EppsNet Archive: Religion

Foot of Pride

14 Apr 2018 /

Billy Sunday

Yeah, from the stage they’ll be tryin’ to get water outta rocks
A whore will pass the hat, collect a hundred grand and say thanks
They like to take all this money from sin, build big universities to study in
Sing “Amazing Grace” all the way to the Swiss banks

Well, there ain’t no goin’ back when your foot of pride come down
Ain’t no goin’ back

— Bob Dylan, “Foot of Pride”

How You Should Think Of Me

7 Apr 2018 /
Harper's Muslims and Christians

A disciple came to Maruf Kharki and said:

“I have been talking to people about you. Jews claim that you are a Jew; Christians revere you as one of their own saints; Muslims insist that you are the greatest of all Muslims.”

Maruf answered:

“This is what humanity says in Baghdad. When I was in Jerusalem, Jews said that I was a Christian, Muslims that I was a Jew, and Christians that I was a Muslim.”

“What must we think of you, then?” the man said.

“Some do not understand me and they revere me. Others do not either, so they revile me. That is what I have come to say. You should think of me as one who has said this.”


An Atheist Falls Into a Swamp . . .

17 Mar 2018 /
Man in a swamp

[David Hume] once fell into a swamp near the house he was building in Edinburgh. Owing to his reputation among the locals as an atheist, a woman refused to pull him out of it until he recited the Lord’s Prayer and the Belief, which, being practical-minded, he did. But not before he argued with her about whether Christians were obligated to help their enemies.

— Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan

To Be a Believer

13 Mar 2018 /
Ali ibn Abi Talib

You probably seem to yourself to be a believer, even if you are a believer in disbelief.

But you cannot really believe in anything until you are aware of the process by which you arrived at your position.

Before you do this you must be ready to postulate that all your beliefs may be wrong, that what you think to be belief may only be a variety of prejudice caused by your surroundings — including the bequest of your ancestors for whom you may have a sentiment.

True belief belongs to the realm of real knowledge.

Until you have knowledge, belief is mere coalesced opinions, however it may seem to you.

Coalesced opinions serve for ordinary living. Real belief enables higher studies to be made.

— Attributed to Ali

EppsNet Book Reviews: Middlemarch by George Eliot

28 Feb 2018 /

George Eliot is a transgender author whose work was previously unfamiliar to this reviewer.

Ha, kidding! It’s hard to think of new things to say about old books, but if you appreciate the novel as an art form, or you think you might appreciate the novel as an art form if you gave it a chance, you should read Middlemarch.

What it is about? At 800+ pages, it’s about a lot of things: life in rural England in the 1830s, the status of women, the bonds of matrimony, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy and politics.

It’s about the heroism of ordinary lives.

It’s about, in the character of Dorothea Brooke, “the mixed result of young and noble impulse struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion.”

Here’s the conclusion of the novel, in which the narrator is looking back from several decades later at the main characters. Admittedly it loses some power out of context but you’ll get the idea. Googling the Cyrus reference might help.

(Mild spoiler alert, insofar as spoilers can exist for a well-known book from the 19th century.)

Sir James never ceased to regard Dorothea’s second marriage as a mistake; and indeed this remained the tradition concerning it in Middlemarch, where she was spoken of to a younger generation as a fine girl who married a sickly clergyman, old enough to be her father, and in little more than a year after his death gave up her estate to marry his cousin—young enough to have been his son, with no property, and not well-born. Those who had not seen anything of Dorothea usually observed that she could not have been “a nice woman,” else she would not have married either the one or the other.

Certainly those determining acts of her life were not ideally beautiful. . . . Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

Rating: 5 stars


And That’s the Truth: Me Too

5 Feb 2018 /
Sojourner Truth

[And That’s the Truth is a feature by our guest blogger, Sojourner Truth– PE]

If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.

I have as much rights as any man, and can do as much work as any man. And ain’t I a woman?

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman?

I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?

I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

That little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Jesus Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

And that’s the Truth!


Theological Question

1 Feb 2018 /

I hear people say that bad things happen to kids in schools because God isn’t allowed in schools. Why do bad things happen to kids in churches?


He Was in No Other Place

10 Dec 2017 /

Cross and Christians, end to end, I examined. He was not on the Cross. I went to the Hindu temple, to the ancient pagoda. In none of them was there any sign. To the uplands of Herat I went, and to Kandahar. I looked. He was not on the heights or in the lowlands. Resolutely, I went to the summit of the fabulous mountain of Kaf. There only was the dwelling of the legendary Anqa bird. I went to the Kaaba of Mecca. He was not there. I asked about him from Avicenna the philosopher. He was beyond the range of Avicenna . . . I looked into my own heart. In that, his place, I saw him, He was in no other place.

The Way of the Sufi

I Love Freedom More Than Most People and Now I Know Why

25 Sep 2017 /

https://www.studyfinds.org/government-american-history-survey/

This is from a new survey of American adults by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Also: 37 percent couldn’t name a single right protected by the First Amendment. While 48 percent of those surveyed were able to name freedom of speech, far fewer could identify other rights accorded, including freedom of religion (15 percent), freedom of the press (14 percent), right of peaceful assembly (10 percent), and right to petition the government (3 percent).

I’m a freedom-loving guy. I find that my love of freedom exceeds that of most of my countrymen and now I know why . . . because cherishing the rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are, and most people don’t know what they are.

P.S. I learned to remember the First Amendment rights with the GRASP acronym: freedom to petition the Government, freedom of Religion, freedom of Assembly, freedom of Speech and freedom of the Press.


One Thing I Can’t Tolerate is Intolerance: Margaret Court Edition

1 Jun 2017 /

Margaret Court is being vilified and stigmatized this week — “racist,” “homophobe,” ‘blood on her hands,” name should be taken off the Australian Open arena, etc. — because she opposes gay marriage and homosexuality in general.

Margaret Court, 1971

If you want to position yourself as a champion of inclusion, diversity, respect, tolerance, you’ve got to extend those things to other people as well, and not just people who see the world exactly like you do.

You want tolerance and respect for sexual preferences? What about religious preferences? Margaret Court is a Christian pastor. A lot of people believe that God frowns on homosexuality. I don’t believe that myself but it’s not a weird fringe opinion.

Yes, Margaret Court introduced Satan and Nazis and Communists into the conversation, but Margaret Court isn’t presenting herself as an advocate of inclusion and tolerance. She’s saying this is right and that is wrong.

You can’t position yourself as an advocate of tolerance and oppose Margaret Court if you’re engaged in the same name-calling and bashing that she is: As an advocate of tolerance, I say that people like Margaret Court should not be tolerated!

If you were to come out and and say, “Look, I’m just as intolerant as Margaret Court but in the opposite direction. That’s the only difference between us. Whereas Margaret Court says these people are bad and these people are good, I say these people are good and these people are bad.”

That seems like a consistent, respectable position to have, but not intolerance in support of tolerance. That doesn’t make any sense . . .


The Blindness and the Wretchedness of Man

8 May 2017 /
Blaise Pascal

When I see the blindness and the wretchedness of man, when I regard the whole silent universe, and man without light, left to himself, and, as it were, lost in this corner of the universe, without knowing who has put him there, what he has come to do, what will become of him at death, and incapable of all knowledge, I become terrified, like a man who should be carried in his sleep to a dreadful desert island, and should awake without knowing where he is, and without means of escape. And thereupon I wonder how people in a condition so wretched do not fall into despair. I see other persons around me in conditions of a like nature. I ask them if they are better informed than I am. They tell me that they are not. And thereupon these wretched and lost beings, having looked around them, and seen some pleasing objects, have given and attached themselves to them. For my own part, I have not been able to attach myself to them, and, considering how strongly it appears that there is something else than what I see, I have examined whether this God has not left some sign of Himself.

— Pascal, Pensées

Praised Be Blindness

6 Apr 2017 /
Ignatius of Loyola

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, published in Rome his spiritual exercises. There he wrote this testimony of blind submission:

“Take, Lord, and receive all my freedom, my memory, my understanding, and my will.”

And as if that were not enough:

“To get everything right, I must always believe that what I see as white is black, if the Church hierarchy so determines.”

— Eduardo Galeano, Mirrors

Happy Birthday, Pope Urban VIII

5 Apr 2017 /
Pope Urban VIII

Pope Urban VIII, the most recent pope to use the pontifical name of Urban, was born on this date, April 5, 1568.

He is probably best remembered for his demon-killing exorcisms used to chase from the head of Galileo Galilei the devilish notion that the earth revolved around the sun . . .


Arguments of the Faith

1 Apr 2017 /
Burning of the Heretics (Auto-da-fé)

Burning of the Heretics (Auto-da-fé)

For six centuries and in several countries, the Holy Inquisition punished rebels, heretics, witches, homosexuals, pagans . . .

Many ended up at the stake, sentenced to roast over a slow fire fed with green wood. Many more were subjected to torture. Here are some of the instruments used to extract confessions, modify beliefs, and sow panic:

the barbed collar,
the hanging cage,
the iron gag that stifled unwanted screams,
the saw that cut you slowly in two,
the finger-stretching tourniquet,
the head-flattening tourniquet,
the bone-breaking pendulum,
the seat of pins,
the long needle that perforated the devil’s moles,
the iron claw that shredded flesh,
the pincer and tongs heated to fiery red,
the sarcophagus lined with sharp nails,
the iron bed that extended until arms and legs got pulled out of their sockets,
the whip with a nail or knife a the tip,
the barrel filled with shit,
the shackles, the stocks, the block, the pillory, the gaff,
the ball that swelled and tore the mouths of heretics, the anuses of homosexuals, and the vaginas of Satan’s lovers,
the pincer that ground up the tits of witches and adulterers,
and fire on the feet,
among other weapons of virtue.

— Eduardo Galeano, Mirrors

Defend your right to think. Thinking wrongly is better than not thinking at all. — Hypatia of Alexandria, murdered by a Christian mob in the year 415


The Stick Works Better Than the Carrot

31 Mar 2017 /
A page from Leviticus, in the Samaritan bible

A page from Leviticus, in the Samaritan bible

Six days may work be done; but on the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord; whoever doeth any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death.

— Exodus 31:15

He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall surely stone him.

— Leviticus 24:16

I will send out against you the beasts of the field . . . I will chastise you sevenfold for your sins. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat . . . I will draw out after you the sword; and your land shall be a desolate wild, and your cities shall be a waste.

— Leviticus 26

Fake News?

29 Mar 2017 /
Peter Paul Rubens' painting, Massacre of the Innocents

Peter Paul Rubens’ painting, Massacre of the Innocents

According to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Herod the Great died in the year 4 BCE.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Herod was the ruler of Judea who ordered the Massacre of the Innocents at the time of the birth of Jesus.

Which would mean that Jesus was born at least four years before the birth of Christ . . .


Jesus and Mo: Facts

23 Mar 2017 /

Jesus and Mo: Facts


I’d Like to Believe in the Existence of a Loving God . . .

11 Mar 2017 /
Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglican Church

. . . but I can’t. The quality of evidence is very poor.

Do you believe in ghosts, fortune tellers, psychics, werewolves, vampires, astrology, alien visitations . . .?

I don’t believe in any of those things, but they’re all out there and a lot of people do believe in a lot of things for which the quality of evidence is very poor.

Do you believe that a cow jumped over the moon? I remember reading about it but the quality of evidence is very poor. It seems to be just another made-up story . . .


Another Reason I Don’t Believe in God

9 Dec 2016 /
Thomas Merton

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Catholic writer and Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky.

His inspirational quotes turn up on Facebook and elsewhere. (I saw the above quote on Facebook this week.)

It’s a beautiful quote, I have to say that.

Do you know how Thomas Merton died? If you find Merton inspirational, it may be better not to know how he died.

He was electrocuted by an electric fan. He stepped out of a bath and was electrocuted by a fan.

I can’t help thinking about that when I read quotes like the above.

Dear Lord, I know you will lead me by the right road . . .

— Yep no problem Tom, got you covered.

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZTTTT!

— Oops, watch out for that fan.

I don’t want to ruin it for you if you like Merton . . . but if you believe in this kind of a heavenly arrangement, you’ve got to believe God is one heck of a practical joker.


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