Posts Tagged ‘age of reason’

MY STORY BEGINS reprise

July 24, 2011

MY STORY BEGINS

My story begins where the Old Testament ends.  It does not pick up with the New Testament – that painful detour for so many who entered its twisting maze to become helplessly lost. We tend to forget that the reader, not the character in the story, is the one being educated about the nature of the divine.  The best that can be said of the Old Testament is that it kept god god, and did not try to make a man out of him; and, more importantly, all men became gods when Job did his ju-jitsu. Practically, the Story of Job is liberating revolutionary dynamite.

God shows growth and development throughout the compendium called the Holy Bible.  He starts off as an insane and dysfunctional parent, up to and including infanticide en mass, but “mellows” by the time of Jesus (“You bleed for them, kid, and we’ll call it good this time”). However, in the Story of Job – essentially the end of the original First Five books – God lets the Devil torment Job, mainly for reasons of vanity, and exposes His own “feet of clay.”

“I bet ya ten bucks I can shake this guy,” Satan says.

“You’re on!” God replies.

Job, however, refuses to forsake his faith in the face of overwhelming personal bodily and mental torture, including the loss of his entire family.

Since God created man in his own image, allowing Satan to do violence to Job, without giving Job relief or reason, makes God complicit in evil.

Job has shown God his true self (which is man’s function): man is in God’s image and God is both good and evil. As man sees himself in God, God sees himself in man.

God finally feels guilty enough to declare Job right and almost admits Himself wrong (Big Guy has real responsibility issues). He admits and fixes His mischief (close enough). This is the end of God’s growth into a mature deity.

It is the end of Man’s growth into maturity too; from here on out, for good or evil, he is able to be a free self-directing agent.

Worried learned men wanted to leave Job out of the Bible; their “Jobs” were on the line.
“Down with equality!” They cried. “The Invisible Cloud Being (ICB) rules; we’ll tell you what he wants you to do! You can’t be fully responsible for yourselves!”

Viewed in Job, God and man cancel each other out and merge as one. One can see why the learned men wanted Job out of town as fast as humanly possible. It was a real career-ender for them. But the story got in anyway. Probably because Job “took a licking and kept on ticking,” like a good old American-built Timex watch.

Ever since then, this whole business has been called a “Mystery of the Bible.” And, small wonder.

BUTTERFLY BUD

BUTTERFLY BUD

A Bit More About Adult Responsibility:

When Buddhists recognize the human being, or other in one another, they similarly acknowledge that everyone is under the authority of their own individual adult responsibility for their own thoughts and actions.

Christians, however, seem content as perpetual children, forever dutiful to a paternal authority, oddly manifested in an Invisible Cloud Being (ICB) – as fantastic as Santa Claus, or any other unproven fantasy figure – who, in this mythology, had adulterous sexual relations with an earthly teenaged virgin.  Christian desire for god is not nonsense, but their invention is a surrogate, crutch and dangerous doppelganger for the real deal.  It is the cop-out of every irresponsible dependent Christian soul.  It is also a handy tool that makes it easier for the unscrupulous to take advantage of the gullible and foolish, and even move them to fiendish deeds in the name of the deity.

The world will not improve while great numbers believe in an Invisible Cloud Being; it’s too easy to pass the buck, alibi, excuse, or harm others in the Big Poobah’s name.  Yet, if the act is one’s own, by will or grace, who is finally to fully praise or blame?  Does this argue that man is divine and divorced from the rest of creation?  Such a disconnect is a purely self-destructive insanity.  Like it or not, we are biologically nailed to this earth. Christians, and other religionists, seeking to escape life for imagined perfection in an impossible airborne Disneyland are a survival liability for the rest of us.

“Let us cross ovah the rivah and rest undah the shade of the great oak tree.”

One must be specific and particular, scientific and rational when addressing this volatile subject, because all religions are fundamentally intolerant and flawed.  My own prejudice is obvious in the few paragraphs above. However, Buddhism (for those who do not know) is not a religion, but a methodology for successful living; Buddha recommended shopping around if his tools didn’t fit the job, and asked his followers not to make him a god, which many of them obviously ignored.  Yet, somehow Buddhism admits the mystery without trying to explain it, remains open to new information and the next scientific revelation, and answers questions with more questions.  Other religious systems seem primarily fixed and inflexible, imposing absurd limits on the infinite, and providing definite answers to inherently ambiguous questions about inherently unknowable things.

It is, therefore, advisable IMO to be knowledgeable about all religions, and to select tools from each as they may best fulfill a specific need.  Critics say that this relativistic approach to philosophy and religion defies their true wisdom, which is intrinsic and whole, to be specifically and fully obeyed. One has to spend a lifetime proving only one point, which eliminates making a discovery that may be better, or being able to avoid a false conclusion before having wasted one’s entire life upon it.

Perfectly good lives are wasted with trivia, nonsense, and utterly worthless self-hobbling concepts, such as, sin, guilt, heaven, and hell.

  • The ancient Sumerians had no concept of guilt or sin, yet managed to build the world’s first true high civilization.
  • Ancient Greeks: To sin = “to miss the mark” – can be high or low.  Sin is not living up to, or being who you are.

People allow themselves to be kept in check with threats of eternal fire and damnation after death!  As soon believe on Santa’s list of good and bad boys and girls, and lumps of coal in your Christmas stocking; or rabbits hiding eggs at Easter time – he is risen, have an egg.  What kind of garbled mash is that?

Those sure of eternal life, are usually obsessed with and afraid of death.  One had better have a pretty good alternative at hand to mollify the despairing crowd, bemoaning their fallen faith, if they ever decide their emperor has no clothes, and god vanishes in a single weak puff of doubt.  Without faith, they might invent something truly harmful and ridiculous as a substitute.

Self-deception is apparently a core human behavior – I would now say gene; its use permits all sorts of mindless or mad adventures.  Self-deception enables otherwise perfectly decent people to burn disbelievers at the stake, or to bring guns to a town hall meeting; or to sit on the end of a big bullet and get fired at the Moon!  Self-deception allows us to feel perfectly safe when we are in fact balanced on a knife’s edge above a raging inferno – and no, not hell, something real, like Mona Loa.

Did you know, Amen, Amun, or Amon was the chief god of Egypt in the New Kingdom?  The Hebrews (Habiru) took his name into the desert with them in the Exodus.  They literally call on the Great God of the Pharaohs at the end of all their prayers when they intone “Amen.”  And so do Christians and Moslems.  The three great religions unwittingly – for the most part – believe in the same god and pronounce His name every day: Yahweh-Jehovah, Jesus and Allah are tribal manifestations of the one great god: AMUN.

 Pharaoh and the Lion Goddess

Pharaoh and the Lion Goddess

ALL OF A KEY

Alice said:

“There was a lad in there with a great polished shield of tin or brass, reflecting the yellow-white Egyptian sun back into the tomb recesses so that the paintings were clearly visible in all their profound beauty.  There’s a sadness about it, for their discovery and exhibition are destroying them.  They were intended as funerary decoration to be shut from sun and air and water for the rest of eternity, not to be displayed like some Messrs. Barnum & Bailey amusement.  The academics from all over the world are exposing their fragility to the rough outside world and the great legacy of ancient Egypt is crumbling to sand.  I think that those academics are searching as much for themselves as for the remnants of an ancient past.  Who and how and what and why mean nothing really except for context.  These modern grave robbers are trying to discover how they – the searchers – are somehow more profound, more intelligent, more advanced than the ancient people they are studying.  How arrogant it sounds when some fifty-year-old archaeologist marvels over the similarities of modern and ancient man!  It is a burlesque of the young judging the old – the foolish criticizing the wise.  In the end, it isn’t our technology, which defines our humanity; it is our relation to life and death.  In that, the ancient Egyptians were far ahead of the majority of we modern fools.”

ANCIENT WISDOM

Later, the Renaissance considered a life unencumbered by revealed religion.

ohmmmm

I MET JESUS

I met Jesus walking down the road with Buddha the other day.  They were discussing the oddity that, by eschewing things of the world, and accepting and giving unto Caesar that which is his, one re-arrives at a destination that is also a point of departure called acceptance or rejection.  It’s an endless loop, coming from nowhere and going nowhere; and, the leader is the guy who can be seen going by on the merry-go-round at any particular moment.  Nothing is fixed, and nothing ever changes; or, to put it another way, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

   Philosophy will do that to one, and that’s why I was so delighted, because any argument that begins and ends in chaos, with a lot of confusion, bafflement, and befuddlement in between is bound to be as fraught with opportunity as with risk, and holds as much potential good, as it does evil.  Having said so, they looked at me and said loudly and in unison,

“Go away!”

AGE OF REASON

“That which is now called natural philosophy, embracing the whole circle of science, of which astronomy occupies the chief place, is the study of the works of God, and of the power and wisdom of God in his works, and is the true theology.

“As to the theology that is now studied in its place, it is the study of human opinions and of human fancies concerning God.  It is not the study of God himself in the works that he has made, but in the writings that man has made; and it is not among the least of the mischiefs that man has made; and it is not among the least of mischiefs that the Christian system has done to the world, that it has abandoned the original and beautiful system of theology, like a beautiful innocent, to distress and reproach, to make room for the hag of superstition.”  – Tom Paine, Age of Reason, p. 37

Stephen Hawkings
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ODD SHOTS and IDLE PENSEES #2 reprise

June 5, 2011
Chicken Soup
Chicken Soup

BITS and SCRAPS gathered over time – reprint by request:

Madison 5-1190: Perry Mason’s phone number.

Warsaw can no more be Tartar than Venice can be Teutonic.  The kings lose their labor at this, and their honour.  Sooner or later, the submerged country floats to the surface and reappears.  Greece again becomes Greece, Italy again becomes Italy.  The protest of the right against the fact, persists forever.  The robbery of a people never becomes prescriptive.  These lofty swindles have no future.  You cannot pick the mark out of a nation as you can out of a handkerchief.”  – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables.

Q: Reporter: Is Bin Laden alive or dead? A: Donald Rumsfeld: The answer to that is yes.  – NPR, 1-03.

“It was a time like ours of large impersonal states and individuals who felt lost in them.  A time of consumption, brutality, sophistication and trying to find justification and consolation in religious cults.” – Eugen Weber, “The Hellenistic Age,” The Western Tradition.

“Given a choice between gods or magic, I will take magic and be grateful.” –Doogana the medicine man, Moses, Howard Fast.

“Every tribal god proclaims at every opportunity the glorious future in store for his worshippers.” – G. Bibby, Four thousand Years Ago.

When asked by the reporter what it was like to live in the disputed west bank, a resident replied, “You can feel it and see it in the eyes of the people, in the eyes of the children.  Oh, do you really want to know how it is to live in?  It’s shit.” PBS, 1-03.

“The appearance of the law must be upheld at all times, especially when it’s being broken.”  — Boss Tweed.

“I hate it when a promising rookie turns out to be a terrorist.”  — Buzz Lightyear.

“Do you think getting married will make you decent?  Until I got married I was decent.” – one prostitute to another, Docks of New York.

Edward Gibbon relates that the ancient philosophers thought that Christians seeking martyrdom did so because they were obstinately despairing, of stupid sensibility, or victims of superstitious frenzy.  Dismayed that they tried to coerce the state into creating their martyrship, the proconsul Antoninus Pius (later emperor) said to the Christians of Asia: “Unhappy men! Unhappy men! If you are thus weary of your lives, is it so difficult for you to find ropes and precipices?” 8/03.

Reverend:  “You would replace god with man.”  Anthropologist: “And you would replace man with twaddle.” – Peter Falk to Edward Fox, Lost World.

“You’re getting into the heart of another person’s innermost being, which is something most other websites don’t offer.” – Customer, Loveline.Com, 4/04  – Must be the Ted Bundy special.

“What good fortune for governments that the people do not think.” – Adolph Hitler.

Hands are the most sensitive sensors of the brain; they transmit more information than any other organ.  Maybe that’s why we have to hold something when we say we want to “look” at it?

“When Quanah Parker passed, it was said that his passing was not just his passing, but the passing of the past – as well.” – historian, Real West, History Channel.  – Pass the chips?

New evidence has revealed that there might be an element of truth in what I have to say.

Let’s hear it for self-righteous superstitious indignation!

“If you are dizzy and sick, reach out.  I am your railing by the torrent.  Your crutch, I am not.” – NietzscheThus Spoke Zarathustra, book one.

“That which is now called natural philosophy, embracing the whole circle of science, of which astronomy occupies the chief place, is the study of the works of God, and of the power and wisdom of God in his works, and is the true theology. As to the theology that is now studied in its place, it is the study of human opinions and of human fancies concerning God.  It is not the study of God himself in the works that he has made, but in the writings that man has made; and it is not among the least of the mischiefs that man has made; and it is not among the least of mischiefs that the Christian system has done to the world, that it has abandoned the original and beautiful system of theology, like a beautiful innocent, to distress and reproach, to make room for the hag of superstition.”  Thomas Paine, Age of Reason, p. 37

“According to Livy, the Romans conquered the world in their own defense.” – Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall, Book 1, p. 839, n77.

“Then as now the most effective labor-saving device was stealing.” – Eugen Weber, Western Tradition.

Young Martin Chuzzlewitt: “I’m going to America.”  Mr. Pinch: “Not America! Your situation isn’t that desperate!” – Chas. Dickens.

“The contemporary world of learning is made up almost altogether of mean, starved, envious, strident, stingless fools and fops, ignorant and arrogant, who swarm about their betters with a fly’s equal inclination to dung or honey.” – Carl Van Doren on Swift, 1948.

Glen Manning is not a well man, mentally or physically.” – movie scientist’s assessment of the mutated, insane, irradiated The Amazing Colossal Man.

“Oh, problems in moral philosophy always provide a few chuckles!” – little green robot, Sonic the Hedgehog.

“Oh, the places we will go!” – Doctor Seuss.

548 Primrose Lane – Robocop’s home address before all the bad stuff went down.

More HUMOR at: www.zazzle.com/FatLemon

FatLemon Productions
FatLemon Productions

ILLUMINATI APPLY IN REAR

April 8, 2011

Oops!

Did you ever notice that a lot of the religious conspiracy stuff clouds the water so that you can’t see the political conspiracy stuff as well?

Here’s my take on Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, the Illuminati, so forth: AW, C’MON!
Lincoln’s, et al Holy Blood, Holy Grail (predicating a pregnant Mary Magdalene) is based upon Pierre Athanase Marie Plantard’s Priory of Sion legend, by which he claimed from the 1960s onwards that he was a Merovingian dynast and the “Grand Monarch” prophesied by Nostradamus. Plantard played along with this story for a while, but in 1986 parted ways, dismissing Holy Blood, Holy Grail and his own documents as false and irrelevant. In October 1993, a judge had Pierre Plantard’s house searched. The search turned up a hoard of false documents, including some proclaiming Plantard the true king of France. Plantard admitted under oath he had fabricated everything. He was threatened with legal action and therefore disappeared to his house in southern France. He was 74 years old. Nothing more was heard of him until he died in Paris in February 2000.
Holy Blood, Holy Grail authors maintain that only through “speculative synthesis can one discern the underlying continuity, the unified and coherent fabric, which lies at the core of any historical problem.” To do so, one must realize that “it is not sufficient to confine oneself exclusively to facts.”
“Mike Hockney” [the pseudonym of a ghostwriter engaged purportedly by the Illuminati to reveal in coded fictional form, various esoteric mysteries with which they are concerned – giggle, snort, LOL] says he’s got the real skinny. “Mike Hockney” writes confusingly enough in The Armageddon Conspiracy: “There are intersection points between the three mysteries , certain key facts that all three have in common [it really doesn’t matter for our purposes which three mysteries]. Even if a seeker has become entrapped in one of the fake mysteries (both of which are as highly compelling as the real mystery), he will still have opportunities to switch to the real mystery if he makes the right choice at an intersection point. He will make the right choice only if he has the strength to abandon all of the work he has performed on either of the fake mysteries. This, in fact, is part of the test. Virtually no one makes the right choice because abandoning years of hard work is simply too difficult for most to contemplate, especially when they believe they have been making good progress. There is another trap: it is possible to move from one fake mystery to the other fake mystery, bypassing the true mystery. Several seekers have encountered this misfortune.” – oh, la. Mysteries for days.
My favorite founding father Thomas Paine [who was a deist, believing god gave everything a jumpstart but was thereafter hands off] writes in the Age of Reason:
“Mystery is the antagonist of truth. It is a fog of human invention that obscures truth, and represents it in distortion. Truth never envelops itself in mystery, and the mystery in which it is at any time enveloped is the work of its antagonist, and never of itself.”
“When men, whether from policy or pious fraud, set up systems of religion incompatible with the word or works of God in the creation, and not only above, but repugnant to human comprehension, they were under the necessity of inventing or adopting a word that should serve as a bar to all questions, inquiries or speculation. The word mystery answered this purpose, and thus it has happened that religion, which is in itself without mystery, has been corrupted into a fog of mysteries.”
“As mystery answered all general purposes, miracle followed as an occasional auxiliary. The former served to bewilder the mind, the latter to puzzle the senses. The one was the lingo, the other the legerdemain.”
The Illuminati (“enlightened”) is a name given to several groups, both historical and modern, real and fictitious. Historically, it refers specifically to the Bavarian Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era secret society founded in 1776 that only lasted until 1784. In modern times it is used to refer to a purported conspiratorial organization which acts as a shadowy “power behind the throne”, allegedly controlling world affairs through present day governments and corporations, usually as a modern incarnation or continuation of the Bavarian Illuminati. In this context, the Illuminati are believed to be the masterminds behind events that will lead to the establishment of a New World Order.
However, as David DeGraw, Alternet, writes: “It has now become evident to a critical mass that the Republican and Democratic parties, along with all three branches of our government, have been bought off by a well-organized Economic Elite who are tactically destroying our way of life. The harsh truth is that 99% of the US population no longer has political representation. The US economy, government and tax system are now blatantly rigged against us. Current statistical societal indicators clearly demonstrate that a strategic attack has been launched and an analysis of current governmental policies prove that conditions for 99% of Americans will continue to deteriorate. The Economic Elite have engineered a financial coup and have brought war to our doorstep. . . and make no mistake, they have also launched a war to eliminate the US middle class.”
At the center of this group is the Business Roundtable, an organization representing Fortune 500 CEOs that is also interlocked with several lead elite organizations. Most Americans have never heard of the Business Roundtable. However, it is the most influential and powerful Economic Elite organization. READ MORE: http://www.alternet.org/economy/145996/the_business_roundtable%3A_the_most_powerful_corporate_business_club_most_americans_have_never_heard_of
To hell with bunk mysteries. It isn’t some jury-rigged Jesus-freak conspiracy group that has declared war on the rest of us, it is the corporatists. It is time to fight back against them, clear-minded and with full vigor from every side. Let Freedom Ring!

RELATED LINKS:

 

 

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A SOCIETY SO FREE

May 13, 2010

George Washington

George Washington 

 Dr. James Abercrombie, pastor of Philadelphia’s Christ Episcopal Church, looked out at a congregation that included George Washington the first President of the United States.  Everyone knew that the President walked out of church on communion Sundays, just before administration of the sacrament.  Dr. Abercrombie mentioned no names, but he pointed out the grave responsibility of “those in elevated stations” to set good examples for lesser folk.  His message did not pass Washington’s ears unheeded.  Thereafter, the Father of Our Country didn’t go to church at all on communion Sundays.

Washington was a professed Christian with regular church attendance, but he did not partake in the Lord’s Supper.  The European Enlightenment shaped his religious ideas.  He favored an intellectual atmosphere unfavorable to symbolic rites.  He was far from unique among the Founding Fathers of the American republic.  All Washington’s educated contemporaries were more or less children of the Age of Reason (as Tom Paine called it).  The acknowledged political leaders among them were its eminent sons.

There was no uniformity of opinion among the Founding Fathers on religion or philosophy, but a broad spectrum of sects and creeds, a reminder of the Enlightenment’s respect for dissenting opinions.  Full freedom of belief was not legally protected pre-Revolution; most colonies had an established church supported by the government, but minority groups and nonconforming individuals were guaranteed wide leeway.  Whatever their religious differences, all the Founding Fathers were political revolutionaries, determined to create a new model of government by consent of the governed. 

 Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson’s New Testament

Thomas Jefferson had an intense interest in religion’s relation to government.  In his second term as President (1805-09) he composed for his own satisfaction a version of the New Testament called “The Life and Morals of Jesus.”  He left out the Last Supper.  He said he wrote it to rescue the moral teachings of Jesus from “the crazy speculations of crazy theologists, abstracting what is really his from the rubbish in which it is buried.”

Jefferson called himself Christian, but rejected “the immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity, original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, etc.”  He thought Christ was a great reformer, author of a “system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man” – but human not divine.  To be Christian one had only to follow Christ’s system of ethics, uncontaminated by additions, adulterations, and distortions of those who came after.  The “free exercise of reason” was all one needed to tell Jesus’ original teaching from the dross.  Orthodox clergy called this heresy; a cheap disguise for atheism; and an easy target for Federalists in the campaign of 1800.

Yet Jefferson held a belief in a Supreme Being based on reasoned conclusions drawn from evidence and deduction, not implicit faith.  He wrote to John Adams, “I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the universe, in its parts, general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition.”  Newton and his contemporaries demonstrated that man lived in a universe of precise mathematical law and order; it seemed scientifically evident that such cosmic design could only come from the hand of a divine Creator.

It was not traditional Christianity, this idea of an invisible but demonstrable God whose existence was proved only by His handiwork; for “He” was now a nearly impersonal power, responsible for the origin and laws of the universe, but not interfering in its operation once the myriad wheels of the great machine had been set in motion.  This was “Nature’s God,” as Jefferson phrased it in the Declaration of Independence; and to him and many others the religion appropriate to Nature’s God must be natural, not supernatural.  Deism, or “natural religion,” expressed their theological creed, not a Christianity based on revelation, mystery, and miracle.

Atheism and Natural Morality

Prominent in France, Diderot, d’Alembert, Condorcet, and the Baron d’Holbach postulated an automatic universe, operating by inexorable natural laws, but utterly devoid of God or God’s purpose.  Jefferson resisted such atheism, but he was not an absolutist, even on the question of God’s existence.  His creed of intellectual freedom was too firm for that, and he saw no threat in atheism.  He wrote: ”It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty Gods, or no God.  It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”  He urged his nephew to make reason his guide, “call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion.  Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”

Jefferson saw moral and material degradation in France caused by a combination of religious persecution and tyrannical government.  Voltaire wrote that atheists, deplorable as they might be, made better neighbors than religious fanatics.  Jefferson knew French atheists as friends, not monsters.  “Diderot, d’Alembert, Condorcet, and d’Holbach,” he wrote, “are known to have been among the most virtuous of men.  Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.”  The basis of human morality and government intrigued Jefferson all his life.

Its essence was natural morality.  “Man was destined for society,” he wrote. “He was endowed with a sense of right and wrong, merely relative to this.  This sense is as much a part of his nature as the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling; it is the true foundation of morality.  The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm.”  A gift of the Creator, acknowledgement of its source was not necessary to its function.  If one chose to be an atheist, “you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure for you.”

The Rock of Democratic Faith

Natural morality was the rock of Jefferson’s democratic faith.  The doctrine of original sin was anathema; human nature could be trusted: all normal men were endowed by their Creator not only with unalienable rights, but also unalienable instincts, including a natural moral sense.  Except in conditions of ignorance, poor education, poverty and bad social conditions, the mass would gravitate toward what was right on fundamental issues, if allowed complete freedom of conscience.  Majority rule – a sacred principle to Jefferson – depended on a well-informed public, each member of which could choose among moral or political alternatives with absolute freedom from mental coercion.

An organized church was unlikely to leave men’s minds completely free.  Each sect claimed special revelation of God’s will directly to its prophets or priests, or recorded in a “bible”.  Religions were unwilling to give up moral (and, political) choices to the untrammeled conscience of the individual citizen.  The Declaration of Independence envisaged a free society ruled by consent of the governed.  Informed decision and consent needed good public education based on complete freedom of mind.  Religion made the first fundamental challenge to the republic’s freedom of mind.

James Madison

Madison and Freedom of Conscience

In 1776, James Madison served on a committee to draw up Virginia’s bill of rights.  The chairperson was the great George Mason, major author of the bill, which was prototype for the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.  Madison and Jefferson thought Mason’s statement on religious freedom fell short in two respects: it allowed continuation of a state-supported church, and spoke of “toleration in the exercise of religion” rather than absolute freedom of conscience.  Madison let the disestablishment issue pass for political reasons, but proposed wording to move forward from mere toleration (which implied the state’s right to grant or withhold religious freedom) to that of freedom of conscience as an unalienable natural right.  It read: “All men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.”  It was a quiet yet important triumph in the struggle for complete liberty of thought in America.

In 1779, Jefferson and Madison worked for abolition of state financed religion.  Government salaries for Anglican ministers were suspended, but the church still functioned as the official one in the state of Virginia, it was impossible to be legally married unless an Anglican performed the ceremony, and heresy against the Christian faith was still a crime.  Jefferson’s “Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” would have swept aside all such restrictions, but it ran into fierce opposition and failed to pass.

In 1784 Virginia’s Anglican hierarchy pressed for new tax funds for church support; Patrick Henry proposed an annual assessment for “support of the Christian religion or of some Christian church,” without naming a specific sect, trying to shift from the traditional single church form of establishment to the multiple, embracing several denominations, a trend in several states.  This defensive strategy has been used for over two centuries to resist government sanction for religion that has moved to a broader and less sectarian base.  In 1784 Virginia Presbyterians, formerly anti-establishment joined to demand the broader form.  Madison said they were as ready “to set up an establishment which is to take them in as they were to pull down that which shut them out.”

He wrote “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” (1785) to generate thousands of petition signatures to show that the majority were in no mood to forsake the religious freedom promised by the 1776 Declaration of Rights.  The surprised assessment sponsors dropped the bill.  Every man’s religion, Madison wrote,

“…must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right…because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men…. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society, and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance… Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in the exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?… Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence that has convinced us….”

Important to the First Amendment, Madison and the Virginia petitioners understood “establishment of religion” as any government sponsorship of any or all religions, and not just the European pattern of an exclusive, official state church.  They wanted a solid “wall of separation between church and state,” in Jefferson’s later phrase.

A last minute opposition effort to confine the law’s benefits to Christians instead of protecting even (as Jefferson noted) “the Infidel of every denomination,” failed.  In 1786, Madison sent news that the most sweeping guarantee of freedom of conscience in the history of the western world was a statute of Virginia; its provisions, “have in this country extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind.”

A National Bill of Rights

Revolution had blown away much restrictive custom and legislation.  Most of the states passed bills of rights honoring religious freedom, although, excepting Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York, they had church establishment in multiple form.

The national Constitutional Convention in 1786, ignored religious freedom as “state” business.  However, the Constitution was so more powerful than the Articles of Confederation, the rights of people had to be “the polar star of political conduct,” George Mason said.  Delegates began arguing for rights and guarantees.  Charles Pinckney of South Carolina urged a federal Constitutional ban on religious tests for federal officeholders; aware of their own diversity, delegates quickly adopted it as Article VI.

Madison’s amendment on religion became the First Amendment with much rewording.  He first introduced it as, “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, abridged.”  It goes straight to the center of Jefferson and Madison’s agreement on the relationship of religion to democratic government.  The heart of the matter was absolute freedom of thought for the individual citizen without government pressure toward any system of belief whatever.  Had Madison’s suggestion been adopted, official sanction for even vague theism (such as the phrase “In God We Trust” on our money, or “under God” in the national oath of allegiance, would be unconstitutional.  It is sure that his wording would have supported Supreme Court decisions against the devotional use of prayers or Bible reading in public schools.  It may not have shed equal light on controversial church-state issues, e.g. payment of chaplains for service in the armed forces.

In 1789 Madison unsuccessfully opposed appointment of official chaplains for Congress, because “these are to be paid out of the national taxes”; and Jefferson, as President refused to follow Washington’s and Adams’ examples in proclaiming certain days for religious observance.  “I do not believe,” he wrote, “it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines.  Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining of them an act of discipline.”

Fearing that it might outlaw or discourage religion altogether, the amendment was tinkered in the House and sent to the Senate worded, “Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience.”  The phrase “or to prevent the free exercise thereof” indicated a desire that the prohibition of establishment should not be interpreted as hostile to religion; conventional Christian sects were still dominant in America, despite inroads by deism.

Madison’s sharp focus on utter freedom of thought and expression as the essence of what is now the First Amendment is shown by another amendment he advanced specifically forbidding any state to infringe the rights of conscience, freedom of speech, and a free press.  This addition, he thought, was “the most valuable on the whole list.”

Madison’s “most valuable” one was dropped by the Senate.  They struggled over imposing neutral policy on the government, not merely preventing one sect from gaining government favor at the expense of others.  The emphasis on “establish” leans toward the idea of government infringement on the “rights of conscience” although that phrase was dropped.  A joint committee was formed to write the wording now part of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  Madison was not pleased to see his key phrase “rights of conscience” abandoned, but he was convinced that the Bill of Rights could be reasonably interpreted as prohibiting federal support of religious activities in any form.

A Society So Free

He and Jefferson interpreted it that way during their presidencies and for the rest of their lives.  They led a successful campaign for separation of church and state as an essential for democracy, but their theoretical reasons for doing so were grasped by relatively few of their countrymen.  They knew their ideal was still remote: a society so free that its only ideological commitment would be to freedom of the mind.  Much of the support they rallied for a wall between church and state had other sources; in part a native intellectual current against absolutism which has never – or not yet – failed to flow in America despite counteracting currents of great force.  In part, from the mutual competitive mistrust of the religious sects toward one another.  Always pragmatic, Jefferson and Madison saw the value of this, despite their own rejection of revealed religion.  Variety of belief was a useful insurance against tyranny.

Since ratification in 1791, the First Amendment has had fluctuating interpretation.  In the last half of the Twentieth Century, the Supreme Court found that the Fourteenth Amendment enjoins the guarantees of the First upon the states, for the protection of every citizen.  There has been confusion and inconsistency; school children pronounce “under God” in the daily Pledge of Allegiance, but may not be led in official school prayers.  Over the years the trend has been toward strict separation of church and state.  The Justices have shown a strong penchant for citing Jefferson and Madison as champions of freedom in explaining and supporting Court decisions on the First Amendment.

There is nothing sacred about our founders’ ideas, but whether one agrees or not about how high and impassable the wall between church and state ought to be in a free society, they deserve to be remembered and understood as the two Founding Fathers who devoted more of their minds and lives to this great problem than anyone else.  They were the center of a high-pressure area in the climate of opinion of their time, and their conclusions are strongly reflected in the Constitution as it was finally adopted.

Emerging from the matrix of the Enlightenment with such men as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, James Monroe, and even George Washington and John Adams, they were its intellectual offspring.  The impact of “natural religion” on the genesis of democratic liberty, through their influence, has too often been ignored.

Writing to Dr. Benjamin Rush in 1800 before he became President, Jefferson alleged certain clerical “schemes” to breach the religion clause of the First Amendment.  He would oppose them with all his power, he said, “for I have sworn on the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”  It was “Nature’s God” that he was thinking of; and for that vow above all others the altar was not to be found, he believed, within the limits of any dogmatic creed.

ABSTRACT: E.M. Halliday, “Nature’s God and the Founding Fathers,” American Heritage. READ THE FULL ESSAY at: http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1963/6/1963_6_4.shtml

MY STORY BEGINS

April 27, 2010

MY STORY BEGINS

My story begins where the Old Testament ends.  It does not pick up with the New Testament – that painful detour for so many who entered its twisting maze to become helplessly lost. We tend to forget that the reader, not the character in the story, is the one being educated about the nature of the divine.  The best that can be said of the rest of the Old Testament is that it kept god god, and did not try to make a man out of him; however, all men became gods when Job did his ju-jitsu. Practically, the Story of Job is liberating revolutionary dynamite.

God shows growth and development throughout the compendium called the Holy Bible.  He starts off as an insane and dysfunctional parent, up to and including infanticide en mass, but “mellows” by the time of Jesus (“You bleed for them, kid, and we’ll call it good this time”). However, in the Story of Job – essentially the end of the original First Five books – God lets the Devil torment Job, mainly for reasons of vanity, and exposes His own “feet of clay.”

“I bet ya ten bucks I can shake this guy,” Satan says.

“You’re on!” God replies.

Job, however, refuses to forsake his faith in the face of overwhelming personal bodily and mental torture, including the loss of his entire family.

Since God created man in his own image, allowing Satan to do violence to Job, without giving Job relief or reason, makes God complicit in evil.

Job has shown God his true self (which is man’s function): man is in God’s image and God is both good and evil. As man sees himself in God, God sees himself in man.

God finally feels guilty enough to declare Job right and almost admits Himself wrong (Big Guy has real responsibility issues). He admits and fixes His mischief (close enough). This is the end of God’s growth into a mature deity.

It is the end of Man’s growth into maturity too; from here on out, for good or evil, he is able to be a free self-directing agent.

Worried learned men wanted to leave Job out of the Bible; their “Jobs” were on the line.
“Down with equality!” They cried. “The Invisible Cloud Being (ICB) rules; we’ll tell you what he wants you to do! You can’t be fully responsible for yourselves!”

Viewed in Job, God and man cancel each other out and merge as one. One can see why the learned men wanted Job out of town as fast as humanly possible. It was a real career-ender for them. But the story got in anyway. Probably because Job “took a licking and kept on ticking,” like a good old American-built Timex watch.

Ever since then, this whole business has been called a “Mystery of the Bible.” And, small wonder.

BUTTERFLY BUD

BUTTERFLY BUD

A Bit More About Adult Responsibility:

When Buddhists recognize the human being, or other in one another, they similarly acknowledge that everyone is under the authority of their own individual adult responsibility for their own thoughts and actions.

Christians, however, seem content as perpetual children, forever dutiful to a paternal authority, oddly manifested in an Invisible Cloud Being (ICB) – as fantastic as Santa Claus, or any other unproven fantasy figure – who, in this mythology, had adulterous sexual relations with an earthly teenaged virgin.  Christian desire for god is not nonsense, but their invention is a surrogate, crutch and dangerous doppelganger for the real deal.  It is the cop-out of every irresponsible dependent Christian soul.  It is also a handy tool that makes it easier for the unscrupulous to take advantage of the gullible and foolish, and even move them to fiendish deeds in the name of the deity.

The world will not improve while great numbers believe in an Invisible Cloud Being; it’s too easy to pass the buck, alibi, excuse, or harm others in the Big Poobah’s name.  Yet, if the act is one’s own, by will or grace, who is finally to fully praise or blame?  Does this argue that man is divine and divorced from the rest of creation?  Such a disconnect is a purely self-destructive insanity.  Like it or not, we are biologically nailed to this earth. Christians, and other religionists, seeking to escape life for imagined perfection in an impossible airborne Disneyland are a survival liability for the rest of us.

“Let us cross ovah the rivah and rest undah the shade of the great oak tree.”

One must be specific and particular, scientific and rational when addressing this volatile subject, because all religions are fundamentally intolerant and flawed.  My own prejudice is obvious in the few paragraphs above. However, Buddhism (for those who do not know) is not a religion, but a methodology for successful living; Buddha recommended shopping around if his tools didn’t fit the job, and asked his followers not to make him a god, which many of them obviously ignored.  Yet, somehow Buddhism admits the mystery without trying to explain it, remains open to new information and the next scientific revelation, and answers questions with more questions.  Other religious systems seem primarily fixed and inflexible, imposing absurd limits on the infinite, and providing definite answers to inherently ambiguous questions about inherently unknowable things.

It is, therefore, advisable IMO to be knowledgeable about all religions, and to select tools from each as they may best fulfill a specific need.  Critics say that this relativistic approach to philosophy and religion defies their true wisdom, which is intrinsic and whole, to be specifically and fully obeyed. One has to spend a lifetime proving only one point, which eliminates making a discovery that may be better, or being able to avoid a false conclusion before having wasted one’s entire life upon it.

Perfectly good lives are wasted with trivia, nonsense, and utterly worthless self-hobbling concepts, such as, sin, guilt, heaven, and hell.

  • The ancient Sumerians had no concept of guilt or sin, yet managed to build the world’s first true high civilization.
  • Ancient Greeks: To sin = “to miss the mark” – can be high or low.  Sin is not living up to, or being who you are.

People allow themselves to be kept in check with threats of eternal fire and damnation after death!  As soon believe on Santa’s list of good and bad boys and girls, and lumps of coal in your Christmas stocking; or rabbits hiding eggs at Easter time – he is risen, have an egg.  What kind of garbled mash is that?

Those sure of eternal life, are usually obsessed with and afraid of death.  One had better have a pretty good alternative at hand to mollify the despairing crowd, bemoaning their fallen faith, if they ever decide their emperor has no clothes, and god vanishes in a single weak puff of doubt.  Without faith, they might invent something truly harmful and ridiculous as a substitute.

Self-deception is apparently a core human behavior – I would now say gene; its use permits all sorts of mindless or mad adventures.  Self-deception enables otherwise perfectly decent people to burn disbelievers at the stake, or to bring guns to a town hall meeting; or to sit on the end of a big bullet and get fired at the Moon!  Self-deception allows us to feel perfectly safe when we are in fact balanced on a knife’s edge above a raging inferno – and no, not hell, something real, like Mona Loa.

Did you know, Amen, Amun, or Amon was the chief god of Egypt in the New Kingdom?  The Hebrews (Habiru) took his name into the desert with them in the Exodus.  They literally call on the Great God of the Pharaohs at the end of all their prayers when they intone “Amen.”  And so do Christians and Moslems.  The three great religions unwittingly – for the most part – believe in the same god and pronounce His name every day: Yahweh-Jehovah, Jesus and Allah are tribal manifestations of the one great god: AMUN.

 Pharaoh and the Lion Goddess

Pharaoh and the Lion Goddess

ALL OF A KEY

Alice said:

“There was a lad in there with a great polished shield of tin or brass, reflecting the yellow-white Egyptian sun back into the tomb recesses so that the paintings were clearly visible in all their profound beauty.  There’s a sadness about it, for their discovery and exhibition are destroying them.  They were intended as funerary decoration to be shut from sun and air and water for the rest of eternity, not to be displayed like some Messrs. Barnum & Bailey amusement.  The academics from all over the world are exposing their fragility to the rough outside world and the great legacy of ancient Egypt is crumbling to sand.  I think that those academics are searching as much for themselves as for the remnants of an ancient past.  Who and how and what and why mean nothing really except for context.  These modern grave robbers are trying to discover how they – the searchers – are somehow more profound, more intelligent, more advanced than the ancient people they are studying.  How arrogant it sounds when some fifty-year-old archaeologist marvels over the similarities of modern and ancient man!  It is a burlesque of the young judging the old – the foolish criticizing the wise.  In the end, it isn’t our technology, which defines our humanity; it is our relation to life and death.  In that, the ancient Egyptians were far ahead of the majority of we modern fools.”

ANCIENT WISDOM

Later, the Renaissance considered a life unencumbered by revealed religion.

ohmmmm

I MET JESUS

I met Jesus walking down the road with Buddha the other day.  They were discussing the oddity that, by eschewing things of the world, and accepting and giving unto Caesar that which is his, one re-arrives at a destination that is also a point of departure called acceptance or rejection.  It’s an endless loop, coming from nowhere and going nowhere; and, the leader is the guy who can be seen going by on the merry-go-round at any particular moment.  Nothing is fixed, and nothing ever changes; or, to put it another way, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

   Philosophy will do that to one, and that’s why I was so delighted, because any argument that begins and ends in chaos, with a lot of confusion, bafflement, and befuddlement in between is bound to be as fraught with opportunity as with risk, and holds as much potential good, as it does evil.  Having said so, they looked at me and said loudly and in unison,

“Go away!”

AGE OF REASON

“That which is now called natural philosophy, embracing the whole circle of science, of which astronomy occupies the chief place, is the study of the works of God, and of the power and wisdom of God in his works, and is the true theology.

“As to the theology that is now studied in its place, it is the study of human opinions and of human fancies concerning God.  It is not the study of God himself in the works that he has made, but in the writings that man has made; and it is not among the least of the mischiefs that man has made; and it is not among the least of mischiefs that the Christian system has done to the world, that it has abandoned the original and beautiful system of theology, like a beautiful innocent, to distress and reproach, to make room for the hag of superstition.”  – Tom Paine, Age of Reason, p. 37

Stephen Hawkings