Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pitfalls of Faith



Belief can be such a tricky thing.  It can really trap people in a kind of mental quicksand.

For example, my classes at Daytona State College (fall 2014)  debated important topics chosen by the students.  This was an exercise to teach organization and the use of research.  The students chose the usual topics: gun control, abortion and, of course, evolution.

They also took a survey to determine their views before hearing the arguments.  Over half the students answered “yes” to the statement: “Evolution contradicts my religious beliefs, so any proof of evolution has no meaning to me.”

As such, they had simply closed to their minds before any debate could take place. 

That raises a question, however: what is their belief based on?

All of these students are Christian, but their belief is not drawn from anything Jesus said.  Although the theory of evolution dates to ancient Greece, Jesus no doubt never heard of it.  He never comments
on it.  Nor do any of the disciples or Paul, the chief advocate of the new faith. 

Nor does evolution have anything to with Christian theology, which claims that Jesus is God on Earth who died to redeem mankind from a sin caused by the first human.  Evolution is simply extraneous to such teachings.  That’s why the Roman Catholic Church, the world’s largest Christian faith, can accept evolution without a qualm.

Actually, the students could have belonged to any religion.  None care a whit about evolution.  Judaism is a belief in one God who provided laws to one people to share with the rest of the world.  No evolution.  Islam believes that a prophet received revelations from God on how to live.  No evolution there either.  Look at the rest: Shinto involves ancestral worship; Hinduism, the wheel of life; Buddhism, living the right way; and so on.

Evolution never shows up anywhere.

In fact, not a single religion or religious figure discussed evolution until after Charles Darwin published a book in 1859 that explained at least one way that evolution worked – natural selection.  At that point, Christian clerics decided that this scientific discovery somehow violated their non-existent beliefs on the topic.

While the Roman Catholic Church has given up that nonsense, other Christian sects obviously have not.  They are still inculcating young people to ignore decades of research and study – which have developed in Al Gore’s felicitous term, “an inconvenient truth” – as if somehow lack of knowledge is the base of belief.

What kind of belief is that?  Doesn’t belief have to be based on something?

Actually, the students exhibited only a belief in a book, the Bible.  Evolution also doesn’t show up there.  However, clerics happily infer that since God created everything, as described in the book, that nothing evolved.  They just have to look around to see that’s nonsense.  
In my classes, for example, I had Asia, European and African students. They didn’t look the same.  Obviously, there had to be some changes in human physiognomy since Adam and Eve.  Why not call the process evolution?

I once had Islamic students reject evolution because the process is random.  To them, that means God could not be involved.  But, since they believe God created everything, why couldn’t He create a random process?  After all, the evidence is visually available simply by looking at human differences among people even when they share cultural and ethnic backgrounds. 
In essence, my students, and many others, are creating an idol they call “belief” and worshiping it without the slightest regard to the wealth of accumulated knowledge. 

That kind of blinded approach to life guarantees limited thinking and definitely helps explain the spreading morass of modern life, where such niceties as logic and common sense have become almost as rare as the mention of evolution in any religion. 

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Traditional Beliefs Shattering


Pope Francis
What is heaven’s name is going on with religion these days?

Pope Francis kicked off the recent confusion by trying to encourage the homophobic Roman Catholic Church to be more open to gays.  That caused an uproar, as did his casual suggestion that atheists could find a welcome mat in heaven.

While backtracking, he also announced continued papal support for evolution and the Big Bang Theory, scientific-backed paradigms that undercut all Christian thinking about creation of the universe and of mankind.

While Francis was infuriating the troglodytes who comprise much of Roman Catholic hierarchy, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to come clean on a portion of its sordid history.  After years of denial, Church elders recently released a report that confirmed that its founder, Joseph Smith, did indeed have multiple wives.
Smith

Rivaling some Persian harems of bygone years, Smith enjoyed up to 40 wives.  Some of the women were already married and wrested from their husbands.  One was 14 years old.  Supposedly, that marriage and some others were not consummated. Of course, the people saying that are the same ones who for years denied such marriages ever took place.  Now, they say, Smith had three revelations and was threatened with death by an angel if he didn’t create the enormous harem.

Maybe next, the Church will concede Smith initially reserved the right of plural marriage to himself and had to open that door to other male Mormons only after they vociferously protested.  That could be in the second or third announcement from the Church, which has promised such reports.

Wahhabi woman
In addition, Christian Science is rapidly vanishing.  Membership rolls have fallen so far, officials now decline to release them.  Other decaying religious sects, including Episcopalian and Lutheran, have merged with the Roman Catholic Church.  Liberal Reform Judaism, alarmed by its declining membership and intermarriage, has moved to become more rigid in its ideology.  In Saudi Arabia, the strict Wahhabi sect is now contemplating reducing its stranglehold on women’s rights by letting females drive cars.  In other Islamic sects, such controls have long since disappeared.

Other religions, too, are reporting declines in membership, financial support and use of facilities for ritualistic functions.
Ancient Roman temple

All of that is enough to make a deity scratch his/her head in bewilderment.

It’s really not that puzzling.  What we are witnessing is a demise of our traditional religions.  From an historical perspective, that’s to be expected.  The same thing happened 2,000 years ago and opened the door to Christianity.  Then, accepted pagan faiths that had sustained the Western world for millennia were starting to fade away.

In its place, came a religion which was, in the words of historians, “old wine in new wineskin.”

The aging Roman and Greek faiths died away because they lacked any real meaning, offering no guidance in the way of morals and ethics.  Judaism and its rebellious offshoot, Christianity, did.
Infallible Pius IX

While the faiths are collapsing now, their decay began some time ago.   For Roman Catholics, it can be dated to the 1869 announcement of papal infallibility.  Pius 1X was the pope then and was the first officially to claim that a pope can’t make a mistake when dealing with doctrine, which gives Francis’ comments real weight.  Of course, Cardinals some 150 years ago had no idea someone with Francis’ freewheeling approach would ever become pope. 

Now, his words, spoken by a man who cannot be in error, are eroding what’s left of a belief shredded by historical research and scientific discoveries.

For the Mormons, their faith started to fray first in 1890 when, in order for Utah to become part of the United States, they abandoned bigamy.  That’s when they began to cover up Smith’s supposed revelations on the subject.  Then, in the 1970s, Mormon elders busily bought up and hid documents they thought would bring ridicule on them.  No one recognized that the texts were forged; they were just afraid the contents could alienate followers.

Now, they have been forced to admit the embarrassing truth about their Prophet.

The information-laden internet has helped undermine such faiths.  So has the reality of science carefully delineated in every classroom.  Even a simpleton can see the university contains no “heaven above us.”  Hell has lost its meaning with the ridiculous scenario that Christians are assigned to a Muslim hell and vice versa.  And, everyone is going to a hell imagined by the Zoroastrians who developed the idea long before Christianity existed.

The realities of Ebola and other pan-epidemics, as well as the obvious randomness of life’s experiences, have continued to poke holes in the claims about a god.

Prayer
We still say the prayers because, as one rabbi told me, “it’s traditional.”  They are just not meaningful.

None of this means religion will disappear.  Our existing theology will simply metamorphose into something else.  As such, we should all be on the lookout for a new prophet, who will spout acceptable tripe about God and heaven.  It will sound fresh, attract followers and create the new faith.  This prophet will likely sound revolutionary, but will actual fuse existing beliefs with some novel twist.  That's how it's done. For example, Christianity is nothing more than the mixture of Greek paganism and Judaism.

Hundreds of years from now, any humans surviving the coming storms will devoutly perform proscribed rituals on behalf of some new, “true” faith, meanwhile laughing as they recount our religious beliefs, as we do now when hearing the claims of ancient religions,


Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1









Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Loss of Belief The Root of Society's Problems?



Levy
Thank God.  Finally, ESPN newsman Steve Levy has figured out the source of all our problems and in a CBS commentary explained the answers to everything.  Our problem he said is that this country has lost its belief in God.

What a letdown. That’s such a comical explanation that it’s appropriate to respond by quoting Bugs Bunny: “What a maroon.”

Amazingly, Levy is serious.

"Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves. Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with ‘We reap what we sow.'  Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell."
Suffering Sweden?

Not really.  There’s no connection.  Residents of many countries, including the U.S.A., have decided to ignore the discredited claims of their elders and latch onto their own beliefs.   Have you forgotten that Sweden has forsworn religion and seems to be doing just fine?  The same is true for South Korea and a host of other countries where today’s organized religions are dying.

By the way, concern about the new generation is hardly new. Every generation feels the one that follows may be too dissolute. Society changes.  That’s just the way it is.  It has nothing to do with believing in God or atheism.  It has to do with rejecting the outmoded standards of predecessors.

Besides, you are wrong. This country is actually safer than ever.  According to the most recent report on crime, the rate for serious crimes, like murder rape and assault, have dropped dramatically in the last 20 years and are continuing to fall. Do you really think people who lived through the Depression and then World War II would actually think our era is worse?

Bathed in technology and rekindled hopes for the future, we are enjoying the high point of human existence.

Not to Levy, of course.  All he can think about are those damned atheists ruining everything.

He wrote: I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat...

He added that:
O'Hare

I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school... The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

He is, of course, completely absurd.

Potter
In the first place, more than 90 percent of Americans still believe in God.  Nobody is pushing atheism.  Instead, people are deserting organized religion.  If that frosts Levy, just wait until the Tea Party kamikaze elected in the last election move into office.  They are on record firmly rejecting any idea of religious equality.

Consider this typical comment issued by Gary Potter, president of Catholics for Christian Political Action as one example:

"When the Christian majority takes over this country, there will be no satanic churches, no more free distribution of pornography, no more talk of rights for homosexuals. After the Christian majority takes control, pluralism will be seen as immoral and evil and the state will not permit anybody the right to practice evil."

That sure sounds tolerant, doesn’t it? After all, who will define "evil?"  Why open-minded Gary Potter, of course.  Levy, who is Jewish, has to know from history what that kind of attitude that leads to.

As for O’Hare, she’s been dead for almost 20 years.  Can’t you find someone more plausible to blame?  After all, she was simply trying to stop believers from cramming religion down her throat.  She courageously stood up and protested at a time when no one would.  Today, she has a lot of company, including Federal courts.

For example, in one case involving prayers at a public meeting, Federal Judge David Hamilton wrote that visiting clergy:

...do not have a First Amendment right....to use an official platform like the Speaker's podium....to express their own religious faiths....If the Speaker chooses to continue to permit nonsectarian prayers as part of the official proceedings, he shall advise all persons offering such prayers...that the prayers must be non-sectarian and must not be used to proselytize or advance any one faith or belief or to disparage any other faith or belief....The prayers should not use Christ's name or title or any other denominational appeal.

That’s that darn Freedom of Religion idea poking its clauses into the public business.

As for O’Hare, in her day she was called the “most hated woman in America,” vilified and abused for her atheistic beliefs – no hint of religious freedom for her – and murdered in 1995 for money.  Her efforts, however, encouraged others.  For example, Catholic and Mormon families successfully sued in Texas to end compulsory prayers at football games. Atheists all, no doubt.

Sorry, Steve.  Despite your focus on atheists, the issue affects people of all beliefs. In fact, freedom of religion became an integral part of the rights of American citizens because legislators saw how a dominant religion could abuse other faiths. In fact, O’Hare had a lot of company in her day and throughout American history, too.
ISIS murderers

Your ignorance on this is appalling.

Our big problems have nothing to do with expressing belief in outmoded and nonsensical religious precepts, but on the very real dangers from Global Warming, religious wars like those in the Middle East and the failure to address these encroaching storms realistically.

Go ahead and blame atheists, even though there’s been no decline in the belief in God.  Maybe that will make you happy.  However, it won’t solve anything. Believers and nonbelievers alike will be caught up in the coming maelstrom.


Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1

Steve Levy’s Comments:

The following was written by Steven Levy and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:
I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat...

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school... The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Steven Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about.. And we said okay..

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with We reap what we sow.'

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Pass it on if you think it has merit. 


If not, then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.