Monday, November 10, 2008

From Jeff to Nadine, bcc: Sue, Cynthia

You needn't feel sad for me.

As I mentioned before I do envy your faith, I wish sometimes I could put aside my doubts and rest in the comfort of an established community such as you describe. However, even as a child I found the things I was being taught on one side didn’t mesh with things on the other. For instance, if it’s required for people to accept Jesus into their lives in order to make it into heaven, then what about all the people who never heard of Jesus or were brought up in different faiths.

By the Christian logic, tribesmen living in the Amazon who had led pure, child-like existences and who loved their families and their tribe, never hurting anyone and living in harmony with nature would be condemned to hell simply because no one ever told them about Jesus. That didn’t seem fair. Then there were all the Buddhists, Jews, Hindus and Muslims, they were brought up in their faiths, taught to them by their families and clerics with a rich tradition, are we supposed to be better than them because of where and when we were born? How would we feel, my parents, my church, what would we think if a Muslim came into our community and started telling us we were condemned to eternal damnation if we didn’t submit to Islam (a redundancy there as Islam means “submission”).

Then there was the problem of heaven and hell. The thought of living for eternity with all the “good” people didn’t sound like much fun. Then I started thinking somebody here on earth came up with the whole hell idea just to get people to behave according to their rules.

Look, Jesus and all his followers were Jews. They created a radical sect that broke away from Judaism and did a very good job of spreading it, this happened because Jesus challenged the existing world view and technological innovations of the day (Roman roads) allowed the easy flow of people and information. When Martin Luther came along and challenged Catholicism (in part because of the practice of selling indulgences to help people get to heaven, which is just silly), the spread of his 95 theses and the resulting cultural uproar was made possible in a large part by the printing press.

My point is throughout history, religions have evolved and they’ve evolved in part because of the way the world has changed around them. Why then would I clutch to an outdated form of worship that offered something so limiting in return. The whole scheme lacks imagination. Jesus on a throne, descending from heaven to rule for 1,000 years? No offense but that sounds like weak tea to me. An idea trapped in the form of what was viewed as awesome in its day.

Since then there have been major advancements in science, we know the earth has existed for eons and the concept of a god making two humans like he was playing with clay is a quaint concept, but rather unlikely. I became fascinated with physics after I graduated from college, I studied history at Berkeley (frankly, I did not study too hard), and did not really give myself a firm grounding in the natural sciences. Since then, though, I’ve pored through works on Einstein, cosmology, and the Big Bang. It’s been proven that all matter in the universe can be traced to that one event, this article is merely one example,
the new research being done to understand the fundamental essence of that matter is fascinating stuff:

I don’t say this to diminish your beliefs, Nadine, in fact I think cosmology and the way physicists are examining the universe results from the same human curiosity that inspired Jesus to challenge Judaism and Roman rule, and that motivated Luther to challenge Catholicism and the accepted norms of his day. There is always more to learn, and I have a hard time believing that due to the creativity and curiosity with which these scientists were born they lack the right religion and are somehow morally inferior and will therefore be punished by being left out of an exclusionary Rapture.

Faith is a very powerful emotion. To use your wind analogy, I see the result of wind, but I can’t “see” the wind, not with my eyes, but I might think there’s another way to see the wind, I might wonder what causes the wind, which leads me to the study of meteorology, which has advanced to the point where we can view hurricanes on TV bearing down on new Orleans, and we can wonder whether it’s the human population pumping greenhouse gases into the environment that’s contributing to more extreme weather, and we can wonder what it is about earth’s atmosphere that traps the gases, and we can wonder about the origins of the planet and the universe and people study all this and document it and prove it through the scientific method, they develop theories and then test them over and over again until they cannot be proven wrong. They might some day, but today they are true. So, this search for truth of which you speak seems unlike truth at all, it’s not tested, it’s based on believing something is true.

Again, I think the believing part is important, it is a fundamental part of what makes us human. However, if we’re born with the curiosity to test beliefs and challenge them, and eventually prove them lacking, then how is that supposed to be a bad thing. I read Mark’s words in a different way (it may not surprise you that I’m a bigger fan of John’s gospel, btw. John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the word” – the length of this email proves my point), Mark 10:15 is preceded by the words “It is just such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” Children are naturally inquisitive. I do not think those words are simple at all, the moment you start talking about a child, you are talking about the infinite, there are infinite possibilities in the brain of a child, this is why we value life, because we have no idea what could come from our own brains, what we can think up is beyond limits. Consider the words in the context of the advance of the generations. We are born, we grow, we procreate, our children grow and procreate, on and on through time, but we’re all of the same matter.

The universe started from one point, we’re made of the same stuff as stars. Our children, our children’s children, advancing thus to the infinite inherit this universe, what could be more beautiful and all-inclusive than that. And why stop there, if each and everyone of us has through the stroke of some unknowable god-like entity been allowed to imagine, study and prove these points, then what’s to stop us from developing new theories that could be studied and proven. What if this ride on this expanding universe will eventually came to a halt, would there be a big crunch when gravity takes over and pulls all matter back into an immensely dense ball that could explode again in another big bang, and if that is possible is it not possible that such a thing could have happened hundreds or even millions of time. How great is the power of god? Are we to say that such a thing is not possible, that whatever came before the universe was not powerful enough to make something like this happen, if “He” were powerful enough to create humans who could think it?

So, you see how I look at your rapture with a bit of disdain. It’s not that I think it’s impossible, I think it lacks imagination.

Now the sun’s come up, it’s not raining anymore, so I’m going to go play some golf.


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