Sunday’s Religion In America Series..

ISOA Banner  My intention going into the new RJsCorner was that I would use Sunday to sometimes post about things religious. With that in mind I thought I would start a new series about the founding of the U.S. by people escaping religious persecution in other countries. I probably have a couple of dozen of these type communities I have visited over the years of traveling across this country. This post will start us off on this direction.

canstockphoto18444062.jpgThese posts will probably be more about our country’s history than religious beliefs. They will highlight communities throughout the country that were started by groups of people  with a particular set of beliefs that oftentimes differed from sect they originally belonged to. So, it is hard to categorize them in one particular category. They will often be “Reports” in my journey In Search of America.

When most people, especially those from outside looking in, see Christianity they think of one homogeneous community with one set of religious beliefs. In reality that could not be further from the truth.  There are over 35,000 different versions of Christianity and that number is increasing year after year. There always seems to be reason for one segment of a sect to separate from another. To many, like Martin Luther, latch onto one particular sentence of the Bible and disregard much of the rest.

Of course my personal bias will show through in these reports. How can that be otherwise?  So, I want to tell you a little about my beliefs here. I currently do not call myself a “religious” person but I am an avid follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ.  To me it just seems that most, if not all, of the current religious denominations almost ignore Jesus’ teachings and instead fixate on some words invented by someone long after his death.

Closing this post, this will be an interesting series for me and I hope you will learn a few things from it.  In Search of America is a broad topic indeed and this is an important segment…

About Being American

I just love this Facebook entry on my friend’s page. It says it all on what being an American should be about. You can do your thing but don’t try to prevent me from doing mine.

Diversity……

 

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Wicked Theology

When I came across this post a while back it got my immediate attention as the topic is probably one of the primary reasons that more and more people are declaring themselves spiritual but not religious.  There is just too much baggage attached to too many of our religious institutions today.  Too many twist the words  of Jesus to match their current view of the world.
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It is kind of surprising that the author of the words above is a Baptists professor. Flat- Bible advocates, of which many Baptists are a part, believe that every word in the Bible comes directly from God and that no words found there are any more important than any others.  For those who call themselves Christians but don’t think Christ’s words are of any particular value beyond the thousands of other people in that document is beyond comprehension to me.

Putting a particular, and often wrong-headed, spin on the Bible and particularly Jesus’ words totally turns my stomach.  To take perhaps the most important words of Jesus and to twist them to take the focus off poor people is heresy as far as I am concerned.  Almost as bad is to use the Bible to justify war,  inequality, and exploitation. It is sad that so many famous Christian preachers have followed Jerry Falwell in that latter endeavor. The most disheartening is the son of Billy Graham who takes the words of his father and turns them on their head!

I know the words hypocrite are used a lot to describe Christians but that is far too often a very appropriate phrase.  Yes, I am aware that there are many many Christians who, like me, cling to the words of Jesus but we are really shadow Christians. We don’t often enjoy the attention that the famous preachers have.  But as far as I am concerned we are the real face of Christianity…. but far too many people don’t realize that fact…

Religious Certainty…

2015-12-15_13-39-51.pngSome of the biggest problems today are caused by religious certainty. People who are very certain that their religion is better than all the others tend to want to impose the rules laid out in their Holy Book on everyone. They have little respect for the fact that some people are guided by other Holy Books, and other equally valid types of ideals based on values instead of beliefs.

Unfortunately this concept has spread into the political arena where religious literalists often try to impose their religious standards on our nation. They fight important social trends, like the acceptance of gays in the military, on grounds that apply only to one religion. They marginalize the interests of individual humans on grounds of certainty that their Holy Book is right. In acting this way, these people fight against the very principles on which the United States was founded.

But a crucial trait in spiritual development is the ability to do away with this type of certainty – especially religious certainty. The same person who holds absolute religious certainty often also needs simple, immutable answers about the reason for our existence and about what happens after death. They need certainty that their own beliefs are right in a way that makes all other belief systems seem wrong. It often brings with it a sense of superiority over others, and allows this type of person to not mind imposing the laws of his own beliefs on others. For people who need it, this type of certainty holds their world together.

SOURCE: Religious Certainty versus Certitude.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of those who hold onto a certainty in their religious beliefs. But the problem is they are certain that they have God totally figured out and everyone who disagrees with them is simply wrong.  Yes, there are many of this category in the Muslim world but there may be even greater numbers in the Christian realm where they call themselves biblical literalists.

I want to make it very clear here that I am a strong believer in freedom of religion as found in our constitution. Everyone should be free to believe whatever they want concerning their spirituality. I don’t hold anything against you if that is how you want to live your life but don’t try to impose your “truth” on everyone else.

Religious certainty is very appealing to those who have trouble making sense of today’s world. It gives them something to cling to. From the evidence that is the primary reason for so many who suddenly become jihadists in the Muslim world. They found something to cling to in an otherwise hectic and confusing world.

I choose to believe in a God of love who cherishes each of us the same whether we are Christians, Jews, Muslims, or any other flavor. If you choose to believe in a god who is constantly looking for something to punish you with eternal agony that is fine.  Maybe you need that in your life for whatever reason.

As long as your beliefs don’t affect me then by all means believe what you want. But when your dogma causes harm to the world as ISIL does then it is time for something else…..

They Deserve Their Failure….

2015-11-07_08-53-00That is the moral-ideological core of conservatism today. It presumes that life is a competition or race, that people are unequal in talent, drive, and ambition, and that those who end up on top deserve their victory and rewards — and those who come out on the bottom deserve their failure and hardships. Any attempt to overturn or even mitigate this moral order — whether through government regulation or changes in habits or assumptions in school or on the playground — amounts to an offense against justice itself.

Source: What defines conservatism today?

I want to spend a few posts in the coming week or so on morality and to a lesser degree empathy. But then to me the two are very intertwined. It often disturbs me how I see those who consistently vote Republican just don’t seem to have any sympathy for those who are not like them.  As a previous viewer of this blog frequently said I often seem to paint with too broad a brush. That is true, but it is really a matter of degree. The question is “what percentage of the GOP voters have little sympathy for others?” It is obvious that the top three GOP presidential candidates in that party all share that characteristic but how many of those who back them also share it? Is that why they back them or is it something else?

Those questions aside let’s get on to the quote above.  Is this the core of conservatism today? If it is then in my mind it has several fundamental flaws.

  • The teachings of Jesus just don’t agree with it – A large part of the “conservative” base claims to be Christian so you would think that their founders words would be extremely important to them. There are just too many places in the Christian bible where Jesus tells us to give the shirt off our back to those less fortunate than ourselves. The “What you did for the least of these you did for me” should make it totally clear that He did not believe that those on the bottom deserve their failures! He tells us to take care of the poor and homeless not to just abandon them because they made poor choices.
  • We don’t all start out the same – The above logic might make some sense if all of us were presented the same opportunities and some chose to make the most of it and some didn’t.  But that simply is not the case.  Some of us, particularly those who are from affluent families, have many more opportunities than those who are born to families stuck in minimum wage jobs or no jobs at all.
  • It doesn’t give much of a chance for improvement – The logic in the statement above seems to say that if you made the wrong choices then you are stuck at the bottom and there is nothing we who succeeded need to do to help you survive. This is clearly a “survival of the fittest” mentality and has no place in American morality.
  • It reverses the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” just doesn’t align with this supposed conservative core.

Like a Death Wish… I Can Only Hope….

2015-08-20_08-13-55Last week, Jeb Bush told an audience in California, “It is strength, and will, and clarity of purpose that make all the difference.” This is the Tinker Bell school of foreign policy that has spread over most of the Republican presidential field. Clap if you believe in a stable Middle East where Syria is rid of ISIS, Al Nusra, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and any Iranian influence. Clap if you believe Iraq will be safe for religious minorities and free of undue Iranian influence, too…..

As an electoral strategy, it is absolutely nuts that Republicans would preemptively tell the American people, “Elect me and I’ll put American troops back on the ground in Iraq.” And then add, “And Syria, too, and with allies TBD, and final victors TBD.” This seems like a 2016 death wish. Not just for Republican electoral ambitions, but for American troops, American prestige, and American power.

SOURCE: The GOP presidential field’s dangerous fantasy on Iraq and Syria.

QE BannerI want to do a “what if” here.

  • What if America’s energy was totally devoid of fossil fuels?
  • What if we have grown into other means instead of the 100+ year old technology?
  • Would that make a difference in our opinions of the Middle Eastern part of the world?
  • Would we be so concerned that one muslim group was trying to take control over another muslim group?

I pretty sure the answer to these questions would be that these conflicts would not even be on our radar screen.  One religious sect trying to dominate another is nothing new in the world. It has been happening constantly since the age of Constantine when a Roman King assured the dominance of one particular brand of Christianity over the myriad of others that were present at the time. It has been going on since Muslims and Christians were fighting each other for  two hundred years. It has been going on since the Inquisition, the Protestant/Catholic battles in Northern Ireland.

Let’s face it we as humanity just have little patience for versions of God different from our own.  The Middle East is just the latest battles to be fought in a long history of battles. I am convinced that if we had not become involved by invading Iraq and getting ourselves so entwined in this matter that terrorism would not be so prevalent in our world today.

Maybe instead of putting trillions of bucks into our world’s latest religious battles we should be putting them into developing twenty-first century  energy resources. I’m sure with all the money and young lives we have wasted in this futile attempt we could dust off our sandals and leave that part of the world to their own demise..

We don’t need to be the policemen of the world…