I LOVE comments. Please leave some even if they are brief half-formed ideas
that you aren't even sure you really believe. I just love comments.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Martin's Last Words

Look, I don't believe that ESP is real. I don't believe people can see into the future, or even have premonitions. But read this last paragraph of Rev. King's last speech, the day before he was assassinated.
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Whole text here.

Weird. This is how legends get started.

Some Vocabulary

I don't have a lot of time, but for those interested, I thought I'd keep things going with some vocabulary. (BTW, so much hatred on the web. My goodness, how can people be so vicious about another's idea of God?)

From The Universal Pantheist Society
Chronological Syllabus:
The Relation of Pantheism to Religious Evolution
by James Picton

Primeval Period
When man first emerged, he surely mixed himself with the world. Life was everywhere, but to man, had not yet taken the form of spirits or magic.

Many societies adopt some form of ancestor worship. From this led the notion of souls able to detach themselves from bodies, and therefore to survive death. Later, animism resulted in a fascination for strange-looking, weird, or imposing objets enshrining some sacred potency for good or evil, mostly the latter. Both types of animism survive all over the world in various modified forms, and are traceable even in the doctrines and ritual of advanced theological and ceremonial religions.

Polytheism is a belief in many personal gods, among whom one may be primary. This is a higher development of animism, prevalent in Europe down to the fourth and even fifth century A.D., and in India down to the present time.

Henotheism of the local worship of one god to the neglect of others, while the existence and local power of the gods of other tribes is not denied. this was the religion of Israel from the early time until perhaps the seventh century, B.C. Henotheism was also favored by local populations in ancient Egypt.

Monotheism is the worship of one personal God as the only deity, all others being treated either as devils or as non-existent. This began to be the religion of Israel from the seventh century, promoted by its early prophets. Likewise, the monotheism of Mohammed owed a great deal to Jewish tradition, but if anything is even more intensely ñunitarianî than Judaism and certainly more than the modern form of Christianity with its concept of the Trinity. Under modern Christianity, the doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation have prepared the way for a larger conception of Deity.

Pantheism is the idea of the Universe as one living Being, of which all creatures and things are parts thereof. This religion of the Universe was implicit in animism, much as the tree is implicit in its seed. So, in one sense Pantheism is prehistoric and co-evolved with the first emergence of man. Pantheist ideas are common in Vedic literature, and in various Amerindian religions. Today, with scientific understanding and the aid of the philosophy of Spinoza, there is a re-emergence of modern Pantheism. In its modernized form, it is now being readily accepted as a major religion of the people.
UPDATE: Initially, I had included this note, "This is not exactly my understanding of Panentheism because it is minus the "and then some" that I put with the "God is everything" bit. Also, I think the aid of Spinoza is fair, but I don't think Spinoza was a panentheist." Matt pointed out that this paragraph is actually about Pantheism not Panentheism. Shameful. If you don't have time to do it right don't do it. So, here's the definition of PanENtheism from wikipedia:
Panentheism A panentheistic belief system is one which posits that the one God interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well.
If you'd like to read a pretty academic piece on the difference between the two, here's a good piece. I will try to do better next time.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Another way to do it.

A friend of mine from Chalice is raising money for cancer research. What I don't understand is that it does not involve shaving her head, or any other form of humiliation, nor does it involve drinking beer, as near as I can tell. Nonetheless, I suppose it is possible to raise money that way. Please follow the link on the right, or click here, for some impulse giving.

Epicycles & Electrons Part IV

I think the difference between the moral, spiritual atheist and the thoughtful, liberal Christian is that the former sees continuing the evolution of the idea of God as adding an epicycle, while the latter sees the older ideas of God as steps toward a deeper truth, like Bohr's electron model, and finds it worthwhile to take another step. I believe that in the pursuit of living the best life we can, it is worth our time to investigate and personally understand how God, spoken of so diversely even within the Christian scriptures, moves in our lives. I believe this because I believe all of these writings were addressing something real. At the same time, I recognize that the modern human's world experience is sufficiently different from that of the ancient human authors of our holy scriptures that it will take some work to find the truth that inspired those words. But, I think it is valuable work.

In Part III, I wrote about what I see as some spin-offs/distractions. Certain models of God can be very useful, like the moboard. For ancient people, they explained the natural world, and for more modern people, these ideas are used to control behavior. Religion and faith can be also very useful in teaching us empathy, helping us cope with grief, nurturing our better angels, and so on. But, the usefulness of religion, or even certain understandings of God, do not assure us that these understandings are the most complete, or the most accurate understandings.

I also see a trap in playing mind games to make everything "fit," analogous to saying that the Earth is still in the center of the universe. One example of such mind games is to make all of the Bible stories work by saying the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, present-everywhere God just takes different forms at different times, or tricks the characters in the stories. So, the Let-There-Be-Light God just takes the shape of a human to blow life into the dirt, or in Hebrew, adam. God stands before Abraham, but then God demands that Moses hide in a rock or be killed by God's awesomeness, and then God never appears to Jesus, not because the image of God is evolving, but because that's just what God wanted to do. Another game, which is more tempting to me, is to keep making God so abstract that God becomes nature, or everything, or a collection of human experience. Now, first that's not fair to anyone debating me on the existence of God, but more importantly, it leads to a meaningless understanding of God for me. If there is a God, God must be more than nature, even if all of nature is a part of God.

I believe the search for God has to be an honest one. I think that is something it shares with science. Just as scientists can be derailed by preconceived notions, so can those searching for God in their lives.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Doubting Versus Asking

The reading today was the story of Jesus' appearance to the disciples except Thomas, and his subsequent appearance to Thomas. Thomas needed convincing, although to be fair to Thomas, no more evidence than the other already had. He said, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." Full Story Here.

Chalice Christian identifies itself as a place where questions mean as much as answers. Like Thomas, we haven't given up on Jesus, but like Thomas we need convincing. Perhaps we should name Thomas as our Patron Saint.