God Has No Religion

I believe religion is the human pursuit of God. It is fraught with ego, misinterpretation, manipulation and fraud (including self-fraud). But when we see that God is pursuing humans in the establishment of a cooperative personal relationship, great things happen. But it is not religion.

Image of Ghandi

Image of Ghandi

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Image of the earth from the moon

What’s the problem? Let’s just enlarge the tribe beyond our geographic, cultural, philosophic and religious borders. How? We can assimilate a God’s eye view of God’s total creation.

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Conservatives Motivated by Fear

Its what you thought for many years but wouldn’t say because it sounded so snarky and racist.

But now science is bearing up the notion that conservatives and liberals reason differently at a very basic level.

This Bill Moyers article presents a well-designed study of how the progressive and regressive minds work. And, yes, it’s not just that we have develop various conclusions about life based on rational input. Its much, much deeper than that.

Turns out conservatives, who generally advocate for a powerful military, harsh punishment for all sorts of things, more rigid societal structure, and love for guns, do so out of a sense of fear, protecting what’s mine, and the consequences of letting down our collective guard.

Furthermore, this fear mechanism, which served humans well thousands of year ago, is deeply embedded in the primitive recesses of our brain and is not likely to be expunged by simple debate about alternative ways of looking at our world.

Fearful people are putty in the hands of such information outlets as Fox News, which is blasting colored news reports, conspiracy theories and negative stereotypes round the clock. Such alarmism makes perfect sense to these citizens, even to the point of welcoming a Biblical armageddon as a cleansing operation for this present world. The net result is a stance that mandates that we pull in our resources, protect what is ours, and hate those who are no part of us.

For example:

Disease-ridden immigrants are overrunning our border defenses. Non-whites are aggregating too much power for our republic to stand. Capitalism and our guns will protect us from government overreach. Science is basically an atheistic enterprise bent on destroying well-established Biblical tenets. Birth control is abortion by another name and part of a movement to reduce the white population and equalize power among women and minorities.

This type of thinking leads, then, to some extraordinary beliefs. For example, no need to worry about the health of our planet, our CO2 belching lifestyle, or greenhouse gasses because Jesus is returning soon (discussion closed). Since God has blessed America in the past, we have to be the police of the world and intervene wherever it seems appropriate. And, since we’re the good guys, we must always prevail.

Superstition and even lies are accepted as okay because they reinforce these beliefs. This leads to a situation where even established “facts” are derided as evil propaganda. Ignorance is openly celebrated, because to “know” too much will lead one astray.

When our republic was new, the immigrants who poured in were often displaced populations who wanted to breathe free. They were often poor with little to lose and were banking on the promise that hard work equals prosperity.

Now our country has become the overlord, bent on protecting our eroding turf. We have no use for a rising tide that will lift all boats. Indeed, all boats are not worthy of being lifted, many would say.

Fearful societies are not generous, are quick to blame others, and have a tendency to hold onto simple-minded solutions that religious and political fundamentalists are happy to teach.

And there is no easy way to offer a counter view. A more liberal philosophy is harder to create and promulgate in bumper sticker sound bites. A liberal view, by definition, requires a more creative, patient outlook to see long-range results. The nuance often comes off as equivocation (or double-mindedness). Liberalism is often viewed as a sacrifice of individual rights for the good of the many, and even goes against the notion that there are no “self-made men.” A liberal mind seeks cooperation between groups for the sake of the common good. A liberal outlook can see over the mountain to a more hopeful future, not based on chains, but on a generosity that may not be immediately obvious.

The article quotes John Jost, a researcher with several decades of data under his belt:

There is by now evidence from a variety of laboratories around the world using a variety of methodological techniques leading to the virtually inescapable conclusion that the cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different.

This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety.

 

One of the reasons for this blog is to help fellow travelers move away from the errant and mistaken Fundamentalist view of Jesus and Christianity to a more revolutionary (and accurate First Century) view of his character and message. Salvation is not an adherence to a bunch of rules that limit our world, but an opening of the eyes of our heart to his message that the Kingdom of God is here now. The banquet is prepared. We are all welcome to it. This belief makes us open our arms ready to live from abundance and embrace a world that needs the hope that Christ provides.

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Help For Poor Families From Someone Who Knows

Tianna Gaines-Turner, a child-care worker from Philadelphia, spoke before a Congressional committee last week. She’s no power player. She’s a low-wage worker who, with her husband, have been squeezing out a living for the last decade.

Several times over the years, they thought that they were on the way to a better life, but some emergency, illness or event robbed them of any extra security. Their condition remains stagnant or worse.

Laziness is not the problem. She and her husband leave home before daylight every day and arrived back home long after the sun has gone down.

Her remarks, captured here on the Bill Moyers site, contains some very thoughtful and well laid out advice to lifting poor families out of poverty.

But are her remarks reaching anyone on the Paul Ryan-chaired  committee?

Gaines-Turner was chosen to represent a group to which she belongs, Witnesses to Hunger program. She asked the committee to use her group, real families who are called “the working poor,” to be consulted on any ideas the Congress may try to pass. Imagine that: an actual constituent actually participating in actual legislation that actually effects them.

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She Nailed It…In One Quick Video

This is what it means to be a New Testament Democrat. Its not a party, its a way of living. It’s seeing yourself as part of the larger human community — God’s creation. It means you choose to fight the myopia, xenophobia and small mindedness of the Pharisees. It means you try to see the hope in every situation, betting on a positive outcome for individuals and nations.

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Why You And Uncle Bob Will Never Vote Alike

I like Chris Mooney. I don’t know who he is exactly but I have read many articles that he has written and really like the way he goes after a topic. This article, which seems to have been written several years ago, is one that he viciously attacks and is as current as this morning.

The article examines the way people adopt their ethical, cultural, societal, political and religious beliefs.  And, in the end, he ends up in a pretty hopeless place about our communal ability to use our minds to come together based on rational thought.

John Haight, professor at University of Virginia and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided By Politics and Religion, as well as other scholars, have done a lot of thinking along this line.

Mooney’s specific topic here is why some refuse to accept accepted scientific information. They are shown the facts and they refuse to accept a new position that differs with previously held beliefs.

He starts by dissecting the beliefs of a cult group called the Seekers. This group believed that aliens were coming to earth on December 21, 1954, and they prepared so that they would be ready.  They sold their homes, they quit their jobs, and waited on a mountaintop. The day came and went. Despite the fact that everything they had believed and prepared for didn’t happen, they didn’t give up their beliefs in the alien landing. Instead, they became even more evangelistic, telling folks that the aliens were giving earth more time because the Seekers had been so faithful and ready.

Now let’s move to climate change. Though more than 90 percent of people who are qualified to know about such things, believe that the earth is warming and humans are the cause, a large majority of Americans refuse to accept this.

The bottom line is that it turns out that more facts are unlikely to change a person’s mind. In fact, the article says that, in many cases, the more information that is heaps upon a non-believer, the more entrenched that person becomes in holding onto their belief.

So, what’s the takeaway? First, quit arguing tit for tat with Uncle Bob at the Thanksgiving Dinner. Its not going to change anything and may harden his beliefs. Instead, come up with a metaphor that can get the point across with non-political, non-threatening symbols that avoid direct reference to things about which he has already passed judgment upon.

Our belief systems are built up and layered on year after year, from our youth. They are reinforced by our experiences and, of course, many people sharing the same experience often end up interpreting it differently. So unwinding that is no simple trick.

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Making “Heretics” Out of Our Heroes

Andy Gill had an interesting piece in his blog recently.

I don’t know him but would like to. He takes six of the best, most beloved and read “conservative” evangelicals and explains why today’s reactionary church should kick them off the island (if they would be true to their judgmental ways).

[Note that where Gill uses the term evangelical, I might be more comfortable using the term Fundamentalist, but let's not quibble over labels.]

Starting with C. S. Lewis, it goes straight from there to Martin Luther, William Barclay, St. Augustine, John Stott, and Billy Graham. He explains that all these great holy men said something or had a belief or wrote something that clearly contradicts the teachings of the neo-Pharisees.

Its like the Tea Party’s slobbering crush on Ronald Reagan. They like to compare their movement with his, but when you deconstruct the actual things that he said and believed, you find direct contradictions with Tea philosophy. Reagan could never have gotten elected in Red states any more than Billy Graham could be seen as a neutral influence today.

For once, someone has stood up to this unholy linkage between Republicanism and Christianity. And once again, its our faith that should inform our politics rather than the other way around.

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“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

I looked this up after Pres. Clinton applied it to Karl Rove after some foolish, illogical attacks on Hillary Clinton.

Consistency is a big word for talking points. “What is our position of this or that and how do we defend it?” Those with a serious propaganda agenda or without a facility for reason, need ready-made talking points.

But in a free society with the educated ability to reason on many fronts and an expectation to be a seriously informed citizen, it may be that we are not all consistent in our beliefs. I may be liberal on one thing and conservative on another. Without apology. If I am honest with myself, I will be morally inconsistent in many issues and feel good about it. I think the more intelligent a person is, the more morally inconsistent that person may be.

It is okay to live with inconsistency. Better to not know how you believe about a thing than to know too much and say too much about a thing that you don’t really believe.

If your world is consistent and makes sense to you in all ways, then maybe you are not thinking hard and long enough about the stark issues of this world and its enormous, troubling history.

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A Millennial Addresses the 20th Century American Church

http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/05/08/dying-church-millennial

Yes, millennial is used as a noun here, used to describe a generation of citizens born roughly from 1985 to the present (that includes my children). They are coming of age and entering their life as taxpayers now. In my opinion, they are as powerful as the Baby Boomer generation was a generation ago.

They are jaded enough to see through the vapid idiocy, false teaching and bad religion that we call “the church” and innocent enough to believe, as a generation, they can do something to change the world for the better.

The link above is an open letter from one millennial to the church — not a church — but the church.

Its an interesting read and one that bears discussion for those who believe that the church that Jesus desired to establish on earth is still an option that we might yet hope to realize.

 

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The Miracle of Free Will

I am listening to Leonard Mlodinow in an interview with Krista Tippett on the radio show, “On Being.”

He is a quantum physicist who has written several books on randomness, both in the universe and our own lives. He doesn’t believe in a purposeful or loving personal God. Furthermore, he believes that we basically contain all the motivations for the random actions that we will take in life. In other words, he doesn’t believe in free will.

If someone is brave, it wasn’t because they decided to be brave at a certain moment. It was that bravery is a part of their ancestral or molecular makeup.

He says that its all in there from the start, who we will marry, what choices we make in terms of jobs, where to settle, and how we will react to certain situations.

Now, most of us believe in free will, mostly because we’ve been taught to, and moreover, because the idea of free will offers cover for a large number of unanswerable questions.

Mlodinow asked another another question: “Do you believe in miracles?” (He says he doesn’t although the more you listen to him, the more you hear an inconsistency in this thoughts.)

Because, when you think about it, the universe has immutable natural laws that we depend upon all the time. Except when an event breaks with nature and creates a “miracle.” Most of us, or many of us, have experienced this.

Mlodinow would say that miracles are our explanation for a natural scientific anomaly that we do not yet understand. But those who have experienced miracles cannot relegate it to that dry rationalization.

When we experience a miracle, we may believe that God decided to intervene in this one case to, say, cure a child of cancer, prevent death in a fiery car crash, or provide a serendipity that cannot easily be otherwise explained.

Why is the question of miracles and the question of free will related? To me, they are absolutely in lock step.

If God (or the universe if you choose not to personify it) can intervene at random (or in response to prayer or however you would explain it) to break with the natural order, then why is it not a valid characteristic of humanness to exercise free will?

Free will is the way we know God loves us and wants us to exercise voluntary harmony with God’s creation.

Obviously, God could have created a group of beings who want involuntarily worship and express awe of God’s glory. But what fun is that? That is precisely what humans build: Robotic beings that slavishly obey their masters.

Any father knows the joy of giving their three year old a choice of behaviors and seeing them pick the “right” one.

But, I digress.

Mlodinow pointed out a working theory that he uses called, “effective theory.” This says that there are many, many complicated theories under the hood that we don’t yet comprehend but there is an overarching theory that we do understand so we’ll go with that one until we can understand more. This makes sense to me as a way to beginning to understanding the world. 

The world, and my own spiritual walk. I have an overarching theory that helps me understand the underlying stuff that I cannot comprehend.

I would contend that Mlodinow has not quite thought long and hard enough about this for it to real true for me. We have the natural laws of the universe that help us make sense of our lives every day, and then, every now and again, we experience randomness, which we cannot avoid or ignore that is simultaneously operating around us. 

Keep thinking and writing, Mr. Mlodinow.

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