May 7 2010

In Response to a discussion thread.

, Opinion , ,

Amanohyo, I teach Bible study courses and have taken many college-level course myself on Biblical analysis, interpretation, history, philosophy and comparative religion.

The Bible is, and always was until very recently, myth. A myth is a template for how humans deal with the divine.  It frames our relationship with it and defines the expectations of both sides of that relationship.

When the myth ceases to be a guideline, example, or expectation and becomes fact, historical record (as opposed to cultural history, which is something completely different) it distorts people's perception.

It would be as if someone watch 80 hours of classic western movies in order to prepare themselves for living on a ranch. Rather than treating them as a guideline of the sorts of behaviors they might find or be expected to learn on that ranch, a fundamentalist treats it as the reality they expect to find.  Some of them are so deluded as to perhaps expect the land out there to be in black & white.

Real-world Biblical scholars "beleive" the Bible is divinely inspired (not the words of God placed on paper...people wrote the Bible). They believe the events portrayed in the Bible to be a template for how to live our lives in harmonious connection to God.  They know that culturally the Bible contained the written law of the Tribe of Israel and so they treat that portion with respect, but don't count on it as the source of their law (unless they are of the tribe of Israel). The read the accounts of the Bible knowing that time, perception, dogma, politics, and just plain human error has distorted the pure message that inspired it.

Ultimately, any statement of belief (Creed) will be made based on a personal understanding of the Bible and not the understanding that comes from someone else.

Who am I to denounce a fundamentalist? i'll tell you what I have told many others.  I believe in God.  I believe in a God who lives inside and around the reality we've been able to decipher for ourselves. Any time I hear a scientist say "I don't know", I can confidently say "God" until that scientist says he does know.  There's a lot more that we don't know than what we do.  I am confident that my answer of "God" will be sufficient for a long, long time.

Once we understand everything and there are no mysteries left, then, and only then, woill I be willing to forego my faith.  However, I am more than willing to accept a rational, scientific explaination in favor of my faith if you have one to present. All I ask is that it be rational and scientific.

And this is the rub, there is no rational or scientific explaination for things you don't understand or else there wouldn't be a lack of understanding.  I am not denying demonstrable realities like evolution or theBig Bang, here.  I am talking mysteries such as life after death or an eternal soul.  I am talking about the moments before the Big Bang and the ultimate fate of the Universe.  My God lives there.  I use my Bible as a guideline for how pwople who have unanswerable questions get answqers from that God.  I use their (usually successful) strategies much as I would any book of stories to help me deal with my questions and doubts.

If I deny reality (defined as rational and scienntific) then i am a fool.  If I substitute an easy explaination for the unexplained I am a fool.  If I  accept that there are things I don't know and may never know then I am a realist.  If I place God in thoseholes as a way to help me rationalize reality then I am an optimist atworst.

Care to Comment?

Feb 18 2010

RIP Joe Stack (1956-2010)

, Opinion , ,

I find it hard to imagine what drives someone like Joe Stack, an obviously successful man with a wife and son to burn down his home and take his own life in an act of mass-destruction - and what I would call terrorism - if he had not left an extended note explaining his position. You can read it at The Smoking Gun.

My problem is, after reading it, I feel absolutely no sympathy for him.  I, too, have had debt problems, tax problems, and especially IRS problems.  But I solved them.  I've been reset to $0 once in my life (a life I might add that is only 8 years less than Mr. Stack's as of yesterday) and I am now living comfortably with manageable (and reasonable) deb, legal tax status and am building my retirement once again.

I keep reading his rambling manifesto and thinking "Dude, you dug this hole yourself!".  He and his buddies played at "religious tax shelter" and failed.  He didn't report his own income (like you are supposed to) and got burned.  He hired an accountant and didn't get the accountant to open a tax case first (which halts fines). And he rails agasint things that are out of his control (mega corporations and churches making more money than he).

I empathise with his frustrations at the iniquity of the world. I agree with some of his observations about "the way of things" in this country - especially in recent years.  But none of that in any way would lead me to agree with the actions he has taken today.

If the tone of his suicide note is any indication of the tone he has when dealing with people, I'm not surprised he got shafted all those times.  The entire diatribe stinks of entitlement, selfishness and materialism. I understand the urge to hold on tight to things as people try to take more and more from you, but that just makes it harder to let go when you need to. 

The dude owned an airplane and a $500,000 home (In Austin, TX!  Median Home Price: $188,600).  I have owned my own businesses, worked as a contractor, own two homes and two cars, and have a wife.  Where I live, that's pretty well off but I can not afford a plane and the IRS has no beef with me (any more).  So ultimately the impression I have is: "wah!  get over it."

I want to say that his futile gesture won't make a difference, but unfortunately he has made himself a martyr to the "teabagger" cause. And that, unfortunately is a lot more damaging to this country than his plane crash.  The Hannitys and Becks and Limbaughs will hold him up as some sort of hero for striking at this country when they should be pointing out the problems of his arguments. They will paint him as a soldier in a fight against this country and it will destroy whatever balance and order is left in our society as the lemmings run to the cult of personality that tells them to dance.

I am sorry he has taken his life and that people were hurt while he did it.  I am sorry his family will suffer (and they will suffer badly, I'm afraid) for his inability to be reasonable.  And I am sorry he has left this legacy in the wake of his actions. Ultimately he has crashed a lot more than his plane and damaged a lot more than the IRS building in Austin.

I predict it will be about three months before the first "copy-cat" froot-loop does something similar and cites Joe Stack as his inspiration.

Care to Comment?

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