Archives For religion

I am pulling up another past post form Red Letter Living that I wrote almost three years ago. At that time in my spiritual journey I was trying to decide where church doctrine and its creeds belonged in my faith. Needless to say this book by Harvey Cox did a lot to show me a different path on this topic and many others. When I came to realize just how much man had a hand in formalizing current Christian doctrine it convinced me that Christianity is an ever evolving process and is not to be paralyzed by some of the now outdated fourth and fifth century man-made worldviews.

I am going to start this post with an alarming story of Constantine’s involvement in the Council of Nicaea. It is from a book by Harvey Cox entitle The Future of Faith.   If this doesn’t cast out any doubt of man’s involvement in the change from faith to rigid belief nothing will:

2015-02-22_10-55-08Constantine, not Jesus, was the dominant figure at Nicaea, and it is hardly surprising that almost all the bishops, to the emperor’s satisfaction, arrived at a nearly unanimous decision in his favor. Only Arius himself and three other stubbornly independent bishops withheld their approval. Constantine promptly exiled Arius to the remote province of Illyricum. Then, in a statement that suggests he had forgotten his previous view both that this was all a matter of small significance and that all the parties should show forbearance to one another, he decreed: If any treatise composed by Arius be discovered, let it be consigned to the flames…and if anyone shall be caught concealing a book by Arius, and does not instantly bring it out and burn it, the penalty shall be death; the criminal shall suffer punishment immediately after conviction.

But the emperor’s draconian measures did not succeed. The historic Council of Nicaea, as an effort to unify the church and the empire by imposing a creed, proved a dismal failure. Within months arguments flared up again. One of the bishops who had attended the Nicaea council and had not supported the final decision, Hilary of Poitiers (d. ca. 367), found himself banished to Asia. No doubt his experience tinctured his opinion of councils and creeds, but a letter he wrote from his place of exile at the time pinpoints how little the Council of Nicaea had accomplished and what a debacle it had been. Hilary says: It is a thing equally deplorable and dangerous that there are as many creeds as opinions among men, as many doctrines because we make creeds arbitrarily and explain their inclinations…arbitrarily…every year, nay every moon we make a new creed and describe invisible mysteries. We repent what we have done. We defend those who repent. We anathematize those whom we defended. We condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our own in that of others; and reciprocally tearing one another to pieces, we have been the cause of each other’s ruin.

Arius definitely caught the ire of Constantine and his brutality. Not only did he banish this noble bishop who dared to disagree with him on church matters he made even having anything written by Arius a penalty of death!! Sadly these types of stories are somewhat frequent in the years following Constantine’s mandating Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

We will be studying some more about this period in future posts but for now it is important that you realize that Christianity’s history is messy indeed. I am not saying that there are no good parts to what became the Church of Jesus Christ but only that we must be aware that much of the simple teachings of Jesus were later polluted by men seeking to consolidate personal power in earthly focused empires. Power corrupts, even inside the Christian church!

2014-10-06_07-39-37

It’s healthy to question expertise, but we need actual experts. The brilliance of the Fox News motto, “We report, you decide,” is that it encourages our vanity that we can know as much as anyone else, we can be experts, given a stream of carefully curated facts and opinion. MSNBC, which has a similar business/editorial model, is stuck with the less-empowering “Lean Forward.”

There are a number of ways forward for expertise in America. We can become increasingly mistrustful of scientists, doctors, professors, bureaucrats, bankers, and other experts in their fields; or we can find a better way to filter out the would-be experts spreading misinformation; or we can continue disregarding all experts who don’t confirm what we already believe. Perhaps we’ll all suffer because we didn’t heed our experts, or perhaps our experts will win back our trust.

SOURCE:  America doesn’t trust its experts anymore – The Week.

Experts are someone who has spent sometimes years studying a particular part of life. They have looked at it from many different angles and views. They have studied the background information that made this topic what it is.  There are also experts who bring us the goods and services that we so need in a modern society and some that we don’t need but insist on having. I spent thirty years becoming an expert in my field and would like to think that I contributed to society by my contributions.

But there are some who absolutely refuse to recognize expertise, especially in the areas that they think they know better. My wife, bless her soul, is one of those people who refuses to accept any validity to statistics. She thinks none of it is valid. Unfortunately there are those, who are usually Fox News viewers, who think their opinions are worth as much or more than those who have spent much time studying the subject.  There are just too many of us who think we know it all but in reality have much of it simply wrong.  We seem to cling to our prejudices instead of knowledge in too many areas of life. We need trust experts to help us understand things they we don’t have the time to spend to study them ourselves.  But then again there are some areas that where we need to rigorously question even the experts.

I find it unfathomable how many people think our military is the most trusted institution in America.  I kind of think this poll represented one portion of our population more than others. Trust in our institutions has been constantly decreasing for several decades in America and one of those institutions that is falling out of favor is organized religion. Forty years ago more than two-thirds of us had a total trust in it. Now that number has decreased by more than a third. Less than half of us have much trust in organized religion and that is tragic. A big part of that lack of trust is likely due to the political allegiances of so many in those institutions cling to.

 

2014-10-06_07-40-13

We just don’t seem to be able to know who to trust anymore??

About Islam and terrorism…

February 4, 2015

I have been meaning to study more about the Muslim world. I know it rivals Christianity as the largest religion in the world. Here are some supposed facts I recently found about it from a recent on-line article. Click the source below to see the complete article.

2015-01-23_11-29-371. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.

2. European Muslims are more moderate on sharia law.

Eighty-four percent of Muslims in South Asia, 77 percent of percent of Muslims in Southeast Asia, and 74 percent of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa believe that sharia law should be official law in their respective countries. Only 18 percent of Muslims in Europe believe that sharia law should be enshrined in addition to (or in lieu of) the existing law.

3. Some Muslims are immersed in an environment that permits and nourishes the core beliefs they cite as reasons for acting as they have.

For example: 2.3 percent of Muslims in Europe believe that people who leave the Muslim faith should be executed. By contrast, 63 percent of Muslims in South Asia share that belief, as do 44 percent of Muslims in the Middle East, and 20 percent of Muslims in Southeast Asia.

4. Just north of ten percent of Muslims worldwide support and sanction religously motivated violence against civilians in at least some contexts.

That’s about 195 million, according to the most accurate polling of Muslim beliefs.

7. There are seeming contradictions in how much Muslims support women’s rights.

In Europe, 44 percent of Muslims think that women should at all times submit to their husbands, but 88 percent believe that women ought to choose for themselves whether they should wear a veil in public. Outside of Europe, strong majorities of Muslims believe that women must obey their husbands and wear their veils outside their home. 

8. There are big geographic differences in how people interpret the truth of the Islamic faith.

In 32 of the 39 countries surveyed, half or more Muslims say there is only one correct way to understand the teachings of Islam. In the United States, nearly six in ten Muslims think there are many ways to interpret Islam.

SOURCE:  8 facts you need to know about Islam and terrorism.

Some of these statistics surprised me. I have always thought that the radicals who seem so dominant in the news were completely out of step with the average follower of that religion. But this article seems to say not as much out of tune as I thought.  Over three-fourths of the Asian and Middle East muslims think that Sharia law should be the only law of their countries. 195 million support religiously sanctioned violence and about half say that if you leave Islam you should be executed!!  The vast majority of practicing muslims don’t support any form women’s rights or even human rights in general.

These numbers say that muslims are more aligned with some ISIS  ideology than I originally believed.  I certainly don’t want to paint with too broad a brush here and it does seem that at least muslims in western countries, which are a distinct minority of muslims,  are less rigid than in the rest of muslim the world. One of the most basic things that confuses me about Islam is that they seem to put much more emphasis on their prophet Mohammad than they do God himself.  Why is that? Is it ok to have a picture of God but not Mohammad? I guess I need to study this religion more…. but what I have found so far kind of startles me….

Intolerance…

January 23, 2015

2014-12-12_09-13-53“Now which is the narrowest, religious intolerance or political intolerance?” – Will Rogers, 20 April 1927

I have been pondering that question for some time now myself Will. We all know that so much of politics, particularly the GOP brand,  is primarily driven by fear. The politicians want people fearful of their opponents winning over them. They keep our military budgets at absurd levels by keeping us fearful that if we reduce that grotesque   spending on our war machine terrorists will flood our shores.

But then again isn’t religious intolerance the reason for the majority of the world’s wars? We religious people seem to allow our extremists to tell us who is our enemy. Right now some of those jihadists nuts say that anyone who is not a Muslim simply need to be eliminated. They threaten, and sometimes even carry out that threat to a minute degree.  It amazes me how the vast majority of any religion, but particularly the muslims, doesn’t reign in the rouges among them. They seem to let the extremists talk for them?

Yeah Will,it would go a long way toward world peace, and everyone just getting along if we had a little less of both religious and political intolerance. Which one is worse I just don’t know…. and I don’t think I will ever figure that one out…

We’re worshipping religion, not God. It’s hard, when we’ve been endowed with these amazing buildings, these historic legacies and these time-honored traditions, not to mistake them for the thing we’re supposed to really focus on. To paraphrase the recent TV show, ‘Halt and Catch Fire,’ religion isn’t the thing; it’s the thing that gets us to the thing.

Organized religion, and all that comes with it, is a means to an end. It’s intent is to facilitate community, spiritual growth, mutual accountability, worship of God and transformation of the world around us. But so much of our energy in recent decades has gone into propping up aging, hollowed out institutions and preserving empty rituals for the sake of themselves that we’ve turned them into the golden calf, taking precedent over God and the Gospel at the center of our hearts. We’ve fallen victim to mistaken assumption that we have to resurrect dying religious infrastructures in order to reveal God to ourselves and others. But in doing so, we’ve run the risk of losing connection with God’s call all together.

SOURCE: 5 Reasons Post-Christianty is Good for Followers of Jesus | Christian Piatt | Red Letter Christians.

The words above echo my current thoughts on God and religion. Religion is a means to an end, not the end itself.  I must admit that all the amazing buildings as the quote above says have an opposite effect on me. I was recently in a suburban church for a funeral and as I looked at the lavish building I wondered just how many people could have been helped if they had spent half what that did for the building and spent the rest on the community.  It saddens me to think this way but that is just how I am wired I guess….

I love this quote. I will have to put it on the top of my list of favorites.

religion isn’t the thing

it’s the thing that gets us to the thing

America’s Religion…

December 14, 2014

2014-12-13_16-14-42People say that professional sports fuel what is worst in us. Our greed, our impatience, our willingness to ruin our bodies for the sake of fame. Our glorification of the worst human impulses, our blindness to the crimes these athletes sometimes commit….

It’s been said that sports are America’s religion and that this idolatry is our downfall.

SOURCE: These Royals Make You Believe in God | Angela Denker | Red Letter Christians.

I suspect that there are many more who will be sitting around their TV sets this Sunday afternoon watching  a football game than there are sitting in a church pew.  And even those in the pews most often rush home to join the former. Yes, we in America seem to be totally addicted to our sports.

I know that sports is supposed to build character in our young people but that can be accomplished in other far less destructive ways.  I believe sports does more to pollute the educational environment than any good it might accomplish.  I admit that, except with myself,  I am not a very competitive person and never have been. I have never seen a need to defeat any opponent in my life. In fact I believe that this attitude which is so predominate in most sports is a net negative on our society and even the world. It creates a totally unneeded caste system in our high schools that make some believe they have to stand out in other, often more destructive, ways just to get any attention. The high school and even the college jock dominates social life there even in my day. They are given special recognition  and privileges that are way above their overall contributions to the world around them. The level of “us vs them” created by most sports carries on throughout our lives.

We see it in our formal religious institutions. Just look at Israel, Iran, Iraq, or most of the Middle East countries to see how this “us vs. them” affects all our lives. We no longer seem to tolerate anyone believing something different from us. Too often religious leaders, contrary to the basic teaching of their religions, are the ones who incite these feelings. Jihad drives too many to fanatical views of life and spiritually but it is by no means the only destructive religious doctrine of our times. Jesus told us to love each other he didn’t put any public affiliations as part of that command.

In order to live together and love each other we must be tolerant of views that are different from our own. We need to throw away the “us vs them” mentality and realize that we are all in this together. While sports may not be the major contributing factor it is probably the starting point for many of these associations.  A little, well actually a lot, less emphasis on sports would help us return to celebrating our American diversity and the fact that we, as Rodney King, said so many years ago, just need to get along.