to make it numerologically sensible.

          Maybe the benefit of the Trinity is that it keeps faith central. You can’t understand it, so faith is unavoidable. You can’t then delude yourself that you’re a Christian because of reason.

          Unity which does not depend on multiplicity is tyranny.” –Blaise Pascal

          Yeah, that makes sense. Or not.

          BTW, the Trinitary Mystery is not a new Revelation.

          Seems like it to me. How can it both be fundamental and essential on one hand but not even made explicit in Jesus’s teachings??

          It is a more theologically explicit version of the very ancient spiritual Law of Three that has probably been intuitively known as far back as pre-historical periods of human evolution.

          What–like in the triple goddess of Virgin, Mother, Crone?

        • Carol

          Bob posts:

          Bob: The Trinity is one of the least sensible notions within Christianity! Is that one of the draws?

          Just be cause something is not exhaustively accessible to human reason does not mean that it does not make sense, it only means that it does not make sense to us. Yes, I am drawn to the “unknown”, the mysterious. The “unknown” terrifies some, attracts others. I suppose our responses depend a lot on how curious we are by temperament. I Lutheran pastor once cautioned me that my curiosity was going to get me into a lot of trouble. And so it has, but working my way out of that trouble has given me a problem-solving skill set. No such thing as a free lunch. We humans learn by trial and error, errors can have painful consequences. We can have failures or we can have learning experiences or we can always play it safe and have a boring life.

          Some people chose to always play it safe, others to always take a risk, most people fall somewhere on the spectrum of “inbetween.” I am more of a “risk-taker” than many people I know, but I am not impulsive. I always do a “risk analysis”, best possible outcome/worst possible outcome. Then I ponder whether I think I can cope with the worst possible outcome and is the best possible outcome worth the risk. I have actually become more of a risk-taker as I have gotten older. I am 70 years old, have survived my mother by 5+ years. I measure my probably remaining time in years (maybe), not decades. While I realize that some choices may have dire consequences (for me, not others), it could also be the adventure of a lifetime. Where 20, maybe even just 10, years ago I might have taken a pass, I am more inclined to think, “At your age, what the hell, you won’t suffer for long, go for it!” Yes, Virginia, there is a dangerous old woman stage.”

          Bob: How important is it to you that this is actually true?
          Spiritually, not that important. It is more of a philosophical than a theological belief.

          Bob: My view of the Trinity is that it’s a clumsy effort to patch Jesus in at the top spot. You can’t really have a duality–that’s typically male + female–so they throw in the vague “Holy Spirit” guy to make it a threesome to make it numerologically sensible.

          Actually, Jesus is not at the top spot. The Father holds that place, at least in the Eastern Christian Tradition. That is what the change in the Latin/Western Church’s Nicene Creed (the filioque controversy) was all about that was a major issue in the Great Schism in 1054. There was a later attempt at reconciliation between the Western and Eastern Churches, the Council of Florence/Ferrara, I believe, in which the Western Church participants agreed to change the statement from the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father AND the Son to from the Father THROUGH the Son, but that compromise was rejected by the majority and the schism exists to this day.

          Bob: Maybe the benefit of the Trinity is that it keeps faith central. You can’t understand it, so faith is unavoidable. You can’t then delude yourself that you’re a Christian because of reason. I doubt that the Trinity supports fideism or there would not be so many unitarian fideists who have become “Jesus-only” Christians. I had a Lutheran actually say to me, “I don’t need the Trinity and all those other doctrines, all I need is Jesus.” American Evangelicals tend to be “Jesus onlies” in practice. They often pray “in Jesus’ Name” rather than in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Whatever floats your boat when your faith is more individualistic than communitarian, I suppose. Fortunately, flunking theology 101 does not get us expelled from the Kingdom of God any more than sinful actions committed out of ignorance and/or weakness or we would all be “screwed” instead of “saved.”

          Unity which does not depend on multiplicity is tyranny.” –Blaise Pascal

          Bob: Yeah, that makes sense. Or not.

          What “makes sense, or not” depends on our personal subjective perspectives, doesn’t it–but we don’t have to think alike to love alike.

          BTW, the Trinitary Mystery is not a new Revelation.

          Bob: Seems like it to me. How can it both be fundamental and essential on one hand but not even made explicit in Jesus’s teachings??

          There are a lot of things in Jesus’ teachings that are implicit rather than explicit. Jesus demonstrated an astounding understanding of the dignity of the human person regardless of his or her social standing, but many Christians were still defending the institution of slavery until quite recently. It takes more time for some teachings to percolate through human societies than it does for others, especially when justice demands giving up socioeconomic advantages. Self-interest has a tendency to blind us to justice for others.

          (The Law of Three) is a more theologically explicit version of the very ancient spiritual Law of Three that has probably been intuitively known as far back as pre-historical periods of human evolution.

          Bob: What–like in the triple goddess of Virgin, Mother, Crone?

          It goes much deeper than that:
          http://www.endlesssearch.co.uk/philo_lawof3.htm

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carol:

          does not mean that it does not make sense, it only means that it does not make sense to us.

          Precisely. You have no evidence pointing you to your conclusion. It makes no sense; why imagine that it could in some other universe?

          Yes, I am drawn to the “unknown”, the mysterious.

          The unknown or the “made up”? If the unknown excites you, read about science.

          Spiritually, not that important [that it's true].

          Sounds like a big difference between us. If this is just a hobby, like writing a fantasy novel, that’d be fine. Make up whatever you want. But you’re claiming that this stuff is real, aren’t you?

          Actually, Jesus is not at the top spot.

          They’re equal in the West, are they not?

          Fortunately, flunking theology 101 does not get us expelled from the Kingdom of God

          Oh? I thought that you had to do it right or else roast forever.

          There are a lot of things in Jesus’ teachings that are implicit rather than explicit.

          People with agendas say that. I’m sure there are Christians who have twisted the Bible in ways that annoy you, but they’ll say something like this.

        • Carol

          Linear logic and being able to “posit the paradox” are two different ways of thinking.

          Linear Logic is intrinsically dualistic–it is either/or thinking, it has no place for a both/and paradoxical paradigm. Linear thinking is reductionistic, more simplistic than simple and tends to leads to partial or half-truths, the worst kind of lies since we intuitively resonate to reality truth and find it very difficult to open our minds to a more balanced perspective when we mistake a valid insight for exhaustive knowledge of a particular subject or circumstance :

          “The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

          Epistemologically, our ways of thinking are not different because you are an atheist and I am a theist. Linear thinking is the epistemological category of classical Newtonian modern science and paradoxical thinking is the epistemological category of Quantum Mechanics in sub-atomic post-modern science. Newton was a genius, but he didn’t have the scientific instruments that allowed him to observe that sometimes light behaved like a particle and sometimes it behaved like a wave, so it is not an either/or, but a both/and phenomenon. The polemics between the adherents of opposing scientific theories often had a lot in common with the polemics between the various Christian sects:
          http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/lightandcolor/particleorwave.html
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave%E2%80%93particle_duality
          http://www.livescience.com/24509-light-wave-particle-duality-experiment.html

          There is some confusion about the term “dualism” since some use it has a synonym for both/and paradoxical thinking and some use it to describe the radical opposition of the paradoxical complementary opposites that leads to the absolutizing of a partial or half-truth. “Dualism” is one of those terms that requires context to be correctly interpreted.

          [Off-topic alert:
          Language is a tool for communication that can either elucidate or obsfucate. Contemporary spinmeisters have been greatly advantaged by our information technology, which is why the results of a recent poll claim to show that people who listen to Fox News have less informed opinions about current events than people who are not news junkies. Of course, figures can lie and liars can figure, so that poll may or may not be valid; but we all intuitively sense that the corporate media manipulates the facts, no?]

          Ken Wilber says that he believes the function of religion is to grease the wheels of history so that we can move toward non-dual consciousness, or what I would call the contemplative mind. Quite simply, we are supposed to move toward love. Mature religion’s function is to make us
          capable of compassion, mercy, forgiveness, nonviolence, and care for others. When religion is not creating people who can reconcile things, heal things, and absorb contradictions—then religion isn’t doing its job.
          When we stopped teaching the contemplative mind in a systematic way about 400 to 500 years ago, we lost the capacity to deal with paradox, inconsistency, and human imperfection. Instead, it became “winners take all” and losers lose all. Despite all our universities and churches in
          Western Christianity, we learned to choose one side over the other and if possible, exclude, punish, or even kill the other side. That’s dualistic thinking at its worst; and it’s the normal mind that has taken over our world. It creates very angry and often, violent people. Peace and happiness are no longer possible, because there is always a crusade to be waged and won. That is ego at work and surely not soul. ~Richard Rohr

          There was a course in biblical hermeneutics for laypeople [unfortunately, I cannot remember its name] that taught us how to “Think Hebrew” when we read the Scriptures:

          In Judaism it was possible simultaneously to ascribe change of purpose to God and to declare that God did not change, without resolving the paradox; for the immutability of God was seen as the trustworthiness of covenanted relation to his people in the concrete history of his judgment and mercy, rather than as a primarily ontological category. –Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition—Vol. 1.

          “The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic…He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that. Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also.” — G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

          “One of the essential paradoxes of Advent: that while we wait for God, we are with God all along, that while we need to be reassured of God’s arrival, or the arrival of our homecoming, we are already at home. While we wait, we have to trust, to have faith, but it is God’s grace that gives us that faith. As with ALL SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE, two things are true, and equally true, at once. The mind can’t grasp paradox; it is the knowledge of the soul.” ~Michelle Blake

          It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand, and what those things are. Human understanding has vulgarly occupied itself with nothing but understanding, but if it would only take the trouble to understand itself at the same time it would simply have to posit the paradox. –Soren Kierkegaard

          Take away paradox from the thinker and you have a professor. –Soren Kierkegaard

          In mysticism that love of truth which we saw as the beginning of all philosophy leaves the merely intellectual sphere, and takes on the assured aspect of a personal passion. Where the philosopher guesses and argues, the mystic lives and looks; and speaks, consequently, the disconcerting language of first-hand experience, not the neat dialectic of the schools. Hence whilst the Absolute of the metaphysicians remains a diagram – impersonal and unattainable – the Absolute of the mystics is lovable, attainable, alive. — by Evelyn Underhill – MYSTICISM (Chapter One)

          “…paradox arises not from intransigent incongruity in the nature of reality, …but from man’s far too rigid and unyielding habits of thought and from the character of his language, which in turn result from his reluctance to accept unconventional implications of new experience.”
          –Harold K. Schilling

          “…(T)he process called ‘divine revelation’ is basically the disclosure not of the existence of a supreme reality called God but of the God-character of supreme reality.”
          –Harold K. Schilling

          Revelation can never find a place in reason, but reason finds a place in revelation. –Emil Brunner

          The emergence and blossoming of understanding, love, and intelligence has nothing to do with any tradition, no matter how ancient or impressive–it has nothing to do with time. It happens on its own when a human being questions, wonders, inquires, listens, and looks without getting stuck in fear, pleasure, and pain. When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open. – Toni Packer

          On Humility: Even those of us without gods are profoundly vulnerable to mistaking our own perspective for Reality. The only protection against sanctifying our own perceptions is to nurture a constant awareness of this profound, universal human flaw. Like background music, a part of our minds must always be asking, what am I distorting? what am I missing? how am I being seduced and blinded by self-interest? We must cherish doubt, the guardian of goodness and truth. And we must surround ourselves with friends and advisors who help us to safeguard ourselves: People who ask us hard questions. People who bear witness to our complicated motives. People who ask us to think more deeply when we are spouting half truths.– ValerieT, Posted on Wisdom Commons

          Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. –Albert Einstein, “Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium”, 1941

          Unlike classical Newtonian physicists, whose theories are based solely on linear logic, contemporary quantum physicists have rediscovered the paradoxical nature of Deep Reality:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mechanics
          Paper on Making Sense of Non-Linear Logic:
          http://www.novatialabs.com/Man59021.pdf

          http://www.soulonline.org/prose/writings/june/solvsego.htm 
          The Paradox Of Ego Versus Soul

          To reach a level of peace in this world of polarity and duality we must come to terms with paradox. Most of us in our contemporary society live in our heads. Our minds struggle with the idea of paradox. Our ego, with its linear logic, cannot comprehend the illogic of paradox. However, our Hearts have no difficulty accepting the complementary nature of all polarities.
          One of my favorite paradoxes contrasts my individuality with my sense of connectedness to All That Is. Our ego wishes for us to stand out and be someone special. It craves recognition and attention. Consequently, many of us find ourselves doing things in the world so we can be known for something. We hope to “leave our mark” or our legacy, for the world before we die. This can look like having a gifted child, accomplishing a great feat, or even becoming a notorious criminal. Because “ordinary” is so unacceptable to the ego, it seeks to be famous or outstanding in some way. Ego has a voracious appetite and is never satisfied with what it gets because it is not its nature to be satisfied. Its recognition comes at the expense of others because it seeks to be better than (or even worse than) – anything to stand out.
          Now, each of us is born into this world as a unique expression of God. Like snowflakes, no two people are alike. We each carry skills, talents, and abilities that are our gifts. Yet, most of us were never fully recognized for this inherent uniqueness. We were always compared to others, which is the way of the ego. We may never have been made to feel appreciated for our pure Beingness and individual beauty. It was always:
          “What have you done for me lately?”;
          “What makes you so special?”;
          “What have you accomplished?”
          So, we move through our lives seeking the recognition we never got. And then, if we ever do get it, it is never enough. Some people may have accomplished great things and become famous. But if they have been following the direction of their ego, they somehow still feel empty inside. This may explain why many successful and famous people commit suicide or turn to drugs/alcohol. They are desperately trying to fill the void inside that is characterized by the ego’s insatiable desire to be somebody. As long as the ego is the prime motivator in our lives, we are endlessly caught in the quandary of success and dissatisfaction.

          I have come to the Self-Realization that everyone is special in his/her own way and it’s just a matter of allowing those gifts to manifest themselves naturally (albeit sometimes through hard work). I no longer need to distinguish myself from everyone else. I know that, like everyone else, I am special already. Not better, not worse. Only when I accept that we are all equal and connected to one another can my individuality be fully expressed. At the core of our Being we are the same, God. This is the great paradox. When I accept my sameness with everyone, only then can I truly express my uniqueness. Only when I embrace the paradoxical nature of life will I be able to find contentment and peace. I must be willing to accept my Being and in turn accept others. The ego wants us to do things to be accepted. It will never happen. The ego is coming from the premise that we are essentially incomplete. Actions that stem from the acceptance of my Being are totally different from actions that arise from the doing of my ego. Even though the actions may look identical. One is done in the full Consciousness of Soul and Love of Self. The other is done from a sense of incompleteness, inferiority, and fear of not being enough.
          It is our choice. It merely takes a shift in perception from ego to Soul-Centered Awareness.
           

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carol:

          Linear Logic is intrinsically dualistic–it is either/or thinking, it has no place for a both/and paradoxical paradigm.

          I’m talking about the kind of thinking that gets us somewhere. That teaches us new things. That finds out stuff. That makes claims through which we find that it delivers what it promises.

          If you have another kind of logic/thinking that doesn’t have these properties, I don’t see why it is useful. Sorry to be so Western, but if it doesn’t deliver, what good is it? Sounds like mental masturbation.

          Linear thinking is the epistemological category of classical Newtonian modern science and paradoxical thinking is the epistemological category of Quantum Mechanics in sub-atomic post-modern science.

          I don’t think so. The same scientific thinking continues to push the boundaries of science. You follow the evidence where it leads.

          If you’re saying that getting out of our Middle World into quantum physics is disconcerting, yeah, I get it. But that’s something different. The tools that deliver are the same. Don’t use the craziness in quantum physics as license to get all Deepak Chopra on us here!

        • Carol

          Bob posts:
          If you’re saying that getting out of our Middle World into quantum physics is disconcerting, yeah, I get it. But that’s something different. The tools that deliver are the same. Don’t use the craziness in quantum physics as license to get all Deepak Chopra on us here!

          Some of us, like me, have had our metaphysical beliefs radically challenged and changed by quantum physics. Many, perhaps most, do not make a connection between their philosophical world view and the discoveries from the physical [or social] sciences. I can remember how excited I was to learn in school that what we perceived as solid static matter was really comprised of dynamically active atoms that were anything but “solid.” No one else in my class seemed grasp the metaphysical implications of that discovery. I have always had a tendency to wanted to consider the possible entire spectrum of effects of a cause rather than just one useful effect. I think linear logic is simplistic and probably why there are so many destructive side effects when achieving a single use for new research is the pragmatic goal of development.

          In a game of billiards, the break takes place before the goal of shooting the balls into the pockets can begin. Some of us “weirdos” find the break as interesting as the narrower goal of getting the balls off the table and into the side pockets.

          If we broadened our developmental vision, we might experience fewer black swans.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carol:

          The article you cited has grown into the Clergy Project. Perhaps this would’ve been of service to such closeted atheists in the past.

        • Carol

          The Clergy Proect sounds like a much needed mission for our times.

          We humans are social, not solitary, animals. Everyone needs the support of intimate, accepting people with whom we can lay aside our psychological armor and just be fully transparent, not just partially honest.

          There is often more validation for believing in Grace in a 12-step program than there is in a middle class church parish. The daemon of perfectionism entered the Latin/Western Church through the Platonism of St. Augustine.

          I prefer the Wabi Sabi, a spirituality of imperfection. One of the teachings is the Parable of the Cracked Pot. A village water-bearer had two pots. One was perfect the other was cracked and half of its water leaked out as the water-bearer returned from the well. The cracked pot was devasted by its failure to be as useful as the perfect pot and poured out its grief to the water-bearer, asking to be replaced by a perfect pot. But the water-bearer refused, pointing out that the cracked pot’s side of the path was strewn with beautiful wild flowers, while the perfect pot’s side of the path was barren.

          There is no greater “crack pot” that St. Francis of Assisi whose spirituality is prototype for mysticism in the Western Church. If he had lived in our day, he would probably been committed to a psyche ward and/or over dosed on psychotropic medications. I love Franciscan spirituality! It is idealistic without being other-worldly. St. Francis suffered much without losing his essential optimism and certain hope in the possibility for a transformation of the world. He did not desire ordination or want the institutionalization of his order. Part of his suffering was not having his wishes followed in this matter.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carol:

          The writings of Taoist Chuang Tzu have the story of the imperfect tree. In a forest, one tree was twisted. All the others were cut down for lumber, but the twisted one was useless. Centuries passed, and the twisted tree grew huge, and it provided the only shade. The useless tree was useful. We see something similar with the bronze statues from Greek/Roman times. Because of their bronze, they were melted down to make cannons. They were useful. Not so the marble copies. And so we have the “useless” marble statues in our museums.

          Sounds like you’re a valuable asset to society, so I don’t have much to complain about when you summarize your spiritual interests, but I have no use for the supernatural or for faith.

        • Carol

          Bob, I did not grow up in a “church-going” family, although my mother did have a non-theological, intuitive faith. She always said that she believed IN God, but she never told us what she believed ABOUT God. I don’t think she had any formal theological beliefs. My father was a chemist, a scientist whose modernist logical positivism would date him in the contemporary scientific community. He was a humanitarian agnostic who considered the academic humanities to be “bull shit.” However, Dear ol’ Dad was the most ethical person I have ever known. DOD used to say he wanted a “fair deal” not a “good deal” because if he got a “good deal” he would be cheating someone. I have not met any professing christians yet that are not looking for a “good deal” but I have met many who would say my father is in hell because he died without giving intellectual assent to a christian belief system.

          Both of my parents were very ethical, but their ethics were not conventional. Whenever Mother became aware that someone had violated a universal human value, she would say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” We were not a perfect family, but we coped with our imperfections in a compassionate manner. I was never guilt-tripped as a child, but I was always held accountable. Whenever my brother or I made a foolish choice, Mother would say, “How could someone as good and smart as you do such a thing?” I grew up with a recognition of what Christianity calls “sin”, but I understood it to be a betrayal of my own humanity, not an offense against God. I think God is grieved when our behavioral choices cause pain to ourselves or others, but I don’t think S/He is “offended.” In fact, I think it is as much a *sin* to take offense as it is to give offense. So many moralistic people spend their entire lives being perpetually offended, one of the more obnoxious affects of narcissism, IMO!

          I have been told on more than one occasion that I am a heretic. Well, given the limitations of the human intellect and the incomprehensible richness and depth of the Mysteries of faith, heretical beliefs are not uncommon. The difference is that some of us continue to question, keeping an open mind and our theology takes us deeper into the Mysteries while others are quite content with the dogmatic absolutism that the institutional churches mass market. As many of us raised in a consumerist society realize the key to successful mass marketing is to discern and target the “lowest common denominator, which may explain why some researchers claim that the theological of most American Christians end at the third grade level. Confirmation is supposed to be an initiation rite, but it has become more of a graduation ceremony. The priest I worked with said that the ideal would be for laypeople to have a level of formal theological education equal to their level of secular education.

          Most churches are not even theological formation approaching anywhere near that “ideal” for the laity. Perhaps that is why so many fundamentalists attack those of us who do pursue our theological formation beyond confirmation, often self-righteously proclaiming that they “do not need all those books, all they need is their bibles and JeSUS in their hearts.” Why do those who know the least always seem to know it the loudest?

          And the list of moral prohibitions is endless. I have zero tolerance for predatory behavior, but anything else, no matter how “unconventional” it may be, is a matter of personal conscience. Here is what Scripture says God requires of us:

          He has showed you, O, man, what is good.
          And what does the Lord require of you?
          To act justly and to love mercy
          And to walk humbly with your God.
          Micah 6:8

          Don’t get me started on the self-righteous arrogance of Red State religion or I will make the Guinness Book of Word Records for the longest rant.

          In my own experiences of unmediated grace have never left me with the impression that I now have all the answers to the mysteries of life. They leave me momentarily stunned, in awesome silence wondering WTF was that?!!!!! and with an irresistable desire to seek an answer to that question. I do receive insights from my theological contemplation, but the TOE (theory of everything) that dogmatic absolutists claim to have found continues to elude me even after 40+ years of continuing theology study as an adult convert to the Christian faith. My theological beliefs are usually speculative rather than dogmatic. I have had several belief systems collapse under the weight of insufficient answers and/or answers that conflict with my own experience, but my faith has remained a constant. We all need a belief system that makes sense of our experiences and gives meaning to our lives. If the collapse of a subjective belief system is happens too quickly, rather than as a gradual transitional process to a more inclusive belief system, it can cause psychological instability. That is why I prefer respectful dialogue to polemics. We are sharing our comprehension of Reality/Truth, not The Truth. I believe that there are always three sides to every debate: yours, mine and the truth. Infallibility requires omniscience and that is a Divine, not a human, attribute. All opinions are not equally valid because there are Absolutes, but all human understanding and experience of them is relative.

        • Carol

          As an exercise in comparative religion, consider the Taoist teaching on war and St. Augustine’s Just War Theory and tell me which one you think is more faithful to the teaching of Jesus:

          Weapons are the tools of violence;
          all decent men detest them.
          Weapons are the tools of fear;
          a decent man will avoid them
          except in the direst necessity
          and, if compelled, will use them
          only with the utmost restraint.
           
          Peace is his highest value.
          If the peace has been shattered,
          how can he be content?
           
          His enemies are not demons,
          but human beings like himself.
          He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
          Nor does he rejoice in victory.
          How could he rejoice in victory
          and delight in the slaughter of men?
           
          He enters a battle gravely,
          with sorrow and with great compassion,
          as if he were attending a funeral.”
          –Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carol:

          Why be a Christian? There are lots of other spiritual traditions if you simply enjoy immersing yourself in one.

        • Carol

          Bob posts:
          Carol:
          Why be a Christian? There are lots of other spiritual traditions if you simply enjoy immersing yourself in one.

          I intutively resonate to the Trinitarian and Christological Mysteries–spiritually and even intellectually, if accept them as a meta-rational presupposition and interpret them relationally rather than metaphysically. I am neither a biblical, nor a dogmatic literalist.

          The Trinitarian Mystery is the Source for building a community bound together by kenotic love rather than common interests and the Christological Mysteries bring time [earth] and Eternity [heaven] together in One Person’s Life.

          Most Western Christians are Unitarian, not Trinitarian in spite of rote reciting the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed during a weekly liturgical celebration:

          “Unfortunately, many Christians do not appreciate the gift of the revelation of the Trinity. Christian laymen often seem to engage in the many ritual gestures devoted to the Trinity with little understanding of the centrality of the Trinity to the faith. Clergy in the West are famous for being befuddled when it comes to preaching the sermon on Trinity Sunday. Indeed, the prominent twentieth-century Catholic theologian Karl Rahner could lament the absence of the Trinity in the intellectual and devotional life of the modern Church. Although recent history demonstrates a new found interest in the Trinity, it still seem that most Christians do not recognize or have somehow forgotten that the doctrine of the Trinity contains* the “pearl of great price” the ne plus ultra of metaphysical wisdom.
          *I say “contains” rather than “is” because I wish to distinguish between mere notional knowledge and genuine sapiential knowledge of the Trinity. Sapiential comes from sapience, “taste” as in “Taste and see the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Sapiential knowledge is transformative.” –Timothy A Mahoney

          The Mystery of the Trinity, besides revealing that love, not common interests, is the basis for a sustaining an inclusive community, demonstrates that unity and diversity are not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary:
          “Multiplicity which is not reduced to unity is confusion. Unity which does not depend on multiplicity is tyranny.” –Blaise Pascal

          If God is Love, then there must be both a Divine Lover and a Divine Beloved, since love is essentially relational.  A Divine/human love relationship is not sufficient, since then God would need man/creation to actualize His/Her potential to become Love and would be less than Perfect/Complete which leaves us with a finite God Who is not *big enough* to satisfy the human longing for Perfection/Completeness.

          Ten propositions on the Trinity
          http://faith-theology.blogspot.com/2006/02/ten-propositions-on-trinity.html
          1. The Trinity is not an optional doctrine, it is essential. God’s unity is not behind God’s threeness, God’s unity is in God’s threeness. This is not speculative mathematics, it is a descriptive theology of revelation.
          2. The Trinity is not an academic doctrine thought up by clever scholars, rather it grew out of the Christian experience of worship, i.e. it expressed the early church’s pattern of prayer to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.
          3. The driving force of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity was Christological and soteriological, i.e. it served to articulate the Christian experience of salvation in Christ. The first Christians already knew God; through Jesus they came to know God as Jesus’ Father and Jesus as God’s Son; while in the Spirit Jesus continued to be present to them, forming a family of prayer to the Father and building a community of witness to Christ.
          4. The church’s thinking was this: As God discloses himself in worship and salvation, so God must be in Godself. In the technical language of (Karl) Rahner’s Rule: the “economic” Trinity is the “immanent” Trinity, and the “immanent” Trinity is the “economic” Trinity. What you see is what you get, and what you get is what there is.
          5. At the heart of the doctrine of the Trinity is God’s being-as-communion. God’s unity is not monadic, it is relational. The doctrine of the Trinity is the church’s exegesis of I John 4:8b: “God is love.” Father, Son and Spirit indwell each other in love, giving, receiving and returning love in an eternal dynamic of gift-exchange.
          6. If God is Trinity, do Jews—and Muslims—know nothing of God? Not at all. God can be known without being fully identified. In fact, “the church’s identification of the one true God as the Trinity does not preclude, but rather requires, that Abraham and his children know how to refer to this God, and so are able to worship him” (Bruce Marshall). Indeed the activity of the Spirit in the world encourages the church to be open and attentive to the presence of God in all the major religions.
          7. Is the language of the Trinity sexist? Not at all. No responsible theologian has ever thought of the Father and the Son as male, nor of the Spirit (as is currently fashionable) as female. The issue is not gender but personhood. In fact, it is a strictly monotheistic God, not the Trinity, that is patriarchal—and oppressive.
          8. Father, Son and Spirit are constituted by their mutuality, i.e. they are who they are only in their inter-relationships. So too human beings, made in the image of God: we are who we are only in relationship with others. Margaret Thatcher said that there is no such thing as society; on the contrary, there is no such thing as an individual: there are only persons-in-relationship.
          9. Clearly the Trinity is not an irrelevant doctrine, it has very practical—indeed political—implications. That God is essentially and eternally God-in-relationship of equality and mutual fellowship—could there be a more cogent critique of hierarchies of domination and exclusion, or of an economics of greed and exploitation?
          10. Finally, that God is Trinity means that God is mystery—but a mystery not to be explained but entered. God calls us to participate in his very being, joining in the divine dance that issues in creation and concludes in redemption. In Rublev’s great icon of the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit are seated around three sides of a (eucharistic) table. The fourth side awaits a guest.
          By Kim Fabricius

          Separated from the Trinitarian Mystery, the Christological Mysteries lose much of their biblical meaning. Jesus is simply a historical figure, Savior of the Church, spiritual guru and/or moral teacher perhaps, but not the Cosmic Christ, Savior of the world/universe. Apart from a relational understanding of the Trinitarian Mystery, the Church repeats the Galatian heresy, beginning with the Gospel, but returning to the Law, it becomes, as Flannery O’Connor says about the South, not Christ-centered, but Christ-haunted. Yes, it is better to immerse oneself in a spirituality of imperfection than a law-centered, heretical Christian sect, fortunately I received my theologica/spiritual formation from the Redemptorists, a contemplative religious Order that returned to the teachings of its Founder, St. Alphonsus Liguori after Vatican Council II:

          “The typical moralist sees grace as a means to fulfill a commandment. He puts the commandment in the first place and sees the difference of Old and New Testaments in the observance of the Decalogue. In the Old Testament they did not have the grace to keep the commandments; now in the New Testament they have sufficient grace if they use all the means, the sacraments, and so on. This is an anthropocentric, moralistic approach which makes the grace of Christ and finally Christ Himself only the means for the law, for the commandments . But primacy is not the law, the commandments “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”; the primacy is our Lord, who in his grace, his tremendous love, comes to encounter us.” –Bernard Haering, C.Ss.R., Redemptorist Moral Theologian

          Franciscan priest Richard Rohr also “gets it”:

          Christian tradition has defined God as “Trinity,” or mutual vulnerability, communion, relationship itself.  It resolves the old philosophical problem of “the One and the many.”  God is much more a verb than a noun by our definition.
          Yet we pulled Jesus out of the Trinity and thus ceased to really understand the dynamism and the core Gospel:  “I came from God, you are in me, and I am taking you back with me” is the nonstop message in most of John 14-17.  How could we miss that?
          It was too good to be true, so we decided it was not true, and made it into a worthiness contest, at which almost no one won.  A Trinitarian notion of God leaves room for all, invites all, and includes all.  God, that’s good!

          BTW, the Trinitary Mystery is not a new Revelation. It is a more theologically explicit version of the very ancient spiritual Law of Three that has probably been intuitively known as far back as pre-historical periods of human evolution.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Carol:

      He told me that the Church was always 100 years behind our secular culture.

      Since the church claims to see correct morality better than the rest of us, it’d be nice if they were actually leading culture rather than being dragged, kicking and screaming, into modernity. Shouldn’t the church be the one that says, “Y’know, it may not seem like it, but we’re really being unfair to group X in way Y, so let’s stop doing that.”

      Both theism and atheism require a “leap of faith”

      Gotta disagree with you there. There is no leap of faith with atheism. The null hypothesis, from which we start, is that there are no gods. Then we consider the evidence that argues otherwise to see if it holds up.

      The only totally intellectually justifiable position on the *God-question* is agnosticism.

      I’m both an agnostic (I don’t know either way) and an atheist (I have no god belief).

      the claim that it was impossible to know ANYTHING with certainty represents the opposite error

      I don’t think I’ve seen this error from any atheist or scientist.

      I differ in that I believe we need Grace to acquire the virtue to practice those common values

      The simpler interpretation seem to me to be no assumption of anything supernatural. What’s left unexplained?

      after the experience of atheistic communism in Russia and other countries within that modern empire’s sphere of influence

      Yeah, dictatorships suck. Doesn’t reflect on atheism, however. There is no “name of atheism” in which to kill people.

      Good quotes.

      • Carol

        Bob, the institutional Church is the visible, institutionalized form of the Christian faith Tradition. There are many who think that “the church beneath the Church” is the true Church:
        http://www.cta-usa.org/Reprint200412/Estes200412.html
        Institutions are by their very nature “conservative” wih a strong tendency toward preserving the status quo. In the beginning of radical socioeconomic/political changes this is a good thing since we humans learn by trial and error and there are always cutting-edge risk takers who want to change everything and instituitions have a stabilizing effect by keeping the “errors” at a manageable level. At some point in the process, however, the institutional resistence to change becomes an impediment to progress. We have reached that point in our present transitional time in history, which has taken us to the edge of a quantum leap forward in the evolution of human consciousness. I don’t know if you are familiar with Stephen Jay Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium, but it applies to the evolution of human consciousness as well as biological evolution. With our information technology, the spread of ideas is exponential, not incremental. The spread of Christianity could not have occurred without the increased contact between cultures facilitated by the rise of the Roman Empire and the Protestant Reformation could not have succeeded without the invention of the printing press. Our Information Age technology is a medium for the exchange of ideas and world views that has no historical equal.
        What prevents the Church from being consigned to the “dustbin of history” is the conflict that always arises between the priestly/conservative and the prophetic/progressive Traditions, a dynamic that propels the Church reluctantly into the future in spite of its intrinsic conservative tendencies. This is a very painful process since the Church is the last bulwark against change for those who cannot psychologically cope with change. Fundamentalism is about pyschology, not theology and the power to resist change out of fear for one’s own stability, not true religion and the power to change out of love for others.

        I know what the Church claims about its moral teaching. The Pharisees claimed the same thing and they were the only ones that seemed to really piss Jesus off. Tax collectors, prostitutes, thief on the Cross next to him as he died, all received empathetic love, along with either wise counsel to avoid risky behaviors could have dire social consequences and/or a desire for a change of attitude and behavior. But the Pharisees were told that they were “fit for hell” [Matthew 23:15] which is not the same as predicting that was their eternal destination. Jesus was not as presumptious as Christian fundamentalists in this matter.
        I do not believe in the infallibility of human judgment, either my own or that of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Only fideism or an abysmal ignorance of history can explain this particular tenet of ecclesiolatry, IMO.
        There is plenty of evidence for theism, not the evidence of the “hard” empirical sciences which can only test that which can be physicially measured, but the statistical evidence of consensual validation which supports or disproves the theories of the “soft” social sciences. Neither method provides a means for evaluating unique, unrepeatable events making science intrinsically reductionistic when it comes to evaluating something as diverse as human experience and as complex as the mystery of the human person.

        I am both an agnostic and a theist, which means at least we have both avoided the error of dogmatic absolutism which always seems to result in small-minded and mean-spirited individuals and groups. It took my agnostic father to accept, perhaps I should say become resigned to, the reality that my “faith” was not a temporary crutch for coping with the failure of my first marriage but a permanent change. He just sighed and said, “Well, at least it hasn’t made you mean.” Actually, it made me less “mean”–as long as none of my psychological “hot buttons” gets pushed!

        Radical sceptiscism is more common among nihilists, who I suppose could also be atheistic, theistic or professional scientists; but the defining characteristic is probably a hopelessness regarding any intrinsic value to human existence.

        The simpler interpretation is not always the correct interpretation. I would agree that there is a “simple” or organizing principle behind all complexity; but without a recognition of the complexities what we get is “simplistic”, not “simple.”

        When people kill in the name of *God* it is a false god created in their own image. Voltaire said, “If God created man in his image, we have more than reciprocated.” And Anne Lamott said, “You know you have created God in your own image when he hates all the same people you do.”

        “Religion is at its best when it makes us ask hard questions of ourselves. It is at its worst when it deludes us into thinking we have all the answers for everybody else. A man who lives, not by what he loves but what he hates, is a sick man.” –Archibald Macleish

        • just.chris

          Anne Lamott said, “You know you have created God in your own image when he hates all the same people you do.”

          Never heard that one before, very good.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carol:

          Institutions are by their very nature “conservative” wih a strong tendency toward preserving the status quo.

          I would’ve thought that Christianity would’ve been the exception because, after all, it’s not yet another manmade institution but was initiated by and is controlled by a god that actually exists (unlike all the other religions).

          Our Information Age technology is a medium for the exchange of ideas and world views that has no historical equal.

          Yes, but let’s not make too much of this. Since the Industrial Revolution it’s always the case that the technology du jour has no historical equal. It’s easy to become enamored by what’s new and forget the magnitude of what used to be new.

          There is plenty of evidence for theism

          Like what?

          The simpler interpretation is not always the correct interpretation.

          Agreed, but given the option of “germs and God cause disease” and “germs cause disease,” we have no warrant to pick the more complicated explanation that doesn’t do a better job.

        • Carol

          There seems to be a new biblical hermeneutic evolving in the Church, the belief that Scripture is a Revelation of two interdependent stories, the little story and the Big Story.

          Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr claims that the “contemplative/mystical Tradition, which is Big Story stuff, is an “alternative orthodoxy.”
          This is how a transpersonal psychologist describes the difference between the two “orthodoxies”:

          First-hand religion is based on direct experience of the sacred, also called mystical experience. Second-hand religion is based on another’s experience, authority, or dogma. This distinction is often framed as the difference between spirituality (first-hand) and religion. (second-hand). Transpersonal psychology is interested primarily in first-hand religion. –John Davis

          It is this difference that explains why so many people of faith are claiming to be “spiritual, not religious.”

          Contemplative theology is non-dualistic [both/and rather than either/or thinking]. It is a balanced, holistic way of thinking that accepts without attempting to reconcile the paradox Here is a poem by Rohr that explains the affects of transcending our normal dualistic thought patterns:
          AND
          And teaches us to say yes
          And allows us to be both-and
          And keeps us from either-or
          And teaches us to be patient and long suffering
          And is willing to wait for insight and integration
          And keeps us from dualistic thinking
          And does not divide the field of the moment
          And helps us to live in the always imperfect now
          And keeps us inclusive and compassionate toward everything
          And demands that our contemplation become action
          And insists that our action is also contemplative
          And heals our racism, our sexism, heterosexism, and our classism
          And keeps us from the false choice of liberal or conservative
          And allows us to critique both sides of things
          And allows us to enjoy both sides of things
          And is far beyond any one nation or political party
          And helps us face and accept our own dark side
          And allows us to ask for forgiveness and to apologize
          And is the mystery of paradox in all things
          And is the way of mercy
          And makes daily, practical love possible
          And does not trust love if it is not also justice
          And does not trust justice if it is not also love
          And is far beyond my religion versus your religion
          And allows us to be both distinct and yet united
          And is the very Mystery of Trinity

          Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

          I don’t know how many would know about Solzhenitsyn, the Orthodox Christian mystic and dissident Russian writer who sought asylum in the US during the Cold War and later returned to Russia after becoming disenchanted with Western society, but this is his take on the spiritual evolution that we are experiencing:

          ‘[The world] has reached a major watershed in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will demand from us a spiritual effort; we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life, where our physical nature will not be cursed, as in the Middle Ages, but even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon, as in the Modern Era.’ –Alexander Solzhenitsyn, A World Split Apart

          And this is from Kabir Helminski, a Sufi [Islam's mystical Tradition] believer:

          The spiritual challenge of our time is to realize our sacred humanness,
          that there need not be a conflict between the natural and the supernatural,
          between the finite and the infinite, between time and eternity,
          between practicality and mysticism, between social justice and contemplation,
          between sexuality and spirituality, between our human fulfillment and our spiritual realization, between what is most human and what is most sacred.
          –Kabir Helminski, The Knowing Heart: A Sufi Path of Transformation

          Mystics are polydox rather than sectarian believers, recognizing the common wisdom to be found in all of the Great Religions. Mystics are spiritual erotics, who question whether Truth can be separated from Love and still remain Truth in any valid sense of the word.

          The highly esteemed Roman Catholic theologian has speculated that the Christian of the future will be a mystic or not exist at all.

          Three scientific theories are challenging Traditional orthodoxy:
          1. Evolutionary theories which has resulted in the dynamic philosphical category of process theology which is challenging the static philosophical categories of Greek essentialism which were used to express the creeds and dogmatic teaching of the apostolic and patristic Church.
          2. Depth psychology which recognizes the influence of the subconscious on human thought and behavior.
          3. Quantum physics which has rediscovered the complexity and often unpredictable nature of the physical world.

          Both religious dogmatic absolutism and scientific logical positivism are being consigned to the epistemological dustbin of history making it possible for religion and science to recognize the validity of the two complementary ways of knowing.

          As Albert Einstein observed, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
          -”Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium”, 1941

          Einstein also recognized the importance of intuition and the limitations of the empirical method of scientific enquiry:

          ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.’ –A. Einstein

          “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
          ~A. Einstein (1879-1955)

          It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.
          – Albert Einstein

          “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear – that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny
          portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.” — Albert Einstein (The World as I See It

  • Carol

    I love Jewish humor.

    Along with the Darwin Awards, Steve Bhaerman’s annual State of the Universe Address from Swami Beyondananda is eagerly anticipated at the beginning of each new year.

    Steve’s thoughts on the Boston Marathon tragedy express my own response more than anything else I have read to date. It is “on topic” but not original. I often find myself “standing on the shoulders” of others in the process of reaching my own conclusions and I like to give credit where credit is due. If “originality” is necessary for a post to have validity for you, please ignore this one, but it spoke so intensely to me that I had to share it:

    April 20, 2013

    Sometimes A Cigar Is Just A Cigar

    “The problem with knee-jerk reactions is that you too often end up kneeing the wrong jerk.”
    – Swami Beyondananda

    Dear Friends: steve

    In the wake of the tragic and senseless bombings in Boston this past Monday, three “usual suspects” emerged:

    It was the Muslims.

    It was the white supremacist gun nuts.

    It was the government pulling off yet another false flag attack.

    In this whodunit, each camp pre-concluded the perpetrator based on their worldview – or at least hoped out loud that their villain was the perp. Progressive journalist David Sirota, who otherwise seems to have his head on straight, wrote a piece for Salon entitled, “Let’s Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber is a White American”, and those who know a little too much about “false flag operations” saw government conspiracy written all over it.

    Now two Chechin brothers have been identified as the perpetrators, and that seems like a likely enough story. As Freud supposedly said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. At the same time, given the way the government has used each incident to institute creeping martial law (in this case the lockdown of the entire city), it’s understandable why any official story might lack credibility.

    Like the little boy who cried Wolfowitz, our government and military industrial complex has so often manipulated the facts, distorted the truth, and cultivated fear, division, and disinformation that the body politic is suffering from what can only be called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, probably dating back nearly half a century to the Kennedy assassination.

    Because there is no longer a trusted arbiter of the “truth” people are free to believe whatever they believe and hunker into their “silos” and receive only the information that reinforces their preconceptions.

    There are still people who believe that Muslims are the only villains out there, or America, or Obama or the NRA. Here’s the inconvenient truth. Villainy is an equal-opportunity employer. The history of our so-called civilization has been so ruled by the “Rule of Gold Rule” (“Doo-doo unto others before they can doo-doo unto you”) that our collective unconscious is a seething toxic mass of unresolved grief, terror and rage. As the unworkability of the whole thing becomes more and more apparent, the poison escapes – or explodes – out of any convenient pore.

    As the media pulls us into the “details” of the story, we might do better by pulling ourselves out of the trees to see what the “forest” has to tell us. And I see two key areas of “common ground” so that we can individually and collectively come to our senses and – as the Swami would put it – “turn the funk into function, and leave the junk at the junction.”

    A Convenient Truth

    The first is to appreciate and utilize a very convenient truth. We have a deeply united body politic. Regardless of where they line up on the political spectrum, the vast majority of ordinary citizens recognize that our government and corporate media cannot be trusted to tell us the truth, or even to call forth a constructive conversation. Like the friend or family member who is possessed by alcoholism or addictive drugs, the government (actually, the corporate state – coercive power doing the bidding of big money) cannot “heal” itself.

    What is required is an “intervention” where the addict’s loved ones come together to check the individual into a program.

    America requires not just an intervention, but an “inner-vention” where we look inside ourselves to acknowledge the seeds of the evils we see “out there” and together in conversation – left and right coming front and center – we speak and listen together first to determine the “likeliest story,” and then to ascertain and call forth what we would like instead. In other words, the intervention and inner-vention should lead to IN-vention.

    As Van Jones famously said a few years ago, Martin Luther King’s speech was not, “I have a complaint.” We all have complaints, grievances, stories of injustice. That is the history of humankind – or rather, human-unkind.

    And there is a parallel story, which is our second hopeful area of common ground.

    For millennia, our spiritual teachers have pointed us toward the notion that we are indeed all in it together, that as Jesus said, “What you do to the least of us, you do to me.”

    It doesn’t matter what the religious or nonreligious ethical system is, at the foundation there is love and connectivity. You can see here similar expressions of the Golden Rule in a number of different traditions.

    As philosopher Alan Watts suggested, maybe it’s time for the religious people of the world to stop worshipping the finger and instead see where it is pointing. This goes for fundamentalist atheists as well, whose belief in a non-God can be as fervent and rigid as any religious fanatic. Even if they cannot believe in God, they can certainly believe in Good. In the space beyond words and concepts, it’s the same thing.

    So … what would it be like for Americans to step away from their screens (computer screens, TV screens, and the belief screens that shield us from novel ideas), and gather together in sacred space? What would it be like to call forth that which exists beyond religion and non-religion, and ask ourselves to speak into and listen from that space? There is no political, religious, economic, technical savior who can or will make things right. And … by using the collected heart wisdom of humanity to properly focus our mental capabilities, we might actually be able to navigate the evolutionary passage in front of us.

    Will we do it? As baseball great Willie Mays once said, “That’s what we’re going to play the season to find out.”

  • Carol

    Many “cradle Christians” have a magical rather than a mystical understanding of Grace.

    I lot of young Christians are beginning to question the pious BS that they have been taught by their Church authorities, which gives me hope that the Church will not only be reformed, but that it is also being transformed.

    Here is an amazingly mature post for a young [20-something] wife and mother raised in a very conservative christian faith community:

    http://revolfaith.com/2013/04/21/unequally-yoked-more-thoughts-on-marriage/

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Yes, that is a mature attitude. It’d be nice to see more of that.

  • Rick

    Bob,

    One problem at a time.

    I figured. May as well beat the same dead horse instead of dealing with the charging elephant.

    You can’t be so stupid to have missed the point, right? But, since you refuse to acknowledge the point, I’ll treat you as if you are.

    This tone is beneath your usual standard. Have a bad weekend? I’ll respond anyway.

    These are two really, really foolish beliefs that people would cling to only because of ulterior motives, not following the facts. And this is in the 21st century. You’ve got people with the same biases but with no modern sophistication or science 2000 years ago. Can we assume that they could be at least this inclined to embrace pleasing but false ideas?

    In spite of being incredibly stupid, I did get that point. The counter point I made was that eventually most people get the story right, as with your examples. Again, thanks for making this point. And for ignoring mine.

    Could they be inclined to “embrace pleasing but false ideas?” Sure. But that is much different from demonstrating that this is the most likely cause of their life-changing experiences.

    And that’s your challenge. I need only show that the gospel story could have grown organically with the retelling, giving us a natural explanation for the supernatural story. Your much more difficult task is to show that this is basically impossible.

    I recognize you think this is all you need to do. What you actually need to do is demonstrate that overturning the burden of 2,000 years of understood history is more reasonable than accepting its historic narrative. Just because you and the other angry atheists don’t like it doesn’t mean you can assert an alternate reality and then say, “prove me wrong.” This is a brazen attempt at revisionist history and even shoddier reasoning.

    • just.chris

      Hi Rick,

      “overturning 2,000 years of understood history”

      There has been much revisionism going on in the Church for centuries. The “understood history” was not consistently understood within the life time of the Apostles. An obvious result of those revisions are the multitude of Christian religions each professing their revision is the true one.

      And even with the multitude of Christian flavors, there would have been even more had not Constantine decided to “standardize” Christianity, some scriptures were even destroyed, although exactly how much is not clear. Apparently the council didn’t do much “destroying” but just deciding what was heretical or not. However, Constantine in typical Roman fashion, banned meetings, confiscate buildings, and text of non-conforming sects. What happened to the confiscated text is not clear but they were probably not slated for copying by scribes or translation for further distribution or preservation. The Romans standardized many things they conquered including Christianity.

      But there were many disagreements even before Nicaea (and after) – Antioch, the Council of Jerusalem, and many others. Some serious issues that effected what Christians were ultimately “allowed” to believe but even more to the point what ideas were preserved. The big issue at Antioch appears to have been Christians need to follow OT rules strictly. Paul was an opponent, interpreted as being critical of the Jewish view that following traditional Israelite customs makes a person better off before God. Peter and James proponents. Circumcision being only one of many “old perspectives.”

      The first Council of Nicaea had around 300 attendes, they debated sometimes even less politely than on this post. After consensus was reached, everyone “agreed” to sign but two and these two, along with Arius, were banished to Illyria.

      Were these meetings, and subsequent meetings in history, to decide which truth was true all God inspired edits of His word?

      • Carol

        An excellent book on the history of the development of Christian doctrine is The Church Unfinished:Ecclesiology Through the Centuries by Bernard P. Prusak.

        There is no way to understand the Church’s magisterial teaching apart from its historical/cultural context.

        “You cannot claim absolute finality for a dogma without claiming a commensurate finality for the sphere of thought within which it arose. If the dogmas of the Christian Church from the second to the sixth century centuries express finally and sufficiently the truths concerning the topics about which they deal, then the Greek philosophy of that period had developed a system of ideas of equal finality. You cannot limit the inspiration to a narrow circle of creeds. A dogma – in the sense of a precise statement – can never be final; it can only be adequate in its adjustment of certain abstract concepts…. Progress in truth – truth of science and truth of religion – is mainly a progress in the framing of concepts, in discarding artificial abstractions or partial metaphors, and in evolving notions which strike more deeply into the root of reality.” –Alfred North Whitehead

        The sacred history of redemption is still going on. It is now the history of the Church that is the Body of Christ. The Spirit-Comforter is already abiding in the Church. No complete system of Christian faith is yet possible, for the Church is still on her pilgrimage. And the Bible is kept by the Church as a book of history to remind believers of the dynamic nature of the divine revelation, “at sundry times and in divers manners.” ~Georges V. Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View

        A comparison of the Latin/Western Church’s Tradition with that of the Orthodox Churches of the East is evidence of the influence of historical/cultural factors on the development of Christian doctrine. However, that does not exclude [or prove] the possibility of Divine guidance unless one accepts the radical dualistic opposition of grace to nature in the Protestant Tradition. Until the 16th century Christianity was synergistic. The Roman Catholic Church taught that “grace builds on nature”, but I prefere the Eastern Orthodox teaching that “grace transfigures nature.”

        Four Walls Separating Us from the New Testament
        Four crises separate Western Christians on the one hand from the New Testament writers and Eastern Christians on the other. If we understand these crises and the effects they had, we can attempt to “roll them back” in our minds and understand the New Testament more clearly.
        The New Testament is in Greek, which has a large philosophical vocabulary that Latin lacks. Ecumenical councils used Greek as the working language; then they made an official translation into Latin for use in the West. Many of the most heated debates were about which Latin words best conveyed the meaning of the Greek resolution they had already agreed on. Because Greek philosophical concepts had to be translated into Latin legal concepts, theology in the West took on the character of codified law after the West lost Greek. To this day, Orthodox theologians reason like rabbis, while western theologians reason like lawyers.
        Pelagianism
        Augustine accused Pelagius of teaching salvation by works
        Western Christians are obsessed with not being saved by works
        Western Christians deemphasize ascetic disciplines and exercises
        Spirituality becomes a set of mental acts
        Salvation is rescue from hell, rather than transformation into glory
        Determinism enters some parts of western theology from Manichaeism through Augustine

        Scholasticism
        Theology moved from the monastery to the university
        Western theology is an intellectual discipline rather than a mystical pursuit
        Western theology is over-systematized
        Western Theology is systematized, based on a legal model rather than a philosophical model
        Western theologians debate like lawyers, not like rabbis
        Reformation
        Catholic reformers were excommunicated and formed Protestant churches
        Western churches become guarantors of theological schools of thought
        Western church membership is often contingent on fine points of doctrine
        Some western Christians believe that definite beliefs are incompatible with tolerance
        The atmosphere arose in which anyone could start a church
        The legal model for western theology intensifies despite the rediscovery of the East

        Enlightenment
        Philosophers founded empirical sciences
        Western theologians attempt to apply empiricism to theology
        Western theologians agonize over the existence of God
        Western theologians lose, deemphasize, neglect, marginalize, or explain away the supernatural
        Western theologians no longer have coherent answers for many practical religious questions
        Western churches outsource the treatment of religious problems to secular therapists

        East and West
        West
        Western Christians are obsessed with not being saved by works
        Western Christians deemphasize ascetic disciplines and exercises
        Spirituality becomes a set of mental acts
        Salvation is rescue from hell
        The emphasis is on the cross
        Determinism enters some parts of western Christian theology

        East
        Works express faith, faith gives birth to works
        Eastern Christians engage in fasting and other spiritual disciplines
        Spirituality involves both mind and body
        Salvation is transformation into glory
        The emphasis is on resurrection and transformation
        Determinism never entered Christian theology

        West
        Western theology is primarily an intellectual discipline by professors
        Western theology is over-systematized

        Western theology is based on a legal model
        Western theologians debate like lawyers

        East
        Eastern theology is primarily a mystical pursuit by monastics
        Eastern theology is not as strictly systematized; for example, the number of sacraments is not set and is not controversial
        Eastern theology is based on a philosophical model
        Eastern theologians debate like rabbis

        West
        Western churches became guarantors of theological schools of thought
        Western church membership is often contingent on fine points of doctrine
        Some western Christians believe that definite beliefs are incompatible with tolerance
        The atmosphere arose in which anyone could start a church

        East
        Eastern theology, while holding more strictly than western theology on basic dogmas, is tolerant of differences of opinions on finer points
        Eastern church membership is contingent on commitment and behavior
        Eastern Christians have no difficulty maintaining definite beliefs while remaining tolerant.
        There was nothing corresponding to the Protestant Reformation and there is no proliferation of sects within the mainstream

        West
        Western Christians see a dichotomy of spirit and matter
        Western theologians attempt to apply empiricism to theology
        Western theologians agonize over the existence of God
        Western theologians have lost, deemphasized, neglected, marginalized, or explained away the supernatural and miraculous
        Western theologians no longer have coherent answers for many practical religious questions (such as during bereavement)
        Western churches outsource the treatment of religious problems, such as bereavement, to secular therapists

        East
        Eastern Christians see a dichotomy of God and creation
        Eastern theologians are largely unaffected by modernism
        Eastern theologians do not agonize over the existence of God
        Eastern theologians systematize the transcendent, the miraculous, and the mystical into their theology, without a concept of ‘supernatural’
        Eastern theologians have coherent and helpful answers for most practical spiritual problems (such as during bereavement)
        Eastern clergy, monastics, and lay experts have resources for spiritual direction, moral direction, and Eastern clergy, monastics, and lay experts have resources for spiritual direction, moral direction, and bereavement counseling; thus they do not outsource religious problems to secular experts.

      • Rick

        Just.Chris,

        Were these meetings, and subsequent meetings in history, to decide which truth was true all God inspired edits of His word?

        That would not be my understanding. The meetings simply endorsed the books that the first century apostles had already indicated in their writings were inspired.

        As for standardizing and changing, the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrated the degree to which the scribes went to ensure accuracy. Changes to the text have been shown to be very rare, and in no cases caused any doctrinal confusion.

        Scholars have now found ample manuscript evidence dating before the time of the Council of Nicea. Since these documents are essentially the same as the later ones, the idea of some versions being spirited off and changed or standardized does not seem to be an accurate characterization. “What you see is what you get“—is a common phrase. In this case, what you see today is what you got originally, to the best of scholars’ ability to verify it. To counter that position takes evidence, not just suspicion. There is too much evidence in favor of early accuracy verified today to simply dismiss it with “just so” or “thought experiment” stories as we see here too often.

        Rick

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          The meetings simply endorsed the books that the first century apostles had already indicated in their writings were inspired.

          Didn’t that let in a fair amount of pseudepigraphy? Half of the “Pauline” epistles don’t appear to have been written by Paul. If it’s just a tradition, that’s fine, but I think you’re arguing for more.

          As for standardizing and changing, the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrated the degree to which the scribes went to ensure accuracy. Changes to the text have been shown to be very rare, and in no cases caused any doctrinal confusion.

          For the scripture, I agree. But that’s not what the NT was to the early Christians.

          Since these documents are essentially the same as the later ones, the idea of some versions being spirited off and changed or standardized does not seem to be an accurate characterization.

          This is the same point I was arguing with Karl. You’ve got a century or more from the autographs to the first fragments for the epistles. How can we guarantee that they weren’t changed during this dark period?

          To counter that position takes evidence, not just suspicion.

          No–if you’re claiming that our Bible is accurate and that the supernatural claims are historical, you must provide the evidence. I could take your position and point to the story of Merlin the wizard and demand that you provide contemporary evidence that he wasn’t a wizard.

        • Carol

          Response to Rick:

          Biblical inerrancy is a relatively RECENT doctrine, highly debatable and, IMO, not a very important issue in the grand scheme of things.

          “Biblical inerrancy is not a necessary doctrine. The Bible is authoritative. The Bible is a reliable witness. The Bible tells the truth. This is enough.” ~ Chaplain Mike, the Internet Monk

          Scriptures, like the sacraments are a means of grace, not an object of worship. *A* means of grace, not *the* means of grace. Bibliolatry and Ecclesiolatry tend to turn these potential means of grace into impediments rather than inducements to faith.

          “We must beware of needless innovations, especially when guided by logic.”–Winston Churchill

          “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill

          Besides biblical inerrancy is a moot point, unless the person interpreting it is also inerrant/infallible which I doubt that anyone would claim although I have my suspicions that some Christians sub-consciously believe that about themselves.

          The Wrong Way to Read the Bible
          http://theresurgence.com/2010/10/10/the-wrong-way-to-read-the-bible
           Two opposite errors exist in approaching the Bible. One is not to read it. The other is to know it so well that you miss Jesus. Jesus pointed out this error: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).
          Are you surprised to believe this error exists? We constantly talk about reading and studying the Bible as an unqualified good. But clearly, the way we read the Bible is just as important as reading it.
          Missing Jesus
          So how can you know if you might be reading the Bible, looking for life, but missing Jesus completely? Here are a few clues:
          You read the Bible to reinforce what you believe, not challenge what you believe.
          You imagine yourself as the type of person who believes the things you read about.
          You think the things you read are especially applicable for people you know, but not for you.
          You imagine yourself as the hero of the story, not the person or people who are unbelieving. You frequently ask in your heart, “How could these people be so unbelieving?” For instance, when you read the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert you might say, “How could those Israelites grumble about food and drink when they just saw God part the Red Sea?” But you are completely blind to how you grumble at work or home when you’re afraid of losing something.
          You love the attention garnered from your knowledge of the Bible, but give little thought to how you have applied what you have read.
          Maybe the Bible should come with a warning label: “Beware: reading this book incorrectly will make you twice as fit for hell as when you began.”
          Don’t miss Jesus. Go to him and find life. 
          Matthew 23:15 (New International Version)
             15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

        • Carol

          I would not say that the polemics between secular atheists and formally religious theists is “beating a dead horse” yet, but I believe it is “beating a dying horse.”

          http://brandanrobertson.com/revangelicalconnection/2013/4/24/david-haywardthe-nakedpastor-joins-the-revangelical-connecti.html

          We are facing a serious “crisis of character” in our post-Enlightenment/Industrialized Western societies.

          There are common humanitarian values that we all share by virtue of our common humanity, not based on common theological, philosophical, and/or socioeconomic/political beliefs, although the ideological dogmatic absolutists are trying to convince us otherwise.

          Truth is important, but it’s “proofs” lie more in consistent practice rather than rhetorical defense.

          The Orthodox Churches of the East teach that we have to “descend from our heads [linear logic] into our hearts [intuition, imagination & passion]. Having witnessed the religious experiences and spiritual expression of some Pentecostal/Charismatic faith communities, I would add that some people need to ascend from their hearts into their heads!

          Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. –Albert Einstein, “Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium”, 1941

        • Rick

          Bob,

          Didn’t that let in a fair amount of pseudepigraphy?

          Not that can be shown with evidence. Just supposition and presumption.

          Half of the “Pauline” epistles don’t appear to have been written by Paul.

          This is a controversial assertion by the Jesus movement guys and others. Where is the solid evidence? Wikipedia says (I can’t put too many links in or it will block my post):

          “There is wide consensus, in modern New Testament scholarship, on a core group of authentic Pauline epistles whose authorship is rarely contested: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Several additional letters bearing Paul’s name lack academic consensus: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus. Scholarly opinion is sharply divided on whether the former two epistles are the letters of Paul; however, the latter four – 2 Thessalonians, as well as the three known as the “Pastoral Epistles” – are widely regarded to be pseudepigraphical works, though a very small minority of scholars do consider Paul to be the author.[1]

          “There are two examples of pseudonymous letters written in Paul’s name apart from the alleged New Testament epistles: These are the Epistle to the Laodiceans and 3 Corinthians. Since the early centuries of the church, there has been debate concerning the authorship of the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews, and modern scholars reject Pauline authorship.” (Wikipedia article, “Authorship of the Pauline epistles.”

          So while there is some controversy, most scholars accept most books attributed to Paul as actually having been written by him. A couple of books have questions, but conservative scholars tend to accept them more than liberal ones like the ones Wikipeida cites. (I cite Wikipedia in an effort to find a relatively balanced source. I know you will reject lots of others I might find valid.)

          If it’s just a tradition, that’s fine, but I think you’re arguing for more.

          The Bible was inspired and inerrant in its original form. Errors may have crept in, but the evidence shows they are few and far between, and also that the errors that have been detected do not influence any understanding we hold concerning doctrine.

          For the scripture, I agree. But that’s not what the NT was to the early Christians.

          Peter talks of Paul’s writings as scripture already in the first century. See 2 Peter 3:16, “[Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

          You’ve got a century or more from the autographs to the first fragments for the epistles. How can we guarantee that they weren’t changed during this dark period?

          We now have fragments even from the first century for some books. While these are still being vetted, as research continues it is likely we will have this evidence. Can I guarantee they weren’t changed during what you refer to as a dark period? Of course not. But the evidence does not support your presumptive assertion.

          No–if you’re claiming that our Bible is accurate and that the supernatural claims are historical, you must provide the evidence. I could take your position and point to the story of Merlin the wizard and demand that you provide contemporary evidence that he wasn’t a wizard.

          There is lots of evidence that the manuscripts we have from various points in antiquity agree and are reliant on a common source document. So the evidentiary ball is in your court to overturn the preponderance of the existing evidence, not on me to come up with one more piece that won’t convince you any more than the existing evidence you have already dismissed. But your side has no evidence of tampering other than what I have already allowed above. I suspect there is no amount of evidence that would convince you, as you have set a nebulous and undefined bar that is unreachable — “Convince Bob.” Huh? How does one do that? You will say, “with evidence.” But at this point, the evidence is all on our side.

          I thought you had previously acceded to the point that the scriptures we have are accurate copies of the original. The question of whether they are true is an entirely different question. I understand you have problems with the truth part. But I thought in years past you held a different position on the copy accuracy question. Is that not the case?

        • Carol

          Rick, the Bible is A means of grace for believers, or not. It is not THE means of grace.

          Why is it so important to “convince Bob” of its reliabilty?

          Of all the “People of The Book”, Jews, Islamists and Christians, Christians in the Latin/Western Church(es) are the only ones who value orthodoxy over orthopraxis.

          Yes, the Scriptures are “authoritative” in matters of faith and practice, when contextually interpreted [text without context is pretext], and the narratives and parables are an affective means for character formation; but I received the same character formation from Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Aesop’s fables. C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia have an implicitly Christian “flavor” that is not present in Star Wars or Harry Potter, but the virtues extolled are the same.

          The values held by “secular humanists” are identical with those held by Christian humanists. We both condemn the shallow hedonistic materialism that drives our consumerist society at the expense of civic virtue. BTW, if you think that the ecclesiastical subculture has not bought into American mainstream hedonism, you have not attended the “church wedding” and reception celebrated by “believers” from upper middle class neighborhood parishes. If more American Christians had been as concerned with what was, and still is, going on in America’s boardrooms as they are with what goes on in America’s bedrooms, we would not be in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression!

          IMO, instead of arguing about the reliability of the Bible with people of goodwill who share our values but admittedly do not share our theological beliefs, we should be working with to meet the challenge of the “character crisis” that is diminishing the quality of BOTH our secular society and our faith communities. The moral authority that America had after WWII has been radically compromised as the result of pursuing a foreign policy that seeks to make the world safe for the business interests of First World international public corporations under the guise of “making the world safe for democracy.”

          “The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.” -Alex Carey, Australian author and psychologist

          “Under American law, corporations enjoy the rights of persons – free speech, private property, limits to searches, rights of accused persons, trial by jury, “due process,” etc. The rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment were originally designed to protect individuals against the government. Corporations – which have the further advantages of being more wealthy than individuals, and of being immortal – didn’t acquire these rights democratically or by legislation, but rather by decisions of an “activist” Supreme Court a century ago. Before then, corporations were taken to be limited and specific arrangements. Even so their power was suspect. Thomas Jefferson at the end of his life warned that a “GOVERNMENT OF AN ARISTOCRACY FOUNDED ON BANKING INSTITUTIONS AND MONEYED CORPORATIONS” would be “RIDING AND RULING OVER THE PLUNDERED PLOUGHMAN AND BEGGARED YEOMANRY.” The triumph of the corporations – and the resulting corporate culture in which we live – is a 20th-century phenomenon, and it continues. The courts made corporations persons; the MAI [Multilateral Agreement on Investment] will make them states.” — C. G. Estabrook. “Asia, the World Economy, and Your Life.” Octopus. 8 May 1998.

          “The economic system [neo-mercantilism] we are now creating in [Adam] Smith’s name bears a far greater resemblance to the monopolistic market system he condemned … [and] opposed as inefficient and contrary to the public’s interest … than it does to the theoretical competitive market system he hypothesized would result in optimal allocation of society’s resources.” ~ David C. Korten, When Corporations Rule the World

          “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” ~Benito Mussolini

          There has always been war profiteering, but the Military/Industrial Complex has created an economic sector that takes it to previously unimaginable heights:

          “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its
          scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.” –President Dwight Eisenhower, 1953 speech

          Eisenhower’s prophetic Military/Industrial Complex Speech:
          http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust.html

          “Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy,
          or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing
          the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” –Hermann Goering

          Given the 21st century challenges created by our technological advances that we, both christians and secularists, are facing, I hope you will forgive me for not getting my underwear in a wad over the fact that Bob does not acknowledge the reliability or the authority of the Judeo/Christian Scriptures.

          I wish that both dogmatic theists and atheists would become more *pragmatic* [a primary criteria for Bob],” stop majoring in the minors” and begin to priortize our concerns more wisely until the crises threatening our very survival have been overcome.

          We don’t need to agree on metaphysics and epistemology to agree on ethics. We don’t need to think alike to love alike.

          “Myth: we have to save the earth. Frankly, the earth doesn’t need to be saved. Nature doesn’t give a hoot if human beings are here or not. The planet has survived cataclysmic and catastrophic changes for millions upon millions of years. Over that time, it is widely believed, 99 percent of all species have come and gone while the planet has remained. Saving the environment is really about saving our environment – making it safe for ourselves, our children, and the world as we know it. If more people saw the issue as one of saving themselves, we would probably see increased motivation and commitment to actually do so.” -Robert M. Lilienfeld, management consultant and author (b. 1953) and William L. Rathje, archaeologist and author (b. 1945)

          “A nation, a people, may be best known and judged by the things it values most – the things it loves most. Does it value temporal or eternal things? Does it value its own children and their future, or present consumption and pleasure?”–Dr. Robert Moynihan

          “(P)hilosopher Alain de Botton, might disagree with the metaphysics of Buddhism, but he shares this core belief – that beneath our often horrible outward behavior toward one another, there exists a set of shared human values such as kindness, compassion, and value of children – and that our biggest challenge as a species is not losing track of them.
          Of course if you believe that, at their core, people are violent and competitive and cruel, then neither argument is likely to interest you much. But if you agree that hatred, anxiety, greed, and jealousy are secondary and deeply destructive aspects of our nature, then – after survival –finding some reliable method to control or eradicate them – and thereby liberating our better angels –becomes pretty much the only worthwhile human pursuit.” ~ Jason Gots

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          This is a controversial assertion by the Jesus movement guys and others. Where is the solid evidence?

          Yes, the Wikipedia article that you cited is one I’ve read myself.

          (I can’t put too many links in or it will block my post)

          (That’s for spam avoidance. If you have more than one link, I’ll approve it ASAP.)

          So while there is some controversy, most scholars accept most books attributed to Paul as actually having been written by him.

          So where are you on this issue?! First this challenge was nothing but psychotic sour grapes by those atheistic Jesus Seminar lunatics. And now it’s “most ‘Pauline’ books were written by Paul”?

          the evidence shows they are few and far between, and also that the errors that have been detected do not influence any understanding we hold concerning doctrine.

          I agree that the evidence we have eliminates few important bits of the NT. However, the remainder has a pretty big cloud over it, as I’ve noted. They might have gone from autograph to our oldest copies without change, but that’s a big unknown.

          Peter talks of Paul’s writings as scripture already in the first century.

          Who cares? You were talking about scribes copying them.

          You see the difference, right? By the second century CE, the “scripture” (what we call the OT) was fixed and not much debated. Copyists were extremely careful. One error and the scribe didn’t scratch it out and redo the word; the entire page was discarded.

          The Christian church was in flux, however. No such extreme care was required of NT scribes. You want to add a little something to nudge the gospel or epistle in the right direction? What the heck.

          We now have fragments even from the first century for some books. While these are still being vetted, as research continues it is likely we will have this evidence.

          Why “likely”? The Gospel of Mrs. Jesus was a bust.

          I’ve heard of this claim for a long time. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

          Find a complete copy of Mark from the late first century, and my argument will be muted. When our oldest complete copies for most NT books are in fourth-century codices, however, my concern remains.

          Can I guarantee they weren’t changed during what you refer to as a dark period? Of course not.

          And, given the enormous burden they’re carrying–probably the most remarkable claim possible–you can see why even a little doubt about their accuracy is a big deal.

          But the evidence does not support your presumptive assertion.

          Do you know something I don’t? I think I’ve heard of examples of very liberal tweaking of documents from this period, though I don’t have any references to verify my recollection.

          There is lots of evidence that the manuscripts we have from various points in antiquity agree and are reliant on a common source document.

          I’d say that the gospels are the most interesting, since they have the most detailed description of the resurrection. You’re saying that you have evidence that our gospels are basically identical to the autographs?

          So the evidentiary ball is in your court to overturn the preponderance of the existing evidence, not on me to come up with one more piece that won’t convince you any more than the existing evidence you have already dismissed.

          As I’ve made clear, the existing evidence isn’t much to crow about. I ask for evidence of the remarkable claim that a supernatural being created the universe and he sent his son to earth and then resurrected him. Your evidence is to point me to a 2000-yo book. Can you be surprised that this isn’t convincing?

          But your side has no evidence of tampering other than what I have already allowed above.

          And I ask for contemporary evidence that Merlin wasn’t a shape shifter, and what do I get from you? Crickets. Complain that the evidence in favor of this remarkable claim isn’t great if you want, but it’s a heckuva lot more than you’ve got!

          I’m glad we at least got one supernatural claim resolved.

          I suspect there is no amount of evidence that would convince you, as you have set a nebulous and undefined bar that is unreachable

          Nebulous and undefined? An easy problem to fix. Let me clarify and define (yet again): sketch out the criteria you have for converting to Mormonism or Hinduism or Scientology and you’ve pretty much got the criteria I demand.

          Are you closed-minded for demanding a high bar of evidence to convert? Not at all, and I’d be shocked if mine were not very similar.

          I thought you had previously acceded to the point that the scriptures we have are accurate copies of the original.

          No, I don’t believe I’ve ever said that. There are bigger flaws in the Christian argument, but this is a decent-sized one.

          I’ve written much more on this here.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rick:

      May as well beat the same dead horse instead of dealing with the charging elephant.

      Dead horse? Has Christianity capitulated already?

      Does radical Islam bother you? Blog about it.

      This tone is beneath your usual standard. Have a bad weekend?

      You’re right. It’s not really a bad weekend as much as having to respond to people who (you’d think) would see the point but then add “Thanks for making my point.” Having to repeat the argument does annoy me. Perhaps it shouldn’t.

      In spite of being incredibly stupid, I did get that point.

      Excellent! Why make me repeat it then?

      The counter point I made was that eventually most people get the story right, as with your examples. Again, thanks for making this point.

      … and we’re back on the playground. Yes, most people get the story right. Most people don’t think that reptile people control government or that the government is poisoning us through chemtrails, but that measurable numbers do is not only incredible but says something about how people work and how stories grow.

      A decade after 9/11, 28% of Americans think that Saddam Hussein was involved? Incredible. Tells you quite a bit about this fallible hardware that drives us around.

      Could they be inclined to “embrace pleasing but false ideas?” Sure.

      Ah, good. We’re on the same page then. This is a plausible natural explanation for how stories grow over time. Not much is left unexplained to give us motivation to grab the supernatural explanation.

      But that is much different from demonstrating that this is the most likely cause of their life-changing experiences.

      Plausible natural trumps supernatural every time.

      What you actually need to do is demonstrate that overturning the burden of 2,000 years of understood history is more reasonable than accepting its historic narrative.

      I don’t think the field of History is your friend. Historians reject the supernatural.

      This is a brazen attempt at revisionist history and even shoddier reasoning.

      Revisionist history? What history are you talking about? What the church says is religion, not history.

  • Carol

    Reflecting further on the Law of Three:

    The Law of Three is also know as the Law of Allowing:
    The Law of Allowing
    “I am that which I am.
    While I am that which I am,
    I allow others to be that which they are.”

    This is probably a better name for it. Don’t look for it to be taught in any formal institutionalized religion any time soon, because it would put an end to sectarian proselytizing.

    An Adequate Faith

    “If I, as a Christian, believe that my first duty is to love and respect my fellow in his personal frailty and perplexity, in his own unique hazard and need for trust, then I think that the refusal to let him alone, to entrust him to God and his conscience, and the insistence on rejecting them as persons until they agree with me, is simply a sign that my own faith is inadequate.

    My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In these depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt, when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith. On this level, the division between believer and unbeliever ceases to be so crystal clear. It is not that some are all right and others are all wrong: all are bound to seek in honest perplexity. Everybody is an unbeliever more or less.” ~ From “Apologies to an Unbeliever” by Thomas Merton

    I believe the Law of Three is what Hegel was attempting to define philosophically. Unfortunately, his attempt to reconcile thesis and antithesis through SYNTHESIS destroyed rather than reconciled the paradox through SYNERGY which not only resulted in the creation of another thesis vs. antithesis conflict that resulted in relativism rather than a balanced perspective of Reality/Truth.

    I have always intuitively felt that Hegel was “close, but no cigar.” Comparing Hegelian synthesis to the synergistic dynamic of the Law of Three/Allowing is beginning to clarify why. I sometimes takes time, a lot of time, to let the wisdom of the right-brained intuitive mind connect with the left-brain logical mind so that it can be expressed in concepts that “make sense.”

    Rationalistic post-Enlightenment Western societies produce people whose “right-brains”, the seat of intuition, imagination and passion, are grossly underdeveloped.

    “Like all sacred art, legends are for the feeling; and it is more important to feel what one knows—even if it is only one thing—than to know with the head alone a mass of theories and facts. When modern people assume that we have made so much progress over ancient or nonindustrialized cultures, they forget this point. It is far, far better to understand a central truth with the whole of oneself than it is to know many things only with the mind. When one knows only with the mind, and the feelings are not integrated into the knowing, then the knowledge one has becomes harmful. Technology without ethics is the result of having knowledge without developing the instrument of ethical perception, the feelings. As it was said long ago, ‘THE MIND IS FOR SEEING WHAT IS TRUE; THE FEELINGS ARE FOR UNDERSTANDING WHAT IS GOOD.’ ” –Jacob Needleman, Money and the Meaning of Life

    No wonder we are experiencing a “crisis of character in the First World.

    EVOLUTION OF NATIONS
    Great nations rise and fall.
    The people go from bondage to spiritual truth,
    from spiritual truth to great courage,
    from great courage to liberty,
    from liberty to abundance,
    from abundance to selfishness,
    from selfishness to complacency,
    from complacency to apathy,
    from apathy to dependence,
    and from dependence back again to bondage!
    –Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

    “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” -Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

  • Norm

    Just watched a presentation on the question “why wasnt the bomber intercepted earlier”,by Rick Joyner on Morningstartv.com, he asked some confrounting questions

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