Religion: A Perspective To Ponder
By: J. Marlando
I believe that even as we enter further and further into the 21st century and so the times of high tech and advanced science, that nearly everyone would like to believe that there is more to existence than the short span of "life" that we experience between birth and death. Indeed, I am convinced that we are all seekers at one level of consciousness or another. After all, even the most fanatical atheist, somewhere in the depths of his psyche, would like to know there's more to life than, if you will, news, weather and sports.
I am about to take you on a journey of exploring organized religion in such a way that truly will be thought provoking and, for some readers, most controversial. It is not my, goal, however, to leave anyone adrift in a sea of doubt or on a wasteland of existential being and nothingness. My goal is to discuss ordinary religion as objectively as I am able to for readers who have doubts of religion's validity but remain seekers and also those who doubt their own faiths. In this regard, I have friends who are hardcore atheists who I debate with every now and then. It is not difficult to see that their stone-cold rejection of God and religion is founded on reason. In fact, it does not take long in discussing these kinds of topics with folks like this to understand that it is not always the possibility of life after life that is at the root of their atheism but rather organized religion that teaches absurd world and heavenly views. This too is a reason that, in overview, church attendance is dropping especially in Christendom. I am not saying here that there aren't devoted church and temple-goers but I am saying the numbers of such devotees are dwindling. I will attempt to tell you exactly why as this article unfolds.
There are the Big-3 religions to consider, however: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Be prepared, I am going to tell you why all are false teachers. If this comment assaults your sensitivity, you'd best not read further. On the other hand, I am going to attempt to also give you a new, positive view that might even give you a deeper sense of the divine than you ever thought possible. But beware, if you are not ready to give the following some time and effort, that is, if you are looking for something written that is short and sweet, you will not find it here. The subjects are too complex to summarize on a page or two. If you are still interested please read on.
Incidentally, I thought long and hard before penning this text. After all, there will be many who find refuge in their current beliefs and do not want those beliefs to be altered. "I know what the truth is," they will say, "so I need to look no further." The fundamentalists of all three religions will certainly fall into this category. These days, for example, the fundamentalist Muslims are a perfect example of such indoctrination. In any case, over the course of this work I will be discussing both Islam and Judaism but my major topic will be Christianity because I began my own journey from Christian roots.
With the above said, We will start our explorations.
Religion in Overview
It is interesting that the 3-Big religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) all trace their roots back to the same person...Abraham! And what is it that we learn from that ancient story? We learn that God expects us to make ultimate sacrifices and be absolutely obedient.
It is no doubt a safe bet that Abraham's history traces back to the Sumerians, at least in the Biblical tale. The old god/kings of those early societies ruled their people by claiming to have a direct line to the invisible God who promised great rewards for those who were devoted to the state and unbearable punishments for anyone who weren't. Especially Christianity and Islam have used this same demagoguery for millenniums. That is claiming that a good member is willing to sacrifice and be obedient. The idea is that religion's leadership knows exactly what God wants. Indeed, some religions claim their leaders actually talk to God and God tells them what he expects and desires. The Jews have MosesCredit: www.students.ou.edu the Muslims have MuhammadCredit: www.proprofs.com and the Christians, Jesus.Credit: www.fanpop.com Each professes to KNOW God's truth and each control their populations with the same mythologies that the ancient god/kings did. As a result, the church (by any other name) began dictating human thought and action starting near the advent of so-called civilization. Many religions began telling their members what they were to wear, to eat and drink; what they said and did as being sinful and saintly. Even human sexuality became the focus of church indoctrinations and the status of males versus female. And, just as in those ancient times, there is the promise of Heaven for the righteous (those who mind) and everlasting hell for the unrighteous (those who do not mind).
The greatest modern example of this arrives from the fundamentalist Muslims who, even in the 21st century, condemns females to the status of soulless chattel; who stone them to death for breaking the rulesCredit: www.indymediascotland.comThe ignorant Puritans in our own history were as nasty: Only one example of their crazy-making nonsense was to publicly whip and/or put in pillars wives (and husbands) who gave birth on Sunday because it was assumed that they made love on a Sunday which was taboo. And, incidentally, they forbid bathing more than once a month because, the leadership said, one's own naked body could cause arousal.
This chauvinism weaves itself through the Big 3 religions. For Christianity, it begins with St. Augustine, who in the forth century A.D., gave us our interpretation to Genesis. According to him, Eve was tempted by the serpent, representing evil or the devil, to break God's commandment. Later, Eve tempts Adam and after they both have eaten the forbidden fruit, they began to endure concupiscence (lust) for which Eve was blamed for bringing death and suffering into the world. As a result of this, human sexuality has been condemned ever since, creating guilt and shame for one's own natural, carnal desires. This neurotic consensus causing condemnation of human sexuality is no doubt at the roots of most perverse behaviors.
Finally we come down to Jesus. We are told that he is God's only begotten son who was sent down from Heaven to save mankind. Another myth is that Jesus IS God made manifest in human form to save the world. And yet another myth is that heavenly beings actually talked to the prophets of old and there has been a few: Muhammad, claiming the angel Gabriel revealed the Quran to him, Moses talked to God himself, Joseph Smith said he was confronted by both Jesus and God, and lesser known religious founders such as Ellen White, who started the Seven Day Adventist. According to her she was given a heavenly vision that masturbation turns men into cripples and imbeciles. There have been many other egocentrics claiming divine revelation too. What these self-anointed prophets also have in common is that they ALL claim to represent the same God.
The God of Moses
It is thought by a great many Jews that Yahweh himself taught the Torah to Moses and this mysticism has been weaved through many other religions believing that the Bible is an inspired work from God.
This "god" is said to have created mankind in his image but it takes little contemplation to fully realize that we humans have created God in our own image. Indeed, there was the time that the early Babylonians taught that God, in his heaven, had both bookkeepers and concubines...now how human is that? In any case, what we are told is that God, sits on his throne as "king" of his Paradise. And, in some far off Heavenly place he keeps tab on all "his people" to make sure they are following his rules... And as said before, those who do, he will reward but those that don't, will be punished. He is a jealous God, after all, and quite vindictive.
Many Christians have the audacity to say that only THEY will be saved by God and his angels on judgment day...all others will be condemned to eternal damnation.Credit: www.christconnection.netWe ask, what kind of a god would be so neurotically cruel?
This one god, also known as Jehovah, like the gods before him, is a warrior god; a warlord that not only condones murder and thievery but orders it. In Numbers (31: 13-18), God orders Moses to take an Army and attack the city of Midian as punishment for being disobedient.
So Moses rounds up an army of 12,000 and kills all the Midian kings. When they return Moses is disappointed. Why had his warriors not killed the women? And so, he sent his troops back to kill the women but only those who had experienced sexual intercourse along with every boy. Boys grow up to be warriors after all. As for girls and other virgins, Moses told his warriors that they may keep them for themselves.
All war is ultimately about acquisition. God and religious belief simply serve most armies as an excuse to acquire wealth and power through bloodshed. Indeed, the Bible tells us that after the attack on the Midians, Moses counted the spoils: 675,000 sheep and goats, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys and 32,000 virgins.
Not a bad haul for doing God's will, eh? But of course the very idea of a "Holy War" is necessarily founded on hypocrisy and deceit. Nevertheless, from the advent of civilization the gods have been used as a reason for wars not excluding the so called "Holy" Crusades, a killing field of heartless brutality in the name of religion and it continues on in our own times. But before we Christians feel too holier-than-thou, we have been just as ignorant as some fundamentalist Muslims are now. For example, it was the Puritans who started the Indian wars by murdering Indian men, women and children while they slept, and who began persecuting people of other faiths. They hated Quakers for example and would strip them, horsewhip them, put them in stocks or cages and sometimes hang them...all in the name of their god and their religion. And holding to this theme, all one needs to do is study the Catholic inquisition to uncover horrifying torture and murder in the name of that faith. In fact, even today, the crazy racists, Ku Klux Klan, who are white supremacist terrorists, claim to commit their acts and hold their beliefs are Even their most precious symbolism, the burning cross, is said to reflect Jesus' light onto the world.
A major flaw in the religious ointment, however, is that God is given a personality and as such he mirrors the traits of a tyrant king, he who giveth and taketh away; who punishes and rewards. We are even told "to fear the Lord," an odd reference for a god of love to say the least.
Then arrives his displeasure with his human creations. And so, the omniscient god of the world is said to have flooded it. The story of Noah becomes a metaphor for a new beginning and hope for the future. And so, at the end of the storm there is the rainbow. Again, however, people become sinful and displeasing, so God is challenged to find a new way to "save" his people. Thus evolves the Jesus myth.
Aspects of the Jesus Myth
Jesus was a Jew. While there is only a spattering of historic documentation that Jesus even existed, after much study, I am convinced that he did but we will return to this conclusion a little later.
When we really stop and think about it, it is difficult to comprehend how an all-knowing god that created the heavens and the earth, the mountains to the ant and all the rest of the entire complex universe, could not think of a better way than to send his son to endure deep suffering and death to wash away the sins of mankind. And so we ask, where did such a nonsensical concept come from?
The story that tells us that Jesus was born of a virgin, was a savior, lead a difficult life, was crucified and arose from the dead was far from being original. Indeed, it was probably first repeated by early Catholic priests wanting to convert local pagans. After all, there was Dionysus for the Greeks, Hercules among the Romans, Mithra for the Persians, Astarte for the Babylonians and both Osiris and Isis for the Egyptians, all sharing the same mythology. What do these ancient gods have in common with Jesus? We turn to the masterful historian Edward Carpenter:
They were all born on or near Christmas Day.
They were born of a virgin mother.
They were born in a cave or underground chamber.
They led lives of toil for mankind.
They were called healers or saviors.
They rose from the dead.
Carpenter gives the following example: "Mithra was born of a virgin. He traveled far and wide as a teacher and illuminator of men. He slew the Bull (Symbol of the gross earth which sunlight fructifies). His great festivals were the winter solstice and the spring equinox (Christmas and Easter). He had twelve companions or disciples (the twelve months). He was buried in a tomb, from which, however, he rose again, and his resurrection was celebrated yearly with great rejoicing. He was called Savior and Mediator and sometimes figured as a lamb; and sacramental feasts and remembrance of him were held by his followers."
It is impossible to cast these coincidences aside but, nevertheless, the Jesus myth strongly began attracting pagans and by the time of Constantine (512 A.D.), Christianity had following all through the Roman empire including England, Germany, Portugal, Greece and other lands as well. Before jumping too far ahead historically though we need to grasp Jesus in a whole new way.
First we need to understand what beliefs he was devoted to. His devotion was to the Torah. Indeed, many Jews believe that Yahweh (God) taught the Torah to Moses. (The Torah incidentally includes the first five books of the written Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. There is little doubt that these books had been passed down in the oral tradition long before finding their way into written literature. It was Christians, by the way, who named these works, "The Bible"). In any case, the belief that the Torah is an inspired document crossed over to many other religions also offering that "the Bible" is an inspired work by God. With this aside, however, and if we permit ourselves to see the historical Jesus as opposed to the mystical Jesus, we easily discover a devoted teacher of the times and a charismatic leader, defying Roman occupation of his homeland.
At this juncture it is probably important to cover at least a small portion of Jewish history which led up to the insurrection by Jesus: The Herodians (actually from the Maccabean dynasty) ruled in Palestine for around eighty years (142 B.C. to 63 B.C.), who were probably inspired by a new party called the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a separatist group that developed schools of ethics and politics based on the law of Moses in opposition to the Herodians, who by then had been Hellenized by the Greeks.
By the time of Jesus, the Herodians (who had actually summoned Rome for help) had become a mere puppet power for the Roman authority. As a result, a great many Jews saw both their religion and the their way of life being compromised by the Roman outsiders. They greatly resented this. This is the major reason why John the Baptist started his rebellion. Incidentally Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest man who ever lived.
What is important to grasp here is that the once mighty Temple/State was being dominated by the might of Rome. And, in addition, the Romans imposed high taxation on the people, creating a giant gap between the rich and the poor. So naturally a large count of Jewish people resented paying money to the pagans who demanded it. As a result, John the Baptist began his own campaign against the Roman occupation with his "baptism" symbolizing a pledge to stay devoted to the rebellion and thus a returning to the old ways of the Torah. Jesus was among those who took the pledge of fidelity. (Eventually John would be arrested as a rebel, trouble maker and later executed).
It is impossible to cover the early history of Jesus' entrance into John's anti-Roman movement in the space allotted here but, for the purposes of this article, all the reader needs to grasp is that Jesus was an seditionist and teacher. This is surely what inspired the famous line, "Give onto Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Gods." A wise bit of advice for the times. (We cannot be sure if Jesus said these words or if these were the words of the early church not wanting to offend their Roman hosts).
When we grasp Jesus as being a highly motivated, moral human being and strip away the virgin birth as ancient myth, we discover a historic human being well worth our admiration and respect as a teacher of the heart and mind.
The reader might want to know that this is not my view alone. In fact, Tom Jefferson, American President and Deist, felt so strongly that he wrote his own Bible leaving out a great deal of mysticism and miracles attributed to Jesus for these very reasons I have mentioned. Also for the same reason it is nearly impossible to know exactly what Jesus said and did, during his lifetime. Today it is well known that the gospels in the New Testament has been altered to fit snuggly into early Catholic doctrine. It becomes important then to be as objective as possible when it comes to the life of Jesus.
Jesus in Overview
First of all, it becomes essential to realize that Jesus did not organize a new religion. Christianity would form years after his death and Islam years after that. Nevertheless, I remind the reader that all three religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam had at least three things in common. (1) Abraham. (2) King David and (3) the same god. Jesus, as the son of God, is uniquely Christian, however. Yet, some Jews acknowledge Jesus as being a teacher and most Muslims think of him as being an early prophet.
As an interesting aside and before going into Jesus as teacher, for thousands of years it has been taught that Jesus was chaste and, as it were, pure as the driven snow. History, however, documents that he was married to Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene!
For only one thing, in the Gospel of Thomas Jesus says that he loves Mary Magdalene above all others and he shares "secrets" with her that he doesn't share with the other disciples. Because, historically, every organized religion were (many still are) prejudice against women and so the thought of Jesus having a wife is considered a sacrilege. Indeed, the early Gnostics and Manicheans taught that everything of the flesh was evil; that women as a whole and men from the waist down were creations of the devil. This hatefulness toward women and human sexuality has plagued the world for millenniums and still rivers through the depths of the modern psyche at least to one level or another throughout the western world. But of course, the indoctrination that sex and sin are synonymous is a symptom of human ignorance and superstition.
In any case, saying that Jesus was married is not simply a frivolous remark. For example, in the Nag Nammadi Gospel of Philip, Jesus' marriage is discussed:
And the companion of the Savior is Mary
Magdalene. But Jesus loved her more than
all the disciples. And used to kiss her often
on the mouth. The rest of the disciples were
offended by it and expressed disapproval.
They said onto him, Why do you love her more
than all of us? The Savior answered and
said to them. Why do I not love you like her?
Great is the mystery of marriage. For
without it the world would not have existed.
Now the existence of the world depends on
man, and the existence of man on marriage.
Why is none of this mentioned in the New testament? Because as we already know, the New Testament has been altered to fit Catholic doctrine. However, there is, however, a signal that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married in John (11:1-2) in the New Testament. Mary anoints Jesus' head and feet with the very expensive ointment called Spikenard and dried his feet with her hairCredit: www. This is a ritual that proceeded a marriage feast. Another apparent indication of Jesus' relationship with Mary Magdalene!
Marriage was not the same as it is today: Sexual relations were only permitted in December and husbands and wives lived apart for the rest of the year. (See Bloodlitte of the Holy Grail by Laurence Gardner). Anyway, during period of husbands and wives being separated, the wife was considered a widow and expected to cry for her husband. This is symbolized in Luke (7:38) when Mary of Bethany (Mary Magdalene) begins to wash Jesus' feet with her tears. When we think of all these things it is difficult not to conclude that Jesus and Mary were indeed married.
Why is this even important? Because religion has indoctrinated us to reject our own humanity; to fear our own human passions and so instill the neurosis's of guilt and shame in ourselves. Recall, since the forth century, we have been taught to believe that Adam and Eve's great sin was discovering lust. Little children are brain-washed by this interpretation so they too can learn to live with guilt and shame, under church authority.
Finally we reach the question, was Jesus really crucified?
My answer to the above question is yes, but not to fulfill God's plan to suffer and die for the world. That absurd notion that God could not invent a better way than death, suffering and sacrifice to save the world is too absurd to consider. Merely thinking about this is to confirm that the God of the Big-3 religions, was, in deed, made in man's image; limited by our kinds imagination and empowered by our kinds creativity. A final question on this topic is if Jesus had to suffer and die for us, what or who was he protecting us from? And the answer is, God's own wrath. Think about it.
Why then would Jesus have been crucified?
To answer this question we must return to two historic events:
First the baptism: When we understand that Jesus' baptism was a pledge to John the Baptist's rebellion against the Roman occupation and a swearing of fidelity to the Torah; that his followers were seditionists and devoted Jews not forming a new religion at all but yearning for the old one in defiance of Roman rule and secondly, Jesus' attack in the templeCredit: www.philipkay.woodpress.comwe begin to grasp why Jesus would have been arrested and crucified. And speaking of Jesus entering the temple, most commonly we have the mental image of Jesus entering a small temple that merchants were using to sell and barter but this is a wrong conception. The temple was huge; a place where banking and the center of trade existed. There were even housing inside so this was a grand place guarded both by Jews and Romans. We can only imagine that Jesus had help in impacting this place of commerce and that it was a daring move for the times. But again, John the Baptists followers had sworn allegiance to reject Roman authority and their gods while rebelling against the hypocrisies of certain Jews. So, if anything had caused Jesus' arrest and eventual crucifixion it was for what occurred in the temple and being a trouble maker, not for his claiming to be God and/or the son of God. In this view, we must be careful not to fall prey to church propaganda and so the concept of the sacrificial lamb. Jesus was clearly a rebel with a cause.
His teachings. however, were not rebellious except for breaking Jewish protocols and mores. He rejected the idea of not working on the Sabbath; of speaking to women in public and preaching to the tax collectors and other underdogs of his society. In this he became the greatest teacher of his times; likened to Buddha, a wise and profound teacher. And so, it is at this juncture we begin to discover the real Jesus.
Jesus: Man and TeacherCredit: wwwgardenoofpraise.com
The very title "Christ" comes from the Greek term, "Christos," which means "anointed." Anointed is associated with the term "Savoir" in Hebrew. We often hear people refer to Jesus Christ but, incidentally, said correctly it would be Christ Jesus.
We cannot know when Jesus was first called Savoir. He referred to himself as the son of man and not the son of God. There is the conversation, if I recall, said to have been between Pontius Pilot and Jesus during which Jesus is asked if he is the son of God and Jesus answers, it is you who say I am. In my view, the title that we can rightfully place on Jesus is Master and/or Sage and or Teacher.
As with all Masters, however, not all of what Jesus taught came directly from him. For example, the Golden Rule. This most supreme teachings belongs to Judaism long before Christianity and for that matter to other ancient religious systems as listed by Darryl Reanney:
Judaism: "What is hurtful to yourself do not to your fellow man. (Talmud).
Taoism: "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain: and regard you neighbor's loss as your own loss. (Tai Shang Ken Ying P'ien).
Hinduism: Do naught to others which if done to thee would cause pain. (Mahabharata 5.15.17).
Buddhism: Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. (Udanavarga).
Christianity: All thing whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even to them. (Matthew 7:12).
Reanney also tells us that this beautiful wisdom seems to have "evolved independently, in different parts of the world." The idea of simply not doing onto others those things we would not want done to ourselves is the most profound and important lesson for the entire species. For one thing, if people only practiced this much, war, hatefulness and greed would simply go away. There would be peace among all peoples and the world would immediately change radically into a loving place to live in.
What separates Jesus from other world sages is his emphasis on love and its components of simple Kindness and Forgiveness. The Christian Church based on his name has never taught kindness and forgiveness but almost exclusively that Sacrifice and Suffering are the keys to Salvation. Something that we can no doubt assume that the historic Jesus would never advocate.
(As a quick aside, I once met a woman who was suffering from cancer and obviously in much agony. When I asked her why she didn't take her pain pills, she told me this: "Because the more I suffer, the more Jesus will love me).
This connecting of suffering with salvation has been brain-washed into the west and some of the east as well. It's one way of keeping the poor content in their poverty but realize that it is here we come face to face with Catholic dogma when we place the following words in Jesus' mouth: Pick up your cross and follow me. These are obviously the words of religious demagogues, the inventors of Christianity, and not that of a sage or holy man as Jesus was.
With the above in mind, we will take a moment here to project just how Christianity began. It is doubtful that the first Christian pope was Peter although he is traditionally said to be the "rock of Jesus' church." (A clever metaphor to attract followers to a new belief). In any case, I place far more emphasis on Paul as founder of Christianity around 30 or 40 A.D. Paul was a devotee to Judaism who, like Jesus, wanted to expand his religion to the gentiles. He accomplished this by promoting the mysticism of Jesus starting soon after Jesus' death. Traditional Jews, however, were not receptive to integrating other races into their religious population. After all they believe themselves to be God's Chosen people. It was important then, for them to maintain their exclusivity.
Anyway, some of the followers of Jesus were still around during the time that Paul was promoting a new religion. By then, there would have been second generation Nazarenes (Probably what the followers of Jesus were called) who would have been vulnerable to Paul's teachings while growing and elaborating on the Jesus mythology.
PaulCredit: www.thefamouspeople.comwas a devotee to his own cause and worked for years grounding his mission based on Jesus' miracles, virgin birth, crucifixion and resurrection. As the reader has seen earlier all these correspond to the old Pagan myths. And so being able to convert a lot of pagans Paul was able to built a first mission not more than twenty years after Jesus' death. And so the Christ cult was fully established for the Corinthians, a rather wild, eat, drink and be merry city that Paul believed needed reforming. What we need to also know, however, is that it isn't until the gospel of Mathew and Mark that Jesus is made into a descendent of King David (1040-970 B.C.), the second king of Israel. This was clearly to strengthen Jesus as "Savior" since it fulfills the prophesy in the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible tells us that when the Savior arrives he will be a direct descendent of the House of David. (It is well established historically that there really was a royal dynasty called the House of David).
IncidentallyCredit: www.rhythummontherock.com David is also central to the Big-3 religions. The Muslims consider David a profit but with close, historic scrutiny we learn that David was not a righteous leader but instead a warrior of Judah and Israel, ruthlessly ambitious. Nevertheless, the Jewish Bible romanticizes him, even giving him some credit for writing some of the psalms. A great many scholars deny this poetic talent, however, as they no doubt should.
Not even the Jews were true to their faith, however. As any Biblical scholar will say, the writers of the Bible were seduced by their own times and their own systems of life. Karen Armstrong tells us this: The people had a choice between Yahweh and the traditional gods of Canaan. They did not hesitate. There is no other god like Yahweh; no other deity had ever been so effective on behalf of "his" worshippers. His powerful intervention in their affairs had demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that Yahweh was up to the job of being their Elobin. They would worship "him" alone and cast away the other gods. Joshua had warned them that Yahweh was extremely jealous. If they neglected the terms of their covenant, he would destroy them. The people stood firm 'Then cast away the alien gods from among you," Joshua cried, "and give your hearts to Yahweh, the God of Israel.
Surprisingly the Bible shows that the people were not true to the covenant. They remembered it during times of war, but when times were easy, they worshiped the gods, Baal, Anat and Asherah in the old ways." (Actually the name Asherah does not appear in many Bible translations including the King James version but it is said to appear 39 times in the New International version).
Unfortunately we can't spend any more space on Jewish history but it is important to grasp at least a few highlights because, beyond all else, Jesus was a Jew.
As for Jesus, his most profound statement was summarized in one sentence, "The father (God) and I are one."
Only when we grasp what he meant by this single declaration do we begin to grasp the spirituality of the man.
What is wrong with organized religion?
It is apparently hypocritical and based on false premises. The Muslim fundamentalists are both ruthless and callous. The Isis (Known as IS) for example are heathen killers in the name of their god and religion. And, of course a great many Muslims love to war in the name of a Jihad. (Holy war). Muslim scholars tell us, however, that the real meaning of a Jihad is to fight the battle between good and evil in ourselves. This makes religious sense and doesn't support the idiocy of suicide bombings and other human atrocities.
All religious fundamentalist are fanatical in one way or another of course. I have already spoken briefly of the Puritans and the Inquisition of the CatholicsCredit: www,fourteantimes.comwho tortured and murdered all those who would not accept their doctrine. And, how many Protestants cheered and participated in the lynching of especially black folks, some whose only crime was being black? (The last known lynching in the U.S., incidentally, was in 1952). Staying with this same observation a few years ago I remember reading about a group of Presbyterians and Methodists that took up arms again each other during the 1800s. In that same century Mormons went out of their way to fight in the war with Mexico. And, speaking of the "good hearts and gentle" Latter Day Saint, in 1857, their militia created the MeadowMountain massacre. A wagon train of families, mostly from Arkansas were headed to California when they were viciously attacked and murdered by the Nauvoo Legend (Mormon Militia). But what kind of a world has religion produced for we human beings? Not that long ago, I read Marvin Harris' "Our Kind" in which he reports some of the world bloodiest conflicts at the time. The list includes Protestant against Catholic in Northern Ireland...Christian against Muslim in Beirut...Jew against Palestinian in Israel...Shiite against Suni in Saudi Arabia and Muslin against Hindu in India. So much for religion, eh? It seems that splendid golden rule of treating others as we would be treated has turned to rust and been discarded!
What is the most major flaw in organized religion; the one thing that is in conflict with religiosity itself?
Anyone with common sense and a touch of compassion would believe that religion's motivation would be to bring love, peace and empathy into the world; human understanding and a grasping of the spiritual or, in the least, the metaphysical. When we realize, however, that the Big-3, since their conceptions, have all been based on a warrior god that judges and condemns, that is said to be feared like an old tyrant in the sky; that has falsely justified our kind to murder and enslave one another; to commit heinous crimes against homosexuals, impregnated women and in some cultures young girls whose only crime was that their hymen had for some reason been lost; of stoning to death especially women who have broken some foolish social more turned into a religious morality. And of mass murdering entire peoples that simply danced before different totems. These are among the legacies of organized religions, those arrogant bureaucracies in the guises of representing an omniscient, omnipotent god.
The major flaw is that organized religion has always created centers and centers as Derrida tells us, always excludes, and in the doing always marginalizes others. That is, those who live outside those centers. Creating centers has been the tragic flaw in humanity itself since the very dawning of so-called civilization when our kind created a world of "us" and "them."
In nature (the universe) there are no centers, centers are solely the construction of our kind's greed and pomposities; not only creating god in the image of the old human god/kings but also to give this god our most undesirable human traits such as jealousy and vengeful wrath. There are even Christians, like Muslims, that hold that they and they alone represent god's chosen: We have all heard the belief that in the end, Jesus will return to earth and condemn all those who didn't accept him to everlasting hell. Now how ignorant and self-serving is that speculation? The Mormons actually have baptisms for the dead to assure that those who did not accept Mormonism while alive will join their flock in the afterlife. So insane are these ideas and mythologies that the Muslim Islamic paradise includes a number of virgins who are "deflowered" each night but whose virginity is returned the following morning.
*To list only a few protestant centers we include Congregationalists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Seven Day Adventists, and the list goes on; all claiming to know the will of God; all creating an "us" and "them" reality for their congregations. :If they ain't us, they've got to be them." And, as long as this centralization exists for religions we shall always live in a world of binary opposites;; a world of binary opposites can never be at peace.
After at least ten thousand years of so-called civilization and the demagoguery of organized religions, it is simply time to deconstruct our concepts of religion itself. After all, that which separates and centers cannot be either productive or positive.
In my view we must abandon belief in the old warrior god that punishes and rewards; he is clearly a construct of humanity just as in ancient times Zeus, Jupiter and Osiris were constructs that mirrored human qualities. Indeed, as soon as we name a thing (such as Jehovah, Allah or Yahweh) we naturally give it an image and that image is always a reflection of ourselves. For an example of this, the very first deity to be worshipped was a woman. God in fact did not become a male until after the advent of civilization and the discovery of male involvement in pregnancy. Before that women were mysterious and miraculous because they delivered life and could bleed without dying.
In sight of all the above, the question evolves that asks: well, is there a god or not and is there a hereafter or is it all just a mind game, a historic myth that has made up the rules and built the temples and churches of the world?
We will address this right after the next section.
*In our times there are around 35,000 different Protestant denominations and smaller sects.
Bits and Pieces of Necessary Information
We all would like to know if there is really a god and does life after life truly exist. Even the most confirmed atheist would like to have definite answers to these questions. After all, There are today a population of scientists and intellectuals that deny even the possibility of an everlasting hereafter. They are akin to men like Richard Dawkins, an acclaimed ethnologist and evolutionary biologist, who tells us that, "we are survival machines...robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known to us as genes.
This turning away from all things spiritual began with Rene Descartes (1596-1650), known as the father of modern philosophy. He is the one who took God out of Nature and condemned him to a place outside of time and space. Then arrived Charles Darwin (1809-1882), who gave us the theory of evolution. (Probably the biggest upset to especially Christianity but also other believers. Indeed, Darwin's theories was so troublesome to the writer/philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) that he declared to the world that God is dead. And, if you will, there after, both university professors and other pseudo intellectuals tried to kill Him off once in the minds of their students and others who would listen. In fact, in our times it has remained fashionable to deny the spiritual and promote the mundane (the spatial).
I personally have gone through many phases over the years. As a child, I was first a protestant and then a devoted Catholic; a god fearing, follow the rules and do-the-rituals kid. When I found too many things to turn me against organized religion I began seeking other truths. I read the Cabbala and found it intriguing, especially at the very start that tells us that the reason we gain knowledge is to seek the divine. That statement started me off on a virtual lifetime journey.
For a few years I studied classical Buddhism and I remain an admirer of Buddha. For awhile I found a spiritual refuge through the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, the famous Yogi. I still practice his brand of meditation from time to time. I've also had times of falling away from spiritual interests--I do not want to present myself as a holier-than-thou egotist or a self-appointed saint. I have probably done more dumb things and made more mistakes than most readers of this material. It just so happens that like most other people I've been a seeker for most of my life. I thought you, the reader, ought to know all that because I'm about to share with you what I have determined to be the truth of spirituality which is not at all the same as the "truths" offered by organized religions...especially of the BIg-3 who claim to represent God.
The following section then, contains my conclusions. I do not ask anyone to accept them or even agree with them. Nevertheless, I feel obliged to share them after so openly attacking traditional beliefs as I have done in this text.
I begin by saying that faith alone has never suited me. Indeed, most adults have faith because they have been indoctrinated with it since childhood. Those pathetic souls that strap on bombs to kill innocent people and themselves, were not born hating Americans or anyone else. They have been brain-washed into it. A great many parents begin indoctrinating their young children in their religious views while they are still vulnerable to whatever they say. There are exceptions of course but primarily Baptists come from Baptist backgrounds just as Catholics are indoctrinated with Catholicism in their home environments. In this regard, I once asked my good Mormon friend, Steve, if he ever investigated other religions. He said, "No...why should I, when I already have the truth."
So the question remains, is there a God and is there a hereafter? I will address these questions next for anyone interested.
Religion: An Alternative View
I have also gone through a stage of skepticism and non-belief. For one thing, every Christian religion that I had gone to was centered on the suffering and death of Jesus along with the agony of the devil's hell and the ecstasy of God's heaven. This extension of our kind's ideas of crime and punishment, good behavior and reward always struck me as mundane and absurd. I simply couldn't accept a judge in the sky that expected me to mind or make me pay an ultimate price for my disobedience. Then, all these religions preaching sin and redemption and all these rules to follow to gain righteousness over evil became too ludicrous to bear. After all, if I was going to stay with Christianity I wanted a laughing , loving Jesus in my life not a sad and forlorn martyr. And anyway, who was it that asked, if Jesus died for my sins, why should I?Credit: www.sodahead.com
While we all know, or should know, that the New testament has been altered to fit snuggly into Catholic doctrine and dogma, we can never know exactly what Jesus said and what he didn't say. I do feel reasonably assured, however, that he was a wise teacher of his times who no doubt had a following because of his fresh and unique ideas and his rebellion against Roman rule and the Jews who bowed to it.
I believe there is one major key to his unique gospel, the claim that he and the Father (God) were one. This particular view belonged to the ancient mystics and sages in the east but remained unprecedented in his world. It even sounded blasphemous to a great many of his Jewish contemporaries. After all who would dare claim oneness with the mighty Yahweh?
On the surface it is not difficult to see how some people could interpret this as his being God, the Catholic presumption! I dwelled on this for some time and then I happened on to the very profound thinker, Joseph Chilton Pearce who gives us insight into this rather unique concept of oneness with God. He tells us that, “Mind mirrors the universe that mirrors man’s mind. Creator and Created give rise to each other.”
This elegant statement gave me much contemplation. Could this have been what Jesus meant when he said the father and I are one? Than I happened onto the words of the Confucian sage, Wang Shihuai who taught that, "The Universe is all mind and all phenomena."
Keeping within the context of Jesus, this would mean that we are "ALL in One and One in All." This began to stir my imagination and rekindle my yearning for the religious or spiritual experience. But can we be sure that Jesus actually meant that God exists in all things and all things exist in God?
I read the Gospel of Thomas (cleverly left out of the New Testament) and while I suspect that it is more accurate to Jesus' sayings, I also believe that much of it is the result of inaccurate memories of the writers. Nevertheless, Jesus supports the idea of Oneness by saying:
"I am the light
which is over everything.
I am the All;
From me the all has gone forth,
and to me the All has returned.
Split wood: I am there
Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."
When we actually contemplate these three profound observations we begin to comprehend a new view of who and what we are. Indeed, in America, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I am part and parcel of God."
Once we grasp these things we begin to realize that we are part of creating the world we observe and that it is like Emerson also said, "Nature is the incarnation of thought." and that God is not the creator but rather creation itself.
I am in good company when I make this statement. Paul Davies one of the world's leading physicists, says this: "...Even an omnipotent God cannot break the rules of logic. God cannot make 2=3, or make a square a circle....Now if there exists only one logically consistent universe then God would effectively have no choice at all. Einstein noted: 'What I'm really interested in is whether God could have made the world in a different way; that is, whether the necessity of logical simplicity leaves freedom at all.' If there is only one possible sort of creation, why do we need a creator at all? What function could he have for 'pushing the button' to set things going? But such a function does not acquire a mind, it would merely be triggering mechanism."
I do not want to confuse or bore the reader with Davies' argument in favor of a mechanical, near Newtonian view but what I am anxious to share is this. He asks, "...does this philosophy of a unique physical solution to the fundamental logical-mathematical equation of the universe deny the existence of God? Indeed, not." Davies answers, "It makes redundant the idea of God-the-Creator, but it does not rule out a universal mind existing as part of that unique physical universe: a nature, as opposed to supernatural God.
Sure the above takes some thinking but bottom line is that, at least for purposes of this text, even science can validate the One in All and All in One scenario. Perhaps Emerson said it best when he told us, "I am part and parcel of God.."
Other world renowned physicists who would concur with Davies are, Fritjof Capra, Fred Alan Wolf, Amit Goswami, David Bohm and others. The reason this is so important to point out is that it indicates that science and spirituality can mesh while science and organized religion never can. A major reason of this is that religion takes God out of Nature and denies wholeness while quantum mechanics, in most instances, accepts that we are all in a web of relationships with everything else.
The more I contemplated these things, the more I came to realize that we are all the same and our differences are only apparent.
Once this is understood, your entire world view changes for it is easy to love (all) others and to maintain the qualities of love which we can assume Jesus did. That is, each of us can walk in:
These are the qualities of what we might call a Jesist. Recall what Jesus told confessing sinners: quite simply, "Go and sin no more." Unlike organized religion he did not have all kinds of penances and warnings of burning hell. These responses belong to the church by any other name; they advocate hell and brimstone cast down by a God who judges and condemns.
In this regard I remember interviewing the famous cancer surgeon some years ago for a magazine. I asked him what he would tell people who feel unworthy and condemned or something to that effect. He answered, "I would say, remember God loves you. It is your parents, your teachers and your preachers who judge you." I always liked that!
The truth is that we can never love our neighbors as ourselves or treat others as we would be treated as long as we believe in centers and so separateness. Organized religion has been an "us and them" bureaucracy since the advent of civilization and the collaborations between the old god/kings and their high priests, claiming a direct association with the invisible God. But I tell you God is very visible, simply look out your window or stroll down the street; look in the mirror and live the metaphor, "The father and I are one..."
Lastly I will say, if you want to live a spiritual life, you do not have to walk around looking down your nose with puckered lips, you do not have to be squeaky clean and Holier-than-thou, you can be yourself and as I have taught for years, pay no attention to what is said is right and wrong. These conditions change every decade. Not too long ago it was considered vulgar and so wrong for a lady to show her ankle in public and thought of unwed pregnancy. Such pregnancies often meant the daughter would be shamed and thrown out by her parents, her church and be ostracized by her community. Gays were once imprisoned and even hanged for their sexual preference. Today they wed publicly and the list goes on of how right and wrong always changes with the times. And so, if you want to live freely and actually live like a Jesist, do not concern yourself with right and wrong but only what is kind and what isn't.
I am not affiliated with any religions group, cult or membership whatsoever. I suppose if the reader wanted to associate me with some train of thought, it would be Thoreau's Transcendentalism. Thoreau and Emerson were friends and advocated the same spiritual views. Otherwise, I do my best to be a Jesist in that I try to consistently walk in love and all its qualities. I sometimes fail but that's okay. And, for those who are interested, I believe in prayer and a connectedness to all living things. In this way, I subscribe to the indigenous peoples of the world such as the Native Americans who called the trees, rivers, plants and all else in nature their brothers and sisters, including the animals. As a result, I do my best to stay cognizant and so aware of Joseph Chilton Pearce's observation that tells us, “Mind mirrors the universe that mirrors man’s mind. Creator and Created give rise to each other,” and also Wang Shihuai's words teaching us that, "The Universe is all mind and all phenomena." I also believe absolutely in my own awakening that tells me that, "We are all the same and our differences are only apparent."
I am fully convinced that until we break from all organizations, including religions that stand for centers and so creating a world of "us" and "them" mentalities, we will never be a world at peace and brotherly love. I cannot believe in a God that judges and condemns, that supports wars and the hatefulness between peoples that wars instill. It is simply time to put that God on the shelf of religious fanaticism and ignorance in the same archives where gods such as Zeus,Credit: www.moistmidre.blogspot.comJupiterCredit: www.elsaelse.com OdinCredit: www. ourgemcodes.com and ThorCredit: www.elgymack.com are housed. And so, as it turns out, that old time religion is a tyrant in the skirts of goodness and benevolence. And at long last I dare answer the question is there really life after life. My answer is, yes, nothing that lives can die, it can only change. After all, we are both information and energy which our bodies houses. And so, yes, there is, if you will, a ghost in the machine. That is, yes, we are more than the totality of our parts, we are also energy and consciousness which lives on forever.
Hopefully, I have given the reader food for thought, I have not meant to convince anyone of anything.
REFFERENCE BOOKS AND SUGGESTED ADDITIONAL READING
Armstrog, Karen * A History of God * Alfred A. Knopf
Bohn, David * Wholeness and the Implicate Order * Routledge
Buber, Martin * I and Thou * Book of the Month Club
Carpenter, Edward * The Origins of Pagan and Christian Beliefs * Senate
Capra, Fritjof * The Web of Life * Anchor
Capra, Frijof * The Tao of Physics * Shambhala
Carmichael, Joel * The Birth of Christianity *Dorset Press
Chadwick, Owen * A History of Christianity * Barnes and Noble
Chopak, Deepak * How to Know God *Three Rivers Press
Davies, Paul * God & The New Physics * Siman and Schuster
Davies, Paul and Gribbin, John * The Matter Myth * Touchtone
Davis, Kenneth, C. * Don't Know Much About the Bible * Perrenial
Dougal-Roney, Serena* Where Science & Magic Meet * Element
Eisler, Riane * The Chalice and the Blade * Perenial Library
Feiler, Bruce * Abraham * William Morrow
Ferrini, Paul * Love Without Conbditions * Heartways Press
Freke, Tomothy & Gandy, Peter * The Jesus Mysteries * Three Rivers Press
Hanh, Nhat, Thich * Living Buddha, Living Christ * Riverhead Books
Hanh, Nhat, Thich * The Miracle of Mindfulness * Beacon Prtess
Hayward, W. Jeremy * Letters to Vanessa * Shambhala
Harris, Marvin * Our KInd * Harper-Parenial
Jefferson, Thomas * The Jefferson Bible *A & D Publishing
Lama, Dalai * Little Book of Wisdon * Barnes and Noble
Liebman, Loth, Joshua * Peace of Mind * Simon and Schuster
Locker, Herbert * All the Teachings of Jesus * Castle Books
Mack, Burton, L. * Who Wrote the New Testament * Harper
Mastro, del, M.L. * All the Women in the Bible * Castle Books
Mean, G.R.S. * Pistis Sophia (Gnostic Gospel) * The Book Tree
McKenna, Terrence * True Hallucinations * Harper San Fransisco
Marlando, J. and Charkes Pierce * The Art of Survival * Survival Station Publications
Parrinder, Geoffrey (ED) * World Religions * Facts on File Publications
Perce, Chilton, Jospeh * The Crack in the Cosmic Egg * Park Street Press
Read, Paul Piers * The Templars * St, Martins Press
Reaney, Darryl * After Death *William Morrow & Company
Reston, Jr., James * Warriors of God * Doubleday
Schroeder, Gerald, L. * The Hidden Face of God * A Touchtone Book
Shanks, Hershel & Withington, III, Ben * The Brother of Jesus *Harper
Siegel, Bernie, S. * Peace, Love & Healing *( Harper and Row Publishing
Spong, John, Shelby * why Christianity Must Change or Die * Harper
Stanford, Peter * The Devil *A Merian Wood Book
Tannahill, Reay * Sex in History * Stein & Day
Woolley, Leonard, C. * The Sumerians * Barnes and Noble
Wolf, Fred, Alan * The Eagle's Quest * Touchtone
Zukav, Gary * The Dancing Wu Li Masters *Perenial Classic
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