EppsNet Archive: Religion

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.


Praying for Sleeping Bags

23 Oct 2016 /
Praying to the Madonna of the Rosary, by Carav...

Praying to the Madonna of the Rosary, by Caravaggio, 1606-1607

I was having a conversation with someone last night about the efficacy of prayer . . .

“Prayers are always answered,” I was informed, “but sometimes the answer is no, or not right now.”

What’s the point of the prayer if God is going to do whatever he wants to do anyway? Your results would be just as good if you offered prayers to me. Some of your prayers would be answered and some wouldn’t.

Has anyone done a study on this? A control group wants things but doesn’t pray for them, a second group prays to God for what they want, and a third group prays to a random entity — me, or maybe a shopping cart.

Would there be any difference in results between the groups? I’m going to say no.

It’s also hard to assess the efficacy of prayer because people never pray for anything tangible . . .

My son as a kid went on a camping trip with a church group where they wound up short of sleeping bags. I asked him did the church leaders pray for more sleeping bags and he said no.

People will pray for so-and-so to recover from brain surgery but they won’t pray for more sleeping bags.

The brain surgery patient being prayed for is going to recover or not. If not, that gets filed under “sometimes the answer is no.”

But everyone knows damn well that praying for more sleeping bags is not going to work.


God Bless Us, Every One

16 Oct 2016 /
Daniel's Prayer

I saw a Facebook status update this weekend asking for prayers for anyone with family problems, health struggles, job issues or worries of any kind who just need to know that someone cares.

The deal is that you have to copy and paste the status to your own Facebook page.

Full disclosure: I don’t believe in God or prayer, although I do believe that a lot of people need to know that someone cares about them.

That being said, depending on how lost I feel at any given time, I’m willing to try things even though I’m pretty certain that they’re not going to work. But I have not tried prayer.

Why would I need to post something on Facebook to indicate that I prayed for you? Because prayer is not a real thing that’s going to produce a tangible result in the world. So you have to tell people that you did it, otherwise they would never know.

Also, if you believe in God, don’t you believe that God is in control of things being the way they are? If you have struggles, as we all do, do you believe that the struggles were given to you by God? If I leave a sack of flaming dog shit on your porch, do you think I’m going to come over and stomp it out for you?

Do you believe that God says to himself, “I’m going to hit this person with a series of devastating blows, but if he asks me to ease up a little, I will”?

It seems perverse to me.


Shut Up About Free Speech

16 Oct 2016 /

Jesus and Mo


Shake it Off (aka Haters Gonna Hate)

6 Oct 2016 /

A Chinese woman tells me that being around white guys inhibits her ability to make edgy (i.e., racist) comments about white guys . . .

I reply, “White guys didn’t get to be what we are by peeing in our pants and crying for our mamas every time someone calls us a name. Haters gonna hate. That has been amply demonstrated. We’re just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake it off.”

 

Some people are offended by absolutely everything, some people are offended by nothing, and everyone else is somewhere in between.

The people at the easily offended end of the spectrum get most of the attention. People who hear a trigger word or a dog whistle that wouldn’t bother a normal person and they’re bleeding out all over the place like hemophiliacs. That’s where most of the focus is, it seems to me. It’s a distorted view of reality.

My son went to college at Berkeley. I’ve been there a lot and I can tell you that if 100 people are blocking Sather Gate to protest a microaggression, when you watch the news that night, you see the 100 people, as though that’s the totality of what was happening.

If you weren’t there, you might think “Wow, the whole campus is in an uproar!” but what you don’t see are 25,000 other people ignoring the 100 protestors, going to class and trying to get on with their day.

If you weren’t there, what you see is not really what was happening.

Sather Gate protest

 

Ten years ago, my son’s junior high school had a co-ed pickleball tournament. The results were posted on the school web site. If a team name contained any sort of cultural reference, the P.E. teacher in charge of the tournament wouldn’t put the name on the web site without deliberately misspelling some of the words.

For example, 3 White Guys and a Hindu became 3 Wite Gus and a Hidu, because identifying someone as white, male or Hindu would be unacceptable.

The team name 3 Blondes and a Brunette came through untouched for some reason. Why people allowed to self-identify as white girls (i.e., blondes), but not as white guys or Hindus I don’t know.

The weirdest one to me was 4 Asians and an Idiot, which came out as 4 Ans and an Idiot.

I asked my son, “Who’s the idiot?”

“Some white guy,” he said.

“Why is it okay to call someone an idiot but not an Asian?”

“It’s not racial.”

True . . . there are idiots of all races.

 

Those kids are all in their early 20s now. They’re just coming into the real world, the next generation, and I’m optimistic about the fact that despite schools and others telling them that they should be offended by absolutely everything, they’re not offended by anything.

They have a sense of perspective, a sense of humor, and I think they’re going to be okay.


One Thing I Can’t Tolerate is Intolerance: BYU Edition

9 Aug 2016 /

LGBT values

What values are we talking about? Tolerance for sexual preferences? What about tolerance for religious beliefs? You want tolerance for what makes you different but you’re not willing to extend tolerance to what makes others different? That’s not tolerance. There’s a word for what that is, and it’s not tolerance.

What about inclusiveness? Is inclusiveness a good value? Should the Big 12 exclude BYU to promote inclusiveness? That’s not inclusiveness.


Bad Religion

9 Aug 2016 /

If it brings me to my knees
It’s a bad religion.

— Frank Ocean

When Was That? I Missed It.

7 Aug 2016 /

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

— Romans 8:28

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