December 31, 2009

Personal Infallibility

Posted in art, atheism, church, culture, family, fiction, friends, history, psychology of religion at 8:35 am by Jerry

It’s quite possible that faith first starts with having no impulse (naivete?) to intellectually challenge an experience of some kind, be it received through parental indoctrination, a social confirmation of parental indoctrination, a rejection of an ultimately unjust reality, some sort of mystical/ altered state of reality, or other sociological/psychological mediums.

Then, when that naivete is overcome by the everyday human experience of disillusionment (to whatever degree), inquiry or the all too popular “faith seeking understanding” stage can be entered. And so, whatever that experience was, it now involves reason.

But how far will that reasoning travel? Will we take it beyond our ignorance into some level of agnosticism, acknowledging that we could be wrong about not only the truth of the experience, but also the reliability of the medium through which we received that experience?

Faith has been said to be more than just an act of belief. Faith can also involve or imply a commitment to a pre-agnostic version of that experience, adapting one’s everyday decision making according to this version, thereby developing one’s personal investment in that version.

Advertisements

December 30, 2009

A First Century War On Mythmas

Posted in church, culture, fiction, history, mythology, politics, scripture, theology at 6:05 am by Jerry

Under the Caesars, Augustus and Octavian, the mantle of divinity was claimed for the Roman emperor. They claimed the titles Lord, Son of God, Bringer of Peace, and Savior of the World.

First century Christians remembered very well that according to Jesus “You shall love the Lord your God with heart, mind, soul, and strength.” Jesus was their Lord. They did not have divided loyalties.

The ancient world was full of miraculous birth stories. It was a favorite way for rulers to claim divine rights. It was a literary tool that was waiting for early Christians to use to declare the divine specialness of the one they called Lord.

The birth narratives that were eventually attached to Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, were stories that were created and circulated to counter the claim of the Caesars to be divine and worthy to be called Lord. Every claim of specialness for Caesar was countered by the claim that all his titles belonged to Jesus.

The birth narratives are as much political treatise as theological statement. They cannot be found as a part of the earliest memories of followers of Jesus and make sense only in the context of their Roman oppressors claim for divinity…

Broadly speaking the authors were storytellers. They were not historians. Their work cannot be understood as history.

The birth narratives are properly called myths. A myth by definition is any story or report in which God or a God is the primary actor. Angels, free-moving stars, dreams, and unexplained bright lights are a part of the tools of mythology. Christians and the world at large have not been served well by attempts to read the birth narratives as history.

Just as many children feel deceived when they find out Santa is not real, many Christians feel deceived when they conclude that Jesus was not born of a virgin and that a star did not travel through the sky and come to rest over a particular place in Bethlehem. (bold mine)

Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.

December 29, 2009

What Does It Mean To Give?

Posted in art, atheism, culture, religion, scripture, theology at 7:40 am by Jerry

Accidents Happen

Posted in art, atheism, psychology of religion at 7:14 am by Jerry

Virgin Born

Posted in art, atheism, mythology, religion at 7:04 am by Jerry

December 27, 2009

My Twinkling Star

Posted in family, fatherhood, film, songs at 3:13 am by Jerry

One of my little girl’s Christmas presents was a toy piano. Not only does she enjoy playing on it, she also decided to surprise her Mom and Dad with an unprompted performance. We wondered if such a performance could be repeated, and with a camera focused on her as well. I’m so glad it worked out…

December 2, 2009

What Truly Matters Without “God”

Posted in art, atheism, film, science at 10:19 am by Jerry

If we are merely matter intricately assembled, is this really demeaning? If there’s nothing in here but atoms, does that make us less or does that make matter more?      – Carl Sagan

December 1, 2009

My Doubts Sing Beautiful Songs To Me

Posted in atheism, film, philosophy, poetry, psychology, psychology of religion, science, songs at 3:41 pm by Jerry

Within the religious world I was brought up in it was not entirely rare to hear someone (including myself) say, “I felt called”. This often happens after a whole lot of deep, sincere prayer. And what was meant by this calling, this answer to prayer, was that we were called by “God”.

Some were bold enough to outwardly say it was God who called them, but others would only allude to it. I suspect, for the latter, it was not knowing for sure if it was in fact God calling them. They have been wrong about God’s will for their lives in the past and would hate to make anymore false assumptions, because, as the cliche goes – to assume makes an ass out of.. well, you know the rest.

As for those who keep claiming a direct line of communication from God despite being wrong in the past, well, I suppose they feel faith is always a greater virtue than doubt. Which is odd, when you really think about it. If we were to ask religious people how many times a doubt about their personal understanding of God’s will in scripture or otherwise has led to greater understanding, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they were to say, “Oh, yes, there have been countless times when God has corrected my limited understanding of Him.” In other words, either God or you have welcomed DOUBT into your spiritual life to make room for greater understanding.

For the more humble-minded religious person who seeks to save faith-face by not claiming “God” to have called them, a psychological perspective can be taken (putting off claims of a direct communication of God’s will for hindsight-prophecy). These believers are freed to accept the possibility that the “calling” might just be a part of us, deep inside, that knows what we really want or really need – to be closer to the truth. And if we’ve repressed this “calling”, ignored it or simply over-looked it in the past only to later find ourselves giving it a voice, it is in those moments we do hear voices, voices that care deeply for us…  voices that are the expressions of our own doubts.