Tuesday, 28 February 2012

When it got onto how the Bible 'lifts' women I had to reply!

It looks like there is one more exchange with my Fundamentalist Christian. Somehow, when it got onto how the Bible and Christianity treats women I could not sit back and say nothing.

The egregious misogyny of the patriarchal age, the last 3-5,000 years, has corrupted, debased and distorted the spiritual foundations of all religions. Most women in this world are still abused and killed in the name of a masculine God - Gods who hate and fear the feminine and reveal it constantly in their writings, sayings and actions.

One of the motivations to explore religion for me, in the first place, was the realisation as a teenager,  that Christianity was poisoned by sexism and misogyny. Not that other religions are much better, in fact many are worse, and fundamentalists of all persuasions are worst of all, but to seek to argue that Christianity has supported women - actually the word was 'lift' as if they were naturally in the gutter and not put there by patriarchy - is pure farce.

I think the first time I realised that religion irritated me was the use of the word He or Father for God! I still, if I find myself at a Christian service replace the word He with She and the word Mother for Father as a matter of principle. Of course god is neither but the arrogance of religion is this genderising of God.

My FC wrote:

People in our day forget how much of human history has discriminated against women. Within the last hundred years in the United States, there was a time where banks would not give women an account in their own names, nor could women get credit cards in their own names in many places. Women would very often be legally named “Mrs. Henry Jones” or similar. Often this was voluntary, for many women wanted to identify with their husbands as much as possible.Women were not allowed to vote in the US until the twentieth centrury. In the first century, women were often not considered capable of giving testimony in court. Into this context, the New Testament was written. The Old Testament was written over several centuries, and completed much earlier than the New.
Often today we find people lambasting the Bible as being wrong to women. However, this is almost always due to people assuming what is in the Bible and not reading it for what it says. Many critics paint the Bible in an imbalanced way and sometimes invent an attitude against women that is not found in the Bible. In reality, and in contrast to the values of most societies, the Bible lifts up women, protects them from abuse, and sets several guidelines that ensure women's rights are maintained.
Old Testament Law
·         Women who were indentured servants were not blamed for adultery, since they were considered to have no choice in the matter (Lev. 19:20. This helped protect women's rights and keep them from being powerless.
·         To keep jealous husbands from irrationally blaming their wives for unfaithfulness that the wives did not commit, the law required a series of tests that would protect innocent women, and only implicate a woman if she had an overwhelming sense of guilt. (Numbers 5)
·         Divorce laws prevented a first husband from re-marrying a woman after she had been married again. This protected women from being passed around like property (Deut. 24)
·         If a husband dies, his brother is to marry the wife. This protected women from being left to poverty. (Deut. 25)
·         Newly married husbands were prevented from going out to war, so that they could stay home and make her happy. (Deut. 24:5)
·         People with money were required to include widows and orphans in their celebrations. (Deut. 26:12)
Old Testament History
·         Deborah was the leader of the country during the time of the judges (Judges 4 - 5)
·         Women were praised for working both inside and outside the home (Proverbs 31:15-16)
·         The book of Ruth tells of Ruth and Naomi, both of whom were blessed by God and due to the laws God gave.
·         The book of Esther tells of how Esther was wise and saved her people.
·         Abigail was a wise and discerning woman who was a leader of the servants. She was praised for taking charge and saving her husband. (1 Sam. 25)
·         The queen of Sheba was a wise and wealthy woman who was able to ask Solomon difficult questions. (1 Kings 10:1)
·         The book of Hosea tells of God's prophet who was commanded to take a prostitute for a wife, then go buy her back when she returns to prostitution. This is often viewed as God's love for His people.
New Testament
·         Jesus revealed some of His most important secrets to an outcast woman (John 4)
·         Jesus refused to stone the woman caught in adultery, since she was likely being used by the religious leaders. Instead, He forgave her and gave her sound advice. (John 8)
·         The apostle Paul entrusted his most important book to a deaconess of the church, Phoebe, to take to Rome. (Romans 16:1-2)
·         Priscilla is in joint ministry work with her husband, called a fellow worker of Paul, and often mentioned first when Paul addresses them. She had a church in her home. (Romans 16:3-4)
·         Lydia was a businesswoman who sold purple fabric, likely to the wealthy. She was praised for her help to Paul. (Acts 16:14, 40)
·         Women were mentioned as an equal part of Paul's ministry team (Philippians 4:2-3).
·         Jesus healed women equally with men. (Matt. 9:20)
·         The apostle Paul commanded that widows with families be taken care of, and widows without should be taken care of by the church. (1 Tim. 5:16)
·         Husbands were to be understanding and honoring to their wives. (1 Peter 3:7)
These are but some of the passages in the Bible that lift up and protect women. Therefore far from holding women back, the Bible gives women an important place alongside men in ministry work, an equal protection under the law,  and an honoring place of blessing by the Lord Jesus.
Any criticism of the Bible must take into account these many passages that show how women were viewed in the Bible.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about this is that an intelligent and I am sure sensible man can put together such a list, reflective only of the 'boot' of patriarchy crushing women, and see it as religion supporting women. All of these things which Bible teachings supposedly seek to counter are things imposed by patriarchy in the first place!

I mean, is he serious? He uses the term 'outcast woman.' Who made her an outcast? Patriarchy, no doubt for refusing to bow down to the dictates of men. And Jesus refused to stone a woman - so he bloody well should have. Why was she being stoned in the first place - because of patriarchal religion.

And the church should look after widows! Why? Because a sexist and patriarchal society did not allow women the independence to look after themselves. Husbands were to be understanding and honouring to their wives - that's because given the hatred of women at work in society and the religion most of them beat their wives or killed them if they misbehaved. As many men still do in the name of religion.

These statements which supposedly show how enlightened the Bible's attitude to women is show instead how misogynistic and backward patriarchy was and remains and how utterly out of touch with the world today the Bible is.

But to reply to his comments:

You do realise the 'good'  or positive 'teachings' are merely more enlightened responses to the misogynistic excesses of patriarchy and natural progressions for a primitive and ignorant culture as part of a process of developing?

 In other words they are no different to more enlightened responses to serfs and slaves - and anyone who was subjugated. The Koran has the same teachings and look at how fundamentalist Muslims treat their women. Actually fundamental Hindus, Christians, Jews and Muslims remain shamefully and cruelly misogynistic in this modern age.

The things you cite as support are simply advances which any progressing society should make because their beliefs were not simply wrong they were unjust. Ironically though, given all this support, it took a couple of thousand years for women to actually get justice and even 100 years ago and still within Christian Fundamentalism women were and are regarded as inferior to the male, who, is seen as being 'closer' to God. The arrogance of that teaching beggars belief in any age and can only be sourced in a deep and terrible fear of the feminine. You can't hate something without fearing it, consciously or unconsciously.

And if the Bible which Christian Fundamentalists hold as an absolute says the Bible 'lifts up women then why does Christian Fundamentalism still hold that a wife should submit herself unto her husband and that the husband is 'head' of the wife - a teaching and belief in the modern age which is so backward and sexist it is astonishing it still exists?

And why should women need 'lifting' up? They were never 'lower' merely defined as such by Biblical teachings? No patriarchy, no sexist biblical teachings and no need to 'lift'. And I can say as a woman that women do not need protecting - not by men, not by religion, not by your Bible teachings. In fact what women most often need protection from is men, and religion and these sort of teachings which can be found in every religious book produced in the last 5,000 years.  Or rather re-written in the last two thousand.

 It is bigoted and patronising in the extreme to believe that a woman in this age needs either protection or 'lifting' up by any man or any God. And yes, I do feel strongly about this in the same way that people with black skin feel strongly about racism and that is because as a woman I know the true and cruel nature of patriarchy and its inherent misogyny and it appalls me - and most women - that religious teachings defend these human rights abuses at best and atrocities at worst. Remember the Christian witch hunts? Women died at the stake not because of any devil but because they were women and because men feared their powers as healers and as practisers of the Old Religion.

Bible teachings were the source and justification of long campaigns against allowing women to get the vote and even to be educated, let alone go to university or hold jobs, or go into politics. Through its long history the Bible has been a weapon used to subjugate women and in Christianity it still is. Fundamentalists still believe the man should be the head of the woman and the family and there are no female priests or any chance of them in the Catholic church despite the fact that male priests walk around in 'dresses.'

The Anglicans are more enlightened but even there, the chances of a woman taking the top job is as unlikely as there being a female Pope. That religion should so discriminate against the majority of people in the world, for women are and always are the majority, nature wisely knowing we need more women than men, is quite simply shameful.

Any defence of the Bible in regard to women has to take into account the blatantly misogynistic nature of so many teachings and descriptions of women and the latent hatred of the feminine. Even more so with Fundamentalist Christianity, which, and correct me if I am wrong, still holds that the wife should 'submit' herself to the husband. In this day and age sane and enlightened men and women find this teaching not only ridiculous but insulting and primitive.

I mean the 'mother' of Jesus was not allowed to be a real woman, she had to be a virgin and miraculously and impossibly get pregnant - the confidante of Jesus who, if he really existed was probably his lover if not his wife, is a whore - and the Bible is replete, like Hindu, Moslem, Jewish teachings of the evil of women. For heaven's sake it is a woman who gets the blame in the first place for the 'sin' that everyone supposedly carries until they follow a set of man-made rules. And we have a Father, a Son and a Holy Ghost - not only do we get two males, where there might be a female we get a ghost. No look-in for women in the God stakes.

Although even this trilogy draws upon the ancient Goddess religion which taught that the Mother gave birth to the Son - logical and sensible- and the two created the third - the spiritual - mother representing the source,  the feminine and diffuse awareness, giving birth to or creating the son, the masculine or focussed consciousness and then as aspects of the feminine and the masculine creating the third! Or the even older trilogy of the Great Goddess as Mother, Maiden, Crone or Creator, Protector, Destroyer. But I digress.

Here is what the Bible thinks about women:

'And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. '

There are several in the Old Testament:

"It is better to plant your seed in the belly of a whore than to let it spill on the ground"

"If a woman is raped within the city walls and does not call out then she shall be stoned"

From the New Testament, and one which Christian Fundamentalism still has the gall to demand:

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. . . ." (Ephesians 5:22–23)

...I shall be delighted to hear from my FC that this is no longer taught in church and that women are seen as equal with men in the eyes of his God but I shan't hold my breath.

and "These [redeemed] are they which were not defiled with women; . . ." (Revelation 14:4); and from the Old Testament we find "How then can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?" (Job 25:4) Other relevant New Testament passages include Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 11:9, and 14:34; and 1 Timothy 2:11–12 and 5:5–6. Other Old Testament passages include Numbers 5:20–22 and Leviticus 12:2–5 and 15:17–33.

Tertullian, one of the early church fathers, wrote:
In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die. . . . Woman, you are the gate to hell.

Excuse me but a book, purportedly from a God who clearly hates women, which teaches that women should suffer giving birth - the most wondrous experience on this earth and luckily most don't, only those who have been taught to fear and hate their bodies because of patriarchal misogyny which has also infected modern medicine and it's attitude to childbirth.... and that they are the 'gate to hell'...... simply has no place in a civilized world or needs a serious edit, this time by a woman, not a man.

As a woman one reason why the biblical God is not to my taste and cannot count as God anyway is because more than half of the population of this world is feminine and we have been subjugated and abused for thousands of years with religious books held up as justification for that abuse. A minority of women in the world today have greater freedom but not absolute gender equality but most women still labour under these sort of hateful teachings and the patriarchal mindset which seeks only to condemn and suppress the feminine - something which is half of their nature anyway, given that men and women contain within them both feminine and masculine qualities.

I would close by saying that this hatred of women as enshrined in all major religions is destructive even more of men than it is of women. Everyone loses in a world, or with a religion which does not see the beauty, sanctity and equality of men and women as absolute, utter and complete equals.

As Sally Quinn wrote in the Washington Post:

‘Then I began to learn about religion. It wasn’t just the Catholic Church not allowing women to be priests. It wasn’t just about Muslim women in some countries being forced to cover their bodies, or faces or heads. It was far more prevalent than that. It was a history of Hindu women committing sutee (where the wife throws herself on the husband’s funeral pyre) or being burned to death by their families for greater dowries. It was Buddhist nuns being treated badly by monks. It was Protestant women not being allowed to hold high positions in the church and , in the case of Katharine Jefferts Shori, the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church, being shunned by some theologians. It was Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz, who was demeaned by a of group male congregants who stood up and turned their backs on her when she began to speak in church. It was orthodox Jewish women not being allowed to be part of a minion (a group of 10 men who can pray together) or having to sit apart from the men in the synagogue or having to get a “get” from their husbands in order to get a divorce.

Long before Jesus’s time, Eve was the temptress, Adam the unwilling dupe. Mary had to be a virgin. Joseph did not. Even the Apostle Paul, who had women work with him, was overruled by the church leaders less than 20 years after his death.’


Monday, 27 February 2012

Conversations with a Fundamentalist Christian - Seven and Final

It is probably appropriate that this conversation comes to a close on the number Seven, given that this has been about biblical issues and in Hebrew Seven means complete or full! And there are heaps of meaningful references to the Number Seven in regard to biblical teaching.

When man began to analyze and combine numbers, he developed other interesting symbols. He took the perfect world number FOUR and added to it the perfect divine number, THREE, and got SEVEN, the most sacred number to the Hebrews. It was earth crowned with heaven -- the four-square earth plus the divine COMPLETENESS OF GOD. So we have SEVEN expressing COMPLETENESS through union of earth with heaven. This number is used more than all other numbers in the Word of God, save the number ONE.

In the Book of Revelation the number SEVEN is used throughout. There are SEVEN churches, SEVEN Spirits, SEVEN stars, SEVEN seals, SEVEN trumpets, SEVEN vials, SEVEN personages, SEVEN dooms, and SEVEN new things. SEVEN symbolizes Spiritual Perfection. All of life revolves around this number. SEVEN is used over 700 times in the Bible. It is used 54 times in the Book of Revelation.

All of which is interesting - didn't God rest on the Seventh Day?  And we too have come to a rest, or perhaps for me a pause in the general as opposed to the particular, because the journey and the questions and the learning never stops.

In symbolic meaning - Sevens, like Threes, deal with magical forces. Sevens deal with esoteric, scholarly aspects of magic. Representative of scholarly activities, mystery, and the focused search for esoteric meanings. Which is what this discussion has been about for me.

Seven deals with the activation of imagination and manifesting results in our lives through the use of conscious thought and awareness - so in responding to the literal imaginatively - metaphor and symbol, I find my spiritual path. Ruled by Saturn,  and I have Saturn sitting beside my Sun astrologically, Seven can represent impractical dreaming, but with the chance to go deeper, which is what I have been trying to do.

And so, for what it is worth here is how and where we ended up:

As a matter of courtesy I will reply to your final posts but like you, I am happy to leave things where they stand.

You said: This statement, plus several others in this conversation, allude to the idea that truth and the meaning of a text are in the reader’s mind, that the meaning of a conversation is in the hearer’s mind.  Rather, what the Bible says is not up for vote, it is not depedent on one person’s perspective. What it says is what it says, and I’m sorry, but whatever it says is fixed into the text, and not changed by us.

But this is patently not true because I can read a quote from the Bible and come up with one interpretation and you can come up with another and no doubt four other people could come up with differing interpretations to lesser and greater degrees.

The Bible is a collection of words, offered in the structure of sentences and paragraphs and many of those words have been translated more than once ... and as scholars know, with resulting errors ...and many of the sentences and paragraphs have been edited .... as scholars know, with resulting errors ... and anyone who takes this 'error factor' into account is going to come up with a different interpretation than someone like yourself who does not.

Given that the Bible has been translated and edited numerous times in its history then the text is not as fixed as you might suggest. And there are more than one version of the Bible so clearly it is not as fixed as you might suggest. The only 'text' which is fixed is the text you have selected as the one that you and your religion believes is the correct one. That is however merely belief and the veracity of that belief could never be empirically proven nor demonstrated - except to other believers.

So patently the Bible text is not as fixed as you would have it and that suggests that other interpretations are as valid as yours.

I said: “I believe someone is in love with me and has committed to me but I discover some time later that he does not love me and has not actually committed to me. My relationship then, while being very real, was an illusion. We could have a very rational conversation about my illusory relationship but the relationship, as later demonstrated, would remain an illusion.

The point I was trying to make is that you cannot know you are absolutely right and I cannot know I am absolutely right and much of which we believe, however rational we believe ourselves to be (as so many are when they marry) can be illusion.”

You said: The first paragraph you are correct, you seem to grasp that we cannot go through life believing illusions, because reality tends to creep in eventually. If what is in my mind does not line up with reality, I must change what I’m thinking.

That is right and wrong.  I changed what I was thinking in terms of how one could read the Bible and have it make sense - more than that - how one could read the Bible and have it approximate something which might be mostly sourced in what we could call God.

Many people do go through life believing in illusions and they do so quite happily. You would argue my position is an illusion and I could argue that yours is but we are both living full, productive and functional lives so the illusion works for each of us and reality will only creep in if the illusion becomes non-functional.

And our realities change as we mature and experience more of life and depending on our circumstances. Someone with your views might go along quite happily until confronted with a personal situation which puts them at odds with the beliefs. For instance, one reason I began to question orthodox Christian teachings in regard to Heaven and Hell was because I grew up with dysfunctional parents - a mentally ill mother and often violent and angry father - and when he died I was old enough, at the age of 30, to look at him and his life and be cognizant of the 'wrongs' he had done but to know with absolute utter certainty that he did not deserve to be punished and neither did my mother.

By your reasoning they would be punished simply for not believing what your religion teaches which is even worse but in other versions of Christianity there is still this venal and vindictive teaching that we are punished for wrongs we commit even if we are so wounded or damaged there is no way we could have been other than what we were or are. Such mean-spiritedness and cruelty, could not, I decided at that point, be about God. So I set out to find out just what God might be and to make sense of why any religion should teach such evil things.... for they are evil... they are the opposite of the life force, of live.

 You said: However, the next paragraph makes this statement: “You cannot know you are absolutely right and I cannot know I am absolutely right.” This statement is given as if you are sure you are right about it.

Context is important here. Life is not simple and the application of a perspective to one thing, in this case the reading and interpreting of the Bible, does not necessarily apply to all things. The statement was made about the topic we are discussing here.

You said:  Logically, this statement is either right or not; if it is right, it is self-refuting since you know you are right about something. If it is wrong, it says nothing about how we can know we are right.

The nature of the statement when applied to interpreting the Bible and what God might be says neither of us can be sure in any absolute sense that we are right. If you want to discuss the sentence itself and what it could mean in terms of being self-refuting then those materialistic mindset contortions are possible but probably of little value. I made the comment in the context of the topic and you are taking it as a general which means we are both in very different places in regard to both its meaning and its application.

It would be interesting of course, to 'hold' the comment in thought, like a Zen Koan - which is something it could be - in order to open one's mind to all possibilities and I may well do that now that you have displayed it in that light. But it is a digression from the topic.

You said: In reality, what is usually meant by such statements is that the Christian can’t be sure, but other people can. This is illogical.

Of course it is illogical and that is not what I am saying. I meant exactly what I said. I am struck, as I write, by the thought that you, who takes such a literal and material view of the Bible and its teachings should take such a metaphorical and symbolic view of what I said when I meant it quite literally.  You know, I think you would enjoy Zen Koans if you have not been exposed to them.

I said:  “Looking at the evidence reveals to me that there is substantial ‘proof’ for what I believe but that ‘proof’, just like your ‘proof’ is not absolute and cannot be. In fact it will not be until we die and either confront oblivion, in which case we will not know anyway, or your world or my world.”

You said: You are correct that we do not have “absolute proof” in a philosophical sense, for this level of proof does not exist for anything. In a philosophical, mental problem, we cannot be sure that 2+2=4 will be true tomorrow, since it might change. However, it is not reasonable to go through life like this, claiming that we cannot be sure of such things; to do so is unreasonable. If you have read very many posts on this blog, you’ll see that we have tremendous proof for the essentials of Christianity. We simply cannot wave away all this mountain of evidence with a wave of the magic wand of “we can’t be sure.”

Of course you cannot because your version of Christianity does not allow maybes. Your version of Christianity and religion, from what I can see, is about absolutes and about defending those absolutes. The 'proofs' that you have is in your version of Christianity, not all versions of Christianity and certainly not all religions.

That suggests to me that you have a part of the story but not all of it but clearly it suggests to you that you have all of the story and everyone else is wrong. I prefer to go through life accepting its illusory nature and lack of absolutes than to try to force my head around a concept that one version of one religion in this amazingly complex world can be the only one which has it right. But I do understand why my position seems nonsensical to others, if not terrifying, and why the need to believe one is right and has certainty and appeal.

I would also add I do not wave a 'magic wand' to make what you call proof disappear. I have used extensive reading across a very broad spectrum of knowledge to sift through what might be logically possible and what might be symbolically and metaphorically meaningful. If in my reading of other religions, spirituality and physics and science for instance I had found connections with your literal interpretations of the Bible then we would not be having this conversation now - I would believe as you do - because when I began this journey, my understanding, while not as fundamentalist as yours, was sourced in a literal reading of Christian teaching.

But I did not find those connections. Instead I found that the only way to make sense of the Biblical teachings in terms of what we know of this material world and of more ancient spiritual beliefs, was to approach them metaphorically and symbolically. There was nothing 'magic' about it, except the magic I found in the world when I could make sense of vast areas of disparate knowledge. A 'wand' makes things happen in an instant - my beliefs have been formed over forty years and are still in a process of becoming.

I said:  “Having said that I would add that a spiritual teaching which makes sense to me is that just as we create our own reality in this world, so we create our own reality when we cross over. You probably will see what you expect to see for that is your reality and I will see what I expect to see. In time no doubt, there will be guidance as to which represents the greater ‘truth.”

You said: We simply cannot create our own reality. If we could, then I’ll do it now: My reality is that you’ve just become a traditional Christian. See you in church.

Very droll. What I meant of course is that we create our own reality not the reality of others. We can change ourselves and our own life but do not have the right to try to change others. In truth, when we change then others change. Your task in this life is you, not me and my task is me, not you.

It is the tricky thing with prayer. We don't know what someone else's spiritual needs are in this world and so praying for specifics is not necessarily in their best interests. Keeping it general - sending light and love, praying that they find guidance or that they will become who and what they need to be - is to my mind a safer bet.

And that is why I would never seek to create another reality for someone else - in all truth we cannot but we can confuse them given the power that thought has, particularly on those who are close to us. I neither need or want you to believe as I do: as I have said many times before your way is right for you and mine is right for me. This exchange is no more than a connection to offer insights into why we are who and what we are.

I don't wish anything for you other than fulfillment in the paths you choose as you live your life in your own way.

You said: I submit that there is a lot of popular misconceptions about what quantum physics actually teaches. While I am not an expert, the lectures I’ve heard from people that actually understand quantum physics is that it only works in the sub-atomic world, not in our common level of perception, and even when it does, the main point is that we cannot predict the location of a particle and the direction it is traveling at the same time. It does NOT claim that particles appear from no where, nor do the gaggle of atheist physicists say that material emanates from spiritual. (for proof, see here: http://www.reasons.org/articles/quantum-mechanics-in-plain-english )
Perhaps you can find a qualified source for what you believe? I submit that you can’t.

What you submit is possible is purely sourced in your own prejudice and amounts to egregious conjecture. I could post a heap of links or list dozens of books written by scientists and physicists but I don't see the point. If you are interested it is easy enough to do the research. I am no expert either. I have read and continue to read books on the topic but I doubt I have the ability to put forward any sort of coherent explanation, nor do I have the interest. I leave that to the experts. Just do a search on any question you would put to me, or what you have said here, and the information will be there as will hundreds of books on the topic.

But yes, it is tricky. For one thing there is the views of traditional physics in which I suspect your understanding is sourced - Newtonian/Descartesian material in approach - and then there is quantum physics which is in essence the new physics and which takes, or rather has been forced to take, a view beyond the material. Quantum physicists are now discovering that the physics of the subatomic world apply everywhere and that in fact the phenomena which traditional physics and materialist science would call paranormal are in fact normal and consistent with what is known about the laws of science today.

The traditional physics takes the view of a separated world, just as your religion does of God. This doesn't fit with Quantum or New Physics and it doesn't fit with ancient spiritual teaching - 'all is one' - 'as above, so below' etc. The fascinating thing about Quantum Physics is that it is discovering, or re-membering, the connectedness of all things and the one source of all that is. And the belief that particles cannot appear from nowhere is being challenged as we speak.

You said: I have already commented on how God cannot be all, for he cannot be good and evil at the same time, and cannot be matter since all mater had a beginning. As for “cosmic consciousness” this is a meaningless term. Rocks are not self aware.

No term is meaningless. You may not comprehend or be prepared to accept a term but that does not make it meaningless. As Sir James Jeans, English physicist, astronomer and mathematician said: 'The universe looks more like a great thought than a great machine.'

You might find Bernard Haisch interesting. He has written a couple of books discussing the physics/spiritual perspectives. Bernard Haisch, Ph.D., is an astrophysicist and author of over 130 scientific publications. He served as a scientific editor of the Astrophysical Journal for ten years, and was Principal Investigator on several NASA research projects. After earning his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Haisch did postdoctoral research at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands.

You said: Not sure how much longer I’m going to spend time going down through this alice-in-wonderland line of thinking. My time is limited and you are not basing your beliefs in anything except your own speculations. I respectfully submit that instead of talking to me, your time would be better spent reading the bible.

That's fine. I am happy to call it quits. I would not submit, respectfully or otherwise, how your time should be spent. I would simply wish you well on the path.

You said: Perhaps you can tell me which goddess religion claims that there is only one God, and only one way to that God?

There was only one goddess religion in that the Great Goddess was seen as the source of all, giving birth to this world and everything in it. There were variations on the theme as there are with God as Father but the gist of it was the way was through the Great Mother - as in our spiritual selves. When God became a man, and there's a very good book with pretty much that title you might like to read, they cherry-picked useful bits of the Goddess religion to work into their theologies just as the Christian church cherry-picked beliefs from what it called 'pagan' religions - what was left of the Goddess religion - when it took power. The belief in the devil, another wonderful invention of the Christians, had more to do with demonising the Old Religion than any actual Devil - however, on the basis that 'you create your own reality' the belief in Satan took hold and many people today now actually believe there is a Devil. No doubt, given the power and length of time the belief has been held I have no doubt there is a Devil 'thought-form' - just no real Devil as the religion would have it.

You said:  Then proves their message by rising from the dead? (don’t claim Egyptian, for I”ve already dealt with their entire system, and it is NOTHING like Jesus. See here: http://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/was-jesus-a-copy-of-pagan-myths-part-2/ )

No, there are parallels with Osiris and other saviour/redeemer figures but as a quick answer I would opt for Dionysus -

Dionysus was born of a virgin on December 25 and, as the Holy Child, was placed in a manger. He was a traveling teacher who performed miracles. He “rode in a triumphal procession on an ass.” He was a sacred king killed and eaten in an eucharistic ritual for fecundity and purification. Dionysus rose from the dead on March 25. He was the God of the Vine, and turned water into wine. He was called “King of Kings” and “God of Gods.” He was considered the “Only Begotten Son,” Savior,” “Redeemer,” “Sin Bearer,” Anointed One,” and the “Alpha and Omega.” He was identified with the Ram or Lamb. Known as the Young Man of the Tree indicates possible crucifixion - metaphoric no doubt like Odin.

You said: As for being “flavored by patriarchal language” whether or not this is true has nothing to do with whether it is true or false. Further, as I”ve already shown, the bible is clear in that it lifted women out of and protected them from an abusive society.

Ah but it does. We all know, I am sure even you, how much patriarchy distorted, demonised and debased the feminine in the particular and the general and the power of patriarchy within and throughout religions in the patriarchal age is clear to see.

Studying Hinduism for instance, as I did living in India, there is a clear point when the patriarchal age impacted on the religion and the writings and teachings began to be directed at women in the most poisonous way. Ditto for Buddhism. Such beliefs were not present prior to the patriarchal age - and Hinduism is one of the most ancient of religions - which makes it clear that as men took over religion they also took over theological dogma and they wrote it into spiritual teachings in ways it had never existed before.

There is no reason to believe that Judaism and Christianity were exempt from this and given the misogyny throughout the Bible it is pretty clear that the minds of Christian men were as poisoned by misogyny as the minds of Hindu men.

I said: Reading the Bible one needs to bear in mind the level of propaganda at work in it and errors made purposefully and unconsciously by translations. Symbolically, ignoring the patriarchal tone it simply means that the only way to ‘salvation’ is through one’s spiritual nature. In other words, to be ‘saved’ from a purely material existence, one needs to follow one’s spiritual truth.”

You said: No, this is absolutely, categorically NOT what this is saying. You have made up what you want it to believe, and inserted the meaning in the text.

No I haven't. I took the words and applied metaphoric, symbolic and literal interpretation - you took the words and pretty much stuck to literal.

You said:  I happen to know a bit about the original languages and the translations, and can state categorically that you are wrong.

Being categorically wrong according to your definition, sources and interpretation does not make me wrong per se: It is established fact that there is controversy over some translations from the Aramaic. Given that the original writer, let alone the original oral creator, cannot be asked, it is conjecture and perhaps common sense as to which translation may be right but there is no way of knowing with any certainty which one it is. Translators are also human and many translators were and are employed by Christianity and therefore are highly subjective - they have an agenda.

You said:  If you’d like to quote a source that can speak to the Hebrew and Greek, I’d be glad to respond.

I doubt there is any point. I am sure you know there are scholars who disagree with your position but you give them no credence. My taking the time to quote sources would achieve nothing. If you were really interested you would know of them anyway and have an answer which refutes their theories.

You said: Otherwise, your beliefs are your own false illusions.

Now that is an impressive generalisation. If my beliefs might be my own false illusions, as they might, then so might yours be. We could agree on that one.

You said: The text says nothing about “our own spiritual nature” but rather of Jesus.

Perhaps you do not understand what I mean by reading and interpreting metaphorically and symbolically and that is why you cannot understand what I am saying. There is no need for you to really but if you did you would know what I am saying.

Just as an example: The woman walked into the house which stood behind the church. Literal interpretation is a woman walks into a house which is behind a church. Metaphorical and symbolic interpretation is a woman, or the feminine, enters a house, symbolising the Self, which has been built behind the spiritual.

Next: “But this interpretation is because you believe words in The Bible are absolute, without fault and meant to be interpreted literally and I don’t. I could easily, an do, interpret the writings in metaphorical and symbolic terms but you would not accept that. I can see the literal interpretation which you use as well but it does not make sense to me – hence thinking outside the square.”

You said - Response: With this, you are correct. I do indeed say that the language means what the words mean, the same as what the dictionary says they mean, and that I do not accept that we can make up the meaning as we go along, as you do.

And would you admit that dictionary definitions usually show a variety of meaning and uses and that the same word in different dictionaries in the same language mean different things? i am sure you would as you must. A definition of Liberal in an American dictionary is not the same as that in an English or Australian dictionary although Australians pretty much use the 'mother language', English, dictionary. Neither would 'biscuit' be the same in an American or English dictionary and these are just two examples. So clearly dictionary definitions are not absolute and depend on which culture produces the dictionary, which 'meaning' you choose and then how you interpret it.

You said:  I already tried humorously to show how you cannot do this.

Yes, but it did not work.

You said:  For example, you do not want me to take your statements and pour new meaning into your words.

Oh but you do, we both do, we all do, we interpret words according to our knowledge, our belief and our needs. We often misunderstand each other because we 'pour new meaning' into the words.

 You said: Nowhere in life to do we do this, we cannot do it at the bank, with the police, or in doing business.

Well, we do, but some areas, like banks, it is easier to be literal and to clarify. With the police it is a different matter which is why the law is so incredibly convoluted and complex - tying itself in knots, going around in circles trying to establish with some legal accuracy just what was meant by what was said.

You said:  But when we come to spiritual teachings with which you disagree, you change the meanings of the words.

No, I read all words from a perspective which embraces literality, metaphor and symbol and all situations in the same way. I just happen to feel it is particularly important to do so with spirituality.

You said:  I submit that you are disingenuous.

That is a judgement and a condemnation. The word is defined as 'not candid or sincere' which implies I am lying or being dishonest and I can only say I am not being anything other than completely candid and honest. And it means 'pretending one knows less about something than one does' which is not a meaning I would have thought you would apply to me. Quite the opposite in fact.. It can also mean 'insincere'  or 'cynical and calculating' or it can mean 'naieve' ... or it can mean 'unaware or uninformed.'  Quite a mix of meaning in one word.

Next, “Much in the Bible simply does not make sense if read literally – more to the point it is mean-spirited, cruel, racist, sexist, misogynistic, primitive, lacking in compassion and unenlightened. So it seemed to me that what was wrong was not necessarily the Bible but how it was read and how it was interpreted.”

You said - Response: Perhaps if you have a specific passage that is in question, we can have a discussion. Otherwise you are simply broad-brushing the entire bible without any supporting facts.

Well, beyond most of the teachings of Jesus there is a great deal of that to which I referred. But I understand where you are at.

 Next, “When I read Bible teachings, any spiritual and religious teachings actually, metaphorically and symbolically they make much more sense and the God they display actually looks, sounds and feels like God should – not like some neurotic, vindictive, narrow-minded and intolerant parent.”

You said -Response: Perhaps you should align your beliefs to reality, instead of aligning your perceptions of reality with what you think ought to be there.

Now that is another impressive generalisation. I take it this 'reality' would be your 'reality?' I am content with my reality which is one which is shared by other biblical scholars - to me and them it makes the most sense. However, I respect that your reality is right for you.

You said:  Also, if you would actually read the bible, and do it with an open mind, instead of assuming what it says, you might find the love and tenderness, such as are in the Psalms. Have you read Psalms 30 to 33? Try it; they are quite beautiful.

Of course there are beautiful passages in the Bible but I find greater beauty in relating to them metaphorically and symbolically. I said at the very beginning, the Bible, like all religious 'books' is sourced in the same deep spirituality, it has just been translated, edited and re-written far too much and to suit human agendas.

I could equally say to you - Also, if you would actually read the bible, and do it with an open mind, instead of assuming what it says .... you might find different ways to interpret it.

Next, “Much of what I believe does not come from the Bible but that is only because I access all religious and spiritual writings and draw upon all of them. What I would say though is that what I believe can be found in the Bible – given that it pretty much says the same things, or offers the same spiritual teachings as all other religious writings.”

You said - Response: You are correct in that your beliefs do not come from the Bible.

I also said what I believe can be found in the Bible. But you overlooked that comment.

You said:  But you are flatly incorrect that what the Bible teaches is the same as what is in “all religious and spiritual writings” for most of them disagree with each other.

Interpretation is selective. I said 'at core.' Of course there are differences but the core spiritual teachings in the Bible can be found in most if not all other religions, both modern and ancient.

You said: The Koran says Jesus was not God, did not die on the cross, and did not rise from the dead, the Bible says all these things happened.

That is not what I consider a core spiritual teaching but I realise you do. Actually it is a religious teaching. I did use the word spiritual - very different thing to religious although it does not need to be.

You said: Your beliefs flatly disagree with the Bible, and I’m not sure whether you’ve ever even read it.

No they don't and yes I have. They disagree with your interpretation of the Bible, not the interpretation of some other versions of Christianity or mine.

The Bible, well, the Catholic version of it is getting some more re-writing -
Martyn Percy, a canon doctor at Sheffield university, welcomed the initiative but suggested the results may be less than dramatic. "There has never been a settled, definitive version of the Bible, it has been an evolving book which has gone through many translations. Only fundamentalists think it came in a fax from heaven."


You said: Your beliefs are not based in reality, but in your own wishful thinking.

Another impressive generalisation which is highly subjective if not prejudiced. There is nothing wishful about it. I don't need spiritual or religious writings to be anything in particular therefore no wishes involved. If all religious books disappeared tomorrow the world would lose little. Our spiritual nature can draw upon such things but does not need them. In fact one could argue they create more problems than they solve.

You said:  I did not always believe as I do now…

And neither did I and therein lies the difference. I began close to where you are although was never subjected to such fundamentalist christianity but I was exposed to a literalised version of the Bible through Anglicanism and Catholicism - Christianity 'lite' no doubt to those who espouse Christian Fundamentalism.

You said: .I had to adjust my thinking to reality,

I did not have to do anything or adjust anything. My thinking changed the more I read and the more things began to make sense - it was a process of becoming and not one which I see as particular to a 'reality' just the reality of the moment.

You said: and I suggest you do the same.

I suggest nothing for you and find it a little presumptuous that you suggest I should think like you because that is the only reality. But I can understand why you might find the need to say something like that.

You said: will not continue forever to go round and round this mythical mulberry bush here on the blog.

And that is fine. We can agree to disagree. Take care.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Conversations with a Fundamentalist Christian - Six

You said: I’m sorry, but I simply and honestly cannot see how you can say the things you do and square it with Jesus’ words. In John 14:6, Jesus says “No one comes to the Father but through Me.”

The message is flavoured by the patriarchal language. The same comment can be found in the Goddess religion - just mum, not dad. In symbolic or metaphorical terms this says that the way to truth or the source is through the teachings as represented by the saviour/redeemer whether Jesus, Mithras, Osiris or any other. Jesus represents certain principles, or even archetypal energies and is in essence saying - no-one comes to God (which patriarchy has changed to Father) but through these principles, expressed by Me - the latest in a long line of saviour/redeemers or Light workers.

You said:  In Acts 4:12, we are told “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Reading the Bible one needs to bear in mind the level of propaganda at work in it and errors made purposefully and unconsciously by translations.  Symbolically, ignoring the patriarchal tone it simply means that the only way to 'salvation' is through one's spiritual nature. In other words, to be 'saved' from a purely material existence, one needs to follow one's spiritual truth.

You said:  In 1 Timothy 2:5, the Bible says “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Then, in Ephesians 2:8-9 we are told “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So the Bible says we are NOT saved by doing good things, but by God’s grace, through faith. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

But this interpretation is because you believe words in The Bible are absolute, without fault and meant to be interpreted literally and I don't. I could easily, and do, interpret the writings in metaphorical and symbolic terms but you would not accept that. I can see the literal interpretation which you use as well but it does not make sense to me - hence thinking outside the square.

You said: I simply do not understand how anyone can take these verses seriously and come to the conclusion that the Bible teaches there is more than one way to God, or that God is all of us. We simply cannot pour our own meaning into someone else’s words and still have meaningful conversation. The only way I know that you can hold your position is that you disagree with what the Bible is saying. The Bible simply does not teach your beliefs.

That is because you are fixed on a literal interpretation and I am not and you believe, as Jews, Muslims and Hindus believe about their sacred books that the writing is without fault. I believe none of this. What I hear or read must make sense to me. Much in the Bible simply does not make sense if read literally - more to the point it is mean-spirited, cruel, racist, sexist, misogynistic, primitive, lacking in compassion and unenlightened. So it seemed to me that what was wrong was not necessarily the Bible but how it was read and how it was interpreted.

When I read Bible teachings, any spiritual and religious teachings actually, metaphorically and symbolically they make much more sense and the God they display actually looks, sounds and feels like God should - not like some neurotic, vindictive, narrow-minded and intolerant parent.

You said: I realize you feel that your position is correct, and that is your right. But it is not fair, nor logical, to say the Bible teaches what you are saying. Whatever you believe, you did not get this belief from the Bible.

Much of what I believe does not come from the Bible but that is only because I access all religious and spiritual writings and draw upon all of them. What I would say though is that what I believe can be found in the Bible - given that it pretty much says the same things, or offers the same spiritual teachings as all other religious writings.

And that is the difference, I don't read spiritual and religious texts to get what I believe - I read them to add to everything else I read so I can make up my mind how I think this world works and what my role in it might be. At the end of the day, I believe, these texts are merely sources of interest - the true path to God is within and beyond words, books or teachings.

NB: I do think the process has become circular and there comes a point where the differences in approach are so great that communication is limited. Enough said I think.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Conversations with a Fundamentalist Christian - Five

You said: Was there ever a time in your life that you did not know you were God, and therefore had to learn it?

Consciously yes and of course knowing one is God means different things to me - I believe all is God therefore as part of the all, I am God, or rather, an expression of God, but in essence, God.

You said: This was change, was it not?

It was change in terms of remembering, having forgotten - because I believe when we enter or re-enter this world we are meant to forget and follow a path to remember. Actually I don't think everyone is called to do that, just some.

 You said: Was this change illusion, too?

Everything is illusion as the Hindus and Buddhists teach. Or rather, everything is 'created' by us as an expression of God. This world is a reflection of the real world.

You said: If this change is illusion, could it not be true that it is an illusion that you are god?

Absolutely, of course it could. The task is to make sense of this material world using our material nature combined with our spiritual nature. At the endof the day we have no absolute proof of anything. But, just as we believe in Love and cannot quantify it or reduce it to material essence in a petri dish, so too I believe that this is a meaningful and purposeful world where the material emanates from the spiritual.

You said:  How do you know whether the illusion is from before you learned you are god, or after you learned this?

You don't. All any of us can do is come up with a set of beliefs which work for us - which makes sense of ourselves and this world and the life we live.

You said: Is it not true that as humans, its possible that we not exist? And also true that we then came to exist? How can God not exist, then come to exist?

It depends what you mean by exist. If you mean exist in the material sense we believe we exist then absolutely. We are in essence infinitesimal amounts of matter vibrating in a sea of energy, and as physics now suggest, we actually drop in and out of this reality, this material world all the time. So if you like, we constantly exist and do not exist in a material sense.

However, I do believe that we exist in a spiritual sense eternally and so for the spiritual, which is also God, and our unique individual selves as an expression of God, there is no in and out, there is no time, there is no exist and not exist - we are, God is, always.

You said: Also, you say that you came to this belief by studying many religions. Does it bother you that the Bible directly contradicts your view?

Well, in truth, it is not so much the Bible which directly contradicts my view but how the Bible is interpreted. Fundamentalist Christianity has but one interpretation of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. Across the spectrum of Christianity there is a wealth of interpretations, some of which sit quite comfortably with what I believe. But even if they did not, no, it would not bother me. Christianity is but one religion amongst many and what I believe can certainly be found in many other religions - in varying forms - as indeed it can be found in the Bible.

You said:  For we are told the following:
–There was a time when humans did not exist, then God created us. (Genesis 1)

My view is that given how often the Bible has been translated and re-written that it would be foolish to take too literal a view of anything in it. However, to read this metaphorically -

Yes, there was a time when humans did not exist and then we were created as an expression in the mind of God just as this world was created as an expression of God through the mind of God. Our spiritual natures however always existed, as does God, but being expression as material beings is new - the spiritual is eternal the material is sourced in time therefore it can have a beginning and an end.

You said: –We are separated from God due to sin. The Bible says “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)

You interpret literally and I interpret metaphorically. 'We are separated from God due to sin (and one could spend a lifetime arguing the meaning of sin - happen to believe sin is ignorance) means, we are separated or feel separated from God because in our ignorance we believe we are only material beings. We have forgotten our spiritual nature, or in the Newtonian/Descartesian paradigm, we deny our spiritual nature.

And 'the wages of sin is death' means that in ignorance (sin) we are dead to our spiritual truths and selves and so know only the material which can and does die, not the spiritual which is eternal. Death only exists in this world of matter. If we believe in our ignorance (sin) that there is nothing more than this world of matter then we believe in Death but Death does not exist as any true reality. Maya, or illusion as the Hindus say.

You said: –Hebrews 9:27 says “It is appointed unto man to die once, then the judgment.”

Well the Biblical teachings on re-incarnation were edited out of The Bible but there is evidence for their existence. But, if I were to interpret metaphorically I would say - yes, you can die once, as that incarnation and then there is judgement but it is not the materialistic mindset judgement of Christianity but a judgement by the Soul and Self of its Self. This is something which has been recorded in NDE's for hundreds if not thousands of years. Those who return from an NDE consistently say there is a judgement but you judge yourself - which makes much more sense and is much more just. They also say you re-live your entire life in an instant, not just feeling your own feelings but feeling the feelings of all those who have touched - for good or for ill. That is a judgement in which I can believe.

You said: This is change. So the Bible says that we are judged by God, therefore we are not God.

That is the literal view. If we are God and our spiritual Self is our Godself then yes, the judgement is by God but by God manifesting as our own unique Self and Soul not by a God who sits like a 'parent' or 'judge' in a court of law condemning and punishing.

You say: Whether or not you or I agree or disagree with these Bible passages, we cannot say that the Bible does not teach these things, for I’ve just quoted the passages that says it does.

And I would simply repeat what the Bible can teach depends upon interpretation. Your interpretation is a very different teaching to mine and others. The passages you quote are collections of words which can mean what you say if God is made in the image of humans or mean what I say if God is, well, God and humans are made in the image of God.

You said: So theres at least one source, the Bible, that does not teach what you believe. And this is not my opinion or interpretation, for I’ve just quoted the passages.

Yes, it is your interpretation as I have just shown. And that makes it your opinion. It may be a shared opinion but it is just an opinion.

You said: What is more, many other religions also deny that we are god and that the world is an illusion. These include Islam, Judaism, native religions, and Hinduism. None of these would hold that we are god right now.

Well, they deny that we are God in perhaps the way that you define God but they don't so much deny that we are God in the way that I define God. The problem is that we interpret the concept of God very differently and as I have said before, that is fine as long as it brings fulfillment to one's life - we are all different and I believe this world exists as an expression of God's creativity.

You see God as a separate thing, or entity, like a painter as you said who acts like some kind of parent with all the flaws and strengths that a human parent can have. This interpretation of God was developed in the patriarchal age and is, by necessity, inherently patriarchal in nature.

I see God as consciousness, like an enormous ocean of consciousness, an entity without concrete form as God - no old man with a beard on a cloud - but pure and perfect consciousness which creates all that is, including this world and us and other worlds and other entities.

As one finds in ancient myth, to me it is like a net (quantum physics also relates to this concept) which expresses or manifests as worlds and people and birds and ants and sand and sky - you get the picture, where absolutely everything which exists is sourced in and made of what I call God.

Physicist David Bohm came up with the concept of implicate and explicate orders which fit what I am trying to express in my sense of God. In the enfolded [or implicate] order, space and time are no longer the dominant factors determining the relationships of dependence or independence of different elements. Instead, an entirely different sort of basic connection of elements is possible, from which our ordinary notions of space and time, along with those of separately existent material particles, are abstracted as forms derived from the deeper order.

These ordinary notions in appear in what is called the "explicate" or  the unfolded order, the expression emanating from the implicate, and it is a  distinguished form contained within the general totality of all the implicate orders. So God if you like is the implicate and this world is the explicate or one form of explicate. We emanate if you like from the source which is God - We are made in the image of God because we are made of God - we are God.

My beliefs are drawn not just from studying religions and spiritual writings but from studying science, physics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, mythology, astrology and lots of other 'ologies' and making the connections between them all which allow me to weave a 'picture' where I and this world makes sense and God makes sense.
I hope that makes sense.

You said: I hope you don’t think I’m too forward……..I always have been interested in how people come to believe what they believe. Thanks for the interesting conversation.

Not at all. It makes me think about people who think as you do and it makes me think about what I believe and clarify and articulate it for myself.  And I do apologise for length but I am also interested in this conversation and aware of how easy it is to misunderstand each other so I am trying to spell out for you how I see, or interpret what you believe and why I believe what I believe.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Why I changed the name from Committed to Fundamentalist

I started writing these posts as an ongoing conversation with someone on another blog site. I called it Conversations with a Committed Christian to be polite really, when I think about it.

But, given that others have pointed out that this sort of Christianity is not so much about commitment, although of course there is enormous commitment, but about fundamentalism - an extreme version of Christianity in terms of its literality and it's highly conservative, not to mention, paternalistic nature and is therefore only one form of Christian expression and certainly, thankfully, not the major form, the title of the Posts were misleading.

As they were and that is why I have changed them. Honesty is crucial if we are to sift through the dross and dregs of that which so many call Truth and unless we name something honestly and openly then we are dealing with the drifts and shadows of theological belief instead of the substance.

These conversations then represent extremes and to be fair to my Fundamentalist Christian, I am in many ways at the other end of the theological debate. We are, as we both eventually decided, probably too far apart to really understand each other although, as I pointed out, I like many started out pretty much where he still is but he has never been, and probably never will be, where I am at.

The discussions did not give me greater insight into why someone would choose such an unkind and restrictive form of religion, because I have some understanding of that anyway, but it did remind me that we are all seekers on the spiritual path and there is not one way. It also reminded me that this narrow path of fundamentalist Christianity does not represent the religion as a whole in any way, and is in fact, like all fundamental expressions of any religion, a distortion of the teachings.

That people can take the teachings of Jesus and come up with dogma which has the sort of judgemental and vindictive God one finds in this fundamentalism is surprising, if not astonishing. How anyone can hold a belief that those who do not accept the beliefs the religion teaches - no matter if they have never heard them or been able to hear them because of circumstances or physical disability - will be punished for eternity by God is beyond me in terms of spiritual understanding.

I can however understand it from a psychological perspective. What Fundamentalist Religions of all kinds offer people is a greater illusion of certainty. They have in their God the archetypal patriarchal Father - the one who protects them (as long as they behave and obey) and who will keep them safe. This is the same Father/God who demands only obedience of his children so there is no need, once the teachings and beliefs have been accepted, to take responsibility for one's self or make up one's own mind.

In essence, 'do what Dad says and Dad will look after you,' or do what God says and God will look after you. Disobey and you are done for! There must be a great deal of fear beneath such a belief system and a desperate need for certainty and the illusion of control. But we are all different and what works for one does not necessarily work for another.

And while I choose to stick with God and drop all religions, I do feel it is important to say that there is much which is good in all religions and the 'best' of any of them - which means the least extreme - can offer people valuable and productive companionship on the spiritual path. It was certainly where I started out and within both Anglicanism and Catholicism I found much richness and much of value - there was just too much of the patriarchal and far too many rules and regulations to suit me.

In fact, if I have any observation about religion is that they all remind me of the game of Bridge. When I learned Bridge, many years ago, it struck me that it was in essence an incredibly simple game which had been made more complex and more difficult - perhaps because people were bored - where they had then set about inventing all sorts of rules and regulations which had to be remembered, enforced and accepted in order to play the game properly.

Religion is the same. In essence a belief in God is a pretty simple, and I would say natural thing. What complicates it all is the theological 'red tape' which human beings have created - the wastelands of rules and regulations which must be understood and followed - before one can 'play the game' properly.

To that degree religions have turned spirituality into a game and one where everyone is the loser - the spiritual and religious followers and the religions themselves. That for no other reason is why God got me and religion didn't. I have much better ways of spending my time in terms of my Spiritual Life than abiding by endless theological rules invented by men - and it is mainly men who have invented such rules.

A quick study of the ancient Goddess religion, or the nature religions like Wicca, so deeply sourced in the feminine, shows that the patriarchal literality and demand for control is not a part of those spiritual paths sourced in and supported by the minds of women.

And in all honesty, one can only share views and beliefs - people are either ready or able to see the sense or lack of sense in them or they are not. It is not, at the end of the day about changing anyone's mind but about sharing thoughts and experiences as we all walk the long, difficult and fascinating path of life.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Conversations with a Fundamentalist Christian - Four

This is the response from my Committed Christian who takes what can only be called a fundamentalist approach to God:

You have written quite a bit…..I will not have time to respond to all of it, but here’s a quick summary.

1. God not being made of matter has nothing to do with omnipotence. There is no correlation.

Well yes it must. If God is omnipotent then God has unlimited power - there are no limits - ergo, God must be all things including Matter. There is a distinct correlation.

2. God not being made of matter is not a distinctively Christian teaching; it is held by many religions and is logical philosophically.

That makes it neither sensible nor correct. Religions hold some decidedly irrational if not silly views and the attitude in all religions to women has to be a classic case of bigotry, prejudice and stupidity. More to the point not all versions of Christianity hold this belief.

3. God is indeed not all things…..that’s the whole point. He cannot be all things, for then he would be contradictions. This was the point I was making, which you did not answer, but merely re-asserted your original position.

Beyond the yearnings of our innate spiritual nature the basic premise of a God is as explanation for this world and the concept is that of an all-powerful God as the creative source and force of all that is. That means in this cosmos then God must be all things - there can be no separation - no 'this bit is God' and 'this bit isn't God' because if there are bits which aren't God then the whole concept of God as we know it comes crashing down.

If God is not all things then God is not omnipotent and there is something Other than God which means God is not all powerful and there is some other force which is more powerful because if God were the most powerful then there would be no other force - in other words, for something to exist which is not God then God's power is limited. God to be God must be all things and it is for us to work out the how and the why of the contradictions. Which is certainly possible if one takes a less literal view of religion and God.

We are all connected - everything in this world is connected at the molecular level and if that is the nature of this world and of human beings as a part of this world and if we are 'created in God's image' as the Bible says, then that is the nature of God. Even if you take it literally, as you prefer to do, 'if we are made in God's image' then what we are is what God is. If you take it metaphorically then 'if we are made in God's image' then whatever God is, we are and whatever we are, God is.

4. Further, God cannot be all things in the sense of being absurdities, such as a square circle. He cannot be holy and unholy at the same time.

Why not? But if God is not all things then God is not all powerful and there are other equally powerful forces at work so God, is not really God - as in all that is as the Bible states. A square and a circle and holy and unholy are just different expressions of the same basic material - consciousness - and that is what I call God. If Matter can be both wave and particle, spiritual and material, then why can't God be different expressions of the same thing?

5. That matter can be changed to energy is not relevant to God not being all things.

I did not say that. What I said was, energy cannot be destroyed, only transformed. In other words, all that is has always been and always will be, it just, like matter being particle or wave when observed, becomes one thing or another as part of God's creative process - and I would add, as part of our creative process.

6. God is not made of matter, but that does not mean he is incapable of interacting with the material world, again like a painter to a painting. Just because God acts in the world does not mean he is made of matter, just as a painter can interact with the painting without being in it.

But God is not a mere painter. A painter creates in and with the material - God supposedly creates all things for all eternity.  God is the painter the painting, the brush, the paint, the easel, the room, the floor - the lot.

And if God is all that is and all that is contains matter or is expressed as matter then God may not be specifically 'made' of matter but God is also matter and that is the only reason why God can interact with us. If God were not 'of this world' then God could not effect this world.

7. How he interacts is something I cannot explain, since I am limited. I can’t explain electricity, either, but that does not mean it is not true.

And that limitation means all you can do is theorise and since you do not know absolutely, and neither do I, then we both have as good a chance as each other of being right. Neither of us may understand how electricity works but I see clearly how God works or is demonstrated in this world and so do you - we just see different things. Perhaps I look for a metaphorical 'wave' and you look for a 'particle.' Both constitute the same thing but manifest differently. And electricity may express itself as a force or source in a multitude of ways just as God is expressed in a multitude of ways - all made of the same thing, all sourced in the same thing, but dramatically different in terms of manifestation.

8. You have understood correctly; God is spirit. Man has a spirit, but also has a material body. Man’s spirit and God’s spirit are not the same.

Then God is not 'all that is' as the Bible says because we and God are different things so God is limited because God is not everything. Either it's all God or it's not and if it's not then it isn't God.

9. God does not love us like a parent, based on our behaviour. He loves us like a God, which is a different kind of love. But God is also just, and would be unjust if he merely allowed evil without dealing with it fairly. If God were to ignore human evil, he would be evil himself, or at best worse than the average human. God is loving, but is also a righteous judge who always deals fairly….he does not wink at evil.
If God is Love and we are made in the 'image of God' then our Love has to be God's Love! Your language and your religion, presents a God as parent who judges us on behaviour otherwise there would not be rules about how to get to Heaven. Neither would someone who has never heard of your version of Christianity or your God, or someone who does not have the mental ability to comprehend what you seek to teach, be condemned. If you want a stark case of evil then a God who treats helpless and innocent people like this is most definitely capable of evil.  And if God is loving then God is not a righteous judge or any kind of judge because Love in its absolute truth is unconditional!

If it is a different kind of Love then God is not all that is - God is limited. As to dealing with what you call evil, what you call evil is a set of laws which your religion believes and seeks to impose on others. No God would be so unjust. What you call evil is just a difference of opinion and luckily S/HE does have a great sense of humour and spends quite a bit of time no doubt, not only winking but laughing at the silliness of human beings including a rule which says those who don't believe a particular set of religious dogma get punished for eternity.

10. God respects our free will, so that he would not force us into his heaven against our will. Many people cannot stand to go to church for an hour a week…..what kind of God would force people to go there for all eternity? God allows us to spend eternity away from him if we want. But since God is good, we end up being away from good, away from light.

That applies to your religion and your religion alone. The great majority of people in the world, thankfully, do not believe in your God and so what you believe about your God may be right for you but it doesn't make it right in any absolute sense, despite the fact that I know you think it does.

And there are many people who would consider being in church, your sort of church, for all eternity to be Hell! Apart from which it would be incredibly boring being surrounded by everyone who thinks the same sorts of things - judgemental, unforgiving, intolerant and quite simply, unkind. 

11. Your statement about interpretation of metaphors cannot hold up in any normal sense of language communication. We simply cannot communicate if we insist on pouring our own meaning into the words. For example, the people who write the books about metaphorical interpretation expect us to take their books literally. You expect me to understand your words in a common way, otherwise I could say that all this time you’re explaining how to do gardening.

It is very true that we speak a different ‘language’ and I am reminded of the saying ‘ divided by a common language’ which is a salutary reminder that even if we are speaking the same language, i.e. English, there are cultural differences in meaning and interpretation and never more so than when the topic is religion.
We always pour our own meaning into words even if you do not accept this as either possibility or reality and no book is ever taken exactly as the writer intended. And if my words stand as a metaphor for garden as well as God well then that is absolutely fine and in fact one of the most apt and beautiful metaphors for God.

I have some understanding of your God because that is the God most of us start out with, but
 I can see you have little or no understanding of mine and that really is okay. What matters is not that you understand my interpretation of God but that I do.

And for me anyway, the real truth is that not only do I understand what I am saying but God understands what I am saying because God understands what everyone is saying (and why they are saying it) so really, it is all absolutely fine if we do not understand each other.
Beyond God, what matters is we tried. One can do no more than that. Take care.

While I find no use for religion I am not against religion per se: just religion which is extreme and unkind and which posits a vengeful and judgemental God.  There is a richness, depth and substance to Christianity which is lost in the fundamentalist and literal approach.

And as someone has pointed out to me, your version of Christianity is just one version and one which is orthodox in approach, if not fundamentalist. There are other versions of Christianity which are more akin to my thinking and my beliefs have, in part, been drawn upon writers sourced in such a Christianity.

Perspective is all and those wishing to explore Christianity, or any religion, are wise to explore all versions of it if they wish to gain a balanced perspective. In terms of Christianity which embraces or is open to that which I espouse, there are sites like this:

Which says:
Since the scientific revolution of the fifteenth century, there has been an increasing tendency in Christianity to see God as separate from Creation. To the commmon view, it's no longer God sending the sun across the sky each day, but the Earth's rotation, and no longer God raining down blessings on our fields, but water precipitation. Of course, we might pray for God to step in and cause some precipitation, but prevalent thinking has him obsessed with "spiritual" concerns, and uninvolved with the universe. In my opinion, this is nothing but the utter negligence of the modern Christian mind to seek God where he may be found! This has led to a wholly unnecessary gulf between science and religion, and results in a tragic compartmentalization of our "spiritual life" as being somehow separate from our daily lives.

According to this thought, God is fundamentally uninvolved. The universe is like a wind-up toy, left to go on its own, while God attends to—whatever. Once formed, natural laws work without any continued intelligence or consciousness, the true mindless governors of an inert and dumb universe.
But the truth is that science itself is shedding that view. Furthermore, through its genius for questioning how? science invites believers of all faiths to question who?, what?, and why? at a deeper level.

And this site offers thoughts to provoke a more balanced picture of what Christianity might be:

So to each their own on this spiritual path with the understanding that there are many ways to walk it.