On Biblical Standards and Natural Understanding

The Bible is a volume of writings which were hand selected (and in some cases hand edited) by the early Roman Church in the 4th century CE, and subsequently deemed as the exclusive and sacred word of God. About a thousand years later, these same writings were divided and organized into chapters, verses, and into a two fold division of an “Old” and a “New” Testament. The earlier major section of these writings reflects the personal, social, and religious values of a relatively isolated, desert people of an era of some two millenniums past; whereas the latter section reflects the ethical values of the Greco-Roman era of a slightly later time. The latter section likewise seems to serve as the subtext for a 2nd CE struggle between two general factions of the then recently conceived religious movement known as Christianity.

Each of the two major sections of the Bible center upon creative tales and embellished claims of the development of a select chosen people of God into an influential and powerful collective. In the first major section, that collective was visualized as the great and powerful nation of Israel. In the latter section, the collective so visualized was the institutional Church. There is a sense of validity to the existence of the respective collectives themselves, though in each case the chronology of the claimed circumstances are debatable, and the actual extent of influence and affluence are seemingly overstated, that is if taken literally.

The writings of the former major section are primarily composed of ancient Hebrew mythology, poetry, preaching, and the biased, fanciful tales of the over exaggerated national empire heretofore mentioned. The humble state of the allegedly once significant people is attributed to sin and faithlessness of the people themselves.

Meanwhile, the latter major section (evidently written primarily in the 2nd century CE) opens with the narrative of a wildly popular itinerant preacher who captured the interest and following of the local peasants, who conversely drew the ire of the religious establishment of the day, and who eventually was executed as a blasphemer. This young cleric’s claims of an impending apocalyptic crisis, coupled with the conclusion to the narrative being an empty grave and a claim that he was resurrected, lead to ever evolving claims of immortality, ascension, and even deity.

Although the content of the biblical narratives are primarily mythical tales, nonetheless there is no denying their worldwide influence even to this day. The first major section of the Bible is the forerunner for and serves as the foundation of the three major global monotheistic religions; namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The latter major section though is primarily the domain of the numerous sects of the Christian religion. In this respect, the influence of these texts in a variety of cultures simply cannot be overstated or underestimated.

Perhaps the most profound such influences have been realized in the realm of social relations. The adaptation of ancient thinking and harsh standards to modern societies has involved a predictable share of problems and unfavorable influence. Unfortunately, a number of unseemly social and systemic issues which plague contemporary cultures have precedent in and therefore may be founded upon biblical ideology.

Such include:

Patriarchy, Sexism, and Misogyny.
State sanctioned murder (aka Death Penalty, Capital Punishment)
Theocratic justifiable murder
Infanticide
Genocide
Religious Bigotry
Institutional Slavery/Exploitation of Labor
Sex Slavery
Militarism
Imperialism
Colonialism
Homophobia
Xenophobia

This list is not necessarily totally exclusive, and by all means some the of cited issues may overlap with each other. For example, the Old Testament authorized (even commanded) that non virgin newlywed wives should be executed for crimes against Israel. Such would constitute both Misogyny and Capital Punishment, which are each social issues to themselves, but in this case, they clearly overlap. There are several other such instances, but this example suffices for the moment.

The presumption then that biblical writings are of a sacred nature unfortunately can leave the false impression that the thinking of the people and the way of life of those depicted in biblical literature are somehow just and correct simply as a matter of record. And so to many people, mere biblical statements and examples are their basis to justify debatable social practices. And so, one might quote “an eye for an eye” to justify Capital Punishment, or “if any will not work, neither let him eat” to justify cutting funding for Food Stamps, with no need for further deliberation or alternative considerations. There is undoubtedly a “the Bible says it, that settles it” mentality among a large demographic of our society, but such is based upon the heretofore mentioned presumption that biblical writings are sacred in and of themselves.

Now, to be certain as to the matter; not all Jews, Muslims, and/or Christians are bigoted, homophobic, or misogynists; and for that demographic of religious monotheists I have the utmost respect. It is not easy for a Christian to take a “live and let live” perspective with regards to the LGBTQ community while they hear homophobic propaganda from their Preachers, nor is it easy for peaceful Muslims to conduct their lives while being slandered for the deeds of extremists Islamists. But the fact remains that the social values of many monotheists; especially here in the Southern region of the US, are based upon the social values of a desert people from an isolated region of over 2,000 years ago.

And thus the conclusion of the matter at hand:

Shall we, as individuals and as collective societies, base our standards upon our own natural understanding of “right and wrong”, or shall we allow our natural senses to be influenced by ancient writings from harsh and somewhat barbaric cultures? Shall we trust our common sense and natural sense of compassion as a moral guide, or shall we trust the harsh standards of a people of antiquity?

I suggest that such queries are not so much a matter of faith or religious ideology, but a much more basic reality of natural existence and common sense.

As for me, I choose to trust my own natural understandings.

But to each their own.

The Second Coming of Jesus

While sitting on my deck today,
Enjoying the morning rain,
I had a weird thought,
Perhaps somewhat insane.

What would happen if one day,
Up there in Heaven yonder,
Jesus decided he’d had enough,
As on our deeds he pondered.

Would he turn to his left,
To look His Father in the eye.
And ask permission to depart,
From the sweet bye and bye.

And as he arose to split the scene,
Would he make this declaration:
“Got to go, Daddy-o,
To visit our favored nation!!”

So would he come to the USA,
This modern day Babylon,
To tune in to Faux News,
To hear the pundits babble on?

Or would he choose instead,
To visit that horrid place,
The secular pagan temple,
Of our entire race?

Yeah, would he go to Wall Street,
And rip up the ticker tape.
And overturn people’s desks,
As people stared and gaped?

And would he declare with anger,
As he looked into CEO’s eyes:
“Let not my Father’s world,
Be a mere place of merchandise!!”

And would he choose to dine,
With the President, and the First Lady.
Or would he rather keep company with,
Those whose character seems shady?

And would he heal the sick,
Oh, would he even dare!
To do the unthinkable,
By providing free health care?

And would he feed the masses,
The heathen and the slobs,
Or as he turned his back on them,
Would he say “Get a job!!”

And would his simple answer be,
When asked what he thought about Gays,
“I am no more hung up on that topic now,
Than I was in Biblical days”

And as he beheld bare mountain tops,
And saw the fracking of Mother Earth,
Would he appeal to our common sense,
For all that effort’s worth?

Or like that Indian in the commercial,
Back in the 1970’s.
Would Jesus be moved to shed a tear,
As his heart mourned woefully heavy.

And as he gathered his closest friends,
For his second grand ascent.
Would he speak of a spiritual kingdom,
Before away he went.

Or would he rather remind us all,
That existential is our being.
So we ought to try to alleviate,
All suffering that we are seeing.

Now, I readily admit,
These thoughts are pure speculation.
But I wonder what Jesus would do,
If he ever visited our nation?

Common Ground of Christianity and Humanism

Initially, it might seem that there is nothing whatsoever in common between Christianity and Humanism.  Yet I propose otherwise.

 

Granted, Christianity is based upon a theistic worldview; while most Humanists maintain a secular perspective.  And granted that Christians tend to interpret the Bible as sacred material; whereas Humanists rarely attach such sentiments to any writings whatsoever (although we typically value literature in general).  And whereas Christians usually maintain the historicity of miracles; at least those which are recorded in the Bible, most Humanists reject such based upon our secular worldview.  Yet these differences notwithstanding, I maintain that with reference to the most basic exercise of the human experience; that of social relations, Christianity and Humanism actually share core interests and concerns.  

 

Humanism is the theory that the intellect, and sensitivity towards the suffering of others, are sure and certain guides to sufficiently regulate the human experience.  Living in accord with reason and compassion then is to live as a Humanist.  In this context, it seems evident that Humanism is by no means an ideology which is exclusive from the Christian faith, nor the latter from the former.  For even the very namesake of the Christian faith himself lived as a Humanist. Regardless of whether Jesus was in fact a historical figure, or whether he was instead a mythical literary character; this much can be said on behalf of Jesus Christ:  His was a life which exemplified the basic precepts of Humanism.

 

Jesus was an independent thinker who did not allow laws and tradition to surpass reason and practicality.  When his disciples were hungry on a Sabbath day, and picked corn to fill their bellies, Jesus justified such as a practicality of the human experience, even reminding their authoritarian critics that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of man, and not vice versa.  When Jesus saw those in need of medical care on the Sabbath, he healed them in defiance of and in spite of tradition.  

 

Jesus was a practical man and one who was close to nature.  His illustrations and his teachings were oftentimes based upon nature rather than upon a text.  He reasoned with his hearers by challenging them to reason within themselves rather than to be merely lead around by authority figures and archaic traditions.  Jesus chided his critics for utilizing their intellect to read the signs of weather patterns, yet failing to be able to figure out right from wrong by reasoning circumstances to such an end.   

 

Jesus was a compassionate man, who realized the social responsibility to supply that which was lacking for those in need, not as an opportunity to capitalize upon the suffering of another for personal gain, but as the right thing to do.  When his disciples reminded him of the hunger of the masses, rather than question the lifestyle or initiative of the people, Jesus fed them.  When Jesus saw folks suffering and in need of medical attention, rather than inquiring as to their ability to pay for medical care or judging their worthiness and character, Jesus simply tended to their needs.

 

Jesus Christ; be he a literal historical character, or be he a literary mythical character was a man who was lead by his intellect, and who acted in accord with his compassion for the suffering others.  In this regard, Jesus Christ may very well be the greatest of all examples of what it means to live as a Humanist.

 

It is my conclusion that the major distinctions between Christianity and Humanism are primarily differences related to mere tradition and doctrines. As to more practical concerns; namely those of social relations and human suffering, the common sympathies between the two philosophies are basically indistinguishable. Hence, if we would but dispatch with matters spiritual for the purpose of mutual cooperation; and then focus those efforts on the plight of the human condition, I am convinced that Humanists and Christians alike can do much to alleviate suffering among humanity.
And so the apparent antipathy between Christianity and Humanism being merely philosophical, I suggest that a pact of cooperative efforts for the common good would be a practical benefit for the entire global community, and at the same time an opportunity for Humanists and Christians alike to exercise their respective heartfelt convictions.   

The 12 Years of Christmas

THE 12 YEARS OF CHRISTMAS
By Dave Henderson

There are two Canonical accounts of the birth and early childhood of Jesus.

By Canonical of course I mean texts that are deemed worthy of inclusion in the Bible per the standards of the Catholic scribes who composed such in the 4th Century CE. There are several Infancy gospel accounts, but only those of Matthew and Luke met the approval of the Bible composers. I myself am somewhat partial to the Gospel of Thomas. Thomas relates several fanciful boy Jesus stories which did not merit Catholic scribe approval for inclusion in the Bible; yet which are both entertaining and enlightening nonetheless. A topic for another day no doubt.

Now though the tone, topics, and even time frames of Matthew and Luke differ with regards to the childhood of Jesus, they each claim that he was divinely conceived and of a virgin birth. Those two qualities in and of themselves were enough apparently to merit Catholic scribe approval in spite of the obvious differences in their accounts.

Matthew envisions Jesus as having been born during the days of Herod, and furthermore being proclaimed to be “the King of the Jews”.

Luke on the other hand envisions Jesus as having been born some 12 years later; during the days of the Census of Cyrenius (Governor of Syria), and furthermore indicates that his birth brings “Peace on earth, and goodwill to humanity”.

Thus, Matthew portrays Jesus as a Messiah sent to reclaim the throne on behalf of the nation of Israel. The emphasis of the Matthew’s version then is that Jesus is a boy ruler who was in constant danger of being “found out” and executed by the reigning madman; Herod the Great. Matthew thus depicts the parents of Jesus as nomadic refugees who lived life “on the lam” and lead a low profile existence due to the constant peril surrounding the boy king and Messiah of the Jewish people.

Now, like Matthew, Luke likewise envisions Jesus as being miraculously born to a Virgin mother. In fact, he even “spices up” the story with a dramatic description of the setting and surroundings. (The stereotypical Nativity scene owes much to the author of Luke; who was likewise the author of the imaginative and informative canonical Acts of the Apostles).

However Luke represents Jesus not as a ruler, but as a reconciler of humanity. Rather than proclamations of rule and reign for Jesus, Luke emphasises Jesus as a savior who brings peace on earth, and goodwill towards humanity. Thus, Luke portrays the parents of Jesus as leading a stable (no pun intended) existence which allowed them to function as normal faithful Jewish parents both in ritual practice and personal lifestyle.

The contrast to the versions of the story of the childhood of Jesus is quite clear:

Matthew envisions a baby Jesus whose life is in constant peril, and whose existence brings grief, suffering and murder.

Luke envisions a baby Jesus whose life was publicly celebrated, and whose existence brings joy, peace, and goodwill.

The accounts of Matthew and Luke differ so drastically with regards to the birth and early childhood of Jesus as to merit a query and inquiry as to why the distinction.

It seems to me that the answer to the question is to be found by considering the local events of each world into which Jesus was born:

Matthew envisions baby Jesus being born during the days of the ever mercurial Herod the Great.
Luke envisions baby Jesus being born during the days of the Census of Quirinius (aka Cyrenius).

The generally accepted death of Herod the Great was 4BC.
The well recorded Census during the days of Quirinius was during the years of 6-7CE.

Since Matthew envisions Jesus as being two years of age when Herod allegedly killed all the babies of Bethlehem, and since Herod seems to have died shortly thereafter, then Matthew dates the birth of Jesus approximately 6BC.

Hence: Jesus’ birthday per Matthew: 6BC
Hence: Jesus’ birthday per Luke: 6AD

Hence: THE TWELVE YEARS OF CHRISTMAS.

The distinction between the worlds into which Jesus was born is evidenced by the events of each respective era.

Now 12 years may not sound like a long period of time, but such can allow for an extreme social shift in any given society. For example, consider our own culture in 1981 as compared to 1969. The differences in those two time eras in US History amounts to two distinct cultures. Yet distinguished solely by time. Indeed a dozen years can make a significant difference in the thinking and general disposition of any populace, and the world into which Jesus was born is a primary example of such.

And those social distinctions are likewise evidenced by each respective account of Matthew and Luke.

The world into which Jesus was born per Matthew (6BC)…….

Was ruled by a tyrant by the name of Herod the Great. Now the fact that Matthew envisions Jesus as being born during the days of Herod is significant.

Herod was a ruthless individual; and a paranoid personality.

Herod was especially ruthless with regards to his royal power and his personal pleasure. When he wanted another wife, he married her, and had his wife and child banished. In order to protect his royal position, he had several family members executed, including his favorite wife and two of his own children. His ruthless nature and atrocious deeds even offended Rome periodically throughout this 33 year reign.

Herod was so paranoid that he reportedly hired secret police to walk the streets and monitor public opinion. He likewise would not allow public demonstrations. (Herod would have fit in quite well in post 911 America. Or so it seems to me)

It was in fact Herod’s reputed paranoid and ruthless nature which Matthew incorporated into the story so as to provide a context whereby the life of baby Jesus would be in mortal danger. The life threatened baby god/hero story was of course a common and recurring theme of the cultural myths of that era. For example, the Greek god Dionysus was in peril from birth, which lead to his being ripped apart by Titans. And the mother of the infant Horus had to flee into the marshland of the Egyptian Nile Delta in order to protect the Egyptian god from those who sought to take his life. And of course, the Hebrew baby Moses was spared from a “mass baby execution” much like Matthew’s claims with regards to baby Jesus. (The latter may in fact be the very story Matthew relied upon as he depicts baby Jesus in a similar circumstance)

So likewise Matthew portrays baby Jesus being urgently relocated by his parents to Egypt in order to escape Herod after the paranoid and ruthless King heard that another “king of the Jews” had been born in Bethlehem. Per Matthew, Herod had all babies less than two years of age in Bethlehem and in the coastal region executed in search of baby Jesus; whom he naturally viewed as a threat to his royal reign. (Fortunately, there is absolutely no historical record to confirm this alleged atrocity, thus the claim by Matthew that this slaughter took place is more than likely mythical.)

Try as Herod might to find and slay the boy Messiah, revelations from God to the parents of Jesus kept the nomadic couple one step ahead of his dastardly intentions for baby Jesus. First they were warned to flee with the baby to Egypt and await word. Then, when they received word that Herod had passed away, they made their way back to Judea. Finally though, when they learned that Herod’s son was on the throne, they went into hiding in Nazareth.

And so Matthew’s account ends as it began: Jesus a hunted boy, his parent’s nomadic ploys to rescue their son from the clutches of the powers that be ever hanging over their heads. Like refugees they settled in Nazareth.

There is of course no indication in Matthew that the potential danger for the boy Jesus ever went away, but rather that his parents simply outmaneuvered and hence successfully hid their son from a sure death if ever caught.

Then, 12 years later:

The world into which Jesus was born per Luke (6AD)…….

Judea in general, and Jerusalem more specifically were in the embryonic stages of an emotional and radical social revolution. The social frustration which subsequently developed would span approximately 135 years; and its inevitable end would alter Jewish history forever.

Herod the Great had been dead for ten years, and his son Herod Archelaus would soon be recalled by Rome for evident incompetency in the light of his inability to suppress the populace that were under his rule.

The first decade of the millennium was a time of radical resistance and religious reformation for the Jewish people. One movement lead by a “Judas the Galilean” rebelled against any form of Roman influence in the Jewish culture, including taxation and census calculation. These were a matter of more than petty concern to Judas and his band, who were representative of a nationalistic revival among the people.

Judas was a patriot and a zealot, and the movement which he inspired would become known as the Zealot movement. Judas would eventually pay the ultimate price for the cause he so believed in, as would his two sons after him (Both were crucified, the Roman mode of execution for treason and sedition), yet the movement he inspired became an organic and influential faction amongst the Jewish people even into the next century. Their dedication to Orthodox Judaism, and their willingness to fight for Jewish independence would in time be the catalyst for the uprising of the 60’s which lead to the Jewish Wars of the late 60’s and 70’s; and again to a similar yet even more violent uprising in 130’s CE. The latter rebellion was crushed so extensively that the Jews were completely banished from Jerusalem after 135 CE.

Although Judas is recognized as the founder of this nationalized Zealot movement, the rumblings of dissent and dissatisfaction were already underway in the years leading up to the Census which so incensed the militant patriot. These populist movements were in response to the perceived Roman involvement and influence in the practices of the Jewish religion, and resulted in organized demonstrations and civil disobedience in isolated instances. One such instance stands out for its brutal response and subsequent ramifications.

The Golden Eagle incident began as a somewhat presumptuous and admittedly disrespectful act by Archelaus, but surely no one could have foreseen the bloodbath to follow. In defiance of Jewish law, Archelaus inexplicably had a Golden Eagle mounted on the Temple entrance. The graven image in public display over the Temple entrance was too much for the more proactive Orthodox Jews; hence two Instructors (named Judas and Matthias) along with a number of students removed the Eagle and destroyed it with axes.

Archelaus was furious. His reaction was drastic, and his response was dastardly.

Archelaus had the two Instructors and approximately 40 of the students who were involved in the destruction of the Golden Eagle publicly executed by being burned alive. The fury this action instigated was swift and brutal. In the evening, demonstrators and mourners throughout the city but especially in the Temple area made such a noise that Archelaus and those with whom he was feasting were disturbed.

Finally, Archelaus sent a General and a few men to quiet the crowd and appease their anger. The General and his men were stoned, with many killed in the process. After killing the King’s men, the mourners continued to wail and lament the awful experience of the atrocious execution of the two teachers and the 40 or so students.

Realizing now that he had an uprising in the making, Archelaus sent the entire Army in to invade the temple and break up the crowd. It was after midnight when the Army entered the Temple. The result was a melee that developed into a massacre. By the time the fighting ended there were over 3,000 dead. Relations between the Jews and the Romans was never the same again.

As for Archelaus, this incident cost him his royal position. He was recalled by Rome and given a less volatile domain to rule.

As for Jerusalem and Judea; the next century and a third would be marked by a continuous struggle and a seemingly constant friction between the Jewish people and their Roman overlords. The attempted assimilation of the Roman influence into the the religion of the Jews merely intensified the resentment of the nationalist zealots; who likewise rebelled continuously against the concept of the assumed authority of the Roman government over the national identity of the Hebrews. The feelings were ever intense and emotions were seemingly always at the breaking point on both sides. These were difficult times, and social frustration was to be a way of life from that time forward until the Jewish people were completely subjugated and subsequently banished from Jerusalem in 135 CE.

And so it was that Luke envisioned the birth of Jesus at a time of intense turmoil and social instability.

Is it then any surprise that Luke records the arrival of baby Jesus at precisely the very time that the region of Judea were so badly in need of:

“Peace on earth and goodwill towards humanity?”

In closing, it is evident to me that Matthew and Luke each envisioned a Jesus who, like Jeff Lebowski in “The Big Lebowski” was a “man for his time and place”.

Matthew envisioned the Messiah, the deliverer, the king of the Jews. Thus Mathew depticted Jesus being born at a time when he could draw the attention of the oppressive Herod, and be confirmed as the rightful ruler of the Jews by outmaneuvering Herod’s efforts to kill him, thereby establishing the superiority of the rightful “King of the Jews”.

Luke of course envisioned a Reconciler, one who would bring peace to a time or war, and bring tranquility to a period of chaos. Thus Luke depicted Jesus being born at a time when the message mostly needed was: “Peace on earth; Good will to Humanity”.

If ever there was a time when these words had true meaning, it was then and there.
If ever there was a time when these words have true meaning, it is here and now.

I don’t particularly care whether Jesus was born in 6BC.
Nor do I care whether Jesus was born in 6CE.
In fact, I honestly do not care whether Jesus was ever born at all.

What I care about is:

“Peace on earth, goodwill to humanity”.

Because with or without Jesus, there will never be the former, unless we all begin with the latter.

To all my Christian friends: MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

To all my Jewish friends: HAPPY HANUKKAH!!!

To all my fellow Humanist friends: HAVE A GREAT DAY!!!

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

Christian Persecution? PLEEEZ!!!!

These County representatives who are crying “Christian Persecution” because they may have to actually perform a marriage ceremony or issue a marriage license to same sex couples; apparently lack respect for their own history, seem to have have no concept of “persecution”, and are apparently too immature to deal with real world situations that people of faith cope with each and every day.

The history of Christianity being that of both persecuted party, and persecuting puritans, one would would think that the contemporary Christian would at least have an understanding of what “persecution” really is.

Persecution is… well… it’s persecution! It’s being thrown to the Lion’s for refusing to do a silly token sacrifice to a cultural God (kind of like not taking the Pledge of Allegiance; something I refuse to do, but I doubt if I would allow myself to be mauled by a lion over my damned principles).

Or it’s like what John Calvin did to Michael Servetus when he burned him alive over a difference of doctrinal perspective regarding the Trinity.

What’s more: Cry me a river over these state employees’ dilemma of having to “get involved” in something they don’t believe in as they DO THEIR JOBS

How about the minimum wage Christian Checker at the local store who has to sell cigarettes and alcohol, but whose faith teaches such to be worldly vices. Does she cry “Christian Persecution”, because she has to actually do her job? Hell no, she doesn’t, because she does not want to lose her job that she needs so bady.

Of course, if the Checker at the local store, or the County employee at the local Court House, is sincerely that sensitive to what he or she perceives to be sin; then the solution is simple:

Quit your job to save your soul.

But don’t go cry babying about “Christian Persecution” in the process.

Persecution? PLEEEZ!!!!!

Why Do Atheists Debate The Topic of God

Today, I was challenged on a discussion board as to why we Atheists debate the topic of God, since we don’t believe in such. My response:

I can understand your perspective. There is a side of me that would just go on with my life and not ever address the topic. For those who do so, I tip my hat to them. But there are many reasons why I personally pursue the topic (I speak just for myself):

1. The concept of God has historically been a propaganda tool. I grew up learning about “Westward Expansion” and “Manifest Destiny'”; instead of being taught about imperialism, torture, enslavement, and genocide. To me, accurate history is important, hence a realistic perspective as to our national sins of the past 500 years will be helpful to hopefully guide us to a more humane way of life in the fortunately

2. In that regard, unfortunately, the concept of God is a contemporary political tool; both in our country and elsewhere. And when I say a political tool, I mean a tool which results in and which justifies inflicting suffering. So long as monotheism continues, then god might as well be alive to represent the nationalist zealots who support torture and killing in order to “protect their way of life’. If that “way of life” is perceived to be “God blessed”, then the concept of God is detrimental to peace, harmony, and good health.

3. People kill in the name of God. So long as the concept of God is unchecked, unaddressed, and unopposed, then people will go on killing in the name of their gods.

4. The concept of God is the justification for many racisms and bigotries. So long as there is homophobia and misogyny in the name of God, then the concept of God continues to play a role in subjugating minorities and justifying the denial of basic human rights to all.

Concl: The issue from my perspective regarding my personal quest to reason and dialogue regarding “god”; is not that which is not real (God); the issue is that which is all too real: Revisionist history, justified ongoing human atrocities in the way of war, murder, torture, homophobia, sexism, and many other such bigotries; IN THE NAME OF GODS.

So long as such continues, I personally feel morally obligated to to do what I can to reason against ignorance, and to attempt to be the best person I know how in the process.

The Gospel: A Terrorist’s Terms

One thing about the whole gospel message thing that does not add up. Always did bother me.

So the basic scenario; at least as I was taught it:

1. Sin is our own fault (even though god made us this way)

2. Death is the consequences of sin (but that’s not good enough, you have to be eternally tortured as well)

Now, when you start questioning the ethics of the God for creating a scenario which leads to sin and subsequent eternal torture, invariably you get the whole “well, God gives you the freedom to choose, because you are a free moral agent. So if you die in sin, then it’s no ones fault but your own”.

Choice. So God gave me a choice, did he?

Well. I don’t recall ever having a choice in whether I got to live in the first place.

I don’t recall ever having a pre-birth orientation explaining the full scenario, and being allowed to read the fine print before I signed on the dotted line and gave my free will consent to this arrangement.

And what is this arrangement? What details would I like to have been privy to before being thrust into this situation?

Well, let’s cut to the core, so to speak.

The arrangement per life is that you have a 50/50 shot at winning the Celestial Lottery, a grand sweepstakes at an all expenses prepaid stay at the Grand Heavenly Hotel; while the suckers in life who did not make the right choices will be eternally tortured in the dungeon below.

But don’t worry, the eternal torture chamber is sound proof, so the endless screams and agony of your friends and family members (perhaps even your own children) who made the wrong choices in life will not disturb the solace and serenity of eternal life in paradise with the other grand sweepstakes winners who were like you, and knew how to kiss up properly, and who were scholarly enough to know which holy book to believe in, and therefore you knew which deity’s butt to kiss sufficiently so as to be named a winner when the drawing took place.

No…..

I don’t recall having such an arrangement explained to me before giving my consent to live.

Hence, this 50/50 gamble was thrust upon me, even as I was thrust into this life involuntarily, and without giving my consent to such.

I don’t know about others.

But being thrust into such an arrangement hardly seems fair or even just to me.

And so as to the possibility of my being eternally tortured being my own fault because God gave me a free choice?

Poppycock!!

God never gave me, or anyone else a choice under such an arrangement.

God gave me a terrorist’s terms under such an arrangement.

And I don’t care much for being blackmailed by anyone.

And it is certainly not a matter of freedom of choice.

For if the terms would have been explained to me sufficiently, and had I been give the free will opportunity to choose to simply not live, then I would not be typing these words even now.

And so that is what bothers me about “the gospel”.

The gospel are a terrorist’s terms which dictate that I kiss his royal butt sufficiently, or be eternally tortured.

I am a victim of circumstances. And without giving my consent to such.

And so is everyone else.

That is: If the Bible is in fact true.

Everything Is Relative

Christianity and Islam are each Monotheistic religions based upon antiquated Hebrew myths. They each worship one God. They each preach heaven and hell. They each cherish their own holy book. Each of their holy books teach peace and love. Each of their books teach violence and murder. Christianity and Islam are each represented mainly by good and decent people who want to lead good lives and go to heaven. Yet both Christianity and Islam have extremist terrorist groups which maim, torture and murder those who do not believe as they, and who kidnap children and convert them to their cause. In my mind, the Christian terrorists in Africa are no more representative of the good and decent Christian; then the Islamist terrorists in the Middle East are representative of the good and decent Muslim. I believe that when the Muslim and the Christian each take the finer and more refined passages of their holy books as their guide for daily living, then neither are a threat to anyone, and each represents themselves and their respective religions with honor and dignity.

That said: Everything is relative.

A Brief Commentary on Ethics

In my opinion, the only concept of “right” or “wrong” which has any sense of consistency, relates to the seemingly universal natural aversion of humanity to suffering. If we would but heed our natural feelings of kindness and compassion, as experienced when encountering a sentient being in pain or suffering; and act, accordingly, we cannot go wrong. Just my opinion on the matter, you understand.

Now, most concepts of “right and wrong’ which are not based upon our natural aversion to suffering are usually culture based, and hence have no basis for application beyond the self. It is unfortunate that many assume antiquated, cultural biases and bigotries to be the benchmark for all peoples of all times just because they were written in some “holy book”. No one needs a holy book to know natural “right” from natural “wrong”. No one needs to believe in a deity to know natural “right” from natural “wrong”. All we need, in my opinion, is to recognize the natural aversion of all humanity as a natural basis by which to forge one’s personal code of ethics, and then to live accordingly.

I sincerely believe that that which is “good” is not driven in from with out, but is rather derived and developed from within. And in that regard I consider the effort to cultivate one’s own natural capacity to do the right thing in the context of living consistent to our natural aversion to suffering of self or others, to be the most noble endeavor of one’s day by day existence.

Such as they, these are my thoughts on the matter of the concepts of “right” and “wrong”, and one’s personal code of ethics.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

It Is Up To Us (With or Without God)

39 years ago today, my sisters and myself were involved in an automobile wreck in which our AMC Gremlin was hit by a train. The AMC Gremlin was a nice economic vehicle in those days. However; our AMC Gremlin did not stand up well against train collisions. Good enough however to allow all four occupants to live to tell the tale, even now so many years later.

Now, there are those who are privy to the circumstances of that incident who say that “someone was watching over us that day”. I say that if “someone was watching over us that day”, then the train never would have hit us in the first place.

You see, I do not believe in the providence of God.
Nor do I believe in the protection of God.
Nor do I believe in the punishment of God.

What I believe in is the existence of a universe of natural principles which is completely indifferent to the well being of anyone and everyone.

I believe in the suffering of an empty stomach.
I believe in the suffering of the person who is homeless.
I believe in the suffering of the maimed and the mutilated who suffer the effects of national wars.

I believe in the effects of suffering.

I also believe that whatever happens in terms of the natural universe simply happens.

If the train hits your car so as to kill you, then that happens.
If the tree falls on the unsuspecting child and kills the tot on the spot, then that happens.
If the baby is born with Cancer, and lives a short and miserable life of suffering and premature decay before experiencing the release of death; then that happens.

Frankly, it seems to me that if there is a god (or gods); then she, he, or they; have left us on our own.

And so we exist; and so we co-exist.

On our own.

Which means that we of humanity are responsible.

We are responsible for anything within our control.

And if we opt to sublet that responsibility to our personal conception of an interactive, all powerful deity, then we fail ourselves, and we fail humanity.

If we simply trust god to feed the hungry, then the hungry will continue to suffer.
If we simply trust god to shelter the homeless, then the homeless will continue to suffer.
If we simply trust god to care for the ill, then the sick will continue to suffer.

Anything that will be accomplished, will be accomplished through us.

Pray to your god if you must, but limit your trust to what she, he, or they may do through us.

For the fact is, that faith without works is useless.

Even the Bible says so: James 2:14-17

So whether you be a spiritual Christian, a diligent Muslim, a peaceable Hindu, or even a cynical Atheist like myself; realize this:

If we of humanity do not trust in and act upon our natural sense of kindness and compassion; then it does not matter whether your god exists or not.

Because any efforts to alleviate suffering; will be done through the efforts of humanity.

With or without “god”.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas