I have always imagined that Paradise would be a kind of library.
Jorge Luis Borges

So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Saint John, Letter to Galatians 4:16

Freedom of Religion - Freedom from Religion - Freedom of Public Display of Religion and Traditions

We establish no religion in this country, nor will we ever. We command no worship. We mandate no belief. But we poison our society when we remove its theological underpinnings. We court corruption when we leave it bereft of belief. All are free to believe or not believe; all are free to practice a faith or not. But those who believe must be free to speak of and act on their belief.
Ronald Reagan (Temple Hillel Speech, 1984)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Treatise: Personal Thoughts on Religion, Tolerance, and the Soul

After writing chapters, essays and a treatise about the world's religions, from the point of views of people of a particular religion I discussed, I would like to set aside some time to write about my conclusions concerning the spiritual aspect of life that many have turned into a religion.
First, I would like to say that it has confounded me that during a long period of history, that Christians and Muslims cannot seem to get along for any period of time – and too often demonstrated during that history that some Christians (groups) and Muslims look upon Hebrews (Jews) as a scapegoat and inferior “race”. With that concept in mind, it already begins with misinformation in that being Jewish is not a race, but a Hebrew religion that is much older than both Christianity and Islam. In regards to history, Islam is the newcomer on the scene. Literally, a "Jew" can be of any race believing in Judaism.

I am a realist and put it upon myself to be as logical in any concept I believe and write about. Indeed, I was raised as a Christian, my mother being of Baptist denomination.
I have covered a broad scope through my writings within the chapters of the book, Phenomenology of World Religions, but have only uncovered the surface for throughout the history of humanity there have been byproducts of major religions generally called “cults”.
Geneva Bible
If you read the Gospels of the New Testament in the Holy Bible, comprised of two sections: Old and New, the “Old” Testament being what was written by the original monotheistic people, the Children of Israel, Judah, and Palestine. Monotheism, as you have read in my chapter on Egyptology or the religion of ancient Egypt, was not the only religious movement moving toward monotheism. In the case of ancient Egypt, monotheism did not last long because the priests were a powerful and organized institution that liked the old ways of paganism.
If you read the quoted words of Jesus of Nazareth, nothing in those words, parables and phrases does it imply that he considered himself divine. Yet, when followers of Christ instituted organized Christianity and built churches, they did not honor Jesus of Nazareth just as a messenger, a prophet and a religious mentor; but insisted that he would be provided with divinity. The story of the miracle birth of Jesus is one factor, and I am not going to dispel that belief; however, I have not come across any proof that he intended to found a separate religion from that of his and his parents' Hebrew faith. Jesus of Nazareth, like his parents, kept the traditional feasts and religious rites and holidays, one of which was Passover, as described in the scene of the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples that included Mary Magdalene.
Mary of Bethlehem
More than 600 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, and after Christianity spread throughout North Africa and other places in the western known world, Muhammed surfaced as a prophet for the tribal desert people who were, like the Hebrews, descendants of the ancient peoples, like Abraham. Which means that when Muslims persecute and kill Jews, they are literally killing their cousins.
Muhammed saw that the paganism that was dominate in Medina and elsewhere was a falling out from the original monotheistic religion that was established by the Hebrews; and he would write in what has become the Holy Qur'an, that the Hebrews (Jews) had fallen by the way, just as the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, renamed the Christ.
Thus, both Jesus and Muhammed were reformers.
In the case of Jesus the Christ, he did not promote the traditional animal sacrifice, as Jews had practiced in the day. He conveyed that belief in the one God, the Father, was needed, not the sacrifice of a lamb as prescribed by the Patriarchs. Jesus approached the explanation of how to live one's life with his parables and emphasized that the spiritual world is more important than the material plane. He live in a violent world that was dominated by Roman rule across the known world, excluding East Asia; but he taught pacifism and told anyone who would listen that people must be concerned with their own souls before condemning another person's soul. Material elements of the living world were insignificant compared to the rewards of the spiritual world by those who acknowledge God and obey his commandments. Nothing in the texts of the New Testament does it say or allude to any violence against “nonbelievers”. I do not venerate Jesus of Nazareth because I believe in the First Commandment. Unfortunately, Christians have become too blind that they cannot see that God is the Father of all, not just Jesus. This is overlooked by people who do not read the scriptures for its content instead of the mysticism sprinkled throughout. It is why Thomas Jefferson created his own copy of the Bible with the cut-and-paste method that highlighted the philosophical wisdom of Jesus of Nazareth, excluding the mysticism. That customized Bible is in the Library of Congress and has been published for modern readers to examine, entitled, “Jefferson's Bible”.
Muhammed left written texts, while Jesus did not – relying upon his disciples to record events and his words. It is not known if that was because Jesus was illiterate or just depended upon his “fishers of men” to record words and events accurately.
Muhammed knew the tales of Virgin Mary and about Jesus of Nazareth, as well as the ancient history of the Hebrews; as mentioned in his texts. Nothing in his writings indicated that he meant to be looked upon as a divine individual – and in that, Muhammed and Jesus have something in common. Indeed, in one text, he insists to his followers that he is merely a man of God [Allah] and he will die as any other would.
Muhammed referred to Christians and Hebrews [Jews] as “People of the Book” meaning the texts found in the Old Testament that coincides with the Tanakh, which includes the Torah. The contents of the canonical Torah are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Hebrew Bible has been translated from the original Hebrew in its history in Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Arabic, and English. The Tanakh also includes the Pentateuch, the source of the books: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Jeremiah, and Kings. During the course of its compilation books like Daniel and Ezra were added, originally written in Aramaic, a language adopted after the Babylonian exile.
The New Testament was compiled largely by the original disciples of Christ, a collection of the biography of Jesus of Nazareth and letters/speeches created to spread the wisdom of Jesus – as they had promised.
Muslims, like Christians, have venerated their founder. In today's world it is blasphemous and constitutes a death sentence for anyone depicting Muhammad, even if not in an insulting way. It comes from the tradition passed from Muhammad that the likeness of anyone is a sign of vanity and prevents veneration of an individual in history – thus their art and architecture reflects this doctrine across the Islamic world.
Christianity became divided over such a subject. While Rome took on the art culture of the pagans and replaced pagan statuary with icons of Mother Mary, Jesus on the Cross, and the Saints – the eastern Coptic Church, forbid such idolatry. When Constantinople fell, so did Christian power in the east, along with the Byzantine Empire; with only the Coptic Church remaining, the largest Coptic Church in Alexandria.
Today, history repeats itself as Christians are raped, tortured, and murdered and their churches desecrated, burned, and destroyed. These acts of crimes against humanity are committed by the same Islamic Jihadists who are determined to finish what Nazi Germany began in the 1940s. They are determined to spread their religion by the “sword” and create theocracies beyond their original homelands. They demand tolerance but offer intolerance in return. They are indiscriminate in who they violate and murder – women, children, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The Buddha and Hindu are also in danger.
Christianity in Europe has a dark period in its history, it is true. But unlike the Islamic Jihad movement that lives in the ideologies and theocracy of the 7th century – Christianity has reformed itself. What little negative news about Christians comes from minor and inconsequential Christian cults that have surfaced in a very small scale; unlike the large scale we read about in the news almost daily concerning Islamic Jihadists.
The Founders of the United States and the creators of the articles of the Constitution and its amendments saw the importance of tolerance in the First Amendment that includes the freedom of speech clause. However, that tolerance cannot be adhered to when a group or religion has a doctrine/dogma that promotes violence against other religions and a policy of intolerance.
As far as my personal conviction (which I have tried to objectively leave out when writing about the religions of our planet), there is a Creator within the vast universe; and like the Gnostics believe there is more than just one dimension. The universe, life itself, is too astounding and miraculous to have been created by “accident”; yet, I believe in the basic concept of evolution and that in order to survive, species must evolve or die and the rule of evolution is that the original specie dies out leaving an evolved specie. This rules out the man-evolved-from- ape theory because they still exist as a specie.
I also believe that prayer should be reserved to the Creator – no intermediate is necessary; whether it be a messenger of God or a priest.
And, as far as the soul, there is more evidence of its existence than evidence that it does not exist; and that it resides in the energy source of the body, the brain. Thus, if one has a “near-death” experience and the heart just stops, the “door” to the alternate plane where the soul travels is not seen because death is not final until the brain is dead. It has been alluded from scientific analysis that the soul actually has weight because after the brain dies out, the body loses 21 grams (¾ ounce) in weight. That ounce does not include the air expelled from the lungs and release of bodily fluids. This experiment was conducted in Massachusetts (1901) by Dr. Duncan McDougal. It also shows that the release of the soul is not instantaneous; but the statement that only humans have souls is discounted from eye-witness accounts and scientific examination has proved that if animals, such as the domesticated dog, becomes an afterlife spirit, than indeed they may have a soul. Whether it is because they have become domesticated and loved as part of the family all their lives, I do not know – but tend to believe they do from an experience after the death of the family dog when I was young. An interesting video on YouTube covers the astounding discovery of Dr. McDougal.

It seems when studying and researching religion, there can be no absolute whether what we believe is true or false or partially true. Some believe in an afterlife, some believe in an intermediary between human and God, the Creator; while others believe they must reincarnate until their soul is purified enough to travel to the next or other dimension – or travel from dimension to dimension until reaching the final goal after the cycle of Nirvana.
Whatever be the case, I firmly believe that no religion should have a doctrine or dogma that promotes violence against “unbelievers”, and no Creator, certainly not the true God, can possibly condone such acts against each other over religion and political superiority.
It is time for Islam to join the 21st century with Christians and leave the 7th century theocracy to the files of history; and those who do not believe in Islamic Jihadism, rise up with others and defeat such people that live in hypocrisy, intolerance, and violence.

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