Religion (and philosophy)
I am convinced that the concept of God is so far beyond human
comprehension that no religion has, or will ever, come close to knowing the
truth (it would be easier to teach insects about "automobile insurance").
All religions are man-made. We created god in our own image, not the other
way around. But here is the sad truth: many misguided people would not think twice about killing in the name of their
religion, or their god, so I fear the violence will never end. Deism
seems to me to be the middle path between atheism and religion.
- Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He
is the only animal that has the True Religion—several of them. He is the
only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his
theology isn't straight.
- Biblical text should not be interpreted as properly literal,
but rather as metaphorical, if it contradicts what we know from science
and our God-given reason
of Hippo, De Genesi ad literam 1:19-20, Chapt. 19 , De Genesi ad
- Fundamentalism is the blind lunge towards over simplification
George Steiner (Philosopher)
- Hundreds of professional and amateur scientists actually believe
that the Bible pretends to teach science. This is a good deal like assuming
that there must be authentic religious dogma in the binomial theorem
Lemaître (1933) Roman Catholic priest and Scientist (who first proposed
Big Bang after analyzing the mathematics behind Einstein's General Theory
- The bible explains how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go
Galileo Galilei (1616)
- All extreme forms of thinking are a form of insanity
- An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof
this quote can be used as a successor to
- Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit
- We live in a world shaped by stories. Stories are threads of our
lives and the fabric of human cultures. A story can unite or divide
people, obscure issues, or spotlight new perspectives. A Story can inform
or deceive, enlighten or entertain, or even do all of the above. As humans,
we are literally hardwired for narrative. Stories are essential to human
learning and building relationships in social groups. There is growing
consensus in the scientific community that the neurological roots of both
storytelling and enjoyment of stories are tied to our social cognition.
- Ours is a time of space telescopes, electron microscopes,
supercomputers, and the worldwide web. This is not a time for parsing
lessons given to a few goat herders, tent makers an camel drivers.
Rev. Michael Dowd, "Thank God for Evolution!"
- There's another reason I think popularizing science is
important, why I try to do it. It's a foreboding I have -- maybe ill-placed
-- of an America in my children's generation, or my grandchildren's
generation, when all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other
countries; when we're a service and information-processing economy; when
awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one
representing the public interest even grasps the issues; when the people (by
"the people" I mean the broad population in a democracy) have lost the
ability to set their own agendas, or even to knowledgeably question those
who do set the agendas; when there is no practice in questioning those in
authority; when, clutching our crystals and religiously consulting our
horoscopes, our critical faculties in steep decline, unable to distinguish
between what's true and what feels good, we slide, almost without noticing,
into superstition and darkness.
My "2 cents" on religious world conflict
Europeans learned during the "30 Years War" (1618-1648)1
that religion and politics don't mix. In fact, it was the principal of religious
freedom2 that was the basis for ideas which created the United
States of America. So I'm confused when:
- the USA enthusiastically supplies arms to a democratic theocracy
(Israel) who is in a war with a group of people trying to become a democratic
theocracy (Palestine). On the flip side, Palestine receives and uses
arms supplied by Iran and Syria against Israel while their own people starve
in the streets dreaming of the afterlife.
- the USA is best friends with a tribal theocracy (Saudi Arabia) who look
the other way while Saudi religious police engage in
kidnappings in the name of Sharia Law. To make matters worse, Saudi
Arabia is the largest purchaser of US military hardware and are most likely
supplying weapons to ISIS / ISIL.
comment: so just as the US and USSR created many
problems in the middle-east by fighting a proxy-war during during the 1980s
in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia (Sunni) is fighting a proxy war with Iran
(Shia) in Libya and Syria. To make matters worse, American arms sold to
Saudi Arabia are being used to attack people in Yemen. What do you suppose
happens when anyone looses their home or family then trips over a piece of
metal stamped "Made in U.S.A."? You guessed it: life long enemy waiting for
an opportunity to enact revenge on the United States, their allies, or
- many Americans today reject science and logic while openly embracing
religious fundamentalism (including a literal belief in Bible scripture) and
political extremism. They even claim that America was founded on Christian principles
even though many of the
US Founding Fathers
(Washington, Adams, Madison, Jefferson, Franklin, etc.) were
joke (perhaps irony is a better word here) gets better when Ronald Reagan, who
becomes president with help
from fundamentalist Christian groups organized by people like
Jerry Falwell, quotes a few lines from
Paine during his inauguration. (Many religious people, then and now,
Thomas Paine an atheist even though Paine was a self-described
The world will never have peace until there is a
protestant-style reformation in all religions which will
enable people to take back control of their churches from zealots and
extremists. Every citizen must strive to ignore anyone (religious or otherwise) who instigates war or
martyrdom. We also must be wary of any religious person with "political
ambitions" or "ties to people with political ambitions" (you probably think I am
referring to some Islamic Imams and Clerics but American Christians like Jerry Falwell
also spring to mind)
- in this war, Catholics and Protestants fought each other for the
bodies, souls and property of the other group. A whole generation passed
until the children of the people who started the war put a stop to
- in this context "religious freedom" can be rephrased as "each citizen being free
of the other person's religion"
Two more cents
After the 9/11 attacks on New York in 2001, I read three books on Islam as
well as Islamic History to attempt to understand Islam's principles. While
contemporary Muslims usually refer to Mohamed as only a prophet, he was also a
politician as well as a military general. This perspective sheds new light on
Muslim discontent which obviously extends beyond religion.
Most Muslims consider Qurans not written in the Arabic language to be profane
translations. This means that imams and clerics not able to read Arabic must
turn to the hadiths (non-Arabic translations are allowed) which number between
4000 and 8000. Demanding that the primary holy text stay in the original
language is reminiscent of pre-protestant Christianity demanding that the Bible
stay in Latin (even though many original
documents were only available in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek)
Next I read three books on Christianity which rendered me equally confused.
Mention "the big schism in Christianity" and most modern people with think
"Catholic vs. Protestant" rather than "Eastern Orthodox vs. Roman Catholic"
A very simple summary involves the
(a word never found in the bible) which is derived from the evolution of the
(publically recited by most churches as an affirmation of what the attendees
believe) which first appeared in 325 AD. The Trinity
controversy begins with the insertion of the
Filioque in 451 AD at
Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon making Jesus divine. In a
play in 1054 (was this religious or political?) the Roman Catholic church excommunicated Christian
churches who did not accept Filioque which resulted in a spit between
Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox.
I ask you all now: if the Greek belief is still labeled "orthodoxy"
(straight thinking) then wouldn't the Roman Catholic doctrine, and everything descended from it
(Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, and Pentecostalists to only name
five of many), be considered
Food-for-thought: many protestants scoff at the catholic practice of
"praying to Mary" but if belief in the divinity of Jesus is heretical, then
"praying to Jesus" should also be discouraged. As far as I can tell, the Muslim
world prays to Allah rather than Mohammad which may be more correct (especially
if Allah is just another name for God)
Our Modern World
The age of
enlightenment was kicked off by Europeans like
Spinoza who laid
the groundwork for the 18th century
and modern biblical criticism
(an open minded scholarly study and investigation of biblical writings seeking to make discerning judgments about these writings). For most of Europe,
this put an end to governments recognizing superstition and the end of acts like
"witch burning". Roman Catholics behaved badly with the
inquisitions until Napoleon
put a stop to the last one (of five) in Spain after after conquering that
country. Spinoza's enlightenment continued in 18th and
19th century Europe where many more original bible manuscripts (scrolls) were
acquired then compared with ancient historical records and found to be
changed or just plain wrong. (quote: this school reached its apogee with the
influential synthesis of
Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) in the 1870s,
which point it seemed to many that the Bible had at last been fully
explained as a human document).
call myself a
Desist who is convinced that all
religions are completely man-made. Like literature, music and art,
is just another human cultural expression and humanity would, most likely, be poorer without
it. Since no rational person would ever "torture", "murder" or "go to war"
over literature, music or art, then those who believe these activities are
permitted in the name of
religion need to be educated otherwise. No one will ever be able to
prove (or disprove) the existence of god so there is little point in trying.
Meanwhile arguing about the inaccuracies found in all religious writings
make me think that humanity's only hope is to keep personal religious
beliefs private. This means we must all strive for a secular society.
Although many people have continued the
enlightenment the efforts of
Spinoza, Thomas Paine
is the name most citizens might recognize today. Thomas
Paine wrote many things including "the importance
of the separation between church and state" and "racial equality"
(he even proposed "abolishing slavery 100 years before Lincoln").
- The following three titles are a "must read" for all modern
Common Sense (American Revolution)
of Man (French Revolution)
The Age of Reason (Enlightenment).
- Part-1 was written while under arrest in
France awaiting the guillotine
was written in 1796
- To Begin the World Over Again: Thomas Paine and the American
- To Begin the World Over Again: The Life of Thomas Paine
- Some noteworthy deists include:
Madison, Thomas Jefferson,
and perhaps John Adams. All these people knew, or had read the works of, Thomas Paine.
comment: Most of
the American founding fathers were deists and anyone who tells you
otherwise is lying (even if you heard it from the pulpit). If you don't believe me then you should start by
first reading the
Tripoli which was ratified unanimously by the U.S. Senate on June 7,
1797 and signed into law by President John Adams on June 10, 1797.
Quote: As the Government of the United
States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian
religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the
laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said
States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any
Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext
arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of
the harmony existing between the two countries.
published in ~ 200 newspapers it should be noted that there is no record of any public outrage of
Charles Darwin started out a Christian (he graduated with a
degree from Trinity College, Cambridge and was destined to be an
Anglican Parson) he became a deist after questioning
the premature death
of three of his ten children before publishing
Origin of the Species in 1859. Meanwhile, most Anglican Parsons and
Deacons who read Darwin's book did not see it as an attack on religion;
they saw it as science's description of nature which had been put into
motion by a prime-mover god.
But here is another view where some people say
evolution is actually described in Genesis 1-24:
notice that he "brings forth" rather than "creates"
God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and
the fruit tree.
Humanity's Coming Dark Age (a warning)
Symptoms before each collapse: ignorance, superstition,
religious fundamentalism, xenophobia, intolerance, rejection of science
The Rise and Fall of Empires (published: 2003-01-29)
Click here to read more
Useful Links (and a few departing points)
- www.deism.com - God gave us
reason, not religion
- belief in the existence
of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection
of supernatural revelation.
- belief in a God who created the world but has since remained
indifferent to it.
- Notable members include most of the American "Founding Fathers"
including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington,
John Adams and James Madison. Also includes revolutionary writer
and US Civil War president
is the belief that
reason and observation of the
natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of
God, accompanied with the rejection of
revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge.
Deism gained prominence in the 17th and 18th centuries during
Age of Enlightenment—especially in Britain, France, Germany
and America—among intellectuals raised as
Christians who believed in
one god, but found fault with organized religion and could
not believe in supernatural events such as
inerrancy of scriptures, or the
Trinity. Deism is derived from
the Latin word for
The earliest known usage in print of the English term deist
is 1621, and deism is first found in a 1675 dictionary. Deistic
ideas influenced several leaders of the
French Revolutions. Two main forms of deism currently exist:
classical deism and modern deism.
quote: The Bible was not handed to mankind by God, nor was it dictated to human
stenographers by God. It has nothing to do with God. In actuality, the Bible was
VOTED to be the word of God by a group of men during the 4th century.
- Many modern Christians believe the world is only 6,000 years
- Most do not know that this so-called fact comes to us
from a 17th century
Irish Bishop by the name of Ussher
who did so by tallying begats found in bible
genealogies (Adam begat Seth,
Timothy 1:4 and
3:9 instruct the faithful to "Avoid foolish questions and
- Asimov's Guide to the Bible
- a rational critique of both the Old and New Testaments
- Everyone reading this already knows the story about god stopping the
sun in the sky in Joshua-10 (which is retold in 2-Kings-20). In reality,
god could have more-easily caused this battle to have been won just by
causing the other side to fall by any quick-acting illness (dysentery
springs to mind). If you believe that god stopped the sun in the sky (or
more accurately, that the Earth was stopped from rotating for anywhere
between 40 minutes and 23 hours), then you would probably believe
anything including that David Copperfield actually employs real magic.
- More (links, etc)
- www.skeptic.com -
promoting science and critical thinking
- Biologos ( http://biologos.org/ )
is a science site for modern open-minded Christians
Development of the
Canon of the New Testament
- Christian bible scholars like
Bart Ehrman tell
us that half of the books of the 27 books of the
(forgeries). It does not matter how well intentioned the authors were,
if you are serious about religion then you had better not teach from the
forgeries especially where they knowingly conflict with other teachings.
of Matthew - contrary to popular belief by commoners, this book was
not written until 40 years after the death of Christ
Document Hypothesis @wikipedia
- The Nicene Creed
is a verbal affirmation of what a church body believes about the New
- It first appears in 325 AD under the first council of Nicaea when
Constantine was attempting to make Christianity the official religion of
the Roman empire
- In the late sixth century, the Latin-speaking churches added
the words "and from the Son" (Filioque)
to the description of the procession of the Holy Spirit, in what
Eastern churches have argued is a violation of
Canon VII of the Third Ecumenical Council, since the words were not
included in the text by either the Council of Nicaea or that of
- All Roman Catholics, as well as the followers of all
Christian sects derived from Roman Catholicism,
including protestants, "are heretics"
- If you ever "prayed to Mary or any other saint" then "you are a
- If you ever "prayed to Jesus" then "you are a heretic"
Neil Rieck (rationalist, humanist, deist)
Kitchener - Waterloo - Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.