Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Why the Suffering?

August 3, 2013

suffering

This is one of the major complaints I have seen written by atheists or those who have left the faithful.

In his books about the scriptures, Bart Erdman mentions this one thing as the primary reason he fell away from religion.

If God truly loved “His people, His children”, why then would He permit such suffering to continue in the world?

Some writers have answered that this is the realm of Satan and God pretty much lets the Devil have free reign down here.

Others say that this is a testing place and those not strong enough are broken. It is for “testing faith” and so forth.

But what if the Almighty doesn’t see it the same way? What we consider bad, He might be using for some specific purpose?

We know trial and error are the best methods to learn anything… “no pain, no gain”… you hear it all the time.

And how in the world could we ever understand compassion if there was no suffering for us to witness?

I’m not saying any of these may be the reason for the suffering as I am certain there are many factors involved. Far too many for someone with my limited view of the universe to begin to understand.

But I am willing to wait for the understanding to come.

I suppose some people are not that patient.

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a Time of Testing

December 15, 2012

In the aftermath of the tragedy in Connecticut, we have the much anticipated mouthings of those with political leanings about what legislation can be passed to end such events.

And though religion has been removed from school many years ago, I was gratified to hear it was not absent from the scene when the gunfire was erupting. Several of the teachers gathered their children into a corner and prayed over them, even though one said she figured they were going to be killed anyway.

She had not immediately thought of contacting her lawmaker to demand some “proper action” be taken. She behaved as a Christian should have behaved in such a position, turning to God for help. Only God can get a person through such tragedy unscathed, and the bullets are not the only things inflicting wounds in such cases. The media – given their appropriated license to edify – show scenes of the death and panic, soul-searching images that evoke emotion and scar the psyches of us and our children for ages to come.

One news report said the community can never be the same. Why not? The Amish schoolhouse shooting is pretty much forgotten in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We met, by accident, one of the mothers of a child taken in that tragedy. She was holding a new baby, laughing with friends. She has moved on from the tragedy, like Christians are supposed to do.

Why would the Connecticut community not be able to do the same?

Perhaps God should be allowed back into the schools, back into the community, and back into the daily lives of all Americans. When we turn to Man (i.e. Congress) in times of trouble, we cannot find any lasting solace.

As a Christian nation, shouldn’t we start behaving more like Christians?

Forgive… and move on with our lives, in faith.


a Little Clarity

May 10, 2012

Today, the newswires are abuzz with Obama’s changed stance on “gay marriage”. Mitt Romney is feeling pretty good about it and is confident that the die-hard religious right will now put him in the White House.

Oh, yes, let’s give it up for the religious fundamentalists in this country. Just like the religious fundamentalists of another major religion (i.e. Muslim, in case you did not make the connection), our home grown version would like to create a theocracy in America based on their narrow interpretations of Holy Writ.

They proclaim loudly that such abomination is spurned by the Almighty!

Sure, but didn’t He also say that He was the final judge and jury, not us. And didn’t someone else in scripture talk about casting the first stone? And wasn’t there a little message somewhere about not killing anyone? Sorry, I must be a little confused because I know how ardently the “religious right” supports our troops and reveled in the judicial murder of Osama Bin Laden.

Funny. I don’t see any form of Christian-ness in that mix.

This morning, I heard a couple of comments on the radio by Pastor Chuck Swindoll. He was talking about legalisms and how many people bandied such things about to somehow salve their own wounded egos. Legalities are a way to enforce our beliefs on others – quite the wrong venue for such things – and force them into what we expect people should be like.

Only in such a supposedly “Christian” nation would such a vast number of people try to force conformity on what God hath wrought.

Yes, He made each of us different.

And it was not so half the population could force the other half to conform to their concept of normality. Perhaps if we dig a little deeper we might begin to understand why we are each so very different.

And through such understanding we might actually learn to grow a little closer to the Creator.

Yes, just like Jesus told us to do.

a Word on My View of Religion(s)

January 18, 2012

I really don’t think many people have taken the path I have journeyed.

There are some, I am certain, but not many I am sure.

Mother was a Baptist preacher’s kid, Dad was an atheist.

That was a strange beginning, for sure, but it got even more bizarre.

Dad was a scientist working for NASA – and you know how prevalent atheism is among that crowd… scientists, I mean – but then Dad got involved in the paranormal and psychic research.

Eventually he became religious but it was a very backdoor sort of method, and he wound up being a Buddhist.

My path went a little different. Sure, I had the very scientific upbringing but I did not go into any of the hard sciences. I started down the road to nuclear physics but wound up in history. Quite a change!

And history is a fascinating subject. Not merely the names and dates of the cursory overview you get in public education, but the in-depth look of how ancients people lived and thought – as much as we can figure that out. And also the history of science.

One area I differed from others in that field was that I assumed the ancients were very much like we are, working toward survival just like everyone today.

And the one constant throughout history is religion.

Many have called prostitution the world’s oldest profession. I think, if anything, it would be the second oldest, priest being the oldest profession.

Our need to understand what is beyond our immediate experience has always been vital to man… especially so the realm beyond life.

And much of the history of the race has been our struggle to come to grips with this one concept.

In my researches, I have come across hundreds of varying religious systems throughout the history of the planet. I suppose it would be easy for a historian to simply write off all such as a cultural necessity for the race and find no meaning in it. Still, there seem to be less atheists in the historical fields than in the sciences.

But in the broad sweep of history there are threads that bind the race together from those earliest times to today.

The concepts we hold on life, death, and the Divine have been in play for much longer than Christianity or even Judaism has been around.

The overall picture showed me that there was something behind all this struggle. Underlying themes kept repeating, patterns reiterated.

And, I suppose with the same wonder Pythagoras noticed in natural geometric shapes, Newton pondered in the motions of the spheres, and Bach marveled over in the harmonics of sound, I began to see the hand of the Almighty at play. The repeating patterns could have been a mere coincidence or a mysterious quirk of our race, but appeared to be something more infinitely attuned to the universe around us.

For years I called myself atheist, or agnostic, or indifferent.

Now I have come to know the Almighty. And like Bach, and Pythagoras, and Newton, among many others, I can see the patterns of the Divine Hand in everything around us.

It has been an interesting journey. And that’s probably why my take is so very different than many others.

This does not make my version right for you, but its the version or path that worked for me.

We all come to the Almighty in different ways, none any “better” than the other. Perhaps that is why we were all created to be different.

the Miracles of Jesus

January 15, 2012

Many authors have tried to explain the how and why of the miracles performed by Jesus. And by that I mean, translating them into “believable” scientific explanations… as if “miracles” require any sort of basis in our sciences.

Laurence Gardner explains the walking on water as nothing more than a plank they normally used to baptize people on; when Peter walked on it later he did not know its course and slipped off it. Funny, that someone would not already be familiar with such a local custom, if such it was, and slip off the darned thing.

Raising Lazarus from the dead was nothing more than an initiation into some sort of Mithraic cult (raised on the third day like JC was later, mirroring the cult thing… although why JC would need such initiating is never explained). True there was a strong following of this cult throughout the Roman Empire at the time and later and perhaps its inclusion somehow resonated with the Roman audience, but I really don’t see how the Cult of Mithras would get conflated with this story.

And several writers have mentioned that the feeding of the multitude (or multitudes, if you include the second such event) was nothing more than feeding them intellectually, filling them spiritually. It had nothing to do with fishes or loaves. (Although why would they be able to pick up more after the event than the original fishes and loaves?)

Okay, whatever.

Perhaps some of the miracles could have been metaphor or even sleight-of-hand in a way to get people’s attention or the use as a learning aid.

Maybe.

But, if such was the case, why would He bother saying “These things I can do, you can do and greater”? [John 14:12] If He had engaged in nothing more than semantic posing, ancient sleight-of-hand, and metaphorical mind-games, what were we supposed to be able to do “greater than”… nothing!?

So, what we have boils down to this: if they were actual miracles, as the book says, then they do not require any “scientific” explanation whatsoever. If you think they do require some sort of verifiability from an outside source, then you are probably not ready for taking the “leap of faith”.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, God created atheists as well. And I don’t think He created them so the religious would have someone to argue with or try to convert. His ways may be mysterious but some of His actions are very transparent, and that is one of them.

And, of course, I will touch on the subject of atheism again. It is territory I am completely familiar with.

What You Don’t Know About Atheists

January 11, 2012

Most people think atheists are simply people who do not believe in God.

They are not people who don’t believe in one god or another, as most people in one religion look down upon the gods in other religions… sort of a “our god is better than your god” attitude.

No, atheists no not believe in any deity whatsoever. They believe that the world is nothing more than the mechanical, physical existence we see around us. To them, there is no more. What they see is what they got.

But, as in any other sort of theism, there are shades and degrees of atheists.

No foolin’!

My father called himself an atheist for years, then changed it to “agnostic”, and finally called himself a Buddhist before he left this Earthly realm.

I wavered between agnostic and atheist for years. My eldest son went from Gnostic to atheist to pagan to shamanic back to atheist. My youngest son wavers between deist and atheist.

A recent study was done and found that “atheists” knew more about the Bible than Christians. The radio host who announced this little tidbit added that it was because the atheists knew more so they could argue the points with the Christians.

Ah, if the answer we only that simple, that self-gratifying to the Christian thinkers. Unfortunately, as usual, it is not all about them.

The reality is that it is so much easier for some people, seeking truth on a level they can understand, to simply announce themselves as “atheists” so they cannot be corralled into a single way of thinking. They are still looking for the answer. That is why so many are well versed in the Bible: they are still searching.

Christians are already comfortable with what they have found and feel no need to study the Bible. Some read it, as a matter of course, but most are familiar with the stories and tales they get from Sunday School or the weekly sermon. They already “get” it and do not have to try and understand the scriptures… or the lines between the lines of scripture.

The majority of atheists I have met are in this transient phase of atheism. Many will stay there perhaps for the rest of their lives, still seeking an answer. Many more will find an answer that satisfies and will move from the ranks of the godless.

So, when you encounter someone who calls themselves an “atheist”, please remember that for most it is a temporary address only. Allow them the time to find God in their own way, in a manner that answers their own particular needs.

Trying to sell your particular brand of faith is not something they will be able to respond to very well. As with most searchers, they probably know infinitely more about the facts and figures of your religion than you.

Simply allow them their search and allow them the means to come to God in their own way, their own time, if such should happen, as they say, in God’s own time.

After all, the Almighty created us different. And do you think He did that as an oversight or as some horrible mistake? Or a cruel joke allowing some to easily find faith and others who would struggle with the concept?

No, I believe it is a lesson for each of us to learn. There is more than one way to skin a cat and more than one path to finding God.

To the faithful, it is an easy answer: faith. To the ones who question everything, the path is harder to find – all the paths in our religious world seem to be marked for those who can find the faith so easily. Perhaps if we opened a method for the other sort of people to understand the Divine, their journey would be easier as well.

But that would require the faithful to stretch themselves a little.

To those who have had such an easy journey, perhaps you could do some of the work rather than simply lament over the lost sheep or by calling them names? If God created atheists – or people prone to that sort of thing – it might have been put there as a problem to solve for those who so easily grasp faith.

Something to solve, rather than gripe about. You could simply call them those “shallow-minded” people as one popular Christian song labels them, or you could put your mind to doing some charitable works instead, and something that might actually stretch you.

I’m not trying to be judgmental on this topic but it seems name-calling and turning your back is not the solution to the question.

Is that what Jesus would have done?

Bless His Soul

January 7, 2012

Atheism is probably the fastest growing segment in the religious groups in America.

This could be because of the growth of technology or it could be the greater concentration of people in cities. Either way, it has many proponents in many walks of life.

Christopher Hitchens was one of those and quite vocal about his proud atheism until his death last week at age 62 of cancer. Many of his critics thought he would “find religion” before the end but he remained in the same mental framework to the end.

One has to commend him for his perseverance.

But, what about his atheism? He summed it all quite humorously in his volume God is Not Great. It is a stinging diatribe against practically all religions in the world, throughout history. Though many scholars can point out the errors in his arguments and his conclusions, I think everyone involved – including the late Mister Hitchens, as well – missed a rather vital point in his argument.

His premise was that God is not great but all he was able to show is that Man is not great, religion is confusing – to say the least – and that many throughout history have gone quite wide of the mark in the name of the Almighty.

What he failed to show in any of it was that God lacks greatness. It is easy to show that Man is flawed – an historically simple no-brainer – or that religion, any religion, is built on falsehoods perpetrated by Man, again, or interpretations that can be shown to be slightly shoddy in construction.

However, none of that reflects on God.

Mister Hitchens seems to have plenty of bile stored up from the interactions he has had during his life with various religious folk but he seemed to have somehow forgotten that they – like himself – were simply people with their own particular hang-pus and outlooks and interpretations for what they see going on around them. We each have our own interpretations of the universe and, though from inside our own head, it may seem like THE correct view, we should always remember that the view from another’s eyes may be completely different.

So Hitchens was able to show that religions built by Man are not great – but what built by Man can possibly stand beside any of the truly awe-inspiring Divine grandeur around us? – and are flawed in fashions typical of humans.

Naturally, critics found it rather easy to rip apart Hitchens arguments. One not familiar with the scholarly debates going on in religious circles would not understand the finer points. What Hitchens considered a slam-dunk was more of a rim shot that fell outside the net.

But he at least did it with a lot of humor.

Religion is Personal

May 18, 2010

Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time realizes that I am not spreading the usual Christian message, nor am I spreading a message slanted toward the Muslim or Hindu beliefs. In fact I follow none of the major religions – nor the minor ones, I think.

But neither am I knocking any religion either, past, present, or future religion. I think all the faiths I have seen are all worshipping the same God – by whatever name they use – as there can only be one creator of the universe. We all have to come to Him in a manner suited to our character… you know, the way He made us. And He made us all different for a reason. If He intended we should all be of one color, one creed, one anything He certainly would have made us with a lot less diversity.

So stand in the glory of whichever course you have chosen for your sojourn back to the Almighty as the proper course for you. Please don’t assume everyone else needs to walk your same path. Proselytism can be very annoying to many.

Still, I understand the magic and wonder when you have found something really great. You want to share it with the world – and especially your friends – and help everyone else get on the glory train to salvation. Someone has probably told you that one train is the only one going to glory and you want to make sure those close to you get saved as well. Or perhaps you have taken on the task of saving the world.

More power to you, but that won’t work. I have two millennia of Catholic history to prove that answer is exactly the wrong one.

Not everyone is created in the same mold and in religious or spiritual matters one size will not fit all. If there is a church or gathering that speaks directly to you, join by all means. But allow the rest of us to find our own group of like-thinking searchers.

Religion is, like the connection only you can make for you with the Almighty, a very personal thing.

How Can Gnostics Know God?

May 3, 2010

I have heard it said that you can only truly know God through faith. It’s a nice thought, but that is only one opinion.

Many people think you cannot understand God analytically. If you were inclined in that way, you’d be too scientific and, therefore, out of touch with the more spiritual matters.

But, as I have mentioned before, some of the greatest mathematical minds of the past (notably Pythagoras and Isaac Newton) were in search of the Almighty through the best tool at their disposal: their mind.

You see, some people have a different mindset than the usual religious crowd. Perhaps they were all like those from Missouri, the “show me” state. They have to be able to understand something to comprehend it. So they have to be able to come to the Almighty in that fashion. Faith just won’t do anything for them.

Like those two math giants of the past, one can come to a closer understanding of God through analyzing His works. Just like an author follows a certain pattern of language usage in their books, the Creator left His traces in all His Creations. Gnostics can come to see the Hand of God in His works by analysis and contemplation. Each person has to come to their own path of understanding and some take many years to make the connections – I know because I was one of the slow learners.

Once the patterns have been revealed to the searcher they can have as deep and as satisfying a religious experience as any of the faithful.

Fortunately, most people are able to simply exercise their faith on the matter.

Atheism

April 28, 2010

Both of my sons have claimed to be atheists, but on closer examination, they are not… quite. They both merely have some objections to religion that prevent them from admitting the existence of a God.

The elder son rants a lot about people trying to shove their religion down his throat. Hey, but it’s hard for anyone to find something really great without wanting to share it with everyone else. That’s human nature and it’s a good thing to want to share in their joy. But it is a turn-off for a lot of other people.

Another objection he has is that most people have not read the Bible they profess to believe as the unvarnished “word of God”. This is, unfortunately, too true. Most people only know certain parts of the book and are completely unaware what the rest of the volume talks about. [This has been discussed in an earlier entry – “Reading Scripture”]

The younger son complains that you cannot prove the existence of God one way or the other so the whole issue is moot. I don’t know if he expects it to be something blatantly obvious – though it seems patently obvious to a lot of people – but he just has not found the signs that point him in the right direction yet.

I was there before, so I understand what they are going through. When you are not on the same wavelength as the religions you see around you, you think there’s no God. And you might start looking for the answers in science or math or data of some sort. That’s good… at least you are still looking! As long as you are looking, you will probably find some answers.

All too many people have quit looking, so firm are they in their belief that there really is no God. And that’s fine too. If God had intended we all find Him so quickly or in the same fashion, He probably would have given us similar brains, but He did not.

We need to respect the differences – even the atheism – as it is all part of God’s creation. I am not going to say that I understand what His design is and start forcing my opinion on others. I am not privy to His plans, not even those for me.

So don’t knock atheists. Some of them do come around.

I did.