Friday, May 2, 2014

Ten things Jesus still can't say in church.

Like many who have experienced trans-formative spiritual experiences I once sought to better understand my own experience through the lens of traditional religious teaching.   While traditional religious institutions provide the invaluable benefit of a supportive, like-minded community, these same institutions are often guilty of depriving spiritual seekers of access to a fully informed worldview, making many easy prey for psychological manipulation and exploitation.

Fundamentalist denominations of Christianity, Islam and Judaism all teach their followers that in order to understand the nature of reality, and therefore one's own spiritual experience, one must first come to understand the Bible, Torah or the Quran as 'God's Words' - everything written in Scripture should be considered to be truth - completely inspired texts which contain no error, contradiction or falsehood - books that speak as one voice - the voice of God. 


This singular religious belief, more than any other religious belief, has the power to transform a person, once endowed with the gift of common sense, into an irrational and disturbingly delusional individual susceptible to all manner of manipulationThe promotion of the belief in scriptural inerrancy has always been institutional religion's greatest gift to sociopaths, hucksters and self-serving political manipulators - as well as the lessor angels of one's own mind.  No one who embraces this belief escapes all its negative consequences and no one will abandon this belief later in life without psychological scars.


If Pastors, Imams and Rabbis wish to be truly good shepherds of their flocks then the dangers of the belief in scriptural inerrancy will become an often discussed topic in their public gatherings.

Peace, prosperity and enlightened world government will never be achieved without substantial intellectual reform within institutional Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  Salvation from the delusional and malevolent forces that prey on members of fundamentalist religious institutions will only be possible if religious leaders and laypersons alike begin to fully understand the dire consequences of promoting the false belief of scriptural inerrancyAs long as churches, mosques and synagogues remain bound to this belief there will be an ongoing and escalating negative impact on governments world wide - as politically minded fundamentalist Christians, Jews and Muslims seek to see their apocalyptic, fatalistic world-views fulfilled and vindicated.
 
This essay contains ten alternative interpretations of some of the most provocative and cryptic sayings of Jesus that exist in scripture.  These particular interpretations are actively suppressed within institutional Christianity specifically for the purpose of maintaining the belief in scriptural inerrancy, as well as other false beliefs concerning the nature of reality often promoted in scripture.  


These 10 interpretations need to become widely known in order to inoculate future generations against the destructive power of religious fundamentalism.  Churches and Mosques must become true centers of enlightenment, rather than centers of mass delusion, ripe for exploitation.


Delusion - Definition:
An altered state of consciousness induced by embracing a 'false belief' - belief crucial to one's understanding of reality.

Side effects include:
1.  Inaccurate perceptions of reality.
2.  Diminished ability for sound reasoning.
3.  Mistrust / fear of those not holding the false belief.

4.  Strong mental bias for thoughts supporting the false belief.
5.  Strong mental bias against thoughts opposing the false belief.

Below are ten Common Sense Interpretations of some of the more cryptic sayings attributed to Jesus found in the New Testament
Since there is no way to be certain that ANYONE'S interpretation of ANY passage of scripture reflects the author's true meaning, I call these interpretations 'common sense' interpretations because these interpretations stand on their own merit as truth.  Truth which can be demonstrated to be truth.



These ten interpretations have been derived from the following set of metaphor pairings - (Which can prove useful when attempting to interpret other sayings attributed to Jesus in the New Testament).

1.  Eye - 'One's perception, one's understanding of something'
2.  Body - 'One's conscious and unconscious mind'
3.  House - 'The beliefs and understanding governing one's mind'
4.  Kingdom - 'A philosophy or theology - a collectively held understanding'
5.  Son of Man - 'The enlightened individual, enlightened future humanity'
6.  Demon - 'Delusion, Consciousness manifesting delusion' 
7.  Angel - 'Insight, Consciousness manifesting insight'
8.  Devil/Satan - 'Malevolent consciousness controlled by falsehood'
9.  Hell - 'A state of delusion leading to mental and physical torment'
10. Heaven - 'The world as it should be, the perfected world, the future world'
11. Kingdom of Heaven - "The philosophy of the world as it should be'
 
 
1.  Mark 4:24-25
Be careful if you attempt to interpret sayings attributed to me.  The reasoning you use will be the measure of your success, and even more. Those who have sound reasoning will embrace rational assumptions about both me and my teachings, which will lead to more understanding.  Those without sound reasoning will embrace irrational assumptions about me and my teaching which will lead to diminished understanding. 


NIV -"Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them."

2.  Matthew 23:15

Woe to you who teach that scripture is God's Word. You hypocrites. You travel land and sea to win a single convert, and when you find one, you make them twice as delusional as you yourselves have become. 

NIV - "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

3.  Matthew 16:11-12
How can it be possible that you don't understand I was not talking about bread when I said, be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees?  Then the disciples understood that Jesus was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but instead to be on guard against the falsehoods which give rise to delusional thinking - falsehoods being taught by those who believe the scriptures are God's words.

NIV - How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

4.  Matthew 6:22-23
How you see the world illuminates your mind. If your understanding of reality is correct your mind becomes full of insights. If your perception of reality is wrong your mind becomes full of fallacies. Embracing a fallacy as though it is 'insight'
makes the mind delusional. 

NIV - "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

5.  Matthew 5:29-30


If your spiritual understanding confuses and disturbs you, better to approach life without any specific spiritual understanding, rather than have your whole mind thrown into chaos and torment.  If your first hand spiritual experience confuses or disturbs you, it is better to discount or reinterpret that spiritual experience than have your whole mind subjected to chaos and torment. 

NIV - If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

6.  Mark 3:22-29

Prominent religious scholars explained, This man dispels demons by Satan's power.  So Jesus called them and answered using symbolic language: How can a delusion be dispelled by falsehood?  Theology that contradicts itself can not stand up in the face of reality.  Minds governed by contradictions or irrationality become unstable.  And if a falsehood is demonstrated to be irrational this brings to an end that falsehood's power to delude the mind. The fact is a person whose mind is governed by strongly held false beliefs will not relinquish those beliefs without first being forced to honestly question those beliefs.  The truth you need to know is this: The psychological consequences of any sin can be alleviated. But while one holds a false belief concerning the nature of God the psychological consequences of that false belief will always remain.

NIV - And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man's house.  Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin."

7.  Matthew 5:17-20 
Don't assume that I have come to abolish scripture.  I have not come to abolish scripture but instead to fulfill scripture's apocalyptic expectations. Because the truth is until people who believe scripture must be fulfilled who harbor apocalyptic expectations no longer see a distinction between the world we live in and a coming world as it should be, it will be impossible for them to stop seeing even the most meaningless minutia of scripture as God's law - not until they are satisfied scripture has been fulfilled and the new world is here and now.   Because of this situation, when anyone attempts to set aside one of the least significant of the commands existing in scripture and teaches others to do the same, that person will be labeled by zealots as someone who has little understanding of the coming world as it should be.  But the person who practices and teaches all the irrational and burdensome commands of scripture will be labeled by the same zealots as someone who has great understanding of the coming world as it should be.   What I have been telling you is unless your intellectual integrity surpasses that of those who believe and teach that everything written in scripture is true you will certainly not acquire any real understanding of the world as it should be.
 
NIV - "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

8Matthew 5:27-28 + Luke 20:34-36 + Matthew 19:8-12
You have been taught that wisdom dictates you should not be sexually unfaithful in your marriage.  But I tell you the heart desiring to possess and control someone sexually is already being sexually unfaithful. 

People living in this age seek to legitimize and control sexual relationships though marriage contracts.   But people worthy of participating in the age to come with renewed life don't seek to legitimize and control sexual relationships by entering into marriage contracts.  Instead they live as enlightened individuals.  They are God's children since they are children of a renewed life.

Moses allowed you to divorce because you were insensitive to the needs and desires of others and you sought ways to absolve yourself from your marital responsibilities.  Institutionalized marriage was originally created for the purpose of raising children.  I tell you it is an act of sexual unfaithfulness to divorce your spouse against their will and marry another person - unless your spouse is being sexually immoral themselves.  The disciples said to him.  "If this is the case then it would be better for people who don't want to have children to never marry."  Jesus replied, Only people given an enlightened understanding of sexuality and marriage can accept this reality.  For some people marry but don't have children, because they were born incapable of having children.  Others marry but don't have children because their partner does not want children - and then there are those who deliberately forgo having children for the sake of helping to create the world as it should be.   Those who can accept an enlightened understanding of sexuality and marriage should do so.

NIV - "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."   

NIV - The people of this age marry and are given in marriage.  But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection."

NIV - Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."
The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."  Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.  For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others--and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.  The one who can accept this should accept it."
 


9. Mark 14:61-62
But Jesus remained silent and did not answer.  Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the chosen one, the son of the blessed one?  And Jesus said, I am, and you will understand that enlightened individuals are securing first hand knowledge of established power and they are coming to shine their light on those things that keep people from seeing the world as it should be.

NIV - "But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One? And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."

10Matthew 24:27
For as flashes of insight become understood around the world, so will be the evolution of humanity.

NIV - "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."


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Final thoughts:

Embracing the fallacy that the Bible or Quran are ‘God’s Words’, that these books contain no falsehood or contradiction, has rendered countless Christians, Jews and Muslims delusional and deprived them of a deeper and more meaningful life and often set them against their fellow man.  No mind retains the ability to read and judge scripture soberly after embracing as ‘insight’ the belief that these texts contain no falsehood or contradiction.  Fear of scripture often becomes the norm for the uneducated who embrace this belief and absurd reasoning persists in the mind of those attempting to rectify the many contradictions and untruths found in these texts. 

Each generation ‘God’s Word’ scholar reinterprets end times myths to fit current events and develops the tortured logic necessary to remain blind to the many falsehoods and contradictions found in these texts. Less fortunate victims find themselves ‘struck down’ by ‘God’s Word’ while reading some troubling passage; their mind suddenly seized with fear that God is judging them or cursing them - as the God envisioned sometimes in the scriptures is prone to do.  These then become at risk for serious mental illness.

This fallacy is the root of all religious and political conflict.  It strips people of their power for independent thought and inspires self-fulfilling fatalistic worldviews. The sociopath utilizes this belief to seize control of government and maintain systems of oppression.
 
Resist the temptation to embrace this fallacy when seeking insight into your own spiritual experiences.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Death throes of a great deception - the fall from grace of the pro-life movement

There have been some unspeakably wicked things done in the name of God over the centuries. In my lifetime I can't think of a more wicked act done in the name of the Christian God than the nefarious campaign to teach Christians that God opposes abortion.

In Frank Schaeffer's autobiographical book - “Crazy For God” - Frank reveals that his father, Francis Schaeffer (the defacto father of the pro-life movement) came to regret his participation in the politics that would spawn the pro-life movement within the American Republican Party. In Frank's later book - “Sex, Mom and God” - Frank illuminates further the corrupt politics that brought regret to his father's last days. Both of these books, as well as Jonathan Dudley's book 'Broken Word: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics' are excellent resources for anyone interested in knowing the full convoluted history of the anti-abortion heresy being taught in Evangelical churches today for the purpose of garnering political support for the Republican Party in America.

People of faith have wrestled for years with the abortion arguments. Only in the last few years have I come to fully understand the deeply flawed nature of the anti-choice argument.

Safe medical abortion is a relatively new phenomenon in the world. When this procedure was unexpectedly legalized, in 1972, many in the Evangelical Christian world began to wonder out loud where Jesus might stand on the issue of abortion. There were no centuries old church decrees concerning abortion in existence, so the responsibility initially fell on the individual believer to decide for themselves what the "will of God" might be concerning abortion. 

Although abortion was widely embraced as a godsend by many respected Christian thinkers during the 1970's, including Southern Baptist theologians, opposing forces soon emerged intent on re-shaping the layperson's understanding of abortion - for political purposes. Certain Christian anti-abortion activists and authors such as John Rushdoony and Francis Schaeffer began teaching that abortion is an unprecedented form of last days evil and those who practice it commit murder.

With doctrinal uncertainty brewing in Evangelical America, some leaders within the Republican Party saw an opportunity to seduce a larger segment of the Evangelical voting block away from the Democratic Party by making abortion rights a hot-button political issue among politically minded Evangelicals. Frank Shaeffer and his father were commissioned by Republican political operatives to create several films designed to teach American Evangelicals that God strongly opposes abortion – that abortion is nothing short of murder. These films were then aggressively shown in Evangelical churches throughout America.

This is a thumbnail history of how many Evangelical Christians were first taught to believe God opposes abortion. 

So what's wrong with the pro-life or 'anti-choice' world view - from the traditional Christian perspective?

If it is the will of God that all conception (including conception from rape, incest or fornication) result in live birth, then the pro-life position remains somewhat logical.   But if one believes that not all conception is necessarily the will of God, then the pro-life position becomes not only illogical but highly counterproductive and destructive to society.
 
The logic of the pro-life world view begins its trajectory off the rails by denying that the creation of "human life" is an "extended process" initiated - not by the will of God - but by the will and actions of human beings.  Pro-life advocates proclaim that "human life" begins at conception and all conception is the will of GodPro-life believers stray further from logic by insisting that what is of ultimate value to God (and humanity as well) in human life comes into existence at the moment of conception - the soul.  But the most illogical aspect of the pro-life argument occurs with the irrational assumption that it is God's universal will and desire that all human conceptions proceed to full development and result in live birth.   What could possibly be the evidence for such illogical beliefs - in scripture or anywhere else?   There is none.


The belief that God desires for all conceptions to come to term simply because men and women have managed to produce conception is absurdIt defies logic and even strips God of autonomyA similar statement of false logic would be: I successfully robbed a bank so now I should assume God wants me to keep the money.   How can one say that just because a man and woman have managed to mix an egg and sperm together that it must therefore be God's will that a child be born in this world?  In humanity's distant past conception might have been considered an act of the will of God, but doctors today can produce conception on demand in the lab by simply mixing the correct ingredients. Humans and humans alone are who have been given the right to call forth conception from the void - not God - God has no say in the matter ultimately.   Any mad scientist can mix the ingredients together that start the process that can lead to the creation of human life.  God has no say in the matter - by design - for good reasons.

The anti-choice worldview is promoted in our Evangelical churches by means of very powerful manipulations of the emotions, along with a preference for some Scripture over other Scripture.   A well reasoned, common sense approach to human reproduction is denounced as dangerous heresy by pro-life zealots.  Fear and ignorance is the real foundation of the anti-choice argument.

Those who are more apt to be Bible believing Christians would be wise to settle all the conflicting Scriptural arguments concerning human reproduction with the only passage of scripture describing the creation of human life. Genesis 2:17 (KJV) “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Clearly the Bible states that the creation of a living soul is a process and not an instantaneous event that takes place at conception.  The elemental "soul", as traditionally understood by Christian theologians, is one's self-awareness - the awakened self.  The pro-life world view denies that the creation of human life is a process and instead asserts that "human life" begins at conception.  A similar statement of false logic would be:  A stack of lumber is a house.

“God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” (Romans 1:20 NIV).   Science is the study of what has been made.

Scientists now understand, in part, why nature often aborts a partially developed fetus through miscarriage.  Chromosome damage has been regularly discovered in the autopsies of miscarried fetuses.  Chromosome damage leads to DNA replication errors, which causes birth defects.   Evidently nature is much more concerned about ensuring a healthy body for a potential human soul than it is about the destruction of a fetus through miscarriage - because nature is the most prolific abortionist of all.  Researchers currently estimate that well over half of all human conceptions end in spontaneous abortion.   Some conceptions do not manage to implant in the uterus while others detach after an extended period of gestation.  Why is nature involved in such murderous behavior?
 
Our evolving understanding of miscarriage reveals that nature is at work using her particular brand of wisdom to ensure that not all conceptions result in live birth - for the sake of attempting to create the perfect human body for the soul that will inhabit it.  But we also know that nature often fails to create the perfect human body.  Therefore, humans have been called upon to seek to understand how to correct the failings of nature, as we evolve in our understanding of nature, to advance humanity's well being.

Traditionally, the hallmark of any Christian heresy is this:  any belief or doctrine that, in practice, envisions God as “less than wholly good”.

Most people of faith understand - at some level - that a “good” God can not possibly desire any human soul awaken with unhealthy bodies or into environments that would be toxic.  How could a "good" God desire any child be born to a mother that does not want a child or to a mother that can not provide for a child?  However, the pro-life movement clearly values the survival of the fetal body over the well-being of any potential human soul that will inhabit a fully formed human body.


The anti-choice God is the vision of those who do not understand or accept certain aspects of realityThe anti-choice advocate refuses to take full responsibility for their own part in the creation of human life process.  The anti-choice advocate strips God of any autonomy by declaring that their own actions - the production of conception - dictates the will of God for that conception.  This vision of God makes humanity mindless pawns of their own ignorance and teaches women that they should be willing to bear children against their own will and even against the better interests of society.

 
Clearly the truth of the matter is nature uses her wisdom, at times, to destroy a fetus - to ensure the best "body environment" for the potential human soul to inhabit.  Humanity should follow nature's example by using our own growing body of wisdom to expand on nature's role.   Humanity should judge not just the potential "body environment" but also the "world environment" into which a potential child might be born.   This judgement should include:


Is the mental and physical fitness of the mother and father adequate?   Are there adequate resources to care for the child?  Is there damage to the fetal body that nature might be blind to that would disadvantage the child?  Would pregnancy endanger the life of the mother?   Is the conception against the will of the mother?  And perhaps the most significant of all of a "Good" God's desires for humankind - will the child be wanted and loved?  All of these internal and external environmental factors should be considered by a woman before she could possibly assert that it is "God's Will" that the conception be allowed to come to term.  If these conditions are not met then abortion is the logical, ethical and God given right, even the responsibility, of any woman confronted with an unwanted or damaged conception.

Those who oppose my views will accuse me of advocating a form of eugenics.  I am not.  I am simply advocating that parents rest assured that God is their loving partner in the creation of life processTherefore a woman can and must be free to decide for herself, without fear, if they wish to participate in the creation of life process - or not. 
  
Perhaps the greatest sin of the pro-life world view is that it unwittingly asserts that God wills for some children to awaken in the hell of un-wanted-ness or with severe physical deprivation. Tragically, too many of the world's children are born unwanted or into environments of violence and deprivation, simply because of the irrational fears generated by the pro-life movement.

The pro-life deception is capable of ensnaring anyone willing to close their mind to reason in favor of the potent fears surrounding human reproduction.   If human beings are not free to decline to participate in the creation of life process, at any stage of that creation of life process, then God can no longer be defined as good - and humans are nothing more than machines reproducing more machines. 


If the well being of the "potential child" is not the preeminent concern of mankind when considering the fate of any fetus then mankind has dismissed its real responsibilities to the potential child.  No child benefits or thrives by being born unwanted or disadvantaged.   As Jesus said of his friend Judas; "It would have been better for that man to have not been born."