Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Man Behind the Curtain

Which God do you pray to? Is it a jealous and angry anthropomorphic God or a God of transcendent love and the source of infinite creative energy? Is it neither, both, or other? Or do you choose not to pray. Regardless of your answers everyone should consider the characteristics of your view of God. I know Atheists have and they've rejected God partly because of some of these characteristics.

If you're a Christian and you actually sat through that entire video, pat yourself on the back. Did you pick up on the key words he used to describe God? Old Testament God. Today I'm going to play devil's advocate so that we can understand why some Atheists are so against God, or at least the Old Testament God. Just watch it again and listen to a few of the characteristics Mr. Condell uses to describe God. Is he taking certain characteristics of the biblical God out of context while misinterpreting other traits like justice as violence? Some Christians would think so but that doesn't get to the root of the problem. The problem is God's portrayal in the Old Testament; it's too anthropomorphic to be God, unless of course, God is some sort of Exalted Man, then our monotheistic faiths would make perfect sense.

I don't believe that God's true nature can be the same as the God of the Old Testament. He is jealous, angry, vengeful, demands worship, the list goes on and on. Why for example would the Creator of the Universe command us to love him? Love Me or burn.
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Why would God have ANY of these attributes in the first place, unless we are grossly mistaken on the origins of these attributes? I can't see what the people of Egypt did to deserve the plagues caused by Pharaoh's hardened heart in Exodus. Well, maybe he punished them for loving other gods. So why does the God of the Old Testament seem like a "violent manic"? Maybe it's because man created God in his own image except beefed up with the ability to fry whole cities of sexual deviants. The Bible was written, edited, and transmitted by man so how could the God of the Bible avoid being anthropomorphized?

This is not to say that the Bible loses its worth because it was written by man. Not only is it a beautiful literary work it does have gems of truth scattered among its pages. Digging out these gems also does not mean we are creating our own God but revealing the Divine by removing that which reflects man's character. But even our best attempts as fallible creatures could not describe the Divine which can only be personally experienced as we fumble for words to describe that experience. What bugs Atheists is that it seems incredible primitive to worship such an irresponsible child-like god and then encourage others to do likewise. Christians can then say, "but wait, he's not cruel at all but loving. He sent his son to die for us." And of course the obvious response would be that OT God is still cruel BECAUSE he demands blood, no, human sacrifice to reconcile humanity to himself.

I'm not saying that OT God IS a violent manic but I can understand how he may come across that way. I mean, we are talking about how a specific people, the Israelites, viewed God thousands of years ago; must we continue to cling to this same image of God? Would it hinder or help us to change how we view God, or is change even allowed? I believe that if change leads us to progress and unity then why not view God as ABOVE AND BEYOND jealousy, anger, and vengeance. Atheist would call to remove God altogether but what have they offered in replacement? If humanity is as stupid as Mr. Condell describes then he should know that we can't quit cold turkey. Science and Reason is great for the enlightened man but what about poor Fiki in Indonesia? If we cling to the supernatural because of our "primitive" minds how can the common man comprehend Science and Reason? Should not Atheist seek first to educate and illuminate mankind rather than look down at the common man for clinging to Bronze Age beliefs about the universe? Religion gives strength to the common man who may not YET comprehend a life without the Divine and this is why I believe religion in some form will be with mankind for quite a while. God is not going anywhere but the questions on how we view him must be embraced for humanity to progress. I don't believe mankind is ready to progress without reliance on the Divine but at least some of us are strong enough to question that dependence. Questioning the sacred and the wisdom gained from it is vital to us regardless of the answer. I am not calling for a departure from God but a search for wisdom and understanding between the mortal and the Divine.

What are we afraid of?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Be Still, Child

My adorable children can not sit still for more than 5 seconds, that is unless they're watching Dora the Explorer. And can you blame them, they're both still in diapers and were born with built-in Energizer batteries (which I have yet to find where they've been installed). Chasing one of them is exhausting enough let alone having both of my raccoons loose in the house. Try catching a two year old running out the back door while your 18 month old gymnast attempts a dismount off the living room desk. So I've decided to begin practicing meditation so that I can increase self-awareness of my mind, body, and spirit and to reduce the daily stress of juggling housework, kids, and school.

I know next to nothing about meditating, and I love it. Why? Because I get to dive into and embrace a whole new side of Myself that I've never encountered before. I've recently picked up Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn to help guide me in these new waters. I have set aside some time early in the morning and late at night while the kids sleep to practice my meditation in the garage. As I stated earlier I'm a complete newbie at meditating, I don't have a clue to proper breathing, sitting, or focusing. For now I just sit and focus on my breathing until I begin refining my methods. What initially attracted me to meditation is that it transcends religion as a practical method of being "in touch with where we already are" in life (Wherever You Go, There You Are, p. xiii).

Meditation doesn't have to be spiritual, although it can be, yet I hope to gain both practical and spiritual benefits from my daily practice. I hope to also learn more about my mind and body in silent inward reflection. I have no clue what, if any, benefits I may gain by sitting in silence for a few minutes everyday. It might take weeks, months, or even years before I see any changes or benefits but at least I will grant myself some time to be still. To simply Be.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land: Part 3-Thou art God

"His idea is that whenever you encounter any other grokking thing — he didn't say 'grokking' at this stage — any other living thing, man, woman, or stray cat… you are simply encountering your 'other end'… and the universe is just a little thing we whipped up among us the other night for our entertainment and then agreed to forget the gag."
-Stranger in a Strange Land

[Cover art (by James Warhola) for Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein]

I have recently finished reading Robert Heinlein's cult classic Stranger in a Strange Land and I hope the rest of his work is as good as this. Stranger in a Strange Land is one man's journey from the nest of his birth to the nest of his origins and the fire this young Prometheus brings to humanity. He is human yet he thinks in Martian. He is what we can become if we follow this 20th century Moses to the Promise Land. Only time will tell if humanity will be able to grok Valentine Michael Smith as fully Martian and fully man.

Part 1: Grokking in Fullness
Part 2: Water Brothers

::Possible Spoilers Ahead::

Stranger in a Strange Land is a difficult book to read and even I have not grokked it completely but one of the main characteristics of the Martian Way is that it appears to resemble a form of Pantheism. In Stranger in a Strange Land, Michael teaches in his new "church" that all that groks is God. They welcome each other with the phrase "thou art God" not as a statement of theological belief but as a statement of unity which is physically expressed through the sharing of water. But if thou art God, and that grasshopper art God, and all that groks art God then who, or what, exactly is in charge of the universe?

From feelings of discomfort to just flat out heresy some here in the West may struggle with pantheistic ideas even though faint echoes of Pantheism are found in Western religions. What is so irking to the West about all reality being equated with God is just that, God can not be a dog doing his "duty" on the lawn or a blind beggar on the street. God must be completely separated from while existing (?) outside of his creation. Humanity is too sinful to be equated with God, and God too holy, either way it just sends shivers up a lot of monotheistic spines. Although I have not read much into Eastern religions the best explanation for Pantheism (or maybe Panentheism?) I've read so far is found here. Basically everything in reality is a manifestation of God with God being the sum of all parts. So the totality of reality, let's call it Brahman (or you can select your own name for God), can be found within each piece of reality but not localized specifically in one being. Tat Tvam Asi (Sanskrit: तत् त्वम् असि or तत्त्वमसि) is the Hindu phrase "that thou art" meaning that the spirit/soul, or the Atman, is identifiable with and understood to be Brahman, the soul of the universe. Michael brings a message of brotherhood, by way of Pantheism, to encourage unity among a very passionately tribal creature, Man. I don't believe, or at least I don't remember, that he goes as far as saying that ALL reality is God but that all that groks is God. So I guess a snake is God but not a rock, that is of course if a rock is unable to grok. You grok?

The heart of the message is unity and as that message is grokked the darker side of humanity begins to dissolve until one does not feel the need or want to commit such atrocious acts against his fellow man. There is no need to save lost souls, do good deeds (no Judgment day either), worship any one god, or even hold any theological or philosophical beliefs. Ultimate Truth is revealed to those who choose to accept the "fire" that Michael has brought to humanity.
We're not trying to bring people to God; that's a contradiction in terms, you can't even say it in Martian. We're not trying to save souls, because souls can't be lost. We're not trying to get people to have faith, because what we offer is not faith but truth — truth they can check; we don't urge them to believe it. Truth for practical purposes, for here-and-now, truth as matter of fact as an ironing board and as useful as a loaf of bread… so practical that it can make war and hunger and violence and hate as unnecessary as…. as — well, as clothes here in the Nest. But they have to learn Martian first. That's the only hitch — finding people who are honest enough to believe what they see, and then are willing to do the hard work — it is hard work — of learning the language it can be taught in. A composer couldn't possibly write down a symphony in English… and this sort of symphony can't be stated in English any more than Beethoven's Fifth can be. (Stranger in a Strange Land, Ch 31. Pg 347.)
It's not a theory, religion, or any other man-made philosophical belief but Truth that man has been searching for thousands of years, at least for those in the book. I'm not proposing that this would actually work in the real world because we don't have any practice like grokking to test our belief systems. We can guess, theorize, and hold onto our beliefs in faith, but imagine if we can experience Truth within ourselves, a truth that is patient, kind, humble, protective, trusting, and always, always loving. It is one thing to believe (which most of us including myself fall in this camp) and it is another to experience Truth first hand.

What I've learned from Stranger in a Strange Land.

As I've said earlier I have not grokked the book completely and I will most certainly continue to learn new things along the way. Regardless of our differences, faults, and issues caused by both, we yearn to ease our collective suffering. Throughout history those who have experienced the Divine have shared their Fire with us, and now we compete with each other to see who's flame burns brighter. We all grok different paths but the differences lie within our own human diversity and our ability to grok them, not in competing Truths. As we journey through life grokking the universe dig deep down into your Atman/Soul and examine your foundation. What is it? Is it Loving? Is it Joyful? Is it Patient? Is it Compassionate? Is it Understanding? Is it all of the above? Is it God? If your foundation causes you to love your brother then look, stare, meditate, and become your foundation. Once we truly grok Love we can not help but become Love.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land: Part 2- Water Brothers

"This brother wanted him to place his whole body in the water of life. No such honor had ever come to him; to the best of his knowledge and belief no one had ever before been offered such a holy privilege. Yet he had begun to understand that these others did have greater acquaintance with the stuff of life… a fact not yet grokked but which he had to accept."
-Stranger in a Strange Land

[Cover art (by James Warhola) for Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein]

I have recently finished reading Robert Heinlein's cult classic Stranger in a Strange Land and I hope the rest of his work is as good as this. Stranger in a Strange Land is one man's journey from the nest of his birth to the nest of his origins and the fire this young Prometheus brings to humanity. He is man yet he thinks in Martian. He is what we can become if we follow this 20th century Moses to the Promise Land. Only time will tell if humanity will be able to grok Valentine Michael Smith as fully Martian and fully man.

Part 1: Grokking in Fullness
Part 3: Thou Art God

::Possible Spoilers Ahead::

Discovering and dwelling within the unity that Michael brings to humanity is a core principal to his teaching. This unity is expressed mainly in the sharing of water. Water is used as a symbol of unity and life on Mars because of its scarcity on the red planet. By sharing water they acknowledge the life force that flows through them as they grow closer to one another. As water brothers they grok that they are connected to their divine source and to each other. To harm your brother is to harm yourself, likewise to share your brother is to share yourself. All that groks is God and in this unity there is no death except for discorporation (death) of your physical shell. The Old Ones on Mars, those who have discorporated, still exist in some form and pass on wisdom to those that are still living. They are not what we would call ghosts but have returned to the plane of existence before birth, The Source. I guess it is a similar concept to the Force in the Star Wars saga, those who have died become a part of the Force and impart wisdom from beyond the grave.

Uncomfortable yet? Well, for those unfamiliar with the book, it gets worse. Ritual cannibalism, communal living, and group sex are used to help water brothers grow closer with each other. I'm sure dozens of mental red flags have already shot up but I'm not condoning these actions nor can I justify them in any way in OUR society. What I believe Heinlein has raised is the question on whether or not the Judeo-Christian ethical code is working effectively for humanity and if our problems are "rooted in the code itself rather in the failure to abide by it" (Stranger in a Strange Land, Ch. 33).
"The code says, 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.' The result? Reluctant chastity, adultery, jealousy, bitterness, blows and sometimes murder, broken homes and twisted children — and furtive little passes degrading to woman and man. Is this Commandment ever obeyed? If a man swore on his own Bible that he refrained from coveting his neighbor's wife because the code forbade it, I would suspect either self-deception or subnormal sexuality. Any man virile enough to sire a child has coveted many women, whether he acts or not.
"Now comes Mike and says: 'There is no need to covet my wife... love her! There's no limit to her love, we have everything to gain — and nothing to lose but fear and guilt and hatred and jealousy.' The proposition is incredible. (Ch.33, Pg. 366)
It does sound like Mike's "church" has thrown out all of humanity's ethics and morals to the wind. But it is their unity, their brotherhood that keeps the sinful nature of man in check and raises man's consciousness to a higher plane. There is no reason to hurt, maim, kill, or even oppress your water brother or anyone for that matter because all that groks is God. To some this may seem a bit too inclusive.

Love everything and everyone? But there's got to be something I'm allowed to hate, telemarketers maybe?

At first Michael winks his attackers out of existence based on grokking the wrongness of the person (his attackers struck his water brother, Jill). This superhuman sense acts as Michael's moral compass throughout the book, but his biggest hurdle was to learn what it is to be human. When he discovers what makes us human, our shared suffering, Michael devotes his life to removing suffering from the human experience through his Martian teachings.

Michael, our young Prometheus, has opened the path to understand one another to the point where you begin to lose where you end and everything else begins through grokking (click here for part 1 on Grokking). By grokking the universe and our place in it we begin to automatically function FOR one another in harmony instead of AGAINST in disharmony. We would put our complete trust in our water brothers, because why would the left hand tell a lie to the right? Even if lying to another water brother were possible both would grok that it was a lie because both have reached a pinnacle of understanding/knowing one another as if they were one person.

Of course this is a work of science fiction but I do hope that we find a way to grow closer to each other and learn to purge our inner demons without the need to purge our fallible brethren or even have our God do it for us (Sheep from the Goat, the unsaved, those who do not follow the "True" faith, etc). I believe it's fine to believe in Judgment Day and the hereafter, but let us also seek to improve societal relationships here on Earth so that our children may be given the chance to grok the universe.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hangin' Out with the J Man.

Ohhhh snap! I forgot I was gonna hang out with J.C. today, let's call him up and see what he's up to.

Sup J.C., where you at?

Over at St Philip Neri Catholic church? The one in Uckfield, East Sussex, right?

You saw who? Munoz? Will why didn't your main man Benedict come himself, was he busy? Ohhhhh, OK.

You want me to bring what? Sure I can bring my Nintendo Wii, you up for a little Mario Kart?

OK, see you in a few J.C.

[Photo: Images International]

I love the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Even though it is infotainment I get more news from these two show then I do from any other "news network". Click here and here for the background story to this bronze statue. Click here if you can't see the video. Check this out.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
ThreatDown - Charity, Casual Jesus & Robot Teachers
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage

Offended? Intrigued? Confused? How does Casual Jesus make you feel about your image of the Lord and Savior to billions? I think it is an incredible repackaging, but not reshaping, of what Jesus means to people. He is a transcendent figure that is just as relevant today as he was 2000 years ago. Mark Twain was right when he said that "clothing makes the man", your image can help or hinder your status in society. I believe that Jesus, as a symbol, transcends our fickle social rules even though WE put limits as to how Jesus is portrayed. And I'm sure to some Jesus in Jeans is very offensive. It is taboo to change the traditional image of Jesus in any way, because for some changing the image equates with changing the message.

But why? If Jesus were to appear among us in the 21st century he would stand out like a sore thumb if he DIDN'T wear clothing from this century. Jesus did not strive to stand out in 1st century Palestine and I doubt he would try 2000 years later. In all of the various Christianities (plural) Jesus always carried the appearance of a commoner regardless of his nature (fully Human, fully Divine, or both). It is through his common appearance (one of us!) that we relate to his spirit speaking to us from within. Truth carried and shared in ANY vessel can still be recognized as Truth. It doesn't matter if Jesus wears jeans, a dress, or is completely naked.

Any change to the traditional image of Jesus still rattles too many cages. Back at GCA during Sabbath School we were shown a short video on the life of Jesus and I had mentioned how he looked like a hippie in the film. As soon as the words came out I knew that it was a bad idea to share my thoughts and that I had worded them improperly. I was given a mini-lecture on hippies and their wild drug induced, "free love" adventures and how I should avoid equating Jesus with those sinners. I was 16 at the time and my knowledge of the outside world, let alone the 60s, was very limited. I knew about the drugs and free love but what I was trying to point out was that Jesus wore sandals, loose clothing, and long hair; the outside appearance reminded me of hippies and not the inward appearance of the character. I tried to argue my point but was quickly shot down. The statement alone can be offensive around certain people and it didn't help that my friends were suspected of participating in a recent school drug scandal; to them I was guilty by association. The moral of the story kids is if you attend a private Christian boarding school you should not associate with questionable characters nor speak your own thoughts if they run against the school's official teachings.

Does Jesus in Jeans offend or inspire? Sculptor Marcus Cornish said

"The clothing is loosely contemporary in order to connect Christ to his people now as much as to his past. I hope this sculpture will inspire and communicate in very human terms, reaching out and being relevant to both the congregation and local community."

It's not that it's necessary for us to change the image of Christ so that we can relate to him in the 21st century but as time progresses so do the languages and symbols that define the Truth contained within the Logos. Humanity needs symbols to grasp, understand, and experience the divine and because of the difficulty to internalize God do we need "a finger pointing to the moon" to show us the way. The finger, let alone its appearance, is of little importance compared to what it points towards.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Say Hello to Auntie Ida

Say hello to Auntie Ida. Don't stare at her tail, it makes her uncomfortable. Remember she's part of the family so let's treat her with some respect. If it wasn't for that team of amateur fossil hunters who found her in the Messel Pit in Frankfurt, Germany in 1983 your Auntie Ida wouldn't be here. So be grateful and go and give your Auntie Ida a big hug and kiss and tell her that you love her.

I bet Darwinian's, Atheists, and other believers in evolution are celebrating today after Tuesday's proclamation of Ida being the missing link to our evolutionary history. Isn't it great to dig up old relatives and display them for all the world to see? Of course it would be embarrassing if she wasn't related to us and we found out she was somebody else's aunt, Sylvester Stallone's maybe?

Click here and here for the news stories on Ida and click here for her official website. She also has a book coming out, and a TV documentary? She must have a great promotional team to be treated as a celebrity after being stuck in a crater for 47 million years. Of course all this hoopla could be a bit premature and over the top but let's say that she IS the missing link. Although it may not be ironclad proof that we did evolve from monkeys (she is actually the missing link that higher apes, including us, have descended from) what would the implications be if it were a strong piece of evidence for the theory of Evolution? Does that mean that the New Atheists (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, etc.) are right in saying that the search for truth lies in scientific study of the world around us and not in religion and faith? (I'm assuming that's their view since I have yet to read anything on their view on religion.) Are God and religion pointless now that we have science to lead us into truth? Science be praised.

I'm sure the Creationist people will swarm all over this and say that the scientists are using this as a publicity stunt to push their agenda or that they're severely mistaken on Ida's relation to us. The Creationists may be right but either way this has no affect on my spirituality and my beliefs of the Divine. Whether we were created intact in Eden or evolved after billions of years Evolution does not affect my yearning for the Divine or for understanding and brotherhood. Is my yearning for the Divine just a chemical reaction in the brain and I'm just delusional? Maybe, but if my delusions cause me to love my brother then it is a delusion I wish to live with till the day I die. Could I be just as happy as an Atheist? Possibly, but it seems awfully lonely and disconnected from the rest of the universe. With a Creator God you have that reassurance that our Creator loves us, and with a Pantheistic God we have that reassurance, love, and connectedness to all of reality. Can I overcome this fear of disconnection and have a fulfilling life as an Atheist? Yes, but I feel that I would better understand my fellow man if I didn't disregard God altogether. God is still an important part of the human psyche and to disregard it completely is a terrible mistake. Am I afraid that Evolution is right and I have it all wrong? No, because it's not about being right or wrong it is about connectedness, relationships, love, and understanding your brother even if that brother is a fossilized ancestor.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land: Part 1- Grokking in Fullness

"He was not in a hurry, "hurry" being one human concept he had failed to grok at all. He was sensitively aware of the key importance of correct timing in all acts — but with the Martian approach: correct timing was accomplished by waiting. He had noticed, of course, that his human brothers lacked his own fine discrimination of time and often were forced to wait a little faster than a Martian would — but he did not hold their innocent awkwardness against them; he simply learned to wait faster himself to cover their lack."
-Stranger in a Strange Land

[Cover art (by James Warhola) for Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein]

I have recently finished reading Robert Heinlein's cult classic Stranger in a Strange Land and I hope the rest of his work is as good as this. Stranger in a Strange Land is one man's journey from the nest of his birth to the nest of his origins and the fire this young Prometheus brings to humanity. He is man yet he thinks in Martian. He is what we can become if we follow this 20th century Moses to the Promise Land. Only time will tell if humanity will be able to grok Valentine Michael Smith as fully Martian and fully man.

::Possible Spoilers Ahead::

Part 2: Water Brothers
Part 3: Thou Art God

Stranger in a Strange Land follows the life of Valentine Michael Smith back at home to live among his own kind after being raised on Mars since his parents, on a manned expedition, crashed on Mars. If being raised by Martians is not enough to gain the world's attention he is also the sole heir of the expedition team's fortunes and their inventions making him the wealthiest man on the planet. The world government wants full control over his fortune and Michael's ownership rights of Mars. Of course there plans were disrupted when he met the first woman he has ever laid eyes on, Jill Boardman, his first human Water Brother.

But what does it mean to be Martian? Michael groks, speaks, and reacts as a Martian, but he is still human. And as Jill teaches him to become "human" those he grows closer with learn what it is to be Martian. Language is an important gate to understanding each other and is vital to understanding what Mike is trying to teach humanity. This causes enormous difficulty for Mike at first but soon he is able to communicate how it is to think in Martian.
"Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthly assumptions) as color means to a blind man (Stranger in a Strange Land).
To Grok something, or someone, is to move beyond basic sensory information to the point where the object grokked becomes a part of you. Once you are able to "grok in fullness" just about anything is possible. Michael is able to perform tasks which to us seem almost supernatural. By grokking his own body he can repair injuries, control the length of his hair, change his appearance, and even age slower than us. The potential of the human mind is a common theme in science fiction which also appears in Frank Herbert's Dune series and in the TV sci-fi drama, Kyle XY. But Michael is also able to manipulate the world around him. He is able to wink objects and people out of existence, levitate objects, and even communicate telepathically. This, Michael says, is not hard to do once you learn the language and the basics taught to him as an egg (child), and so he begins teaching this way of life to people in the guise of a church.

The Church of All Words that he starts is not a new religion but merely a method to deliver his teaching to humanity how to rise above worldly pain and suffering. The only reason why he started a church was because humans are familiar with religion and humans would only accept his message in this form. The "church" teaches its members the Martian language first as this is the foundation to the Martian Way. Eventually members move up through several levels before becoming full water brothers, those who participate in the Water Sharing ritual. At this level many things in a normal person's life become unnecessary and are shed which also removes the pain and suffering associated with them: clothing, money, and even monogamous marriages. Greed, jealousy, anger, hatred, envy, lust and every other negative attribute that comes with being "human" all melt away when you become a full water brother. The superhuman abilities that comes with this way of life are also at your disposal but they are not used for acts of wrongness (even though at this point the term evil, acts of wrongness, is almost alien compared to what we may call evil). Though you have the ability to kill someone with a mere thought you don't because you realize and understand the unity of all life, all that groks is God.

Can we evolve to the point where we are no longer jealous, greedy, angry, lustful, and full of hatred? Is it possible to overcome these human characteristics just by grokking our fellow man?

I believe humanity thirsts for this progress but is trapped in its own collective ego to leap forward so we're bound to crawl on our hands and knees. Each religion/philosophy states that their packaged truth will lead humanity to the next level while every other belief will lead only to failure. Humanity has made progress and will continue to do so but first we must be able to grok each other fully. By understanding our fellow man we may be able to collectively pull ourselves up by our own boot straps. This can not be done by force but only with the collective love we should have for each other. We now have to ability to destroy life at the push of a button but hopefully soon we will progress past the urge to push it. Do you grok?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Look Me in the Eye...

Noticing your own habits is difficult let alone even trying to break them. I noticed one of my own bad habits a few months ago and it is becoming almost irritatingly difficult to break. I have noticed that whenever I shake someone's hand I don't look them in the eye but at their hand. When I did notice this it bothered me to the point where I decided to make an extra effort to look people in the eye whenever I shake their hand. This isn't a terribly bad habit but I still find it uncomfortable. Some people may say that avoiding eye contact is a sign of dishonesty and low self-esteem. I don't consider myself a dishonest person and I don't feel like I have low self-esteem but I'm sure everyone has a pinch of low self-esteem. Bottomline: I feel uncomfortable NOT looking people in they eye, that is, whenever I notice it.

[Hilye of the Prophet Muhammad by Mohamed Zakariya]

It is a complete unconscious knee-jerk reaction that I am consciously trying to undo. This got me wondering as to what other knee-jerk reactions am I unaware of, and which of those may be putting off the wrong body language or even offending those around me.

The Hilyas of the Prophet are a description of the prophet Muhammad's spiritual, moral, and physical characteristics.The most popular of these texts for calligraphers like Mohamed Zakariya is one related by Ali ibn Abi Talib,

Transmitted from Ali [son-in-law of the Prophet], may God be pleased with him, who, when asked to describe the Prophet, peace be upon him, would say: He was not too tall nor too short. He was medium sized. His hair was not short and curly, nor was it lank, but in between. His face was not narrow, nor was it fully round, but there was a roundness to it. His skin was white. His eyes were black. He had long eyelashes. He was big-boned and had wide shoulders. He had no body hair except in the middle of his chest. He had thick hands and feet. When he walked, he walked inclined, as if descending a slope. When he looked at someone, he looked at them in full face.

Between his shoulders was the seal of prophecy, the sign that he was the last of the prophets. He was the most generous-hearted of men, the most truthful of them in speech, the most mild-tempered of them, and the noblest of them in lineage. Whoever saw him unexpectedly was in awe of him. And whoever associated with him familiarly, loved him. Anyone who would describe him would say, I never saw, before him or after him, the like of him. Peace be upon him.

Regardless of whether these are 100% accurate or not (which would be incredible if they were) it gives us a window into the life of Muhammad and how his followers remembered him. What caught my attention was that he was said to look someone full in the face. This is an interesting character trait and must have made an impression on those around him for them to notice and remember him for it. I mean, how many people do you know that are remembered for giving their full attention in conversation.

In today's world it is difficult to keep our attention on one thing at a time with cellphones, computers, TVs, work, bills, and children blaring for your undivided attention all at once. One of the most intriguing elements about religion in general is the common theme of focus. Buddhist probably take the cake for having the best methods on focusing one's mind and body (which I have yet to learn and try). But Muslims I also acknowledge for their ability to stop WHATEVER they're doing and pray five times a day (unless, of course, they're in a life or death situation). To mold your daily activities around God so that you can give your complete mental, physical, and spiritual attention is amazing. In fact, it is their mode and method of prayer that first drew me to their faith. The ability to focus and align mind, body, and spirit so that your full attention is given to a specific task is a practice I wish I had regardless of the method used. Perhaps one day soon I'll be more aware of my surroundings and pick up subtleties of my body I am not currently aware of.

So while I am struggling to correct my "bad habit", take a minute and think about how much of your undivided attention you give to that which is important to you. I know it may be difficult at first but I'm sure with your undivided attention you will enjoy your life that much more.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Timeless Hero: Part 6- A Link to the Future

The Legend of Zelda first debuted in Japan on February 21, 1986 and after 22 years and over a dozen games later the franchise is still alive and well along with our timeless (and time traveling) hero, Link. The Legend of Zelda has captured the imagination of generations of gamers with its captivating storyline, mind twisting dungeons, and hours of battling the forces of evil as you watch Link transforms from a humble boy into a timeless hero chosen by the gods. But why did they choose Link? What does the future hold for this warrior-prophet? And what does Link represent not only to the people of Hyrule but to us? In this blog series I will analyze the religious and spiritual elements of The Legend of Zelda.

[A depiction of Link in the future. Will this be the new look of the Legend of Zelda Series?]

[Note: I am not a professional religious scholar but these are just my views on some of the symbolism I've noticed in the game series. I've focused on the plots in A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess. I apologize if I've left anything out. Enjoy!]

Part 6: A Link to the Future

Over 20 years ago a legend was born in the digital realm of a princess and a kingdom in peril. Since then it has spawned over a dozen titles and has earned an iconic rank in the Nintendo world second only to Mario. But what does the future hold for this timeless hero? Whatever plans Nintendo may have for Zelda, Shigeru Miyamoto, co-creator of The Legend of Zelda, has said that "Twilight Princess will be, without a doubt, the last Zelda game as you know it in its present form." Miyamoto and friends have been pretty quiet about the development of the new Zelda games that have been in development since the release of Twilight Princess. Back in March they did announce a new Zelda game for the Nintendo DS, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, still in development to be released late 2009.

[Screenshot from The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, set for a late 2009 release.]

So what will be the big changes for the new Zelda Wii release? Well, there are plenty of rumors floating around with quite a few depicting the Legend of Zelda in a futuristic setting. For example, here's a clip that Wii tv created as an April Fool's joke back in 2007.

All of this got me thinking how the legend in Zelda would survive a transition from the mythical world to a modern scientific world? In the series, Link is surrounded and even communicates with the spiritual realm face to face (unless he's hallucinating, or dreaming, the entire time which actually is the plot to The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening) but how would the legend survive in a technologically advanced world? Most game players probably focus more on the game play than on any religious or philosophical content within the game, but the story is still the heart of the game as it draws and keeps the players hungry for a new Zelda title. It is the story that is timeless regardless of whatever symbols, items, characters, and challenges the game may use in retelling that story. In fact, except for a handful of elements that define the legend almost EVERYTHING changes in every Zelda title from the cast of characters and mode of transportation to your inventory of weapons and the enemies you battle.

At the core of the legend is a hero's journey and struggle from a humble beginning in his transformation into the savior of the world and the bane of evil. As Link begins his quest armed with no more than a puny sword and shield (and sometimes a handy slingshot), he grows stronger in courage, wisdom, and strength as he is molded into a true hero by the very challenges he overcomes. He is never ready from the get go to battle evil until his tests thoroughly transforms him into the representation of ultimate good. Once Link achieves this transformation in mind, body, and spirit he is prepared to battle Ganon. Two warriors strengthen by relics of the gods yet there lies a major difference. Ganon had stolen power his from the gods whereas Link has earned his through a grueling journey. It is this difference that gives Link the advantage to overcome Ganon and bring balance and harmony back to the land and the very reason why Ganon can never win with his ill gotten gain of divine power.

What can we as the player learn from this timeless legend? One interesting bit of information that I've read (but could not find a source to verify) is that the developers named the hero Link because he acts as a "link" between the player and the game. (Although I have also heard that his name is derived from the German word Linkshänder meaning "left-handed" which does make since because Link is prominently left-handed in the series.) The player experiences everything that Link does as he matures in courage, strength, and wisdom. And so the player also matures in these same attributes as he completes the game. Video games, especially role playing games, are just interactive stories where you complete certain tasks to move the story along. The Legend of Zelda is more than just a game, it is a game with a legend that can be told 1000 different ways so those who hear it, now or in the future, can grasp the meaning of the legend no matter how it's told. The legend of a boy from humble origins who defeats ultimate evil and rescues the land from darkness.

Part 1-The Golden Goddesses
Part 2-The Triforce
Part 3-The Warrior Prophet
Part 4-He Who Split Time
Part 5-The Temples of Hyrule
Part 6-A Link to the Future

Or Click here to read them all back to back

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm Rubber and You're Glue...

"Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you."
"Well you're doodoo head!"
"Nuh uh, you're a doodoo

"I'm right and the rest of you are wrong." And in the online world there's always somebody there to make sure we are aware of our erroneous ways. Always. What is it that makes us want others to believe like we do? And what makes us assume that their belief system is flawed?

All across the internet in forums, message boards, and blogs, I see more words of exclusiveness, intolerance from ignorance, and religious pride than words of inclusiveness, tolerance from education, and humbleness in faith. Some sites keep to themselves by preaching a certain message and abstain from beating others into submission, while unfortunately others are on a mission to convert the whole world. The sad part is that the world is filled with such beautiful diversity that it would be a loss to humanity to replace all the world's diverse religious thoughts with just one.

I don't believe that ANY one religious belief system has ALL of the answers but that ANY religion which helps you work towards becoming a more loving, compassionate person MAY work for YOU and not for ME. Our difference in beliefs should not stir an urge to convert each other. Only you can change what you believe, BUT that choice is still human. Because humanity is capable of error there is no exact science into choosing the right religion (or even choosing none at all) because the right religion is the one that is right for you. You can not choose the right religion based on reason, theology, morality, or any scientific or archaeological evidence. Believe me I have tried and failed. Oh, you can try but in the end you will end up with the beliefs you feel comfortable with and not because it is the one true faith. I've learned that elements of a religious system CAN be supported or contradicted by any of the reasons listed above.

You are the final decider between Right and Wrong. When looking for the right church to attend YOU decide whether or not to stay. If you hear or feel something in the their message that contradicts with your personal beliefs it is you who decides to leave. Now when you finally feel comfortable with a church, its members, and their message you decide to stay not because it is Truth but because you agree with their message and feel at home. It is Truth to you. You grow spiritually in this new community and begin to transform yourself into a more loving and compassionate person. So why is it imperative for others to storm in and wreak your spiritual nest? Because others are comfortable in their nests and can't believe that there can be multiple paths to Truth and spiritual growth. 2+2=4. There's just no way around it.

There's only one path to Truth and if you don't got what I got then you're lost my friend.
I see no transcendent love in exclusivity, none whatsoever. The "you're with us or against us" (also reads "you're with God or against Him") mentality reeks too much of fear for it to be equated with love of any form. This is why I've come to accept that as long as your religion (or lack thereof) guides you to love then you are on YOUR right path. I believe this love can be found by accepting other people and their religions without trying to convert, demonize, or fear them. Multiple paths do not have to mean there are multiple destinations. What I am hoping for is a move from an isolated spiritual global society to at least a tolerant (live-and-let-live) society. (Click here for an interesting article by Cassandra at Love with the Hands Wide Open on a few statistics on religious tolerance across the pond.) If we can even come this far, humanity would collectively have made a tremendous leap. Although hoping for an integrated spiritual society seems like a pipe dream, I believe it has a better chance of succeeding from a tolerant globally society than an isolated one.

We can actively reach beyond loving those whom we are comfortable with and embrace the uncomfortable. We can continue to learn from our brothers so that we may enrich our collective spirituality. We can humble and internalize our faith so that our actions speak louder than our words of religious pride.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Timeless Hero: Part 5- The Temples of Hyrule

The Legend of Zelda first debuted in Japan on February 21, 1986 and after 22 years and over a dozen games later the franchise is still alive and well along with our timeless (and time traveling) hero, Link. The Legend of Zelda has captured the imagination of generations of gamers with its captivating storyline, mind twisting dungeons, and hours of battling the forces of evil as Link transforms from a humble boy into a timeless hero chosen by the gods. But why did they choose Link? What does the future hold for this warrior-prophet? And what does Link represent not only to the people of Hyrule but to us? In this series I will analyze the religious and spiritual elements of The Legend of Zelda.

[Note: I am not a professional religious scholar but these are just my views on some of the symbolism I've noticed in the game series. I've focused on the plots in A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess. I apologize if I've left anything out. Enjoy!]

Part 5- The Temples of Hyrule

In all of the Zelda games I've played (I have yet to play them all) Link's primary objective is dependent on him removing the evil infesting the holy places of Hyrule. Hidden inside every temple are holy artifacts that will empower Link on his quest to rid the land of evil. These temples were built Indiana Jones style so you can't just walk in, take the artifact and leave, you have to work your way through a maze of rooms which contain puzzles, traps, and deadly enemies. These Rubik cube temples were meant to keep the unworthy out.

Fortunately our hero always comes prepared. Link is required to reach a certain level of experience, worthiness, before walking into a holy place. His worth is his offering to the gods who do not let just any normal person waltz into the shrine, and those who do would not make it very far. Whether it's obtaining power through a new sacred artifact, led with wisdom by his spirit guides, or summoned by courage to save those in distress, Link is granted access to the holy only after proving his worth. These temples, although challenging in their own right, are but mere trials that will shape Link into the hero that Hyrule needs. In The Wind Waker, the King of Red Lions said it best when he said, "The key to defeating Ganon is locked away in a great power that you can wield only after much toil and hardship." Link embodies the courage needed, but has yet to attain enough wisdom and strength to wield the great power.

These temples are sometimes dedicated to a local deity or spirit that is sometimes tied to an elemental power. The Gerudos, an amazonian tribe of women who bear a single male every 100 years, worship at the Desert Colossus dedicated to the Sand Goddess (Din). It was also the secret base for Gannondorf and his followers before they took over Hyrule in The Ocarina of Time.

Though not all are used as houses of worship, some temples have been converted by the local populace for certain purposes yet are still considered holy. In Twilight Princess, the Gorons, a rock-like mountain dwelling race, have a large mining complex within their holy mountain where they mine out rocks and minerals for trade and food. These mines are still considered off limits to outsiders who must prove their strength in a sumo wrestling match, the Goron tribal pastime, yet these mines also house holy shrines. In Majora's Mask, the Great Bay Temple was converted into a water works factory that controls the temperature of the ocean's water. The temple is a vast labyrinth of gears and cogs which the hero must work his way through to lower the ocean's abnormally high temperature which is quickly poisoning the ocean's inhabitants. This "factory" temple has been integrated with nature as a balancing mechanism to keep the water's temperature at a certain level. Although it does seem like the Zoras, an aquatic fish-like race, are adapting nature for their survival this temple does allow for life to thrive in an otherwise hostile environment, and as the giver of life the temple should be considered sacred.

The Temple of Time is Hyrule's Temple Mount and its inner sanctum, which houses the Master Sword, the Holy of Holies. It is the gateway from this world and into the Sacred Realm, a spiritual plane which mirrors the land of Hyrule, where the Triforce resides. This temple is the nexus where all reality, including time, converges. The attributes of the gods (Strength, Wisdom, and Courage) flow from this temple and blesses the entire world. This place is the final test before entering the Sacred Realm. In the Ocarina of Time the hero collects three spiritual stones held by three races and offers a song worship to the gods. The Door of Time opens granting the hero access to the blade of evil's bane, the Master Sword. Only Hyrule's royal family, as acting high priests, hold these keys and the knowledge to enter the Holy of Holies.

[Zelda in the Temple of Time by deviantdoa. Find more art by deviantdoa here.]

This is where the three Great Goddesses manifests in its greatest glory, righteousness, and splendor. And like the other temples scattered across Hyrule, the Temple of Time was once the training ground in preparing the Hero of Time for his destiny. It is here where the hero himself traveled back and forth through time to complete his quest in defeating Ganon (Ocarina of Time).

The temples in Hyrule are more than just immense labyrinths, they are places of worship, a flowing source of life, and most importantly they shape the hero for his destiny. They stand as monuments to the people that good has prevailed over evil before, and whenever evil arises it will prevail again. They bring hope to every generation born into this world and songs and tales of hope are passed on long after the buildings crumble. The buildings themselves are not important but act as a symbol and a reminder that whatever the future may hold hope should never be lost.

Part 1-The Golden Goddesses
Part 2-The Triforce
Part 3-The Warrior Prophet
Part 4-He Who Split Time
Part 5-The Temples of Hyrule
Part 6-A Link to the Future

Or Click here to read them all back to back

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Moral of the Story...

When I was a kid every church service had a children story time right before the adults started their boring sermon. We would trot up and down the aisles collecting offering in our wicker baskets while "Jesus Loves Me" played wistfully in the background. We gathered up front waiting to hear this week's tale. All of them contained a lesson on morality: the boy who cried wolf, the girl who ate too much cake got sick, and the naughty child who blamed the broken dish on the dog was found out. The stories were interesting, especially when they brought in live animals, but were all variations on the same themes of morality all little boys and girls should know. Most of the stories were just that: stories. We knew they weren't factually true but we didn't care as long as it delayed the boring sermon. A part of us also wanted to be reminded of those morals within the stories, regardless of the context.

["The Three Bears" From Childhood's Favorites and Fairy Stories, by Various. Project Gutenberg. I wonder who this family of bears ate to obtain this house and their fancy clothes? Obviously Goldilocks assumed it belong to people or else she wouldn't have entered in at all.]
But then we grew up. We still held onto those stories, but we began to take them seriously/literally as we took everything else. To a child, Snow White and David and Goliath are taken in on the same level, they are stories to entertain, teach a lesson, and bring them closer to their parents. But at some point between childhood and adulthood we began to pick and choose which tales were literally true. But why does this matter, why can't we be satisfied with Truth found IN the story? Why does the story also have to be true?

"The validity of the story matters!"

Not to me, but to those who need truth to ring true. Because without an eyewitness saying “I was there and this is what I saw” or some other evidence (rational, archeological, etc.) then you have to take a much larger leap of faith to accept the truths that emanate from scripture. A common argument I hear is "if one part of the Bible is 'made up' and not literally/historically true how can I accept the rest of the Bible?"

That depends on where your faith lies. I don’t need to know that the Exodus out of Egypt actually happened to understand the Ten Commandments and how they have shaped Western civilization. My faith does not lie in the historicity of the story but in the moral of the story. This is what we understood and grasped in our childhood but have forgotten as we grew up. Some of us even throw out the baby with the bathwater by tossing out all childhood tales, Biblical and Fairy, with any truths it attempts to communicate to us. This is exactly why I've divorced spiritual truths found in the Bible from the concept of Biblical inerrancy. By tying the Bible as history/fact to spiritual truths anyone can throw out spiritual truths out by disproving the "Biblical facts". Anyone who looks at the texts critically will find errors of all sorts in the Bible. This does not erode the importance and significance of the spiritual truths found within scripture! If anything it strengthens them by revealing their universal and timeless nature. Do not kill, do not steal, and respect your neighbor are universal in any tale.

If we focus too much on elements of the tale we might miss the moral of the story. What would we gain in debating the historicity of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” if we fail to internalize the importance of respecting others and their property? I don’t want to fall asleep in a house belonging to a family of hungry bears, do you?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Prime Directive

Thousands of Trekkies are probably foaming at the mouth in anticipation of the new Star Trek film (May 8th!!!) directed by J.J. Abrams (co-creator of Lost), and I have to give it them, the trailer looks pretty intense. I never really got into Star Trek except for Voyager. I watched every single episode of Voyager, loved it! One concept in the Star Trek universe that has always caught my attention is their beloved Prime Directive.
"As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Starfleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Starfleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation."
I am not a Trekkie, although I do love Star Trek, so I can only assume that the Prime Directive is the Federation's moral foundation to any interaction with alien life to protect any evolving sentient life to continue their "normal cultural evolution" even if they're meant to become extinct. Any unintentional, and at times intentional, violation of the Prime Directive is equivalent to playing God. Too bad nobody told God about the Prime Directive.

Do we really need God to tell us not to kill each other? Would mankind have figured out morality without God violating the Prime Directive by sending down His Word down through prophets and revelations? I was just wondering how mankind would have fared without any communication with the divine. If God had not revealed himself in any way would we have progressed this far? God could not have communicated to all people throughout history because that would mean that all religions would have a sliver of truth, and we can't have that now, can we.

If God has not revealed himself to ALL religions then all but a few, or even one, must have sprung up naturally. We would first have to figure out WHICH religions have not communicated with God and then measure the level of morality they have obtained naturally. If no morals can be found whatsoever, nothing, zilch, then we can say that it was good that God taught us to behave. (We have been bad little boys and girls ever since Eden.) This is not the case because religious and non-religious people across all faiths have the same capacity to commit the most heinous to the most loving acts towards one another. I don't believe that any one faith has a monopoly in morality, let alone a monopoly on truth.

I also can not believe that our ability to reason is limited to the point where we need God to tell us not to kill each other. I believe that man's morals along with our view of God has evolved throughout history. Now that we live in a global community we have to think on a global scale. It's not about which tribe's ethics will dominate but how can we keep our GLOBAL tribe from committing suicide. Man can not be completely dependent on the divine for morality or else Atheist would be the most immoral people on the planet for rejecting all things divine. And I really don't see how a lack of belief in the divine leads to any immorality. Atheist share a similar belief using reason as a guide to morality, except they do away with God and faith altogether.

In the end mankind chooses what ethics and morals to follow regardless of the source. I believe we have the ability to evolve without God although I don't believe that God would ever disappear from man's heart (or even mine for that matter). Faith is part of what makes us human. Even Atheists have faith: faith in love, compassion, reason, justice, and the human spirit. So even if God did violate the Prime Directive and decided to meddle with humanity's evolution to cause us to be more loving, respectful, and compassionate to our fellow man, does it really matter? As long as we are headed in the right direction does it matter if God gave us a helpful nudge or not? I don't know. I can't imagine a world without faith. It seems that man naturally yearns for God even in pagan religions. On the other hand, man has committed the most horrendous atrocities in the name of God throughout history. To take a pinch of wisdom from South Park, even without religion man would find other reasons to fight his brother. Are we doomed? No, not yet, I'm sure someone from the Federation will time travel back to save us from complete annihilation, but of course this would be a violation of the Temporal Prime Directive. Oh well.

Live long and prosper.

Also: Check this recent post on The Spirituality of Star Trek over at the Science Fiction Gospel blog.

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Journey Thus Far: Part 3- 100 Posts!

As I progress along my spiritual journey I have introduced myself to a wide range of ideas, thoughts, and concepts so that I may understand and love my fellow man. For my 100th post I thought I would like to summarize my spiritual growth over these last few months. I have learned a lot since I've started this blog and I hope to continue learning for years to come.

[Note: The links below link to previous posts as snapshots of my spiritual growth so far. Enjoy!]

The number of posts themselves mean nothing if I did not learn anything, but fortunately, I have. I have learned that people rely on hope even though it doesn't seem to get any brighter. That symbols may be more powerful than words when it comes to moving the human heart. And that these very same symbols used to describe love, peace, and hope can also be twisted into hate, fear, and damnation. This is not always the case and people are beginning to embrace each others as equals, as brothers. It is difficult to be able to love your enemy at times, but if we take on new eyes and take a second look we may find that we may no longer have enemies. I'm not saying we should ignore threats to our very safety but we must come to understand the nature of those who hate us. We share one home and one humanity, that alone should be a start. If we look hard enough we just might realize that these enemies are just as human as we are. They eat, sleep, hope, fear, cry, and breathe like we do. More similarities. Look further still and we might realize that we like the same food, cheer for the same sport, and even cry over the same things. We are fallible, we are mankind. Let us never forget that mankind (adam) was made from the same dust and given the same breathe of life.

I've also learned to question EVERYTHING! By questioning even your most foundational beliefs you understand why you believe them instead of swallowing spoon fed medicine. Others may say that asking questions is dangerous and may even damn your soul, so its better to "just believe". Of course, if Martin Luther and friends didn't question the church then we might all still be Roman Catholic. Questions make us think, not doubt. If our questions cause us to doubt and then to change our beliefs who's to say that we made the wrong decision to question in the first place? I don't believe it matters where your questioning leads you as long as your comfortable with the answer. Questions leading to Mahayana Buddhism are just as worthwhile as those leading to Islam. As long as we can still call each other my brother! my sister! then these questions were worth it.

The Puzzle
I started this blog so that I may learn and share with others. To study and immerse myself in very personal part of all people so that I may know them. As I continue my God-sized puzzle I realize that it will always be incomplete in a sense that there are no borders that could contain the Eternal. Even peering into the vast array of religious beliefs throughout history (I wonder what cavemen believed?) is immensely and immediately humbling. Humanity has always searched and may continue to search in ways that may be alien to us yet powerful to those who believe. I envision my spiritual self standing on the God-Sized puzzle that reaches beyond human sight.

What will the picture reveal? What will we learn? I wonder what it could be?

Even imaging what the puzzle holds for us adds more and more pieces until we reach a point of infinite regression! We can look back and see how far we've come, look forward on pieces to come, while always remembering that we ourselves are part of this puzzle, a part of universal transcendent Love.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Only Fools Use their Heads

Stop! Stop thinking right now. Just sit there and slowly read (don't think about) the following post. This is not a threat but a warning: if you continue to think you may be jeopardizing your very soul. The thinking I speak of is not your everyday "gee, I wonder what I need at the store?" thinking, but pondering (which may lead to doubting) elements of your faith. Have you started thinking again? Well stop. At least promise you won't think until you're done reading.

[Copy of The Thinker by Augeste Rodin in Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen. The Thinker was originally meant to depict Dante in front of the Gates of Hell, pondering his great poem.]

"I don't want a God that I can understand", a pastor once told me and I can see his reasoning. If he can understand God, and by understand he meant a comprehendable God that lacks mystery, then he would be on the same level as God rendering Him equal to humans. This is the same pastor that told me that it was dangerous for me to study and read into other faiths. And again, I understand why he says this. His argument was that if I thought too much about my faith I just might lose it because faith isn't about thinking, it's about believing.

Here's a list of a few things you should never EVER THINK ABOUT, EVER. I'm only listing them as a warning, so DON'T, I repeat don't think, read, or talk about anything in this list after today. Don't even leave comments, because that would imply that you thought.
  • A strikingly similar story to that of Noah's was written over a thousand years before that of Noah's in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
  • No evidence of the Israelites mass migration (Exodus from Egypt) has been found in the Sinai Desert.
  • Jesus died on two different days according to the Gospel accounts.
  • The Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7-8) only appears in eight out of the thousands of surviving Greek manuscripts and only after the 10th century c.e.
  • New Testament scholars across the board only consider 7 out of Paul's 13 epistles authentically his. The others were written after his death and some do not line up with Paul's theology.
  • The original ending of Mark in our oldest manuscripts ends at Mark 16:8, due to death of the author before completion, lost to history, or intentionally written to end at Mark 16:8.
  • There were various forms of Christianity in early church history and they all fought each other until one branch remained, the Orthodox (which then branched into others).
  • Mythical (or miraculous) events in the life of Jesus as depicted in the gospels are strikingly similar to "pagan" gods that predate Jesus by thousands of years: Horus, Mithra, Krishna, etc.
Now that you've read them don't ever think, read, or talk about anything in this list. Don't even check to see if I'm lying, because that would cause you to think. Just forget everything I just wrote and continue believing, which is more important than thinking. This is an example of things you should avoid thinking when it comes to faith but even one may be challenging enough. You should believe that the Bible is inerrant in infallible even though it was written by fallible hands at the behest of a church that wrestled with its theology for the first few hundred years after Christ. You should believe that no matter what archeologist may find through scientific study that the Bible is the ultimate authority. You should believe that through Christianity you're saved and EVERY other religion leads to the hellfire without thinking how terribly unjust it is for the millions of people who have never heard of Jesus. Again, DON'T THINK, just believe, because thinking is overrated.