Is this what folks have been calling a chupacabra?

What is this strange animal? You decide!

This is way off my usual topics of religion and spirituality, but it is certainly a search for truth in the natural world. In this case, some people in Texas finally trapped and filmed an animal that IMHO is not a raccoon, dog, kangaroo, rat, or oppossum — but it seems to share various traits with all these animals. Fortunately or not, it was released before any scientist could kill it and dissect it.

Dharma Punx by Noah Levine

I finally started reading a book I’ve had in my library for over a year: Dharma Punx by Noah Levine. Perhaps I’ll have more to say about it later, but I love this quote, taken from the preface…hiking Fiery Gizzard trails: Monteagle, Tennessee

Spiritual truth comes in many different forms and through many different spiritual traditions. While I find myself primarily engaged in Buddhist practice, some of the other Dharma Punx have dedicated themselves to the Sufi path of Islamic mysticism, to a personal relationship with Christ, or to the Hindu path of devotion and service. I use the term "Dharma" to mean the Truth with a capital T, and, as my father often reminds me, "That which is true is found in all spiritual and religious traditions." No one has the corner on the Truth.

Amen to that! :)

The Earth as seen from Apollo 17

Twisted views of ‘Christian’ fundamentalist disinformation group Cornwall Alliance

Resisting the Green Dragon and related far-right ‘Christian’ fundamentalist conspiracy theories

I just opened a mass marketing email I received a few days ago from the Cornwall Alliance. [Read Cornwall email, below]

NOTE: It is very important to remember that everything you read here (and everywhere else) consists of opinion or is slanted in some way, as pure objectivity is not within reach of humans. This fact is examined more closely on our About pages.

Great blue heron posing at Radnor Lake; May 2011, Frasier PhotosThe Cornwall Alliance is one of many excellent examples clearly demonstrating the closed-minded, “everyone-is wrong-but-us” mentality of ultra-conservative Christian fundamentalism wherein dominionism is wrongly seen as trumping ‘secular’ environmentalism.

According to the Cornwall Alliance & its disinformational video series Resisting the Green Dragon, secular environmentalism is a wholly negative, “evil” conspiracy bent on taking over the world. Environmental concern and action is worthwhile and acceptable only if it comes from the perspective of far-right religious fundamentalists and those who choose an ultra-literal interpretation of the Bible.

religious freedom means any religionIn a nutshell, the Cornwall Alliance and its cronies are teaching children that environmental stewardship/activism is actually a conspiracy against the church (seriously!) — and society as a whole — unless care of our planet is married to old-time religion with its myriad superstitions[1].

Even so, this blogger is a die-hard supporter of freedom of religion; folks should be able to choose to believe and worship however they choose.

Should some of the biodegradable materials published by the Cornwall Alliance, if any, perhaps be buried where they can best decompose into fertilizer to further green growth somewhere on our planet? Earth is in effect our aquarium… it’s our doorstep, which certainly should not be shat upon, even for eye-popping corporate profits. The planet we all share has been ravaged, quite possibly beyond a crucial threshold from whence unrecoverable. The destruction, the degraded environment, the increasingly acidic & trash-filled oceans, et al are only a scant few of the dastardly results of Big 1% Money, Corporate Personhood, the drive for business profit at the expense of all else, and other factors… concerns with which I don’t see organized religion as taking issue or having a problem. Yet these folks — fine folks, I expect — decide to take an over-the-top, highly divisive stand against environmental activism? Go figure.

Religion going green?

It is a real relief that so many churches and religious groups have finally embraced care of the environment in the last decade or two rather than merely shrugging off:

  • Engaging in responsible stewardship of natural resources
  • Preventing pollution
  • Using renewable resources
  • Treating animals and other creatures humanely
  • and so on…

religious art: painting of God…as something only liberals and tree-huggers can embrace. Religion’s belated adoption of these and other ideas has been a long time coming. Despite these delays, many are pleased to see that some religious groups seem to be increasingly progressive.

Let’s break out the critical thought

The hesitancy of many religious groups to change old beliefs and behaviors to match (or begin to catch up to) humanity’s vastly increased understanding of how the world works is certainly no surprise, but it’s discomfiting to see ignorance being embraced, common sense relegated to irrelevancy, vehemently anti-science attitudes, and other hyper-fundamentalist actions, beliefs, and superstitions[1] which hearken back to the Dark Ages, contribute to the decline of the planet, and actively steer the more gullible, less educated portions of society into closed-mindedness. It seems the absolutely necessary practice of critical thought becomes ‘Satan’ himself when applied to certain beliefs.

We must work together, not splinter off into controversial, obviously divisive factions.

Dominionism: A problematic religio-political stance?

7 mountains of dominionism, dominion theologyDominionism is a worldview among Protestant Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists which sprung from a literalist, legalistic interpretation of the Bible. Dominion theology encourages them to not only be active political participants in civic society (as more of us perhaps ought to be), but also seek to dominate the political process as part of a mandate from God.

Characteristics shared by various forms of dominionism

  • Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism (and often American exceptionalism), believing that the United States once was, and should once again be, a Christian nation, generally rejecting the Enlightenment roots of American democracy most of us deeply appreciate in a sort of throwback to darker, unenlightened ages when superstition ruled.
  • dominionism, dominion theology

  • Dominionists in general represent the epitome of religious fundamentalism in that they don’t respect the equality of other religions, including the many hundreds of other versions of Christianity. In their view, they and only they are right. We are increasingly seeing such closed-minded attitudes in the Muslim world and elsewhere.
  • Dominionists endorse Biblical law, believing the Bible should represent the foundation of American law; they believe the U.S. Constitution should be a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles.

The only true order is founded on Biblical Law. All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion.
Rousas Rushdooney

religious art: Adam and Eve"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." (King James Version).

The vast majority of Christians reads this text and concludes that God has appointed man as general stewards and caretakers of the earth. It seems only a very small subset of Christians reads the same passage and believes that Christians alone are Biblically mandated to join and eventually lead the government, secular institutions, etc. until the trumpets sound and Christ returns. Of course, there is absolutely no consensus among the countless flavors of Christianity, factions within Christianity, etc. on when Jesus will return.

Notes

[1] …old-time religion with its myriad superstitions…

Please note that my use of the word superstition is not a blanket reference to all religion; this statement applies to literalist/ legalistic/ fundamentalist and especially fideistic scripture interpretations and worldviews that fly in the face of common sense, logic, long-accepted science, or even basic universal spiritual principles. Examples might be Noah’s ark & the global flood as an actual event, talking animals, literal physical resurrection after death[2], literal creationism (esp. Young Earth creationism (YEC)), and the list could go on.

Branches of science you have to ignore to believe in young Earth creationismRationalWiki

Superstition (noun) defined

  1. a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like
  2. a system or collection of such beliefs
  3. a custom or act based on such a belief
  4. irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, especially in connection with religion
  5. any blindly accepted belief or notion

Source: Definition of superstition – Dictionary.com

[2] …literal physical resurrection after death

(Yes, a note about another note…) I feel I should explain, given the beliefs of so many people close to me. Many of us believe all the examples of physical resurrection in the Bible to be a metaphor for ego death, elimination of ignorance, enlightenment, etc.

Resources: Twisted views of disinformation group Cornwall Alliance

  • Resisting the Green Dragon — Views might be summed up as follows: Environmentalism is one of the greatest global threats… Without a doubt one of the greatest threats to society and the church today is the multifaceted environmentalist movement. Although its reach is often subtle, there isn’t an aspect of life that it doesn’t seek to force into its own mold…
  • Cornwall Alliance – Wikipedia
  • Cornwall Alliance home
  • The oily operators behind the religious climate change disinformation front group, Cornwall Alliance – ThinkProgress — Defenders of the dirty energy status quo, particularly the lobbyists and politicians associated with the oil and coal industry, have repeatedly trotted out a group of evangelical leaders known as the Cornwall Alliance to counter the growing sentiment in the evangelical community that anthropogenic climate change is a threat to God’s creation. Cornwall declares that true Christians believe “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.” In this repost, Wonk Room exposes the Big Oil funding behind the Cornwall Alliance…
  • Behold the ‘Green Dragon’: Whopper of the Month – Nashville Scene — But a group announced in June 2010 and bearing the catatonic name “Resisting the Green Dragon” is now using The Tennessean to peddle its wares, according to an article that appeared Tuesday. The group, a top-down kind of affair composed of a few heavy-hitters in the evangelical community, is suggesting the creation care movement is a “cult” and that Christians who believe in environmental stewardship are “radical&quot…
  • Dominionism, dominion theology – Wikipedia — In the context of American evangelical efforts to penetrate and transform public life, the distinguishing mark of a dominionist is a commitment to defining and carrying out an approach to building society that is self-consciously defined as exclusively Christian, and dependent specifically on the work of Christians, rather than based on a broader consensus… Source: Barron, Bruce A. (1992). Heaven on earth? The social & political agendas of dominion theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan. p.14
  • Dominionism and Dominion Theology: Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party – Theocracy WatchIf Rushdoony and his disciples have their way, democracy will be abolished and a Christian theocracy will be established: A theocracy based on the Bible along the lines of John Cotton’s Massachusetts Bay Colony. Rushdoony wrote, “The only true order is founded on Biblical Law. All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion.” He also made it clear that he expects that force will be necessary to impose such order, “Every law-order is in a state of war against the enemies of that order, and all law is a form of warfare”…
  • 5 Facts About Dominionism – Huffington PostVery few Christians identify themselves as “Dominionists”… experts say the New Apostolic Reformation has gained traction among charismatic Christians and Pentecostals under the influence of C. Peter Wagner, a church-growth guru and prolific author. Prominent “apostles” in the NAR include Lou Engle, co-founder of TheCall assemblies and Mike Bickle, director of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo…

Body of July 10, 2014 mass email from Cornwall Alliance re: Resisting the Green Dragon

July 10, 2014–Haven’t had a chance to see Resisting the Green Dragon yet? Do you have friends or family members who would like to see the series? This is your chance! The entire Resisting the Green Dragon Series will be aired on the NRB Network beginning today, July 10th. Don’t miss out! The Introduction begins tonight at 8:30 p.m. EST.

This lecture series, conducted by some of the top Christian leaders and scholars in America, contains 12 half-hour sessions, along with a special bonus 30-minute documentary. To buy the Resisting the Green Dragon series go to www.resistingthegreendragon.com or call the Cornwall Alliance at 703-569-4653.

Have you ever wondered why so many non-Christian, Left-wing organizations like George Soros’s Open Society Institute, Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundation, the Tides Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Bauman Family Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and more—many of them strong supporters of population control, abortion on demand, and government-run “family planning” programs some of which include forced sterilization and abortion, as well as supporting steps toward global government and the erosion of American liberties—give millions of dollars to evangelical organizations?

A brand new Cornwall Alliance Report entitled, “Evangelical Environmentalism: Bought and Paid for by Liberal Million$$$?” reveals the truth behind the funding of many so called “creation care” organizations, and the worldview behind that funding.

You can obtain this report with a donation of any amount to the Cornwall Alliance during the month of July. Remember to request offer code 1407. You can make a donation online, by phone at 703-569-4653, or by mail to Cornwall Alliance, 9302-C Old Keene Mill Rd., Burke, VA, 22015.

If you are already a designated monthly donor, you will receive this offer automatically.

If you would like to become a monthly donor, go to our secure online giving site or call our office, 703-569-4653. You can use your credit card or arrange for automatic withdrawal from your checking or savings account.

Bible in handIn Christ,
Megan Toombs
Communications & Outreach Coordinator

The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation seeks to magnify the glory of God in creation, the wisdom of His truth in environmental stewardship, the kindness of His mercy in lifting the needy out of poverty, and the wonders of His grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ. A coalition of theologians, pastors, ministry leaders, scientists, economists, policy experts, and committed laymen, the Cornwall Alliance is the world’s leading evangelical voice promoting environmental stewardship and economic development built on Biblical principles. The Cornwall Alliance is a non-profit religious, charitable, and educational organization. All gifts are tax deductible.

Removed content

But fundamentalism hides behind several masks, such as political fundamentalism[3] (commonly referred to as partisanship).

[3] Political fundamentalism
Today’s hyperpartisanship has obviously created what may be the most serious political divide ever for this country in recent times. It seems the U.S. has screeched to a grinding halt when in fact much action needs to be taken, the precursor of which is compromise — not closed-mindedness, intellectual dishonesty, and line-toeing.

Letter to a Christian fundamentalist

Background info

The 2009 version of this post was dubbed The Reawakening of a Prime Directive. The content comes from a letter written to a friend from way back — Nashville’s David Lipscomb High School, actually — after we reconnected over dinner on or around January 1, 2009. Apparently, I was inching toward a religious debate (not a good idea).

My general attitude toward conservative/ fundamentalist religion has continued to evolve since then. (May my views continue to evolve with experience, sobriety, and spiritual practice!) I continue in my attempts to completely "resign from the debate society"… particularly in my head. These days, I am more focused on recovery and working at Discovery Place in Burns, TN and working on a newish spiritual/recovery blog.

Letter to "Bat," Part One

Thank you very much for dinner at the Copper Kettle last Thursday. It was really good to see you, and I am genuinely happy for your freedom from mind-altering substances. It’s very enjoyable to have meaningful conversations with others who can relate to these issues from experience.

Back at home, I wrestled with the idea I’d encouraged when we parted: continuing our discussion or friendly debate with regard to Christianity.

Too interesting to ignore?

On the other hand, the subject of "religion" and spirituality are obviously subjects that interest both of us a great deal. Frankly, the role of religion and spirituality (and how they relate or do not relate to reality and truth) is one of my favorite subjects to bat around.

I know you don’t like that word — religion — but I’m not sure what else to call it. Any suggestions?

It seems that both of us have, at one time or another, felt driven to uncover the truth and to find out for ourselves what is "really real." For me, this particular quest began as a child when I found a book in my parents’ library presenting 1960s-era arguments against evolution from a Biblical standpoint.

Open-mindedness is crucial

Obviously, one cannot honestly research this subject and expect to get much out of it without a high degree of open-mindedness. It is my intention to remain open-minded and teachable as long as I have the sense and ability to do so, hopefully right up until the moment of my death. This is why I still read books and websites that steadfastly defend the faith, such as Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry , as well as many other books they would find sacrilegious, such as Why Won’t God Heal Amputees.

What attitude and approach to such discussion shall we take? Do we want or intend to be open-minded and teachable? Are we willing to look at things objectively, or at least make a good-faith effort to be objective? If not, then I see no reason to continue; we should just go ahead and agree to disagree. After all, it takes a significant emotional investment, a lot of serious thought, and of course, a respectable amount of time, to engage in such a potentially sensitive discussion about religious differences.

Again, I believe that an emphasis on the more important, meaningful, and practical realities on which we DO agree is ultimately more rewarding; but of course, this also leaves many of our questions and curiosities unanswered. Honestly, I hope you DO have the desire to engage in this discussion, because I would like to learn more specific details about why you espouse your current beliefs. There are a number of questions I would like to ask you that I would not feel comfortable asking my family.

Being right

You said that you know in your heart, unequivocally and without doubt or reservation, that you know the truth, and that is that anyone without Jesus is doomed. The thing is, people of most faiths — the serious ones who are solid in their beliefs and able to defend them in a convincing manner — are equally confident regarding their own beliefs. The more honest and forthright adherents to most spiritual paths feel that same comfort of certainty in their beliefs. Can all of us be correct? Technically, of course not; but in a more important sense, I think we can. (This is hard to put into words; it’s something I examine more closely in another document.) However, any type of fundamentalist belief would appear to be incongruent with an honestly tolerant and respectful view, by the very nature of the definition of fundamentalist.

Being truly objective is not an easy thing for someone raised in a fundamentalist Christian environment. As children we were taught not to question these things. We were bombarded with the threat of hell fire and damnation for questioning the Bible as the authoritative word of God. For adherents, church members, etc., it takes guts and courage — real chutzpah — to look into these matters honestly and objectively. Furthermore, critical examination of these things does not seem to be socially acceptable in Bible-belt or Church-of-Christ circles, progressive or not. It is no small thing, and it can have real consequences.

What if…

I am fully aware that my life would most likely be quite different had I chosen to overlook my concerns and remain active in the church (i.e., the Church of Christ). I recognize that leaving the church and being honest about the way I feel, what I believe or don’t believe, etc. has contributed to my being viewed as somewhat of a rogue, by some folks at least. The reasons are obvious, and it amounts to typical human behavior: we all have a tendency to befriend those whose beliefs are similar to our own. It follows that we tend to share our resources with our philosophical cronies – including job opportunities, business transactions, and other economic activities.

Nevertheless, I cannot profess to believe something when my heart warns me against it, and this has been the case every time I have decided to give conservative Christianity another chance. The church folk with whom I am familiar are for the most part wonderful (as are those in many "opposing" sects), and the feeling of being part of a social group is integral to a fulfilling life. Indeed, there is great comfort in knowing you are a part of a loving community on which you can rely when you are dealt the crushing blows that life unfailingly delivers.

Another attempt

Not too terribly long ago, the most recent of my attempts or flirtations at rejoining the church (this time at Otter Creek in Brentwood,TN) had actually begun to take root (though more on a social level than a religious belief level). But inevitably came forth that damned sermon — the one delivering that same old fire & brimstone message — that I am doomed to an literal, eternal hell unless I profess that Jesus Christ is the son of a living, loving God and that he came to earth, lived as a man without error, was crucified, and then arose three days later.

The church’s "implication" (to put it lightly) is that all others are wrong and doomed. It saddens me greatly, for I believe the original intent of the so-called " revealed" religions in general, or the primary message, was to show us how to live fulfilling and happy lives (via basic, universal spiritual principles) — NOT to tell us we must believe any particular supernatural story.

I do not believe Jesus intended for us to lead Jesus-centric lives, but rather, to lead love-centric, tolerant, nonjudgmental lives. The two are not the same; in fact, they are often radically at odds.

What might rest at the root of religion?

I believe with all my heart that what unifies mankind is good (here I go, being dualistic), and those things that cause division and strife are not so good. I do not see how this can be reconciled with saying, "Unless you believe the way we believe, then you are doomed." The latter has certainly been the cause untold human suffering in the history of mankind, and it continues to this day. Sadly, there will be no end to this suffering until we finally realize on a collective, universal level that intolerant, divisive, we’re-right-you’re-wrong views are in fact the very root of the problem. I suspect that such attitudes will eventually lead to mankind’s ultimate demise. (A great read in this area is Letter to a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris.)

Why so quiet?

Debate, at least, is tiresome and generally pointless, particularly for the closed-minded; however, IMHO, friendly discussion can be both enjoyable and enlightening. In my limited experience, the opposing sides in a debate are usually too dug-in and defensive for the experience to be what I would now consider to be a rewarding one.

Another reason I am not more vocal about my views is a desire not to offend my family any more than I already have; however, I’m beginning to realize that stifling myself in this manner does a great deal more personal harm than good — and even produces, feeds, or exacerbates what might otherwise prove to be only minor character flaws. At the risk of ridicule, I will go so far as to say that I feel "called" to try to share a Middle Path via blogging & writing, and hopefully play some small role in helping to eliminate religious intolerance. This dream of mine will not happen if I retain my fear of what others think; I’d surely continue to feel as though a significant calling of mine were being wasted. Nevertheless, for this and other reasons, I ask that we maintain some degree of privacy regarding all this, at least for now.

Another reason I do not often bring up this subject is because it tends to be divisive. It is difficult to have meaningful conversations with those holding opposing views in these areas without stepping on toes, hurting feelings, creating fresh resentments, etc.

The answer to the question, "Can’t we all just get along?" should be a resounding "Yes," not "Well, only if you decide to believe in this one particular supernatural event."

As I mentioned, sometime during the year 2000 (most likely after a few drinks of Jack Daniels), I made a decision to research my way out of religious confusion. (It was naive of me to believe I could research and study my way out of it, for one thing; looking back, it’s rather humorous.) I was sick and tired of being unable to make up my mind about it. Quite simply, I felt I could no longer proceed with my life in a state of ignorance regarding the whole “God of the gaps“[1] scenario, along with a lengthy and growing laundry list of other issues. I felt like I’d watched the season finale of a killer show (say, Alias or 24!) which ended with the usual cliffhanger. But this unresolved issue was staring me in the face in real life, and would no longer allow itself to be ignored.

Where to start?

Religion, spirituality, reality, and truth are such broad, voluminous subjects, I would have to be even more insane than I already am to believe I could actually take the time or have the patience to study it the way I would like to… and even if I focused only upon all the conflicting versions of Christianity, such a study would remain far to unwieldy for me.

So the logical place for me to begin was with a study of the Bible itself, ignoring how any one subset of Christians might choose (or, perhaps more accurately, be taught or told how) to interpret it. So I delved into a study of the Biblical errancy vs. inerrancy debate.

(NOTE: In the last decade, these debates have flourished on the Web and in books. There are already a plethora of responses to virtually every critical question about biblical inconsistencies, as you will find if you decide to delve into the issue by following the links above. The validity of the responses is highly questionable, but that’s beyond the scope of this letter.)

I must admit that when I was a professed Church of Christ-flavored Christian, I felt rather guilty when I started to contemplate the multitude of tough questions that any intelligent, studying, growing, honest Christian will surely eventually ask him/herself. It seemed strange, if not plain wrong, to question the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. There was considerable guilt.

I was soon reminded that Christians are exhorted by the Bible itself to pursue these kinds of studies and to be ready to explain the basis of their faith. Examples:

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1)

…And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak evil against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. (I Peter 3:15b-16)

Dearly loved friends, I had been eagerly planning to write you about the salvation we all share. But now I find I must write about something else, urging you to defend the truth of the Good News (contend for the faith). (Jude 3)

Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. (I Thessalonians 5:20-21a)

After several months of study, I could no longer ignore the discrepancies and errors. Frankly, having been raised in the church and never before having the courage to objectively consider these things, it was shocking. In another way, it was also a huge relief; I was truly sick and tired of bouncing back and forth between belief and doubt. Much further study of other religious and spiritual paths seemed to fully support my new point of view. The study continues to this day, and I hope I never stop studying these things.

If Christianity posed merely a handful of perplexing errors and/or inconsistencies, I might be willing and able to overlook them. But the truth is that fundamentalist Christianity poses a truckload of such issues.

And it’s certainly not unique to fundamentalist Christianity; it seems that systems or worldviews that rely on rigid, legalistic, literal, inflexible interpretations of a given message or text often fail to realize the central message of unity, living in accordance with basic, universal spiritual principles, and so on.

I have already written a summary of this so-called “errancy vs. inerrancy” argument, but my document addresses only a few of them – basically, some of the ones that bothered me most. Here are some lists of errors and inconsistencies in the Bible that provide more coverage:

Discussion, debate will not provide answer

One thing I finally came to realize through experience is the ultimate futility of religious debate. There is no such thing as proof for any argument about supernatural events. In other words, religious beliefs are beyond the scope of rational discourse.

For this and other reasons, it is all a matter of personal choice in the end. You will believe what you decide to believe, regardless of anything else – including logic and reason. [ Far more important: Spiritual practice... experiencing communion with the mystery of the universe, spiritual connection, God, Buddha consciousness, Higher Self, or whatever else one might choose to call it. ]

This is why I have toned down the intensity of my research and ceased to initiate serious discussions on the subject. In my experience, these kinds of religious exchanges always end in one of these ways:

  • Agree to disagree (the best case scenario, short of one person “converting” the other)
  • Someone being too offended or frustrated to continue
  • Increased resentment toward the other person, or worse

Sincerely,
samana

Notes

God of the gaps

The "God of the gaps" concept goes back to Henry Drummond, a 19th-century Scottish naturalist & evangelist who aimed to harmonize Darwin’s theory of evolution with the Bible. In Henry Drummond’s Lowell Lectures on The Ascent of Man. He berates those Christians (often, conservative fundamentalists who interpret the Bible literally) who point to the things that science hasn’t yet tackled — "gaps which they will fill up with God" — and encourages them to embrace all of nature as God’s, as the work of"an immanent God, which is the God of Evolution, is infinitely grander than the occasional wonder-worker, who is the God of an old theology."

God of the gaps quotes

…how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Theologian

There is no ‘God of the gaps’ to take over at those strategic places where science fails; and the reason is that gaps of this sort have the unpreventable habit of shrinking… Either God is in the whole of Nature, with no gaps, or He’s not there at all.
– Charles Coulson, British chemist, mathematician, religious author

Communication, terminology

I believe that a large percentage of what people call disagreement could be more accurately described as miscommunication, and the purpose of this section is to avoid just that.

Effective communication that is relatively free of misunderstanding and misinterpretation requires the participants to be straightforward in the language used, and as such, it is important to define certain terms on the front end. The purpose of this section is to let the reader know what meaning(s) we’re assigning to certain terms used in this letter.

The question, Do you believe in God? is a great example. If a conservative Christian asks me that, they are most likely inquiring as to whether I believe in the deity/deities as described in the Bible. Let’s say I think of "God" as the non-anthropomorphic, ultimate cause, or that I believe God is everything (i.e., pantheism). In this case, where my concept of God (or a Higher Power) is something entirely different than hers, then my answer may be devoid of meaning — at least where any mutual understanding is concerned. A positive answer from me would likely be interpreted as my believing in the Bible God(s).

Fundamentalist

Here, I am referring to a Protestant fundamentalist: one who stresses the infallibility of the Bible not only in matters of faith and morals but also as a literal historical record, holding as essential to Christian faith belief in such doctrines as the creation of the world, the virgin birth, physical resurrection, atonement by the sacrificial death of Christ, and the Second Coming; technically, a movement in American Protestantism that arose in the early part of the 20th century in reaction to modernism.

In more casual language, when I use the word “fundamentalist” or “fundie” for short, I am talking about one who takes a literal view of the Bible and/or believes that Christianity is the only path to enlightenment or heaven, and that all others are wrong and/or doomed.

God

The Original Cause, whatever that might be

Bible God

The God(s) described in the Bible, esp. interpreted literally

Resources

For deletion…

In my opinion, one must study more than one angle or viewpoint if one is to become truly educated in a given area or discipline. If one seeks to become an expert in American politics, for example, then he must study more than just the opinions, dogma, and ideology of one political party. I believe the same holds true for religious and/or spiritual paths.

NOTE: Actually, I do believe the statements above regarding Jesus, heaven, and hell. The difference is, I do not believe they are necessarily meant to be taken literally. It is all a matter of interpretation. I have gone into much more detail on this subject in another paper.

FAQ: What is your problem with religion?

Here are some thoughts which may be added to a Search for Truth FAQ:
Lindsley Avenue church - Nashville, TN

  • Why did you recently modify this blog’s tagline to read, “Why we dumped church”? Do you have such a low opinion of organized religion to suggest that everyone else do the same and “dump church”?
  • What is your problem with religion? How can you claim to practice spiritual principles while talking trash about religion?

We have come to encourage the practice of basic universal spiritual principles and to discourage religious fundamentalism and other brands of closed-minded thinking by doing what is perhaps the harder thing. It is not easy to apply serious, honest critical thought to the beliefs one was raised to embrace; in our case, it’s the institution of Christian fundamentalism — as it seemed to evolve from basic spiritual living to legalism & literalism, as it has impacted world history, and as it exists today.

We often fail, of course, as all humans do. It’s also important to remember that everything one hears and reads is rooted in some type of opinion or slant; naturally, this includes all one might read on this blog, Lindsley Avenue church - Nashville, TNall one might hear at any church or political gathering, etc.

Here in the Bible belt at least, being honest and forthright (and as objective as possible) about religious fundamentalism is far more difficult and potentially ostracizing than simply accepting whatever beliefs one happens to be spoon-fed by others, particularly teachings from authority figures during our youth. To us, however, the perks and advantages of taking on the challenge of objective study — even when it is difficult — far outweigh any downside.

Perhaps the most amazing result of being brutally honest with oneself about this sort of thing is the resulting freedom from the guilt cascades, Big Creek at Fiery Gizzard in Tennesseethat always seemed to accompany pretending to believe in something I really didn’t, no matter how long or how hard I tried to force my inner Self to adopt and embrace such beliefs.

Belief in the supernatural (and related sorts of teachings) seems to me to be just fine, as long as those beliefs are truly genuine and one lives by those basic universal spiritual principles inherent in most major religions & spiritual paths. The thing is, one must follow one’s "heart" in these matters, lest problems arise relating to a lack of integrity between what we say we believe and what we really believe.

In the current thinking of this blogger, an example of a disingenuous, problematic belief system would be claiming to follow Jesus while participating in (or even supporting) any type of discrimination, intolerance, or violent activity.

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…and as it continues to become marginally less dogmatic & more progressive…

Debate: Search for truth vs. bliss of ignorance

NOTE: This is more or less a placeholder for a debate that will hopefully be fleshed out over the coming weeks. We urge all readers to carefully consider these two options for later comment!

I recently fell into a conversation with interesting, deep debate potential; it could perhaps be summed up by the following questions. (Out of fairness, I have sought to avoid relatively loaded ways of presenting this dilemma.[1])

  • Should one search for hard truths or dwell in (what many people deem to be, at least) the relative bliss of ignorance?
  • Does/should the ignorance is bliss principle supercede humanity’s search for [relatively objective] truth?
  • Should humanity seek truth, even when the discoveries may not lead to happiness?
  • Is the avoidance of potentially harsh realities — aka ignorance — recommended in order to prevent personal challenges or difficult mental adjustments?

Where might the world be if everyone subscribed to a manner of living guided by the ignorance is bliss principle?

The honest answer is predictable:

Living according to the ignorance is bliss principle would have a list of pros and a list of cons.

In many ways (were ignorance to rule), the world might be a much better place … albeit a far more superstitious and less technically advanced one. IMHO, science and business would be anathema and religion would rule the day in a world that sought to dwell in ignorance rather than seek the truth.

Perhaps there would be less pollution, less degradation of the environment…

However, there would probably be far more conflict between warring factions of incompatible superstitions/religions. The vast majority of people would believe whatever they were taught in youth and then carry it forward into adulthood, teaching the same to their children.

Science would be minimized at best, would it not?

Strength would rule.

Bass-ackwards in many ways, progressive in others…???

NOTES

[1] Loaded version(s) of the same question

Should we seek truth or happiness? (For most, off the top of the head at least, the more obvious answer to this question would be happiness.)

Critical thought & religion: Thinking critically about religious belief systems

Are you really willing to devote demanding critical thought to your religious beliefs and political opinions?

Consider it a personal challenge & you’ll come to appreciate it.

critical thinking, thinker: Rodan statueCritical thinking is an effort to develop reliable, rational evaluations about what is reasonable for us to believe and disbelieve. Critical thinking makes use of the tools of logic and science because it values skepticism over gullibility or dogmatism, reason over [religious] faith, science over pseudoscience, and rationality over wishful thinking. Critical thinking does not guarantee that we will arrive at truth, but it does make it much more likely than any of the alternatives do.
(Source: What is Critical Thinking? Establishing Emotional & Intellectual Distance Between You & Your Ideas – About.com)

This material will be rejected immediately & outright by the vast majority of fideists; that’s to be expected as fideism is borne of fear and rejection.

If you do not understand the concept of fideism, then join the club: Fideism is not a widely understood term. This author had never even heard of fideism until his 30s. In short, fideism is the casting aside of any science, philosophy, logic, reason, etc. in conflict with — and thus considered to be an enemy of — a given system of religious faith or political opinion. Fideism effectively allows any story to be believable, no matter how ludicrous the premise may be, by chalking up all conflicting evidence to lies, falsehood, conspiracy theory, or in the case of religious fundamentalism, attributing doubt or conflicting evidence to evil.

critical thinking, critical thoughtIs the application of critical thought to religious belief the status quo for modern religious fundamentalists such as those occupying the Hard Right in the U.S.?
Far from it; it’s more of an aversion.

Is critical thought important? Should one’s opinions be based on reality and rational thinking, or should they be rooted in superstition and ancient literature? From the perspective of personal freedom and rights, it’s obviously up to each individual; however, important goals such as the betterment of our planet, world peace, being a force for positive change, etc. probably depend on an overall departure from fideistic belief systems (which, BTW, go hand-in-hand with religious fundamentalism and political hyperpartisanship).

Do important, substantial, widely affective beliefs and opinions warrant serious consideration? If there ever was a rhetorical question, this is it.

If this is such an obvious assertion, then why do so many people fail to apply challenging critical thought to their religious belief systems, political opinions, etc.? That’s a damn good question which we aim to address here as we continue adding to this post.

A potential poll question

I am having trouble coming up with the answers. Any suggestions? (See below.)

Why do so many people fail to conduct intellectually honest research concerning their beliefs and opinions?

1. Fear.
2. Laziness.
2. ???

Resources: Critical thinking on religion

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Why do so many people believe a particular supernatural thing must be so?