Freedom of Speech*(*Conditional, of course)

In Muslim culture, they greet one another in this way.

 “As-salaam Alaykum,” meaning “Peace be upon you” and answered by “wa ʿalaykumu s-salām” meaning “and peace be upon you too.” (Apologies if I got the spelling wrong)

What’s wrong with that? Almost sounds Christian.

In the America of today, using such a greeting might prompt a visit from the FBI when your fellow Americans suspect you of being a terrorist. We fear the unfamiliar despite our claims of embracing all colors, creeds, and cultures.

Freedom is relative in America these days. While most Americans support Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion, many attach a condition to these cherished rights.

Look to the headlines and the evidence of conditional toleration is everywhere.

Opinion pieces are rife regarding the newest members of Congress, Muslims. Where is the religious toleration and why is their religion significant? I mean what could happen next, Atheists? Religious toleration only goes so far, we tolerate Christian faiths, perhaps even Jews-but not too many, you know what happens when they take over-but Muslims? There goes the neighborhood.

We can’t have it.

Freedom of religion, as enshrined in the Constitution, is unambiguous. The 4000 plus religions in the world are free to practice their faith as long as they harm no one or refuse to tolerate the different religious practices of others.

Simple, right? It would seem not. Intermixed with Freedom of Religion, which includes Freedom from Religion, is Freedom of Speech.

Once again there is a difference between what we say, or point to in the Constitution, and what we practice in our daily lives. Professional athletes take a knee to highlight persisting racism within this county and we rebuke, threaten, and call them un-American.

What is more American than taking a stand to right a wrong? What is more emblematic of American courage than to stand against evil? But even if you disagree with their method, which I found ineffectual, you must support their right to such expression.

If you argue that everyone must stand for the National Anthem out of some sense of respect for the hard-fought freedoms most of us enjoy, you’ve missed the point.

Being a product of the 60s, I lived through the years of violent antiwar protests, antigovernment upheavals, and civil rights riots. My parents’ generation looked on those protesters as un-American. Yet President Lyndon Johnson saw the need for sweeping civil rights legislation, the Great Society, to right many wrongs highlighted by the protests.

Despite Dr. Martin Luther King’s plea for nonviolence, decades of rage over racial disparity coupled with an ill-conceived and unnecessary war in Viet Nam drove the country to the boiling point.

Yet we survived.

Today, conditional toleration threatens Freedom of Speech. We need zealously guard free expression, even when we find ourselves in complete disagreement with the message.

Think about this for a moment. During the war in Viet Nam, many considered antiwar protesters to be anti-American. If that’s the case, then to be pro-American is to be Pro-War? Such sentiments carried over to the endless conflict in Iraq.

I find that opposing war is un-American to be false on its face. Americans should fight only when necessary and vigorously oppose policies to the contrary. Had such a philosophy existed in 1954, when American military advisers first went to South Viet Nam, 56,000 more Americans might be enjoying their freedoms.

To be American is to hold a wide variety of political, religious, and cultural perspectives. To be American is to accept differences in others and work together for the benefit of all.

If we want to set standards for the religion or speech we will tolerate, it is a slippery slope to losing our freedoms.

Look to the headlines and the evidence of conditional tolerance is everywhere.

Opinion pieces are rife with references to the newest members of Congress, Muslims. Where is the religious tolerance and why is their religion significant? I mean what could happen next, Atheists? Religious tolerance only goes so far, we tolerate Christian faiths, perhaps even Jews-but not too many, you know what happens when they take over-but Muslims? There goes the neighborhood.

We just can’t have it.

Freedom of religion, as enshrined in the Constitution, is clear and unambiguous. The 4000 plus religions in the world are free to practice their faith as long as they harm no one or refuse to tolerate the different religious practices of others.

Simple, right? It would seem not. Intermixed with Freedom of Religion, which includes Freedom from Religion, is Freedom of Speech.

Once again there is a difference between what we say, or point to in the Constitution, and what we practice in our daily lives. Professional athletes take a knee to highlight the persistence of racism within this county and they are castigated, threatened, and called un-American.

What could be more American than to take a stand to right a wrong? What could be more emblematic of American courage than to stand against evil? But even if you disagree with their method, which truth be told I found useless and ineffective, you must support their right to such expression.

If you argue that everyone must stand for the National Anthem out of some sense of respect for the hard-fought freedoms most of us enjoy, you’ve missed the point.

Being a product of the 60s, I lived through the years of violent anti-war protests, anti-government upheavals, and civil rights riots. My parents’ generation looked on those protesters as un-American. Yet President Lyndon Johnson saw the need for sweeping civil rights legislation, the Great Society, to right many wrongs highlighted by the protests.

Despite Dr. Martin Luther King’s plea for non-violence, decades of rage over racial disparity coupled with an ill-conceived and unnecessary war in Viet Nam drove the country to the boiling point.

Yet we survived.

Today, Freedom of Speech is threatened by conditional tolerance. We need zealously guard free expression, even when we find ourselves in complete disagreement with the message.

Think about this for a moment. During the war in Viet Nam, anti-war protesters were considered anti-American. If that’s the case, then to be pro-American is to be Pro-War? Such sentiments carried over to the ongoing conflict in Iraq.

I find the idea that opposing war is un-American to be false on its face. Americans should fight only when necessary and vigorously oppose policies to the contrary. Had such a philosophy existed in 1954, when American military advisors first went to South Viet Nam, 56,000 more Americans might be enjoying their freedoms.

To be American is to hold a wide variety of political, religious, and cultural perspectives. To be American is to tolerate and appreciate the differences others may have and to work together to bring the best of these to the benefit of all.

If we want to set standards for the religion or speech we will tolerate, it is a slippery slope to losing our freedoms.

In the Arabic world, the majority of which is Muslim, they greet each other in this way.

“As-salaam Alaykum,” meaning “Peace be upon you” and answered by “wa ʿalaykumu s-salām” meaning “and peace be upon you too.” (apologies if I got the spelling wrong)

What’s wrong with that? Almost sounds Christian.

But I Thought This Was a Christian Nation?

(Reposted from October 2016. One of the candidates referred to has now become President, the other is just a convenient dead horse her opponents like to beat.  The issues I pointed out back then have not just come to pass, they have grown and expanded.)

So once again I ask, But I thought this was a Christian nation?

Reagan

If this is indeed a Christian nation, wouldn’t that imply we have God on our side? Aren’t those words an inference of our superiority because of this religious faith?

Yet, upon examination, what do we find?

Politicians spend their time and taxpayer money trying to control panhandling by the homeless. They spend no time finding solutions to the underlying problem.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We consider the poor to be the problem rather than a symptom of the problem.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

Candidates propose closing borders.  They would expel innocent children because their parents sought a better life here. They support blocking entry based on religion or place of birth.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

Admittedly, I am not up to date on the latest Catholic Christian doctrine. But, as best I understood it, marriage was for better or worse. Created by God and not for man to put asunder. One candidate has tried three times and another stayed in one marriage. Yet, for many, the choice is clear.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

Is not the saying, “Judge not lest ye be judged?”, part of this Christian philosophy?

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We talk of destroying a civilization based on differences and misunderstandings. We would kill others since they worship a different God.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

Many would embrace the call for a new crusade. Echoing the words of Pope Urban in calling for the first crusade;

O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ!

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We consider the assassination of a candidate as a viable solution to political differences.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We are among an exclusive group of nations. China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, North Korea, and the USA that all practice executions.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We are number two in the world in incarceration rates. (Behind the Seychelles of all places?)

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We are 37th in health care for our people according to the World Health Organization. (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates take better care of their people.)

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We are 29th in education in the world. Vietnam has a higher rated educational system.

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

We scream and yell that we are number one in the world. The best country in the world. Our enemies hate us because of our freedom. It is our Christian traditions that have made us what we are.

Is it?

Perhaps the end of times will come at our own hands. We may choose to launch our nuclear weapons against those with whom we disagree. After all, why have the weapons if you’re not going to use them?

But I thought this was a Christian nation?

Turns out, I may be right. I’m just not sure how it has helped us.

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?

 

Shakespeare’s God and Ghost

Whenever I write something that challenges (or perhaps outright denies the validity of) religious beliefs, I am often reminded by one of my favorite teachers from years ago (apologies Mr. Walsh) of this quote from Hamlet by William Shakespeare (Act 1, Scene 5)

william-shakespeare-194895-1-402

HORATIO
    O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
HAMLET
    And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

This quote is often used to counter such arguments by implying there are things we don’t, and perhaps cannot, know for certain.

The existence of an omnipotent god being the big one.

I would argue the opposite. The quote comes when Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet. He denies what is right in front of him. Hamlet’s line is as much a criticism of the limitations of our beliefs as an argument that we can’t know everything.

I would suggest that Hamlet is pointing out that, in the presence of new information, long-standing beliefs change.

In Shakespeare’s time, the Copernican theory of a heliocentric solar system was still being met with death by fire at the hands of the Catholic Church. Today, we have found over 3000 extra-solar planets orbiting other stars.

Galileo, a contemporary of Shakespeare, was under house arrest for confirming the Copernican theory. Today, only the lunatic fringe cling to such ideas of an earth-centered universe.

Isaac Newton, born shortly after Shakespeare’s death, began developing Newtonian physics that held sway until the introduction of Quantum physics. Even those who study such things have barely scratched the surface of the strange world of quantum entanglements. Einstein’s characterization of “spooky actions at a distance’ now is accepted a fact.

My point being that much of the most dominant religious dogmas, Judaic, Christian, and Islamic, have their roots in times of limited scientific knowledge with widespread misunderstanding of natural phenomenon.

A first grader today has a more in-depth understanding of the reality of the physical world than the most educated Roman or Greek or Islamic intellectual at the time of the founding of these religions.

Professor Tom Nichols of the Naval War College writes in his book, “The Death of Expertise” about the demise of our ability to question things and seek knowledge. We have lost our ability to think critically. We’ve been “Googled” into relinquishing analysis and discourse.

He writes, “The United States is now a country obsessed with the worship of its own ignorance,” He laments that many Americans are “proud of not knowing things. Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue.”

The idea that most Americans believe in Angels is astounding. They may argue that something inexplicable must have been an Angelic intervention but it doesn’t establish that as fact. All it does is illustrate that there are some things we do not yet understand.

Yet being the important word in that sentence.

I do not claim to have the answers, no one can. But I think history teaches us with each passing moment long-held beliefs based on faith alone have fallen to the inevitable progress of human inquiry.

By falling back on Shakespeare’s quote as a means of saying we must accept things because we can’t explain them or disprove them flies in the face of the progress of knowledge.

In Shakespeare’s time, there was disagreement at the point of a lighted torch on whether the earth circled the sun. Some four hundred years later, a man stood on the moon. Over the next decade, man will stand on Mars.

Not that science alone can offer all the answers, but the scientific method does offer a roadmap of how to get there. By questioning hypothesis, by repeating experiments, by continually adding to the sum of human knowledge we will grow our rationality.

All one need do is look around at the world today to see the risk of faith-based politics. Those who subscribe to mystical messages from unseen gods as a guide to managing human affairs are as much a threat as a terrorist bomb. Not one of the “inspired word of god” texts leaves out some cataclysmic end to the world with the saving of the faithful and the utter destruction of the unbelievers. Ever wonder why such blind faith is so important to an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being?

If you believe in hell and the promise of everlasting torment for those who are not “bathed in the blood,” or any other such dogma that is a true threat to the peaceful existence of humanity.

By thinking, we grow. “Cogito ergo sum” I think, therefore I am. The more we think and learn and investigate, the better we will live.

And that is why, despite Hamlet’s words, I question and doubt.

Our Father, who art in heaven, what the hell are you thinking?

The establishment clause of the church-and-stateConstitution is clear,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The interpretations provide the government, and the governed, a clear path to follow. The Government has no place in supporting or subverting religious practices. Nor acting against those who chose to hold no religious faith.

I, as many of you know, am of the latter category. My progression from Catholicism to Doubt (or cynic in the tradition of Diogenes and Epicurus) makes me particularly sensitive to governmental line crossing.

When I watched the Trump rally in Florida, I was taken aback by the First Lady’s recitation of a Christian prayer. One may argue that being a political rally, President Trump can conduct this in any manner he chooses.

I disagree.

There is no such thing as a “time-out” from being President. Wherever, whenever Mr. Trump is, he is the President. He need conduct himself as such.

What’s the big deal, you may ask?

Imagine the reaction if Melania read a Sura from the Koran? The Christian conservatives would lose their minds. It would illustrate the double standard in evidence here.

A “Christian” prayer is a harmless invocation recognizing the importance of religion to most Americans. A recitation of a Sura, I dare say, would be taken as an insult.

Make no mistake about it. The recent ban on entry to the United States is a direct attack on a specific religion. Something clearly prohibited by the constitution.

Many are quick to wrap their guns in the Second Amendment as being inviolate and clear in its intent. Yet find it convenient to parse the language of the Establishment clause.

This is not a debate on the validity of any religion. I’ll save that for another time. My point is to illustrate the disingenuous nature of this administration. Trump plays to the lowest common denominator of emotion. He sees most Americans are Christians as a justification for ignoring the constitution. He plays to their fears and lack of understanding of those of different faiths.

That many Americans applaud and support such tactics is frightening. We cannot let this stand.

The President must be the calm and sober one, containing the raw emotions of nationalism and fear not feeding them. They must play the part of the adult in the room. I fear this one never will.

America’s Long Walk on a Short Pier

The America I know, the one that once served as a bright shining beacon to the world, is changing. Our headlong panic rush to insulate, rather than defend, ourselves from those that would do us harm is disheartening.

Talk of building walls, denying entry based on religion or origin, craving a national policy of carpet bombing without regard to innocents is not a solution. It is the easy way out. That is not America.

We are on a very long walk on a short pier.305880-pier

America was once the country who built piers to welcome those who seek the American dream. We stood greeting those looking for a better life. Yet now, because it is so easy to focus on those who misuse our welcome, we are throwing it all away.

When did we become so afraid of standing up for what is right, that we are willing to bury our head in the sand?

We bought into this ‘I’m being bullied nonsense’ and cry to our mommies. I know this may offend some people but you don’t run from bullies, or try to legislate them out of existence. You stand up to them.

It’s the only way to solve the problem. Time to recapture our pride and dignity.

Now, we are faced with a Presidential election. The campaign is a bunch of meaningless drivel, hurled by both sides, that offers no real solution, no intelligent analysis of the problem, and no real hope for change.

We are better than that. We deserve better than that. And yet, most of us just follow along like blind sheep lured by the aroma of fresh feed right into the slaughter house.

Instead of doing the hard work of identifying those who would misuse welfare, we punish the entire program.

Instead of doing the difficult task of bringing the fight to the enemy, we embrace politicians with no idea of the rules of engagement who see carpet bombing as a solution to end a philosophy. Innocent casualties be damned.

Instead of making the effort to understand the complex problems facing us, we engage in screaming matches that do nothing.

Instead of focusing on the logjam that is Congress, we scream and yell about useless Congressional hearings and speeches that capitalize on our ignorance.

Instead of embracing education, we dilute the standards then blame teachers for the results. Johnny can’t read and we do not care.

But there is still time.

There is time to remember that Congress holds the purse strings of America, not the President, and understand who holds the purse strings of Congress.

There is time to return to an America where holding public office meant doing public service not keeping it for life.

There is time, but it, like the end of the pier, is growing short.

I have noticed a troubling trend among the tattooed generation of Americans. I am noticing more and more individuals sporting a barcode tattoo on the back of their necks.

If we are not vigilant. If we do not wean ourselves away from chasing Pokémon. If we do not think instead of remaining mindlessly enslaved to our cell phones.

If we do not realize that we have stopped adding to the pier that is the American dream but continue to walk at our current pace, we will find ourselves at the end.

Those sporting this barcode tattoo may be a foreshadow of the American future.

Where once each new generation represented an addition to the treasure of America, our people, they may be reduced to nothing but inventory from a failed dream.

Think before we walk into oblivion.

Insights from 60 Revolutions of the Sun

In my now sixty complete revolutions of the sun, I am struck by how much the world has changed and how little people have progressed.

We are a single race. The human race. Yet, one is hard-pressed to find examples of this.

We live at a time when access to information is at an all-time high and rationality at a depressing low. Instead of recognizing our differences as nothing more than window dressing, we isolate ourselves with those we share those shallow aspects and separate ourselves from those we see as different.

Why is it we fill our hearts with the irrationality of prejudice, the willful ignorance of others, instead of embracing the commonality of our nature?

Tolerance is something we demand for ourselves and deny to others. The surface differences that comprise such a small percentage of our being cloud the overwhelming similarities.

At a time when it would seem the very survival of our common race is at hand, we focus on promoting our differences instead of joining together to insure our survival.

The faiths of the world publicly espouse their common goal yet continue to teach the doctrines of difference.

Politicians play to the lowest common denominator of fear to further than own careers no matter the cost.

We resort to violence as a solution rather than recognizing violence is at the root of the issue. Violence is the tool to protect differences not people . What we need is the rationality of diplomacy and acceptance.

I can only hope that five hundred or a thousand years from now the descendants of the human race look back on the foolishness of this time as a product of ignorance and stupidity.

Much like we mock the ignorance of the Dark Ages or the image of Stone Age man cowering in his cave from the thunder and lightning of the gods, future humans will find a similar ignorance in the history of our time.

If there are any descendants to do so.  I can only hope we survive  to live up to our self-described moniker of Homo Sapiens.

With all the tools of destruction and our skills at killing our fellow humans over artificial differences, there may not be anyone left to attain such insight and maturity of character.

Something to Look Forward to!

 

As you should all be aware by now (if not pay attention here), Kent Harrop and I co-write a weekly blog called “TheHereticandtheHolyman.” If you have not read it yet, please do.

There will be a quiz.

(As a sideline, occasionally I see an intriguing question on-line. This was on some sort of a sign, “If Quizzes are Quizzical, what are Tests?”)

Excuse the mind detour, back to the subject at hand. Hey, ice cream…

We explore various topics about “Life, the Universe, and Everything” from our different perspectives. Since Kent IS a Red Sox fan, I do try to use small words but the message does get across.

One of us usually writes on a topic and sends it to the other for his response. We then post it on Friday.

This week we are going to do something a little different. This week will be a blind response to the other’s position.

Kent proposed a great topic. Here is how he so well expressed the idea.

How about we write about Heaven and Hell (do they exist) and is Joe going to a warm place (and I don’t mean Aruba)?!”

The sentiment alone brought warmth to the cold winter day as I read it.

So check back this Friday, see if there is a Heaven and a Hell. See if one of them looms in my future. I am sure some of you think I deserve it just for being a Yankees fan!

Put it on your calendar, set a reminder, tell all your friends to join in, express your thoughts about where I am going and if I deserve it. This might prove interesting.

Misplaced Tolerance: The Price of Practicality

There is a sad, yet well-established history in this country of aligning ourselves with groups and governments that are the antithesis of our cherished love of freedom.

During WWII, we allied ourselves with the Soviet Union for the greater good of defeating Nazi Germany

In Vietnam we supported, some would say orchestrated, a violent coup which overthrew one tyrannical government in favor of one more to our liking. We then supported this government in its battle against the communist north under Ho Chi Minh. Of course, we supported Ho Chi Minh prior to that when he fought against the Japanese. Yet we did not support Ho Chi Minh when they fought against French colonialism, after all, Vietnam does not fall under the umbrella of the Monroe doctrine.

We did it again in Kuwait, aligning ourselves with one dynastic, Islamic royalty against the country of Iraq. Among our allies, Saudi Arabia. The house of Saud is a theocratic dynastic royalty which embraces Sharia law.

Now our latest, supporting false democratic governments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These alliances make sense if one takes a practical approach to the world. However, practicality should have limitations.

The world needed to stop Hitler. His actions set in motion a war in which over 60 million people died. Three percent of the world’s population at the time.

Our alliance with Stalin brought about the defeat of Hitler. Under Stalin, an estimated 50 million people died “unnatural” deaths during the years 1924-1953. This number excludes wartime deaths.

In a practical world, aligning with Stalin to defeat Hitler made military and strategic sense. Moreover, one could argue Stalin killed fewer people. In a practical sense, he was the lesser of two evils.

The Soviet Union went on from WWII to support the North Vietnamese with weapons against our new allies in South Vietnam. Our Russian allies killed Americans because the practicalities of the world changed.

Practicality has a price.

Our path of practicality has come at a cost to our beliefs. I, for one, think it past the time that we put practical considerations aside and focus on doing the right thing.

Some will argue we have no right to impose our standards on others. I agree. We do not impose our standards on anyone. However, we also do not support those that would mistreat their own people under misguided 14th century concepts.

What we need is a qualifications checklist for receiving aid, military or otherwise, from this country. This country may not be perfect but our laws seek to protect everyone. The last time I checked our laws do not consider women to be property. Our laws do not permit discrimination based on race, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation. Our laws are there to protect all of us.

Are there exceptions to these rules, of course there are. The sad fact is that many embrace similar archaic, mostly religious-based concepts of equality. Many consider women inferior to men and in need of male guidance. They cloak this control with claims of “protecting” women. Protecting them from what? My guess would be from the very ones controlling them.

Many consider certain races or ethnicities to be inferior. That is a symptom of their faulty upbringing or lack of education. While the reality of these idiotic, misogynistic and childish beliefs is unfortunate, it is not enshrined in our laws. Unlike many of the countries we support under the guise of practicality, we strive for the equality of all.

I think it long past the time when this country needs to be that “Shining City on the Hill” (in the secular sense.)

Time we stop ignoring civil rights abuses under the premise of “tolerance” for difference and start insisting on conditions for our support.

If the Saudi’s believe that Sharia law is more important than our strategic support that is their choice.

If Afghanistan permits the jailing of women based solely on the word of their husband or believes that some archaic social code that refuses women the right to self-determination is more important than our support that is their choice.

Practicality has limitations. Common sense tells us that all human beings are entitled to self-determination and the right to control their own destiny.

This experiment called the United States began with these words,

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; …

These were the words of Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence. Words later changed for the final document. I think these words capture his meaning in a much clearer sense.

Perhaps it is time we put these words at the top of every agreement, treaty, support, or assistance package we offer as a condition.

Our practicality needs a conscience.

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.