Category Archives: Religion

An Evening in meditation

A very Interesting evening

Last night I had the great pleasure of attending a Buddhist Meditation exercise held at the Chestnut Street Arts Center in Marshfield. Our teacher was the Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen, a founding member of the Sakya Phuntsok Ling Center in Maryland.

My friend Cat and I really had no idea what to expect, since we had never attended any of these lectures before. I suppose I was expecting something along the lines of ‘this is what Buddhism is, this what we do and why we do it.” More along the lines of a lecture in comparative religious studies or something.

I was surprised when we were given a handout with the text of a Sadhana, or meditation practice ritual to the Medicine Buddha. Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen explained who and what the Menla,(Medicine Buddha) is and the purpose of the meditation ritual.

The Medicine Buddha is an enlightened being whose aspiration is the health, prosperity, longevity, and well-being of all beings, including one’s self. He is depicted as being colored Lapis Lazuli blue; this color is traditionally associated in Buddhist culture as representing healing and all good things, according to the explanation.  The ritual was to invoke the Medicine Buddha’s wisdom, compassion and spiritual power in order to promote the healing of all illnesses and the causes of illness in the world as well to provide for the well being of all beings in the world.

Most of the text was in English, with only the traditional mantras being written in a phonetic transliteration of the ancient Sanskrit.  Frankly I found those a little intimidating, as I have little or no experience with that language.

As a group, we went through the ritual, with a local student of the Llama reading as we followed along as best we could. The mantras were sung by Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen in the Sanskrit and were very moving. The first part was devoted to the refuge and enlightenment thought, followed by the four limitless meditations as an opening and to allow our minds to settle somewhat.

Next came the ’shrine offerings’, where you would either make physical offerings in front of an actual shrine that had been set up or you would create a visualization of both a sacred shrine and of specific offerings of food, flowers, incense, etc. I can see where this would be applicable if one was travelling or did not have the resources to make such an offering. This was followed by the cloud offering mantra, sung by the Llama three times.

An invocation followed, and the Prostration, which is a gesture of respect to the eight Blissful Lords, a series of Buddhas renowned for their aspirations and teachings over the many centuries of this practice. This is not a physical prostration, in that we did not actually bow before the Buddha, but rather a verbalization of respectful greetings in a very formal style.

Prayers followed, as well as the singing of the main mantra to the Medicine Buddha. This was sung twenty-one times. I found myself becoming very relaxed, almost buzzed, by the sounds and rhythms of the words, even though I did not understand them. A dedication to the benefit of all beings concluded the ritual.

I couldn’t help but compare this ritual with my own meditations. Normally my personal practice is done in silence so as not to disturb my roommate. It is a very private thing, and I am not used to attempting to meditate in a group, barring a few teaching sessions we have done earlier this year.

The full ritual was moving, calming, and energizing as demonstrated by Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen, and I look forward to learning a great deal more about this ancient religion, and about the differences and aspirations of the various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. I find the idea of praying not only for one’s own health and prosperity but for all the world to be a concept shared by every religion. The exception is that Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen stressed that all paths, not just those of Buddhism, must be respected and that this is a major tenet of their faith and practice. That was refreshing, I must say.

To learn more, I suggest you go to http://sakyatemple.org in order to learn more about both this intriguing religious and its practices. I truly enjoyed the evening and learned a great deal, and I intend to learn more.

Find your peace, friends.

Rev. Zita.

Burn a Koran Day?

I am not sure who started it, or how it began, but whoever came up with the idea for an international day to stand up and burn a Koran (or any other holy book for that matter) is just looking to stir the pot they live in. This describes to me a person who thrives on hate and chaos, and not a person that wants to spread love and peace.

While these people may not have invented international burn a Koran day, Drs. Terry and Sylvia Jones of the Dove Outreach center has a site dedicated to demonizing Islam. There are pictures of signs stating that Islam is of the Devil and a video that includes inflammatory clips about terrorists chanting their hatred in the streets.

This makes me feel sad, and sick, and angry. And maybe anger is not the way to go, but I can’t help it. Spewing the crap that is coming from this small church is not the way to peace. The Drs. Jones say that they follow the Bible, but to be honest I can find nothing of the Bible, or any other scripture that I know of in their words. What they are spouting is pure hatred.

I was inspired by a friend, who wrote a letter to the Joneses and sent it privately (and if she will let me, I will include it in the comments section later), to write my own letter, but instead of a private statement I want to make it public. So here goes:

Dear Drs. Jones,

This is an open letter to both of you and your congregation in Gainsville, FL. I hope that you will share it with them.

Over my many years of studying comparative religion, alternative beliefs, and even atheism I do not believe that I have come across a more hateful, non loving message from a church. You claim that you follow the Bible, but where I cannot see. Throughout the Bible, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, love is the law. The first commandment is to love God before all others, and then Jesus came and brought us the law to love our neighbors. These words start in Exodus and continue through Leviticus, Mathew, Mark, Luke, Romans, Galatians, and James. No where can I find a place that says hate thy neighbor of condemn thy neighbor if they believe, think, dress, act, look, speak, etc differently than you.

While I may not be able to stop you, I do hope that these words and the words of many others from the United States and around the world at least cause you to think and realize what hatred you are unleashing unto the world. What you are doing is going to harm and condemn so many souls, according to your own beliefs and sacred book. Your words and actions make no sense to me.

Instead, I am going to do what I can to counter act the hate you put the world and ask the people who regularly read this blog, who read this letter, and all the other places they are following us to take time on September 11th this year, light a candle, say a prayer, or just think good thoughts to help bring a little more love, a little more tolerance, and little more peace into this chaotic and crazy world we live in.

Sincerely,

Rev. Kelly Hunt and Rev. Zita Rudiger

Heartfelt Ministries, Plover, WI

With that my friends, please take 5 minutes and think peaceful thoughts on September 11th this year, and if you can continue it every day of the year.  This situation reminds me of a poem by Frank Outlaw.

Watch your thoughts,
for they become words.
Watch your words,
for they become actions.
Watch your actions,
for they become habits.
Watch your habits,
for they become character.
Watch your character,
for it becomes your destiny

Change and peace begin at home, let’s start spreading it today.

If you have thoughts that you would like to share with Drs. Jones, please leave a comment. I am sure that they would love to hear from you.

On the Ordination of Women

The Roman Catholic Church calls the ordination of Women a ‘Grave Crime’

The Vatican this week has released an updated list of what are known as ‘grave crimes’ against the Church, as well as updating its standards for legal limitations and procedures in pedophilia cases. While I applaud their extension of the statute of limitations to twenty years after the victim turns eighteen, as well extending the list of those persons eligible to serve on a Tribunal, I absolutely must disagree with their decision on the fate of those who ordain women and the women who choose to become ordained.

The mere fact that the two subjects were listed in the same document gives one the terrible feeling that doctrinally, the Vatican considers pedophilia and female priests on the same level. Personally I feel that not giving such a volatile issue the singular treatment it deserves is emblematic of the disregard the Vatican has all too often displayed to the feminine half of its’ congregation.

As a female minister, it is very difficult for me not to take this as a very personal insult. I have breasts and a uterus, and I have as rich a connection to the Divine as any male; in short, I too have a soul. I am not a second-class citizen of anything, including Paradise, and will not be treated as such. To accept such treatment would be to betray that soul within me and to deny my own worth in the eyes of my Creator.

I do recognize that the Roman Catholic Church is within its rights to emphasize its own traditions within its own structure. They claim that since Christ had no female followers that they have no right to ordain women to represent him in the Eucharist. I would point out that the Magdalene followed Jesus, as did his own mother, Mary, plus Johanna the wife Herod’s Steward, Chuza; Salome, the wives of the apostles, and those are the ones mentioned in the Gospels.

I can whine and nitpick as much as I like, but the fact remains that the Vatican will do as it sees fit, and at this time, they deny women the sacrament of ordination. That is their right and that cannot be disputed.

But it is not just. I have a certain fondness for the Catholic Church, since my mother was catholic. I am ashamed to see that they cannot find the grace to move on from an ancient prejudice and open themselves to include fully the half of the human race they have slighted for so many centuries. Their equation of female ordination with the actions of pedophiles saddens me, it angers me and it is an insult I have trouble even considering forgiving at this time.

The Church has relied for many centuries on the faith of wives and mothers, teaching their children its traditions and rituals. How would the Church react if those women chose not to continue to support an organization that does not accord them the true respect they deserve? How long would any religious organization survive if the women walked away?

It is a scandalous thought, but a fascinating one.

Find your peace, friends.

Prophets should Keep their Mouths Shut: Part II

When I posted the Aphorisms for Heretics a few weeks ago, I knew there would be some disagreement with those statements, but I must say I hadn’t thought that Rev. Kelly would decide they needed a full-on debate. I enjoyed reading her position, it was uniquely hers and brought up some good points: namely the ideal of a Prophet being a teacher of how to live in a humane and loving way, the wonderful diversity of belief the various Prophets have brought to us, and yes, even the minor point of a prophet in the role of a soothsayer (her notorious obsession with the Tarot—she does have some lovely decks of cards!)

While religious teachers through history have given us much that is good, their followers have often twisted those teachings or used them in ways that most likely would have appalled their originators. I will point out that it is not a Prophet’s fault if his followers choose to change things, but if the incentive had not been there, perhaps things might have been different.

If you have any doubts as to my stand on this position, I can point you to many, many historical examples: the Crusades, the Witch hunts of Europe, the events of 9/11; the persecutions of the Protestant Reformation when it was Christian against Christian, the bombings and infighting of Muslim sects at the current time and of course, the Holocaust. Even the Bhudda’s concept of the Middle Way has caused conflict and strife as his followers through the centuries have attempted to force compliance among other groups to their standards.

As far back as the ‘Heretic Pharaoh’ of ancient Egypt, Ahkenaten, conflicting religious visions have more frequently produced social strife, political turmoil and devastation than peace and plenty for all.

Believe it or not, my point is one of pragmatism, not religion: conflicting religions cause conflicting politics, often to the point of vicious bloodshed. When you believe that your God has commanded a course of action, anything goes. No crime is too horrible, no destruction too great, no devastation too much to be contemplated so long as it is committed in the name of the teachings. Those who do not follow those teachings must be removed to prevent their offending viewpoint from tainting the pure minds of your believers.

Had Ahkenaten not forced his monotheistic vision of sun worship on Egypt, they may have held onto their empire a little longer.

If Moses and Aaron had not lead Isreal across the desert, Canaan may well still exist and many of the problems in the Middle East may never have occurred.

Had Jesus kept up with the family carpentry business, the Crusades and Witch Hunts would not have happened, nor would the barbarity of the Holocaust stain all of Europe for generations.

If Mohammed had continued as a humble caravan leader and trader of the respected tribe of Quraysh, what would the map of the Middle east look like now?

In the light of everything that religion has done for us all, good and bad, I still cannot help wondering how different things might have been if the world had simply said ‘Yeah, okay, there is a God or Gods, but I need to get some work done, okay? ‘Bye.”

But for Kelly’s sake I would hope that there would still be Tarot cards—they are nice to work with some days.

 

Find your Peace, friends.

Rev. Zita.

Prophets should keep their mouths shut. Part I

For something a bit different this week, Zita and I agreed to take a side of one of the Aphorisms and argue it. I think that when we post a list like that it sometimes helps you to see where we are coming from, and know that is it OK to disagree with us (respectfully) since we do not always see eye to eye either. I believe that Zita is preparing her side to be posted on Friday this week, so keep an eye out for her rebuttal.

Aphorism #3 is Prophets should keep their mouths shut. According to Dictionary.com, a prophet is someone who speaks for a god or deity, or from being divinely inspired, or it is a person who predicts the future. And with that last part of the definition, we are all prophets at one point or another.

Without prophets, we would not have the wonderful variety of religions we have today. Granted each one claims their god is the true god, but each one also teaches very basic rules to living that, at least I believe this, we should all follow to get along with each other.  Muhammad, who was inspired to set up the 5 pillars of Islam , While 4 of those pillars have to do more with professing belief rather than living right, the 3rd pillar has to do with giving to charity or to those less fortunate than you are. I think that if we have extra, be that time, money, or stuff, we should give it to charity so that someone who really needs it can have it.

To some Jesus is the savior of the world and to others, who do not believe he is the Christ, believes he is a prophet. Either way, I think that he said one thing that makes sense over all the rest. Jesus claimed he was sent by God to bring us a new law, and that is to love one another. I think this just extends what Muhammad’s law about giving to charity, so now we have to care about those around us. We are supposed to love them deeply. Just think that if we all loved our neighbors like that, even if we didn’t understand them, how much more peaceful our world would be.

I could go on from a religious stand point, but let’s take a look from the practical stand point. The last part of the definition says that a prophet also predicts the future. Hmmm…I am not sure about you but the first image that is brought to mind is a Gypsy fortune teller. The Gypsies have a lovely and long history with magic and foretelling the future, would you want to take that away from them? And, OK that is not so practical, but it is a very cool image.

A more modern version of a prophet would be the weather person on the nightly news. Many of us depend on those prophets to know how to dress for our day or how to dress our kids so they will not freeze or overheat. What about those economists that predict how the various market s will do? They are a form of prophet, albeit one that is not very good at their job, but a form of prophet none the less.

Finally, on a personal note, I enjoy reading tarot cards and collecting them (I have 64 decks to date, and need a way to display them if you have ideas email the Practical Heretic).  Would you take a hobby that give me joy away; even if I am wrong about 10% of the time? The rest of the time I am very good at what I do and how I do it. Can’t I keep my prophet hood?

God’s Will???

I know it has been a while since either of us has written here, but admittedly it is sometimes difficult to come up with ideas to write about there. And since I am the one who thought that on a subject as broad as spirituality, it would be easy….I was wrong. In spite of that, sometimes an idea just falls in your lap, like this one…

I have a friend who emails quotes to me from time to time. Most of the time I think they are cute, smile, and hit the delete key. Today’s email kind of slapped me in the face, and said get busy (not really, I am not crazy, emails do not talk unless they have a video or animation embedded and then it is only sometimes).  So, thank you my friend, those quotes not only work personally, but professionally as well.

“To profess to be doing God’s will is aform of megalomania.”     -Joseph Prescott, aphorist (1913-2001)

While I have never really thought of it in these terms, I have to admit that Mr. Prescott was on to something. Who are we to think that God talks to us and needs something from us? The very idea of carrying out God’s will suggests that either God needs us to do something for him. God is supposed to be all powerful, all knowing, all encompassing….so if that is true, what could he possibly want from his creations? Honestly, I can’t think of one stinking thing, but I can think of several that I want from him.

OK, now that we have established that God does not need a thing from us, let’s go back to the fact that God may or may not talk to us. In most cases in modern society, if one of us starts talking about God talking to us, the rest of society labels them as crazy. Then we lock them up, medicate them, and send them to a therapist to look at ink blots, talk about their parents, and try to judge just how connected to reality they are. And in most cases, I am going to say that yes, this is the right course of action, and hopefully helps that person live a better life.

Now that we have discovered the practical side of me, let’s look at the completely emotional side. I do believe in a God/dess of some sort or another. My definitions of these things are rather fluid and hard to describe, so let’s just go with the word Deity, which is a nice all encompassing idea. Within my personal beliefs, I do think that Deity talks to us. Not in words, and not really directly, but through nature and each other. The rainbow that sometimes appears after a storm, that is to remind us that we are usually better and stronger after we have survived a struggle. Sometimes a friend stops by and says just the right thing to make us feel better, understand something that was confusing us, or just shows us that someone cares. So, in a way Deity does talk to us and care for us.

There are religions, like our friends at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who recently visited us and believe that God is speaking with their leaders regularly and giving them new commandments and revelations for them to follow. I do not agree with them, but will never deny their right to practice their beliefs either. Why would God choose to speak with them and not other religious branches who are just as dedicated to following the word of the Bible as they are? If God created all of us, why would he turn his back on any of us?

Many times we hear God the father, which suggests that he is a parent to all of humanity. If one believes what the Bible professes, God is the creator (parent?) of everything. Now I am a parent as well, and I know that no matter what my children did, I would not be able to turn my back on them. Even if one of them committed murder, which is one of the worst crimes we can commit against each other, I would be there for him. I may not stand up and defend his actions, and I would not take responsibility for them either, but I would not turn away from my child. If I knew about it ahead of time, I would do what I could to stop it, but not turn away after the fact.

Now that brings up an interesting idea. If God is a parent type Deity, then would he/she interfere with what we are doing? On the one hand, it is said that all humanity has free will and God will not interfere, but then we have some people saying that they are following the will of this god, that god, or the other god….so who is right? And how do we know what God wants? Every single material that we have that may possibly be divinely inspired has been given to us through human minds, mouths, and hands….therefore it is colored by our own experiences and beliefs, this included. Which means that the information may be right or it may be heretical, depending on the exact views of God. Since he has not made an appearance on Earth since the Garden of Eden (or some other long ago event, time, or place depending on your beliefs), it is not possible to ask him. The original stone tablets with the commandments on them have been lost to time. They were supposed to be written by the hand of God, and might clarify things for us.

Since a direct line to God is not possible, I guess we humans struggle along as we normally would and decide for ourselves if God has an agenda and should we buy into it, or is that agenda some other person’s? In the mean time I think that I will continue trying to be a good person: love my neighbors, my children, my family, and my friends; try to be more patient, since each of us is different; try to be more accepting of things I may not agree with but do not harm me; and basically try not to harm anything in this life…

What are you thoughts, God’s will or Free will?

Aphorisms for Heretics

Aphorisms for Heretics

 

In keeping with the spirit of the ‘Practical heretic’, the following are a few thoughts about religion in general. Some are obvious, some are less so, but all have at least the quality of (hopefully) being thought-provoking. It’s good to think, the exercise is good for the mind. I hope you enjoy them, and I would appreciate reading your own thoughts and comments on any that catch your eye.

1. God is infinite, Humans are finite; no human is equipped to understand the infinite.
2.   No Scripture ever was delivered from Heaven already printed.

3.   Prophets should keep their mouths shut.

4.   All Religions are equally right and equally wrong.

5.   Never trust anyone who tells you to check your brains at the door.

6.   Willful stupidity is common, but that doesn’t make it right.

7.   Never stop thinking.

8.   Never stop learning.

9.   Killing someone over a religious dispute will not change their mind.

10.  ‘If’ and ‘why’ are the two most dangerous words in any language; use them often.

11.  Authority should be questioned often, and the answers checked.

12.  Women have souls.

13.  Men have souls.

14.  Humans have sex. It’s natural. Deal with it intelligently.

15.  Stupid mistakes are regular occurrences; fix them as quickly as possible.

16.  Respect must be earned.

17.  Loyalty must be given intelligently, and withdrawn when necessary.

18.  Ask questions and listen to answers.

19.  Love is the highest good.

20.  When proof is available, ‘faith’ is not needed.

21.  Life is a process, not a result.

22.  Hatred and grudges are a waste of energy. You have better things to do, I hope.

23.  Murder is common, but that doesn’t make it right.

24.  The definition of what constitutes ‘sin’ changes from place to place and in different times.

25. Dogma is for people who have stopped thinking

26. The Infinite includes everything, even the things you don’t like.

27. A true God has no need to be defended by humans.

28. Be practical; the bills must be paid.

29. Be honest, it’s easier.

30. People gravitate to the gods they can handle.

31. ‘God’ has no religion.

32. Tolerance is challenging.

33. Help where you can.

34. Accept help when you need it.

35. You are responsible for the care and feeding of your own soul, no one else’s.

36. Pointing out other people’s faults does not change your own.

37. Happiness is a conscious choice.

38. Accept responsibility.

39. Forgive yourself first.

40. You cannot quantify a deity.

41. There is no mercy in nature, but nothing is wasted, either.

42. Polytheists do not start religious wars.

43. Monotheism is impossible–every person has their own definition of God.

44. The difference between a ‘cult’ and a ‘religion’ is social acceptance.

As thoughts occur to me I may be adding to the list, or you may have suggestions for others. Please let us know what you think? Have a great weekend, folks, and may you find your peace.

Tolerance is difficult but well worth the effort

Tolerance is very difficult, but well worth the effort.

Tolerance is an advanced concept, reserved for the most civilized of cultures. In a social context, a definition of tolerance might be that it is to have an attitude of objectivity and fairness towards races, opinions, religions and practices that are markedly different from your own.

Sounds pretty good, right? So if you are a politician in a heated debate with someone over an issue, you can act like adults and listen to each other’s points in a fair and objective manner, with grace and intelligence. Umm, yeah, suuuure you can.

And Spin doctors treat motion sickness.

Most of us choose our friends based on how well they fit into our own world view. It’s natural to want to be around people who share your basic view of things. It’s normal, so don’t think I’m running anyone down over it. I do it too. But I like to think I am capable of expanding my world view a bit to include more variety.

To be a tolerant individual means that you also make room for those who may not exactly fit into that clique: perhaps you are an atheist, but your friend is Catholic. You favor a Pro-choice stance but they are Anti-abortion. To maintain the friendship you agree to disagree and try not to bump into one another at the rallies. That is one form of tolerance: an intellectual stance of respect for the attitudes and beliefs held by someone else.

Maybe there is a Muslim family in your neighborhood; perhaps their daughter wears the hijab, the traditional religious head scarf. Maybe she gets some flak for it, times being what they are. Tolerance in action would be walking her home safely and to introduce yourself to her family. To get a good neighbor you have to be one, don’t you? Makes sense to most people.

And then there is the advanced form of tolerance: respecting someone’s legal right to do something that makes you absolutely grind your teeth in frustration.

I have a passionate dislike for racism, but I must acknowledge that a Neo-Nazi has the same civil rights as anyone else to hold their views, no matter how repellant I personally find them. (I am likely to point out that the human genome project has proven that all of humanity is interrelated and came from Africa, many hundreds of thousands of years ago; but that is because I have a problem keeping my mouth shut at the best of times.)

That is where the objective part of tolerance comes into play. While I can support that a racist may hold those views, I cannot permit those views to be imposed on someone else without their consent. That is where tolerance becomes very, very hard.

My father was a WWII veteran. During the McCarthy era he hired a man who was under suspicion of being a communist. It was a difficult and dangerous decision for my parents to make at that time, when so little could get you investigated. While my father had no love for communism, he also had no love for trying to control how people thought. An advanced concept for the mid-twentieth century.

He was an ordinary man; not an intellectual or any sort of a free-thinker. He worked hard, went to church as everyone did back then and tried to raise his family as best he could. But he understood tolerance, not as an abstract, but rather it went to his very bones.

Tolerance was and is a part of living and helps to make our lives better, more rounded and far more interesting. New ideas can be discussed and savored, new art can be enjoyed or rejected, but from reason, not a knee-jerk reaction to the unfamiliar. While we may be shocked from time to time, there is nothing in the Bill of Rights that says we have a right to not be shocked. Thank goodness.

Tolerance is a form of respect for the lives, religions and opinions of others.

Tolerance is a right and a benefit to both those who receive it and those who practice it.

Tolerance is a necessity as our world continues to expand and we become more involved with the rest of the people who live in it.

Tolerance is a debt that sentient beings owe to one another and is paid in peace and cooperation.

Or at least that’s the way we would all like it to be.

Find your peace, Friends.

Religious vs. Spiritual

I thought that sitting down to write the differences between being religious and being spiritual would be easy, but let me tell you that I was wrong. Dictionary.com defines them as the same thing essentially, but I have issues with that. I do believe that there are plenty of similarities between the two groups, but there are also some vast distinctions between the two.

Religious and spiritual people both deal with an aspect of themselves that not everyone accepts, the spirit within and the connection to God, Deity, Goddess, Great Spirit, and the many, many other names out there that describe some aspect(s) of the infinite. But here is where I see the difference being made. Religious people allow others or an outside influence to define their relationship with what is infinite where as spiritual people tend to study the infinite from more than one angle and accept that there is more than one view of Deity.

This is not to say that all religions are bad or evil, they are not, and have in fact done some positive things for society. Religion was the first science. It was a way that ancient man could explain and control his environment. Granted most of it was not accurate or in some cases even close to what reality is, but it was a start to discovering why things did and do what they do. While science may have developed on its own, it may not be as advanced without the foundation in religion. Religion was the first laws, and in many small tribal societies the religious leader was also the judge of the law of the land since both were intertwined. This does not mean that I support such a system; laws should be secular so they apply to everyone, no matter what religious or spiritual practices they may be involved with.

Getting back to the more spiritual side of things, specific religions really do not matter much. The stories in religions teach the same basics: love one another, be a good neighbor, give to the needy, help out in your community, take care of your home, and take care of your person. So if these are the lessons that we all seem to think that we should learn, what is the purpose of religion? Many times the nitpicking of the small differences between religions seems to lose the more important, albeit more generalized messages of love, peace, and support. Some, not all, religious people have lost sight of that message and are breeding hate and contempt in place of love and peace.

Another point about organized religion is that there is a support system available to help individuals make moral decisions according to the beliefs he or she was brought up with. Spiritual people tend to be disorganized, in that they do not gather in one spot to worship or necessarily have a hard and fast dogma to measure their lives by, but a more general sense of right and wrong. While most of the time the spiritual person may not care that the support of a group is missing, and in fact enjoy it, there are times where support from a like minded spiritual group would be beneficial for guidance if requested or at a minimum, support.

Is there a moral to this story? Sort of. We should all learn, religious, spiritual, atheist, whatever to accept where that person is along their journey. We should accept that that person knows themselves and has chosen the path that is right for them. We should also try to be the best that we can be by loving ourselves, our households, and our neighbors. Be the peace that you would like to see in the world.

No Scripture was ever delivered from Heaven already printed

2.   No Scripture ever was delivered from Heaven already printed.

 

             All sacred books claim to be divine in origin; it is a prerequisite for the genre that must be met before they can be used as holy writings. In all the history of the written word, going back some 3500 years or more as far as we know it, the category of ‘sacred scripture’ has a unique status: it is the only type of literature that denies criticism.

            No one is allowed to question the origins, content or purpose of a sacred text; to do so is to question the very divinity that produced them, leading to questions about those in charge of those sacred books. To a religious mind, this is not a tolerable situation since it may lead to uncomfortable truths being revealed. Unquestioning acceptance of the sacred text is considered to be the highest expression of faith in many religions. Questions are usually treated as misguided at best, blasphemy and heresy at worst.

            The question still remains, in spite of all efforts to expunge it: how does a divine book come into the possession of a mortal human being?

            The Koran is a compilation of twenty-odd years of oral teachings by Mohammed the Prophet, but the book was not set down in written form until sometime in the seventh century, long after both the Prophet and his original disciples were dead and unavailable for consultation.

            The Torah is a collection of writings extending back centuries, some a part of a court chronicle written for the then-fledgling Kingdom of Judea.

            The Bible is a mishmash of Judaic and Greek writings, assembled in order to make a new religion more appealing in the Roman Empire. The books included in the Christian Bible were determined by committee and the final version was decided by a rather narrow vote, as was the question of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

            None of these religions are tolerant of questions as to their having come from a divine source.

            How were they delivered, is my question. The Torah has the best claim to historicity, as it contains incidents that can be verified archeologically. If the books are read, it is actually rather mundane until certain miracles appear. The laws and regulations contained in it are the ‘divinely inspired’ part since they are supposed to have come directly from God. How did that happen? Did Moses have a telephone link to God? Did a flaming angel knock on the tent and hand him a copy already written?

            No, sorry. Moses, like all prophets, came out of seclusion and announced the new rules to the people. Afterward they were written down and over time achieved divine status. Not obeying them meant that you and your family were subjected to various punishments, up to and including mutilation and banishment or execution.

            The Koran was not officially compiled into one collection of the Prophet’s teaching until the seventh century, by the European calendar. Until then it was taught by rote and the faithful were expected to memorize it exactly. Unique among holy texts is that the Koran specifically states that you must accept all of it without question as the divine word of Allah. No questions or compromises allowed, not if you wanted to be a good Muslim. To leave Islam means that you will be hunted down and killed. You are not allowed to convert to another faith.

            Whether or not you are allowed to question the tenets of Christianity depends on where you live. If you are in a region where there is a secular government, then there are few consequences in professing doubt. If not, the consequences can range from the uncomfortable stigma of social disgrace to outright imprisonment. Luckily there are few regions where an auto-da-fe might be called and your life lost.

            It all goes back to the Divine Scripts. Each governing book for each faith contains the rules, regulations and acceptable behaviors for those that follow its’ precepts. Examples of benefits for adhering to those precepts are included, usually, as well as examples of punitive incidents for failing to follow the rules.

            But they were not delivered in a complete form. All of these injunctions came from human beings. Out of respect for the ‘true believers’ of these religions, I will take a step back and note that the authors may have been divinely inspired in their writings, and I certainly believe that they were doing their best. However the writings had to be filtered through the personal prejudices and mindset of the authors.

The contemporary culture was a major influence as well, as in the case of Islam’s ruling that a male may have up to four wives. The Prophet noted that while it was permitted, it was not possible to deal fairly with more than one wife. Yet, because of the polygamist nature of the society in which he lived, the exception was made. Did he cave to outside pressure? It’s not noted as such but it is possible, but that means that at least one instance illustrates the tainted nature of a supposedly ‘Divine’ ruling.

            The Christian Gospels also illustrate this point: the Apostles are often noted as not understanding what their leader was saying or misconstruing his meaning and having things bluntly explained to them. The divinity of Christ was decided by vote at the Council of Nicea some three hundred years after the events and for very political reasons. History does record that as fact for anyone that wishes to look it up. Embarrassing for the Orthodox Churches, but undeniable.

            This is blasphemy to even consider that a sacred text might just be another human response to politics, societal pressures and human need. I accept that.

 I am capable of accepting that the rituals and dogma by which I was raised may not be the true image of a divine message; that they may be myth and philosophy instead. I am an intelligent being and that I have a duty to examine them and make certain choices. The events of millennia past had their place and the religions that grew from them may not be as appropriate as they once were.

            Sacred texts are nothing new and I am certain that there will be more written in the future. In the 1840’s in America, a new religion was born: the Church of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. It has proven to be surprisingly resilient, since most new religions seldom last more than a few years at best, a generation at most. They also have a sacred text, supposedly given by an angel named Moroni. Yet again it is filtered through human perception, as is necessary in order to reach its audience, and yet again, it is as flawed as any other.

            We are not perfect and we never will be; our religions are not perfect or there would never be such a stupid thing as a religious war. All gods would be acceptable, all practices would be uplifting. It is egotistical in the extreme to think that an infinite being would hand down an instruction manual that doesn’t include everything for everyone, and none of them do so.

Find your peace.