Oct 24, 2008
A Letter To A Friend Regarding Religion, The Canon & Closed-Beliefs Systems!
Dear “J”, I was speaking with a young woman, who was obviously Catholic, several years ago.
She explained that all that she really knew about ‘her religion’ was that members of her religious group were not permitted to eat fish on Friday, and she was a strict adherent to that church edict.
I am not trying to disparage the memory of this woman in any way. However, in my opinion she is a perfect example of the problem that plagues most religious people and religious groups today, including Christian ones. Is it any wonder then that secularists, who often study religion and religious sources more than religious people typically do, believe that religious individuals are misinformed?
The problem with religion in general is that what it typically leads to is the creation of groups of self-righteous, intolerant individuals who believe that they have a monopoly on truth and an exclusive access to God. In that regard, religious institutions have a lot in common with human families. How often have we heard an individual say that this is the way that we do things in my family?
Religious groups are essentially family prototypes. The members often refer to each other as sister and brother. And as is it is in families that are related by blood, there is also a symbolic blood relationship among members of religious groups. The members of religious groups will also tell you about what they believe, and how they do things in their religious families. And most religious family groups, claim the Father God as the head of their family.
Jesus warned the Pharisees,, a quasi religious group of his time, that they had shut up the Kingdom of Heaven. He also explained that in spite of their zeal, that they were not going into the Kingdom of Heaven and that they were preventing also keeping others from entering into the kingdom. .
Thinking back to the 17th, 18th century and before (even back to Aristotle), consider how long it took for religious groups, particularly, the Christian Church to accept the factual conclusion of Copernicus, Galileo and others! We are still experiencing the same problem in the post-modern age’ religions and religious people will not accept any other truth that is inconsistent with what ‘their closed-religious family’ believes!
I suspect that we have gone back to the future in terms of concluding what is and what is not true. Many insist on holding on to religious tradition, lore and myth; substantiated or not.
Simply consider how far religion has devolved including the ongoing internecine battles that are going on between extended religious families today. In America, where more religions of the world are represented than in any other nation of the world, the closed nature and intolerance of hundreds of religious groups living side by side is apparent.
Christianity has so many denominations in America, that it is impossible to keep up with them all!
Clearly with this kind of division in Christianity for example, it is apparent that something is very wrong when the members of one family with God as its head, cannot agree. And the Christian family, similar to the Pharisees of the common era claim that they are the ones who, exclusively, are going to heaven. And there are other religious groups that also make similar claims.
Now is that not the epitome of arrogance?
In the United States, many of our religious leaders and religious groups are a laughing-stock among members of the public. Churches are rife wife scandals, some sexual, some financial, and some criminal. Pastors and wives are murdering each other, the divorce rate is high and many members of the clergy are pimping Jesus in order to enrich themselves. And none of the above prevent religious people or group, from claiming that they represent the embodiment of God itself!
I find that the majority of religions have something in common; eventually they lead their adherents to the same cognitive place, which is closure around a set of ideas and beliefs, that are considered to be exclusive and unquestionable truth.
Christianity is not an exception by any means. I give the Apostle Paul credit for predicting before hand, that the leaders in Christianity would eventually seek to draw followers after themselves.
Another example of religious double-speak, of the kind where religious people say one thing and do another, has been exemplified in this year’s Presidential election campaign. We have witnessed a contradiction between Chrisitian belief and practice; something that is often common in American Christian society.
Senator John McCain claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ believed in social activism and insisted that the poor be taken care of, which is what is often refered to as ‘the social dimension of Christ’s ministry’!
On the other hand, Christian politicians by proclamation, like John McCains, believe that what Jesus believed in was socialism, something that they refuse to practice.
I heard a political Christian strategist say recently that Jesus would have been too liberal for his tastes, yet he claimed to be a follower of Christ. John McCain lashes out at Senator Obama and refers to him as a socialist, when Senator Obama’s economic policies are taken from the scriptures that John McCain claims to believe!
According to the Canon, the first person to die, Abel, who was murdered by his brother Cain, did so as a result of religious denominational/sectarianism. Cain had his manner of worship, and Abel had his. When Cain’s form of worship was not accepted, Cain killed Abel. Christian John Mc-Cain, pun intended, is trying to kill his brother Senator Obama for adhering to the principles of Jesus Christ.
If Canonical eschatology is correct; the last person to die will die for the same reason, religious denominationalism. In fact he or she will, along with millions of individuals be slaughtered due to their religious beliefs, forms of worship and a refusal to submit to the edicts of another dominant religious group. Simply consider what is currently taking place among the 3 major religious groups of the world in the Middle-East of late.
The 3 major religions of the world who all claim to have found God, cannot settle their differences, and in the manner that Cain killed his brother, these groups are killidng each other. It doesn’t sound to me as if any of them have found ‘a God’ to me’! Your reference to ‘just war’, which you obviously borrowed from St. Thomas Aquinas and the Catholic Church is specious at best. According to the Canon, the Apostle James wrote that wars came about as a result of unfulfilled lusts.
To say that the USA has been blessed by the Almighty to be one of the most destructive forces in the planet gives me pause, and I don’t believe it!
I try to be very careful when speaking to individuals, like you, who are sincere and diligent about serving God, and not just Christians but especially Christians, particularly those who sincerely believe that Constantine’s Canon is ‘the word of God’! The Canon is a limited text, and not the exclusive ‘word of God’ that you and other Christians claim.
The fact of the matter is that evolution and transformation are part and parcel of human existence. Times change, people change and our understanding increases with time and it changes with the addition of new information and different experiences. When you mention ‘theistic evolution’ to most religious people, they turn a deaf ear, and consider you to apostate.
Interestingly enough, if you think about it, the next stage in the divine evolutionary life-cycle, according to the Canon, is the transformation of human beings from their current carbon-based forms into the likeness of whatever the non-human form of Jesus will be at the time, a metamorphosis!
You have, as many individuals in the west have done been taught to believe that the Canon is the exclusive unadulterated and inerrant word of God! As a result the deep study that you have engaged in, by now you should know that the Canon was compiled from many unsubstantiated disparate sources.
I visited a ‘Bible Teaching’ church a month or so ago. Afterward, the person who invited me asked, well what did you feel about the minister? I responded, you are correct; the pastor is an excellent Canon teacher. He had profoundly mastered its teachings! Sadly, the Canon is not the exclusive harbinger of truth!
Frankly, the pastor needed to, in my opinion, consider other sources of information that are available. It is dangerous to lock yourself into one paradigm. Many of the terms, phrases and writings in the Canon were derived from other well-intentioned sources I'm certain; however, many of the same were not derived from God.
The Apostle Paul once wrote that all scripture is God-breathed...! I won't argue with that, however, the mistake that most Christians make is to believe that everything in the Canon is scripture, when frankly if what determines what is and what is not scripture depends on it being God-breathed, we already know that numerous texts came from disparate sources. At the time that the Apostle referred to what was scripture, he hadn’t considered, that the letters that he was writing to churches, were scriptural.
We must make juxtaposition between literative truth and what is actual and factual truth. Most of our beliefs today center around what was taught and passed on by individuals who lived thousands of years ago; many of these individuals were primitive and had not done any critical scholarly research. We have accepted ancient interpretations as if they represented exclusive and profound truth! The Apostle Paul said something very profound in 1 Thess 5:21, when he wrote, test or prove all things! If you want to get in trouble in religious circles, particularly, Christianity, make an attempt at testing the voracity of the different aspects of religious dogma!
Let’s consider the epic poem, the book of Job, for a moment. That Job existed appears to be well substantiated. But if you use common sense, one quickly understands that what much of what was written in the poetical book of job is simply literative truth, much of what was written was never spoken.
Simply consider each of the different essays. If you accept everything that is written in Job as being factual, ask yourself who stood there and wrote down verbatim the exchanges and the dialogue that went back and forth between Job and his friends? Someone must have been sitting there with a primitive tape recorder, correct? Either that, or they were a heck of a stenographer!
Also consider the Apostle Paul who admitted that he wrote by permission, having explained that some of what he wrote factually did not come from God. Consider what Jesus said about Moses’ having granted the right of a divorce decree? I use this last example to explain the errancy of the Canon in another context.
By that I mean that all of what is written in it is not inerrant, from the perspective of manuscript support, but according to what Jesus said, that God would have said. Jesus also pointed out that much of what had been later recorded in the Canon, words that were spoken by them of old times, apparently did not derive from God either! In other words, these were not ideas that were etched with the finger of God on stone!
Again Jesus said, Jesus said that in the beginning (apparently by God), divorce was not permitted. Moses, granted divorce on his own, proving that everything that he said or did, which was held as divine truth, did not derive from God.
My Point. Those who take the bible literally, in the context of it having derived from God, and is therefore to be believed to be inerrant are being misled. Moses just another one of its sources, did not get a lot of what was attributed to him from God. Do you truly believe that there were giants on Earth, who came from heaven, and were sleeping with human women?
My thrust is simply this, in all religions there are creeds, sacred texts, practices …., and as humans lock themselves in to a singular text or religion,, for the good that it does, there is also the bad that comes out of limiting oneself to a single text or religion!
People need to be set free, so that they can seek after what is 'actual'. Most denominations or religions will not permit or encourage its adherents to do that; the Catholic is notorious for doing just that, and most Christian religious fundamentalist churches and groups are equally as guilty.
Just as the name Jesus, Allah. Krishna …, were non-existent thousands of years ago, I suspect that in a century or so they will be obsolete all over again, and people will know what is real. Now before you call me a heretic, hear what I am saying.
The anthropomorphic creations of the past that were used to explain God were understandable given where those cultures were at that time. These folks knew little about the human genome, microbial organisms, space telemetry, the space-time continuum, thermodynamics, entropy, and quantum physics, particularly by comparison with what we know today.
Aside from religion, many individuals are simply seeking after what is real, and I applaud the ones who are doing so. And the way that things are going, it appears that what we refer to as God, the anthropomorphic God) will turn out to be something altogether different, what scientists refer to as a God equivalent, a unifying principle, and a singularity.
Factually, I believe that it is time for post-modern man to move beyond outdated religious paradigms that may include literary truth, and rather to seek after what is real, even if that means that outdated ideas will be refuted, debunked and placed in their proper historical context.
Early on, most humans were aware that there was something else beside human beings, the flora and the fauna. They were never able to define it, but out of respect for IT, they attempted to honor or worship IT, and occasionally a pantheon of other higher beings that they believed to exist. We cannot keep living in the past, it is time to live within our own paradigm, and to apply the knowledge and the evidence that we have today, replacing that which is outdated.
Change makes people uncomfortable, because it challenges them to come out of their comfort zones. Jesus was a perfect example of what happens when you try to elevate the thinking of religious people; he was beaten, physically tossed out of Synagogues, harassed, eventually arrested and murdered.
When he attempted to move his Hebrew brethren beyond their thousands of years old paradigms, they also mostly rejected him. Today, Christians and many other religious groups are stuck in their dogma and outdated paradigms – they won’t move beyond their version of The Law. Instead of standing on the shoulders of the ones who preceded the, in an attempt to grow or to evolve if you prefer, most religious people are stuck in the past. Some in the scientific community have acknowledged the discovery of what might be considered, the God particle.
If we could revive our predecessors and speak with them today, they would likely look to us for answers. They would be surprised to know that thousands of years later, their religious descendants haven’t progressed any further beyond what they once believed. In fact, some of our more backward religious people, would in turn ask them, tell them to tell them what is true?
Are most religious groups guilty of what I refer to as spiritual intellectual laziness? Most religious groups are essentially guilty. However, more and more individuals are freeing themselves from the shackles of religion and religious dogma, and they are simply seeking after what is real. Secularists have been doing this all the time. It is time for the majority of religious individuals to do the same thing, or perhaps they will simply be replaced with another generation of individuals who will do so!
Jesus’ thrust was I came to bring the truth, not religion! Close up the book sometimes “J”and think about what Jesus said, that if I go away I will send another paracletos, and that paracletos would guide you into all of the truth. His words weren’t intended to get us stuck in a non-invented at the time Canon. And if those were his intentions, wouldn’t he have instructed his followers to wait for the Canon. The Canon in my opinion is similar to a third-grade primer, and too many Christians are stuck in a 3-rd grade spiritual mindset!
Remember what Elihu said, when debating Job and Job’s elder friend? Elihu apparently said, and I hope he did if he existed, that there is a Spirit in a Man, and the inspiration of the Almighty gives him wisdom. It is okay to research and compare the Hebrew, Sinaticus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuaginst, the Vulgate …., however true inspiration ought to come from the Almighty and science, for we are getting closer to determining ‘what it is’, not who some believed IT was!
You raised the subject of homosexuality, and Paul’s belief about it. I warn you, Paul also believed that he would be a part of what Christians refer to as the rapture; he expected to be alive when it occurred. Remember that he wrote, ‘we shall not all sleep…’ Paul has been sleep for years, he was in error then and I suspect like most of what has been written about homosexuality in the bible is probably in error. And if that turns out to be the case, we have been pretty mean to some individuals, who had nothing to do with the way that they were born!
Our endocrinologists are just about to speak to the real causes of the source(s) of intersex people and what we refer to as homosexuality. Granted, there are homosexuals who are more likely to be inclined socially to be homosexual, however, there are those who are genetically predisposed to homosexuality, and others who are born with both sexes being prominent.
I am afraid for religious groups and Christians for as more and more of their beliefs will be debunked, most religious groups are going to find it very difficult to get people to believe any of what they are teaching, and to justify their previous misinterpretations which they attributed to God. .
I was in a hot debate on the Capitol mall in DC several years ago regarding this same topic. When I raised the issue of inter-sex people, wherein their parents often selected their surgically imposed, sexual identity most in the Christian crowd became very quiet. Today I ask Christians to consider what was written in the Canon, just as I asked this large group to do, particularly the writings about eunuch. According to the Canon, some are born, others are forced and some choose to be eunuch! Does that sound familiar?.
We know that all fetuses or feti are originally female. Let me ask you this, why do males have nipples? The fact is that we all derive from a common source, and the changes begin to take place while we are in the womb. Having said that, everything doesn’t always develop as it should, and there are as a consequence mixed-gender people, there always have been apparently!
Now are you going to tell me that as a result of development that is out of the control of the feti, that God is going to send people to hell and burn them forever because of a developmental issue? Oh I know, from a Christian perspective I am getting into the doctrine of Universalism.
Actually, I am going beyond that to say that much of the conclusions that were drawn in the Canon and written in many religious texts, did not come from God in the first place. They were instead an outgrowth of tradition, fear and the processes of acculturation. Hell, and much of the rest are likely human inventions!
For my money, I suspect that the demise of religion will be a good thing, if in its place humans will get back to seeking what is real and maximizing their potential!
I encourage you to be diligent, but I caution you about the dangers of locking yourselves into one literative text which has many flaws in it, as you continue your quest of seeking what is real, and questioning what other people have considered other sources have to say! And if we must err, let us err on the side of grace!
Love, Peace & Grace
Rev. C. Solomon