The “Gift” of a Life?

How do you gift a human life?  Someone’s interpretatBible Quranion of the Bible says you can. Read these stories,

Giving my child away because the Bible says I should

Six wives and counting

If there’s an urgency to destroying radical Islam, shouldn’t there be an equal or greater urgency to target fundamental Christians who “gift” a human? Why is it so easy to recognize a twisted interpretation of a Christian doctrine as contrary to most Christian beliefs, but not so when it is within Islam?

Why are we willing to act out of fear and destroy those we do not understand because we see them as broadly representative of an entire religious tradition, yet, when confronted with similar examples of a “Christian” atrocity, we argue it does not represent most Christians.

Where’s the outrage? Where’s the slobbering vitriol to “destroy” these enemies of all that is good?

My issue with religion is the certainty of adherents that their own theology is the correct one and all others are wrong. They hold this secret despite protestations to the contrary. As I am often reminded,

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Those who embrace the fundamental aspects of any religion are equally dangerous in my mind.

One lashes out with bombs strapped to brain-washed adherents who believe they’ve booked a trip to a “Virgin” nirvana.

Another will use cruise missiles or perhaps nuclear weapons to blanketly target 1.5 billion adherents because of the actions of a few.

All in the name of God.

Where’s the “Christianity” in that?

 

Southwestern Thoughts: Pueblos and Rock Music

Traveling through the Southwest, I was intrigued by the changing landscapes. From the flat desert of Phoenix we climbed into the mountains as we drove to Albuquerque.1668896_orig The mountains, steep and rocky, soon gave way to more gently rolling hills now covered with pine trees instead of cactus.

We were at elevations of six to eight thousand feet and the contrasts to the desert couldn’t be starker.

The beauty of this part of the country is breathtaking. The other obvious element of this area is the influence of Mexico. This is a land where the Spanish influenced language, mixed with the cultural heritage of the Mexican people, blended with the Native culture of the Pueblo people exemplifies the best of the multi-cultural melting part that is America.

It occurred to me that calling for a wall between the United States and Mexico would be an insult to the people of this area. These are people who take pride in their culture yet are more American in their attitude than some would admit.

These are a people who accept their differences as a benefit to the country, not something to be lost or blocked off.

There was a time not long ago when the policy of the government, following on the heels of the Spanish efforts, tried to wipe the native culture of the Pueblos from the face of the earth. They forced the children into Indian Schools where they were force-fed Christianity, English, and European history.

They were forbidden to practice their own religion and cultural traditions.

They were forbidden to speak their own language.

They were forced to abandon their history.

This is the land that gave us the “Wind Talkers” of Navajo fame. Whose exploits in the South Pacific against the Japanese are now legendary. Yet, for years it was concealed because to acknowledge it was to give credence to a culture we did not embrace.

The reason for our trip out here was to attend a Mumford and Sons concert. The music was great if a bit loud (I know, my age is showing.) I was struck by the power of the music to inspire the crowd to dance and sing along.

I have never been one for dancing, yet I was a bit envious of those who let themselves be carried away by the songs. Many let themselves just dance away. Many looked quite natural at it. Some, those who haven’t visited a gym or a salad bar in years, looked almost dangerous but hey, they were dancing.

After the concert, we journeyed to Albuquerque and will continue on to Taos and Santa Fe. Here in Albuquerque, we visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. We watched a demonstration of several Native American dances performed by a new generation of Pueblos trying to maintain their cultural heritage.

Many of these dances are performed as part of the Pueblo peoples’ appreciation for the interrelationship of all to the Earth. The animals they hunt, crops they grow, the water they receive as rain are all given due thanks and gratitude.

To the Pueblo, this is their form of devotion to their concept of the creator. Their creation story is no more or less valid than any other. Yet, under the guise of the Christian tradition, we tried to destroy it as a false legend.

It struck me as I watched these young men and women dance, that if people spent less time praying and trying to convince others their beliefs are wrong and more time dancing, be it to a rhythmic chant of an ancient Puebloan rite of harvest or a Mumford and Sons ballad, we’d all be better off.

A Conversation of Differences

It is not often that I stimulate a spark of deep thought and inspiring words in others (and truth be told I must share credit with Philosopher Bertrand Russell for the original thought.) Yet a good friend of mine, Kent Harrop, recently penned a post on his blog I believe was inspired by a Russell quote I sometimes append to my email.

Russell (1872-1970) said, “Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.” This caught Kent’s eye and he decided to put down some thoughts.

Kent wrote (https://greenpreacher.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/is-religion-irrational ),

There’s much that Mr. Russell and I agree upon. But where we part company, is his belief that ‘religion is something left over from the infancy of intelligence’. For me reason and critical thinking need not be contrary to religious life. Even Russell for all his strong views towards religion considered himself an agnostic, ‘in that I cannot disprove the Christian concept of a divine being, just as I cannot disprove the reality of the mythical gods on Mount Olympus.’ Perhaps Mr. Russell has cracked open the door for a conversation.

In this, the fact that it opens a door for a conversation, Kent and I agree.

I consider myself an atheist. I define my atheism as finding no basis for a belief in an anthropomorphic God, or gods, that show an interest in how we behave, what we do with our lives, what we choose to wear or eat, or how we prostrate or otherwise demonstrate our devotion to such a being.

Russell’s quote illustrates the fact that, over the time of our human existence, we have attributed almost all natural phenomena to a divine being at one time or another. Until science and reason took hold.

I think Russell’s quote is more in line with progressive thinkers like Kent than even Kent might realize. The difficult questions we all have beg for answers.

How did we come to be?

What is the meaning of life? (42 is a good start for you Douglas Adams fans)

How did this whole thing get started?

I agree with Russell in that almost all religion is a simplistic attempt to answer an infinitely complex question. I think it fails in this and causes more harm than good.

I think Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), a MD and psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz, found a better answer in his book, “Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning.” Frankl’s research and life experiences showed him there is an innate essence within man for the religious. However, Frankl did not define religiousness as being in anyway associated with the common concept of religion.

Instead. Frankly believed, from his many years of research, that there was an unconscious religiosity within man. One that compels him to seek meaning in life. The many iterations of religion, from the many gods of early man to the monotheistic dominant sects today, are just stepping-stones to finding the true religiousness within us all.

It is not that we will someday become god. It is that we will someday no longer need a symbol, or a template of acceptable practices, or a script to follow to please god and lead an exemplary life. We will find that our innate, unconscious religiosity points us to a full, responsible, and meaningful life.

Let the conversation begin.

I encourage you all to read and follow Kent’s blog, The Green Preacher, (https://greenpreacher.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/is-religion-irrational. His writing is thoughtful, articulate, and compelling. I find his intelligent and persuasive pieces to be wonderful, if inexplicable, reading considering he is a Red Sox fan. Nevertheless, I suppose no one is perfect.