Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Do you remember that judge in Georgia or Alabama who installed a large stone "statue" of the Ten Commandments in his county's courthouse? Eventually, he was forced to remove it much to the gnashing of teeth and shredding of garments of the "true believers" who felt --- this showed just how Godless America had become.

I remember seeing this judge being interviewed on television by Bill Press, a liberal political writer and journalist. Bill was the soul of courtesy --- and showing extreme deference asked the judge what "God" did he mean when he said that the USA was founded on the belief of God and his teachings and commandments. The judge was absolutely dumbfounded.
He grasped his Bible and holding it aloft said something like: The God Who is found within the covers of this book!

Personally, I think it is close to blasphemous to believe that God is found within a single book by any name. Or any group of words, no matter how large. Words are written or spoken expression s-- much of the time -- of concepts. And, for my money, a God that can be encapsulated in a concept --- just can't be God.

Yes, the word God has many meanings. Bill Press's inference along these lines when he asked the jurist his question --- pointed to this.

I found recently some wonderful quotes from -- above all -- a Baptist minister who has been heading a church in Evanston, IL since 1980. I don't know exactly what kind of Baptist church this is --- but it's the kind I might like to visit.

Here are some exciting and enlightening comments from Reverend Robert V. Thompson:

"If I'm being asked about whether or not I believe in some supreme being with an extreme ego who insists that people conform to a rigid dogma, I say, 'No, I don't believe in that God'."

"If I'm asked if I believe in a God whose abode is in a heaven, separated from the earthly domain, the answer is, 'No, I don't believe in that God'."

"If the question is if I believe in a god who uses coercive power to make things happen a certain way, I reply, 'Not that one either'."

I may not agree with everything the Pastor says, but he is rather refreshing.

P.S. The photo at the top is the minister -- not the judge.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Don't Blame Everything on Religion !

The New Atheists: Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, et al point to the damage caused by religion and its adherents down through history: wars, pogroms, inquisition, massacre, intolerance, cruelty.

They do not spend much time on the good that has come from religion: peace both within the mind and outside it; feeding the poor; ministering to those suffering and misunderstood; charitable works; pointing towards ideals and virtues that -- when followed ---- have made things better for the world and mankind.

They have not spent much time on the destructive forces unleashed under the banner of reason and science. Consider the horrors unleased by the Industrial Revolution; by the utopian atheists of the Soviet Union; by the Nazis; by Capitalism; by the means Science has developed to harm both mankind, other species and this planet.

The Enlightenment itself -- usually pictured as the beginning of that great, positive evolution which is taking all of us to higher and higher levels of human development. Partly true, since there stemmed from it a greater emphasis on human dignity, on individual liberty, on attacking ignorance and combating injustice.

The problem with the Enlightenment and the secular humanism which it spawned is that it led people to believe that with the emphasis on Reason we could realize the perfectibility of humanity. Reason though can become dictatorial and unreasonable.
Stemming from the belief that through reason, science and sound thinking we can make a utopia --- spawned the horrors of the French Revolution; the cruelties and massacres of colonization; the barbarism of our own suppression and attempts to eradicate the Native Americans.

The story of mankind is not one of continual progress. History is not progressive.
History is basically cyclical. Science and Reason can make things much worse instead of much better. What makes the difference is the amount of Compassion and Wisdom there is inherent in our lives. The ability to eliminate millions more persons in war today is an example of Science. Would you call this --- an advancement?

When I read Harris and Hitchens and other New Atheists, their tone is vituperative, angry, intolerant and filled with hatred and outrage. I get the same feeling when listening to the Christian evangelist, John Hagee.

Must we choose between the zealots who worship at the shrine of Reason & Science or the dogmatists who follow a fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran or Bible?

Do we really believe in the "purity of the rational mind".

IMO, humans are simply not naturally good. There is evil, and most of it stems from people. The planet would not be harmed to a great extent, but probably enhanced --- if by some chance ---- mankind disappeared entirely.

What have we really contributed? What have we really "messed up"?

People are not going to evolve into some kind of perfected tribe by following reason. Reason is the mother of rationalization, and we know how prevalent it is. In fact, we have the ability to use Reason and even Science to justify our own lack of wisdom, inner forces of hatred, lust, greed, anger...

Whether there is a God or not --- we can be absolutely sure that Reason + Science is not It !