Do You Believe In God?


Here is a question that has plagued humans since the beginning. Is there a God? And if there is, how do we know? How do we know that God is real? Philosophers have questioned whether we can actually know anything at all. What is the difference between human belief, and human knowledge? We can believe anything we want, but can we really know that what we believe is real? People have been thinking these thoughts and more, since well, forever. And we are seemingly no closer to an answer now than we were at the beginning. I’m going to take a closer look at the God question and what I believe about it.

First of all, human understanding comes very slowly. Whether you believe that humans are around 6000 years old or 200,000 years old, it is a fact that we are very slow at discovering anything. Around 450 BCE, a Greek philosopher named Democritus speculated about cutting a piece of matter, an apple for instance, into smaller and smaller pieces. He felt that a point could be reached where you wouldn’t be able to cut any smaller. He named these smallest pieces “Atomos,” where the word atom comes from. And it wasn’t until 1983 that we developed a microscope powerful enough to be able to see them. The discovery of the visible light spectrum came in the 17th Century and Marconi first used radio waves for transmission in the 1890’s. So humans have been around for thousands of years and yet we’ve discovered very little about ourselves or the universe. This is important in relation to our belief in a God. In the grand scheme of things, we know next to nothing.

It has been estimated that people have believed in over 3000 Gods during our history, most of whom have been proven to not be real. Greek Gods, Norse Gods, Egyptian Gods, etc. If you study all these beliefs you’ll find that other than creating “miracles,” they have all been attributed human characteristics. Love, goodness, anger, jealousy. This is because human characteristics are all we know. And miracles are something we can conceive of. But is this really what a God is like? Anger, jealousy, envy and the like are most often thought of as negative human traits. Would a God, whom is presumably so far removed from being human really have these attributes? That of course is very debatable.

My view on the whole question is this: If there is a God who has the ability to create life, to create atoms, turn those atoms into molecules, and turn those molecules into living, breathing flesh then that God would be so far removed from anything we know as humans that we wouldn’t be able to conceive of it. The human mind at this point and thus all other points in the past would not be able to understand an entity such as God. We could not begin to discuss or conceive of God. Does that mean that I believe no such God exists? Certainly not. What it does mean is that we have a long way to go before we ever figure out whether God is real. We just don’t know. It’s comparable to discovering the electromagnetic spectrum. We knew we could see and hear but we had no idea how we could see and hear. It has taken humans thousands of years just to discover these things, and we are still a long way off from knowing all there is to know about the human body, about nature or the universe. There is so much to “know” that we will never reach the end of knowledge.

Religion has many things to say about God. All of which are only things we can imagine. And yet we forget that people who lived in the BCE time frame couldn’t even conceive of the electromagnetic spectrum and yet today we know it is real. How can we believe that we know about God considering that a God would be so far removed from anything we can even imagine?

Should we give up then, stop wondering if there is a God? In my opinion, no we should not. The only way to discover something is to study it. I’ve been fascinated by the question of God my whole life. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover twice, and studied many other religious books and texts. I’ve studied religious beliefs from Islam to Christianity to Jainism and on and on. The one constant in all these beliefs is the human attributes people assign to their Gods. Our God is a jealous God. God is angry. God desires worship. God desires. All these things are only things we can imagine. But I believe that if God is real, the reality would be so far removed from what we can now conceive of that none of these human attributes would be a part of it.

To settle on the human imagining of God is a mistake. Taking religious belief at face value says that we have given up on conceiving of God in any other way. In the time of Hippocrates it was believed the four basic “humors” of earth, air, fire, and water were responsible for all life. What if that explanation was settled on as the ultimate truth and no one ever looked beyond it? With that in mind, how can we accept that today’s modern religious thought is the ultimate knowledge of God? Considering all we have discovered since the time of Hippocrates, we must surely understand that we know little if anything about a God. All we can do is keep looking.

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The Social Contract

What is a Social Contract? This definition is taken from Wikipedia: “Social contract arguments typically posit that individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority (of the ruler, or to the decision of a majority) in exchange for protection of their remaining rights or maintenance of the social order.” Thomas Hobbes, a British Philosopher of the 17th century posited in his book, “Leviathan,” that without social order life would be, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Basically meaning that if there were no laws, humans would have the freedom to do as they pleased. This may sound great but when you consider that that could include, rape, murder, theft, etc., it loses its appeal. Therefore most of humanity has given up the freedom to do these things in order to have the protections and benefits that the society in which they live afford. Further broken down it means that I agree to follow the laws of my state and country in order to receive the benefits that my state and country offers. That’s a social contract. Most people agree to the social contract on the idea that others also agree. A society built on the idea that only some of the people have to live by the rules usually will not last. History bears this out.

Thomas Hobbes

A social contract is an abstract thing. No actual contract exists. It only exists as a theory because we agree to it. So what happens when the contract breaks down? When some citizens are afforded rights, benefits, or protections that others are not? Basically the whole fabric of the societal system starts to come unraveled. An obvious example of this is the Civil Rights Movement. There were different rules for whites and for people of color. As I said earlier, the idea that makes a social contract work is that everyone agrees to the contract. When some under the contract receive benefits that others do not, or have to live under separate rules, the contract doesn’t work. And when the contract doesn’t work it loses its effectiveness. Society breaks down. The civil rights movement affected the entire country. Even in my little white town in Minnesota, we were affected by it. We saw the riots on TV. We saw the marches. We saw the speeches, and the protests. When people do not receive the benefits of the social contract they are living under they begin to wonder why they should still have to live by the rules. Social disorder ensues. In order for the social contract to be balanced, people need to be convinced that doing so is good for them. People of color obviously knew this. Civil disobedience helped convince white people that it was in their best interest to change the laws. If they don’t want people rioting in the streets they need to make some changes.

Detroit, 1943

The Gay Rights Movement is still going on today. The idea is the same, that the social contact is unfair for some. What surprises me, and I suppose it shouldn’t, is that after so many years of living in society many people still think that rules should be different for some than for others. And the ones who do think this way are obviously the ones who will benefit more from the imbalance. In every social movement you find the same scenario, people aren’t asking for more rights, they’re asking for equity in rights. Gay people don’t want to be treated better than everyone else, they want to be treated the same. It is amazing to me how hard some people will fight to keep their exalted status over others. What makes a person feel that they deserve more or better than others? I know all the arguments and many of them have to do with religious belief. People of color were touted as inferior races and the churches supported this idea. Gay people are seen as immoral or unnatural and the churches support this as well. Many religious people believe that the laws of their god supersede the laws of man. That idea attacks the social contract because not all people agree.

The question that arises for me is, when will people learn? Will they ever learn? In order to have a social structure that works, equity needs to rule. Fairness and moderation in all things. In what will become known as, “The Trump Years,” we can see this idea of equity being attacked again. The idea that some people deserve more or better is rearing its ugly head and eventually it will be subdued, but how bad it will be is still unknown. What damage our society will suffer will determine how society is shaped for the future. Will it lead to civil disobedience? To rioting in the streets? What will it take to right this imbalance in the social contract? Only time will tell.

Division

With all the news lately about our president and the GOP trying to divide the country by race, it has got me thinking about division. The conclusion I have come to is that we are in fact, a divided country, by choice. We are. The problem being, we don’t think about that very much. We think about the problems of racism, bigotry, homelessness, religious fundamentalism, and all the other things plaguing the U.S. today and many of us find it appalling, but are we not contributing to it ourselves? Do we in fact separate ourselves on purpose? I’m going to say we do, most of time unconsciously.

I am white. My ancestors were North and West European. French, German, Irish, Scottish, and a few others thrown in. Here’s how I have separated myself from others, not like me. Most of my friends are white. Most of my friends are straight, like me. Most of my personal friends are men, like me. None of my friends are homeless, or fundamentally religious, like me. Most of my friends are not big drinkers or partiers, like me. Most of my friends are liberals, like me. None of my friends are wealthy. The people that are my personal friends are mostly, like me. And most of my personal friends are also like me in these same ways. And their friends, and their friends are also mostly like them. We are a divided nation.

I have a few friends who are gay. I’ve had two or three friends who were black. I’ve never had a Native American friend. I’ve only casually known any Hispanic or Asian people. I don’t have any friends who are conservative politically. The fact is we gravitate to what is familiar, to what is comfortable. Because we like being comfortable. How many white people go to gatherings or party’s where most of the people are black? How many white people live in mostly black neighborhoods? How many of our friends are not born here? Most Muslim’s friends are Muslim. Most Christian’s friends are Christian. I could go on but I think you’ve got the picture.

We like being comfortable. We like the familiar. Not that we’re opposed to having friends who are different than us, we just don’t. We unconsciously separate ourselves into groups that are like ourselves. And I’m not picking on white people here. We all do it. The point I’m trying to make here is this: Do we in fact, contribute to the bigotry in our world by doing that? I don’t think I’m a bigot. I don’t hate or dislike people who are different than me, But I also don’t go out of my way to include a lot of people who are different than me. And I think a lot of people will find that they are like that too. So again, are we contributing to the bigotry that we see by being the way we are? Why don’t I have a lot of friends who are homeless? Why aren’t a bunch of my buddies heroin addicts? Why don’t I have a bunch of black friends? Why don’t I hang out with Muslims?

So when our president tries to separate us by race or religion or what ever else he tries, are we not already there? When he says that most of the immigrants coming through our Southern boarder are rapists and criminals, how many of them are close personal friends of mine so that I know he’s not telling the truth? This is why a lot of people fall for Trump’s rhetoric. Because they are separated from groups of people who are not like them enough that they don’t know that he’s full of shit. They don’t know that he’s using their ignorance of other people against them for political control. It wouldn’t take much to tip some people over the line from not thinking much about it to outright fear of others. A lot of people are already there.

I guess a solution would be to integrate our lives with the lives of people who are not like us. Get to know them better. The more you know, the less fear you have and fear is a great motivator. One thing our president is good at is manipulation. He knows exactly what you’re afraid of and how to use it against you. I don’t really know what kind of solutions will work best in trying to make a better world for us all but at least this gives you something to think about. If we can be honest with ourselves when we look at our lives deeper, we can find solutions.

The Meaning Of Life


What is the meaning of life? Here is a question that has kept sages and clerics and ordinary people busy for most of human history. What is the meaning of life? It is a question that has kept me busy as well. Why? Because I want to know. Just like millions and probably billions of other people, I too want to know if there is any meaning to life. There are lots of opinions as to the answer, but has anyone really come up with it? Douglas Adams, one of my favorite writers, has his characters in the classic, “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” ask the question, “What is the answer to the question of Life, the Universe and Everything?” A super computer, built for the sole purpose of finding that out, took 10 million years and came up with the answer, “42”. Everyone was quite disappointed, having waited 10 million years to get an answer they didn’t understand. When they consulted the computer about the answer it said, the answer to the question of Life, the Universe and Everything is 42. The problem being, they didn’t actually know the question. This sent them on another, millions of years quest to find out what the question was. I think Adams was trying to tell us, that there’s no answer to that question. Not that that has stopped anyone from asking, however. Inquiring minds want to know. What are we doing here? What is our purpose? Is there any meaning to anything we do? Lots of people have theories. Lots of others claim outright that they know the answer. But do they? How do we find out?

You can ask anyone the question, “What is the meaning of life?” and you’ll get answers from, “I don’t know, to “The meaning of life is to love God” and just about anything in between. I’m going to postulate a theory here. This is it: There is no such thing as life. Now, before you go banging your head on the computer, or cussing me out, stop and think about this. What is the “life” that we’re wondering about. If we can ask the question, “What is the meaning of Life?” then “life” must be something tangible, that we all belong to or are a part of in some way, right? It’s like asking, “What is the meaning of a NASCAR race. Before asking that question, we should know what a NASCAR race is. Once we know that, we can fathom the meaning. Like “The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy”, we won’t understand the answer if we don’t know the question.

So what is life? I’m postulating that life, as we think of it, doesn’t exist. Now some of you are probably thinking I’m going to get all metaphysical on you. That’s not it. But I’m going to show you why I think “LIFE” as we have come to think of it, doesn’t exist. Here goes. Consider all life on Earth. Human, plant and animal, right? Since science tells us that humans are the only life form capable of reasoning the question of life, we really don’t need to think much about animals or plants. Like this: Does a Fox question the meaning of life as she hunts her prey? Does a Bee wonder why it’s attracted to flowers? Science tells us, it’s only humans who ask those kinds of questions. So let’s concentrate on them.

Say for a moment that we could remove all humans from the Earth. Snap! Like Thanos, except 100% of all humanity is gone. Right before the snap happened, someone was contemplating the question, “What is the meaning of Life?” Now that all the people are gone, where is the “LIFE” that this person was wondering about? If we are all part of life, and we can contemplate its existence and meaning, is it not then, tangible? Can we not then, so to say, put our hands on it? Or, and here comes the messy part, Does life only exist because we think it does? Now I know what you’re going to say. Of course life exists, because I’m alive, you are alive, my dog is alive. That however, is not what I’m talking about. Yes, life exists. Rene Descartes said, “I think, therefor I am.” Proving that life is tangible and real. But, is that the same as “What is the meaning of life?” I don’t believe it is. Now if we make one small change to the question, “What is the meaning of life?” to “What is the meaning of MY Life?” Now were getting somewhere.

Each individual has a life. There is my life, there is your life. That is how life exists. There is not, an entity called life. So there is no answer to the question, “What is the meaning of life.” Because there is no “life”, there is no meaning. But there is, MY life. There is, YOUR life. And those things have meaning. People have searched for the meaning of life since life first began. Finding an answer to that question has given birth to religion and philosophy and consumed people, some people for their entire lives. But really, shouldn’t we be asking, what is the meaning of my life? And why aren’t we asking that question? Why aren’t we looking deeper into our own lives as opposed to looking for the answer to a question that’s unanswerable? If we turn the question of meaning to our own lives, then we have to start taking personal responsibility for their meaning. We must be in charge. We must decide what, if any, meaning there is to the things we think, do, and say. And that can be hard.

To take conscious responsibility for every aspect of our lives isn’t easy to do. We have to constantly monitor ourselves and look deeper into the meaning behind every thing we think, do, or say. Rather than thinking of “life” as something “out there” that we can’t control, asking the question, “what is the meaning of my life” puts the responsibility of answering that, squarely in our own laps. And it’s a big responsibility. Watch the news on television or read the paper. Look closely at all the horrible things people do each and every day. What is the meaning of their lives? Is it to screw people over? Is it to take as much as they can? Is it to hate, or is it to love? The only way to improve “life” in this world is for each of us to ask ourselves, what is the meaning of my life? What am I meant for? What am I here to do? They are much smaller questions than asking, what is the meaning of life, and yet the answers put upon us much greater responsibility. We are now faced with answering that question and then acting upon it if our lives are not meaningful. If we can answer these questions for ourselves then we have found the meaning of life.

Religious Freedom Laws

what
The great state of Mississippi, with the Confederate flag as a part of its state flag is the latest state to try to pass a “Religious Freedom Law.” Here is a link to a Washington Post article about it. We have been hearing a lot about these kind of laws lately and since this one from ‘Ole Miss’ has been getting quite a bit of press, I thought I would put down some thoughts about it. First off, no one needs a “Religious Freedom Law.” No you don’t. Your religious freedom is written right into the Constitution. You know, that founding document that people are always harping about but never really reading. The very first amendment, ratified on December 15, 1791 says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…(sic).” There it is, big and bold for everyone to see. Nothing more is needed to say that you can have your religious faith. So what is it with these religious freedom laws? Well, I’m going to tell you.

Christians have for the most part, historically believed that homosexuality is forbidden by God. Leviticus 20:13 says that it is. Okay, great. You can have that belief. What does that mean for the Christian? It means don’t do it. Right? Makes sense to me. If I’m a Christian trying to live my life by the Bible then homosexuality is right out. Got it. Now, since our country has progressed into the 21st century and we are slowly leaving ancient beliefs and traditions behind our Supreme Court has seen fit to say that gay marriage is legal. If you read the Constitution you will find that it says that all people have equal protection under the law. This means that if you let some people get married you have to let all people get married. There is no Constitutional reason not to. The Supreme Court is wise. (Remember folks, these are my opinions) Well as you can imagine, and as most of us know, this pissed off a lot of Christians. Because, it seems that many of them are just not happy living their lives the way they want to, they want to make you live that way too. There, I said it!

Marriage is between “one man and one woman.” Genesis 2:24 proves it. Unfortunately it has been my experience that a lot of Christians will quote Bible verses at you because they believe that since you’re an Atheist or Agnostic or whatever you are you won’t know what they are talking about because you’ve never read the Bible. Believe me, I’ve read it. Cover to cover. Twice. And studied it for years. How do you think most Atheists become Atheist? They read to Bible. The unfortunate thing about quoting Bible verses to prove a point is that there are probably ten other verses that say just the opposite. The verse that says that marriage is between one man and one woman is proof of that. There are many other verses that talk about marriage and some of them tell about people having many wives (King David, Jesus’ ancestor) and many concubines. Many Christians I have known believe that it’s okay to do and say anything as long as it’s for the glory of God and you tell him you’re sorry afterward.

And now, about religious freedom laws. Okay they say, let the queers get married. We’ll just keep right on treating them like they’re less than human as we always have but we’ll make it legal. We’ll pass laws that say that our “deeply held religious beliefs” prevent us from treating them like they’re human. Deeply held religious beliefs. Let me tell you about that. Statistics show that the divorce rate in the U.S. is at roughly 50%. Also when asked, Americans claim to be roughly 70% Christians. Now I’m not a genius, but that translates into a lot of Christians getting divorced. And if memory serves, (that is getting sketchier by the day) Jesus never said one word about homosexuality but he had quite a bit to say about divorce. Marital unfaithfulness was the only reason Jesus gave for getting a divorce. And if we are really trying to live our lives by the Bible, adultery is rewarded by being stoned to death. So divorce is really unnecessary. So my “deeply held religious belief” is whatever I say it is at the moment to get me what I want. Not only that but if they really want to live by the Bible, Christians should be trying to pass laws to have gay people killed. Read Leviticus 20:13. It says that for homosexuality you must be put to death. Not “should” but “must.” So why are they fooling around with laws that say they can treat gay people less than human? Why not claim that their deeply held religious beliefs say that they can just kill them?

I’m trying to treat a serious situation with a little humor. I don’t advocate killing anyone. But this is how ridiculous these laws are. As Christians, Jesus told them to love their enemies. Love your neighbor as yourself. This is what they are called to do by their savior. I think they’re failing.

No One Should Read This….

angry god
I’ll repeat the warning again. I don’t recommend that anyone read this. There. If you do, you’re on your own. I’m going to talk about religion again. These are my thoughts on why I don’t think the Bible is “the word of God.” Why am I writing this, you ask? Because for a time in my past, I believed it was. I found out the truth the hard way. I’m not going to go into that because it’s not relevant but I want to make clear, that if you are a believer and you still are after reading this then there’s no harm done. If this helps you to ask some questions, then no harm done again. And I always believe that humor helps the medicine go down. So, lets get started.

We’ll start at the beginning, with Satan. Bear with me, it will get better. According to the Bible, God is the perfect being. So he creates Angels. One of them, Satan, rebels and falls from grace. God kicks him out of heaven. So God created angels with the ability to rebel. He’d have to have, otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. Why would God have done that? Anyway, Satan rebels. Wouldn’t Satan know that rebelling against God was futile? Wouldn’t God have known, because he is all knowing and all seeing that Satan would rebel? If he didn’t know, then how is God in charge? Wow, all these questions!

So now God creates Adam and Eve. They live in a beautiful garden and God gives Adam the job of husbanding all the animals. He names them, and oversees them all. That’s his job. God plants the tree of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden and tells Adam and Eve not to eat from it for on the day that they do they will surly die. How are Adam and Eve supposed to know that disobeying God is bad if they don’t know what good and bad are? And why did God lie to them when he told them they would die if they ate from it? And how were they supposed to know that to die was bad? They had no idea what good and bad were until after they ate from the tree. Then Satan shows up and talks to Eve in the guise of a serpent. Instead of going, “Holy crap, a talking snake!” which is just what I would have done, She talks to him as if everything is normal. In my fantasy world, if I were Eve I would have shot straight off to find Adam to tell him. Adam would’ve squinted his steely eyes and said, “A talking snake? That’s not right. Where’s my axe?” And right then and there, thousands of years of human suffering would have been ended before it ever got started. But of course that’s not what happened. Eve probably put down her book, lit a smoke, poured herself a glass of wine and said, “So, talking snake, what’s on your mind?” And well, you know the rest of the story. Eve believed a talking snake instead of God. Really. That’s what it says.
talking snake
And then we have Job. Job is a pretty cool guy. He’s got lots of flocks of animals, a wife and kids. Probably got a membership at the local country club. Shoots 18 holes once in a while, and you know, drinks with the guys and stuff. He’s doing alright. And then Satan shows up. God gives Satan permission to ruin Job’s life. Kill his animals, kill his wife and kids and infect him with diseases. And God says he thinks Job will still love him. God and Satan play with Job for awhile until they get bored and then say, “Just kidding Job, you can have it all back now.”

Now we’ll skip ahead to Ecclesiastes. That’s a hard one to say and even harder to spell. Anyway, chapter One, verse Five says: “The Sun rises and the Sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” (New International Version) You might think, “So, so what?” That’s just what I thought after reading it several times. But you really have to give this one some thought. Today we know that the Sun doesn’t actually “rise.” The earth spins on it’s axis once every twenty four hours and this give the Sun the appearance of “rising and setting.” So when we say, “The Sun rises,” we know it’s just an expression. But the writer of Ecclesiastes didn’t know that. Science didn’t prove that until the late 1500’s to early 1600’s with Copernicus and Galileo. This biblical writer actually thought the Sun went around and around the Earth. And God created all this so he would know that this passage wasn’t true and yet it’s in the Bible. But it is insisted that the Bible is “The word of God.”

I could go on and on. Why did God, who is a perfect being, create such imperfect people, and then spend the rest of time trying to straighten us out? Why did God unleash Satan on us? Why does God play with peoples lives, like Job? Why did God tell Joshua to kill every man, woman and child in Jericho but put all the gold, silver and copper in the store house because these things are “precious to the lord.” Why did God need a son? Why, why, why?
god with hammer
So now if you’re reading this and your mouth is hanging open and you think, “This guy is going straight to Hell,” I warned you. I told you not to read this. By the way, I never did very well in Sunday School. Here’s another question. Why did God give us all these abilities and then expect us to be at war with ourselves to not use them? Like curiosity. To question why? To want to have an answer to these impossible conundrums? If God can do these seemingly amoral things, why shouldn’t we question that? Shouldn’t our creator have a higher moral standard than we do? If we are expected to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves” why does God get to let horrible things happen to people like Job? Why is that okay? If you were suddenly given the power to end all suffering in the world but didn’t use it wouldn’t you be considered a horrible human being? If God has the power to end all suffering, why does he sit back and let it happen? Drinking his coffee, watching the afternoon soaps and not paying attention. Oh, and by the way, why did God give a man nipples? Do you know that I have almost accidentally ripped my nipples off about a thousand times while pulling off a tee shirt? Like I said, I didn’t do very well in Sunday School.

Whether or not you believe God is real, the Bible is a fascinating read. 66 separate books written by many authors over a span of thousands of years. Did the hand of God guide the writers? I don’t think so. Is it deliberately false? I don’t believe that either. I think the authors wrote what they truly believed, as with the Ecclesiastes example. Where does that leave us? There are many things in the Bible that are horrible, like the book of Joshua or Job. But there are also many beautiful things like how to love one another and treat others right. I encourage everyone to take a crack at. So that about wraps it up. Try not to think to badly of me. I got my knuckles rapped a lot when I was a kid.
teacher with ruler

Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho

joshua

As often happens when I take Sophie for a walk, instead of just “being there” and enjoying the day, I let my mind wander just to see what pops in. This morning I remembered my Sunday and Wednesday classes at church when I was young and how they taught us the song, “Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho”. So when I got home I got out my Strongs Exhaustive Concordance and my New International Version of the Christian Bible and dug around a little bit. And as always I had help from the internet too.

I’m not going to type out the words to the song but mostly it goes, “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down. Joshua commanded the children to shout and the walls came tumbling down.” I have some vivid memories of my childhood and I remember learning this song and wondering why Jericho needed a wall around it and why Joshua wanted to get in so bad that he would wreck their wall to do it. I’m sure I drove my teachers crazy. Anyway, the book of Joshua in the bible tells the story of the taking of the land of Canaan by Joshua and the Israelites.

In Joshua 1:1-5 God tells Joshua that the land he promised to Moses will now be his (Joshua’s). It is the land of the Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Hittites, and The Amorites. It seems there is a lot of “ites” there, meaning, there is already a lot of people living in the land. But God says it belongs to the Israelites and so they move in and take it. It seems history repeats itself. In Joshua 6:15-25 The walls of Jericho come tumbling down and they, “destroyed with the sword every living thing in it-men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys.” (NIV) Joshua 6:19, says, “All the sliver, gold and articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the lord and must go into his treasury.” Here we see a glimpse of Joshua’s God and what he covets. Sliver, gold and bronze. Not the Canaanites whom he made in his own image, but gold and silver and bronze. Kill the men, women and children, but keep the gold, because it’s “sacred to the lord.”

So here’s what I want to know. What kind of sick mind decides to make a children’s song about the murder of hundreds if not thousands of men, women and children, even implicating the Israelite children in the story with the words, “Joshua commanded the children to shout, and the walls came tumbling down?” The song, “Ring around the Rosie” was written about the Plague in Europe. (Folklorists have rejected this idea.) Who comes up with this stuff and then teaches it to children? I had no idea what I was singing about in Sunday school. About how God loves gold and silver but not certain human beings. As it turns out, the land of Canaan had been cursed by God long before that. Sometime after the flood, it seems Noah made his own wine. One day Noah got drunk off his wine and passed out naked in his tent. His son Ham went in and finding him this way, went out and told his brothers. His brothers, while not looking at their fathers nakedness, covered him up and later told their father that Ham had seen him naked. Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” According to the Bible, Canaan is the son of Ham. So the land of Canaan gets cursed because Canaan’s dad sees his grandfather passed out naked and drunk.

I’m having a hard time understanding all this. The Bible says that God is loving and forgiving. And yet he commands Joshua and the Israelites to murder all the people in the land of Canaan, people that God presumably made in his own image, just like the rest of humanity. So are all the people of Canaan cursed because Ham saw Noah naked? But God created them all naked. Why would God curse an entire country of people because a son saw his father naked? Or was it because his dad was passed out drunk? Maybe that was embarrassing to God? I don’t know. But there are more things here that bother me than this. People who go to war and kill the enemies of their country often come back with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is not a new thing, however it has been kept quiet for a long time because for some strange reason we humans don’t deal well with mental illness. They have lots of problems dealing with the things they were asked to do during their time in service to their country. According to the Bible however, nothing like PTSD is ever mentioned. The Israelites murder every man woman and child with swords. It would have been a blood bath. Women, children, babies, pregnant mothers and men as well. Run them through with swords. Blood, guts, body parts, and not a single one of the Israelites seems to have suffered any ill effects because of it.

My questions are many. If we are to live good lives, be moral people and treat everyone as we would like to be treated, why does the God who supposedly created us not have to live up to that standard? Why is God not as moral as we are. Are you outraged by murder? By the killing of innocent children? Why does God command his people to do this very thing. I can’t read the Bible without asking these questions. I just can’t. I have Christian friends who I love and admire. They tell me that there are lots of things in the Bible that we can’t understand but we are supposed to trust that God has his reasons. I just don’t know what to think about that. This is one reason why I didn’t do very well in Sunday school. I’ve never been comfortable with any of this.

There are two “answers” to this dilemma. Either the Bible is made up by man and attributed to a God, or the God of the universe really does exist and he is genuinely cruel and “inhuman.” I can’t think of any other way to explain it. Can you? I would love to hear your thoughts.

(Photos for this story are from picshark.com and patheos.com)

The Sword Of Freedom

As hands are brushed together, dead bodies fall like dust
and a girl in a dress called freedom whirls and twirls
but makes no sound but the sound of a mothers cry.

With the constitution in one hand and a bible in the other,
flames suddenly leap and turn them to ash and they blow
away on the wind called justice, replaced by money.

Crowds leave the synagogue, cathedral and mosque and file
into the furnace while factories make more furnaces
and governments send more children to bleed.

The minds eye is blind and feeling it’s way to find
emptiness and sorrow where love once lived.
Time turns backward to other wars with the same stench.

Liberty’s crack grows wider and the clapper has
disappeared to be replaced with the sword of freedom.
(or was it a dress) and a mother cries again.

And do we watch with hands folded in laps and on
our knees pray to a god who doesn’t listen? And do
we tell our children that this is righteousness?

As our world disappears in flame and ash do
we wish we had done the right thing? Do we say the
words that will set all to right, or collect our pay?

As the wars rage on and bodies pile high we go to our
jobs with blinders in place and plugs in our ears and
pretend we do not see the girl dancing. And bleeding.

And as she falls to the ground her wounds ooze into
the sand and she reaches out to be picked up but
we turn away, not wanting to get our clothes dirty.

With ash covered hands and filthy clothes some walk
away but some stoop to carry away the hurt and their
voices are being heard. Quietly now but getting louder.

Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho

joshua

As often happens when I take Sophie for a walk, instead of just “being there” and enjoying the day, I let my mind wander just to see what pops in. This morning I remembered my Sunday and Wednesday classes at church when I was young and how they taught us the song, “Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho”. So when I got home I got out my Strongs Exhaustive Concordance and my New International Version of the Christian Bible and dug around a little bit. And as always I had help from the internet too.

I’m not going to type out the words to the song but mostly it goes, “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down. Joshua commanded the children to shout and the walls came tumbling down.” I have some vivid memories of my childhood and I remember learning this song and wondering why Jericho needed a wall around it and why Joshua wanted to get in so bad that he would wreck their wall to do it. I’m sure I drove my teachers crazy. Anyway, the book of Joshua in the bible tells the story of the taking of the land of Canaan by Joshua and the Israelites.

In Joshua 1:1-5 God tells Joshua that the land he promised to Moses will now be his (Joshua’s). It is the land of the Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Hittites, and The Amorites. It seems there is a lot of “ites” there, meaning, there is already a lot of people living in the land. But God says it belongs to the Israelites and so they move in and take it. It seems history repeats itself. In Joshua 6:15-25 The walls of Jericho come tumbling down and they, “destroyed with the sword every living thing in it-men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys.” (NIV) Joshua 6:19, says, “All the sliver, gold and articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the lord and must go into his treasury.” Here we see a glimpse of Joshua’s God and what he covets. Sliver, gold and bronze. Not the Canaanites whom he made in his own image, but gold and silver and bronze. Kill the men, women and children, but keep the gold, because it’s “sacred to the lord.”

So here’s what I want to know. What kind of sick mind decides to make a children’s song about the murder of hundreds if not thousands of men, women and children, even implicating the Israelite children in the story with the words, “Joshua commanded the children to shout, and the walls came tumbling down?” The song, “Ring around the Rosie” was written about the Plague in Europe. (Folklorists have rejected this idea.) Who comes up with this stuff and then teaches it to children? I had no idea what I was singing about in Sunday school. About how God loves gold and silver but not certain human beings. As it turns out, the land of Canaan had been cursed by God long before that. Sometime after the flood, it seems Noah made his own wine. One day Noah got drunk off his wine and passed out naked in his tent. His son Ham went in and finding him this way, went out and told his brothers. His brothers, while not looking at their fathers nakedness, covered him up and later told their father that Ham had seen him naked. Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” According to the Bible, Canaan is the son of Ham. So the land of Canaan gets cursed because Canaan’s dad sees his grandfather passed out naked and drunk.

So I’m having a hard time understanding all this. The Bible says that God is loving and forgiving. And yet he commands Joshua and the Israelites to murder all the people in the land of Canaan, people that God presumably made in his own image, just like the rest of humanity. So are all the people of Canaan cursed because Ham saw Noah naked? But God created them all naked. Why would God curse an entire country of people because a son saw his father naked? Or was it because his dad was passed out drunk? Maybe that was embarrassing to God? I don’t know. But there are more things here that bother me than this. People who go to war and kill the enemies of their country often come back with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is not a new thing, however it has been kept quiet for a long time because for some strange reason we humans don’t deal well with mental illness. They have lots of problems dealing with the things they were asked to do during their time in service to their country. According to the Bible however, nothing like PTSD is ever mentioned. The Israelites murder every man woman and child with swords. It would have been a blood bath. Women, children, babies, pregnant mothers and men as well. Run them through with swords. Blood, guts, body parts, and not a single one of the Israelites seems to have suffered any ill effects because of it.

So my questions are many. If we are to live good lives, be moral people and treat everyone as we would like to be treated, why does the God who supposedly created us not have to live up to that standard? Why is God not as moral as we are. Are you outraged by murder? By the killing of innocent children? Why does God command his people to do this very thing. I can’t read the Bible without asking these questions. I just can’t. I have Christian friends who I love and admire. They tell me that there are lots of things in the Bible that we can’t understand but we are supposed to trust that God has his reasons. I just don’t know what to think about that. This is one reason why I didn’t do very well in Sunday school. I’ve never been comfortable with any of this.

There are two “answers” to this dilemma. Either the Bible is made up by man and attributed to a God, or the God of the universe really does exist and he is genuinely cruel and “inhuman.” I can’t think of any other way to explain it. Can you? I would love to hear your thoughts.

(Photos for this story are from picshark.com and patheos.com)

Intolerance

I do a lot of reading, as you may have guessed. I pay attention to many forms of media; newspapers, television, radio, and the internet in all it’s various forms like Facebook, Twitter etc. A common theme that seems to be on the rise today is intolerance. Has intolerance always existed? Of course it has. Is it getting worse in America? I think so. Should people be intolerant? That depends. On what, you ask? My opinion is first of all, just my opinion. My wife and I were talking yesterday about how people come to be who they are. Who you are is a combination of a few different things. How you were raised, the influence of religion, who your friends are, and on and on. Who you are and what you believe is a combination of conscious and unconscious decisions you have made based on all the factors that go together to make you who you are. Don Miguel Ruiz, author of “The Four Agreements” calls it making agreements with yourself. I have studied Buddhism over the years and two of the things that it teaches are tolerance and not doing harm. Acceptance of other peoples views as valid even if they differ from yours is a part of tolerance. And also a part of “not doing harm.”

Lately the media has been filled with loads of intolerance. Take a look at the Duck Dynasty vs. A&E controversy. A&E suspended Phil Robertson from the TV show because of remarks he made about homosexuality and Jim Crow era Black people. Of course they have since relented and let him back on (he was never off.) You can make up your own mind as to why. 250,000 people signed an online petition supporting Phil and presumably what he said. If Phil Robertson wants to be intolerant of Gays and insensitive to blacks, it first of all shows his ignorance and also shows the power of media. His brand of Christianity is being splashed all over and people are agreeing with him. During the 2013 presidential race people like Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum spread their Christian intolerance far and wide. Both claimed to be great Christians and were totally intolerant of any idea that wasn’t there own. I am intolerant of their intolerance. Why is that okay? Because their intolerance harms people.

In the Christian Bible (New International Version) Matthew 34-40, one of the Pharisees asks Jesus “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus first of all says the most important commandment is to love God above all else (my words). He goes on to say, without being asked, “And the second is like it: Love your Neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Right Wing Fundamentalist Christianity (RWFC) has embraced a culture of intolerance. Take the Gay issue for instance. This seems to be the biggest issue facing RWFC’s today. Ministers, politicians, and TV personalities all come out (come out hahaha) against equal rights for gays and preach intolerance towards them. A lot of them it seems, think more about gay sex than gays do. (Phil Robertson, when asked by the GQ interviewer what he thought of as sin immediately said male gay sex, not female, and bestiality. I guess we know what Phil thinks about.) The problem with this intolerance is that it goes against what Jesus taught in the Bible about the most important commandments and about judging. So we need to think about what “Loving your Neighbor as yourself” really means.

How do you love someone as you love yourself. It’s pretty simple. What you desire for yourself you have to desire for others. Do you want your views and beliefs to be considered valid? Do you want people to respect you for who you are and what you believe? Do you want people to take you seriously? Then you should be doing these things for others. Even if you don’t agree with them. If you think you should have equal rights then all people should have them. If you want others to take your religious views seriously then you can’t go around telling others they are wrong when they don’t agree. The Golden Rule, as it’s called, sums it up.

Unfortunately, the intolerance is selective. The RWFC’s have focused on equal rights for Gay people and homosexuality in general. What about divorce? Jesus, never having said a word about homosexuality has a lot to say about divorce. It is estimated that nearly 50% of all marriages in the US will end in divorce. The number of Gay people in the US is a lot lower than 50%. A lot lower. So, how many Christians have been divorced? I don’t have the numbers but it must be significant. Why do RWFC’s concentrate so hard on Gay issues while completely ignoring the divorce issue. It’s intolerance of others and acceptance of self.

I have heard people say they don’t like to hear Somali people speaking their own language because they can’t be understood and yet those same people have talked about their Grandmothers speaking their old Czech or Irish Gaelic dialect with fond memories. If your Grandmother had the right to speak her native language then Somali or Sudanese have the right to speak theirs, it’s just that simple.

There is nothing wrong with having different views. Saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is not a war on Christmas. It’s just a different way of saying something nice. A more inclusive way. Saying “Happy Holidays” includes other people besides Christians. Even if you’re not Christian, Jesus gave some good advice. Treat people the way you want to be treated. How you present yourself to the world is how people see you. If you want to attract people to your way of thinking, being intolerant of theirs is not the way to do it. People will not see your view or take you seriously. They will just see your intolerance.

Grocery Store Chatter

hands of color

Overheard in the grocery store checkout line: “I don’t know why those Somali’s can’t learn English. How do I know they’re not talking about me?” Since I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut under certain circumstances, I said, “Do you think that Somali people have left their war torn country, left famine and torture and death, left their families and friends and everything they have ever known to come half way around the world and stand in a grocery line just so they can talk about you? Do you really think they don’t have anything more important to say than that?” To which I got a scowl and no reply. I guess I should be thankful that I am not so jaded that I am still surprised by the idiocy of some people.

My online blogger friend Audrey Kletscher Helbling wrote a really nice post about Somali and other people of color on her blog, “Minnesota Prairie Roots” which I re-blogged a couple of days ago. I could not agree more with what she has to say. Everyone in this country except Native Americans either came from, or has ancestors who came from some other country. We cannot blame people for wanting to come here and start a better life. If we have an issue with our government immigration policies then by all means we should be going after our politicians to change them. But to hate, dislike or despise people who come here just because they are different is wrong. I think the biggest issue is that a lot of people have a hard time with change and with accepting people who look, dress, talk or worship differently than they do. I think this would be a pretty boring world if we were all blond haired, blue eyed English speaking Lutherans. Or dark haired, brown eyed Spanish speaking Catholics.

Diversity is what makes our world great. I love meeting and talking with people from other cultures and counties. I grill them with questions about their homeland and customs. As soon as you ask a Mexican or Somali person about their respective countries they open right up and tell you all about it. In my line of work I meet people of other nationalities every day. I try to engage them in conversation as often as I can. I hope that it makes them comfortable around me. We all live together in this increasingly small world. We need to get along.

Read this post at your own Risk!

I’m writing about religion again. Some of my views are controversial and I’ve had people get mad at me. But I believe the truth is important so I feel compelled to tell it. Here goes.

I was having a conversation about religion with a friend and he said, in answer to what we were talking about, “It’s true, because it’s in the Bible.” I said, “Not everything in the Bible is true, so you can’t use the Bible alone to prove anything.” He said, “Prove something in the Bible isn’t true. You can’t do it.” So I did. This is what I showed him.

Ecclesiastes, 1:5 says this: ‘The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.’ (New International Version) The King James Version says it this way” ‘The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.’ Now today, we say the ‘sun rises’ but we know that it isn’t actually rising. We know this because of Galileo. Galileo Galilei, was born 02/15/1564 and died 01/08/1642. He discovered through scientific research that the Earth spins on it’s axis and revolves around the sun. Every grade school child is taught this because it is true. Ecclesiastes is believed to have been written no later that 180 BCE. (I’m not going into how that is known. Biblical scholars know better than I. You can look it up.) My friend said that saying ‘the sun rises’ is just an expression we use while knowing that it’s not actually rising. It’s just an expression. I told him he was right. He smiled. Then I told him, that it’s just an expression for us, today. When Ecclesiastes was written, it was not an expression. It was believed to be true because people hadn’t discovered the truth of it yet. So the writer of Ecclesiastes was writing what he believed to be true. Now if God created the universe and everything in it , then God knows that Ecclesiastes 1:5 is not true. And yet it’s in the Bible where everything is believed to be the word of God, and true.

So you have to ask yourself, if you’re reasonable, if there is one thing that can be proven to be untrue in the Bible, how many other things might there be that are untrue that you didn’t realize? If you look at a high school text book and find some obvious mistakes doesn’t it seem reasonable that there are others that you didn’t find? Besides that, if the Bible is the word of God, what the heck is Ecclesiastes 1:5 doing in there? The Catholic church during Galileo’s time sure believed it was true. They hauled him before the Pope in chains and told him that if he didn’t tell the world that his discoveries about the earth were wrong they would kill him. He decided that he wanted to live so he recanted what he said and the church kept him under house arrest for the rest of his life, never again being allowed to publish any scientific findings. It makes it pretty obvious what the church thought about anyone saying that something in the Bible wasn’t true. They were pissed.

Well my friend said something like ‘God will have all the answers’ or something like that. It drives me crazy when peoples beliefs get in the way of being reasonable. And reading the Bible answers almost no questions for me and actually raises many more. Well I told you this would be controversial. The only thing I’m saying here is what I already said. You can’t use the Bible alone to prove anything. How about that, folks?