Friday, May 2, 2014

Seven things Jesus can't say in some churches

Those who experience trans-formative spiritual experiences often seek to understand those experiences through the lens of traditional religious teaching.   While traditional religious institutions provide the invaluable benefit of a loving like-minded community, these same institutions are often guilty of stripping the spiritual seeker of the intellectual skill-set and virtue known as 'common sense'.  

Holding false beliefs concerning the nature of reality creates bias in the mind against 'common sense' - that collective understanding of the nature of reality that can be demonstrated to be true.  This has always been a primary flaw of institutional religion.  Once the world is demonstrated to be something other than the dogma seen in scripture, those who continue to believe scripture become at odds with reality, to the detriment of themselves and society.

Evangelical Christianity and fundamentalist sects of Islam teach their followers that in order to understand the nature of reality - and therefore one's own spiritual experiences - one must first understand the Bible or Quran as "God's Words".  Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims both believe the Bible and Quran are literally books authored by God - wholly inspired texts that contain no error or falsehood.  

This singular religious belief, more than any other religious belief, has the power to transform a rational minded person endowed with common sense into an irrational one - from a sound minded individual, into a disturbingly delusional one.  

Delusion:
An altered state of consciousness induced by embracing a 'false 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 seven Common Sense Interpretations of sayings attributed to Jesus in the New Testament.  These interpretations are strictly forbidden in fundamentalist Christian churches. 
(Those churches which teach members to believe the Bible speaks only as the voice of truth, without falsehood or contradiction)


Common sense interpretations in red - followed by the New International translation in italic
 
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 embrace rational assumptions which leads to more understanding.  Those who do not have sound reasoning embrace irrational assumptions which leads 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
Trouble awaits you who teach that scripture is God's word. You self-deluded. 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 6:22-23
How you see the world, your understanding, illuminates the conscious mind. If your understanding of reality is correct your conscious mind becomes full of insights. If your understanding of reality is wrong your conscious mind becomes full of fallacies. Embracing a fallacy as you would an
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!

4.  Matthew 5:29-30

If your understanding of God confuses or disturbs you, better to approach life without an understanding of God than have your mind cast into torment or delusion.  If your first hand spiritual experience confuses or disturbs you, it is better to discount or reinterpret that spiritual experience than have your mind cast into torment or delusion. 

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.

5.  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 falsehoodTheology that is irrational has no solid foundationMinds governed by irrational theology are unstable.  If a falsehood is shown to be irrational it loses its power to delude the mind. The fact is a rational person's mind can't be robbed of its sanity unless it first becomes bound by delusion. 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 belief 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."

6.  Matthew 5:17-20

Don't assume I intend to abolish scripture. I don't intend to abolish scripture. I intend to fulfill scripture's apocalyptic expectations.  Because the truth is until scripture's apocalyptic expectations are met, those who have become delusional by believing scripture will never be free of even the smallest or absurd details of the law.  So, whether you practice and teach scripture's wisdom or reject it you can attain a certain measure of lasting peace accordingly.  But unless your intellectual integrity exceeds that of those who believe and teach that scripture is God's Word, you certainly won't find any measure of lasting peace.

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.

7.  Matthew 10:34-36
Do not imagine that I come to bring peace to this earth. I am offering wisdom that refutes the authority of scripture.  This will inevitably set family members against family members, and make you an enemy to some who share your religious heritage.  

NIV - "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law and a man's enemies will be those of his own household."

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Note: (For those interested in further reference) Below are 9 common sense translations of a few of the metaphors used in New Testament sayings that are attributed to Jesus.

1.  Eye - 'One's understanding'
2.  Body - 'One's conscious mind'
3.  House - 'One's subconscious mind'
4.  Kingdom - 'A collectively shared worldview'
5.  Son of Man - 'Humanity or the individual' (depending on context)
6.  Demon - 'A delusion'
7.  Devil/Satan - 'A falsehood - Mind controlled by falsehood'
8.  Hell - 'A state of delusion leading to mental and physical torment'
9.  Heaven - 'An enlightened worldview leading to lasting peace'


Final thoughts:

Embracing the fallacy that the Bible or Quran are ‘God’s Words’ - that these books contain no falsehood - has made countless Christians, Jews and Muslims unwittingly delusional.  No mind retains the ability to read and judge these books soberly after embracing as ‘insight’ a belief that the books contain no falsehoodOnce this belief is embraced the desire to have all scripture remain truth prevails in one's mind. Fear of scripture often becomes the norm for the uneducated who embrace this belief

Each generation ‘God’s Word’ scholar reinterprets end times myths to fit current events and develops any 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’ after hearing some troubling passage; their minds seized by fear that God is judging them. These then become at risk for serious mental illness.

This fallacy is the root of all religious conflict.  It strips people of their ability to reason soundly 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 are excellent resources for anyone interested in the strange 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. 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 American 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."