Still reading and delving…

… as noted here.

As a lapsed Presbyterian Buddhist Agnostic I find the Abrahamic tradition problematic because it is just so damned parochial! Does the ancient Near East really matter all that much in the context of the facts of WORLD history? Really? Has the creator of the universe not only dedicated him/herself to playing favourites but made the salvation of all humanity depend on this rather odd divine quirkishness? Isn’t the idea of God’s Chosen People the most arrogant thing you can ever imagine? How ungodly! How unOlympian! How only too human!

So one of my problems comes about simply when I contemplate this:

P4180480

P4180481

Not to mention here in Oz where people – not Chosen Ones – lived generation after generation before Abraham was even dreamt of, let alone – a very dubious possibility – he even existed.

So yes, I have issues, and we haven’t even started on geological time yet or what we now know about the universe.

But I do have faith: that God, whatever that means, is not to be confined in any one tradition, that much that we have had handed to us really is nonsense, albeit sometimes beautiful nonsense, but that paradoxically this nonsense has also done a lot of good in the world.

I also have faith – or hope – that God is not a psychopath, even if he quite often appears so in the Abrahamic traditions…

Weird isn’t it? Here we are replicating the discussions that have echoed through Europe and now beyond for 400 and more years – since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment – and no matter how cool we think we are today very little of substance seems to me to have been added to the debate since the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

So you can get people like fundamentalist apologist Steve Copland challenging skeptics in this 21st century with utterly bonkers arguments like this:

And what of Satan? This world was now his world, indeed the Bible calls him the ‘god of this world’3 because all human beings since Adam and Eve have chosen to follow him. Satan now had extreme power; indeed the word dynamite comes from the word used to describe his power in the Bible. He wasted no time at all in dominating his own influence on this world, and as we shall see the result was that evil became the way of the world. God also had a warning to him concerning a child who would be born in the future. The Lord prophesied in Genesis 3:15 that this child would crush Satan’s head, a reference to destroying his authority. From this time on Satan was looking for this particular child, and doing all in his power to prevent the birth of a person with that kind of power.

And the snake: Well, it was cursed to crawl upon the ground forever. Does this mean that snakes once walked around on legs? Interestingly, recent fossil discoveries have found that ancient snakes had a pelvis, attached to their vertebrae. Sebastian Apesteguía, a researcher with the Argentine Museum of Natural Science, says a new fossil, named Najash rionegrina, is the earliest limbed snake ever found in a fully terrestrial deposit. N. rionegrina was discovered in Argentina’s Rio Negro province, about 700 miles (1,130 kilometers) southwest of Buenos Aires. Many living snakes, such as pythons, have the vestiges of legs that are not attached to the backbone and simply hang from the body. However, Apesteguía discovered that in Najash the hip was connected to the vertebrae, so it has a sacrum. The sacrum is the bony structure that connects the spine to the hips in vertebrates, including humans.

Were snakes once creatures that walked as humans walked? I do not know the answer to this question, but it would seem that it is quite possible.

… along with the flying pigs, no doubt.

Why not just accept that this is nothing more or less than folklore?

For entertainment value I do commend Are there Toilets in Heaven? by Gil Gaudia.

HONEY, SHOULD WE HIDE THE BOOKS?

So my nephew, Terry, is coming for a visit.  I haven’t seen him for over fifteen years and I have always loved the kid.  He’s the youngest of the six children (“the Cousins”) that my brother and I have had (Two for me, four for him.). Now he’s a grown man and a Christian.  His part of the family and ours have had our periods of estrangement, and his upcoming visit was about to take place in the aftermath of a crisis which had resulted in a rapprochement.  He was coming to see his old aunt and uncle, who had had a small part in the successful resolution of the problem, and his father, mother and the Cousins were all happy about it.

Terry was never really part of the events that caused the repeated rifts among me, my brother Mikey, and one of Mikey’s daughters, Terry‘s sister, Lorna, a born-again Christian. He was too young to be involved, and after he turned eighteen he moved far away from everyone in order to strike out on his own.  Maybe he was fed up with the problems. Anyway, he always had great affection for Jeanne and me.

The “rifts” were repeated and severe, and over several different issues, but this time, well, let’s just say that my being an Atheist did not increase the camaraderie in the family.  Terry’s sister, Lorna, felt that I had insulted her “Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”  I swear that I never met the man.  Actually, she was referring to the publication of my sacrilegious novel, “Outside, Looking In,” in which I had my main character (based upon my own belligerent personality) frequently attacking god, religion, the Bible and Christianity.  After reading the book, Lorna wrote me a blistering attack which, following  a page of insult and vitriol, declared that I would burn in Hell, and had better repent and open my heart to her god.  Needless to say, not only did I spurn her advice, but I answered with a brief counterattack which silenced both our pens to this day.

Now, when Terry arrives, we’re going to have to put him up on the sofa-bed in the room we call my “office” in our small apartment, where most of my reading materials lie around on the desk and other horizontal surfaces.  They include copies of American Atheist Magazine (AAM), and books by Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Victor Stenger, with their inflammatory titles on the covers that scream out “The End of Faith;” “God is Not Great;” “The God Delusion,” and “God The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does not Exist.” Reading them aloud, they could sound like they were placards carried by protesting nonbelievers outside the Vatican during the announcement of a Papal encyclical condemning birth control. In reality, they were just some paper objects lying innocently around a small room in the apartment of a retired senior couple.

This is not the first time we’ve faced the issue…

Happens that South Sydney Uniting Church is having a relevant series of Bible studies. I can’t attend but I have downloaded the PDF readings.