God Given Mind

Those who believe in a god believe God gave them a mind which is why, in debates with those who label themselves Christian, I frequently follow their “it’s just a leap of faith” with “Use your God-given mind.”
Galileo, on trial for heresy because he was supporting Copernicus’ findings 100 years earlier that the earth was not the center of the universe, said “…I neither intend nor pretend to gain from it (his book on the universe) any fruit that is not pious and Catholic.” He added, however, “I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

I love Galileo!

Dialogue with JC

THOMAS: Hi JC, You talked a lot about love—love your neighbor, love your enemies, judge not,—but you never define it or tell us how to do it.

JC: Sure I do. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a good example of loving your enemies.

THOMAS: That’s really a story of compassion. I get that compassion is an example of a loving act and that it can be done as a conscious act but it is sympathy or pity for someone’s misery or suffering. What about loving enemies who aren’t miserable or suffering?

JC Name one.

THOMAS Are you saying that everyone is miserable? Now you sound like L. Ron Hubbard.

JC (laughing) That’s a good one! No, you are right, everyone is not miserable.
But there are so many people who are miserable you can always find someone to feel compassion for.

THOMAS But you made loving neighbors and enemies sound so much more wonderful than just feeling compassion or pity. I even have this notion of heaven as a place much like earth with the significant difference that everyone loves everyone. Trouble is, I don’t know what that love would be, you know, how to do it.

JC Of course I can’t tell you what heaven is like or even if there is a life after death but that is a nice image. Why do you even have thoughts about life after death? As I look at it you are having a pretty nice life. Why think about something more?

THOMAS Yeah. I guess my thoughts along those lines are for the purpose of living this life better.

JC You want this life to be better?

THOMAS No. Not really. It’s like playing golf. I don’t want the course to change, to get better. I just want to get better at my game because the better I play, the more enjoyable the game is.

JC What if you became perfect at the game and shot eagles and holes in one every time?

THOMAS I’d probably quit like I quit playing video games when they stop being a challenge.

JC So if you perfect living, you’ll kill yourself?

THOMAS My turn to laugh. Perfect living? No matter how many times I rewrite our dialogue, it will never be perfect. I have lived some amazingly wonderful days but I doubt that any could be counted “perfect”. I often tell people that if I ever perfect gardening, I’ll quite because it is the challenge I love most. I love solving problems.

JC You asked me how to love. You must know the answer since you just said you love solving problems.

THOMAS Loving something I do is not the same as loving a person.

JC But what did you mean when you used the word?

THOMAS I meant I enjoy it; I enjoy challenges and solving problems. I sure don’t feel compassion for the problems, I can tell you that.

JC Before you got married did you want to love somebody and would you consider that a challenge?

THOMAS I wanted to get laid and I loved the challenge and solving the problem. Frankly, I don’t recall considering finding a wife or soul mate a challenge or problem. Did I want to love someone? Actually it was more of a challenge to make it clear that I did not want to commit to anyone so I was always careful not to use the word love.

JC But now you have been married for 40 years.

THOMAS Yes.

JC To the same woman.

THOMAS Yes.

JC Do you love her?

THOMAS Yes. Without hesitation, yes. More now than when we were married.

JC You sound like an expert on love.

THOMAS If there were such a thing, I’d take out papers. Yeah, I think I know a lot about…no, I take that back. I know how to make love. I know how to get along with my wife…most of the time. When I wish newly weds well I tell them if they want it to last, they will have to work at it, that the wedding is not the end but just the beginning and when I talk to couples who have been married for a long time they nod in agreement when I compliment them on all the work they have put in to stay married all those years. But I’m still not sure I know what love is.

JC What is the work that keeps a marriage going?

THOMAS Oh, gosh. It’s a lot of little things. Early on it is trying to keep out of trouble. (laughs) OK here’s one—Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday—food, friends, family—what could be better. We have hosted it for nearly forty years. It took me several years to figure out how to get through this wonderful time without pissing my wife off. First, the house needs to be cleaned for company. Then there is the stress of cooking a big meal involving a big bird. I say it took several years. To be honest it was probably 25 or 30 before I was able to keep her happy through the ordeal. First, it was don’t watch football, then don’t even sit down. Some of this seemed unfair to me until I got a better idea of what was going on with her. She was very busy, albeit doing things she likes to do, and seeing me sitting around rankled. Then I figured out that life got a lot better if I asked her if there was anything I could do to help. Sometimes there was, at which point I jumped right to it because putting it off pissed her off. When the job was done I’d report back for the next assignment. There seldom was a second assignment in which case I was allowed to sit down and read or whatever but then I wasn’t a bump on a log but a servant in waiting.

JC So you were able see her position—you empathized with her.

THOMAS Yeah, I guess that’s it. Oh, and I also found that random acts of kindness like doing the dishes without being asked gains points. There are certain times when I do the dishes and we both understand it is my job like Thanksgiving and certain nights of the week but I get extra points for just doing them when not expected to.

JC Empathy again.

THOMAS If empathy is so important, why didn’t you say so? Why didn’t you say “Empathize with thy neighbor” instead of “love thy neighbor?”

JC I did.

THOMAS Not that I read.

JC Keep in mind that none of my words as you read them was written by me. They were written by good men who thought I spoke wisdom and they wanted to spread the wisdom to everyone. In the process they added some things and left out some things and then those words were transcribed by hand many times over and translated into other languages. Let me ask you; is there anything about your wife that you wish were different?

THOMAS Sure.

JC More than one thing.

THOMAS Two pop to mind. If I think about, I can probably come up with more.

JC Do you wish she would change certain things?

THOMAS Not going to happen.

JC You tried?

THOMAS Yeah, always a big mistake.

JC So you just accept her as she is?

THOMAS Yes, I don’t think I have a choice.

JC I tried to teach acceptance.

THOMAS (excited) Of our enemies, our neighbors, our friends and family, of everyone! Why doesn’t it say that in the Bible?

JC I think it comes through best in my parables. I think they came through best because they were stories that were easier to remember and to translate.

THOMAS “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

JC Yes. I love that one because it turns judgment inward where it belongs and it employs empathy and acceptance not only of the woman who was going to be stoned but to those who were going to stone her.

THOMAS We are allowed to empathize with ourselves?

JC No one better. If you can’t get inside your own mind, you’ve got little chance to get into another’s. Remember “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Unless you know yourself, empathize with yourself, accept yourself; how can what you do to others be right?

THOMAS I’m not sure I understand.

JC Love yourself first if you want to love others.

THOMAS May I ask another question, this is kind of personal?

JC Shoot.

THOMAS Why did you say “I am the way”?

JC Why do you ask?

THOMAS It just doesn’t seem very loving. How can I love everyone and at the same time say if you don’t believe the way I do, you are going to rot in hell?

JC You are right. That statement is contrary to my teaching of love. I never said that.

THOMAS But it’s in the Bible.

JC Written several years after I died by men who wanted to spread my teachings and thought that the addition of that sentiment would help them get people’s attention; same as walking on water, rising from the dead and that my mother was a virgin.

THOMAS They lied?

JC No reason to be so harsh. They were good men who fervently wanted to deliver the word so people would have good lives. Those embellishments were just to get people to pay attention.

THOMAS Today there are people who say it is more important to be your disciple than to follow your teachings—more important to go to church and to say your name a lot than to be loving.

JC Well, there’s not much I can do about that, is there?

THOMAS How about coming back like they think you will.

JC They would crucify me. Been there, done that.

Ignoramus

Anyone who believes the last book in The Bible, Revelation, predicts or portends or has any relationship to life today is…I don’t want to be too harsh; what is the proper word? Idiot; “someone lacking the mental capacity to develop beyond the level of a four year old?” No. No, that’s not the best word. Fool; “a silly or stupid person?” That’s too pejorative. Ah! I’ve got it! Ignoramus! Yes, that’s the right word, “an ignorant person”. To be ignorant is “lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact.” Thus if you tell me “Staggering events will soon shock the whole world! Great prophecies in the book of Revelation show how and when these catastrophic events will occur”(http://rcg.org/books/real.html) I can call you an ignoramus. I don’t mean that pejoratively but rather as an invitation to gain knowledge or information on the book of Revelation.
The ignoramus I quoted is David C. Pack, Pastor General of The Restored Church of God. The likelihood he will seek knowledge or information beyond his silly interpretation might lead one to wonder about his mental capacity but we must keep in mind that religious leaders who promote fear and apocalyptic outcomes are doing so out of their own self-interest. “Don’t squishy doctrines of transformation through personal illumination always get marginalized in mass movements? …the open-minded, non-authoritarian side of Buddhism, too, quickly succumbed to its theocratic side, gasping under the weight of those heavy statues. The histories of faiths are all essentially the same: a vague and ambiguous millennial doctrine preached by a charismatic founder, Marx or Jesus; mystical variants held by the first generations of followers; and a militant consensus put firmly in place by the power-achieving generation.” (Adam Gopnik, “The Big Reveal” The New Yorker magazine March 5, 2012) Those who wish to gain knowledge and understanding of the Book of Revelation might want to read “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation” (Viking), by Elaine Pagels or they could start with the review of the book in the March 2012 New Yorker.