From the Quran?

How do you feel about this quote? “If you reject my commands and abhor my laws you will eat the flesh of your own sons and the flesh of your own daughters.”

Wow, that’s harsh. It’s no wonder that people who get that kind of religious teaching could become radicalized. Can you imagine a religion that says people’s hands should be cut off?

http://kos.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=WovCxmndOvadFMsQ1M8E9oHPTdeUuOHQ

Check out this link. It is in German; I found it easier to read the subtitles with the sound off.

Tom Robbins reread

I recently picked up Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins and couldn’t put it down. I may go back and reread his other books soon; so many laughs and such good thoughts like:

Of course, as long as there were willing followers, there would be exploitive leaders. And there would be willing followers until humanity reached that philosophical plateau where it recognized that its great mission in life had nothing to do with any struggle between classes, races, nations, or ideologies, but was, rather, a personal quest to enlarge the soul, liberate the spirit, and light up the brain. On that quest, politics was simply a roadblock of stentorian baboons.

 

Some Good in the Bible

While four of the Ten Commandments are bull shit and nothing a loving god would command there are some good things in the Bible. Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” That is from a god I could support. Jesus takes that up a notch in Matthew 6:44 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you…” What a guy!
The Bible should not be taken literally as it is mostly myth and what is not myth was passed down by word of mouth for generations before being written and the written word was copied by many different hands over and over. In that process embellishment has certainly occurred and some changes were made simply as an expedient of the time such as the date of the birth of Jesus. However, it is a mistake to throw out the good with the bad or to try to make the bad good because of the truisms. Those who believe in God should use their God-given mind to sort out the gems from the junk. Those who don’t believe in God can use their mind without the need of a creator.

The Ten Commandments clarified

Can you really respect a God that dished out the Ten Commandments? Would you respect a boss who laid down such commandments? How about if the leader of your country acted like God.

You got a new job; it was the only job available so you really had no choice and your boss is laying down the law

1. I am the boss. I am your only boss. You shall have no other boss than me, ever.
2. Don’t even think about another boss or another job. I am a jealous son of a bitch and if I ever catch one of you even thinking about leaving here you will regret it. Not only will I make your life miserable but I will make your family’s life miserable, even your grandchildren’s lives.
3. It’s OK for me to call myself a SOB but you better not call me anything but Mr. Boss and Sir and it better sound sincere—no snide remarks behind my back either because I can see and hear everything that goes on not only here at work but even in your homes.
4. I built this factory in six days, believe it or not. A little joke there. You don’t really have a choice. You must believe it. I found it a good thing to rest on the seventh day and what is good for me is good for you. You, too, shall do no work on the seventh day but rather you must spend the day thinking about me. You will have to fast on the seventh day because I forbid you from letting anyone else work either. Perhaps, you could eat any food that was lying around, you know, just so you don’t work or cause anyone else to work and as long as you are thinking of me. Maybe you could, like, pick up an apple and look at it and say, “oh, beloved boss of mine thank you for giving me a wonderful job so that I can have this day to love and respect you and thank you for allowing me to eat this apple.”
5. This may be a little difficult to follow because I am the supreme boss who you must honor but you should also honor your father and mother, just not as much as you honor me. They aren’t supreme bosses like I am but they are there when I’m not so I kind of relinquish some power to them, because, you know, I can’t be everywhere all the time. But don’t forget that my spy-cams are everywhere.
6. You are not allowed to kill another worker. That’s a no-brainer. Once you start working for me, you are mine and nobody, but nobody, takes anything that is mine. It’s good for you too since everybody else is also forbidden to kill (There will be some exceptions when I will tell you to kill people. More on that later.)
7. Don’t fuck anybody but your own spouse. I told you that I was jealous so it’s only natural that some of that trait might wear off on others. Anyway adultery is just not a good thing. It’s not good for company moral.
8. No stealing. Hey, would you want someone to steal from you? OK? So don’t steal.
9. Don’t say false things about your neighbor.
10. Do not covet anybody else’s house, ditto anybody else’s wife, or his servants or his SUV.
Got it? Any questions?

Yes, Sir. What does covet mean?

It means want, desire, get a hard-on for.

Oh. Sir, are the covet things listed in order of importance? I mean, is it more important not to covet his house than his wife? And if I can’t even desire my neighbor’s wife, isn’t the adultery thing redundant?

OK, time to get back to work.

Oh, oh, Mr. Boss. Are we allowed to lie?

Read number 9.

But that just says don’t spread untrue rumors about people.

It means don’t lie.

But why didn’t you…

Oh, I forgot number 11. No questions. Actually I didn’t forget because I’m infallible. I was just teasing you.

If you are religious and you question your religious leader about the Ten Commandment and press for answers beyond the point where the only answer is “it’s a leap of faith”, your religious leader may invoke the eleventh commandment.

Run this same exercise for the leader of a country rather than the leader of a business and you may find yourself describing Moamer Kadhafi, Saddam Hussein. or Kim Jong-Il.
The Ten Commandments do not describe a loving or a lovable God. But, hey, you better accept them as God’s word or He will make you suffer for eternity which, as I understand it, is a long time.

Are We Headed for Another Inquisition?

In the mid fifties Will Durant wrote in Volume VI of The Story of Civilization “We are today so uncertain and diverse in our opinions as to the origin and destiny of the world and man that we have ceased, in most countries, to punish people for differing from us in their religious beliefs….Until the middle of the seventeenth century Christians, Jews, and Muslims were more acutely concerned with religion than we are today; their theologies were their most prized and confident possessions; and they looked upon those who rejected these creeds as attacking the foundations of social order and the very significance of human life.” Mr. Durant is contrasting Europe before the Reformation with America in the fifties. This paragraph begins a chapter titled The Methods of the Inquisition. He writes of the 1400s and 1500s, “Each group was hardened by certainty into intolerance, and branded the others as infidels.”
I wonder if he would find such a contrast today. It seems to me a frightening number of us are “hardened by certainty into intolerance.”

Creationism vs Evolution

One of the arguments creationists use to dismiss evolution goes “If we evolved from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys?” They ought to look at their own religion for the answer. Catholicism evolved from Judaism and yet there are still Jews. Islam evolved from Catholicism as did Protestantism yet there are still Catholics. There are divisions within Islam and numerous forms of Protestantism all leaving still intact their origins. For those who are confused about how evolution works, I hope this helps.
Understanding evolution doesn’t mean you have to abandon or even question your faith. I would hope this brings you a better understanding of your faith. Genesis is a myth. It is interesting to contemplate how that myth came into being. The majority of Christians, Jews and Muslims already understand it as a myth and yet they remain Christians, Jews and Muslims. Take the good messages on living that the Bible holds and use them. Enjoy the myths as part of your heritage.

Dialogue with Ben

Ben: If I understand you correctly, you may not be able to comprehend why some people would hurt others, but you wouldn’t say that their path in life; their ultimate goal, is any less valid than your own. Have I represented you accurately?
Thomas: Not exactly. I can’t comprehend why people hurt others because I’m not in their skin, soul, whatever and because what I have learned about myself has made hurting others on purpose incomprehensible. I have no way of knowing why others do what they do and don’t see how I can judge them.
Ben: You said that in your worldview, the world should be a place “where everyone accepts everyone”. Why?
Thomas: “Should” is the operative word in that statement. It is not the way the world is, it will not be that in my lifetime and probably never but my view of a perfect world, heaven, if you will, is one in which everyone accepts everyone else. I use the word “accepts” rather than “love” because love is a word that has too much emotion and misunderstanding attached but I am basically talking about Christ’s central message of love for everyone. The reason everyone should accept everyone, other than because it is what Christ wanted, is that to do otherwise is frequently a source of conflict.
Ben: What if butchering another human makes someone happy?
Thomas: Accepting a person as they are does not include accepting certain behaviors.
Ben: Should we judge or encourage a serial killer like Tommy Lynn Sells?
Thomas: Judging his actions is a no-brainer. Putting him away forever or killing him is all fine with me.
Ben: Why should everyone accept everyone?
Thomas: It’s really hard to love someone if you don’t accept them for who they are. Accepting is not condoning or agreeing with; it is “I see you as a person.”
Ben: Why should we love everyone?
Thomas: Maybe you think Satan wrote Matthew 5: 43-48 and Luke 6:27 or are you picking and choosing? But rather than rely on the Bible I’ll give you my own answer from my own life. While trying to follow the advice from your savior, Jesus, I have found that the more successful I am at loving neighbors and enemies the happier I am. Hating Tommy Sells may make you feel better and if that is the case, it is what you should do. Finding it in my heart to love him, while difficult, makes me feel better. Do I love him enough to think he should be running around in society? Hell no.
Ben: Is your worldview morally superior to the worldview of Tommy Lynn Sells?
Thomas: Sells is a character in my life similar to the ghosts in Pac-Man. I have no morally superior worldview
Ben: Do you exist in a worldview of total relativism where anything is right for anyone?
Thomas: I exist in a place where there is only one person I can change and, thus, only one person to judge. Put me on Sell’s jury and I’d judge his actions unacceptable and I wouldn’t care much what happened to his body but I might feel some compassion for his soul (if I was in a dualistic mood). I have no idea what is right for you or for Sells or anyone else.
Ben: Would you appeal to the Bible? But if you do, why reject so much of it while taking just the parts that you like?
Thomas: Gosh, Ben, it seems to me you are rejecting the passages I cited above. Of course I take the parts I like as do you. There is enough contradiction in the Bible to make everyone happy.
As an aside, I’ve done some research into religion and serial killers and haven’t found one that came from an atheist upbringing so I was further amused at Sells statement: “I’ve made my peace with my maker.”

Thinking

I get great pleasure out of thinking. Concentrating on the meaning of life is as satisfying to me as, I presume, it is for a golfer to concentrate on an important putt. I don’t place any greater or lesser importance on my pleasure than on the golfer’s pleasure. I write these thoughts largely for myself though it is quite possible that if I were the only person in the world, I would not bother.
Would I still think if I were alone? One of the things I have found when I am alone is that I frequently think in the past tense. “As I walked up the road toward Mt. Vesuvius from where the bus had dropped me …” I was 27 when I was having that thought in those words while climbing Mt. Vesuvius. I wrote them down in my diary along with the thought “If there was only one person left on earth, and he was I; He would die. Why?”
Why? Because the thought in my head seemed to indicate that I was not climbing through a flowering orchard on a spring day with the cone of Vesuvius ahead of me for my current pleasure but rather for an experience that I could relate to others. Otherwise, why were not my thoughts in the present tense?
Deep breath. “Ahhh. The air is so sweet. God! I love this.” I breathe the air again. I look toward a sound and see a bird. As I emerge from the orchard and start up the cone I can feel my body carrying me upward smoothly. I pause and turn to look out over the bay of Naples. No words in my head about what I am doing. I’m just doing it. No recording necessary.
Would my mind be blank, blank of worded thoughts that is? I shouldn’t think so. The bird might call to mind something I know of birds that could be added to. The fragrance of the air might recall a spring day somewhere in my past. The pull of gravity on my body might bring thoughts of pride at my fitness or a resolve to become more fit. But I’m glad my thoughts weren’t in the present tense. Realizing that brought the philosophical thought, that I was not doing this for myself alone. It is those somehow larger thoughts that I enjoy most, larger and ever so debatable.
There are many things I would not do were there not other people to tell but that is a different thing from thinking. If all other people on the planet suddenly disappeared, would I stop thinking? First I would probably think that was strange. Then I might think it a bit frightening. My life would clearly be different with no one to talk to. I would have to sort out my needs and figure out how to meet them. There would be no one to generate electricity or make matches. How would I cook food? Where would I find food? There would be a lot to think about, at least at first.
At age 27 I thought that I would die if I were the last person on earth. Now, I’m not so sure. Of course I would die eventually but I’m not sure that I would just curl up and die because the only reason for living was to communicate with others. I think I would want to solve the important questions like food and shelter and then I think I would be able to amuse myself with thoughts about the meaning of it all. What was going on? What was I supposed to be doing? The thoughts might not be global or cosmic so much as “What is over the horizon?” “Am I truly alone in the world or are there people that I can find somewhere?” “How did this happen?” Ah, the thoughts seem to progress toward the more philosophical fairly soon.
It is difficult to try to understand thinking before there was language. One model would be animals, I suppose. What does the woodchuck think when it’s nose touches my electric fence for the first time? How do animals learn to be fearful of predators? Are they fearful or merely cautious? What did the early hominid think before language? Can there be thoughts before language?
If I try to think without using words, I think I can have thoughts. Are they thoughts or emotions? Certainly they would be extremely limited absent thoughts from others through written and spoken words. Hunger, shelter, sex are processed through the brain. Those are the “thoughts” I can imagine without words as I sit here half a million or so years later. It was clearly thoughts that brought about the development of tools. It has only been within the past 3,000 years that we have been thinking philosophically. Most of our thought up until then, I suspect, was focused on survival and on improving the quality of life.
What is my dog thinking when she huddles close to me during a thunder storm? What is she thinking when, alone in the house during a thunder storm, she gets into the bathtub? If dogs could communicate about things like thunder, would they exchange ideas on how to cope, try out each others ideas, and come to a general agreement on which strategy worked best?
Before language did hominids wonder what thunder was all about? Did they try to figure out a reason behind it? Once they developed language how did they come to the conclusion that thunder was caused by a god driving his chariot across the sky? As I try to think myself into the skin of people living under those conditions it seems a pretty logical explanation for something that was inexplicable at that time.

Another country heard from

Thomas, you wrote, ” I do believe there was a man named Jesus who grew up in Nazareth.”

I don’t. I’ve only recently come to this conclusion after I read this:

http://rosarubicondior.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-historical-evidence-for-jesus.html

Good stuff, though, even if he was a myth… If only people read the Jefferson Bible instead of the King James version.

Another Country

Thank you, Another Country. The link is excellent and I think we are in agreement that there is good stuff in the New Testament whether or not Jesus put on his sandals one foot at a time or if he existed. My fundamentalist friend, Michael, thinks there is good stuff also; I have asked him twice which was more important believing Jesus was the way to heaven or living a good life. He has not answered either time which leads me to believe he thinks believing is more important than understanding or doing.
I tend to believe there was a man who got it right who lived about the time attributed to Jesus and that a number of people heard him and realized he was onto something. The disciples became, if not already, itinerant preachers. They tried to get people to understand the message and as they traveled around they embellished the story creating the myth that is the New Testament. Folks who use their minds, however they got them, can see the beauty of the message of loving everyone and try to bring it into their own lives. Followers, dare I say sheep, pick up the easy way which was probably not part of the original message and can go to bed comforted every night because they have accepted Jesus as their savior and whatever they did during the day is less important. I feel quite sure that the person who understood loving neighbors and enemies as stated directly and through the parables never said he was the way into heaven as that notion is not at all loving